Saturday, February 7, 2009
Oh, those songs. It's not newsworthy to acknowledge that "Seasons of Love," "La Vie Boheme" and "Will I Lose My Dignity?" are among the best songs modern Broadway has to offer. What struck me most this time that I wasn't expecting was "And It's Beginning To Snow," late in Act I, which just flattens you with its everything's-going-to-shit theme. Moments like that wiped out the cynicism with which Jen and I entered the theater last night, fully prepared to shout "Do what your parents did and get a job ... the bums will always lose!" or "I can make a better movie on my Mac!" while musing openly about whether Mark Cohen should just start a videoblog and move to Brooklyn.
Two final notes: I've never heard louder screams at a touring musical than tonight; those kids love their Rent, and the anticipatory squee! for Rapp on "The Tango Maureen" was deafening. And my goodness, what does it say about where we are as a country that you can see a performance of Rent and there's a charity ask afterwards, only it's for Marfan syndrome awareness and not AIDS?
Spoilers in the comments.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Multiple lighted road signs around the nation have been hacked to warn of impending or on-going zombie attack.
ALOTT5MA reporters are working furiously to confirm that this is, in fact, a hoax.
Hat tip: DXM
Consider this an open thread for your weekend cultural plans, musings and whatnot.
"We will craft the series to showcase Joe’s characterActually, I have less of a problem with Buck than most, usually. I just ordinarily find him mildly dull, neither a positive nor a negative, like sharing a table at a wedding with a youth pastor. The only exception is when he gets weirdly understated when exciting things are happening, as if his adrenal glands were installed backward. That's when I think he might be a serial killer.
He isn't one
He has none
said Bernstein. "Joe is a tremendous broadcaster
He is an average broadcaster in every respect
and we are thrilled to develop this new platform with him.
We are easily thrilled
This show, though, sounds both like a terrible idea and exactly the kind of thing we could see coming. Am I part of an extremely insular minority, or is there an unaccountably large gulf between what sports fans look for in sports broadcasting and what networks think sports fans look for? I had always assumed that a network asks two questions when it makes a decision, in the following order: (1) which option will maximize my profit (usually by increasing viewership in all or target demographics or by cutting my costs); and (2) if the answer to the first question is not conclusive, which option will maximize enjoyment of my programming for the greatest number of people? The fact that a network may get those answers wrong doesn't mean that it isn't asking them.
But what to make of the state of sportscasting? I know of, and have heard of, no person at all who has ever said "I want more of Joe Buck's analysis, without the interference of all of that on-field stuff." For that matter, I have never heard of anybody who thinks that the work of Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver -- two men who, if you listen to them, can actually make you know less about baseball, since they say so much that is stubbornly, demonstrably false -- is an improvement over dead silence, or that Emmitt Smith's assaults on the English language in the pursuit of the self-evident are a reason to watch football, or that Merrill Hoge should even be allowed to function in society without a state-paid aide. Maybe I'm just too locked into the Deadspin/Sports Guy/Internet world, but I don't even know anybody who isn't appalled by what Adam calls the "viking boat" of panelists on NFL pregame shows -- four or five veteran sportscasters, a dozen or more former players, seven or eight comedians and impressionists, a mime, a Maxim model (or, in a pinch, Gillian Barberie), Siamese twins, and a trained hedgehog, all shouting over each other.
I don't think this is a generational thing. The same people I see complaining about Morgan and Buck love Vin Scully and Marv Albert. I don't think it's a jocks-vs-non-jocks thing. The same people who complain about McCarver and Smith love Harold Reynolds and Charles Barkley and Gary Payton but can't stand Kornheiser. I simply can't identify the demographic that HBO is targeting with the Joe Buck show, or the people who ESPN thinks they're serving by having Emmitt Smith (or the inevitable Emmitt Smith replacement, a former player who is equally averse to actual analysis) on television, or the people whose loyalty Fox and ESPN think justifies paying McCarver and Morgan more than other, less stupid, broadcasters. It just seems like someday some network is going to go all Wii (or Moneyball) on everybody else and do something entirely different, like, say, what the fans actually want.
This year, however, it looks like most of those longtime links have been axed by their claimed copyright holders, and so we've got to scramble -- yes, 14 Minutes of FUNK! is still out there, as is the Melissa Etheridge/Joss Stone tribute to Janis Joplin and Springsteen/Costello/Grohl/Van Zandt collaboration on "London Calling", but I can't find the Prince/Beyoncé medley from five years ago.
Worse, all our 2008 links are busted. Thankfully, no one's touching the 1985 Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones, Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder "Tribute to Synthesizers," and you can still show your love for a pre-ubiquitous-will.i.am "Where's The Love?" and the Kanye West/Jamie Foxx/FAMU Marching Band "Gold Digger". Indeed, even the Jay-Z/Linkin Park/Macca medley and my favorite tribute to the power of the Isro can be found, phew. This year's scheduled performers are, just in the order of latest the press release:
Terence Blanchard; Neil Diamond; M.I.A. (if she doesn't burst); Smokey Robinson; Robin Thicke; Allen Toussaint; Stevie Wonder; a tribute to Bo Diddley featuring current nominees Buddy Guy, B.B. King, John Mayer and Keith Urban; Adele; Chris Brown; Kenny Chesney; Coldplay; Estelle and Kanye West; Jennifer Hudson; Jonas Brothers; Kid Rock; Lil Wayne; Paul McCartney (with special guest drummer Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters); Katy Perry; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss; Radiohead; Rihanna; Sugarland; Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus; T.I. and Justin Timberlake; U2; Carrie Underwood; a Four Tops Tribute featuring original member Duke Fakir; Jamie Foxx and Ne-Yo; and Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, T.I. and Kanye West in a special performance of their hit single "Swagga Like Us."Nominees can be found here (and our previous discussion here), but all I'm rooting for is a good show -- even if they're not bringing Vampire Weekend and Peter Gabriel together as they should.
e.t.a. I'm not doing my job if I don't re-link to the late ODB's bumrushing of the stage during the 1998 Grammys, same year as Soy Bomb. Wu-Tang is for the children.
To underestimate Knowles and her rotating cast of backup singers is to find yourself on the business end of a No. 1 song. (Destiny’s Child is the most successful female R. & B. group in history.) Yet none of this involved Beyoncé cursing, committing infidelity, or breaking any laws, even in character. The Knowles empire is delicately balanced on one of the thinnest-known edges in pop feminism: as unbiddable as Beyoncé gets, she never risks arrant aggression; and as much of hip-hop’s confidence and sound as she borrows, she never drifts to the back of the classroom. She is pop’s A student, and it has done her a world of commercial good.
I got a call from my mom after the Inauguration, and she said to me, "I don't know if I heard Beyoncé sing before this week. She's really good." Indeed. As Whitney Houston's and Britney Spears' careers collapsed from personal failings, Christina Aguilera failed to recover fully from getting too "Dirrty", Janet Jackson just got weird and Madonna voluntarily backed away from world dominance, Beyoncé Knowles was there to wrestle the crown from Mariah. Is there any reason to think she'll cede it anytime in the next decade?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The Office was heavy on the cringe-but-laugh, and worthy, but everything's going to pale compared to "Stress Relief" for a while. Still, we're going to have to update the Party Planning Committee wiki page.
Fish Butchery Quickfire: We start with a basic test of chef fu on a challengingly small scale (no pun intended) with the sardines, move on to full size fish wrangling with the char filets, and finish with a fresh eel challenge that was absurd and off-putting at its initial presentation and fully sublime in the contestants subsequent execution. I loved nearly every single thing about this Quickfire, even if the producers obviously knew that Stefan had done the eel thing a thousand times before. …or is a hammer and ten-penny nail standard equipment under the counter in every big kitchen? Maybe it is. I honestly wouldn’t know. The only thing not to love was that I still don’t know how to bone a fish. General principles could have been conveyed in thirty seconds, and the next poor halibut I foolishly purchased whole would not wind up as soup! This isn’t PBS, but come on, Bravo, help a brother out.
Le Bernardin: Six course lunch; six chefs left. Coincidence? Of course not. Feign surprise all you want Stefan, you knew exactly what was in that lobster and half the other dishes before the Knife Block of Arbitrarily Assigned Destiny appeared through the doorway to Eric Ripert’s private dining room. I loved loved loved this challenge. Generally good work. A benevolent Ripert looking on and offering suggestions (and sporting a seemingly superior hair treatment to that featured in his last appearance, when in defense of my beloved cayenne pepper I was probably too hard on him). If only buttered miso were a more serious sin than a brackish swamp of over-braised celery, it would have been perfect on all points. And the prize for the winner was maybe the most impressive ever – certainly the most impressive in my dim recollection. Weeks shadowing Ripert? Through three restaurants? Pebble Beach? Yowza.
Obviously I would have liked a different elimination. Weeks ago, I would have liked it. Nonetheless, this season is shaping up for a good final once the canoodlers are good and gone. Sure, four, I know; but they’re already dead to me.
If next week is the reunion episode, and I think it is, we’ll just do an open thread with no editorializing from yours truly.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
So tigers don't much change their stripes, and a good tiger can apparently get a whole lot done in 70 hours -- does that change anyone's mind as to who the good guys and the bad guys really are, and will it ultimately matter? Oh, and while I find the show's literary references to be a little precious, EW's Jeff "Doc" Jensen goes all Saint-Exupery here if you're into that sort of thing.
God, I'm not sure I understand the point of AI's Group Night. I mean, there's obviously no competitive group-singing aspect of the show, so what is it? Is it to give Your people a chance to show how they triumph over the adversity of having 18 hours to arrange and perform a song with others? Is it so You can assess their star quality among others who may or may not possess star quality themselves? Is it for no other reason than to give Your people at home some drama to keep them on board throughout the interminable early weeks of pre-dialing for dollars American Idol? Why, God, why?
No real surprises here. We watched crying and bitching in equal quantities, we lost a few early standouts, and we proved once again that prior a capella experience and a talent for vocal orchestration are good resume items when it comes to surviving Hollywood week. I can't imagine what kind of pressing scheduling concern kept Fox from bumping this episode up to an hour and a half. But an extra half hour would have helped -- this episode felt like a lot of singing got shoved by the wayside so as to include every last teardrop full of drama. (And oh my, there was some drama. Crazy Puerto Rico girl, I'm looking at you.)
Oh, and thank you, God, for a smidgeon of righteous justice. The payoff on this one was pretty good. But I guess You knew that when You gave her the big starring edit in her audition. You're very prescient that way. Anyway, thanks.
The game will use a traditional format in which three players will establish the playing order. Once a shot is made, the next player in the predetermined order will attempt the same shot. If that player misses, he is assigned a letter (ex. H for the first miss, O for the second, etc.). The player following the miss can pick a new shot with which to challenge his competitors. There is no dunking allowed and players will have 24 seconds each to create and mimic shots. Players remain in the game until they have missed five shots following made baskets, thus spelling the word H-O-R-S-E. An NBA referee will be assigned to authenticate the new shots (that the player executed what he announced) and any mimic shot.Tell me who you want to see in this.
And yet when it comes to the decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to honor Jerry Lewis with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, that kind of calculus is exactly where my mind turns. Make no mistake -- Jerry Lewis has said appalling things in his life, whether it's offending women, anti-gay slurs or demeaning individuals living with disabilities. I wouldn't be surprised if he were the type of person who casually used the slur "retarded" to describe anything he doesn't like. Indeed, Lewis has admitted that the closest any of his film roles came to his true self was as the arrogant late-night host in The King of Comedy, accurately described by Ed Copeland as "a sheltered asshole who wishes he could avoid public contact as much as possible."
Then there's the other side of the ledger. After helping establish the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 1952, he started the Labor Day Telethon in 1966, raising around $2 billion for neuromuscular patient care and research over the years, including $1.5 billion just from the show-ending tote boards. It's just a staggering number, and the list of celebrities who have done as much as he has for a cause is tiny: Bob Hope, Danny Thomas and Lance Armstrong. Really, who else?
[While researching this piece, I came across a worthy clip or two: Sammy Davis Jr. at an early-80s MDA telethon singing "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going."; The Jackson 5, "Dancing Machine" (1974 telethon). And for the Animaniacs fans, I again present Hearts of Twilight.]
So I suppose Lance Armstrong provides one way to think about this: how badly would he have to behave for you to not want to honor his work on cancer research and awareness? How badly would he have had to humiliate Sheryl Crow? What slurs would he have to be caught uttering? Because whatever that threshold is for you, Lewis has raised eight times as much money as Armstrong has, in ~40 years compared with twelve. Add in a potential old-people-are-allowed-to-be-cranky discount if you're being generous, though not at all if you credit the arguments of those in the disability rights community that calling adults with muscular dystrophy Jerry's "Kids" and some of Lewis' other fundraising tactics are sufficiently demeaning and patronizing to dishonor the whole enterprise.
Then again, Mel Gibson provides another analogous situation. If over the next decade Mel Gibson raised a half-billion dollars for and spent countless hours towards some indisputably worthy cause, and did so in a humble manner, I'm not sure even that could rehabilitate his image in my mind. Maybe I've just got too soft a spot for The Nutty Professor -- and not enough of one for Ransom or The Man Without A Face -- to evaluate this properly.
This isn't a question on which I'm terribly confident in my conclusion. I lean towards saying that he deserves the award and the protest, but I'm not going to say "don't give him the award; he's just been too much of an ass to deserve that moment" because his charitable work has been overwhelming. You, however, are free to say otherwise, and to sway my malleable mind accordingly.
More: Lewis reminisces with EW.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Random thoughts (with classic AI bulletpoints!):
- I hope Lil Rounds had a great first audition, because I did not like her shouty I-ee-I-ee-I performance one little bit, and I'm actually a fan of the song. And I am in actual physical pain from restraining myself from mocking her name.
- Anoop! Sticking around for a long time. Rose Flack! Not sticking around for a long time, but I love her tone.
- I missed the first Nick/Norman appearance, so this particular shtick was news to me. I would like it to end now, too. But more importantly: did Randy steal "banoodles" from Rachel Zoe?
- Danny of the no-longer-extant wife has a yummy voice.
- Pink hair girl should rethink the last minute rethinking of her song choices.
- I don't know when Bikini Girl will bite the dust -- she's good TV and all that -- but I do hope that someone will actually smack her when she is ousted for lack of ability to sing.
Tomorrow night: group sing!
Valens, of course, is best remembered for “Donna”, which hit #2 on the charts in December of 1958, “Come On Let’s Go”, which peaked at #42 the same year, and his smash “La Bamba” (link is to the cover version by Los Lobos). "La Bamba" was originally a Mexican folk song to which Valens added a rock rhythm. It became a hit in January of 1959, a month before his death.
Valens was a forefather of the Chicano rock movement. His life was featured in a good biopic called La Bamba featuring the best work of Lou Diamond Phillips’ career. Valens was just 17 when he died. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) is known for his hit “Chantilly Lace”, which hit #6 in 1958. You could make the case that the chorus of that song captured the essence of rock music:
There ain't nothing in the world like a big eyed girl
To make me act so funny, make me spend my money
Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose
Like a girl, oh baby that's what I like
Richardson studied pre-law at Lamar College, but eschewed a legal career in favor of life as a DJ. In May 1957, he broke the record for a continuous on-the-air radio broadcast by performing for a total of five days, two hours and eight minutes, playing 1,821 records and taking showers during five-minute newscasts.
The song Chantilly Lace inspired an early example of an “answer record“, which was recorded by Jayne Mansfield and entitled "That Makes It" (dig the Austin Powers style dancing in the video!). In Chantilly Lace, Richardson has a flirtatious phone call with his girlfriend; the Mansfield record hints at what his girlfriend might have been saying at the other end of the line.
To my knowledge, no biopic has been made about The Big Bopper. He has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the most tragic loss that day was the death of Buddy Holly. In a career that lasted barely 18 months, he produced 8 Top 40 hits including “That’ll Be the Day”, which hit #1, and “Peggy Sue,” which hit #3, not to mention countless other songs that have become rock standards, including my favorite of his tunes “Not Fade Away” (Rolling Stones cover version).
Rock critic Bruce Eder described Buddy Holly as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll." Holly’s songs had a powerful effect on popular music. He influenced countless musicians, most conspicuously The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed Holly #13 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Bob Dylan was at Holly’s concert on January 31, 1959, two nights before Holly's death. Dylan mentioned this in his 1998 Grammy acceptance speech for his 1997 Time Out of Mind winning Album of the Year:
And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him...and he LOOKED at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was — I don't know how or why — but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way.
Holly's life story was the basis for a biopic called The Buddy Holly Story starring Gary Busey, who received an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his portrayal of Holly. As is true of many biopics, The Buddy Holly Story tends to let historical accuracy take a back seat to dramatic effect, folklore, and legend. Later, Paul McCartney produced his own tribute to Holly, entitled The Real Buddy Holly Story.
Buddy Holly created an astonishing amount of great music before he died at the age of 22. In 1986, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Oh, and as you might know, there is a song about the tragic events of February 3, 1959.
But seriously, NYT Sunday Styles section: how do you write the story and not mention her starring in the short-lived reality dating series "#1 Single"? Seriously, my quest for wedding announcement truth does not require a "Hey, she used to date Dweezil" on her day of true fulfillment, but "she looked for love on E!" would seem to be relevant.
Monday, February 2, 2009
The shortlist probably stars with Garth Brooks, and also likely includes Cougar, Buffett, Kanye (what other hip hop performer -- Jigga?), Big &/or Rich, Kenny Chesney, is-Metallica-too-heavy?, if-they-ever-reunited Van Halen, The Pogues, the Hold Steady (eventually) ... who else? I recognize that I haven't named a single female performer, but who these days is popular enough and "stadium" enough? Would Carrie Underwood or Sugarland be overwhelmed by that kind of backdrop?
Consider this an open thread for all your day-after recollections and musings. In terms of the pool, Scott and Devin were both close -- a tight Steelers win (23-17 v. 28-21), both had Roethlisberger as MVP (no one had Holmes), both had Transformers II topping the Ad Meter, and both had all four songs. Scott, however, had them in the exact right order and had it first. So congratulations to Scott, and at least for one opportunity, you get to blog again. Let me know when, where and on what.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
e.t.a. 9:15p: Your winning Springsteen set was 10th/BTR/WoaD/Glory Days. Shamelessly entertaining (the knee slide! the ref! Clarence on cowbell!), but no Prince.
Another winner tonight? Apparently, anyone at my friend Adam Mordecai's party, where he constructed Mile High Hebrew National at Mordecai Field and (an exploded) Bacon Explosion (construction photo here).
e.t.a. again: Fienberg liveblogged the commercials: "6:44 p.m. Doritos' 'Magic Ball' commercial relies on the thesis that hitting an old guy in the nads with a snow-globe is always funny. Yes, I know it's puerile of me, but I laughed. Twice."
No one had Santonio Holmes as Official Game MVP, so the pool winner will be someone who had Pittsburgh winning a close game, a good number of the Springsteen songs and, well, we're waiting on the Ad Meter ...
LANGELLA: ...Did everybody know since 5 or 6 or 7 that they wanted to be an actor?Find out what it means for RDJ to hit "Yoo-Hoo Status".
PITT: No, not a clue. Where I grew up, it wasn't an option.
LANGELLA: Where did you grow up?
PITT: Oklahoma and then Missouri. Two weeks before college graduation, I saw everyone signing up to go away and do their jobs. I was not even close to being ready. I realized I had a love for film. It hit me one night. I'm 22, I had no money, so I did two weeks of work, made a couple hundred bucks, loaded up the car and moved to Beverly—actually, Burbank. I was doing extra work in about a week. I was thrilled just to be on a movie set. In fact, I was an extra on your movie "Less Than Zero."
DOWNEY: Dude, somebody told me that and I said it can't be true. That party scene was 22 years ago. If I knew you were there, I'd make you be part of the movie. He's over there! Look at him!
PITT: I was an extra for a year and a half. I even got a job on "Dallas," and went back and did extra work on that because I hadn't been on a movie.
HATHAWAY: You just made every single actor in Los Angeles very happy with that story. I was an extra in a Burger King commercial when I was 15. I had bronchitis, but I wanted to act so badly.
HAWKINS: I was an extra in "The Phantom Menace." I'm repeated in a crowd scene about 10 times with Jar Jar Binks.
Phelps has now apologized for "regrettable" behavior, "bad judgment," etc. Just once, could a person under such circumstances say, "I'm 23 years old. I was at a party. It's harmless. What's the big deal?" Or is 2009 still too soon for such a statement?
So watch and enjoy the 1996 Oscars parade of the fallen, with the subtle highlight to show which Andrews Sister is the dead one; the silent reaction to Ginger Rogers' passing; the raves for Ida Lupino, Haing S. Ngor and especially Louis Malle; and then George Burns with the big, umm, finish.