Saturday, April 18, 2009

FOUR STRINGS AND THE TRUTH: The ukulele, oft-maligned but making its comeback, is awesome. I have nothing more to say about it, but I dare you not to find something in here that makes you smile: Incidentally, I know that I recently challenged a cappella's reliance on preexisting knowledge of the songs, and now I'm posting a long list of uke covers that rely on preexisting knowledge of the songs, some performed by people who I suspect are actually in a cappella groups (Julia Nunes; Wade Johnston). Eh.
THE MOST INEVITABLE CONCLUSION SINCE THE 1989 FILM 'PENN AND TELLER GET KILLED': Is there a reason to watch this year's NBA Playoffs until the Cleveland-Los Angeles finals?
PAGING KENNETH CLARK: Our ongoing conversation about Disney's upcoming The Princess and the Frog continues with a new WaPo thinkpiece on the meaning (and making) of a new Princess in the Age of Obama. AICN has some character stills and the first Tiana doll has already been previewed, but there's already some concern out there as to why Disney's first African-American Princess is being paired with a white Prince.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I TOLD YOU THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT HIM THAT THE AMERICAN IDOL PRODUCERS WERE HIDING: From the 2005 "Celebration of Life" concert following Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, Adam Lambert sings "Shir LaShalom" (Song for Peace).

YouTube - Seth Rogen 1996 Stand Up Comedy

13-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN: Ladies and gentlemen, the comedy stylings of a Bar Mitzvah-aged Seth Rogen. All things considered, he's not too bad.
IN MY OPINIONATION:  Jezebel provides a list (with much YouTubage) of Cheesy TV Show Opening Credits.  I'm quite sure we can do better (or is it worse)?  Where's Head of the Class?  Mr. Belvedere?
WE'RE WORKING ON IT: It's time to recognize that for the last month, while some of our favorite shows conserve energy for the big season-ending sprint and others trot along unevenly, Better Off Ted has quietly been the best show on television.

When Ted premiered a month ago, the critical consensus seemed, accurately, to be "unspectacular, but promising." As Matt pointed out (and I agreed) in a post on Parks & Recreation, though, it's tough to judge a show by its pilot. The writers have to do a lot of exposition, and the actors need time to settle into their characters. While some pilots (Sports Night, Arrested Development) get it right from the opening bell, others take two (The Office) or three (30 Rock) or more (Seinfeld) episodes to hit full stride. So if Portia de Rossi's Veronica started a bit too broad, or Jay Harrington's Ted was unexpectedly more Ted Moseby than Don Draper, they could be forgiven.

A month later, I hope the critics come back to drive viewers to this show, because it has fulfilled its promise. Everybody pointed out the creative debt Ted's pilot owed to Andy Richter Controls the Universe and to a lesser extent Arrested Development -- as sure a recipe for disheartening cancellation as one could concoct -- but now I think that the show's closest comp is 30 Rock. Superficially, they are very similar: workplace comedies whose main characters are a success-obsessed executive and a do-right middle manager who are both excellent at their jobs and who must coddle and prod their talented but self-obsessed employees. The real similarity, though, is the way both shows create generate crisp humor out of outlandish situations that are nonetheless true to the characters and their world (as opposed to shows like Andy Richter and Scrubs, whose more slapstick moments arise from characters' fantasies). At the same time, Ted, like 30 Rock, has, since the overly ridiculous pilot, relegated its most absurd inventions (a solar-powered oven that leaches toxins when in contact with the sun; a military drone that cannot be taught to distinguish terrorists from children) to props and one-liners, where it's easy to laugh at them without thinking too much.

The show really hit its stride in the third episode, when the show fully embraced its sunny amorality and the writers and actors all seemed to figure out how to make their characters work (especially de Rossi, whose Veronica lost her sadism and became just singularly goal-oriented, and Andrea Anders, who seems to give her fish-out-of-water Linda more substance than is on the page). And then it did a great episode about corporate racial insensitivity (harkening back to, without repeating, The Office's "Diversity Day" and 30 Rock's "Rosemary's Baby") when the office installs energy-saving motion detectors that only detect the movements of whites, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Jews, leaving the office's Black employees and white executives alike frustrated in their efforts to find a solution. That is both high-quality absurdist humor and, probably, impenetrable to the executives and TV viewers who keep shows on the air. It's depressing to recall that if NBC hadn't hired Ben Silverman, The Office -- exec-produced by Ben Silverman -- might not have survived its low-rated second season.

Also, the Veridian Dynamics commercials are awesome. "Diversity. Just the thought of it makes these white people smile." If you get a chance, try to find "Through Rose Colored HAZMAT Suits" and "Racial Insensitivity," and give ABC a reason to keep the show.
WHEN ZAPF DINGBATS IS NOT SOLEMN ENOUGH: Nice hard-hitting piece on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today about typography's international bad-boy star font, Comic Sans, and the movement to ban it (if the link tells you you need to register, just go to and search for "comic sans"; you'll get a link that should work). Created on a lark 15 years ago to give people appropriate lettering for cartoon thought or dialogue bubbles, Comic Sans has become the typographical equivalent of the misused quotation mark, popping up in inappropriate places like a Black Sabbath fan site and the marquee of a Spanish opera house.

Given that it's still impossible to kill Clippy, I don't understand why Microsoft, the font's owner, couldn't just end hostilities by embedding a pop-up warning: "This font should be used only in juvenile literature or to connote juvenile literacy." Presumably, that would prevent people from using it for their funeral notices.
LET'S MAKE A TOP 5 LIST: Today is the birthday of Nick Hornby. Consider this an opportunity to comment about what you like (or don't like) about the gifted writer.

A scene from High Fidelity. Not recommended for fans of Belle and Sebastian!
NO ONE SEEMS TO BE GOING FULL RETARD HERE: I'm assuming I'm not the only one interested in State of Play, featuring Ben Affleck's first big screen lead role in 5 years (since bomb Surviving Christmas), and Rachel McAdams' first major role since her 2005 breakout trio of Red Eye, The Family Stone, and Wedding Crashers, as well as supporting turns from Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, and Viola Davis, and a script by Matthew Carnahan (The Kingdom), Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton and Duplicity), and Billy Ray (Breach, Shattered Glass). With those credentials, I'd probably be interested even absent the solid reviews (83% on the Tomatometer). But what's getting your entertainment dollar this weekend? State of Play, the surprisingly warmly-reviewed 17 Again, or the utterly inexplicable Crank: High Voltage (though I must admit to a soft spot for the "He Was Dead, But He Got Better" tagline)?
BUT THE LAW, JUDAH. WITHOUT THE LAW IT'S ALL DARKNESS: A few days ago, Jordan asked a few days ago whether our post involving reality tv, Illinois politics, spelling and a figure skater was "a muktuk reference short of Adam's dream post."

The answer is no, because it didn't also involve Woody Allen and intellectual property law, so let's fix that right now with an update on Allen's right of publicity suit against American Apparel for the unauthorized use of his image on a billboard, which Allen claims damaged his reputation by associating him with a sleazy brand. To which American Apparel has responded, um, your reputation?, or as their attorney put it, "Certainly, our belief is that after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America's desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is."

Back in the day, though, there was that offer to do a vodka ad....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

IT'S NOT A RACE STRAIGHT-AROUND-THE-WORLD: If there are four openly gay competitors in this season of The Amazing Race (now renewed for season 15), why are the producers only identifying one of them as gay?
CHEESE DOODLE: I'm starting to really worry about The Office. I fear that since they decided to keep Pam and Jim together and happy, there's just no sustaining narrative arc that's carrying the show, as much as I like the concept of Stringer Bell, Office Manager it's not leading to good shows. In the absence of the level of character investment we've had in the past, the gags just aren't good enough, not one moment as funny as the throwaway "Backpack! Is Map in you tonight?" which followed on 30 Rock, and not nearly enough Stanley and Creed. This has not been a good run since the Super Bowl spectacular.
MORE OF AN EXISTENTIAL NIHILIST, REALLY: Given my current moviegoing habits and those of my co-bloggers, it's difficult to believe that a movie as up-our-alley as Adventureland has gone so long without comment. So I'll comment.

More or less all you need to know about this movie is that it's about the young love between a slightly geeky boy and the much prettier, much cooler girl, with the complications attendant to class differences (both socioeconomic and popularity status) and the girl's preexisting relationship with an outwardly more mature and confident guy. Sound familiar? Seeing this movie is like seeing a production of Romeo and Juliet. It would be nice to see something surprising, something that makes you reevaluate the material or that is visually arresting, but realistically you're just hoping that the players hit their marks, remember their lines, and die prettily at the end. After that, it's the baggage you carry in -- memories of great productions you've seen, of memorizing the balcony scene for extra credit with a teen crush, or of how shocking it was that Mrs. Miller let you see the unedited Zefferelli version in class -- that does all the work.

So, yes, Kristen Stewart both adequately and prettily conveys the requisite teennui, and Martin Starr perfectly assumes the defeated pose of a college kid who knows that he is uselessly and irrevocably overeducated, and many of the supporting players approach their stock teen roles (exuberant prankster; outcast Rush fan) with relish, and Mottola finds a nice balance between 80s indie music and the K-Tel 80s, and it was a canny decision to revisit an 80s trope by setting it in the 80s. Even the worst part of the movie, Jesse Eisenberg's manic Woody Allenish take on the insufferably pretentious protagonist, gets less irritating as the movie goes on. All that said, this is a movie for which reviews are unnecessary. You are going to enjoy this movie exactly as much as you expect to enjoy it. Me, I enjoyed it, but I'm unlikely to remember it six months from now.
BANK ERROR IN YOUR FAVOR: The Washington Post visits the 2009 U.S. Monopoly Championships. If there's a better strategy than dominating the maroon/orange side, I don't know it, which is why this year's winning strategy focused on the green group stuns me.

[An earlier of this post referred to St. Charles/States/Virginia as "purple" instead of maroon; "purple" is Med/Baltic.]
140 OR LESS FEWER: To formalize what we started yesterday, it's time for an ALOTT5MA Twitter Roll Call. --@adambonin
MY BODY, MY CHOICE, MY WAWA: Wawa turns 45 today, and while those outside the Mid-Atlantic region don't care I imagine those around here will express their appreciation for the essential, ubiquitous, consistently solid convenience stores. The Hagley Museum and Library presents a photo gallery from those early years, and do visit the Wawa2010 site, chronicling the efforts of five women from West Chester who are trying to visit every store in the chain by the start of next year. (So far, 556 of the ~600 stores.)

Also turning 45 today: Dave Pirner, lead singer of Soul Asylum.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

LET'S FACE IT, THE EWOKS SUCKED: So, a good old-fashioned Lost episode tonight, in which we find out some interesting hitherto unknown stuff about one of our Losties from a time before the island. Except that it's season four, not season one, and so there had to be all sorts of little gifts involving numbers and hatches and parents and empires and spicy mayo and submarines and packages.

I thought it was a perfectly enjoyable episode, mostly for the Hurley/Miles banter after what have been a few deeper darker hours, but not one of those times when I stare at the TV after the LOST flash hits the screen going "Wow." We can discuss further in the comments.

So they protect someone who Simon acknowledged has no chance of winning, and instead give each competitor a 28% chance of going *next* week ... except we know that Adam and Hokey Gokey are safe, so it's really a 40% chance a that potential finalist in Allison or Kris will go (someone, correct my math?) while Matt himself is more likely to stay b/c of the rallying effect, though less likely because Disco is a bad theme week for him. What does that make the odds of neither Allison or Kris going home next week?

[Also, DialIdol is continually undercounting Kris' popularity. Any guess as to why?]

I've been asked, well, what about the tiers?, since we all "know" that it's Adam v. Hokey Gokey in the finals anyway, and this won't affect that conclusion in the slightest. Except we don't know that. At this point last year, we'd have all said YDA was beating Cook in the finals; the year before, we'd have had Blake over Melinda as the most likely outcome; and Daughtry over (Hicks or McPhee) in 2005, with the notion of Elliot being a deserving third place still seeming a bit odd. There is a lot of competition left to go and all we can be confident about is that Matt < (Allison or Kris), and either of them could realistically slip past Danny (or even Adam) into the finals, just as Tamyra, Daughtry and Melinda failed to make the finals. And now both are in real risk next week, and for what? So that Matt can make it past Anoop and Lil? Not worth the use of Idol Immunity.

The best sign that it's still Adam v. Danny is that neither have been bottom 3 year. Nor has Kris.

remarks revised & extended after initial teaser post.
TWEET, TWEET:  So apparently, Ashton Kutcher and CNN are in a race to see who will be the first to a million followers on Twitter.  I suggest that we find someone else to back--Nathan Fillion?  Rainn Wilson?  Any other suggestions from the peanut gallery for folks we should be following (aside from Adam's man-crush on Shaq)?
I'M AN IMPEACHED AND CONVICTED EX-GOVERNOR UNDER FEDERAL INDICTMENT, GET ME INTO HERE! Rod Blagojevich is seeking court permission to appear on a reality tv competition with Nancy Kerrigan and others this summer.
TWICE AS SWEET AS SUGAR, TWICE AS BITTER AS SALT, AND IF YOU GET HOOKED BABY IT AIN'T NOBODY ELSE'S FAULT: The pink v. yellow v. blue wars have a new competitor in green, as the New York Times welcomes stevia to the artificial sweetener world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BECAUSE WE LOVE MAKING MOVIES! This is why I hate Songs from the Movies. Seven contestants left, and if you take Allison and Adam out of the running, you might as well have dubbed tonight's theme Lite-FM Night. Two Bryan Adams ballads? "Endless Love" and "The Rose"? Even Quentin Tarantino, who I think is a great mentor, could only do so much with all of these soppy gloppy songs. (And I like Lite-FM.)

First things first. Is it really the case that this bunch of not-Nigel yahoos can't manage to finish a seven-contestant performance show in an hour, even with a two-judge limit on speaking? I've never produced a TV show in my life, and here I am with the solution -- cut down the Ryan banter. Subtract three dawgs and one we got a hot one tonight after the commercial break, and Lil gets to finish defending her not-particularly-defensible take on "The Rose" before 9 pm.

The Bad.
  • Matt. I did not like this. Did not like it at all. I'm not a particular fan of "Have You Really Ever Loved a Woman" under the best of circumstances, but these were not the best of circumstances. Randy got it right -- when Matt starts jamming all over the place on a song that is nothing but melody, you just lose whatever wispy power the song had in the first place.
  • Kris. I don't know that I'd ever heard "Falling Slowly" before. But now, listening to the real deal, I both like the song more than I did a few minutes ago and am even more underwhelmed by Kris's performance. I'm going to posit that this is a song that needs the duet -- without the high and the low parts together, it's less interesting.

The Meh.

  • RDJJ minus the glasses. It wasn't a bad performance of "Endless Love." As Paula pointed out, the back half, in particular, was quite good. But what the heck is a presumptive final-two guy doing, delivering the same thing week after week after week? If you take a look at his whatnottosing scores these last six weeks, his numbers are heading lower and lower every week. This guy needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat and fast.
  • Lil. I heard what she going to sing and shouted oh no, I've heard of this song! Mary J. Blige does not sing "The Rose!" Then I watched some more of the clip and thought oh, ok, a gospel slant, that could be good. Then I watched the actual performance, and when she kicked into the gospel bit, I got a little bit of a head tingle, which usually only happens when someone's delivering a really big performance. But then it just . . . ended. It never ascended into the kind of big groundmoving performance that you need to deliver if you're going to go the gospel route.

The Good.

  • Anoop. When I heard him bullfrog out that first note of "Everything I Do," I thought that Tarantino's "rough it up" comment was going to end in disaster. But after he settled down, I thought that this ended up being one of his best performances, even if it was another one of those squashy Bryan Adams songs. He added just enough "rough" to keep it interesting.
  • Allison. I'm actually pretty disappointed in this one. From the bits we heard from her rehearsal with Tarantino, I thought this was going to be awesome. I don't know whether she was kind of sick, or whether it was just that the smoothness and not-at-all-edginess of the band just totally wiped out the raw power of the song, but this didn't get where I thought it was going to go. That being said, it had the good fortune to neither be a Bryan Adams nor a Bette Midler nor a Lionel Richie song, and for that I am deeply grateful.

The Lambert.

There is nothing this guy cannot sing.

Nothing terribly surprising about this week's song choice in terms of what we know about his taste in music -- this week hearkened back to his "Satisfaction" back in the semifinals. But the effortlessness with which he uses that crazy instrument, his total comfort on the stage, even the obvious joy the band gets out of playing for the guy -- he is head, shoulders, and bellybutton above anything anyone else is doing in Season Eight.

(I know, I know -- the people who hate him will hate this too. But really, who do you think can or should beat him out of the six available candidates? Allison has the voice, but she just isn't half the performer or the artist that Adam is. Who else? Tender Kris Allen? Hokey Danny Gokey?)

Bottom three: Matt, Kris, and . . . I'll take one of the girls. But if Matt stays and Kris goes home, I'll be pissed.

THIS HEAD MOVIES MAKES MY EYES RAIN: I'm going to hold off passing judgment on The Soloist until I see it -- as noted before, "some might accuse me of bias in favor of films scripted by Susannah Grant adapting works by former Philadelphia Inquirer reporters," especially with underlying material as moving as Steve Lopez's original columns on Nathaniel Ayers and a star as exceptional as RDJ.

Still, once can't help but be a bit amused by a reporter attempting to ask Downey whether Jamie Foxx went "full retard" in his portrayal of the homeless violin prodigy.
BORN 4/9/09 . . . OR IS THAT 4/9/77? Josh Holloway is rapidly ascending the ladder of “Lost actors who can do no wrong in my eyes” – something of a small stepladder, actually, normally occupied only by Terry O’Quinn – and so it is with great pleasure that I report that Holloway is now the daddy of a baby girl. As of five days ago, Java Kumala Holloway is an official resident of Craphole Island. Or at least Oahu.
THE "FOURTH OUT" RULE: I have played, watched, and coached a lot of baseball over the years. I learned something new yesterday when I read this article about the astounding (to me at least) "fourth out" rule.

Let's just say that if that situation had occurred during a game that I was involved in, I would have argued quite strenuously for the opposite result (and I would have been wrong).

Hat tip to Rob Neyer, whose blog is now located here (and which is now free).
YEAH, IT'S F*CKED ALL RIGHT, AND ALL FOR SPITE:  I'm not sure if there's an inch more room for a potential Spring Awakening: The Musical: The Movie project to self-destruct given the announcement that McG has been signed to direct.  
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH IS RIGHT AT HAND; JUST ONE MORE NIGHTMARE YOU CAN STAND: This is the third time Idol has trotted out Songs from Movies night (S2, S3), and the rules seem to be that any song that's been featured in a movie -- whether or not it was written for the film -- is eligible. Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" always seems to work, and "Against All Odds" just doesn't. Ever. You don't want to go with something that's too Broadway-based, because you know what Simon's going to say, but other than that this really is our third straight week of Go Ahead, Pick What You Want. What do we want?

Danny Gokey
There are so many opportunities for maudlin songs about longing for his late wife, and I pray he runs in the other direction. Go to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones -- "The Impression That I Get" was featured in Clueless, and it's not much of a singer's song, but he can still have fun performing it -- especially if the Idol Horns Section gets to join him on stage. Sticking with a Bay State theme, what about the Dropkick Murphys' angry little cover of "Shipping Up To Boston" (The Departed), or Elliott Smith's "Miss Misery" (Good Will Hunting). --Adam

His voice seems right for "American Woman" (Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me; American Beauty; one a cover and one just Kevin Spacey humming -- weird that there's no Google front-page soundtrack that uses the Guess Who original), though he'd probably never sing it. "What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding" (Bill Murray karaoke from Lost in Translation) would be both better music than we usually get on Idol and also gloriously cynical or improbably knowing. --Isaac

Danny continues to frustrate me. And so I’m going to give him one of my favorite songs, which happens to be precisely perfect for his voice, and see if that could win me over: “I Can See Clearly Now,” which was apparently used in both Grosse Pointe Blank and Thelma & Louise. It also has that start-slow-get-fast thing of which he seems to be such a fan. In the yearning-for-dead-wife department (which I actually think he’s done a nice job of avoiding, just to give credit where it’s due), how about “She’s Like the Wind”? --Kim

Adam Lambert
If he hadn't just done an all-falsetto song, I would have given him "Superfly" by Curtis Mayfield. But since he just did do an all-falsetto song, I say let 'er rip and do "Live and Let Die," GnR style. Don't fight it. --Isaac

Given the number of Broadway-to-movie adaptations over the years, I wonder whether he will take the opportunity to dish up something from a musical. There’s no shortage of Broadway songs unsingable by mere mortals –- “Superstar” would be particularly timely given Sunday's holiday, but there’s also “High Flying Adored,” “Sit Down (You’re Rocking the Boat),” and so on. Sadly, Wicked has not (yet) become a movie, so we’ll have to wait to hear Lambert sing “Defying Gravity.” (PS: in the land of regular movies, I am all in for “Live and Let Die.”) --Kim

It's almost silly trying to predict anything. He could do "Unchained Melody" straight. He could sing the Kellermans theme from Dirty Dancing as a Middle East-influenced rocker. How about applying that falsetto to Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" or "I Would Die 4 U" off the Purple Rain soundtrack or having some real fun with "Kiss" (Under the Cherry Moon)? --Adam

Kris Allen
How about “Bird on a Wire”? AI needs more Leonard Cohen. And the song has some heft to it, to counter his featherweight performance from last week. --Kim

"Upside Down," by Jack Johnson off the Curious George soundtrack. Total wheelhouse pick that might let us hear the guitar. That or Keith Carradine's "I'm Easy" from Nashville, if only because I don't think you can condense "Stage Fright" (The Last Waltz) into 90 seconds. --Adam

I keep wanting him to do something solo acoustic and get him away from Ricky Minor. "California" (Orange County) is a very commercial song, recognizable as moderately contemporary because it was the OC theme song, easily reducible to an acoustic gem, and geographically appropriate. --Isaac

Anoop Desai
I don't know, I'm tired of him and I'm tired of thinking of ways to make me like him. He has a thin boy-band voice and weak boy-band moves. Why not the greatest (and now I'm not being facetious) boy-band song of all time, "(I Want It) That Way" (Drive Me Crazy, featuring Vinnie Chase)? --Isaac

Same recommendation as last week. "In Your Eyes," Peter Gabriel (Say Anything). --Adam

I’ll punk out too. “No One Is to Blame,” Howard Jones (according to IMDB, it’s shown up in a number of movies). --Kim

Allison Iraheta
It's time for her to not-belt, and to do it with something that's not about pursuing or being hurt by a guy. An unadorned "Sounds of Silence"? (The Graduate) "Many Rivers To Cross"? (The Harder They Come). Both good songs, but they won't let her show any personality. Now, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (Buck Privates)? That could be interesting. --Adam

I totally agree with Adam on the need for something different. That big band sound worked like gangbusters for Kelly Clarkson, so why not Kelly’s little rocker sister? I’d like to hear her sing “Nobody Does It Better,” but it falls into the category of songs-a-sixteen-year-old-really-shouldn’t-be-singing. --Kim

Apparently, there was a cover of "Wish You Were Here" on Lords of Dogtown. That would satisfy Adam's urge to quiet her down a little but still give her a safe place to put her rockerness. If she wants to win, though -- I mean, if she wants the moment -- may I suggest "Falling Slowly" from Once? Possibly strange without the male part, but it could be beautiful, and the hard-living voice could make it just different enough from the original. Also, I mean, the original was sung by a 16-year-old, too, right? So this isn't weird. --Isaac

Matt Giraud
I’m at a loss. I suspect he could do “When Doves Cry,” but I’m not sure I’ll care. This is not a good sign. --Kim

I believe I have said this before, and I'll say it again. Somebody someday is going to do a modern, slowed-down, melancholy version of "Auld Lange Syne" (call it When Harry Met Sally or It's a Wonderful Life) and everyone will love it. It is a universally recognizable and hummable melody, something a trained piano barman should be able to make both contemporary and also communal. You know, the kind of thing that gets everybody shouting along drunkly and pulls mad tips. --Isaac

I still don't have a good read on where he fits. The best idea I have is a piano-centered "Nearly Lost You" by the Screaming Trees off the Singles soundtrack, but I could go anywhere from Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" (Trainspotting) to "Let It Be" to "Would?" by Alice in Chains. --Adam

Lil Rounds
"People Get Ready" (Akeelah & the Bee). Another great melody, one of my favorite songs. Less likelihood of a copycat version, but a clean line to a strong, serious vocal. Probably wouldn't put Lil into voter-safe territory, but what would at this point? I bet the judges scared her off an otherwise inevitable Jennifer Hudson impersonation, by the way, though perhaps given the result last week a judge-irritating impersonation is not such a bad idea for her. --Isaac

Remains in Big Trouble. Avoid The Bodyguard. It's time to really change things up. Is it time for her to do the "Timewarp"? Or, in the other direction, let's see what voice she really has: "Down to the River to Pray", a cappella (O Brother, Where Art Thou?). If she insists on being safe, "Take Me to The River" (Stop Making Sense) is a fair cheat. --Adam

I think it’s safe to say that if I’ve heard of a song, it’s not the right one for Lil to be singing. Thus I offer no thoughts. --Kim

Monday, April 13, 2009

LOGOPHILIACS ANONYMOUS: Thanks to y'all, I was able to pull out the fact that Ben Folds is releasing an a cappella covers album in the near future and score a point at tonight's Big Quiz Thing, which generally did not go well for my team. However, I feel compelled to note an advertisement we got tonight--this Saturday night marks the quarterly New York City Spelling Bee--$10 (to a worthy charity) gets you into the competition, unlimited free popcorn, and a cash bar. I can't go (I have an early flight for vacation on Sunday).
PLEASE C&S FOOTNOTES 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, AND 32:   Yes, it's too long, and probably half the jokes don't work for non-NYU folks (and lord knows if any work for non-law-talkin' people), but Lawst from the NYU Law Revue 2009 amused me.

ETA:  OK, "What Would Arthur Miller Do?" is also amusing.  I may have to digitize the old VHS I have of NYU Law Revue 2001, featuring bravura performances from me as Al Gore, Total Request Law boom operator, and Sen. Strom Thurmond.
"WE LOST OUR VOICE": I don't want to be typing this: Harry Kalas, the longtime play-by-play voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, collapsed and died today at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C.

He was 73 years old, and has been broadcasting Phillies games since 1971. My whole life. It's impossible to think about Phillies memories without hearing him narrate them; growing up, I even owned the commemorative LP of Harry's key calls from the 1980 season. Los Angeles has Vin Scully; Detroit had Ernie Harwell; we had Harry. "Had"? It's stunning to think of him in the past tense. So sad.

edited: As one commenter just emailed me, when it rains, it pours: 1976 American League rookie of the year Mark Fidrych found dead at his Massachusetts farm today, from an apparent accident while working on his pickup truck. He was 54.
ANY DREAM WILL, IN FACT, DO: While the question of whether America's Got Talent remains up for debate, Britain does have talent--as Simon Cowell shows at the 2:00 mark. (And I assume makeover week is coming!)
LORD KNOWS WHAT THIS MEANS ABOUT WILFORD BRIMLEY: Maybe it's just because one of the ads is prominently displayed at the entrance to the subway stop outside my building, but am I the only one somewhat disturbed by Quaker Oats' "Go Humans Go!" campaign? In particular, this image gets to me--it almost seems like it is saying that the Quaker is not, himself, human, but exhorting humans. Does this mean William Penn was an alien too?
LIKE THE BOYZ II MEN OF THEIR TIME: With sadness, we note the passing of Randy Cain, a founding member of the Delfonics. Cain was just 63.

As his obituary notes, Cain began the group while he was a student at Philadelphia's Overbrook High in the 1960s with brothers William and Wilbert Hart. The Delfonics were one of the earliest bands to create the smooth soul of "The Sound of Philadelphia." The group won an R&B Grammy in 1970 for its song "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time."

Quentin Tarantino used several Delfonics songs in his film Jackie Brown. In particular, the songs "La-La (Means I Love You)" and "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" highlight key developments in the relationship between Pam Grier and Robert Forster.

Very few good Delfonics songs are available on youtube. Among those that are available, not all feature Randy Cain who left the group in 1971 but returned later. This lovely tune, which hit #4 in 1968, will give you a taste of what the world has lost.
THAT HE WASN'T MOANING "BRAIIIINNNS!" SHOULD'VE BEEN A TIPOFF: Woody Harrelson is an early contender for "Excuse Of The Year," with his excuse of "sorry, I hit you because I thought you were a zombie." Harrelson assaulted a paparazzo at the airport in NYC, and apologized with the following statement:
I wrapped a movie called "Zombieland," in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character. With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie.
"Quite understandably?" Really?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

IF THE GENDER OF THEIR KARAOKE TAXI FRIENDS HAD BEEN THE ONLY THING THE STUNT BROTHERS WERE CONFUSED ABOUT, DAYENU: Do they make up the rules and penalties for The Amazing Race as they go along? Because there were two new twists tonight -- not that either was necessarily unwarranted -- but I can't say that in our fourteenth season of the show that I expected either to work out quite that way. It was quite amusing to see so many teams make the same fundamental mistake, and that was quite an hour to see. [More in the comments.]
HERE I AM, THE ONE WHOM YOU LOVE: So the Cosmo family was dining at our favorite local pizza place tonight, and I commented to Mr. Cosmo that Radio Favorite Pizza Place must be tuned to a particularly fabulous Lite-FM station, because "Two Less Lonely People in the World" was playing. (An Air Supply song that one just doesn't hear that often, even if one seeks out the Lite as I do.) Mr. Cosmo grumbled that this is a song that particularly gets on his nerves, even among Air Supply songs. I asked why, and he pointed out that the lyric really should be "two fewer lonely people in the world." (This is indeed a particular Mr. Cosmo peeve.) This threw me for a loop for a moment -- never in my several hundred times listening to the song had this grammatical point occurred to me -- but then I realized something.

All this time I had been thinking that previously there were n lonely people in the world and now there were n-2 lonely people in the world. But what if there had always been the exact same number of lonely people in the world, but now two of them are simply lonely to a somewhat lesser degree than they had been previously? And so I tip my hat to Graham Russell and Russell Graham, lyricists of greater depth and grammatical specificity than I had ever imagined. Truly, it boggles the mind.
EASTER GRABBAG: Having spent a fair amount of time cleaning out the TiVo this weekend, thoughts on a variety of programming:
  • Dollhouse--As usual, I'm with Alan--this episode really got me emotionally invested for the first time in the show (indeed, it reminded me in timing and structure of Out Of Gas, the best Firefly episode). Its inevitable cancellation will now sting a little, though the last hope for avoiding cancellation would be a disappointing performance by Prison Break next week.
  • The Unusuals--It might have just been the fact that large chunks of the pilot were filmed in my neighborhood or my crush on Amber Tamblyn, but I enjoyed this quite a bit. I'm not sold on the "continuing mystery" angle of the show, with Casey figuring out the secrets of her co-workers, but this looks like a cop show with just the right mix of realism and quirk.
  • Parks and Recreation--Based on Facebook statuses, I liked this one more than a lot of you did. I particularly loved the randomness ("I have some things to say about Laura Linney!") and Poehler's interesting spin on sunny cluelessness. Sure, it's not perfect yet, but The Office didn't make the leap until Season 2, and I'm willing to give this some time.
  • SNL--Again, I'm with Alan. What. A. Mess. Sure, there were funny bits here and there (and I liked the Biden stuff better than Alan did), and some nice detours into surrealism (the inexplicable Spitzer and Disney appearances, in particular), but you need a narrative line in a sketch beyond repeating the same joke time after time.
FANTASY ISLAND, INDEED: Via THND, on season one of Lost:
In the broadest possible terms, Lost basically just took what made The Love Boat so successful (a huge ensemble with weekly storytelling that delves into various characters’ backstories), stripped out the guest stars and added a smoke monster.
"C'EST LA VIE," SAID THE OLD FOLKS; IT GOES TO SHOW YOU NEVER CAN TELL: While the NYT catches up with America on the whole what-if-an-Idol-is-gay? thing, we move forward. Isaac, Kim and I should have our Movie Week recommendations posted tomorrow, but until then our friend Watts has these suggestions:
With Quentin Tarantino being the the guest judge for "songs from movies," in my dream world the contestants are required to sing songs from HIS movies. This is a partial list of the songs available to contestants:

"Stuck in the Middle with You" - Stealers Wheel, "Fool for Love" by Sandy Rogers, "Hooked on a Feeling" - Blue Swede, "Coconut" -Harry Nilsson, "Magic Carpet Ride" - Bedlam, "Let's Stay Together" Al Green, "Son Of A Preacher Man" - Dusty Springfield, "Lonesome Town" - Ricky Nelson, "You Never Can Tell" - Chuck Berry, "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" - Neil Diamond, "If Love Is A Red Dress (Hang Me In Rags)" - Maria McKee, "Flowers On The Wall" - The Statler Brothers, "Baby Love" - The Supremes, "La La La Means I Love You" - The Delfonics, "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time" - The Delfonics, "Who Is He (And What Is He to You?)" - Bill Withers, "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" - Nancy Sinatra, "I'm Blue" - Written by Ike Turner, Performed by The's

And here is how I would pair up songs and contestants:

First thing first - somebody has to sit on Lil Rounds and keep her from "Son of a Preacher Man." It will be her first instinct. But instead she should sing the hell out of "If Love Is a Red Dress" - show off a lower register (if she has one) and give it every bit of gospel training you know she has.

Effin' Danny Gokey, Matt Giraud, and Anoop can fight over the two Delfonics songs and the Al Green cut.

I think the judges would hate it, but Kris Allen has the goofy charm to pull off "Flowers on the Wall." Otherwise, let's see him give a stripped down, slowed down, slightly sad acoustic version of "Baby Love." I am not kidding about this.

Allison gets "I'm Blue" If you don't believe me listen to it in its original form by the Ikettes. It's not terribly well known, but it's got a great hook and she could really get some of that young goofy personality out, which she desperately needs to show. Plus, she could tear it up on the Gong Gongs.

And finally - Adam. Think the band is up to giving him one of those dance remix spins on "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)"? Where it starts out all slow, like the original and then amps up into a disco song? If ANYbody could pull that off live on American Idol it's Lambert.

Anyway - that's how this Tuesday's show goes down in my personal fantasy world.
Welcome at this time are your most maudlin suggestions for Songs Hokey Gokey Could Sing To Remind Us How Much He Misses His Dead Wife; let's assume he's already well aware of Aerosmith's love theme from Armageddon and "Unchained Melody."