Saturday, March 27, 2010


Lamestains and cob nobblers will have to wait for their classification.

Friday, March 26, 2010

UP, SIMBA: ThingThrowers of the Delaware Valley would be well-served to make their way to the Academy of Music over the next month while The Lion King is in town. Took Lucy and a friend tonight, and it remains as visually stunning as when Ben Brantley originally reviewed the musical in 1997:
Suddenly, you're 4 years old again, and you've been taken to the circus for the first time. You can only marvel at the exotic procession of animals before you: the giraffes and the elephants and the hippopotamuses and all those birds in balletic flight. Moreover, these are not the weary-looking beasts in plumes and spangles that usually plod their way through urban circuses but what might be described as their Platonic equivalents, creatures of air and light and even a touch of divinity. ...

Throughout the show's 2 hours and 40 minutes (as against the 75-minute movie), there will be plenty of instances of breathtaking beauty and scenic ingenuity, realized through techniques ranging from shadow puppetry to Bunraku. Certainly, nowhere before on Broadway has a stampede of wildebeests or a herd of veldt-skimming gazelles been rendered with such eye-popping conviction.
Give the Mouse credit -- by empowering Julie Taymor to take on this project, The Lion King became far more inventive, more striking and more African than it perhaps needed to be -- but that made all the difference between a short-term success and a classic.
NOBODY TALKS, EVERYBODY WALKS: In chronological order, my favorite things about last night's NBC lineup, which wasn't always great but made me laugh a lot:
  • Danny Pudi's monologue in the Dean's office
  • The beautifully-acted montage of reaction shots to the Park's Department's Summer Catalogue
  • The only decoration in Darryl's office (see title)
  • everything Darryl said to Oscar
  • The Office tag, which was as out-of-left-field as anything the show has ever done
  • Making fun of Canadians
Am I missing anything?
FREAKONOMICS, THE SQUEAKQUEL: Linda Holmes uses movie ticket price changes to explore a pressing question--"What is the price elasticity of demand for Paul Blart: Mall Cop?" Further empirical studies are awaited.
OLD TEN COMMANDMENTS GOOD; NEW TEN COMMANDMENTS BAD. IF IT'S CLOSE, ASK JUSTICE BREYER: In conjunction with an upcoming symposium on technology and the law, the Connecticut Bar Foundation is sponsoring a contest for which nominal prizes will be awarded: summarize a favorite Supreme Court case in 140 characters or fewer on Twitter.

My submissions so far, all with the required #CBFtech hashtag, include:
  • Pleasant Grove City v Summum: Put up your wacky religious monument in your own damn park, freaks.
  • Marbury v Madison: Yes, you deserved your judicial commission, but we can't give it to you. Sorry!
  • DeShaney v. Winnebago: Dept. Social Services fails to protect 4-yo from violently abusive dad? Tough shit, Joshua.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

IT'S FUN, IT'S SAD, AND IT'S KIND OF SAD THAT IT'S SO MUCH FUN: Tony Scott, Roger Ebert, Nathan Rabin and Carrie Rickey all review "Hot Tub Time Machine," ranging from it's-a'ight-but-disappointing to "a goofy, lusty, uninhibited lark."

Ebert concludes with a debatable proposition: "'Hot Tub Time Machine,' which wants nothing more than to be a screwball farce, succeeds beyond any expectations suggested by the title and extends John Cusack's remarkable run: Since 1983, in 55 films, he's hardly ever made a bad one. Well, I never saw 'Grandview, USA.'"

[See, contra, Isaac Spaceman, 9-7-07: "John Cusack thinks that 'I've made 10 good films.' That many?"]

added: NYMag slideshow on the history of the jacuzzi in pop culture. ("Should I get in the hot tub? Yeah! Will it make me sweat? Yeah!")
DOES THE MAN WHO MAKES THE SHOES OWN YOU, CLOWN: As Fienberg tweeted, Hitfix has (among other related things) the poster for the upcoming Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Let me tell you, that is an absolutely gorgeous poster, really a piece of work. The color is wonderful, the title font is perfect, and the pose -- both the vigor it conveys by catching Cera mid-movement and the unusual choice of obscuring his face as he curls into himself -- is both daring and evocative. My only complaint is that the shadow doesn't match up with the pose and the light source. Anyway, somebody should win an award for that one.

It is not in any way to detract from that that I caught myself counting how many of my buttons the marketer was pushing with that poster. My first thought was, "hey, Rickenbacker bass -- nice choice" (and nice specimen, too -- a real beautiful bass). And then I wondered why Cera was soloing on a bass, and why he was using a pick. I realize that bass solos exist, and that some people play basses with picks, but this seemed a little odd to me, because ... hey, wait a second, this poster is drawing me into an associational reverie, isn't it? Well, anyway, there are also the vintage Adidas, which seem to use the Rod Laver cut but have the Superstar stripes -- are those vintage or retro, I wo--whoops, doing it again. Hey, the posture is kind of an amalgam of My Aim Is True and London Calling (or this?), but wouldn't Combat Rock have been the more appropriate sourc -- guh. And the sweatband on the wrist, and the ringer tee -- you get the idea. I wonder at what point Hollywood stopped marketing Michael Cera movies to people like me and just started marketing them directly to me.
STRINGS! WHISTLING! TOPICALITY!: Welcome back to KLT5M 109 FM. This post goes out to Jenn. with two Ns and a period in DC.

The New Pornographers (alternate Spaceboy name: New Proggers) have a new single, "The Crash Years," streaming on their Facebook page and available on iTunes. In my opinion, it kind of splits the distance between Electric Version and Challengers mood-wise and tempo-wise, and incorporates some of the "here-are-some-notes-right-at-the-end-of-Neko-Case's-range" shenanigans of Mass Romantic. Actually, it sounds to me like Carl Newman has been listening to his old Elephant 6 records. As you would expect, it's catchy indie pop.
GIVE IN! GIVE IN! Updating a Really? They're Remaking That? story from February 2009, it seems that the Jim Carrey-Jake Gyllenhaal film remake of Damn Yankees is still proceeding, with Joe Hardy now playing for the Chicago Cubs in the anabolic era, according to writer/director Todd Graff (Bandslam):

"It is going to be set now, and my whole pitch was that it should feel like 'Jerry Maguire' with songs," Graff explained. "It should really feel like the real world of a major sports franchise and what would happen with this fantastical goofy, funny idea of a baseball fanatic who sold his soul to Jim Carrey as the devil in order to be turned into a 20-year-old Joe Mauer."

Graff is planning to hold on to only a handful of the original songs and having new ones composed — including one possibly about, yep, steroids.

Still no Lola named. (Anne Hathaway?)
THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS COMPLIANT: Recurring feature on the blog -- I link to the Prince news as an excuse for us to noodle around with alternate post titles. So: Prince is delinquent in paying $500K in back taxes to local governments in Minnesota.

(See, related, Hey, I Ain't Got No Money (Now That The Tax Man Is Done With Me), But Honey I'm Rich On Personality; Did He Put His Million Dollar Check In Someone Else's Box?)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

THAT WOULD BE A GENIUS MOVE. I DON'T KNOW IF THEY'RE THAT SMART: And that's why I love Survivor. Two forms of self-immolation, and that's just about all I'm going to say.
ALRIGHT, NOW: Obviously, I'll have a lot to say about tonight's intriguing Idol results -- spoiler-protected, after the fold.
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT US: Funny contrast today between two writers (or, rather, a writer and a "writer") who are giving advice to others, but whose advice really is far more interesting for what (and how) it tells us about them. First, Linda Holmes breaks down Jennifer Love Hewitt's questionable advice on love and dating. Second, David Mamet destroys a caps-lock key telling the staff of The Unit how to write unshitty drama.

As great as both of these pieces are, wouldn't you like them to trade tasks? An appetizer of JLH screenwriting tips, and an entree of profane, all-caps David Mamet dating advice?

(Hat tip: Warming Glow)
A POX ON THE MIAMI DOLPHINS: With rare exceptions, I have never given much thought to color grading in movies, and I know next to nothing about it. So it must take a great blog post to make me care so much about it, and in particular the insidious ubiquity of a teal-and-orange color palette.

(Via House Next Door.)
I JUST DID ANOTHER JOKE THAT DIDN'T GO OVER. I'M YOUR CONSCIENCE: Okay, remember your initial reaction to Jessica Alba and Jennifer Garner in Laverne and Shirley: The Movie? However optimistic or intrigued you were back then, you're going to have to integrate that with this news from Garry Marshall: "Jamie [Foxx] and I are trying to do it. He’s writing it. It’s a whole different modern day take on how they came up on the streets during difficult times. Laverne would be this very tough girl with a big ‘L’ tattooed on her arm. Jennifer Garner would play Laverne and Jessica Biel would play Shirley."
WHY NOT BRING BACK THE XFL'S SCRAMBLE FOR THE BALL? The NFL owners have approved new rules for resolving playoff overtime games, and other than the fact that it's for playoff games only right now it's a step in the right direction:
  • If the team receiving the kickoff scores a touchdown, game over. If the defense scores a safety on this series, game over and they win.
  • If the team receiving the kickoff scores a field goal, then the other team has a chance to receive the ball. If they score a touchdown, they win; if they score a field goal the game proceeds to sudden death next-score-wins; if they don't score at all, game over.
  • And if the team receiving the kickoff doesn't score at all, then the other team wins the game if they score even a field goal on their subsequent possession.
I still feel like first-team-to-six is the easiest rule to implement, but I can live with this.
THE OLYPHANT IN THE ROOM: Just a quick note to say, hey, Justified is bad-ass. I was going to post last week that it was one of those perfect pilots, brisk and efficient as an Elmore Leonard novel. Then I thought I'd give it a week to get musty as it departs from the source material. The scene with Boyd felt a little monologue-y and tacked on. That's my only complaint, though. I love how the principal villains both weeks have been both intelligent and amiable, and how Olyphant's givens seems exasperated to realize how much he has in common with them. Also, he's bad-ass.
ESAU'S COMING -- BETTER HIDE YOUR HEART, GIRL: There is a part of me that is completely on board with this season's principal Lost arc -- the one that happens on the island and doesn't depend upon hit-or-miss flash-sidewayses. That part of me liked this episode, which, on its own, was well-constructed. It's a nice sensation, the feeling that, after all these seasons of purported exposition, one can look at the same story through a different set of eyes and wonder, to paraphrase and edit a post-prime Aretha, precisely who's zooming whom? When Ben and his cohorts said, so many seasons ago, "we're the good guys," and when Widmore's freighter people and the Ajira guerillas made similar claims, they were making assertions that neither the Oceanic passengers nor the viewers can completely evaluate. In fact (spoilers ahead):

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CHALK AND CHEESE: Time for tag-team Idol coverage again, and Kim starts us off:

Kim: Now hear this. No good can come of a theme week in which there is no theme. "Top Billboard Hits" is not a theme. It is a list of songs that have been popular over the years for a variety of reasons. This is not a theme. I repeat: this is not a theme!

I liked Lee's "The Letter." Whose version is that? It was so familiar. I bet that if that performance had come later in the competition, Simon wouldn't have been so quick to dismiss it.

Adam: Well, I'll dismiss it. It just felt very Vegas-y, especially with the Magical Horns of Idol on stage with him. Lee had all this indie authenticity going on with his song choices and performance style so far, and it all went away this week. He's just another guy who looks like Bill Simmons and can sing okay.

Singing okay, however, puts him light years ahead of Paige. Lookit: No one has done “Against All Odds” well on the show before. (See, esp., Corey Clark.) Streak continued, and how. Worst performance in the finals this year.

Kim: Man, that "Against All Odds" was miserable. It was hopeless, though, before it ever started. Phil Collins must have sold his soul to the devil to be able to perform the song successfully, because I just don't think it's possible.

Tim Urban wasn't as bad as the judges said, but "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is just one of those dopey songs that shouldn't find their way onto the show. I know that Taylor Hicks sang it with some success, but doesn't that just prove that two negatives make a positive?
HERE COMES TREBLE: This week, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament (go Huskies!), current favorite Kentucky plays Cinderella darling Cornell, in a battle of basketball tradition and expectations versus Ivy League stereotypes of varying accuracy. Despite the lame jokes you will hear from an oafish minority of sportswriters over the next several days, Ivy League basketball teams don't conduct practice in Latin and don't discuss calculus on the team bus. Most of the differences between Ivy League athletes (and athletic programs) and their powerhouse counterparts are of degree, not kind.

Still, the story at the ESPN basketball blog about Mike Coury, who went from starter at Kentucky to reserve at Cornell, is interesting. It's too simplistic, I think, to suggest that Coury's future depends upon the name on his sheepskin. It strikes me that being an ex-basketball player from Kentucky might open up more doors than being a Cornell graduate (I wouldn't know, being neither). And while Cornell might have a better undergraduate business program than does Kentucky, I tend to believe that the quality of one's program is less important than the quality of the student making use of it. But going from a big-time athletic program where many of one's teammates are not expected to graduate (or even to go to class) to a school where the basketball team exerts no influence over academic expectations -- that may not be such a bad move for a guy who actually wants to crack the books and who has no expectation of playing in the NBA.
...AND PATTON OSWALD AS DR. DEMENTO: I would so go see a full length Weird Al biopic.
DO IT, ROCKAPELLA! Jimmy Fallon salutes the theme song to Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? (And seriously, Fallon's turned into a nice surprise as a talk show host, with an odd sync to some of our more peculiar obsessions.)
NO, SHE IS NOT DRESSED AS WONDER WOMAN: Why, yes, there is a Sonia Sotomayor comic book. And yes, we've got two sets of sample pages (one, two).
I HAD NO IDEA A CHAMELEON'S TONGUE COULD DO THAT: So we're clear -- yes, you need to be watching Discovery's Life documentary series. While the promised hippo-on-hippo violence was a bit of a letdown (and I'm still not sure why the ibex gets our sympathy over the Redd Foxx red fox), the stunning visuals and footage compiled make this an absolute must-see, whether you have an inquisitive 6-year-old in the house or not. Perhaps this video of underwater worms and sea stars will convince you. Or a venus flytrap in action.

Monday, March 22, 2010

YOU REALLY LIKE ME: There are now six entertainers in America with higher Q Scores (favorability) than Will Smith, and the identity of one of them -- the one woman in the top ten -- truly stunned me.
JUNGLE LOATHE: Last night's Pacific, like I imagine most of the rest of the episodes of this miniseries, featured the kind of battle scene that had me gripping my armrests and gritting my teeth, even though I knew exactly how it would turn out. This week's battle was the one in which John Basilone earned both a Medal of Honor (I won't spoil for you whether or not it was awarded posthumously) and, I'm told, iconic status among every subsequent generation of Marines.

TPE mentioned to me that last week's episode didn't quite capture the scope or complexity of the battle for Alligator Creek. It's worth bearing that criticism in mind when mulling over Basilone's feats in last night's episode. On the show, we got 10-15 minutes of harrowing combat, with wave after wave of Japanese infantry trying to take the ground that Basilone held. Wikipedia (I know, I know), however, tells me that the point at which The Pacific picks up the battle came after Basilone and his unit had already been fighting for 48 straight hours, with only Basilone and two of his squad-mates alive and uninjured enough to fight. Then the few minutes we see are snippets of another 24 hours of fighting, including the period when Basilone alone held the bottleneck and kept 3,000 Japanese troops at bay. Yikes. Point taken, TPE.