Saturday, February 4, 2012

SUPER BELL WEEKEND:  The Inquirer's Craig Laban reassesses the top of Philadelphia's food pyramid for the first time in five years, dropping Le Bec Fin and Lacroix far from the pinnacle and replacing them with some five-lettered newcomers.

Friday, February 3, 2012

KING OF THE IMPOSSIBLE:  American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert reportedly will be the lead singer for Queen on tour this summer.

Never not awesome:  Isaac Spaceman presents the Adam Lambert Roundtable: A Discussion of Arts, Politics, and Culture.
I JUST THINK THAT IF YOU'RE INTO DJUNA BARNES JOKES, THEN THIS IS THE FILM FOR YOU:  Anthony Bourdain makes his Oscar picks, praising The Tree of Life while panning Midnight in Paris, saying of the latter: "If the word 'elitist' didn’t exist before, now it would. I hated everything about it."
1. Winner/final score.
2. Official Game MVP.
3. Which advertiser tops the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter?
4. Predict something interesting about Madonna's performance.
5. Will Kelly Clarkson's rendition of the National Anthem be longer or shorter than 1:34? 
Tiebreaker: Pick a prop bet as listed on Football Outsiders. Get it right. The tougher the odds of winning your bet, the more credit you get.
Previous winners: 2006: Benner; 2007: me; 2008: Joseph J. Finn ; 2009: Scott; 2010: Scott again; and 2011: GoldnI. As they will tell you, the prizes are Fame and Glory within this community, but nothing financial.

[My predictions: Giants 31-24; Eli; Doritos; Nicki Minaj will be weird enough to compel my mom to call me immediately thereafter to ask me who the heck that was; shorter. Tiebreaker: Manningham (14/1) to score game's first td.]

added:  NYMag has odds on various FCC-related infractions during the halftime performance.
LIFE MOVES PRETTY FAST:  As long as we're working through how much time Phil Connors had each day to learn French poetry, ice carving, and the piano in Groundhog Day, might as well also tackle the feasibility of Ferris Bueller's timeline.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

SHE WAS LOOKING KIND OF DUMB WITH HER FINGER AND HER THUMB: The fiftieth Super Bowl will be played in 2016, and brand experts believe it may be necessary to shift from Roman to Arabic numerals for that one.
1.21 GIGAWATTS OF PURE THEATRICAL MAGIC: Nikki Finke alleges that talks are underway for Back To The Future: The Musical. It's an interesting concept, because you can certainly justify Marty bursting into song given his musical inclinations, but I'm not sure I see this one working.
OKAY, CAMPERS, RISE AND SHINE, AND DON'T FORGET YOUR BOOTIES 'CAUSE IT'S COOOOOOLD OUT THERE TODAY: It's February 2, so it's time to talk about the movie again. Do you buy the whole Buddhist thing, or should we just quote lines for a while and generally discuss its awesomeness?

Participate in this thread, or it's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

STOP BENDIN' THE SHAFTS!  Thirty years ago tonight, David Letterman hosted Late Night With David Letterman for the first time. NYMag has compiled 19 video clips as a reminder of why he matters so much to all we find funny today, and the LA Times has 20 more.
LOI? I? I LOL: It used to be that if you wanted to make some kind of big point about how ridiculous sports fandom gets, you'd point to coverage of the NFL draft. But today eclipses that. Today is college football's National Letter of Intent day, the day when hundreds of hypertalented 18-year-olds -- some impossibly large, some impossibly fast, a few both -- sign horribly one-sided contracts of adhesion granting them the right to put their health at risk for the financial benefit of the school and the entertainment of the alumni and regional fans.

You can look at LOI day in two ways. The traditional (or "traditional," since the concept of "LOI Day" as an event is itself fairly recent) way is to see it as a celebration of potential, an introduction to the players who will make up a quarter of a favored team for the next several years. The second way of thinking of LOI Day -- the ascendent, but unspoken way -- is as an event unto itself, a corollary contest bearing roughly the same relationship to college football as beach volleyball bears to indoor volleyball. No matter what happens next year, or for the next four years, Cal lost this LOI Day, and Alabama won this LOI day, and your officially sanctioned (pun intended) underdog USC overachieved, and years from now, thousands of recruiting junkies will look back on this as one of the most exciting days in the history of college recruiting. Thus do and compile rankings of all of the major college recruiting classes, diligently tallying the weighted aggregations of five-, four-, and three-star recruits, or of blue-, red-, and white-chippers. Thus do the fans of Cal pour into Cal Golden Blogs, less to read and remark about their new players than to spew vitriol at Tosh Lupoi, a man whose late-vintage fame derives principally from the fact that he left employment at Cal (where he was a key recruiter) for a rival that doubled his salary. And thus do 18-year-olds say and do tremendously stupid things, not in the privacy of their own communities, but in tweets and press conferences solemnly repeated in national newspapers and widely read web sites.

I have two favorite examples this year. The first is from a blue-chip player (the name escapes me) who orally committed somewhere, but who then ended up dropped from that school's and various other schools' recruitment after everybody found his unusually single-minded sex-obsessed Twitter feed. The second is the story of Jordan Payton, a wide receiver who orally committed -- publicly, earnestly, and enthusiastically -- to USC, then to Cal, and then to Washington (yesterday), before signing an LOI today with UCLA. If you're counting, that's only a third of the schools in the Pac-12. I'm surprised he couldn't fit Oregon in there anywhere. "Commitment" -- You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
THE HIPPEST TRIP IN AMERICA:  I wasn't quite sure how, as a 39-year-old white guy, I had any ability or authority to eulogize Soul Train creator/host Don Cornelius, who ended his life today at the age of 75.

"The epitome of black entrepreneurship, building Soul Train from the ground up" is how Pam Spaulding put it, and I guess what I can add is that in the pre-MTV era, Soul Train is the vehicle that smuggled black culture into white households. I don't think primarily of the musical performances or even the scramble board, but rather the dancing -- and especially the line dancing. That wasn't something I got to see at my USY dances, and it wasn't music that I got to listen to on Top-40 radio of the early 1980s.

Soul Train made my childhood a little funkier and more enjoyable, and for that I say thank you, Mr. Cornelius.
YOU HAVE EXACTLY 8 HOURS AND 54 MINUTES TO THINK ABOUT WHY YOU ARE HERE:  For our many readers who serve the public in them, here's a montage of movie and tv clips set in libraries.
HOW COMPLEX CAN A CODE BE IF THESE KNUCKLEHEADS ARE USIN' IT?  Welcome back to the chessboard that is Baltimore, as in "The Pager" The Wire again shows us competence and intelligence coming from all sides -- Prez solving the beeper cipher; Avon and Stringer on taking over markets; Omar handling his confrontation with the police to his advantage, and knowing exactly where rats run when chased.  Oh, also: crumb sweepers are classy.

In the meantime, a whole lot of pawns are being sacrificed, and D'Angelo's not acting with anywhere near the caution that his uncle would recommend.

This was a strong, solid episode; our universe keeps expanding (Bird, Dierde's informative friend Tywanda) and I still don't know all the regulars' names, but I don't at all feel lost. Instead, the details are being filled in, especially in terms of just how an operation like Avon Barksdale's works. And I'm fascinated.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

YOU KEEP ON PUSHING MY LOVE OVER THE IMAGINARYYELLOWLINE:  Yet another mainstay of our Super Bowl pool will have to be ditched, because Madonna has leaked her halftime setlist. Sadly, no "Justify My Love" in front of hundreds of millions around the world.
CHARLOTTE RAE CAN CANCEL HER DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT: TV character actors who subscribe to the theory that notable deaths happen in threes will be breathing a sigh of relief now that on the heels of Robert "Epstein" Hegyes death, the robot from Lost in Space has warned Will Robinson for the last time and Elaine's boss Mr. Pitt has moved on to a place where all the socks are decent, comfortable and will stay on your foot.
YOU GOT MONEY, YOU GET TO BE WHATEVER YOU SAY YOU ARE:  A reminder that tomorrow is Wire Wednesday, and we're up to episode 5, "The Pager," which involves a pager, a dessert cart, Ikea furniture, and cheese (standing alone), albeit not in that order.
THIS IS NEITHER PARTY NOR ROCK: In the tradition of Christopher Walken reading "Poker Face" and Benedict Cumberbatch singing "Candle In The Wind" in the style of Alan Rickman, I give you Nicolas Cage reciting the lyrics to "Sexy and I Know It."
LA BAMBA STAR MORALES: Slate introduces The Shortz Factor, a measure of how frequently a name is invoked in the NYT's crosswords compared to other pages in the newspaper.
SAY HOWDY TO GEORGE CARTER:  There is absolutely nothing of pop culture relevance contained in yesterday's Letters of Note entry, an August 7, 1865 letter from Jourdan Anderson of Dayton, Ohio, to Col. P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, but nothing you read today will be more satisfying.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A MESS O'CABBAGE: God bless the internet, because someone else already reviewed all the Kelly Clarkson renditions of Our National Anthem on YouTube to conclude you should probably bet the 'under' on whether she'll go longer than 1:34 at the Super Bowl.  (Last year's Christina Aguilera anthem had an o/u of 1:52, and it went over.)
YOU TOO, CAN BECOME THE MAYOR OF SASSY CITY: I suspect for a certain portion of our audience, the news that someone has begun scanning excerpts from random issues of Sassy (poor 90s fashion decisions! an advice column from Beck! "Zines of the month!") will be cause for celebration.
ALL IT'S MISSING IS A CHARLIE SHEEN CAMEO:  We may have to take our annual AdMeter question out of the pool, because here's that Ferris Bueller/Honda ad you've been waiting for.
I'M THE EYE-MAN OF TV, WITH MY OCULAR TB: Inspired by last week's spasm of coverage regarding Pres. John Tyler's living grandchildren (which, ahem, some of us could have told you over three years ago), the folks at Mental Floss couldn't help but wonder: what's your favorite all-time amazing fact?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

INCREDIBLY CLOSE TO WHAT? As part of my feeling an obligation to see at least the majority of films that are Best Picture nominees (now at 6 of 9 for the year--haven't seen The Artist, The Tree of Life, or War Horse, and will probably only get to 7 or 8 total), I saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in a fairly full theatre on the Upper East Side of Manhattan last night. I certainly wouldn't have ranked it #1 on my ballot, but nor did I react with the shock and disgust that some critics have leveled at the film. A couple of relatively spoiler-free thoughts:
  • Despite the fact that Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are top billed, they have maybe 10-15 minutes of screen time each--indeed, I think Max von Sydow and Viola Davis both have more screen time than does Hanks. (Reports are that Bullock had a significant subplot excised which involved James Gandolfini, who was highly billed on early posters, and whose part is entirely left on the cutting room floor.) That means that the movie rises and falls on Thomas Horn, whose sole credit before this was appearing on Kids Week on Jeopardy! The problem is that the character is a bit of a blank slate, though this is less Horn's fault than the source material and screenplay. Particularly given a reveal near the end of the film, I wonder if there wasn't a better movie to be made in which all the narrative weight didn't lie on his shoulders, but was shared in parallel with another character (as I understand the book is, mixing Oskar's story with flashbacks that are entirely absent from the film).
  • Much of the reaction to the film (particularly the negative reaction) seems to be centered on how 9/11 plays a prominent role in the film. I'm wondering if a better movie could have been made by excising 9/11 entirely from it--have Hanks' character die in a random act of violence rather than one fraught with such emotion. Admittedly, this requires some rejiggering of plot elements, but less than you might think, and might have allowed both the filmmakers and the audience to focus on a small portrait of grief rather than trying to create a large and universal one.

There are some moments in the film that really work (particularly a couple of scenes between Bullock and Horn and von Sydow's wordless, but world-weary, performance), but on the whole, I found it an interesting example of a film that tries too hard to say everything, and, as a result, winds up saying pretty much nothing.

ONE FINAL THING I HAVE TO DO ... AND THEN I'LL BE FREE OF THE PAST:  The judges have spoken, and we have our winners in Matt Zoller Seitz's Vertigoed contest, selecting among 98 entries consisting of other film clips (such as the downfall of @DukeandDukePHL) set to Bernard Herrmann's memorable "Scene D'Amour" from the Vertigo score.  The winner?  One word: KHAAAAAN!