Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Low Res Caption "Contest" No. 001

Err . . . "contest" in the sense that there will be no actual prizes given out, other than an amalgam of laughter and respect I like to call "laughpect."

Seriously, you guys. Have at this one:

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We're all winners here, so long as we all provide a caption. It's like pre-K, only with less wetting of our pants. Except from the laughter.

Link and a Nod

The link is for this week's 411 column. I re-hash the just-completed TV season and go into my reasons why Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci are the least sexual couple ever. You know you're intrigued: Happy Hour 05.30.05.

The nod is to UPN's Veronica Mars, a show I'm determined to catch up with this summer. Thankfully, Canadian television is proving itself invaluable in this regard. I caught the pilot episode last night on CTV, and I really liked what I saw.

It seems to get compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer a lot, although the differences are plenty. I like how the Veronica character is a tough girl - not superpower tough like Buffy but actually in possession of some backbone, and in a variety of social settings. I also like how it set up mysteries on multiple levels in a short amount of time. Hopefully I can find a way to squeeze an entire season of this show in before the fall.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Low Res Book Update: I Aint Slacking! Honest!

Yeah, yeah. I hear what you’re all saying.

“So, Joe, seriously, what’s up with the reading? We realize you don’t want to talk Yankees, especially since this little winning streak of theirs has been based on beating the bottom-feeders of the American League. But weren’t you supposed to get all nerdy about books, too? What gives? If we wanted to hear monosyllabic movie reviews and incoherent TV ramblings, we’d hang out with you in person.”

Okay! First of all: Shut up, Universal You. You want the Yankees should lose to Detroit instead?

Second of all, I have been reading. I just haven’t exactly been finishing books, and the plan going into this blog was to do full(ish) book reviews.

And third of all, did you guys see Alias last night? You’d be rambling incoherently, too, if all you had to go on until the new season in September was, “My name isn’t Michael Vaughn” -- CRAAAAASH!!

Anyway. Here’s a bit of an update on what I’ve been reading.

Stephen King - The Gunslinger:
I’ve been trying to read the Dark Tower books forever. This last time I really thought I had made it past that point where you find your bearings within a story and the momentum takes you through to the end. That’s what happened with me and The Talisman: umpty-nine false starts, and then one day I just hit the point of no return and blazed through the rest of it.

Not so with The Gunslinger. I had actually pinpointed the exact chapter – the exact word - at which point I thought I had gotten over the hump (“Nineteen,” for those of you that remember the story). But, alas, two chapters later and I had once again stalled out. I will persevere with this book, and hopefully by the end I’ll be invested enough to keep going. I’m not used to getting hung up on Stephen King like this.

Neil Gaiman - American Gods:
Thank god for this book. It was a big part of me getting through The Amtrakyville Horror with my sanity (such as it was) intact. This would be my second trip through Gaiman’s America, littered as it is with the cast-aside gods of the old countries. I adore it, and it’s easily among my top five favorite books of all time. Can’t recommend it enough.

This second time around, I was impressed with just how funny the book is. My initial reading, I think, was so concerned with the plot – and more importantly with figuring out which characters represented which gods, like, thanks, Internet! – that I missed the many places where Gaiman’s dry comedy comes through. Mr. Wednesday, in particular, was a character whose humour I missed almost entirely the first time around, probably because he seemed so sinister at the time. I think originally I was reading him as Brian Cox in X-Men 2 while this time I was reading him as Brian Cox in The Long Kiss Goodnight. [Why do I have this obsession with casting every literary character I come across as Brian Cox? A question for another time.]

The train trip took care of just over half the book. I’m thinking of saving the second half for my Brooklyn trip next month. Not tempting fate or anything – if things go smoothly it’s still a nine hour train, and I’ll need something to pass the time.

David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day:
I’m new to Sedaris, and I’m quickly becoming a devotee. I’d already read Barrel Fever, which was mostly short stories. Me Talk Pretty is a collection of essays, but either way you slice him, Sedaris is the kind of funny where you actually have to put the book down and compose yourself. Last night, I’m reading the one about his friend from North Carolina who brought her decidedly less pleasant companion to visit David in New York. By the time he lets fly with “We should have beat her to death,” I’m nearly in tears.

I don’t think anything he writes will ever be as funny as the short story in Barrel Fever in which a young girl’s suicide note ends up calling for the ritual stoning of her best friend and boyfriend. But with everything else he writes, it’s certainly been an excellent time waiting to see if he can top himself.

Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections:
This book, of course, was the one that broke Oprah’s Book Club. Which, point: Franzen. But it’s also one of those “bestselling, acclaimed, everybody else is reading it, asshole, so why aren’t you?” books that always seem to turn out to be completely not worth the hype.

I’m barely ankle-deep in the story so far, but I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Yes, it seems to be the 1,675th book/movie/TV show about middle class family dysfunction, but I’m liking the way he describes the living conditions of his characters. And it’s brighter and funnier than I’d imagined it. Stay tuned to see if it can sustain itself through 567 pages (yeesh!), but I’m optimistic.

And, of course, one of these days I’m going to have to delve back into The Watchmen (Alan Moore), although I may have to star back at square one since it’s been over a year since I left that story hanging. And Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (Peter Biskind) had to go back from whence it came before I got too into it, so there’s that. This summer may be the summer of completion as far as half-read books go. I can think of worse ways to spend the next few months.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wednesday Top Four: Season Finale Guest Stars Edition

Four things that impressed, appalled or otherwise held my attention for more than 15 seconds during the past week:

1. She didn’t have a whole lot to do besides look suspiciously shifty-eyed, but Alfre Woodard’s presence in the Desperate Housewives finale did nothing so much as keep me interested in what the show has in store for her next year. Woodard’s made a career out of being the best and most unheralded performer in pretty much anything she’s in. And as much as I love some of the Housewives actresses, Alfre’s once again standing head and shoulders above the crowd. Can’t wait to find out what dead children/jewel thievery/witness protection program secret lies in her past.

2. Okay, so the fourth season of 24 has pretty much sucked ass. Apart from the meandering mid-season plotlines and cartoonishly elusive villains that tend to plague every season, season 4 has turned into How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Government-Sponsored Torture. Nothing says escapist adventure TV like being lectured on torture and how Sometimes It’s The Only Way! Maybe everything’s gone downhill since the delicious (and Emmy-worthy) Shoreh Aghdashloo has gone. But one of the breaths of fresh air in the season’s final hours was the return of Mia Kirshner as the oft-naked terrorist mercenary Mandy, last seen giving David Palmer the Handshake of Death in season 2. And, no, Mia didn’t really have much more of a plan than the rest of the bad guys, but in three hours she shot two innocent people and one CTU agent, got her neighbors blowed up in a car, and finagled a sweet-ass immunity agreement. See ya next year, Mia!

3. The best and brightest returning guest star of the season was the glorious Lena Olin, whose return came in the midst of a stellar Alias two-parter which also saw the returns of Isabella Rossellini and Angela Bassett (who has better guest stars than Alias? No-effing-body). Not surprisingly, Olin’s return was the most welcome, mostly because we thought she’d never be coming back. But return she did, and with her came that Bristow family dynamic that we all know and love – namely that they’re all mysterious, hot, and deadly. And this week they get to avert the apocalypse. Good luck to them with that.

4. Before we get to the Alias finale, though, we get the two-hour Lost finale. And if last week’s foreshadowing is any indication, some stuff is going to go down. Also, if last week’s foreshadowing is any indication, we’re going to be running into some of the other survivors of the plane crash. And we know this because Michelle Rodriguez was introduced in a flashback with Matthew Fox. And no way was Rodriguez brought in just for that throwaway scene. Will she be among the mythical “others” making a trail of black smoke towards Flaming Wreckage Beach? Can she manage to create some credible sexual tension with Fox's Jack? If she can, sit down and take notes, Evangeline Lilly. Most importantly, will she join the season 2 cast and bump yet another cast member into that Great Boone In The Sky?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ten Words Movie Reviews V: Starring Ryan Reynolds and His Abs

Monster-in-Law: Bad, definitely, but not offensively so. Predictable as all hell.

A Love Song for Bobby Long (DVD): Didn’t think Travolta could get any grosser. I was wrong.

The Amityville Horror: Scary and brief. Best when viewed with some jumpy motherfuckers.

Crash: Simplistic and blunt at times, but lots of stellar performances.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Happy Hour Link

On a completely unrelated note, no, I did not see Revenge of the Sith this weekend. Yep, I’m the one. Seems that without my nine bucks Lucas’s flick managed to limp across the finish line with $158 million, which is the biggest opening weekend ever, which means that at some point in the last three years, George Lucas Eternal Sunshined a whole lot of people who would have otherwise remembered the fact that Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones sucked the bag so very, very much.

All this plus X-Men 3, Tom Cruise's Beard Search, Monster-in-Law thoughts and Trailer Trash, in this week's edition of the Monday Movie News Happy Hour. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Mariners 7, Yankees 6

Just so y'all don't think I only post when they're doing well.

Jeez. You want a microcosm of everything the Yanks have been doing wrong this season? The sloppy play, the runners left on base, the vomit-inducing bullpen, the Jason Giambi we'd like to kick in the shrunken testicles. It was a bullion cube of Crappy '05 Yankees, my friends.

Yeah, a winning streak always has to come to an end. But this was a bad way for it to happen.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ten Word Movie Reviews IV: Boooo!

The Ballad of Jack and Rose: Unpleasant and creepily incestuous. Catherine Keener rules, but she’s insufficient.

The Phantom of the Opera (DVD): What a mess. Seriously. Miscast, too literal, and laughably cheesy.

Primer (DVD): The hell? What just happened? No, for real. Brain hurts.

In Good Company (DVD): Shockingly boring and frustratingly safe given the considerable talent involved.

Monday Top Five

Five things that impressed, appalled or otherwise held my attention for more than 15 seconds during the past week:

1. VH1 made the supremely excellent decision this weekend to rerun the latest season of America’s Next Top Model. I had never watched the show, but after receiving recommendation upon recommendation for it, I decided to take the plunge. Dear lord. So awesome. For so many reasons. Tyra screaming at some girl that “WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!” The one girl who fainted exactly like they do in old movies: eyes roll up and then stiff as a board until you’re on your back. The other girl who wound up with Impetigo, causing me to lose a bet with my Mom about how I thought she had made up that disease as a deterrent for touching your face with dirty hands. The time when no one knew what “aloof” meant. But the gold, silver, and bronze on this show go to Janice Dickinson: World’s First Supermodel. She’s always about six seconds away from scratching the bald guy’s face off or exposing herself just to make a point. Plus, she sexually assaulted Tyra. Woo, that was a time.

2. Significantly less great TV this weekend was the Survivor finale. Talk about letting the wind out of my sails. First Tom gets all haughty and finger-wagging at Ian for trying to strategize behind his back. Then Ian completely loses his mind and decides that having the respect of Tom and Katie (!!) means more to him than a million dollars, so he bows out (boooo!). So, I’m faced with rooting for Jerkier-Than-Thou Tom, because, what, I’m rooting for Katie? Please. And Ian doesn’t even have the good sense to regret his actions and blast Tom during the jury phase. Unsatisfying, to the extreme.

3. So, okay, I know this is going to place me squarely among every thirteen year old girl in America, but Orlando Bloom so completely needs to call me. Read his Rolling Stone interview, y’all. From dubbing his trademarked pensive pout his “Blue Steel” to the sublime exchange in which he posits that while Legolas didn’t speak a lot, what he said was important. Then he pauses. Then he realizes that Legolas didn’t really have anything important to say, either. Then he trails off. Awesome. I have a thing for Orlando Bloom. I’ll leave my credibility at the door, thanks.

4. Ladies and gentlemen, Tino Martinez. For real. The guy has got to be nothing short of royalty to Yankees fans. Not only does he fire off eight home runs in the Yanks’ eight game winning streak, but he also helps wean us off our desire to stick Jason Giambi’s face in a pile of dog poo. Well, not completely, but we’re better off than we’d be without Tino. I think of all my favorite players from the Yankees’ latest dynasty, Jeter and Tino were my two favorites, and having him back this season is all kinds of right.

5. Last but not least, a great big fat CONGRATULATIONS go out to my very good friends Brian and Kristeen on the occasion of their engagement. Everybody now: Awwwwww. Couldn’t love you guys more if you were little tiny puppies with hundred dollar bills tied around your collars. That’s a lot of love, is what I’m saying. May your lives together be happy, and may your wedding be boozy.

Friday, May 13, 2005

GOP Karaoke: We're Laughing AT Them

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GOP Karaoke, Part I: Unbeknownst to Secretary
Rumsfeld and General Pace, their good-natured ribbing
at Bush’s overly earnest “Wind Beneath My Wings” cuts
the President right to his very core.

Not pictured: Bush crying himself to sleep, once again.

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GOP Karaoke, Part II:
Forced to pretend that the President farting the
“Star Spangled Banner” is still funny after all
these years, Secretary Rice nonetheless regrets
her suggestion of deviled eggs as an appetizer.

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GOP Karaoke, Part III:
Bush and DeLay are so enamored with their rendition
of “Stop! In the Name of Love,” they decide to
take it on the road.

Not pictured: Their decidedly less popular “You
Just Keep Me Hangin’ On,” dedicated to the fine
folks at Guantanamo Bay.

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GOP Karaoke, Part IV:
While his James Brown medley was rather enthusiastic,
one had to question the pedestrian nature of the
President’s light show.

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GOP Karaoke, Part V:
Bush’s sultry “Let’s Get It On” to the widow at
her husband’s funeral? Inappropriate!

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GOP Karaoke, Part VI:
“Someone left her cake out in the rain . . .”

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GOP Karaoke, Part VII:
Estonian President Arnold Ruutel knew that if
he got Bush to drink enough Sangria, he could
get that slow dance to “Endless Love” that he’d
been waiting for.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Train-ing Day

King Kong aint got shit on Amtrak.

So, here’s how my travel day began:

“All right, Mr. Reid, you’re on the 7:10 to Penn Station? Okay, that’s been delayed two hours.”

“Two hours?”

“Yes, it’s now scheduled to pick up here at 9:10. And then there will be some track-related delays along the way. You should get to New York between 6:30 and 7pm.”

“Between 6:30 and . . . I’ve got a party? That starts at 6:30? Any possible way I can get to Penn Station any sooner than that?”

“Short of a nuclear-powered DeLorian?”


- - - - - - - -

Eleven and a half hours and numerous emotional scars later, I had made it to my destination. Some of the lowlights of the trip:

Hour one
So, to start with, the conductor, or whoever it is on a train that makes the announcements, is like the low-talker from “Seinfeld”, all conspiratorially whispering about the delays we’ll be experiencing across the length and breadth of New York state. Like if he sotto voces it enough, we won’t notice that we’re on pace to be three hours behind our original timetable and right now I've got a pretty good view out my window of a tortoise and the dust he's leaving us in.

Hour two
Next up in the parade of ineffectual doofuses is Amtrak employee Snippy McSnidepants, who decides to respond to my inquiries as to where he expects we’ll be running into further delays with exasperated sighs of “Lyons. And Syracuse. And Amsterdam.” Each more condescending than the last. Like, thanks Guy With the Stupid Hat. All I asked for was an approximation of when I’d be able to get a reliable ETA. Leave the Poor Man’s David Spade shtick to . . . well, David Spade. Can’t really find a much poorer man than that.

Hour four
If I make it through this trip without chewing off my hard-won fingernails, it will be a moral victory. They're all starting to look suspiciously like turkey drumsticks, though.

Hour five
I call home to explain the situation and bitch heartily and at a comfortable volume about the delays, and now people are looking at me, because I'm That Guy On the Train. That Guy who's being loud and voicing the frustration that everybody else is internalizing. But they hate me because nobody wants to own up to it and I'm the only one willing to face grim reality. I'm just so fucking real, they can't handle it. There is not one bit of me that is inauthentic. I'm like J-Lo, except without the bulimic husband.

Oh, he so is. Have you seen his teeth?

Hour seven
For some reason, the “Smallville” theme song has shown up on, like, three of my mix CDs. I don’t even watch the show! It’s like some PR lackey from the WB has slipped it into my rotation so as to cultivate a subliminal longing for homoerotic superhero drama, which . . . okay. Uncle. Hell, it worked with “Birds of Prey."

Hour eight
Okay, my sunglasses just fell apart. While still on my face! Just fell apart. Like reverse engineering. Like the de-evolution of sunglasses. Like William Butler Yeats was behind me writing a poem, all “Shades fall apart. The plastic does not hold.”

And they were cheap (obviously), but I really liked them and they looked really good on me. And I can’t for the life of me remember where I got them. Like, Portland, maybe? At an approximation of Target? Perhaps? And I had just liberated them from their captivity in the land of My Brother’s Dresser Drawer, too. So, of course, I’ve figured out a way to pin this whole entire mess on him, because of course.

And, yes, that was a whole two paragraphs on my defunct sunglasses, which I had plenty of time to write since I spent half a fucking day on a train. And the first person to let loose with “Why not just fly?” gets a face full of my sandal. And let me tell you, after a half a day in transit, it is in rare fucking form.

Hour nine
People currently within my sight line:
-- College kid with laptop, watching a “Family Guy” DVD with his headphones on, laughing aloud at every joke and making me think long and hard about stabbing him to death with the jagged arm of my crumbled sunglasses so as to steal what looks to be a valuable diversion.
-- Hirsute guy wearing tank top who should so clearly know better. Hey, George the Animal Steele, cover it up. You’re attracting wildlife.
-- Three adolescent Amish kids, no doubt up to no good. Rumspringa has sprung, it would seem.
-- Guy in the seat directly in front of me with a too-long gray mane who just picked a knot out of his hair. Gross.

Hour eleven
Shout outs to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Jacob’s “American Idol” recaps on Television Without Pity, Little Debbie Nutty Bars (now, more than ever), Kelly Clarkson, and the good people at the Dannon water bottling plant. Y’all kept me alive, despite the railroad industry’s best efforts to kill me.

Next month, be sure to tune in to Joe vs. Amtrak II: No Sleep Til Brooklyn.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Name! I'm Gonna Live Forever!

I came across the annual list of most popular baby names for 2004. Interestingly enough, my name, as well as my brother's and both my sisters' names, make the top ten for our respective genders.

The "Madison" craze (#3 and holding) has got to stop, though, and I feel somewhat responsible for the meteoric rise of the "Ethan" phenomenon (#5 and rising) in the late '90s and early '00s.

It's also interesting to check out the popular names that are apparently popular everywhere but around you. Personally, I know no one named Olivia, Isabella, or Hannah, and, truth be told, the two girls I knew in high school who had babies named Ethan . . . well, I've never met them, either, which means the only Ethans I know are on TV. But, like, everywhere on TV.

Still, I have to give props to my Mom on this lovely Mother's Day, for having the foresight to give her children names that would be so solidly entrenched in the American mainstream, even some two decades-plus after the fact. For your prescience in nomenclature and so much more, Mom, happy Mother's Day.

*Two-to-one odds Mom doesn't read this anyway. My flippant use of "douchebag" in the previous entry may have chased her off for good.*

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Um . . . "Colorful" Language Ahead

Damn. Six years later and John Rocker is still a moron. Shocked, shocked I say, at the idea that New York fans might not be so willing to let bygones be bygones with the guy who insulted the city for its foreigners, its queers, its ladies of multi-colored hair, and its Asian drivers. I know, John. Some people.

This quote, though, was a doozy: “I've taken a lot of crap from a lot of people. Probably more than anybody in the history of this sport. I know Hank [Aaron] and Jackie [Robinson] took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn't for six years. I just keep thinking: How much am I supposed to take?"

Yeah, you know, Jackie and Hank only had it tough for, what, a few weeks, right? A month, tops. You, John Rocker, martyr to the cause of ignorant-ass rednecks nationwide, have been persecuted beyond the pale. And where is your bust in Cooperstown? Where is your elegiac Rick Reilly column in “Sports Illustrated”? Nowhere, that’s where. And it’s damn shame, too.

Oh, wait. It’s not. You fucking moron. People still heckling you at games? On Long Island? Tough. That’s the price, douchebag. In America, we don’t send your ass to jail for saying ignorant crap (Uh, so far. Let’s see how the rest of this administration shakes out before making any grand pronouncements). We’re America and we’re better than that There is a price to be paid, though, and John, that price is the memory of everyone you pissed off. They get to remember every gross, meat-headed, imbecilic thing you’ve ever said and they get to hate you for it. For as long as they damn well please.

So, for example, when you compare the backlash you got after calling New Yorkers dirty foreign drug-addicted faggots to the racism that Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson had to endure? People get to remember that. For a loooong time. And if the worst you get is a fan telling you to go back to Atlanta? You just hit the Powerball, my friend.


Red State, Blue State, They All Come Out the Same Color in the End

Book: What's the Matter With Kansas? (Thomas Frank)

In the aftermath of the 2004 election, it seemed natural, at least for folks of my own political stripe, to take on something of a bunker mentality. Strategies began to develop as to the best way to survive the ensuing four years under Bush, Term II: Electoral Boogaloo. There was also quite a bit of talk about the Red State / Blue State divide, and some of us wanted to know why “they” (meaning Conservatives) hated “us” (Liberals) so much. Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? goes to great lengths to answer that question.

Why do they hate us? Well, it’s the coffee we drink, naturally. Frank is astute in his observations of how the middle America has been led to view liberals much like that one campaign ad viewed Howard Dean: as “latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show(s).” Frank’s thesis is that the Conservatives have been able to establish a stranglehold on working class, lower-income red staters by establishing what he terms as a “Backlash” culture. The Backlash says that society has gone to hell in a handbasket, that said hell-in-a-handbasket-ness is the greatest problem affecting not only your country but you personally, and that the people to blame for the society in which we live are liberals.

It’s when Frank is burrowing into the crevasses of the Backlash culture that What’s the Matter With Kansas? just hums right along. The pacing, however, is inconsistent, mainly due to repeated digressions into the political history of Kansas. Frank uses his home state to frame the evolution of the Backlash, and in doing do traces Kansas’s journey from a haven of populist radicals to the bowels of Evangelical Christian, anti-abortion, anti-Evolution, anti-liberal Conservatism. The crux of the argument is that while working class Kansans are so rabidly anti-liberal, they are also rabidly pro-business, working to feed the system that is slowly gutting their home state’s economy.

Time and again (and again, and again – Frank tends to repeat himself) we see examples of Conservatives using the Backlash to get citizens to vote red on a social issue and thus ushering in another term of big business tax cuts and deregulation. They vote red to rail against abortion, they get thrown under the bus by the Freedom to Farm Act, and they come back again to vote red so they can stop the teaching of Evolution in schools.

As I said, the books meanders here and there, preventing a true rhythm from beginning to end, but when Frank is on, he is ON. He’s at his best while explaining the ins and outs of the Backlash – how it’s come down to mostly consumer-identified concerns. Do you drink wine? Do you watch NASCAR? What kinds of cheeses do you buy? What does your brand of coffee say about you as an American? By the end, as he’s wrapping it all up, bringing it home and leaving it right on your doorstep, it packs a punch. You get that uneasy feeling that we’re all cogs in a giant machine. Not the happiest thought as we sit in the midst of Bush, Year Five, but before we can get out of the mess we’re in, it’s a good idea to know the lay of the land.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ten Word Movie Reviews III: Kidman With a Vengeance

The Interpreter: Solid, unspectacular. About as mainstream as Penn should ever get.

House of Flying Daggers (DVD): Slooooooow. Beautiful to look at, in every way. But, sloooooow.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Give it a chance - it’s great fun. Sam Rockwell’s hilarious.

Birth (DVD): Ten pounds of inappropriate in a five pound bag. Un!Comfortable!

Survey, By Request

Generally, I don’t want to be posting too many of these quiz/surveys/meme things on the blog, but since this one’s come at the special request of Nathaniel, he of the incomparable Film Experience, I couldn’t well refuse:

If I could be a scientist: Cure for cancer, people! Look into it. Failing that lofty ambition, I might go into a study proving once and for all the long-term consequences of botox and collagen, just so I don’t have to look at any more hideous Hollywood faces anymore . . . Meg!

If I could be a musician: I’d play the piano, no doubt about it. I’d get really really good at it and be able to do everything from, like, classical Mozart down to crazy-ass Tori Amos.

If I could be a doctor: Umm . . . I wouldn’t? Sorry, but life and death, horrendous hours, mucho pressure, blood and guts, and umpteen TV shows and movies getting your profession all wrong? No thanks. Of course, I could be a college professor and still be called “doctor”, right? Yeah. Gimmie that one.

If I could be a painter: Cool, I guess. So long as one of my paintings doesn’t wind up on a t-shirt on “The Apprenntice”, bedazzled to within an inch of its life.

If I could be an innkeeper: I’d outlaw pets and children, have a piano bar in the lobby, charge ludicrous amounts for room service, and give my bellhops gaudy neon ensembles like the ones Christina Applegate designed in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.

Now, aren’t you glad you asked?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Monday Top Five

Five things that impressed, appalled or otherwise held my attention for more than 15 seconds during the past week:

1) It’s always a good time to watch the television newsmedia tear their collective faces off and expose themselves for the frauds they are. Case in point: The Runaway Bride. Upon this weekend’s revelation that Jennifer Wilbanks wasn’t really kidnapped but instead pulled a Julia Roberts to her fiancĂ©’s Keifer Sutherland, the TV media has all but called for the woman’s head on a platter. And why not? Wilbanks simply exposed the media coverage of her “abduction” as the sensationalistic, bloodthirsty, all-sizzle-no-steak ratings-grabbing that it was. That it turned out to be a “hoax” doesn’t make all the other non-news events we get shoved down our throats (Lacy Peterson; Michael Jackson) any more palatable. Rather, it proves that it’s all a scam. An elaborate shell game to justify the existence of 24 hour news channels that choose to skimp on the real news. Of course they want Wilbanks to burn. If Bonnie Lee Bakley had turned up alive, they’d have put a price on her head, too.

2) It’d figure the one genuinely joyous moment of this season’s “American Idol” would be the one I missed. Not only did Constantine Maroulis take the rapid transit off my television, taking his googly eyes and fuck-me poses with him, but Paula Abdul had a record-setting freak out. It’s just not going to be this much fun when Scott Savol gets the boot. Satisfying, sure, but not nearly as fun.

3) As stated in this week’s Happy Hour, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to handle this Tom Cruise / Katie Holmes thing. I’ve approached it from the whole May-December / “Bad Daddy” perspective, but in all honesty I can’t believe that Tom’s ever going to lay a hand on her. I’ve tried the Katie Holmes: Hollywood Social Climber approach, but the best I can muster is “more power to her.” Seriously, she wasn’t gonna get that kind of juice from Van Der Beek or Chris Klein or any of her “Batman Begins” co-stars. The only way it’s going to bug me is if Katie goes for the Jennifer Lopez / Lindsay Lohan fame grab and attempts a music career. Failing that, I might enjoy the sight of girlfriend towering over Cruise on the red carpet for a couple months.

4) I’m still psyched about seeing those three ex-“Oz” cast members in The Interpreter. And, interestingly, they mostly stayed true to type. Omar White was still unstable and menacing, in an ineffectual kind of way. Officer Murphy was still a relatively upstanding guy who, nevertheless, caused you to suspect he could turn at any time. And Morales was still struggling mightily with his Tyson-esque speech impediment. And, no, I don’t know the actors’ real names. And, yes, I realize IMDb is right there and I could look it up. And, no, I don’t plan on doing that any time soon.

5) Poor Mark Burnett. I mean, we all suffered on Thursday night when President Bush decided to take to the airwaves and “answer” some “questions” posed by White House “reporters”. I swear to god, the man takes evasiveness to new heights. But I sat there and wept for poor Mark Burnett. After the hourlong television coverage, CBS went and aired that night’s episode of “Survivor” opposite NBC’s airing of “The Apprentice”. And Burnett apparently didn’t have enough juice to change the networks’ plans. I can’t imagine anyone chose to watch “The Apprentice”, packed as it is with its cast of steadfast morons and jerks. Not when “Survivor” is populated with one of the least hateable reality TV lineups since the early days of “The Amazing Race”. Although, as an aside, I will say that my respect and admiration for Tom the Firefighter is waning severely. That “don’t penalize me for being so strong at competitions” speech was just sad, sad, sad.

Happy Hour Link

Prospective Summer Blockbuster: Cinderella Man (Ron Howard)

High-Concept Synopsis: Russell Crowe makes his living (and his fame) as a boxer during the Great Depression. His strength and courage inspire us all. They do!

Who Will Be Seeing It: Boxing enthusiasts who didn’t get enough plucky life affirmation from Million Dollar Baby. Great Depression enthusiasts who didn’t get enough plucky life affirmation from Seabiscuit. Your parents.

Who Won’t Be Seeing It: People who think it’s a bit too early in the year for the heavy handed Oscar-bait pictures. People who are sick to damn death of Renee Zellweger. DisGRUNTled members of Crowe’s former rock band.

All this plus more in this week's Happy Hour.