Friday, September 30, 2005

Bitching About Weather in Buffalo? I Know!

I've got absolutely no numbers or facts to back me up, but I'm going to out on a limb and say that the temperature in Western New York has dropped approximately seven hundred degrees in the span of a week. Last week, it was too hot to wear long sleeves, now I've got my hoodie tied tightly around my face like I'm Nanook of the North.

And I feel like I'm suddenly thrust into the role of Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow or Anne Heche in Volcano, where I'm the lone climatologist who has noticed how the temperature is changing at a drastic rate, and now I'm going to have to run all over town in a vain attempt to convince local government and law enforcement officials that I'm not crazy, and the world is on the brink of something-or-other, and that WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME. [Sample dialogue from the movie I'm writing inside my head: "Mr. President, you have to evacuate the cities! I can't feel the tip of my nose!"]

*Sigh* I don't have time for that. For now, I'm mainlining Vitamic C in a (vain?) attempt to stave off the nearly-guaranteed cold I get when the weather changes like this. I'm also doing all those things my Mom told me when I was growing up, like making sure to put on socks when I'm sitting around the house and drying my hair completely before going outside. Like any of this is going to help.

Oh, and this is totally unrelated to anything written above, but if you feel like cheering yourself up as you implore the clock to just say 5:00 already, check out Chad Johnson's Riverdance touchdown celebration.

Icky Shuffle, you had a good run.

Bitching About 'Lost'? I Know!

Yeah, so it's two episodes in and I'm already complaining about Lost. And no, I'm not at the "Where's Adebisi?" place yet. Mostly, I prod Lost because I like it, and I think if it weren't for a few maddening tendencies, I'd be able to love it.

Case in point, the season's first two episodes, which easily could have been fused into one episode. I've probably bored all my Lost-inclined friends with how much I dislike the flashbacks, but come on. The backstory we got on Jack in episode one and Michael in episode two added absolutely nothing new to the characters. I understood the point of the flashbacks early in season one – establish characters with dark and complicated pasts; provide deep character development in a short amount of time. But now things are just getting redundant. Oh, you mean Jack is a caring and devoted doctor with a hero complex who has difficulty making leaps of faith? You don't say! Michael is a caring and devoted father who didn't want to give up his son? It's practically tattooed on his forehead.

Take away the redundant and pace-killing flashbacks, and all of a sudden you've got one pretty tight episode, combining Jack, Locke, and Kate's POV while entering the hatch. That way, the tedious "I'm going to draw a line down the middle of this ocean - you stay on your side and I'll stay on mine" subplot with Michael and Sawyer would have seemed diversionary rather than excruciating.

I don't expect or really want the show to answer all my questions about what's going on. That's not my complaint. I like that the answers we've gotten thus far have led to more questions. That's the way it should be. It's the ridiculous padding by the largely pointless flashbacks that drives me up the wall. With a dozen major characters, thirty-odd nameless background players, and half an island full of "others," it's shitty to put the viewer through episodes of Jack's Crippled Wife or Michael's Unrealistically Placid Baby Mama.

Oh, and enough with the numbers, already. Because: really.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"We get it. It was grim. Move on."

Okay, so you may or may not have seen the new HBO comedy Extras, which is the new show by Ricky Gervais (The Office). I'm recommending it – it's not Office-funny, but what kind of standard is that to hold a show up to? But the best thing about the first episode was Kate Winslet, who played a hilariously awful version of herself. I had certainly gotten the impression, through interviews and Letterman appearances and whatnot, that Kate had a great sense of humor about herself, but this broadly winking take at her place in the business (if she wants an Oscar, she figures she better act in a Holocaust film or play a "mental") pretty much cements her coolness with me. Love her.

On the flip side of the A-list guest star gambit, Charlize Theron was pretty awful on Arrested Development last night. Why make her try a British accent that she so clearly cannot handle? And even beyond that she was just . . . awkward. It could have been a function of her character, who was revealed to be concealing a secret identity as some kind of Bond villain (don't ask – just watch), so she gets one more week to prove me wrong. But . . . damn. Even multiple chicken dances this week weren't enough to wipe the crumbs of failure from Charlize's face.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Week 3 NFL Picks

Oh, shit! Almost forgot to make my NFL picks this week. Wouldn't want to pass up an opportunity for ridicule. Now. Since my record the first two weeks is hovering around 2-447, I've decided to shake things up. The fool-proof, iron-clad solution? Pick counter-intuitively. Yes, just like George Costanza, I've realized that if every impulse I have is wrong, the opposite must be right. So I'm picking the teams I think will win, then picking against them. I can't lose!

But if this is going to work, I've got to stick with it. And sticking with it means picking against the Bills and Cleveland over the Colts. Trust me. This is bound to work.

Atlanta (+2.5) over BUFFALO [*Sigh* My Bills did NOT look good last week. At all. But Atlanta hasn't exactly looked all-world this season yet either. Willis McGahee really needs to step it up.]

ST. LOUIS (-6.5) over Tennessee [I knew I should have picked the Titans last week. You'd think that the Rams are a decent bet at home. But seeing as at this point, my NFL mind has been reduced to mush . . . meh.]

Oakland (+8.5) over PHILADELPHIA [I'm not as terrified of making this pick as I probably should be.]

Cincinnati (-3) over CHICAGO [Road game against a good defense could very well neutralize Carson Palmer.]

NY JETS (-2.5) over Jacksonville [Poor Chad Pennington. Poor, poor Chad Pennington.]

MINNESOTA (-4) over New Orleans [In keeping with my "opposite" theme: I love you, Daunte Culpepper. Go remain celibate with yourself.]

MIAMI (+3) over Carolina [Unless the Panthers have a giant letdown . . .]

Cleveland (+13.5) over INDIANAPOLIS [The future of my fantasy football team rests on the legs of Reuben Droughns. I'm going to go cry now.]

GREEN BAY (+3.5) over Tampa Bay [Respect the Cadillac! Fear the Cadillac!]

SEATTLE (-6.5) over Arizona [My gut tells me the game should remain close. Shut up, gut.]

New England (+3) over PITTSBURGH [I love how New England fans act like it’s a personal affront to them that the Steelers are favored at home in a regular season matchup they won last year when the Pats were coming off a record setting winning streak instead of an unexpected loss like this year. Go cry yourselves to sleep on your giant Super Bowl rings, you insufferable bastards.]

Dallas (-6.5) over SAN FRANCISCO [Oh how the once-mighty matchups have fallen.]

NY Giants (+5.5) over SAN DIEGO [This is a good proving ground matchup for the '05 Giants. I will not pretend to have a good bead on this game.

DENVER (-3) over Kansas City [So, is Ron Dayne the next out-of-nowhere Denver running sensation? Yet another prediction doomed to failure!]

Thursday, September 22, 2005

10 Word Movie Reviews: Featuring the Best Movie I've Seen This Year

The Brothers Grimm: Very busy, but it mostly works. Heath Ledger’s quite good.

The Constant Gardener: Smart, strident, tremendously well-acted, particularly an inspired Rachel Weisz. Excellent.

Layer Cake (DVD): Funny, stylish crime flick. Loses some steam in the middle.

Coffee and Cigarettes (DVD): So boring. Not at all the Jarmusch introduction I expected.

The Grudge (HBO): Exceedingly weird, structurally speaking. Very suspenseful, but not particularly scary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Happy Hate Day!

You ever have one of those days? Those Hate days? You know, when you’re pretty much aggravated by everything; and everyone at your job – even the ones you like – are sending you to the rage place; and someone somewhere said something that stuck in your craw and there’s nothing you can do about it; and about six times you almost fire off an e-mail to your boss that will surely end in “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this shit!”; and your back hurts; and you forgot your lunch; and you think you messed up programming your VCR so you’ll probably miss all or some of Nip/Tuck; and you realize if you weren’t so damn poor you could just get TiVo already; and damn so I still have two more hours before closing time?! One of those days.

If you ever happen upon a day like this, I urge you all to commission it your Hate Day. And hate on! I’m not advising taking things to a violence level. Nobody needs to have someone go all Falling Down on their city. But allow yourself – nay, encourage yourself – to acknowledge that today, you hate everyone and everything. You are a seething, miserable bastard. Verbally cut someone to ribbons in your mind. Stick your leg out and trip someone with the power of imagination. Let an unspoken “get bent, lady” punctuate your sentences. Mentally go over your “I win a million dollars on a scratch-off ticket on my way to work – how will I quit?” scenario. Silently tell stupid-thing-sayers to fuck right off.

Have yourself a Hate Day. Your ulcer will thank you.

Keeping 1995 Alive

Over at The Film Experience, Nathaniel has turned his retro eye toward 1995. Since this was a pretty great year for movies in my life, I figure I'll offer my counterpoint. Nat mentioned '95 as being a particularly emotional movie year for him. For me, it was more of a landmark. Spurred on by the previous year's Pulp Fiction, 1995 was the first year that I actively sought out good, challenging films. Lucky for me, there were a lot to go around.

The "Because I Say So" Awards for 1995

Best Picture
01. The Usual Suspects
02. Dead Man Walking
03. Before Sunrise
04. The American President
05. Dolores Claiborne

[The full top ten continues: 06-Heat; 07-Clueless; 08-Leaving Las Vegas; 09-12 Monkeys; 10-Seven.]

Best Director
1. Bryan Singer - The Usual Suspects
2. Tim Robbins - Dead Man Walking
3. Michael Mann - Heat
4. Taylor Hackford - Dolores Claiborne
5. David Fincher - Seven

[Honorable mentions: Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys); Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise); Oliver Stone (Nixon)]

Best Actor
1. Sean Penn - Dead Man Walking
2. Nicolas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas
3. Ethan Hawke - Before Sunrise
4. Ian McKellan - Richard III
5. Anthony Hopkins - Nixon

[Honorable mentions: Robert DeNiro (Heat); Morgan Freeman (Seven); Michael Douglas (The American President)]

Best Actress
1. Susan Sarandon - Dead Man Walking
2. Elisabeth Shue - Leaving Las Vegas
3. Kathy Bates - Dolores Claiborne
4. Nicole Kidman - To Die For
5. Julianne Moore – Safe

[Honorable mentions: Annette Bening (The American President); Julie Delpy (Before Sunrise); Alicia Silverstone (Clueless); Jennifer Jason Leigh (Georgia)]

The rest after a click of the link . . .

Best Supporting Actor
1. Kevin Spacey - The Usual Suspects
2. Brad Pitt - 12 Monkeys
3. Chaz Palminteri - The Usual Suspects
4. Gene Hackman - Get Shorty
5. Benicio Del Toro - The Usual Suspects

[Honorable mentions: David Strathairn (Dolores Claiborne); Dermott Mulroney (Living in Oblivion); Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects); Martin Sheen (The American President)]

Best Supporting Actress
1. Sharon Stone - Casino
2. Joan Allen - Nixon
3. Catherine Keener - Living In Oblivion
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh - Dolores Claiborne
5. Ashley Judd - Heat

[Honorable mentions: Mare Winningham (Georgia); Madeline Stowe (12 Monkeys); Chloe Sevigny (Kids)]

Best Original Screenplay
1. The Usual Suspects (Christopher McQuarrie)
2. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater; Kim Krizan)
3. The American President (Aaron Sorkin)
4. Seven (Andrew Kevin Walker)
5. Nixon (Oliver Stone; Stephen J. Rivelle; Christopher Wilkinson)

[Honorable mentions: Heat (Michael Mann); The Brothers McMullen (Edward Burns); Living in Oblivion (Tom DiCillo)]

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Dolores Claiborne (Tony Gilroy)
2. Dead Man Walking (Tim Robbins)
3. Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis)
4. Richard III (Richard Loncraine; Ian McKellan)
5. Clueless (Amy Heckerling)

[Honorable mentions: Get Shorty (Scott Frank); 12 Monkeys (David Webb Peoples; Janet Peoples)]

Best Ensemble Cast
1. The Usual Suspects
2. Heat
3. Nixon
4. The American President
5. Get Shorty

[Honorable mentions: Dolores Claiborne; Dead Man Walking; Seven; Clueless]

Best Cinematography
1. Dolores Claiborne (Gabriel Baristain)
2. Seven (Darius Khondji)
3. Heat (Dante Spinotti)
4. Nixon (Robert Richardson)
5. The Usual Suspects (Newton Thomas Sigel)

[Honorable mentions: Dead Man Walking (Roger Deakins); 12 Monkeys (Roger Pratt); Leaving Las Vegas (Declan Quinn); Babe (Andrew Lesnie)]

Best Production Design
1. Seven
2. Babe
3. Toy Story
4. Dolores Claiborne
5. 12 Monkeys

[Honorable mentions: Heat; Nixon; Leaving Las Vegas; Clueless]

Best Achievement in Music
1. The Brothers McMullen
2. Mr. Holland's Opus
3. Empire Records
4. Georgia
5. Dead Man Walking

[Honorable mention: Clueless; The Basketball Diaries; Toy Story; Babe]

Monday, September 19, 2005

Oh, She Nipped and She Tucked, All Right

I got to see (again) the season 2 finale of Nip/Tuck the other day, and . . . god, it really was one of the better episodes of television I’ve seen this year. So much going on in it. And the big reveal concerning Famke Janssen’s character – never saw it coming. And Famke herself was outstanding. The show gets slammed sometimes for being too outrageous or for trying too hard or whatever, but I kind of don’t see it. I think if you’re going to set your show in a plastic surgeon’s office and have one of your two main characters be a vain, amoral nymphomaniac, the rest of the show pretty much has to keep up. Anyway, the episode was intense and well acted, and the only real drawback was having to see the kabuki horror show that is Joan Rivers’s face.

The thing I most liked about it was that exec producer Ryan Murphy (who I believe wrote and directed this episode) really refused to moralize or judge any of his characters too harshly. And, usually when you talk about a show that humanizes a villain in the interests of multi-dimensionality, what they do is give the villain some sort of trauma at the hands of an even worse villain so that we feel somewhat sorry for them. Murphy never asks us to feel sorry for Ava (Janssen). He even gives us Alec Baldwin as a dignified and rather sad (but not “pathetic” sad) character in place of what a lesser show would have portrayed as a cruel and tormenting bastard. No, we don’t feel sorry for Ava. Murphy and Janssen manage to give such a clear-headed portrayal from top to bottom that in the end we understand Ava. We don’t have to demonize her, excuse her, weep for her, or forgive her. We just know who she is. Seriously, well done, Nip/Tuck.

This is all in the way of saying that Nip/Tuck begins its third season on Tuesday at 10pm. Don’t miss it. It’s some wild TV.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I Work Hard For the Money. So Hard For It, Honey.

My feature-length recap for this week’s Prison Break is now up at Television Without Pity. Not to get all supremely dorky on y’all or anything, but I’m an actual professional writer now, and that’s just bizarre. They paid me. Me! To make jokes about My Cousin Vinny and Labyrinth! I kind of love everything right now.

Except Daunte Culpepper. He can take the express train right to hell, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, read the recap. It’s 13 pages long so, you know, pack a lunch. But it’s been well-received so far, so . . .

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fanning the Flames

I would like to direct all my loyal readers to Inside Pulse to catch Aaron Cameron’s 25 Worst Fans In Sports feature. This has been a long time coming, but the wait proved worth it. The highlights: who knew that there hasn’t been a decent group of fans to see their team win the World Series since . . . why what a coincidence! The Oakland A’s! Aaron also tears the lid off the professional poker tour, puts Yankee fans right about where they deserve to be at #17, and makes Jim Rome flinch like he just saw Jim Everett.

He saves the best for last, too, putting Notre Dame partisans at #5 (and hitting all the right notes, too: the Catholic obligation, the holier-than-thou academic talk, the recent legacy of sucking) and the Boston Red Sox at #2 (oh how swiftly the worm has turned on those “lovable” losers).

If I were in the mood to add an addendum (and really, when am I not?), I might propose the following:

Toronto Maple Leafs fans: No occasion is too inappropriate for a Leafs fan to bring up how much their team rules and your team sucks. If I ever heard a report of a “Go Leafs, Go!” chant at a funeral procession, I probably wouldn’t blink an eye. You’d think such an in-your-face fan attitude would be a natural fit for a team that dominates on the ice. But with no Stanley Cup to speak of since 1967, a lot of these overzealous Torontonians seem to know not of what they brag about. Sure, they’re one of the most storied franchises . . . of your dad’s generation. Until they’re able to make a Finals appearance again, why don’t you try giving it a simmer, Gordie.

Duke Blue Devils fans: Now, the Dukies haven’t really been on my shit list for a while now. I’m no fan, by any means, but they’re the lesser of two evils in their biggest rivalry, and considering that the other evil is the powder blue menace known as the North Carolina Tar Heels, I’m often eager to give the Cameron Crazies a pass. But I can see where their detractors are coming from. They’re another from the same “we not only raise top quality ballers, we raise top quality young men” school of thought, placing them alongside every overeager private high school who ever passed you literature. And all that “we graduate our students” haughtiness was irritating, but at least accurate. That is, until Mike Krzyzewski lost control of the reins and William Avery and Corey Maggette decided to make their fame (heh) and fortune (*snicker*) in the NBA. Now they’re just the same as every other top tier college team, except with a bigger handful of white kids to make middle America feel good about rooting for them.

Cleveland Browns fans: Hey, when Art Modell took a backdoor deal to move their team to Baltimore, I felt sorry for them, too. This was blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth Cleveland we were talking about, and if their team could be spirited away, anyone’s could. So I was happy along with everyone else when they got their franchise back – old name, jerseys, history and all – in 1999. I even gave a pass to the Dawg Pound, who were the bratwurst-and-beer equivalent to Raider Nation’s whiskey-and-switchblades psycho fan base. Then they decided to throw beer bottles at the opposing team and referees back in 2001, and we all remembered why we kind of hated the Dawg Pound. Then they made their own quarterback cry. And that’s when we all knew it was okay to start making fun of Browns fans again for their team never having been to a Super Bowl before. Thanks, Dawgs!

NFL Picks: Week 2 - Electric Lose-a-loo

Since they were so enthusiastically received last week, once again I subject myself to shame and ridicule by offering up my NFL predictions for week 2. Gambling lines are for entertainment (*snicker*) purposes only. Home team in CAPS.

Buffalo (+2.5) over TAMPA BAY [It takes a lot for me to abandon my homer roots.]

Baltimore (-4) over TENNESSEE [Flip-flopped on this pick quite a bit. Ravens could take a bit to adjust to new QB, but I think they will win outright, and they say don’t pick against a team you think will win just because of the points.]

Pittsburgh (no line) over HOUSTON [Vegas freaked out because Roethlissberger might be injured. I’d still take the Steelers, though. Houston looked like ass against the Bills.]

INDIANAPOLIS (-9) over Jacksonville [It’s an intimidating line, but I have a feeling the Indy offense wants to make their real season debut.]

CHICAGO (+1.5) over Detroit [When in doubt, pick the home team.]

CINCINNATI (-3) over Minnesota [Stupid Daunte Culpepper. Stupid, stupid, stupid!]

PHILADELPHIA (-13) over San Francisco [That’s right. I’m a 49er doubter. Bring it, Arnaz Battle!]

New England (-3) over CAROLINA [Lots of things in Pats’ favor this week: there’s the AFC-is-better-than-NFC thing, the critical injuries thing, and the fact that New England is just plain better.]

Atlanta (+1) over SEATTLE [I still think Monday Night’s win was more damning for Philly than it was encouraging for Atlanta, but I think the Seahawks are in for a disappointing season.]

St. Louis (+1) over ARIZONA [No, I’m not happy that I’m picking so many road teams, but Arizona couldn’t run the ball at all last week. Bad sign.]

Miami (+6) over NY JETS [Hey, let’s break all the rules! I’ll take the road underdog to cover even though I think they’ll likely lose. I deserve all the ridicule that’s coming to me.]

GREEN BAY (-6.5) over Cleveland [Two bad teams, to be sure, but the home field advantage should be enough for a touchdown win. I hope.]

San Diego (+3) over DENVER [San Diego didn’t look that awful it its loss last week. Denver did. San Diego gets Antonio Gates back this week. Denver does not. Chargers win outright.]

OAKLAND (+1) over Kansas City [We’ll temper the Chiefs talk for a week anyway.]

New Orleans (+3) over NY GIANTS [Technically it’s the Saints’ home game, but let’s not kid ourselves. Still, I think emotion carries the Saints against an evenly matched Giants team.]

DALLAS (-6) over Washington [I think the Skins are pretty bad, I think Bledsoe won’t hit the wall for another few weeks, and I think I want to take one more home team before my picks are finished.]

In Order To Be As Bad As The Grammys, There Will Now Be Awful Singing

The Emmy Awards are on Sunday. Try to contain your excitement. Although with Ellen Degeneres hosting and the lunatic decision to allow William Shatner (among others) to sing in an American Idol-style competition, there might be something worth watching besides the horrible awards choices after all.

Speaking of which, here are my Calaveras County compulsive predictions for said awards:

Best Comedy Series: Sadly, it seems like defending champ Arrested Development takes a back seat in the race to the retiring old nag (Everybody Loves Raymond) and the shiny new . . . show about nags (Desperate Housewives). Bet on the latter “comedy” to win the night.

Best Drama Series: A true toss-up, to my eye. If the Emmys live up to their stuck-in-a-rut reputation, look for The West Wing to win for the umpty-ninth (or, what, fifth?) time. If not, it’s a dogfight between Deadwood (likely too vulgar), 24, and Lost (a pair of entries that might be deemed “too genre”). After that moving Six Feet Under finale, the show has become my sentimental choice, but that goodwill likely came too late for voters. I’m going out on a limb and picking 24, since it would figure that the first season of this show that I disliked would be the Emmy winner.

Best Actor – Comedy: My heart is with the newbies in this category, Jason Bateman and Zach Braff. Bateman might have a shot, but he’ll have to deal with a departing Ray Romano and past Emmy winners Tony Shaloub and Eric McCormack. I will pessimistically pick Romano.

Best Actor – Drama: Everyone seems to think this one is between Deadwood’s Ian McShane and House’s Hugh Laurie. But I’m putting my money on Keifer Sutherland, who has strangely emerged as the old salty dog of this category.

Best Actress – Comedy: It’s either Patricia Heaton or a Housewife. Teri Hatcher got the Golden Globe, but the Globes never warmed to Raymond like the Emmys have. Still, I think the zeitgeist will propel Hatcher to the win here, while everyone else grumbles about how Marcia Cross was better. And she is, but, with Housewives being (fraudulently?) pushed as a comedy, Hatcher’s role is the most clearly comedic. She wins.

Best Actress – Drama: Conventional wisdom says Glenn Close walks away with this, but I get the feeling this is one of those instances where conventional wisdom falls on its ass. There are four possibilities here: one is Close winning in the non-upset. One is Jennifer Garner capitalizing on her fame ascension and claiming the prize. One is Mariska Hargitay following up her Golden Globe win. And one is Frances Conroy getting a fare-thee-well honor. My prediction is that the latter will occur.

Best Made For TV Movie: I could give a damn about any of the other nominees, I’m just pulling for The Office Special. Doubt it’ll happen, though. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, most likely. Still.

Best Reality Competition Program: The Amazing Race is the two-time defending champion, but it faces a resurgent Survivor, and a dark horse Project Runway. Still, I’ll bet on the three-peat.

Best Supporting Actor – Comedy: The Entourage hipsters say Jeremy Piven. The people with good taste say Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development). But I’ll say, as I have for, like, four years running, that Peter Boyle will finally take home an Emmy for Everybody Loves Raymond. He’s the only cast member who hasn’t won.

Best Supporting Actor – Drama: Victor Garber wasn’t nominated so fuck this noise. Oh, fine. Terry O’Quinn should and will win for Lost. Although watch out for Alan Alda (The West Wing).

Best Supporting Actress – Comedy: Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter is the only acceptable winner. And maybe it’s a temporary case of ill-advised optimism, but I think she could win it. That is, if Doris Roberts ever lets the award out of her cold, dead hands. Thing to watch: Holland Taylor (here nominated for Two and a Half Men) took an out-of-nowhere nomination to an out-of-nowhere win for The Practice in 1999. Could happen again. For now, I’ll pick Walter.

Best Supporting Actress – Drama: The former winners/ladies of a certain age are represented by Tyne Daly and Stockard Channing. The refreshing new faces of color are represented by CCH Pounder and Sandra Oh. I aint crazy enough to bet against Tyne Daly, that miserable bitch who stole the Emmy from Lena Olin, Lauren Ambrose, and Rachel Griffiths back in 2003. Bitter? Never. I’m pulling for Oh, but it’s Tyne who will win it.

And one last pick: Shatner is totally going to win the singing contest. Even if “singing” will have nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Finally! A Chance To Make "Oz" Jokes!

Check it out, y'all, I'm recapping this week's Prison Break for Television Without Pity! All the fun of a gritty prison drama, but with a broadcast network in place to sheild our impressionable eyes from things like nudity, rape, and death row photo shoots for Maxim.

Anyhoo, check out the recaplet that posted today. The full length recap should go up on Sunday.

Monday, September 12, 2005

That Not-So-Fresh Sandwich

I guess you’d have to know my friend Brian to know why I put a tampon in his chicken sandwich.

But perhaps I should explain.

Brian was my housemate at college (for a grand total of one year), and in all the time I’ve known him he’s had the best, and likely sickest, sense of humor I’ve seen. Nothing that’s repeatable here on the Internet, of course. We’ve got a standard to uphold, after all. Of course, the funniest thing he’d do is cleaner than God’ bathtub. Sophomore year, I lived in a two-level apartment that had two phone lines. My room being upstairs, and my roommate and I not having discovered the sublime joy of a cordless phone, I had to trek my ass up the stairs every time the phone rang. Every Thursday night, Brian would join the roomies and I for some beer, some cards, and some beer. And every Thursday, without fail, my phone would ring, I’d have to get up from the table, and book up the stairs. I’d pick up the phone: “Hello?” I’d hear “HahahahaHEEHEEHAAAA!”

It seems Brian had discovered the joys of cordless phones after all. And I fell for this EVERY WEEK. Because I am both gullible and of a woefully short memory when it comes to these things. You won that round, Brian!

Cut to a few weeks ago, when I spent the weekend with Brian and his lovely fiancé Kristeen. Kristeen and I stop to visit Brian at work, and after a very couple-like round of “No.” “Yes.” “Yes.” “No.” on the subject of “Do you want us to pick up some food for you,” Kristeen decides she’d like to give her man a little something extra with his lunch.

[Click the link below to finish the story]

“We should bring him a dead mouse,” she says.

“Ew! A real one?”

“Or a rubber one, either way.”

“Heh. We should do something, that’s actually a good idea.”

“We really should.”

“Something gross, like a condom wrapper inside the Wendy’s bag.”

“Or a condom inside the sandwich!”

“Ew! No, I’ve got it! It’s perfect.”

And so, the decision is made to swing by Wendy’s, and while I’ll buy Brian a Spicy Chicken Value Meal, Kristeen will haul ass to the Ladies’ and procure us a tampon. Wendy’s is happy to oblige us on the chicken sandwich end, but their bathroom is criminally understocked when it came to feminine hygiene products. Luckily for us, the train station, with its ample gift shop, is a mere block away.

And so it came to be that I wound up sitting in a car in the train station parking lot with the nicest and quietest girl I knew in college, carefully placing a tampon inside my good friend’s sandwich. I feel like I’m in the third hour of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, where my moment of hitting a moral rock-bottom will be intercut with Julianne Moore sticking a needle into her arm in as her neglected child screams in the background.

We make sure the string is conspicuously sticking out of the sandwich. Our intention isn’t to have Brian ingest a tampon. We want him to see the tampon in the sandwich, have a good and horrified laugh at the fact that we got him, and then move on to the rest of his lunch. We even bought him a backup chicken sandwich so his meal won’t be ruined. Because, truly, we are the Mary Sues of tampon-in-the-sandwich pranksters.

We drop off the rigged sack lunch at Brian’s store and make our getaway, the perfect crime having been executed splendidly. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for the “Damn you!!” phone call, and a whole lot of giggling. So we wait.

And wait.

Oh we pass the time well enough, what with the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe DVD Kristeen has purchased. We try to guess Orko’s moral of the story before each episode ends. More often than not, we’re wrong. But the longer we go without a phone call from Brian, the more nervous we get.

“If he comes home, not having called us,” I posit, “we know he’s planning something.”

“Oh, he’s gonna want revenge.”

“Be on your guard! Poker faces. Don’t let him know we know he knows.”

Brian comes home, and . . .nothing. No indication that anything at all went awry at work. We make plans to go out for dinner. Still nothing. We ask him if his lunch was spicy enough for him. Still nothing. We get nervous. He’s planning something big.

Out to dinner, still nothing. Because not only are we the Mary Sues of pranking, we’re also impatient as hell, we’re barely through the salad at dinner before I crack.

“Okay, seriously, how was your lunch?”

Brian: “It was fine. Why?”

“Nothing strange about it? No? Nothing . . . what are you planning to get back at us?”

Brian: *puzzled*

“Did you eat both sandwiches or only one?”

Brian: “I ate one. I gave the other one to this guy at work.”

Oh, that’s my stomach on the floor. As it turns out, Brian saw the two sandwiches, took one for himself, and gave the extra one to a co-worker. A co-worker on his first day! Said co-worker wasn’t going to eat til later, so he set the Spicy Tampax Sandwich aside. At dinner, we all check the time and figure right about now Newbie would be unwrapping his horrifying “gift” of a sandwich.

So this prank went about as poorly as one could go, you’d figure. The intended target dodges a bullet, an innocent man on his first day at work gets handed a contaminated sandwich, and we’re all left to hope Newbie sees that string hanging out before taking a bite. Oh, we are smooth.

The next day. Oh, the next day is not good. Brian returns home from work with the news. Newbie quit. Quit. Saw his Spicy Tampax Sandwich, got furious that Brian would pull such an immature prank on his first day, and quit. Brian had to call this guy at home, explain how his fiancé and his visiting friend are immature, horrible people, how he had no idea what was in the sandwich, and that it was all a horrible misunderstanding. Newbie doesn’t budge. He has quit. Miraculously, Brian’s taking this with remarkable good humor. For all the hell I put him through at work, a punch in the mouth wouldn’t be out of the question.

The moral of the story: I’m never doing a prank again, EVER. I’m just no good at it. Clearly, Kristeen and I should have called Brian no later than an hour after the sandwich drop-off, posed as the Wendy’s Quality Assurance Commission, asked him if any stray feminine hygiene products had made their way into his lunch, and this all would have been shaken out before anyone left their job. Just those words there. If not for me, a man who currently is out of work would have a job right now. Who’s feeling lower than dirt? Me, that’s who. So immature. What twenty-five year old puts a tampon in his buddy’s food? I’m an aging frat boy. I’m a Chipster. I am gross.

Last week: I’m talking to Kristeen online. Small talk, wedding talk, blah blah blah. Then . . .

“Hey, so remember that co-worker of Brian’s who quit his job after the tampon thing?”

“Um, yeah! I seem to recall something like that considering it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done.”

“Brian and I saw him at the Fair this week. He was very smiley and polite and didn’t seem mad at me at all. I thought that was very strange. After he walked away, Brian started laughing . . . “



“He made it up?!”

“Brian found the tampon himself, ate the other sandwich, and made up the story to get back at us.”

The relief I feel is coupled with an admiration for the commitment Brian showed to his prank. The dude never flinched. The man is an immature god among immature men. He’s an example to us all.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. There’s a bag of dog poo I have to mail to a friend.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Tomorrow Morning, Michael Irvin Is My Alarm Clock

We are now less than twelve hours away from the proper opening day to the NFL season. Woo! And I do believe I’ll add a “Hoo!” to that. Honestly, NFL opening Sunday is one of my three best sporting days of the year. The other two are the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament, in case you were wondering. And NFL opening day gets an extra boost (not like it’d need it) from being always coupled with the men’s final at the U.S. Open. Although I might be more psyched for that event this year of Andre Agassi had more than an icicle’s chance in Hades of beating Roger Federer.


Anyway, since every other yahoo on the Internet seems to find themselves in a position to offer their picks for the week, I thought I’d look at an overcrowded marketplace and say “Me, too!”

My picks, complete with For Entertainment Only (heh, heh) gambling lines:

Denver (-4.5) over MIAMI [Going out on a limb, I know.]

CLEVELAND (+3.5) over Cincinnati [The three worst teams from last year all play at home this week. One will win. And it won’t be Miami or the Niners.]

BUFFALO (-4.5) over Houston [*cough*Homer!*cough*]

Tennessee (+7) over Pittsburgh [WAY too big of a line for a Steeler team without its top two running backs, against a team that could put up a lot of points.]

Chicago (+6) over WASHINGTON [Low scoring game, should be close. Much to my dismay, I’m actually onboard with Bill Simmons’s prediction of a Chicago resurgence.]

CAROLINA (-7) over New Orleans [I’d have picked it this way even before the Saints sadly became homeless. I don’t know why that disclaimer was necessary, but it was.]

MINNESOTA (-6) over Tampa Bay [And Culpepper better have a banner day, too.]

JACKSONVILLE (-3) over Seattle [Jags at home are simply a better team.]

KANSAS CITY (-3) over New York Jets [All this “Jets could win AFC East” talk is making me queasy. Go Chefs!]

Arizona (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS [My Arizona playoff hunch begins right away.]

St. Louis (-5.5) over SAN FRANCISCO [Y’all, the Niners are bad. Bad. Awful.]

Green Bay (+3) over DETROIT [With the state of Mississippi strapped to his back as a motivator, Brett Favre could throw for 900 yards this week.]

SAN DIEGO (-4.5) over Dallas [I don’t like this game. Letdown factor for the Chargers coupled with Bledsoe’s tendency to show up well in week 1 could spell the classic upset.]

BALTIMORE (+3) over Indianapolis [Ravens got close last year, will get even closer this year. Closer like winning. It’s the motivator the Colts will need to run the table the rest of the year.]

Updated Oscar Predictions

Welcome, Film Experience readers and Oscar obsessives!

Best Picture
01 – Jarhead (Universal)
02 – Munich (Dreamworks/Universal)
03 – Goodnight and Good Luck (Warner Independent)
04 – Memoirs of a Geisha (Columbia)
05 – Mrs. Henderson Presents (The Weinstein Group)

06- Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features); 07- Walk the Line (20th Century Fox); 08- All the King’s Men (Columbia); 09-Syriana (Warner Bros.); 10- Elizabethtown (Paramount); 11- A History of Violence (New Line); 12-Breakfast on Pluto (Sony Pictures Classics); 13- The New World (New Line); 14- The Constant Gardener (Focus); 15-Proof (Miramax).

Best Director
01 – Sam Mendes (Jarhead)
02 – Steven Spielberg (Munich)
03 – Stephen Frears (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
04 - George Clooney (Goodnight and Good Luck)
05 – Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)

06- Rob Marshall (Memoirs of a Geisha); 07- Steve Zaillian (All the King’s Men); 08- James Mangold (Walk the Line); 09- Terrence Malick (The New World); 10-Neil Jordan (Breakfast on Pluto); 11- Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown); 12- David Cronenberg (A History of Violence); 13-Stephen Gaghan (Syriana); 14- Woody Allen (Match Point); 15- Curtis Hanson (In Her Shoes).

Acting categories await if you follow the link below . . .

Best Actor
01 – Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line)
02 – David Strathairn (Goodnight and Good Luck)
03 – Sean Penn (All the King’s Men)
04 – Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials of Meliquades Estrada)
05 – Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)

06- Ralf Feinnes (The Constant Gardener); 07- Cillian Murphy (Breakfast on Pluto); 08-Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain); 09- Viggo Mortenson (A History of Violence); 10- George Clooney (Syriana); 11- Eric Bana (Munich); 12- Steve Martin (Shopgirl); 13- Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead); 14-Nathan Lane (The Producers); 15- Bill Murray (Broken Flowers).

Best Actress
01 – Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
02 – Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
03 – Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha)
04 – Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
05 – Charlize Theron (North Country)

06- Gwyneth Paltrow (Proof); 07-Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger); 08- Diane Keaton (The Family Stone); 09- Claire Danes (Shopgirl); 10- Meryl Streep (Prime); 11- Cameron Diaz (In Her Shoes); 12-Julianne Moore (The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio); 13- Kiera Knightley (Pride and Prejudice); 14-Salma Hayek (Ask the Dust); 15- Juliette Binoche (Bee Season).

Best Supporting Actor
01 – Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead)
02 – Jude Law (All the King’s Men)
03 – Ken Watanabe (Memoirs of a Geisha)
04 – Christopher Plummer (The New World)
05 – Bob Hoskins (Mrs. Henderson Presents)

06-Matt Damon (Syriana); 07- Barry Pepper (The Three Burials of Meliquades Estrada); 08- Ed Harris (A History of Violence); 09-Christian Bale (A New World); 10- Geoffrey Rush (Munich); 11-George Clooney (Goodnight and Good Luck); 12- William Hurt (A History of Violence); 13-Woody Harrelson (North Country); 14-Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale); 15-Anthony Hopkins (Proof).

Best Supporting Actress
01 – Toni Collette (In Her Shoes)
02 – Patricia Clarkson (All the King’s Men)
03 – Scarlett Johansson (Match Point)
04 – Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha)
05 – Shirley MacLaine (In Her Shoes)

06- Susan Sarandon (Elizabethtown); 07- Maria Bello (A History of Violence); 08- Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain); 09-Michelle Yeoh (Memoirs of a Geisha); 10- Frances McDormand (North Country); 11-Laura Linney (The Squid and the Whale); 12-Q’Orianka Kilcher (The New World); 13-Kate Winslet (All the King’s Men); 14-Kirsten Dunst (Elizabethtown); 15-Catherine Keener (Capote).

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ten Word Movie Reviews: How I Spent My August

The Ring Two (DVD): Awful. Discards or negates everything that's great about the first.

Manhattan (DVD): I'm sorry. Couldn't get into it. It looks fantastic, though.

Red Eye: Moves fast enough to gloss over how it's kinda bad.

The 40 Year Old Virgin: Hilarious. Impeccable cast and smartly stupid writing. Rogen, Rudd rule.

Wedding Crashers: If not for "Virgin," it's the funniest movie this summer.

Tuesday Top Five: 09/06

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

01 – One of my favorite things about Labor Day weekend- and one of the reasons why I tend not to want to leave town over the weekend – is the middle rounds of the U.S. Open. And the tennis has been phenomenal, especially from the men, who were looking like the weaker bracket at the beginning of the week. Two matches in particular brought the house down. One was James Blake’s win over Rafael Nadal on Saturday, which was full of so much drama, what with Blake’s backstory and Nadal’s boundless exuberance. Every single point was outstanding. Then on Sunday, I got to see the final set of the Srichapan-Sanguinetti match, which was some of the best tennis I’d seen in years. At 5-5 in the fifth, the balance of the match teetering wildly, both players stopped before a point, looked at each other . . . and smiled. And said “bring it on.” The unbridled joy of competition. Best moment ever.

02 – I don’t know if anyone caught the NBC benefit concert for the hurricane victims – I certainly didn’t – but do yourselves a favor and take a look at what went down when Kanye West was given the floor. Dude goes off-script pretty much immediately and just launches into a confused, angry, frustrated, rambling indictment that probably mirrors what a lot of people had been thinking about the consideration that was given to the poor, and largely black, gulf coast citizens. He closes it bluntly with, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” It was almost funny, given the abruptness of it, and the goggling reaction it got from an in-over-his-head Mike Myers. I was never much of a Kanye fan, and I’m likely still not, but that whole thing was just incredibly awesome to witness. Check it out.

03 – More props for the Simpsons Season 6 DVDs. The episode du jour? “Bart’s Girlfriend,” which sees Bart get smitten with the hellcat daughter of Reverend Lovejoy. The thing that continues to get me about this episode is Meryl Streep as Jessica Lovejoy. You totally can’t tell it’s her, she does that good of a job donning a kid’s voice. And she does so much with it, too, crafting this little pre-adolescent demon spawn. There really isn’t anything that Meryl Streep can’t do. Comedy, drama, accents, playing old, playing young, playing drunk, playing high. It’s why she’s my favorite actress by a long shot. Oh, and Homer’s “To the little girl’s room!” is ridiculously funy.

See my Fantasy Football drafts when you click below . . .

04 and 05 – I drafted for two of my three Fantasy Football leagues this week. I’m publishing the results here. Why? Because I’m under the mistaken impression that you all care.

The first league is the money league. AKA, the one that really matters. Ten teams, fourteen rounds, I really did my homework for this one. Sadly, the results weren’t all that pretty. Still, I just barely missed the playoff last year, so I’d like to make a better showing for myself. My team:

QBs: Daunte Culpepper; Drew Brees
RBs: Corey Dillon; J.J. Arrington; Ricky Williams; Reuben Droughns
WRs: Reggie Wayne; Drew Bennett; Deion Branch; Lee Evans; Keenan McCardell; Kevin Curtis K: Matt Stover
Def.: New England

As you can seen my running backs are where my problems are at. The position I drafted in meant I was left with nothing but scraps when it came time to make my third pick. So I got stuck with the unproved rookie in Arrington, and took a flyer that Ricky Williams will return to form late this season. Droughns and Curtis were post-draft free agent pickups.

Don’t ask me when my opinion on a Randy Moss-less Culpepper turned around, but it did and I’m hoping he’ll find his new wide receivers as easily as he did Moss. But I do have something of a lucky charm in The Might of White (tm Aaron Cameron). Not one, but TWO white wide receivers? Gold.

My second draft, held with my 411Manis compatriots, was next. This crazy-ass league drafts team defense AND individual defensive players, keeps stats in, no lie, seventeen thousand different categories, and drafted for twenty-two rounds. It went thusly:

QBs: Marc Bulger; Jake Delhomme
RBs: Willis McGahee; Rudi Johnson; J.J. Arrington; Lee Suggs
WRs: Marvin Harrison; Michael Clayton; Larry Fitzgerald; Amani Toomer; David Patten; Ronald Curry; Kevin Curtis
TEs: Dallas Clark; Doug Jolley
Ks: David Akers; Jon Kasay
Def: Philadelphia; Rodney Harrison; Takeo Spikes; John Abraham; Sammy Knight

Strangely, even with a bigger league and thus a more strained talent pool, I feel better about this draft. For one thing, my second-best back in the money league is my #3 here. And my wideouts are stronger, at least at the top. Unfortunately, keeping track of my score on Sundays will require a degree in quantum mathematics, so I’ll just have to cross my fingers and pray on this one.