Thursday, August 31, 2006

Apologia for Justin Long

Look, I know the Apple ads are annoying. Believe me, I know.

All I'm saying is that Justin Long is going to have to do a whole lot more things a whole lot more annoying than those ads in order to lose my fierce loyalty. And this is why.

You know, Dodgeball would have been such a better movie if it was just 40 minutes of that clip and then another 40 of Jason Bateman's character. You know it would have.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Awesome and Vibratory Power of Color

I love the U.S. Open. It's always the most exciting tennis of the year. And I love how the Open's less traditional stance on apparel tends to result in more...interesting decisions, let's say. But where was I when the USTA issued the edict that dark-orange/tomato-red ruled and everything else drooled?

Wearing such a bold color will cetainly help you stand out. Unless everybody else does the same and you all end up looking like the Princeton University soccer team.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Rewatchables: "You mean 'coitus'?"

Think of your favorite movies. The movies you can watch over and over and over again without getting sick of them. The movies you pop in the DVD player on a hungover Sunday morning when you're not quite in the mood for a VH1 I Love the '80s marathon. The movies you catch on cable mid-way through and always have to watch 'til the end. Not the best movies you've ever seen, necessarily. The most re-watchable. Adaptation was one of the best movies I've seen this decade, but I've elected to watch Mallrats far more often. That's what I'm talking about.

Every so often, I'm going to post about one of my favorite re-watchable movies. I'll try to give you an idea of just what keeps me interested the third, fourth, eighth, twelfth time I watch them.

Today's re-watchable:

The Big Lebowski
dir: Joel Coen
starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro

On your 1st viewing, just take in the movie in all its surrealistic, hysterical glory. Wallow in Jeff Bridges's delightful performance and note-perfect line readings. Appreciate the finely-honed dialogue that doubles back on itself ("the parlance of our time," "Chinaman," "johnson," "where's the money, Lebowski?") to such wonderful effect. Follow the plot if you must, but it's not truly necessary.

On your 2nd viewing, just watch John Goodman. No. Really. Don't take your eyes or ears off him. Not that you could, to be honest, but he's just the most wonderful thing going. And it's not just the thunderously-delivered catchphrases, either. He's really quite endearing beneath all the 'Nam bluster and rage.

On your 5th viewing, make a special note of the opening credits, as well as the numerous fantasy sequences, all of which render The Dude's beloved sport of bowling with the splendiferous style of an Esther Williams picture.

On your 6th viewing, give it up for the stellar supporting cast. Phillip Seymour Hoffman as perma-stressed Brandt; Steve Buscemi as out-of-his-element Donny; Peter Stormare as Uli the Nihilist; David Thewlis (!) as the high-pitched, giggling Knox; David Huddleston as the "Big" Jeffrey Lebowski; Sam Elliott as the narrator; Julianne Moore's best comic work to date and the evolutionary descendant of Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hudsucker Proxy. Honestly, that entire sex/coitus/vagina/Johnson conversation is such brilliant back-and-forth.

On your 8th viewing, mull over whether the Gipsy Kings' "Hotel California" or Kenny Rogers's "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" made for the better musical interlude.

By your 11th viewing, you should probably start brushing up on your quoting. Doubtless, this is one of the more quotable movies of our time, but maybe it's time to hang up "The Dude abides" or "Nobody fucks with the Jesus" in favor of something less obvious. How about "strong men also cry"? Or "Your revolution is over! My condolences! The bums lost!" Pick one Walter quote and go with it. I'd suggest "You're entering a world of pain," or else "Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit," if you're not into the whole brevity thing. Speaking of which, please, if you're going to quote the "Duder, El Duderino" spiel, at least get the words right. Stay away from "This is what happens when you fuck a stanger in the ass!" Can't use that one in polite company. Try "stay outta Malibu, Lewbowski!" Or "the royal 'we,' the editorial..." It's not like this is a shallow pool we're picking from. Choose wisely.

On your 12th viewing, feel free to salivate over the truly heroic number of White Russians the Dude downs over the course of the film.

On your 15th viewing, note that the Dude is maybe a little too high-strung for a stoner.

On your 19th viewing, fume over the outright THEFT of the "dude, where your car? Where's your car, dude?" line that some unnamed film totally nabbed from Lebowski. For shame, Ashton Kutcher. For shame.

On your 22nd viewing, take in everything again, all at once this time. And everything you missed because you were stoned the first twenty-one times. It's worth it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Jesus cocksmoking Christ, Emmys...

Can't you go five seconds without embarassing yourselves? Every damn year with this show. And every year I expect this time things will be different. Even after the legendarily terrible nominations, they still could have salvaged some halfway decent winners. But no, Tony Shaloub and Megan Mullally and Alan Alda needed more Emmy statues! The Amazing Race over Project Runway? Y'all don't even watch TV, do you? BARRY MANILOW OVER STEPHEN COLBERT??? I'm out.

Conan was hysterical, though. Love that guy.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Beyond Actress-dome: Semifinals

64 women enter. One woman leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).


Quantity: Frances is one of the most consistent women in this competition. Not a whole lot of City By The Seas or Aeon Fluxes on that resume. In fact, those two are just about it. Unfortunately (for Frances, not for us), Streep's just more prolific. In case it hasn't been mentioned yet, only Streep could turn a movie like Music of the Heart into a check mark in her favor. Edge: Meryl Streep.

Quality: Sherriff Marge Gunderson versus author Susan Orlean. They're both incredibly confident and layered comic portrayals. They were also both career turning points, as McDormand became a viable female lead, while Streep began a late-career renaissance that could end up in her third Oscar if things go well with her Devil Wears Prada campaign. I've gotta give the nod to McDormand, though. The defining performance in one of the defining movies of our generation? Yep.

Fake Oscar Nods: McDormand: 3 (Fargo; Almost Famous; The Man Who Wasn't There); Streep: 3 (The Hours; Adaptation; One True Thing). PUSH

Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.

Girlfight Factor: I have to say, this could be a fight for the ages. No pun intended. Think of their roles for a second. McDormand's been a scary-ass mom in Almost Famous, an unscary sherriff who nonetheless got the job done in Fargo, and a tough-as-nails mine worker in North Country. I wouldn't mess with her. Streep's got the Anna Wintour analogue in Prada, as well as the steely double dip of Mormon and Jewish widows in Angels in America. But just as often, she plays characters that fall to pieces: in The Hours, in Adaptation, in Lemony Snicket. It's a weakness you can't have when Frances McDormand is looking for the killshot. Edge: McDormand

Winner: Frances McDormand 2-1

Quantity: Linney's résumé has been fairly unstoppable throughout this competition. What performances of hers haven't I commented on? Her conflicted mom in The Squid and the Whale? Loyal wife in Kinsey? Fiercely determined prosecutor in Primal Fear? Coldly judgmental townie in The Laramie Project? Acidic socialite in The House of Mirth? Hysterical actress in The Truman Show? Lady's done a lot in a decade. Allen's awesome, but she can't keep up in this category. Edge: Linney

Quality: Terry Wolfmeyer versus Sammy Prescott. Battle of the single moms, not that they have a whole lot in common beyond that. Allen's a blast to watch in Upside of Anger; absolutely balls-out hilarious. Linney in You Can Count On Me is a bit more special, I think. It hits an emotional spot few performances do. This, by the way, is one more rematch where Laura dispatches a competitor from the 2000 Best Actress race. Edge: Linney

Fake Oscar Nods: Allen: 4 (The Upside of Anger; The Contender; Pleasantville; The Crucible); Linney: 3 (You Can Count On Me; The Squid and the Whale; Primal Fear).

Spotlights Stolen: Both starred in Searching for Bobby Fischer. Allen played the young chess prodigy's mother. Linney had a small role as a schoolteacher. Small role or not, it'd be tough to top Joan's work in the film. The entire cast is great, and she's no exception. Her big scene that everyone remembers -- the "you think that he's weak" scene -- is enough to win the category for her. Edge: Allen

Girlfight Factor: Wow. You know, I did not see this one coming, I'm going to be honest. That's the beauty of arbitrary and not-necessarily-fairly-calibrated categories like these. I've tried to wank my way out of this, but it's not happening. The truth of the matter is Joan Allen kicks the everloving CRAP out of Laura Linney. I'm sorry, but you and I both know she does. Dammit, Laura. You couldn't have taken ONE role as hard-nosed CIA director? Ah, well. I love Joan to pieces anyway. As many pieces as she's left Linney in. Edge: Allen

Winner: Joan Allen 3-2

Okay, so here's the deal. We already know our matchup for the finals. Joan Allen versus Frances McDormand. We also know that they've never been in a movie together. So I figure, why not get the reader vote component on this ahead of time? That way this doesn't end with an anticlimax. So hit up the comments here. It's pure preference, so don't feel that you're bound by any criteria. Who do you like better? Vote wisely and once...for the last time!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Short Form Friday: VMA A-okay

In honor of the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards -- a show I will probably not even end up watching or really care about beyond hoping that Pam and Stee will recap it again -- I present my choice for video of the year:

I think Nathaniel summed it up best: boys in makeup. It has an appeal. Beyond that, it's an impossibly catchy song and a memorable video at a time when that artform has been dying on the vine for years.

Some of my other favorite Videos of the Year:

Missy Elliott - "Work It" (2003)
Missy's whole body of work is worthy of its own post, to be sure. This one had all the usual Missy coolness/hilarity, plus that off-putting little white girl dancing around.

Jamiroquai - "Virtual Insanity" (1997)
I could never manage to peel my eyes off of this one. Trippy, but not disturbing.

Smashing Pumpkins - "Tonight Tonight" (1996)
Gorgeous. Sadly, it was all downhill for the Pumpkins from there.

Aerosmith - "Cryin'" (1994)
I LOVED the Alicia Silverstone series. that Stephen Dorff? Teeny little sexpot. And Swayer from Lost as the purse-snatcher! It's STILL fun to see him get his ass kicked by a girl, even in retrospect.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Emmys, If We Must

In these times of discord and division, it's been nice of the Television Academy to give everybody someting to agree upon. That being the fact that the 2006 Emmy nominations were a giant bucket of crap. Still, some (and I'm not saying I'm among them...yet) are thinking that the stinky noms might pave the way for some truly deserving winners. We'll see. But I've managed to grab onto at least one pony in each race to root for. The awards will be handed out, when, Sunday night? I dunno. Whenever Conan O'Brien shows up on NBC in a tux.

Grey's Anatomy
The Sopranos
The West Wing

Bearing in mind that I don't watch House...Grey's Anatomy was the only show among those nominated that I absolutely could not miss each week. It really grew into one of the best shows on TV in its second season, 100% guaranteed to make me laugh and cry within the hour. Every damn time.

Arrested Development
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Office
Two and a Half Men

Top to (almost) bottom, this is a pretty strong lineup, especially considering there really are only three-to-five comedies on TV that are worth a damn anyway. The Office is the one at its creative peak right now, but I'd also be happy with (very unlikely) wins for Arrested or Scrubs.

Peter Krause, Six Feet Under
Denis Leary, Rescue Me
Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: SVU
Martin Sheen, The West Wing
Kiefer Sutherland, 24

Ugh. This one's a challenge. Kiefer's character has become so one-note and irritating as of late that I can't even take the performance seriously. I can't deal with Denis Leary and thus don't watch his show. I don't watch much L&O, but I liked Meloni on Oz. Krause is good, I guess, but by the end I hated his character a whole lot. Which leaves Martin Sheen. Who really should have won one of these by now anyway. Go Marty.

Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under
Geena Davis, Commander in Chief
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Allison Janney, The West Wing
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

You shouldn't be able to get nominated for a cancelled show unless it was good. Sorry, Geena. And much as I love Allison Janney, she's won about a bajillion Emmys thus far. Frances Conroy hasn't won any, and she's been SO consistently good, and her show is fondly remembered. She probably won't win, but it'd be nice.

Steve Carrell, The Office
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Kevin James, The King of Queens
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Here's one where I'm pretty sure the one I'm rooting for is the one who's going to win. Sorry, Steve Carell, I hope I didn't just jinx you!

Stockard Channing, Out of Practice
Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm in the Middle
Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Debra Messing, Will & Grace

Ouch. This is one sad-ass lineup. I barely watch anything on CBS, much less their situation "comedies," Debra Messing and Jane Kaczmarek are beyond yesterday's news, and The Comeback never did a thing for me, to be honest. I'll probably root for Stockard Channing just because I think she's awesome, even if I don't quite believe there's actually a show called "Out of Practice."

Alan Alda, The West Wing
Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos
Gregory Itzin, 24
Oliver Platt, Huff
William Shatner, Boston Legal

I'm not the world's biggest Imperioli fan, to be honest. Truthfully, I'm in the "anyone but Shatner" camp, but if I had a vote, it'd probably go to Itzin. President Logan really grew on me.

Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Blythe Danner, Huff
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Jean Smart, 24
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy

Against most other competition, Jean Smart would get a long, hard look from me. But my Grey's girls are here and hogging up all my love. I think Sandra's gonna win, but I'll be pulling for Chandra Wilson.

Will Arnett, Arrested Development
Bryan Cranston, Malcolm in the Middle
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Jeremy Piven, Entourage

Easiest call on the ballot. He doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning, but Will Arnett? Come on!

Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl
Alfre Woodard, Desperate Housewives

Toughest call on the ballot, and that's even after discarding Woodard and Mullally, two actresses I adore. No, this one comes down to Jamie Pressly and Elizabeth Perkins. Either one winning would be the coolest part of Emmy night. I told Tara last week that with my luck, Tyne Daly would crash the category and win. I'm not exactly ruling it out yet. That Lena Olin/Lauren Ambrose/Rachel Griffiths year still smarts.

The Amazing Race
American Idol
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway

Project Runway, Emmy bitches! Get with the program.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Trailer Trash: Jeez, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Let Someone Else Act

A couple previews that screened before I saw -- have you heard? -- Little Miss Sunshine:

Stranger Than Fiction

I've been looking forward to this one for awhile. Emma Thompson, of course. And Will Ferrell getting that perfect role that's both more serious than he's used to and yet still right up his alley. Everything that's been written about this movie lately seems to reference its similarity to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Which is understandable, I guess. I can draw the lines pretty clearly between Jim Carrey/Will Ferrell, Kate Winslet/Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Tom Wilkinson/Emma Thompson. But it's a big eight-ball to put a film behind, constantly comparing it to one of the best movies of the decade. Of course, it doesn't help when the damn trailer uses an ELO song -- just like the Eternal Sunshine trailer! Anyway, it's a great preview. Maggie Gyllenhaal screaming "tax maaaaan!!" cracks me up every time.

Trust the Man

Am I crazy to think this movie looks pretty good? I mean, Bart Freundlich is an infamously mediocre director. And David Duchovny looks to annoy me as much as he ever has. But on the flip side...Julianne Moore and Maggie Gyllenhaal look pretty delightful. And you all know I will follow Billy Crudup to the ends of the Earth or his next extramarital affair, and he's absolutely adorable in this clip.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Today's my birthday, and I'm...getting drunker.

Quick, everybody congratulate me on not dying for another year. Do it! I had a lovely day of moviewatching and out-to-dinnering and hassling with the outrageous assholishness of fucking Sears. I would like to offer big thanks to the incredibly kind people who bought me something off my wish list. I'm weak from the kindness, for serious.

So, you know how Jacob and Sarah not only share their birthdays with each other, but also super cool/interesting people like Reese Witherspoon and William Shatner and Karl Malden? (And...Marcel Marceau, I know.) Well, I figured I'd check the IMDb and see who I share my own special day with. It's weird how I didn't know anyone off the top of my head who shared my birthday. Or at least it was until I started to peruse the list. Clearly, I've been supressing some shit for my own good.

To the list!

Paris Bennett -- Not a bad start. She was a sweetheart and super likeable and on a show I recap, which is kind of cool. She's also eighteen today, so she can start ruining that lovely voice of hers with cigarettes now!

Kelis -- Random, but I'm really liking that "Bossy" song these days, so I'm pretty happy.

Kimberly Stewart -- Okay, she's ridiculous, and the list is all the more gross for having had her. When Laguna Beach Talan is the classy one in your relationship? Yeah.

Alicia Witt -- That's better. I've always liked her.

Amy Fisher -- Okay, fuck this. Are you serious??Jacob and Sarah get Reese Witherspoon and I get Amy Fisher? No, really, nice joke, God!

Carrie-Anne Moss -- Yeah, she's only had one and a half good performances in her career, but so long as she hasn't ever fucked a married Long Island mechanic in zubaz pants, she's a step in the right direction. And if she has fucked a married Long Island mechanic in zubaz pants, for God's sake don't tell me.

Kim Cattrall -- Even better. I still love that HBO documentary she narrated about "Sexual Intelligence." High-larious.

Joe Strummer -- Our first "cool" entry.

Loretta Devine -- Love her.

Peter Weir -- Truman Show, Fearless, I like it. We're on a roll now.

Clarence Williams III -- I had to explain to Sarah that he was the black guy from The Mod Squad. Not a great sign.

Kenny Rogers -- Who only counts for half since his face was born some time in October of 2005.

It's pretty uninspiring, you have to admit. So I went to Wikipedia and found out that Winnie-the-Pooh also shares my brithday. Everybody likes Pooh, right? Time to quit while I'm ahead.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Short-Form Friday: What do we call you if we're really nasty?

Janet Jackson - "If"

This is easily my favorite Janet Jackson video. Ever. This was such a great era for Janet. Freed of the high collars and epaulets of the Rhythm Nation era. Still a good decade before the "Oops! There's a Japanese throwing star on my nipple!" era. And while she had transformed her body from the cherubic little-sisterness of her early videos to the hard body you see in this clip, she hadn't yet embarked upon the binge/purge/fat/thin/dangerous-foreign-surgery rollercoaster that has characterized her divergent public appearances the past several years. This was Janet at her absolute peak. The hair, the body, the clothes, the music: flawless.

The video itself is fairly phenomenal as well. It's got it all: dramatic lighting, simulated sex acts, intricately choreographed dancing, the artsy ambience that only a Thai brothel can bestow. What more could a thirteen-year-old boy ask for? Really, it's the dancing that's the star of the show. It's got a whole "touching without touching" vibe that really screams "Jackson Family" to me.

We go through three glorious stages in the video. Stage 1: Prelude. Money is exchanged. Video equipment is set up. Men are lowered from the ceiling. And Janet enters amid flowing red streamers like she's the Last Empress. Stage 2: Janet and her harem toss around their identical, faceless dance partners like so many lumps of man-shaped clay. There are spirited bouts of faces being shoved into crotches and ladies squatting over their prone male counterparts. It's all very sexy. Stage 3: Dancing like hieroglyphs out of the screen and into our imagination.

Don't pretend like you didn't try it at least once.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I no longer feel guilty about loving Justin Timberlake. I might still feel a liiiiittle bit guilty about loving "Sexyback," but that's fading as well, because that tune is a jam and I like it more and more each time I hear it.

Anyway, what's not to love about JT? He's hot, he makes super-catchy pop tunes, he got while the getting was good w/r/t Britney Spears. Yeah, okay, there's Cameron Diaz, but the Saturday Night Live performance (especially the Punk'd spoof) more than makes up for it.

My latest reason for loving J-Timby? He hates Taylor Hicks! WOO!

“People think he looks so normal, and he’s so sweet and he’s so earnest, but he can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” Timberlake told Fashion Rocks, a supplement of Vanity Fair. Timberlake also thinks that Hicks’ fame is fragile. “If [Hicks] has any skeletons whatsoever, if God forbid, he’s gay, and if all these people in Mississippi who voted for him are like [then he takes on a thick southern accent], ‘Oh my god, I voted for a queer!’ It’s just too much pressure.”
Was that last gay comment a bit weird? Yes it was. Will it fuel several months of "Justin is gay" rumors on gossip blogs? You betcha. I don't care. We're soldiers on the same side of a battle now. Get your sexy on, Justin!

[Tip of the hat to Josh and Josh Are Rich and Famous for pointing me to the story.]

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Beyond Actress-dome: The Quarterfinals conclude!

64 women enter. One woman leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).


Quantity: Close race. In Kidman's favor: Moulin Rouge!, The Others, The Hours, Dogville, Cold Mountain, and Birth. Half a dozen. In McDormand's favor: Half a dozen plus one. Let's pretend it was her consistently underrated turn in The Man Who Wasn't There that put her over the top. Edge: McDormand

Quality: McDormand as Sheriff Marge Gunderson in Fargo versus Kidman as Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Both won the Oscar, and deservedly so in each case. I feel weird making this call, but I think it has to be Kidman. I know, I know. What kind of pretentious douche picks the lilting dramatics over the hip Coens comedy? Well, this kind of pretentious douche, at least in this instance.

Fake Oscar Nods: McDormand: 3 (Fargo; Almost Famous; The Man Who Wasn't There); Kidman: 3 (The Hours; The Others; Dogville). Push

Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.

Girlfight Factor: Nicole Kidman has spent this entire tournament getting her ass kicked. Up the hill and down the hill, around the block and back, she's gotten the Botox beaten right out of her. That is, until she stepped into the quarterfinals, where pummeled yet again. Come on, dudes, it's Frances McDormand. It's not even a contest.

Winner: Frances McDormand 2-1

Quantity: Collette's collection is more than respectable, and it just got a bump this week with my screening of The Night Listener. Still not enough to topple Streep, who added a pair of 2006 credits (Prairie Home Companion; Devil Wears Prada) herself.

Quality: Well, I've decided. I like Toni best in Velvet Goldmine. One of her smallest roles on the list, but she makes such an indelible impression. It's not, however, more indelible than Streep's Adaptation performance, a slippery comic adventure hidden under cover of an existential crisis. It was as fun as it was unexpected.

Fake Oscar Nods: Collette: 3 (In Her Shoes; The Sixth Sense; Velvet Goldmine); Streep: 3 (Adaptation; The Hours; One True Thing). Push

Spotlights Stolen: Meryl and Toni co-starred in The Hours, though they're never onscreen together. It's a wonderful moment for Collette, definitely the best of the many second-tier characters the film offers. I'd love to give it the upper hand here. Problem is, Meryl is SO good in the movie. She blows everyone else away, and if it wasn't for Nicole Kidman, she'd walk away with the film. She even manages to perform a nervous breakdown in a way that's not too showy. Love it. Edge: Streep.

Girlfight Factor: They seem pretty evenly matched. Toni's more the scrapper, Meryl's more the covertly vicious type. We'll give this match-up to Toni, but partly because I think Meryl, the victory in the bag and the semi-finals in sight, was trying to keep her fingernails clean for this one.

Winner: Meryl Streep 3-1

Coming soon: The semifinals. Linney. McDormand. Streep. And...who else? Keep voting in the Allen/Witherspoon race!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Beyond Actress-dome: The Quarterfinals begin!

64 women enter. One woman leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).


Quantity: Total mismatch here. Winslet's spare shooting schedule has made her easy prey in this category for far less prolific actresses. She can't really be expected to compete with Linney and her can't-do-much-wrong-in-Joe's-eyes list of credits.

Quality: Tough match. Linney's Sammy Prescott in You Can Count on Me and Winslet's Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind both endeared themselves to me because they felt very natural and lived-in. While not being anything approaching similar characters, they both felt like you could happen upon them in your local coffee shop or book store. They were both difficult, yet sympathetic women. They both received career-best performances from their male leads. And they both should have won the Oscar. Alas. In a rather close call, I give the edge to Laura Linney, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. I just liked it a liiiiiittle bit more.

Fake Oscar Nods: Linney: 3 (You Can Count on Me; The Squid and the Whale; Primal Fear); Winslet: 3 (Eternal Sunshine...; Holy Smoke; Titanic). Push

Spotlights Stolen: They co-starred in The Life of David Gale. Truly, nobody wins in that situation. But I really should choose. Linney's deceased death row activist was a manipulation, but that was more in the script than in the characterization. Similarly, Winslet had nothing to work with, and the performance showed it. Linney was at least partially memorable and came the closest to almost sort of redeeming the movie, kinda. That she did so by, you know, dying doesn't diminish that. At least not enough. Edge: Linney.

Girlfight Factor: Kate knows she's probably been beaten by the time she gets in the ring with Linney. But that only gives fuel to her fire. Kate delivers a great ass-whomping to Linney and achieves something of a catharsis in the process.

Winner: Laura Linney 3-1

Quantity: Allen comes to play with six great performances in a decade. Solid output, but not exactly prolific. She's matched exactly by Witherspoon, who took a while to master the "one for the studio, one for me" method of role-choosing, but once she did, she scored a $100 million hit and an Oscar. Not bad. Anyway, with the numbers being equal, we've got a push.

Quality: Reese's turn as Tracey Flick in Election gets pitted against Allen's Terry Wolfmeyer in The Upside of Anger. Both were fantastic star turns. Both saw an almost pre-destined matching of actress to role -- nobody could have played these parts better. I give the edge to Witherspoon. It made a more indelible impression on the pop-cult landscape.

Fake Oscar Nods: Allen: 4 (The Upside of Anger; The Contender; Pleasantville; The Crucible); Witherspoon: 3 (Walk the Line; Election; Pleasantville)

Spotlights Stolen: Oh, man. This is so hard. Okay, so they were both in Pleasantville, and I have to decide who gave the better performance. This is tough. When I first saw it, Allen's performance was the one that stood out. But in recent viewings (what? TNT airs it a lot.), it's been Reese who has made a bigger mark. Mostly because she took a role that didn't really require a great performance in order for the film to work (the film really does turn on Tobey Maguire, Allen, and William H. Macy), but she gave one anyway. And she managed to be sexy and funny in a way that didn't diminish her character. That being said...most of what makes that movie work, and transforms it from a high-concept fluff picture into something worth remembering, is contained in Joan Allen's performance. Without her, the film is lost, and she played her part so perfectly. I can't not recognize that. Edge: Allen

Girlfight Factor: It's Reese's toughest test to date. Joan can match her icewater-for-icewater, and in fact I think she might even get Reese to flinch a couple times with that steely glare of hers. So for the first time, Reese's cold, calculating side will have to give way to the sprightly southern girl within and let her win this one on athleticism and a little hair-pulling. She may end up a little more battered, but still victorious. Edge: Reese

Winner: 2-2. A TIE! I tried every which way to make this not the case. I couldn't do it with a clear conscience. These two are neck and neck. I need the readers to make the call. Vote wisely and once.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Book Review: Why Moms Are Weird

Why Moms Are Weird [Pamela Ribon]

I loved it. It was my first time partaking of the so-called "chick lit" genre, and I thought Pam killed it. "Killed it" being a good thing, like how the kids say. I'm not sure whether comparing something to Nick Hornby in this day and age is good or not, but I really like him, and the aspects of Hornby that I really like -- the conversational style, the realistically likeable characters, the pop-cultural references that come across as personal rather than gimmicky -- are present in Pam's work. And there was a relationship triangle that actually held some suspense! A fantastic read, pick it up.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Get It Together!

Hello! How are all of you today? Things are going pretty well here at Low Res Central. We got a big ol' tech upgrade this week with the DVR and laptop revolutions finally overtaking us. We've got a couple really fun weddings on the schedule the next couple of weekends. We're having far too much fun employing the royal "we" like we have been. And oh my God, don't even get us started on the fact that we have MTV Hits now. I swear, that channel reads my damn mind almost as well as iTunes.

That's not to say that things couldn't be better. In fact, quite a few things in our life have been showing a frustrating refusal to get on the stick already. To wit...

Get it together, blogs! I'm not reading you for my health, you know. I get paid for this shit, and when you're making it easy for me and generally coalescing about the same half-dozen or so topics and not sniffing each other's asses for meta commentary and not, oh I don't know, crashing due to the staggering drawing power of the Lieberman-Lamont primary, then we're cool. Today? We're not cool. Come on, guys. Gawker's been able to make it happen today: pithy, topical, funny as hell. Hop to it, y'all.

Get it together, DVD player! Or better yet, don't bother, because you've already been replaced. Don't come crying to me, though. I'm not the one who completely and utterly died after barely a year of service, causing me to have to break out the needle-nose pliers in order to liberate Netflix's copy of A Streetcar Named goddamn Desire. There a new kid in town now, and his name is Sony and he's got a VCR deck, too. Suck on that, Memorex!

Get it together, Time Warner! This is no way to get off on the right foot. You've been my cable provider for less than a week now and already you've yanked NFL Network (there are going to be real live games broadcast this season, fools!), told my dad that he can't partake of HBO anymore unless he upgrades to digital, told me that IFC and Sundance aren't part of my own digital package, charged me sixty bones for installation when I was told it would be free, and are dragging serious ass getting my HBO On Demand set up. It's not like y'all have been heralded by the greatest word of mouth, you know. Don't make me start pining for the halcyon days of the Rigases and Adelphia.

Get it together, August! You are totally the worst month of the year and you damn well know it. You seem to relish in how friggin' unbearable your weather is. The "dog days of summer"? More like the sweaty nutsack days of summer. Also? No major holidays. Way to be the only month without a major holiday. Not like anyone would be happy having to shlep over to Grandma and Grandpa's for a family get-together or anything, but...Central Air's Day? Swimsgiving? Something? Not even the fact that my birthday is in August can save it. Oh yeah, my birthday is in two weeks. Yay! Last year, I made an all-too-coy attempt to sneak a link to my Amazon Wish List into a blog post about my birthday. I won't do that this year. If anyone wants to get me something for my birthday, they can do so (or not) of their own volition.


Get it together, trailer for The Guardian! I'm totally cool with you being a cheesy, plot-by-numbers popcorn flick about the wizened old military type (played by Kevin Costner) who is initially really hard on the brash new recruit (played by Ashton Kutcher), but eventually takes him under his wing and imparts his many years of wisdom before an unforeseen disaster puts them both to the test. I'm even pretty happy to see Costner easing into this stage of his career, as opposed to taking the Sean Connery/Harrison Ford pathetic-bid-for-eternal-youth route. My problem is the use of that Snow Patrol song that I really like towards the end of the clip. I should not be getting goosebumps while watching a trailer for a damn Ashton Kutcher movie, and especially not when the song does all the heavy lifting. Not to mention the fact that HBO already used "Run" to advertise that Empire Falls movie, where it was a much better fit. And that's not even getting into the tidal wave on loan from The Perfect Storm at the end there.

Get it together, Chien-Ming Wang! You've been doing so well. Why are you, as I type this, looking so very shaky against the White Sox? On the bright side, I am really digging this year's Yankee team. I don't know, maybe it's that with all the injuries forcing the role players to shine through, I'm getting reminded of those late '90s teams (who, let's not forget, were generally populated by as many Chad Curtises as Derek Jeters). I kind of dig the fact that, with Melky Cabrera and Andy Phillips in play -- not to mention the entire sporting world taking a collective shit on Alex Rodriguez this season -- it's about as close a Yankee fan can get to rooting for an underdog. Then again, that awesome acquisition of Bobby Abreu also has me happy my team's owner has deep pockets and ain't afraid to use 'em.

Get it together, Joe R! It's been over a week since you wrote anything of substance for your blog. Wasn't the fact that you quit one of your jobs going to free you up for more things like blogging? What's the deal? Is this any way to treat the Damn Hell Ass Kings? And where the bloody hell are the quarterfinals of the Actress Rumble, anyway? I can't believe I used to think you were cool.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Trailer Trash: Prettygoodfellas

I have to say, the trailer for The Departed looks pretty damn good. It's kind of weird to see DiCaprio, Damon, and Wahlberg sharing the same bill, mostly because they always seem to be the ones fighting for the same roles. Kind of like how Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, and Steven Weber all being in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip seems like an elaborate "3 Stars, one Slot" exercise on Fametracker.

Anyway, Leo and Matt and Marky Mark will all have to work pretty hard to escape Jack Nicholson's shadow. He looks like he's ready to snack on some scenery. Also, Leo's on his third consecutive Scorcese movie, so one would hope he's got that routine down by now. All in all, it looks fun. Maybe the fact that the Gangs of New York/Aviator prestige-Oscar-frontrunner pressure is largely absent from this project will be a good thing.

It certainly looks way better than the clip for this movie. Yet another "wealthy suit discovers that money isn't everything" flick? How can that miss?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shut Up, Tom Wolfe, Part XXVII

A few weeks ago, I was wasting time at work, waiting to close up shop, and I came across a hardcover copy of Tom Wolfe's Hooking Up. I'm not a huge Tom Wolfe fan, but he's notable enough that I was curious to see what this book was about. Not to ruin the suspense for you, but I didn't read the book. It seems, however, that it's about one of Wolfe's favorite subjects: kids today and how they ain't what they used to be. Here's how the inside cover flap started off:

"Only yesterday boys and girls spoke of embracing and kissing (necking) as getting to first base. Second base was deep kissing, plus groping and fondling this and that. Third base was oral sex. Home plate was going all the way. That was yesterday. Here in the year 2000 we can forget about necking. Today's girls and boys have never heard of anything that dainty. Today's first base is deep kissing, now known as tonsil hockey, plus groping and fondling this and that. Second base is oral sex. Third base is going all the way. Home plate is learning each other's names."


Not to be confused with "rim-job," which, as Tom Wolfe will gladly tell you, is referred today as "batting practice." The man just drives me crazy, no more so than when he's tut-tutting about how kids today are such fucking sluts, all the while salivating over every detail. Welcome to the experience of reading I Am Charlotte Simmons. Also, way to make the four bases sex analogy seem even more outdated and lame. But that's just more of the classic Wolfe pose as the bemused outsider, as insincere an approach to his "new journalism" as I can imagine.

For what seems like the billionth time, Shut up Tom Wolfe! Take your "tonsil hockey" to someone who cares.