Wednesday, March 29, 2006

American Idol Vote-Off Pool: Top 10

Current Standings:
Jacob -- 6
Joe -- 9
Sarah -- 8

This Week's Picks:
Jacob -- Lisa
Joe -- Lisa
Sarah -- Lisa

Yes, again. It's gotta happen now, though, right? Right?? If it's Katharine I'll shit.

ETA: Points for everybody! And I came way too close to my fears being realized. Don't do that again!

Updated Standings:
Jacob -- 7
Joe -- 10
Sarah -- 9

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Reeeead Me, Seymour! (Also, People Not Named Seymour)

Think about it for a second. You're Kevin, and all that that implies. You've had your cheeks pinched, you've been compared to cartoon chickens, and you're realizing more and more that they're laughing at you and not with you. The girls all think you're an actual doll. You want to look up to the guys in an older brother way, but Ace is always looking into a mirror, Bucky's busy mixing crystal meth in his basement, Chris is looking up whether Staind has ever covered a Buddy Holly song, Taylor reminds you of your creepy molester uncle a bit, and Elliott's five senses are deteriorating at such an alarming rate that he can no longer see or hear you. So who's left as a role model but Seacrest, who thinks that nothing makes you look quite as cool as busting on Simon. I'm just saying, it's no wonder the kid feels free to be a little bit of a snot from time to time.

I figure, for lack of a better posting topic, I might as well get my self-promotion on. Check out my latest American Idol recap: "Too Chicken Little, Too Chicken Late"

Monday, March 27, 2006

Joe Gets Dragged Into Updating the Blog, Kicking and Screaming

Opening up the Low Res mail bag, we're taking a request from long time reader/admirer Mathan:

Are you loving Peter Stormare's VW commercials as much as I am? I'm completely captivated and entertained by them. They could quite possibly be the best thing on commercial TV.

Also what did you think about Jesus' Son and The Woodsman? Feel free to reply either in email or blog form.


Blog form, I think.

Love the Peter Stormare VW commercials. Love them. They're like the best parts of the Mentos ads, Uli the nihilist from Lebowski, and those Saturday Night Live skits with Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen where everyone is named "Nuni." They're so fantastic. "Unpimp your auto" is such an awesome catch phrase. Farfegnugen can go fuck itself, you know?

Also, Peter Stormare really has to come back to Prison Break at some point, doesn't he? I mean, it actually grossed me out to look at him most of the time, and his accent when trying to hit those Mafioso clichés was truly embarrassing. However, last we saw him? Before he got slashed? Remember how he saw Jesus in the rust stain in his cell? Tell me that's not thirteen episodes worth of hilarity just waiting to happen.

Okay, as for the rest: The Woodsman was a decent enough flick, I suppose. I gave it the ten word treatment back in June, and my words then were "quiet and sad." It looked to me like an actor's showcase for Kevin Bacon that never really panned out in the scheme of things. He did a very good job, and that scene with him and the girl on the park bench was insanely uncomfortable. But the truth is, I had to go rifling through my archives to remember what I thought about it, specifically, so it really didn't stick in my head.

Jesus' Son, on the other hand, was a phenomenal movie, and one I really should own. 2000 was such a great year for Billy Crudup. Almost Famous and Jesus' Son in the same year? I'd have nominated him for two Oscars, I honestly would have. There's so much to Jesus' Son, though. Samantha Morton is very good. Jack Black is hysterical. That whole scene in the hospital where everything becomes slapstick all of a sudden? Fantastic. It's like … what if Gus Van Sant made a movie without the sixty second pauses and homo undertones? Not that I object to the homo undertones in Van Sant, obviously. Everybody loved Good Will Hunting. But that's what Jesus' Son is like. I'd like to watch it right now, actually.

Good e-mail, Math!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Current Standings
Jacob -- 6
Joe -- 9
Sarah -- 8


Predictions For Tonight
Jacob - Lisa Tucker
Joe - Lisa Tucker
Sarah - Lisa Tucker

Yeah, sorry. We all wanted to go out on a limb, but we figured being right was more important. If it's any consolation, things should be much harder to peg after this week.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ten Things I Hate About Austin**

** And by "Hate," I mean: LOVE!

01 - Air travel, while nerve-racking and interminable, is made endlessly more bearable by dozens and dozens of SXSW hipsters on the plane with you. So much fun to look at! Normally it's just business travelers and families in the cabin. It's much more fun when there's an actual band two rows up talking about tour bus groupies and unmentionable pharmaceuticals they couldn't take on the plane with them. Also fun? When the acting leader of said troupe of scruffy hipsters both looks and talks like Gaius Baltar's kid brother. You know, the one who went to seed and rejected his big brother's ambition for science and compulsive civilization-ruining.

02 - Also essential on an airplane is this iPod contraption I kept hearing about over and over again until I had to buy one. My, they are nice. Even if the display screen does tend to give away the fact that I've got some Roxette programmed up in there.

03 - So, as it turns out, I absolutely adore a Texas accent. Who knew? I expected it would be different, somehow. Accusatory, like I didn't play enough sports as a kid or something. But no, the Texas accent is just super excited to meet you. Crazy friendly. The Massachusetts accent just wants to kick your ass, or alternately wants its boyfriend to kick your ass. Maybe I was just fortunate in the Texans I actually encountered, but either way it's entirely adorable. I won't mess with Texas. Not now, anyway.

04 - Looking for a hilarious way to kill a few hours and the last few bottles of beer you've got lying around? Ladies and gentlemen, I present Campus Ladies. Yeah, yeah, it's on Oxygen, the Oprah Network. Fear not. Oprah won't try to make you read anything while you watch. It's just about these two crazy-ass middle age ladies who go to college and are wholly inappropriate about everything, and if you run into me and I start saying "Stevie Nicks, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Nicks," super fast, just try to remember to respond with something about her being a "witch lady," okay?

05 - Oh, so just for the record, Jacob is totally not all that cool a guy at all. He's not fun, he doesn't have awesome friends, he doesn't do a wicked Apprentice Kristi impersonation OR a wicked Big Brother Adria impersonation, and he's not bizarrely in synch with my most obscure pop cultural reference points. Bummer.

06 - Looking for another hilarious way to kill a few hours waiting for the caffeine to kick in? Ladies and gentlemen: Nighty Night, which is British and evil to its very core and wonderful. For anyone who thinks Carrie Underwood is the latest and greatest cultural touchstone for Heart's "Alone," get your hands on the series 1 DVD pronto.

07 - I learned this past week that babies are even more awesome when they totally love you. Also, you will never, ever be able to win a staring contest with a baby, so don't even try, or else you're just going to look like an idiot.

08 - It's remarkable, really, how quickly four bottles of wine go. No, really. You'd be utterly shocked. Not that you should really watch American Idol without them, if you're looking for optimal viewing experience.

09 - Everything is funnier when you're talking like Russian mobster Lenny from The Apprentice. Just trust me on this one.

10 - Less funny, however, is flying home and hearing the pilot tell you that the temperature in your home town is a balmy 32 degrees. Not even the Lenny voice could salvage that one. Although checking out the looks on the faces of your fellow passengers is worth a teensy bit of comedy, I will admit. Welcome back to Buffalo, where it's not St. Patrick's Day without ice crystals in your green beer!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

American Idol Vote-Off Pool, Week 4

Coming at you LIVE from Austin, TX. Just getting the predictions on record, and I'll spruce things up with standings later:

Jacob - Lisa Tucker
Joe - Melissa McGhee
Sarah - Lisa Tucker

EDIT

Eliminated, Week 4: Melissa McGhee

Points to Date:
This week's points:
Jacob -- 0
Joe -- 1
Sarah -- 0

Standings to Date:
Jacob -- 6
Joe -- 9
Sarah -- 8

Before I can get too enamored with how awesome my first-place ass is, a little dialogue from Wednesday:

Ryan Seacrest: Ace, Kevin, one of you is in the bottom three.
Joe: How lame. Like Ace is gonna be bottom three.
Jacob: He is, dude. Watch.
Joe: You're high.
Seacrest: Ace, you are in the bottom three.
Joe: Whaaaa??
Jacob: Told you.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

American Idol Vote-Off Pool, Week 3

Current Standings
Jacob -- 4
Joe -- 6
Sarah -- 6

Predictions for Tonight
(4 eliminations)
Jacob -- Kinnik Sky, Melissa McGhee, Kevin Covais, Will Makar.
Joe -- Kinnik Sky, Melissa McGhee, Kevin Covais, Will Makar.
Sarah -- Kinnik Sky, Ayla Brown, Kevin Covais, Bucky Covington.

ETA: And the results are ...

Kinnik, Will, Ayla, and Gedeon.

This week's points:
Jacob -- 2
Joe -- 2
Sarah -- 2

Standings to Date:
Jacob -- 6
Joe -- 8
Sarah -- 8

So it looks like we've got a horse race as we head into finals. Can we get a ruling as to my eligibility if I were to be thrown in jail for kicking the shit out of Taylor Hicks? I could still phone my picks in.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Breaking News: Crash Can Lick My Balls

That was some bullshit, right there.

ETA: But perhaps I should elaborate.


As per request, I will get into why I hated Crash in a second. First of all, I just want to set the table for what it means for Brokeback Mountain to lose this Oscar. To those not in the habit of following the movie awards, when I say "precursors," I don't mean handy guessing games useful for filling out your Oscar pool entry. These are more like iron-clad indicators that are seldom wrong. And when they're all given in unison? When the Producer's Guild, Writer's Guild, Director's Guild, Golden Globes, Los Angeles and New York Film Critics, and the BAFTA awards all agree on the same movie? When that same movie has the most Oscar nominations of any film and the highest box-office take of the Best Picture nominees? That movie never loses. It never does. So for this particular movie to be the only one to succumb after such broad support, it's not hard to see that as a slap in the face against said film by the Academy.

I guess as someone who didn't like Crash, it's easier for me to see a vote for Crash as a vote against Brokeback, but doesn't it seem that way? It's disheartening, because as much as Brokeback has become the zeitgeist film of 2005, it had thus far avoided becoming a referendum on Homosexuality in America. It made money not just on the coasts, but all across the country. It had seemed to win support far broader than that which exists for actual gay causes. It had seemed like it was being viewed for what it was: a well-crafted and moving film that was able to relate the suffocating tragedies of closeted life in simple terms of love and longing. Much as some of the less sanity-burdened right wing ideologues wanted to pretend that "America didn't want to see" a story like that, America did, to the tune of $78 million and counting.

The opposite side of that coin had only started to surface in the final few weeks. Reports of Academy voters anonymously relaying their intention to vote for Crash because they could not connect emotionally with Brokeback Mountain. It's been a long-standing Oscar tradition that voters tend to vote with their hearts, not their heads. So a Crash win would seem to suggest that maybe Brokeback was admired for its technical skill, but enough Academy voters shared a similar inability to make an emotional connection with the faggots on screen that it lost to a film with the more relatable message of "Everybody's a Little Bit Racist!" It's a shame to think that even in Hollywood, famed liberal bastion, it's still an uphill struggle to get straight people to feel empathy for gay people. That's the key to Brokeback Mountain. The hurdle isn't getting over two men actually having sex. There's really quite little of that in the film, and what is shown is tastefully reserved. The hurdle is actually wrapping your mind around two men in love and affectionate with each other, so when I hear "can't make an emotional connection," from old white Academy voters, it reads to me as, "fucking fags," and I honestly don't think that's an overreaction.

So. Crash. Well-acted movie, that I will grant. A good half-dozen performances more impressive than the one (Matt Dillon) who got nominated, but overall the ensemble was a strong one. The problem was that all that good acting was in service to a simplistic, overly convenient, contrived, and ultimately dishonest film. For one thing, I don't know how this can be seen as any kind of politically forward thinking film when one of the central messages seems to be, "It's shitty of you to be so racist, but check it out: so is everybody else in the entire country. So don't sweat it, and if you see someone trapped in a burning car and they happen to be a different color than you are, try to save them anyway." I don't entirely discount "white guilt" as a motivating factor for Oscar voting, though I think "L.A. guilt" might be more accurate. But I think the film actually does more to assuage white guilt than anything else. "Everybody's gotta hate somebody." So when all of a sudden, a film with that worldview starts to have this series of snowy epiphanies, it's dishonest, to me. This also plays into how the film is so ridiculously contrived to form some kind of racist paper chain, with the characters as nothing more than thin layers of whatever point the story needs to make at that very second. Like how Ludicris can be walking down the street illustrating a hot-button racial/political issue, and then here comes Sandra Bullock ready and willing to play a real-life visual aid to said issue. The writing itself is a problem in that it's too blunt and obvious. I've seen racism in action -- not on the receiving end, obviously, but I've grown up around a lot of it -- and precious little of it is so conveniently direct and plain-spoken as when Matt Dillon lays his "affirmative action" cards on the table for Loretta Devine. There is so little nuance to Haggis's script, which in turn makes his frequent directorial excursions into ethereal, fanciful slow motion shots and metaphorical precipitation all the more frustrating. No film this pedestrian deserves a song like "In the Deep" to accompany it.

It's not a terrible film, but it's a seriously flawed one. So to see it even get nominated for the Oscar is such a kick in the balls. Not to mention see it win, and to see it overcome so many of the historical obstacles that stand in the way of films that: a) get released in the spring; b) come from independent film studios; c) have no true lead performance to hang their hat on; d) barely top $50 million at the box-office; e) don't even get nominated for a Golden Globe; f) lose out on the PGA and DGA. How many other, better films have failed to pull something like that off? How many films worse than Brokeback have managed to ride the wave of frontrunner status to a Best Picture win.

All too often I have to remind myself that the Oscars are not any kind of barometer for true greatness. As if any such barometer can exist for something so subjective as motion pictures. But this seemed to be one of the few years that Oscar's tendencies and cinematic quality looked like they were destined to converge. Another lesson learned.

ETA #2: Kenneth Turan says it way better than I can. Check his article out.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

American Idol Vote-Off Pool, Week 2

Current Standings
Sarah -- 3
Jacob -- 2
Joe -- 2

Predictions for Tonight
(4 eliminations)
Jacob -- Kinnik Sky, Katharine McPhee, Sway Penala, David Radford.
Joe -- Heather Cox, Brenna Gethers, Sway Penala, David Radford.
Sarah -- Kinnik Sky, Heather Cox, Sway Penala, David Radford.


ETA: And the results are ...

Brenna, Heather, David, and Sway.

This week's points:
Jacob -- 2
Joe -- 4 (yeahbaby!)
Sarah -- 3

Standings to Date:
Jacob -- 4
Joe -- 6
Sarah -- 6

Additionally, anyone who made the "Paula is a nasty drunk" side bet can get paid off at the door.

So There's an Awards Show This Weekend, You Say?

Head on over to The Film Experience to read my final thoughts on Cinema Year 2005. I put the last 12 months (or so) to bed for good, and not surprisingly, I liked Brokeback Mountain a whole lot.

While you're there, be sure and check out the rest of Nathaniel's stellar Oscar week coverage. If you're a movie lover and/or Oscar obsessive, there's no better coverage on the Internet.

Of course, if you just like making fun of movies, actors, and Karl Malden, get your ass to Fametracker for their Oscar coverage. All the fun, half the respect.