Saturday, May 19, 2007

God Bless HBO


Oh my GOD. So I just saw my new favorite terrible movie. It's very new, so you may not have had the chance to see it yet, but the next time you see Running Scared on the HBO schedule, park your ass. You won't regret it.

Paul Walker plays this unbelievably over-the-top rageaholic husband, father, and petty mob thug. He and his family live next door to this Russian family, the step-father of which is also an unbelievably over-the-top regeaholic thug for the Russian mob. And his step-son is played by uber-creepy kid actor Cameron Bright. Russian step-dad is a wife-beater, so Cameron Bright shoots him in the shoulder, with a gun he nicked from Paul Walker's garage, because he and Paul Walker's kid are best friends. The gun was used by Paul Walker's mob buddy in the murder of a crooked cop, so Paul Walker has to track down Cameron Bright -- who's now on the run -- and get rid of the gun. And that's not even the half of it!

Other reasons you need to see this movie:

--It's so terrible! How is Paul Walker solving this entire thing so quickly? He's like MacGyver, if MacGyver had the short temper of one of the zombies from 28 Days Later. It's a completely ridiculous character, though I will say Paul Walker works his (bare) ass off to sell it. You wouldn't think he could be believable as a scumbaggy tough guy ragewad, and yet he kind of is. Almost all of the acting is STUPENDOUSLY over-the-top, as are each and every plot twist. It's incredible. It's like halfway through production they realized this movie would be for shit, so they decided to just crank up the volume and see what happened. Thank God they did.

--Paul Walker's character is named "Joey Gazelle." Because he is RUNNING! RUNNING SCARED! AHHHHHHH!

-- There's a twist at the end of the movie that essentially negates the entire point of the movie itself. Awesome.

-- Former MTV VJ Idalis Leon plays a hooker who holds a pharmacist at gunpoint in order to retrieve an inhaler for the kid who saved her from a beating by her pimp.

-- At one point, Cameron Bright encounters a homeless person who looks like the First Slayer and speaks in ethereal whispers. Later on, he is menaced by the shadow of what looks like Freddy Kreuger. My theory is that Cameron Bright's inherent creepiness pulls all laws of logic and reality off its bearings whenever he's around.

-- Elizabeth Mitchell and Bruce Altman show up in the middle of the movie, out of nowhere, for a tangential sub-plot so out of context and unbelievably sinister that I halfway expected it to turn out to be a hallucination.

--Vera Farmiga, as Paul Walker's wife, gives a no-fooling honest-to-God great performance. She's definitely the coolest thing in the movie.

--There is a torture scene involving a hockey player -- in full uniform! -- shooting pucks at full speed into a character's face. Read that sentence again. And the whole rink is black-lit! I felt like I'd accidentally taken acid. It immediately tops the list of Most Improbable And Oddly Ridiculous Scene On Ice Skates, beating out Geena Davis's shoot-em-up-on-skates rampage from The Long Kiss Goodnight, an awesome bad movie in its own right.


Seriously. Watch this movie. Pop some popcorn, invite your friends over, have a good laugh, and behold the awesome power of a movie that stopped caring whether it made any sense long ago. I could kiss you, HBO.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Blogging The Upfronts, Day 5: A Viewer's Guide

So, the schedules have been announced, the cancelled shows have been mourned, the potshots at network executives have been taken. What's left but to plan our Fall 2007 TiVo schedule? By way of disclaimer, yes, it does look like I'll be watching something on TV every night of the week, in almost every time slot. In these days of DVR, that's no longer as sadly time-consuming as it sounds. It's not! New shows in CAPS (sorry that bold text doesn't show up as well on this blog; I'm probably due for a format change some time soon).


Mondays

8 PM: Prison Break (FOX)*
8 PM: How I Met Your Mother (CBS)*
9 PM: Heroes (NBC)
10 PM: Nothing. Free time. Read a book or something, will ya?

*The first scheduling conflict of the season. Time-shifted correctly, this should not be a problem, even if you can't wait 'til 10 to find out how Scofield deals with Panamania prison.

Tuesdays

8 PM: Another free period, unless you decide to give Beauty and the Geek (CW) another roll in the guilty-pleasure hay.
9 PM: REAPER (CW)
10 PM: CANE (CBS)

Wednesdays

8 PM: America's Next Top Model (CW)
9 PM: GOSSIP GIRL (CW) or PRIVATE PRACTICE (ABC)*
10 PM: DIRTY SEXY MONEY (ABC)

*I'm not watching them both. Whichever one of them proves that it doesn't suck, that's what I'll be watching.

Thursdays

8 PM: Ugly Betty (ABC)*
8 PM: Survivor (CBS)*
8 PM: My Name Is Earl / 30 Rock (NBC)*
9 PM: Grey's Anatomy (ABC)**
9 PM: The Office / Scrubs (NBC)**
9 PM: Supernatural (CW)**
10 PM: Nothing, THANK GOD.

*Watch Survivor, record Earl and 30 Rock, watch Betty online.
**Watch Grey's, record Office and Scrubs, watch Supernatural online

Fridays

8 PM: THE SEARCH FOR THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN BAND (FOX)
9 PM: WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB (ABC)
10 PM: Friday Night Lights (NBC)

Sundays

8 PM: VIVA LAUGHLIN! (CBS)
9 PM: FREE! Time to hit the bathroom!
10 PM: Brothers & Sisters (ABC)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blogging The Upfronts, Day 4: The CW


Finally, at long last, network television's annoying little sister: The CW. Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, and Veronica Mars are gone, paving the way for all Pussycat Dolls, all the time! Or not. Whatever, it's late, here's the CW fall schedule:

Monday
8 p.m. "Everybody Hates Chris"
8:30 p.m. "Aliens In America"
9 p.m. "Girlfriends"
9:30 p.m. "The Game"


Tuesday
8 p.m. "Beauty And The Geek"
9 p.m. "Reaper"

Wednesday
8 p.m. "America's Next Top Model"
9 p.m. "Gossip Girl"

Thursday
8 p.m. "Smallville"
9 p.m. "Supernatural"

Friday
8 p.m. "Friday Night Smackdown"

Sunday
8 p.m. "Life Is Wild"
9 p.m. "ANTM" (encore)

So, yes, they cancelled Veronica Mars, and as if to add insult to injury, not only are they going to bring One Tree Hill back at midseason, but they're going to do the same "four years in the future" college-avoidance gimmick that Veronica was talking about doing. As if people didn't hate that show enough. Veronica was losing some steam after three seasons, and I'm not about to malign a network for not renewing the relentlessly low-rated show yet again -- three years was much more than Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared got, after all. Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell will land on their feet, I'm sure.

New shows:

LIFE IS WILD
ALIENS IN AMERICA
Don't care, and don't care. Look 'em up on your own time, it's past midnight.

REAPER
(photo above)
The creators of Ed bring what seems to be a comedy-tinged drama about a slacker who finds out on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the devil before birth, and now he has to spend his days hunting down souls who've escaped from hell. Okay, two things: 1) Ray Wise plays Satan; 2) Kevin Smith directed the pilot. This could end up attracting a cult audience if it's any good, which means Veronica Mars fans could find another low-rated gem to obsess about.

GOSSIP GIRL
Josh Schwartz didn't seem all that broken up about the demise of The O.C. because he had this drama on the horizon. The secrets and scandals of the Upper East Side set are put on blast by the shrouded-in-mystery "Gossip Girl." The next great high school guilty pleasure? Eh, probably not, but it's a concept that's worth a look. And Kristen Bell provides the voice of Gossip Girl herself. We'll see if Penn Badgley (The Mountain, The Bedford Diaries) can avoid official showkiller status and keep this one afloat.


So that's all of them. Five networks, four days, and only one serious injury (get well, Jenna Fischer! You've got a date come September!). Tomorrow I'll try to wrap things up with an official Low Res What To Watch Viewer's Guide, a.k.a. How I Programmed My DVR

Blogging The Upfronts: Day 4: FOX

FOX and the CW announced their schedules today. Not nearly as interesting as the "big 3" networks, but I'm a completist, and there's enough worth talking about besides.

FOX Fall Schedule:

Monday

8 p.m. "Prison Break"
9 p.m. "K-ville"



Tuesday


8 p.m. "New Amsterdam"
9 p.m. "House"

Wednesday

8 p.m. "Back to You"
8:30 p.m. "'Til Death"
9 p.m. "Bones"

Thursday

8 p.m. "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"
9 p.m. "Kitchen Nightmares"

Friday
8 p.m. "The Search For The Next Great American Band"
9 p.m. "Nashville"

Sunday
8 p.m. "The Simpsons"
8:30 p.m. "King of the Hill"
9 p.m. "Family Guy"
9:30 p.m. "American Dad"

Then, in January:
-- 24 returns to Mondays at 9
--American Idol returns to Tuesdays/Wednesdays, kicking Bones and New Amsterdam to Fridays
-- The Sara Conner Chronicles airs Sundays at 9
-- Canterbury's Law airs Thursdays at 9
-- The Return of Jezebel James airs Wednesdays at 8:30

Notes:

-- Airing two new reality shows on Friday nights -- including the Idol band spinoff -- seems like a monumentally stupid idea. Fridays are for game shows, procedurals, and dumb-looking new shows with puns in the title. Speaking of which...

New shows:

K-VILLE
Redemptive cop drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans, starring Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser. Um...pass?

BACK TO YOU
Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton are back on TV! Can I get a whoop-whoop? No? But they're newsanchors! He's a selfish womanizer, she's an uptight bitch, it can't lose! In news of unironic excitement, Fred Willard co-stars. On the other hand, he's essentially retreading his role from Best in Show and is almost guaranteed to not be as funny. Pass.

NEW AMSTERDAM
Lasse Hallstrom's drama series about an immortal police officer...named John Amsterdam. What did I say about the pun-centric show titles? Pass.

CANTERBURY'S LAW
Julianna Marguiles plays Elizabeth Canterbury -- oh, for Pete's sake, not again -- a "rebellious female defense attorney." Did we really need it spelled out that Julianna Marguiles is playing a female, FOX press release writer? Anyway: courtroom drama, blah blah. Linus Roache (most recently of Kidnapped) and Ben Shenkman (Angels in America) make the supporting cast a reason to give this a shot. Once or twice.

THE SARA CONNER CHRONICLES
The Terminator TV series that we've all heard about, with 300's Lena Headey as Sara Conner and Thomas Dekker -- late of Heroes -- as the decidedly heterosexual John Conner. Firefly crazies can look forward to Summer Glau in the supporting cast as well. This takes place between T2 and T3 in the chronology, during young master Conner's journey from Edward Furling to Nick Stahl. Probably will give this a shot as well.

THE RETURN OF JEZEBEL JAMES
Ah, now this is the stuff. Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose in Amy Sherman-Palladino's follow-up to Gilmore Girls? With a plot involving surrogate pregnancies and imaginary childhood friends? Pencil me in. Please ignore the fact that, in the photo I posted up top, Lauren Ambrose looks like she has Downs Syndrome. No, she's not reprising her Law & Order role from back in the day. Bad publicity photo, FOX. Fix that. Anyway, with this, I am officially looking forward to as many January premieres and I am September premieres. What times we live in!

Next: the CW schedule.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Blogging The Upfronts, Day 3


CBS announced their fall schedule today, which included very little in the way of changes. The schedule looks like this, new shows in bold (thanks, Zap2It):

Monday

8 p.m. "How I Met Your Mother"
8:30 p.m. "The Big Bang Theory"
9 p.m. "Two and a Half Men"
9:30 p.m. "Rules of Engagement"
10 p.m. "CSI: Miami"

Tuesday

8 p.m. "NCIS"
9 p.m. "The Unit"
10 p.m. "Cane"

Wednesday

8 p.m. "Kid Nation"
9 p.m. "Criminal Minds"
10 p.m. "CSI: NY"

Thursday

8 p.m. "Survivor: China"
9 p.m. "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"
10 p.m. "Without a Trace" (New timeslot)

Friday

8 p.m. "Ghost Whisperer"
9 p.m. "Moonlight"
10 p.m. "Numb3rs"

Saturday

8 p.m. Crimetime Saturday
9 p.m. Crimetime Saturday
10 p.m. "48 Hours: Mystery"

Sunday

7 p.m. "60 Minutes"
8 p.m. "Viva Laughlin"
9 p.m. "Cold Case"
10 p.m. "Shark" (New timeslot)


So, yeah, only five new shows, and Kid Nation is a reality show that holds absolutely no interest for me (kids building a perfect society? Where's the conflict? Where's the drama? Where's the pirate-themed imagery?), so that bumps it down to four. Did CBS really do so well this season that they don't need more than four new scripted shows? Anyway, thoughts:

-- Every returning drama on that schedule makes me absolutely shocked that it's still on the air. NCIS is still on? Really? Shark made it to season 2? There are still 3 C.S.I.'s? Who watches them all? I really want to do a study on the CBS procedural demo and find out if it really is just old people and folks falling asleep in front of the tube after a long day at work.

-- How I Met Your Mother returning is the best news of the day for CBS, and it's now my mission to get as many people as possible to watch it. It's really good! Doogie is hysterical!

-- Jericho got cancelled, which surprises me a little, even though I thought it was a terrible show back when I tried to watch it last fall. I'm sad for Keckler, though, as that show was her lunk-headed TV boyfriend. Also cancelled: The Class, which means Lizzy Caplan and I will continue to have to search for a show worthy of her awesomeness.

-- The Amazing Race isn't on the fall schedule, but will return at some point mid-season, which means that Eric and Danielle winning All-Stars was bad enough to earn the show a time-out. Seems about right.

As for the new shows:

THE BIG BANG THEORY
Sitcom from the guy behind Two And a Half Men (strike one), starring Charmed's Kaley Cuoco (strike two), and featuring a geeks-try-out-at-love plot almost identical to NBC's The I.T. Crowd. Nerds are so hot right now, I guess. And trying to glom onto the success of Christopher Gorham in Ugly Betty makes for strike three.

MOONLIGHT
Ever wish Angel had been exec-produced by Joel Silver? God knows I have. It seems so unnatural to have such a genre show on CBS. Yeah, its lead-in is The Ghost Whisperer but that only makes me worry that this will be less Angel and more Touched By A Vampire Like Angel. The DVR's already suddenly crowded enough on Friday nights. Can't see myself going out of my way to watch this.

CANE
"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women." Remember that from The Simpsons? When Homer discovered the giant pile of sugar and then made a Scarface reference? Well someone apparently decided to make a TV show about it. And it seems kind of interesting. Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Rita Moreno, Polly Walker, and Alona Tal star in a drama about a family's struggles to hold on to their lucrative rum and sugar empire. I love how TV shows have dealt with an inability to make shows about Big Oil families (too unsympathetic) by making them food wholesalers and rum-and-sugar barons instead. Anyway, Tuesdays at 10 isn't a bad time slot, and I could definitely see myself giving this a shot. Jimmy Smits is wildly successful on TV, too, so perhaps my optimism is justified.

VIVA LAUGHLIN!
Everybody seems to be super excited for this American remake of the BBC's Viva Blackpool! My understanding is that it's a drama about a man who wants to build a casino in Nevada, and occasionally things break out into performances of poular songs. Songs just weird enough for me to like it, and that's even before you find out Hugh Jackman is producing (and maintaining a recurring role).

SWINGTOWN
The very idea that this drama about swinging, sex-swapping couples in the 1970s, starring Grant Show, Molly Parker, and Miriam Shor, got bumped to midseason in favor of that stupid vampire show makes me hate CBS all the more. Again, this doesn't even feel like a real CBS show. Let another network have it, ya prudes!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Blogging the Upfronts: Day 2


We'll see how consistently I manage to keep up with this week's upfront announcements, particularly considering I blew off yesterday's NBC announcement completely. But seriously, beyond moving Friday Night Lights to...well, Friday nights (where it will be unopposed by anything good and might stand a chance at being left alone, let's hope) and swapping and The Office and 30 Rock's time slots, there wasn't a whole lot in the way of exciting news. Today's ABC announcement, on the other hand, fares a lot better. Check out the fall schedule, new shows in bold (and thanks to The Futon Critic for the info):

MONDAY:

8:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars"
9:30 p.m. "Sam I Am" (new comedy series)
10:00 p.m. "The Bachelor"

TUESDAY:

8:00 p.m. "Cavemen" (new comedy series)
8:30 p.m. "Carpoolers" (new comedy series)
9:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars the Results Show"
10:00 p.m. "Boston Legal"

WEDNESDAY:

8:00 p.m. "Pushing Daisies" (new drama series)
9:00 p.m. "Private Practice" (new drama series)

10:00 p.m. "Dirty Sexy Money" (new drama series)

THURSDAY:

8:00 p.m. "Ugly Betty"
9:00 p.m. "Grey's Anatomy"
10:00 p.m. "Big Shots" (new drama series)

FRIDAY:

8:00 p.m. "MEN IN TREES"
9:00 p.m. "Women's Murder Club" (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. "20/20"

SATURDAY:

8:00 p.m. "Saturday Night College Football"

SUNDAY:

7:00 p.m. "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8:00 p.m. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
9:00 p.m. "Desperate Housewives"
10:00 p.m. "Brothers & Sisters"


Okay, thoughts:

-- Happy to see Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters keep their old time slots. Even though I could stand to have Betty on a less competetive night, I think the lead-in to Grey's is the way to go there.

-- No word on Traveler at all is kind of disappointing, but with only one episode aired, I guess it's too soon for the network to decide if it's worth bringing back. I just hope it's not a dead show walking, because I'm planning on investing in it for as long as it lasts.

-- All new shows on Wednesdays seems risky, but I guess they think the Grey's spinoff Private Practice can anchor the night. We'll see -- it'll have to get a whole hell of a lot better than the episode two weeks ago, that's for certain.


As for the other new shows:

BIG SHOTS
Seems like a toned-down Sex and the City for the straight male CEO rather than the tarted-up single gal. That...doesn't seem all that appealing. The presence of Dylan McDermott and (especially) Michael Vartan certainly helps drum up some interest.

DIRTY SEXY MONEY
Low Res secret Hollywood boyfriend Greg Berlanti (of Everwood and Brothers & Sisters fame) got two shows picked up by ABC, and this is the one that will premiere in the fall. The buzz has been uniformly excellent -- it's supposed to be quite funny, for a drama. Donald Sutherland, Peter Krause, Samaire Armstrong, Jill Clayburgh, and William Baldwin (yes, William Baldwin) anchor the cast. I'll be watching this, if for the Berlanti factor alone.

WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB
The premise -- four working women (one detective, one D.A., one M.E., one reporter) band together to solve crimes -- might not sound groundbreaking, but it looks to combine demo-baiting female-centric storylines with a proven procedural formula (a detective, a D.A., and an M.E.? Works for SVU), so I think it could do well. And the cast is great, if not full of "names": I still love Angie Harmon from L&O, Paula Newsome cracked my ass up in Little Miss Sunshine, and Laura Harris was my favorite 24 villain not named Sherry Palmer. I hope this does well. Great, now I have two shows on Fridays I want to watch. Thanks God for DVR.

ELI STONE
(pictured at top)
This is the big one. It's not set to show up on the schedule until mid-season (joining Lost and October Road as ABC's January cavalry), but I am on pins and needles waiting for it. The reasons abound: 1) GREG BERLANTI, again, this time with a show about a successful lawyer who begins to see himself as a prophet. 2) VICTOR GARBER, who deserves to have as much success on the tube as he can handle after Alias. 3) Jonny Lee Miller, in the lead role, and Loretta Devine, supporting, have always been secret faves. And most importantly 4) a very, very good friend of Low Res is going all Hollywood to work on the show. So don't expect me to shut up about this one any time soon. Eli Stone! Watch it! In January!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Giant Flaming Bag Of Poo On NBC Doorstep Averted

Friday Night Lights has been renewed for a second season.

We'll have to wait for next week's upfronts to know where on the schedule it'll end up, but: good news! Next step: getting Connie Britton that Emmy nomination that's rightfully hers.

After my recent disappointment at the fates of my favorite mid-season series (Drive, The Black Donnelleys, RIP) and recent realization about how awesome Kidnapped would have gotten had it stayed on the air, I had forgotten what a great year it was for new TV, and that all my early season favorites -- FNL, 30 Rock, Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters -- are coming back. Well played, TV.

EDIT: More good news: Scrubs is coming back as well!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Rewatchables: "A Massive Plot In Dallas"

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:

JFK
1991
Dir.: Oliver Stone
Starring: Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, a cast of thousands


On Your 1st Viewing: Well, on your first viewing you were probably a good 10-15 years younger than you are now. This is not an obscure film. But let's just pretend that you only know JFK though pop cultural allusions to "back and to the left" and "the Magic Bullet." I'd strongly suggest sitting down and watching the whole thing. It's not a brief movie (206 minutes for the preferable "Director's Cut") but it's an important and remarkably engaging one. And on your first viewing, take note of the fact that Stone crafts what often feels like a thriller out of a story that is 75% exposition. The most compelling scenes aren't of conspirators making plans or district attorneys wrestling with their consciences or -- Lord knows -- Jim Garrison and his wife and the strain the Kennedy investigation puts on their marriage. No, the most riveting scenes in the film are all straight-up exposition, peppered with flashbacks, newsreel footage, and some of the finest editing work -- Oscar winners John Hutshing and Pietro Scalia -- you'll ever see. The sense of paranoia that Stone can evoke from a 40-year-old murder is nothing short of remarkable, and even if the "facts" seem dubious, the film certainly puts on a compelling prosecution.

By Your 2nd Viewing you will likely notice Martin Sheen's dulcet tones reading the film's opening voice-over, which lays the foundation for everything from Eisenhower's "Millitary Industrial Complex" to the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. I suppose before The West Wing got us used to Sheen's intonations sounding authoritative on matters of state, this might have been a tougher catch, but even back in '91, Martin's voice was pretty recognizable. Also, as The Goonies taught us all, Martin Sheen played Kennedy once, so there's a bit of a wink on Stone's part in including him.

By Your 3rd Viewing you should have figured it out pretty well: Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy of high-level military officers, probably with the consent -- if not outright urging -- of members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in conjunction with the CIA -- who were no friends of Kennedy -- and with the tacit approval of then-Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, all for the purpose of facilitating the American military action in Vietnam, which would be advantageous to American business who would profit off of a full-scale war, and which Kennedy was committed to ending by his second term. That's...you know, that's an easy one.



(Click below to read full post)


By Your 4th Viewing it's probably time to play Spot The Cameo. JFK is chock full of them. Some of them are easy: Walter Matthau as the Lousiana senator, Ed Asner as Guy Bannister, Brian Doyle-Murray as Jack Ruby. But some are exceedingly hard to find: I believe Vincent D'Onofrio and John Larroquette only show up on the Director's Cut. Sally Kirkland's gone in a flash. It was only in a very recent viewing that I spotted Ron Rifkin as one of Jim Garrison's witnesses during the trial scenes. And I swear to God, only by perusing the IMDb page just now do I realize Lolita Davidovich played Beverly, the showgirl at Jack Ruby's Dallas night club. Bonus points if you can identify the real-life Jim Garrison showing up to play Chief Justice Earl Warren.

On Viewing Number 5, sit back and appreciate the bug-fuck insanity of Joe Pesci's performance as David Ferrie. Pesci has never been known as a subtle actor, and God bless him for it, but his version of Ferrie splits the difference between T-Bag on Prison Break and the Tazmanian Devil. It's always something of a guilty pleasure to watch an actor play a character that gives him complete license to play to the very back row, and Pesci's performance is a proud member of that pantheon.

By Viewing Number 6, you should already be well-versed in Kevin Costner's struggle with a Louisiana accent. To his credit, he grabs hold of that accent like he's wrestling a gator and tries his best to wrangle it into submission, but it's ultimately too wild a beast for him to tame. Interestingly enough, it's probably the best accent work he's ever done. In fact, that same year, Costner famously ditched any attempt at an accent at all in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Costner's N'awlins is nothing close to the "pahk the cah" abomination he committed the next time his and John Kennedy's paths crossed in Thirteen Days. It coulda been woise, is what I'm saying.

By Your 7th Viewing, you've changed your mind: Kennedy was assassinated by a coalition of Cuban exiles and the CIA, angry at Kennedy's refusal to order a full-scale invasion of Cuba, and hoping to lay the blame for the assassination at Havana's doorstep, which would spur the country to overthrow Castro and make Cuba once again hospitable to American business interests. The Dallas mafia (who had their own interests in Cuba, or so The Godfather, Part II led us to believe) was used for their connection in setting up the logistics, and the FBI was employed for the purposes of cover-up. You're still working out the problem of how we never really did invade Cuba, did we, but you're pretty certain regardless.

On Your 8th Viewing, take note of the absolutely superior cinematography -- by Robert Richardson -- and score -- by John Williams. Both were nominated for Oscars, and Richardson won his first statue. It's as close as you'll get to a minimalist Williams score, and an incredibly versatile one besides, alternating between militaristic rat-tat-tat, suspenseful isolated piano rumblings, and ticking-clock percussion. It's absolutely essential to Oliver Stone's ability to craft suspense out of what was then a 25-year-old murder, the most famous in this country's history. Richardson's work is just as essential to the mood, and manages to evoke conspiracy at every turn. Stone's films soon took a turn for the more emptily ostentatious, but every heavily atmospheric shot in this movie does the job but good.

On Your 9th Viewing, you're past due to give props to Gary Oldman's performance of Lee Harvey Oswald. He's not obscured by any kind of weird hair and makeup tricks, and yet I never once think "that's Gary Oldman" when I'm watching this movie. It's an eerily accurate performance; as accurate as you can get for the portrayal of an unknowable man. Assassin? Patsy? Under-orders covert agent? It's the best performance in the film, by a long shot, and the fact that Tommy Lee Jones snatched the film's only acting Oscar nomination from Oldman is criminal. Speaking of Tommy Lee Jones...

By Your 10th Viewing, you realize you had it all wrong before, but now you've got it down cold: John F. Kennedy was assassinated by an underground network of scary gay people who liked to dress up in costumes and do drugs and rape each other and such. One of the film's strangest tangents involve those bizarre flashbacks to the nightmarish sex/bondage/costume party held by Pesci, Jones, and Kevin Bacon's characters. It doesn't have a whole lot to do with the actual plot, but it certainly leaves the viewer with the disconcerting impression that these characters' homosexuality is being hauled out as a negative character reference. Not entirely sure why Scary Conspiring Murderous Fascists needed their ante upped to Scary Conspiring Murderous Gay Fascists, but whatever the motivation, it totally makes one think Kennedy was murdered as part of a Leopold and Loeb style thrill-kill between men who were gay for far more than covert warfare.

On Your 11th Viewing, you'll have earned a healthy appreciation for that sublime scene right in the middle of the movie where Donald Sutherland lays a whole mess of tasty exposition and conspiracy theory on Jim Garrison, and on the viewers. Sutherland's hushed delivery -- combined with some of the film's finest technical work -- reveals the heart of the film, and what you can take to be Stone's true thoughts on the subject: Kennedy was killed, pure and simple, because he sought more and bigger change than the old guard establishment was prepared to tolerate. And here's where all the best questions about the assassination are laid bare: why was there such lax protection in Dallas? How did all the intel on Oswald show up so quickly? Didn't Kennedy ultimately piss off too many highly-ranked CIA, FBI, and military officials, not to mention their financial benefactors? If I've seen JFK a dozen times, then I've watched this particular scene two dozen times, minimum. Again, you don't necessarily have to believe X is telling the truth to appreciate the zeal with which Stone makes his case.

By Your 12th Viewing, you'll have no doubt acquainted yourself with the "back...and to the left" scene. Uncomfortable? You bet. But it's indelible, and for good reason. If Kennedy's head moved in the way it appears to on the Zapruder video, doesn't that necessarily negate any claim to Oswald as the lone assassin? Seeing Kennedy's head explode into a pink mist feels like peering into his widow's bedroom window -- we're seeing things that shouldn't be seen by polite company. But politeness falls by the wayside when you're being lied to, and Stone wants to make sure we remember the best evidence on file for conspiracy. And the grim consequences of that conspiracy.

By Your 13th Viewing, at last, it's understandable that all this time looking at Kevin Costner in those horn-rimmed glasses will have you looking for an episode of Heroes to watch. And when you do, your conspiracy detection skills will be that much sharper. Thanks, Oliver Stone!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Exceedingly Longwinded Post About Hockey. And Also Why I'm Totally Gonna Cry If The Sabres Win the Cup

Just so you know, this space is going to be lousy with Sabres talk for the next few days (and hopefully weeks). Which is fine, considering this blog has never had a strict format beyond the crap that's currently running through my brain. And since the crap that's currently running through my brain consists of a Mobius strip of YouTube videos from the Sabres/Rangers series, well that's what we're going to get.

I've been meaning to get to this Sports Illustrated article ever since Cam'ron pointed me to it, and it's more relevant than ever now that all the stories on the NHL playoffs seem to be descending on the fact that my fair city has never brought home a major sports championship (sorry, indoor lacrosse fans, the Bandits don't qualify). The SI article is a loving portrait of a city whose capacity for hopeful enthusiasm appears to be boundless, despite the fact that there's more than enough to be cynical about. In preparing to move away, I've given a lot of thought to how I'm going to look back on my hometown. I've got that very familial "I can talk shit about my town but you can't" attitude, and I think my reaction to the SI article is familial as well. Only this time, it's a desire to keep the family shame under wraps. To the excerpts!

(Click below to read full post)

Weather was the last thing on our minds on Jan. 27, 1991. Not with paradise a mere 47 yards away in Tampa. I looked at the clock to preserve the moment: 9:37 p.m. Around town, similar scenes played out.
I was ten years old when Scott Norwood's kick sailed wide right. I was crouched in front of my cousin's TV, crossing my fingers. I was also wearing Zubaz pants in the home team's colors, and if we won, I was prepared to take MC Hammer out of the tape player long enough to play Queen's "We Are The Champions." My point? We all had to be somewhere, but does the fact that Mayor Byron Brown watched the game at his mother-in-law's house really hold such a poetic cache? It's not like nobody knows that we lost four Super Bowls in a row. That's, like, our legacy. But do we need to fetishize it like this?

Buffalonians can recite a lifetime of torturous results, from the 1975 Stanley Cup finals...to Brett Hull's skate-in-the-crease, series-clinching goal (known as "No Goal" in Buffalo) in the third overtime of Game 6 of the 1999 Cup final against Dallas. For non-championship-game heartbreak, there is the Music City Miracle...If you're chronicling civic downfalls, you might as well count O.J. Simpson, too. He was the city's biggest hero before he took off in the white Bronco.

We're counting O.J.? Can we count Rick James, too? Timothy McVeigh? MTV's Sorority Life and Fraternity Life? I will not allow my city and its loyal sports fans to become the Red Sox Nation for the hockey set. That whole "Woe to our fans, none have suffered more than we" attitude is disgusting, even if it's in a different accent.

When I left Buffalo for New York City a decade ago, the Bills held a firm grip on the region's collective psyche. But the Bills have not been a good story recently. The team failed to sell out its final three home games last season...The threat that the franchise will pack its small-market bags and move to more cosmopolitan Toronto is always looming.
Somebody's been talking to Willis McGahee. In related news: shut up, Willis McGahee. Have fun knocking up that superior Baltimore tail.

The Swannie House tavern, which sits on Michigan Avenue, less than a mile from the HSBC Arena in Buffalo's Old First Ward, is an old-school Sabres joint. Hockey is serious business here. Take the night that some regulars threw chicken wings at former Buffalo News hockey writer Jim Kelley after he wrote critically of star goalie Dominik Hasek.

Oh, like there's room in the Swannie House for anyone to get a good wind-up anyway. But this is an awesome anecdote for several reasons. 1) It's clearly true. 2) It's wildly stereotypical -- I mean, they threw chicken wings? Do the surly Philly fans throw cheesesteaks at people? No, they don't. They throw batteries. But 3) it's kind of the perfect portrait of a Buffalo fan. Working class, grumpy, and drunk enough to want to throw things at a sportswriter, but with enough of a self-awareness to throw something funny like chicken wings.

The bulk of Richard Deitsch's article is actually a warm and complimentary portrait of this season's Sabres, a likeable team by most objective standards who are playing a fun and high-octane brand of hockey and who have given this city's sports fans possibly the best two-year period in our history. It's not just the success, it's been the way the team has pulled the city together. That sounds lame and sports-movie-ish, but it's true. The Bills of the early '90s -- and maybe this is part and parcel of pro football as a whole -- were a larger-than-life team full of supermen who, while they enjoyed the support of the community, never felt of the community. Jim Kelly could have done his womanizing from Miami, for all we knew. These were football players -- literal giants among men. The Sabres of the past few seasons, while far too talented to be a Little Team That Could, are still a "small" team, by hockey standards. Small but quick and full of that non-specific and sportswriter-derived quality called "heart" that all too often means "white." But there is a heart in this team, even if it's mostly projected onto them by the fans, and when you hear them talk, you can sense that they know what this team means to this town.

So the article is a net positive. A pro-Buffalo article that magaes to avoid condescension even when talking abut how we're kind of pathetic in certain areas. Then again...

"Buffalo fans feel like Red Sox fans felt for all those years," says ESPN's Ron Jaworski, who was born in Lackawanna and gave his daughter Jessica the middle name Stormy because she was conceived in town during the Blizzard of '77. "We believe we are jinxed. We believe we will never win a championship. Yet we believe."

This is the big one: SHUT UP, RON JAWORSKI. The stadium they named after you looks like shit, you gave your daughter a stupid name, and you're from Lackawana (oh, that's gonna cost me). But shut up, seriously. We're not the fucking Red Sox. We don't think we're jinxed. No one thinks that. We're probably as small a market as you can get for a major sports franchise, and we recognize how that can make for an arduous climb to the top of any sports league. We're realists in Buffalo. We haven't adopted any stupid "curse" mentality. We're not the lovable losers. I cannot stress that enough. We're underdogs, and we own that. In every sport I watch, whenever I don't have a string rooting interest, I will always pull for the underdog, so I appreciate that the Sabres hold that appeal this year. But I'm also a Yankee fan, and let me tell you, seeing your team win an actual championship is infinitely superior to wallowing in your status as beloved underdogs. And yet, while the Yanks are my team, they're not my hometown team. Sharing a major sports championship with an entire town is something I've yet to do. The idea of getting to do so right before I pack up and leave? ...I kind of don't even want to think about it. Wouldn't want to JINX anything, eh Ron?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Recaps, Ahoy!

Drunk Kid signs his bill, downs the rest of what is surely his room-temperature pint of Coors Light, and then stumbles out the door and into oblivion. I mean that literally, because just as he begins to embark upon what we call the South Buffalo Shuffle (two wobbly steps forward, one to the side, two wobbly steps forward, one to the side), he gets run down by a passing sedan. Poor drunken frat boy. If only you were twenty-one, your body would have developed an exoskeleton capable of repelling speeding cars. ...That's how it works, right?


Read my most recent recap, this one for Veronica Mars, "Un-American Graffiti." Come for the unnecessary baiting of online fandom, stay for the hysterical defense of underage drinking.

Also, the "wee-caps" for Real World/Road Rules Challenge continue:

Like Henna For Assholes: "
Ace (with Cara) and Kenny (with Jenn) share wall time and fight to see who can out-spazz the other..."

Tonya's Off Her Meds: "
Score one for Tonya! Shit, score two. I know it's only a matter of time before she regresses and starts humping stop signs, but I'm currently enjoying New Tonya."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

!!!!


I still kind of can't believe this happened. Please do click on the video links (under the Sabres logo) to watch the game-tying and game-winning goals. There's nothing on YouTube yet, but I'll keep looking.

EDIT: Here's cameraphone vid for the tying goal, scored with 7.7 seconds left in regulation.



And here's the clip with Rick Jeanerette's call:

Friday, May 04, 2007

It's Morning in YouTube's America

Man, people really seem to enjoy filming their own Benny Hill chase sequences.

Although I think my favorite version can be found here. (click WATCH THIS MOVIE)

edit: A close second is this one:



Poor, hot Mike Vogel.