Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A United Sneak Peek at Tara

The Showtime site has a free sneak preview of the first episode of the highly anticipated new series The United States of Tara. Highly anticipated by me and any other giant Toni Collette fans. Check it out -- the password is "tara" -- and then writhe in frustration that you don't have Showtime.

As for my take on it: it's a Diablo Cody brainchild, and it manages to follow extremely closely to the Juno template. What that means is that the first fifteen minutes contain the same kind of overstuffed, effort-laden, thoroughly irritating teenspeak that made the first half-hour of Juno such a chore. And like in Juno, the acting holds it together. And like in Juno, the verbal ADD ultimately gives way to a sweet, smart story with well-defined characters. I came away liking it very much, but I actually pulled up Blogger halfway through and started to write a negative review because those early minutes were so painful. Is this how it's gonna be, Diablo Cody? The constant push-pull? What happens when I forget to stick around for the good parts?

Anyway, Toni Collette is predictably awesome. Her physicality as Tara's teenaged alter, "T," was there for the character when the dialogue threatened to drown her, and she was a scream as Buck, the redneck gun-enthusiast (with an odd yen for ballet). We also got word of "Alice," a seemingly Suzy Homemaker-esque alter.

Anyway, Rosemarie DeWitt was great (even though her character is a less nuanced version of her character in Rachel Getting Married), John Corbett does that thing he does where he's the guy, and I lovelovelove Marshall and his muffins of triumph. Tara reminds me of shows like Ugly Betty, Friday Night Lights, and Weeds, in the way that it presents relationships that you're not really going to find in other TV shows at the moment. I'm definitely going to have to employ back channels and unscrupulous means to catch the rest of the first season once it airs.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Low Res Retrospecticus: 2008 in Music

Previous "Best in Music" posts: 2007, 2006, 2005.

You should know the drill by now: These aren't necessarily the best songs of the year, but they're the ones I'll think of most fondly when I think of 2008.

Honorable mentions (alpha order):
Britney Spears -- "Womanizer"
Chris Brown -- "Forever"
Rihanna -- "Please Don't Stop the Music"
O.A.R. -- "Shattered"
The Ting Tings -- "Shut Up and Let Me Go"

15. Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown -- "No Air"
Full of all the teenage self-importance and drama you could ever want, plus more vocal runs than should be allowed, even by an American Idol winner. And it's a throwback kind of duet to boot.

14. The Veronicas -- "Untouched"
I'm not going to pretend this isn't the twentysomething's dance hall equivalent to the Jonas Brothers, but you have to know just how much of a sucker I am for the synthetic strings in this song.

13. Too Many Sisters -- "Skyscrapers"
My customary "local band and offshoot of the Lowest of the Low" entry, Stephen Stanley and Carla McNeil's debut album (check it out here) is the kind of sweet, sad nostalgic pub act that'd make you stop drinking and listen. "Skyscrapers" is a standout, but "Same Old Joint" and "Transistor Heart" are close runners-up.

12. Jay Brannan -- "Can't Have It All" / "Half-Boyfriend"
Another year, another appearance on this list for the self-propelled homo-folk sweetheart Jay Brannan. Both these songs blend clever lyrics and catchy melodies so well I couldn't possibly choose between them.

11. Vampire Weekend -- "A-Punk"
The more I read about all the intricate backlash and reverse-double-backlash stuff that went on with this band's 2008 release, the more I'm glad I don't follow music as closely as I do movies and TV. This way I'm free to just enjoy the music, particularly this track, which manages to consistently put a hop in my step all year.

10. Rihanna -- "Disturbia"
The hit machine kept on running this year, this time with a track that took me a couple listens before I fully gave in to the hypnotic dance beat. Of course, by then I couldn't have escaped if I wanted to. (I didn't.)

09. Christina Aguilera -- "Keeps Getting Better"
08. Pink -- "So What?"
07. Beyonce -- "Single Ladies"
I believe I covered these three fairly extensively in my search for a summer song. My feelings haven't changed.

06. The Hold Steady -- "Constructive Summer"
What my friends and I would have been listening to drinking in the park during our high school summers, if my friends and I had been cooler.

05. Estelle f/ Kanye West -- "American Boy"
Estelle returns the favor after countless American anthems to the charms of English women. ...Wait a second.

04. The Killers -- "Spaceman"
"Human" was a great reintroduction to the Killers as dance-rock heroes, but "Spaceman" is where it all blooms most vibrantly.

03. Coldplay -- "Viva La Vida"
As far as my annual "heard it on an iPod commercial" entry, this one's stronger than most. One of the year's best ongoing stories was watching cooler-than-thou music snobs try to scoff this one out of the marketplace before eventually knuckling under to its sheer towering bombast.

02. T.I. f/ Rihanna -- "Live Your Life"
The kind of heroism it takes to make a hot track out of that god forsaken "Numa Numa" sample is the kind not spoken of in the history books. Though it should be.

01. MGMT -- "Time to Pretend"
Digital prozac, is what this song is. The fact that this is showing up on some critics' "best of" lists made me go back and make sure I didn't have it all wrong, but nope -- it's still the funniest, catchiest, happiest song about heroin overdose I've heard all year.

New York, They Hate You

When I saw it last year, I was very pleased with Paris Je T'aime, a collection of uneven but occasionally wonderful little short films about Paris. And I was very happy to hear that the producers were spinning the idea off into the States for New York, I love You, which is due out in early 2009.

You'll recall Paris was the film where I fell head over feet for Margo Martindale pathetic-but-dignified performance as an American tourist in the final installment, directed by Alexander Payne.

Which brings me to my point, actually. Half of the fun of Paris was the dizzying collection of directorial talent on hand: Payne, the Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuaron, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant, Christopher Doyle, Walter Salles, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven.

Now check out the comparatively depressing collection of talent lines up to direct the shirt films in New York: Brett Ratner, Shekhar Kapur, the Hughes Brothers, Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson. There are two names I'm genuinely excited about: Joshua Marston (Maria, Full of Grace) and Mira Nair (The Namesake). But everyone else...? I'm all for Natalie and Scarlett branching out, and short films are a good place to start, but there's no telling if they'll be any good. I liked Garden State more than most movie snobs, but Braff's nowhere near the top of the list of filmmakers I'd want to see making a short about my newly adopted hometown.

It's just so uninspired. And given that Paris was given such a sparkling collection of talent and New York such duds, I have to ask, yet again, WHY DOES HOLLYWOOD HATE AMERICA?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Smooth Joey Apollo's 2008 NFL Picks: Week 17

Last Week:
Aaron: 12-4 (0-1 vs. the spread)
Joe: 6-10 (1-0 vs. the spread)

Season to Date:
Aaron: 155-84-1 (6-10 vs. the spread)
Joe: 152-87-1 (9-7 vs. the spread)

God only knows how I took a three-game lead into the next-to-last week of the season and ended up on the cusp of Cameron taking yet another football-pickin' season out from under me. I blame it on my courageous decision not to pick conservatively. That's right, I was TOO BRAVE to win. It's down to a wing and a prayer as we pick the last slate of the regular season.


Kansas City at Cincinnati
Aaron: If Chiefs coach Herm Edwards survives this season, he'll take his rightful place amongst the greatest can't-kill-'em Black horror movie villians of all time like Snoop Dogg's "Jimmy Bones", Eddie Murphy's "Vampire in Brooklyn" and the guy who played "Blackula". Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Don't forget Angela Bassett in "She-Hulk"! Pick: Kansas City

Oakland at Tampa Bay
Aaron: A Raiders win here over former Oakland coach Jon Gruden (currently #3 on Al Davis' irrational list of enemies - one spot above Pete Rozelle's soul) would somehow justify the embarrassment of '08 as "progress" in their mind. Come on, other team. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: Can the Bucs win convincingly enough to fool people into betting on them in the Wild Card game? Pick: Tampa Bay

Cleveland at Pittsburgh
Aaron: I'm guessing Brady Quinn had it coming, as most pretty boy quarterbacks named "Brady" DO, in fact, have it coming. It's science. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: The Steelers, meanwhile, remain steadfast in their status as the league's least confidence-inspiring Super Bowl contender. Pick: Pittsburgh

New England at Buffalo
Aaron: The Bills' win last week in Denver kept the Chargers alive while torpedoing the Broncos fading playoff hopes. Buffalo's ill-advised Toronto road trip positioned Chad Pennington for a possible AFC East title. This final weekend is going to be SO exciting! Thanks, Bills! Pick: New England

Joe: The Bills winning here and sticking it to the Patriots and their fans, who have finally regained their customary smugness, would be maybe the sweetest thing a non-playoff team has ever done. Which is why it'll never happen. Pick: New England

St. Louis at Atlanta
Aaron: I'm about 17 weeks late to the party, but Matt Ryan's "Matty Ice" nickname is the single worst nickname in the history of the world. It's the kind of name you'd give your guy in the "create-a-wrestler" feature of some WWE PS3 game. And, his finisher would be "the frozen rope" - kind of an old school lariat. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Dork. Pick: Atlanta

Chicago at Houston
Aaron: The previous three teams the Raiders have beaten this season have gone 2-1 in their very next game. You won't find stats like that anywhere, but here, gamblers. Pick: Houston

Joe: Seeing as I have become clinically incapable of picking a Texans game right this year, I'm going against my first, third, and fifth instincts. Pick: Chicago

Tennessee at Indianapolis
Aaron: Couldn't help but notice the words "Vince Young will play" on the ESPN crawl a few days ago. Good enough for me. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Me too. Pick: Indianapolis

N.Y. Giants at Minnesota
Aaron: With the Giants resting up for the playoffs, this looks like one of those games where Adrian Peterson can pad his stats and raise his '09 Madden and fantasy rankings. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Not to mention Tarvaris Jackson gets another week to fool people into thinking he's a capable "caretaker" quarterback. Pick: Minnesota

Carolina at New Orleans
Aaron: Drew Brees should just give up his pipe dream of ever winning a Super Bowl with this Saints team. Dude could seriously leave the NFL, dig up a dozen or so Arena League receivers and barnstorm the country as the football Harlem Globetrotters. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: The proud highlight of my 2008 second-place fantasy football season? Waiving DeAngelo Williams after week 3. Good thing I was raised Catholic so I have no shortage of ideas for how I should best beat myself up for that one. Pick: Carolina

Detroit at Green Bay
Aaron: A Black president and an 0-16 team? In my lifetime? In the same year? Wonder if it'll be just as hard to buy a newspaper on December 29th. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: This has to go on that Great Moments in Sports Futility DVD, along with Pete Rose at Wrestlemania and Charlie Brown trying to kick that football. Pick: Green Bay

Seattle at Arizona
Aaron: Allow me to join the cacophony of voices who doubt that Arizona's novel concept of tanking the last two games of the regular season will be an effective way of building momentum into January. Pick: Seattle

Joe: It's still Arizona at home against a crappy team, though. Pick: Arizona

Dallas at Philadelphia
Aaron: Dammit, Redskins...THIS was supposed to be the game that exposed the ridiculous notion that Donovan McNabb's temporary benching had anything to do with his "resurgence." I was going to make nachos and everything! Pick: Dallas

Joe: Can we do a Top 10 Most Ridiculous Things About Donovan McNabb's Season list? I feel like it's just been one neverending parade of bullshit with that guy. Pick: Dallas

Miami at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: Late December games in The Meadowlands are the reason why Chad Pennington is playing in Miami. I'm beginning to think the last images of Brett Favre any of us will ever see involve a last-minute TD pass on Sunday. F*ck. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: No, the last image any of us will see of Brett Favre is the Brett-Favre-shaped cloud of dust in the middle of the field as he hastily announces his once-and-for-all retirement during the walking-off-the-field interview. Nothing like one season as a Jet to make you never want to play football again, for reals. Pick: NY Jets

Washington at San Francisco
Aaron: That whole "across three time zones" thing was something of a season-long punchline, but I can't imagine a worse trip for a non-playoff team on the final weekend than traveling across three...well, you know. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: And so here I am, with opportunities to gain ground on Cam dwindling, forced to pick the Redskins on the road against an inspired 49ers team. Sigh. Pick: Washington

Jacksonville at Baltimore
Aaron: I love Week #17 games in which Joe wouldn't dare pick differently than me. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Merry Christmas to you too, you merciless bastard. Pick: Baltimore

Denver at San Diego
Aaron: Win and they're in. That's all the Chargers have to do to make the playoffs. The thing is, though, that this is just the type of game the Chargers have lost this season. Half of their 8 losses came in the last minute or two, while most of the others were against teams they should've beaten. Everything points to a San Diego win, which makes this an easy call. Pick: Denver

Joe: That all sounds plausibly true. And yet ... revenge for the Ed Hochuli game is the X factor there. Plus, now that my fantasy season is over, LT is free to go off for four touchdowns. So, yes, it's very possible that the outcome of this pickin' season will rest on the Chargers game. Gulp. Pick: San Diego

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread:

Aaron: Denver (+8) at San Diego

Joe: Oakland (+13) at Tampa Bay

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


MTV has announced 16 new reality shows which will premiere in the first quarter of 2009, and NOT ONE of them is a second season of The Paper. I am disgusted. Amanda Lorber, I am certain, is disgusted. Trevor and Giana are disgusted. And Adam Brock is most certainly disgusted. (Though Adam will probably be joining me in watching Bromance.)

You guys, remember how great The Paper was? I think I'm starting to forget. Can I get a DVD release, MTV? Must you continue to torment me?? I will totally watch The City!

Merry Christmas to Yankee Fans

The Yankees won out on the Mark Teixeira bidding war today, signing the first baseman to an 8-year $180 million contract. When asked for comment, Yankees senior Vice-President Hank Steinbrenner replied with this.

Trailer Trash Tuesday: Fanboys

You may or may not know the story behind this, but basically this movie has been kicking around in development and beyond for a few years now. The original plot involved a group of fanboy friends in 1999 who endeavored to break into the Skywalker Ranch and steal a print of Episode 1 before their cancer-stricken friend died. Then Harvey Weinstein acquired it, decided the whole cancer thing was a bummer, and decided to re-cut it into a spoof-heavy movie that just cracked on Star Wars geeks for an hour and a half.

Funny it should happen, then, that this move would enrage actual fanboys, and before the Cheeto-dust-covered fingertips could even type out the Aint It Cool News URL, a geek boycott was planned. Eventually, Harvey caved to the pressure and it seems like the original concept of the movie is being allowed into theatres.

You just wouldn't know it by watching this trailer.

Everything we see here points towards exactly the kind of Epic-Movie-style gag-fest strung out across eighty minutes that Harvey apparently wanted. I guess he was willing to bend on the movie but not the marketing. The sad thing is that anybody who was willing to take a chance on the movie based on the premise is going to be turned away by this clip. They don't even have the decency to spotlight Jay Baruchel and Kristen Bell properly. Never trust a movie that doesn't know enough to feature its best actors.

I do appreciate how upfront the trailer is about the blatant courting of the geek community. Nothing wrong with that, that's why the movie exists after all. And they're fairly clever in listing the cameos (identifying Kevin Smith as "the guy from Die Hard 4 is pretty funny). Of course, I can never feel 100% about a trailer that presents a Harry Knowles cameo like it's Neil Patrick Harris in Harold and Kumar. AND ANOTHER THING, why does Kristen Bell not merit introduction as "the girl from Veronica Mars"? That seems like a misread of the geek community, doesn't it?

On the positive tip, many props for using Spacehog's "In the Meantime" at the end there. Man, does that song just pull me right back into 1995. I kind of want to give the music supervisor a big hug for that.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter/Spring Movie Preview '09, Part 1

Previous Winter Movie Previews: 2008; 2007.

Movie: Bride Wars (Gary Winick)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway play the bestest of friends -- both brides-to-be! -- whose friendship is so strong that they quickly become mortal enemies when their weddings are scheduled on the same day. Bitches be crazy for weddings, y'all!
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of traditional comedy fare for whom Made of Honor was a bit too cerebral. People who enjoyed Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married and haven't yet realized that this is her Norbit. Anyone who caught a glimpse of the delectable Bryan Greenberg in the trailer.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Kate Hudson fans, who feel the time for tough love is LONG overdue. Non-fans of director Winick, whose Tadpole and 13 Going on 30 were only the modest successes they were because of some film-salvaging performances. Non-fans of SNL fifth-wheel Casey Wilson, who co-scripted.
Why I'd See It: Well, exactly how many guns would be to my head? This looks AWFUL. And, just for some context, I saw 27 Dresses. And enjoyed it. January 9

Movie: The Unborn (David S. Goyer)
High-Concept Synopsis: The trailer kind of throws everything at you at once, but best I can figure: A woman (Odette Yustman) has to deal with a child ghost, a real-life creepy child, an exorcism, vestigial twins, horrifically contorted old men, and Gary Oldman.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who were rightly freaked out by the barrage of images in said trailer. Fans of The Wire who might dig seeing Stringer Bell as an exorcist. Fans of hatchet-faced ab machine co-star Cam Gigandet.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People fooled by the aesthetic into thinking this is yet another Asian horror remake (it's actually based on Goyer's original script). Folks for whom creepy kids are creepy-creepy, not fun-creepy. Pro Lifers pissed that this isn't a bio-pic.
Why I'd See It: This has a decent shot at being The Good January Horror movie. Goyer's resume is spotty but he's capable
January 9

Movie: Notorious (George Tillman Jr.)
High-Concept Synopsis: The life and times and death set up by Puff Daddy under mysterious circumstances of the Notorious B.I.G.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Biggie's fans. Audiences intrigued by what looks like smart casting (Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace; Derek Luke as Puffy). Tupac.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: West Coast rap fans (...who fell into a coma in 1996 and just woke up). Duran Duran fans, provided they catch wise. Biggie.
Why I'd See It: The release date and lack of publicity might indicate a lack of quality, but maybe it's just more of the man keeping Biggie down. It's a hell of a story, I know that. January 16

Movie: Donkey Punch (Oliver Blackburn)
High-Concept Synopsis: Young, pretty Brits on holiday get rowdy on a yacht, until things go horrifically wrong.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the "pretty young idiots get driven to horrific extremes" genre. Sharp-eyed horror fans who recognize star Julian Morris from the dumb-but-watchable-on-HBO Cry_Wolf. Anyone who reads the MPAA R rating "for a scene of strong sexual content involving an aberrant violent act."
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Opponents of strong sexual content involving aberrant violent acts. Folks not swayed by a cast full of anonymous Brits. Horror audiences wary of the fact that this is labeled a "thriller" and not "horror."
Why I'd See It: It sounds like a cross between The Ruins and Mean Creek, with a whole lot of explicit sex thrown in. ...Hey, sure, why not? January 23

Movie: Killshot (John Madden)
High-Concept Synopsis: Diane Lane and Thomas Jane are placed in the Witness Protection Program and end up on the run from hitman Mickey Rourke and his apprentice Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Rosario Dawson co-stars.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of director Madden (Shakespeare in Love; Captain Corelli's Mandolin). Fans of screenwriter Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove; The Four Feathers). Fans of source novelist Elmore Leonard (Jackie Brown; Out of Sight).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anyone who finds those three artists a bizarre and quite possibly unholy mix. Gambling types who figure Mickey Rourke can't keep this miracle pace up forever. Perceptive types who figure there must be a reason that a movie with this kind of talent is being dumped in late January.
Why I'd See It: Gotta love that cast, particularly Rourke and JGL. But seriously, John Madden directing Mickey Rourke in an Elmore Leonard adaptation? No wonder it probably stinks. January 23

Movie: Possession (Joel Bergvall, Simon Sandquist)
High-Concept Synopsis: Sarah Michelle Gellar's husband (nice guy) and his brother (not so much) get into a car accident. Bad brother (Lee Pace) wakes up thinking he's good brother. Is he possessed? Creepiness follows.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of cult TV shows, for whom SMG and Lee Pace are, like, prom king and queen. Fans of sexy supernatural thrillers. True believers who trust that this WILL get released in theatres after knocking around the release schedule for a year or so.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Fans of mainstream TV who think SMG is that girl from Scooby-Doo and Lee Pace looks a bit like their waiter at the Olive Garden. Sexy thriller fans dismayed by the PG-13 rating (will studios never learn??). Cynics who figure this will just get postponed a few more times before going direct-to-DVD.
Why I'd See It: Buffy! And the pie-maker! Seriously, two and a half minutes of Sexy Bad Seed Lee Pace in the trailer had my ticket punched. January 23

Movie: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Patrick Tatapolous)
High-Concept Synopsis: More werewolves vs. vampires melodrama, set on a screen so dark you don't have a chance in hell of knowing what's going on anyway. Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman are out; Michael Sheen gets promoted to lead, joined by Rhona "Oh Hell" Mitra.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the original two movies, who nonetheless figured they could have used an even shittier lead actress. Twilight fans, whose mania will likely cause them to seek out other crappy vampire movies. Whatever stereotypical group of people saw the other ones (I'm still kind of unsure what demographic made these movies hits).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who know better. People who have seen Rhona Mitra in anything. Bill Nighy fans who don't want to encourage the poor guy.
Why I'd See It: Ugh. How drunk am I and how attractive is the person who's asking me to go? January 23

Movie: The Class (Laurent Cantet)
High-Concept Synopsis: The Cannes winner about a public high-school classroom in contemporary France.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anybody who saw the bracing, documentary-style trailer. Anybody who faithfully follows festival buzz. Anybody who's been following the stellar reviews. All signs point to GO for this one.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Francophobes. People who prefer their European movies to be lyrical costume dramas or paranoid descents into madness. Jai'me King, who thinks public school kids are whores (no offense).
Why I'd See It: The praise for this has been off the chain, but it wasn't until I saw the trailer that I began to really salivate for it. Here's hoping I can grab a screener and won’t have to wait until it's released theatrically. January 30

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Am Sorry

I've finally given up on using the term "guilty pleasure" for certain aspects of my taste in music. Not because that taste has suddenly gotten so much better, but because I have at last gotten past feeling guilty about any of it. I can go and listen to NPR talk about the best in this year's music, and I'll smile and think it's great that they've found all this wonderful new music this year, none of which I've even heard OF much less heard with my own ears. Then I'll go back to my iTunes list with its Rihanna and old Fleetwood Mac (greatest hits!) and holiday-specific Darlene Love and I am totally at peace with the whole dynamic.

Still, it seems my capacity for musical shame hasn't gone completely away, and I know this because apparently I am totally into this new(ish) Katy Perry song. And I feel awful about it. She is terrible, and I hate her, and "I Kissed a Girl" was brutal and I never once fell for that, and the lyics are sub-stupid, and her whole attitude is brattier and more attention-grabby than your average VH1 reality show contestant, and yet...I can't stop listening to it. I've taken to putting on repeat in the hopes that I'll burn out on it before I end up accidentally letting it show up on my iPod in front of company.

I wonder, though, if I wouldn't be into "Hot n Cold" guilt-free if it were sung by, say, Pink and not a grown woman who dresses like a Christmas tree. I certainly would be much more receptive to lyrics like "you PMS like a bitch, I would know" if they came outta Pink's mouth. Not sure if it would help lines like "someone call the doctor/ got a case of a love bipolar" though.

Ugh. I am sorry. I'm gonna go listen to it again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Smooth Joey Apollo's 2008 NFL Picks: Week 16

Last Week:
Aaron: 11-5 (0-1 vs. the spread)
Joe: 9-7 (1-0 vs. the spread)

Season to Date:
Joe: 146-77-1 (8-7 vs. the spread)
Aaron: 143-80-1 (6-9 vs. the spread)


Indianapolis at Jacksonville (Thurs.)
Aaron: Last week’s closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over Detroit has everyone awaiting Indy’s demise. Pride still matters in this league and it’s all the Lions have to play for. The Jaguars, on the other hand…not so much. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Maurice Jones-Drew. Keep pulling off those 4th quarter TDs. Please and thank you. Pick: Indianapolis

Baltimore at Dallas (Sat.)
Aaron: Watching Tony Romo writhe in agony on the ground at Texas Stadium as my fantasy football money league hopes went up in flames was kind of liberating in a way. Now, I can throw financial alliances out the window and root for Ray Lewis to finish the job. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: How sure are you that Ray Lewis will finish the job rather than freak out and speed away from the job, then six months later testifying against the job in exchange for immunity? Pick: Dallas

Miami at Kansas City
Aaron: My sincere thanks to Chiefs coach Herm Edwards for his colossal incompetence in blowing an 18 point lead to a DOA Chargers team and costing me a win last week. Way to set back the movement of us light-skinned bruthas, asshole. Pick: Miami

Joe: Miami's been riding the razor's edge seemingly for the last nine weeks or whatever. Can they get by one more week and make it to a division-deciding matchup with the Jets next week. Weird as it seems, I'm rooting for them. Sorry, guys. Pick: Kansas City

New Orleans at Detroit
Aaron: A lot's being made of Drew Brees' opportunity for a 450+ yard performance here, but that Saints defense against a Lions team fighting like hell to avoid becoming an eternal punchline… I think the Lions win here on a field goal in OT. (But, I'm NOT losing this pool because of this game, so…) Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Gah! Thought I had one there. Pick: New Orleans

Cincinnati at Cleveland
Aaron: Sorry, Ohio…you ceased being relevant to me after Obama carried your state, and I have no further use for you. Looking forward to your State school's annual BCS annihilation at the hands of Texas, though. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Did Cincy have their last hurrah win last week or do the Browns make a play for a Top-3 draft pick? Decisions, decisions. Pick: Cleveland

San Diego at Tampa Bay
Aaron: Despite one of the most disappointing seasons for a supposed Super Bowl contender in the last thirty years, the Chargers just might have momentum on their side – in the form of how bad the Bucs have looked lately. Pick: San Diego

Joe: The Bucs have won ugly before, they can do it again. Pick: Tampa Bay

Pittsburgh at Tennessee
Aaron: Anyone else notice how many of those ridiculously redemptive "Kerry Collins is the reason for the season" stories failed to mention the importance of Albert Haynesworth to the Titans? Good luck the rest of the way without him, Tennessee. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: That harsh winter wind is really whipping through that Tennessee bandwagon now that it's gotten so sparsely populated. Feel free to use Bill Simmons to cushion your fall, guys. Pick: Pittsburgh

San Francisco at St. Louis
Aaron: The 49ers are 3-4 under Mike Singletary. His old-school ways and game day intensity are being lauded as "refreshing" by the media. This time next year – when his team has tuned out this lunatic – that same media will lecture us on how Singletary's tactics won't work in today's NFL. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: I can't decide whether St. Louis is one non-broken-down quarterback away from being halfway decent or not. Suppose it doesn't matter much this week. Pick: San Francisco

Arizona at New England
Aaron: When Tarvaris Jackson walks into Arizona and throws four TD passes, it's time to officially close the curtain on the Cardinals' '08 season. Can't wait to bet next month's mortgage against 'em when the playoffs start! Pick: New England

Joe: It'd be awfully ungracious for me to bitch about Anquan Boldin sitting out this week after he pretty much put my fantasy football season on his back for a good 2/3 of the year, but...GOD DAMN IT. Pick: New England

Buffalo at Denver
Aaron: I've just got a weird feeling that next week's Chargers vs. Broncos game in San Diego is actually going to mean something. Plus, the Bills just have to be looking to redeem themselves after last week's, umm…"flubbed ending". Right, Joe? Pick: Buffalo

Joe: See, that's where you're wrong, Cam. And I have an equally weird feeling that next week's Chargers/Broncos game will mean less than nothing. Pick: Denver

N.Y. Jets at Seattle
Aaron: Right on cue, everyone's using the last three weeks to jump off the Brett Favre bandwagon. Fools. Don't you realize that your pessimism only makes him stronger? Against all odds, Favre wins here then lays his long-awaited four INT stinkbomb next week vs. Miami or in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: Too many people making Seattle the trendy upset pick of the week. I can't imagine I'd be that fortunate. Pick: NY Jets

Houston at Oakland
Aaron: Not sure what I'm looking more forward to: the litany of third and fourth tier names who turn down an opportunity to interview for the Raiders' head coaching job or the eventual August press conference that removes the "interim" tag from Tom Cable's title. Pick: Houston

Joe: The Texans' brass should really look into developing a serum which would fool their players into playing like they're 1-6 all year long. Pick: Houston

Philadelphia at Washington
Aaron: Happy Holidays to RB Clinton Portis and his gutless Redskins teammates who let an execrable Bengals squad beat 'em last Sunday without a fight, ending my fantasy football money league dreams. How 'bout you dedicate next year to winning, instead of Sean Taylor, 'K? Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Let the record show (tm Claire Huxtable) that Cam's original pick of "Miami" was submitted for reconsideration due to the indelible kindness of certain unnamed persons. Let the record also show that I'd really like to pick Washington here except for how they're playing like such shit. Pick: Philadelphia

Atlanta at Minnesota
Aaron: Favorite moment of the 2008 season – when Michael Turner surpassed his former mentor LaDanian "Classy" Tomlinson on everyone's 2009 fantasy running back depth charts. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: The Christmas spirit is strong in this one. And Atlanta has more to play for than Minnesota right now. Pick: Atlanta

Carolina at N.Y. Giants
Aaron: So, I appear to be the last man alive to give the Panthers their due. And, I'm still holding out. They've beaten TWO pretty good teams this year (Atlanta, definitely and I'm being generous with the Bucs). Their other nine wins have been against varying degrees of mediocrity. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Seeing as the Giants only started going downhill after you'd decided you suddenly believed in them, the Panthers are probably not too crushed. On the road against a still-good Giants team is probably not their best showcase, but they run the ball well (or haven't you heard) and play good defense. Pick: Carolina

Green Bay at Chicago
Aaron: The promos for Monday Night Football tell me that this is the oldest rivalry in the NFL. They leave out the "these two teams are a combined 13-15" line from the script. Pick: Chicago

Joe: There is every chance that my fantasy league championship will come down to this game, and Devin Hester vs. Donald Driver. Good lord, may I make it to New Year's. Pick: Chicago

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread
Aaron: Pittsburgh (-2) at Tennessee

Joe: Arizona at New England (-7.5)

'Round Springfield XXXV

The Onion AV Club bestows its year-end Best Of list for movies. The top 5 looks awfully similar to where my own list currently sits, if shuffled around a bit. This isn't too surprising for me -- I've said for a few years now that the AV Club comes the closest to my own taste among mainstream critics. Also, check out their Worst of the Year list to see an almost exact reiteration of my issues with the acting in The Happening.

Roommate Mark takes on the dubious, yet frustratingly effective, marketing campaign for Seven Pounds. I kind of need to see it too, and that really makes me mad.

Tapeworthy rings the bell for the final episodes of the unfortunately canceled Eli Stone. I'm a few episodes behind, but I'm totally bummed regardless.

And finally, Sarah Bunting breaks up with Life on Mars for being too much like Cold Case and yet not enough like Cold Case, if you get what I mean. And, oh yeah, she totally whoops the shit out of melanoma. YEAH!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Know, I Love Rufus Wainwright...

...but he needs to maybe just convince Gap to start running his "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" ad again instead of continuing to clarify his position on gay marriage. It wasn't that big a deal to begin with. We all figured that when he said he was "not a huge gay marriage supporter" it only meant HE didn't want to get married, not that he didn't think everybody SHOULD be able to get married. He's never been a self-hater, and that kind of going out of your way to stress that YOU don't care about marriage just so nobody will think you'd be so terribly bourgeois as to want a wedding isn't altogether uncommon, after all.

Why he felt the need to clarify that statement with a follow-up is a mystery, considering he basically makes the same point, only slightly more obnoxiously.
"So, to set the record straight (or shall we say gay?), I am not nor have I ever been opposed to anyone's right to marry - straight or gay. I myself just don't want to at the moment and feel a strong tie to the traditional bohemian concept of being a homosexual, ie: the last thing we want is to be like everybody else. But who knows, a girl likes options. Maybe someday I will want to marry! Plus, in terms of practical issues such as citizenship, taxes, inheritance, etc...it is appauling (sic) that LGBT couples don't have the same rights and options that other people have and compared with Europe and Canada, the US should be ashamed of how they treat love. I have voiced my strong opposition to Prop 8 on many occasions and will continue to do so until that referendum is reversed. OK?"
Ah, yes. "The traditional bohemian concept of being a homosexual." How could I forget? How very avant garde of you, Rufus, to stick your dick in another man's asshole. What a bullshitty, Bill Maher way of looking at things, to say the point of being gay is to differentiate us from boring straight conformists. Isn't that just something we say to each other to make us feel better when straight people are being assholes to us? This isn't my rebellion, it's my life, and if you view yours as a constant quest to freak out the squares and reduce your entire subculture to a bunch of petulant children, at least don't gussy it up like a social philosophy. And stop referring to yourself as a "bohemian," it makes you sound like an asshole.

And I do love your music.

It Might Seem Wrong, But It's Just Right!

Having a "Sunny" kind of day. Figured I'd share.

Capsule Review: Doubt

Movie: Doubt
Director/Studio: John Patrick Shanley / Miramax
10 Word Review: Tantalizing story, brilliantly acted; subpar direction keeps it from greatness.

Best Thing About It: The story. This thing didn't win the Pulitzer Prize for nothing. It's an open-ended tale of doubt versus certainty, of modernity versus the old school, and most strikingly, for me, of two roads not taken by the Catholic Church. By now, you've heard the plot: Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) comes to suspect Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) of having an inappropriate relationship with a young student (the only black student in the school). She has no evidence but she feels her certainty deeply ... and she'd just as soon be rid of Flynn's post-Vatican II ways anyway. The whole movie is a kind of ping-pong match where you go back and forth between who you believe.

But it's the complexity of their positions, of the characters themselves, that I was in love with. Sister Aloysius represents that kind of hard-line Catholic school authoritarianism that my parents' generation is always talking about, and which I experienced faint shadows of during my Catholic school years. But she's also the head nun in an institution where she has always been, and will always be, subordinate to the hierarchy of the male priesthood. We're reminded again and again that she has no real power in the parish; not when it comes to the priests. Sure, she can and does intimidate the hell out of those students, but she can't compel the monsignor to do a damn thing he doesn't want to do. She also represents a kind of dogged vigilance against the scourge of sexual abuse in the Church -- indeed, she has her nuns on the lookout for it before it even happens. Her methods are draconian and McCarthyist, absolutely, but there is no denying that if the Church had more Sister Aloysiuses in its history, it may have a lot less to apologize for today. Or maybe they'd just be apologizing for different things.

Father Flynn, on the other hand, isn't just The Accused. He also represents the modernist values that the Church tried to take on after Vatican II. There's a scene in the middle of the movie that's easy to overlook because it's buttressed up against another, even more powerful scene. But in it, a young boy's spirit is crushed by the repeated cruelties of his teachers. This is another thread that ran through the Church's history, alienating many from its ranks, and Father Flynn represents a turn away from that. But he's also a manipulator. We see that in his interactions with Amy Adams's Sister James. He plays her against Streep from the beginning, and he takes every advantage that the bishops' boys club has to offer him.

This isn't even getting into the complexities involving Sister James or Viola Davis's Mrs. Miller. I'm not going into the latter because you really have to see how it unfolds, but trust that she provokes more questions than she answers. Much like Doubt itself.

Worst Thing About It: The direction. I can only dream of what this film could have been in the hands of a more confident, seasoned director. Shanley wrote such a brilliant play, but he's not able to guide it to the screen without obvious directorial tricks, heavy-handed symbolism, showy visuals, and at least one feathery diversion that really should have been overruled by someone at some point.

Best Performance: This is a hell of a competition, much moreso than you'd expect given that it's Meryl Streep taking on a meaty, Tony-winning role. Her Sister Aloysius is a grandiose performance, sure, but it doesn't ever get away from her. There are precious few moments where the Sister's hellacious certainty cracks, and Streep is able to illuminate those moments brilliantly. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is, I think, the underrated one of this bunch. He gets shouty at times, but he's also quite delicate in the way he's constantly tipping the scales of Flynn's possible guilt from one side to another. The smallest gesture or inflection shifts the audience's entire opinion of him, and he does it about six or seven times.

Amy Adams is probably the weak link in the cast, though I'm still not sure if it's a function of her character or not. But she doesn't bring a lot beyond baseline naiveté to Sister James, and she came off as slightly cartoony on occasion. But my personal choice for best in show was Viola Davis. She absolutely as good as she's being advertised -- believe the hype. Two short scenes, but they're totally breathtaking.

Oscar Prospects: Lots and lots. Streep and Davis look locked for nominations, and I believe they'll each contend for the win. Hoffman's also looking good in the supporting category (he's a lead), and I wouldn't be shocked to see Adams follow her Globe nomination with an Oscar nod. It's on the outskirts of Best Picture, too, and expect to see Shanley's script contend in the ultra-competitive Adaped Screenplay contest.

Grade: B

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Ode To: Jenna Maroney

I'm rifling through YouTube clips today for a work thing and I came across this compilation of what is still my favorite running gag "30 Rock" has done.

"Muffin Top" comes a close second, but once again, clips are elusive. Damn you, universe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Golden Globes FUNcast!

I took part in a post-Golden Globes podcast with my esteemed friend and colleague Nathaniel at The Film Experience, and he posted the audio this weekend. Please do go click over there, listen, and comment. Not my finest hour, perhaps, due to poor telephonics on my end and my regrettable tendency to bury my punch lines in Garofalo-eqsue trailing off. WHY do I do that? Stupid lingering insecurity issues. The bright side is that my co-podcasters, Nathaniel, Nick, and Katie, are absolutely superb (and you can hear them as clear as a bell), and all in all it was a blast to record.

ANYway, tune in to hear me croak out my thoughts on the Clint Eastwood Awards, sad Jennifer Aniston, Penelope Cruz fatigue, maybe the most wide-open Best Actor and Best Picture races I can remember.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Things I Probably Should Submit to Overheard in New York

4th Avenue. Brooklyn. 10:40 PM. A guy says to his highly agitated/distraught girlfriend/wife as they are arguing on the sidewalk:
"She's nine years old! I don't remember ANYTHING that happened to me when I was nine years old!"

That was the second screaming match I walked past inside of six blocks last night. Lov ya, BK!

Smooth Joey Apollo's 2008 NFL Picks: Week 15

Last Week:
Aaron: 12-4 (0-1 vs. the spread)
Joe: 13-3 (1-0 vs. the spread)

Season to Date:
Joe: 137-70-1 (7-7 vs. the spread)
Aaron: 132-75-1 (6-8 vs. the spread)


New Orleans at Chicago
Aaron: Tonight’s forecast in Chicago is 19 degrees with flurries. Do I make the predictable, unfunny Californian joke about how the only “flurries” I’ve seen are blended with delicious soft serve and Heath Bar? Or are those “Blizzards”? Meh, either way, it seems awfully cold to eat ice cream. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Weirder NFL development at running back: That, in Denver's Payton Hillis, we have the first notable white running back since The Nick Goings Improbably Fantasy MVP Season of '05, or the emergence of an RB named "Pierre" Thomas, in New Orleans. Yes, yes, New Orleans has their proud creole tradition and all. But still, can't he just switch names with Tony Parker to make the world make sense again? Pick: New Orleans

Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Aaron: Here's hoping the Bucs' run defense is as porous as it looked on Monday night vs. Carolina. Signed, All of us who own Michael Turner in our fantasy money leagues. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: You think the Falcons feel out of place as the least controversial NFC wildcard contender? Andre Rison, Eugene Robinson, and Michael Vick officially think the team has gone soft. Pick: Atlanta

Seattle at St. Louis
Aaron: Nice of the Seahawks' receivers to get all healthy and un-injured just in time for some third-rate opponents and a chance to torpedo a top six draft pick. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Not to mention Seneca Wallace making his case for the Billy Volek "Weeks 14-16 MVP" award. Pick: Seattle

Buffalo at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: My Raiders will remain the template for inept sports franchises as long as the wind whistles thru Al Davis' remains. That said, even he wouldn't OK the relocation of a home game to a neutral site with neutral conditions in front of a neutered crowd in December. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: Dear Roger Goddell: See? Canadians HATE FOOTBALL. Please don't give them our team. In other news: the playoff hopes are finished, but knocking Brett Favre and the Jets out of the playoffs would be goddamn sweet. Stupid J.P. Losman. Pick: NY Jets

San Francisco at Miami
Aaron: Soooooo, maybe it was just the 4-6 cold weather games Chad Pennington had to play every year in New York, New England and/or Buffalo that kept him from crossing over into the realm of perfectly serviceable QBs? Thanks, South Florida! You, too, province of Ontario! Pick: Miami

Joe: Never thought I'd be rooting for the Dolphins to win the division, but here we are. Come on, Davone Bess! Pick: Miami

San Diego at Kansas City
Aaron: The Chargers have played the Chiefs in December a few times in the past few seasons and never seem to look good. OK, not a convincing argument, but I needs to make up some ground to ol' Brooklyn Joe. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: Happy to oblige! Pick: San Diego

Green Bay at Jacksonville
Aaron: That 4th down run vs. Pittsburgh in last year's playoffs netted Jags QB David Garrard a huge contract extension. Sure, he and the Jags quit on their coach, but they showed up for about 50% of the season! Pick: Green Bay

Joe: I'd love to pick the Jags as I need Maurice Jones-Drew to show up big here, but that whole thing about quitting on this season ain't no joke. Pick: Green Bay

Washington at Cincinnati
Aaron: Goddammit, Clinton Portis...quit feuding with your head coach, rest your body until Sunday and shred the Bengals like every other running back has this year. Fantasy. Playoffs. Money. League. Does this mean nothing to you?! Pick: Washington

Joe: And speaking of teams who have mailed this season in. With insufficient postage. Pick: Washington

Tennessee at Houston
Aaron: Can't get enough of those soft-focused Kerry Collins "redemption" stories. A recovering alcoholic (who still drinks)...quit on his Panthers team after his heart was no longer in it...looked awful in every big game he's ever played in. And, all he had to say is "sorry about that". That's the liberal media elite for ya. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: For what seems like the tenth week in a row, I'd love to pick the Texans here, but I won't. Pick: Tennessee

Detroit at Indianapolis
Aaron: Y'know...I think they're going to do it. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: You know, Detroit's close to the Canadian border too. Anybody discussing giving THEIR crappy team to Toronto? Pick: Indianapolis

Minnesota at Arizona
Aaron: The Vikings looked lethargic against an overmatched Lions squad last week. That combined with an "NFC West Champions Hangover" effect for the Cards makes this...OK, OK, I'm just trying to convince myself. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Isn't there some coincidental and silly "rule" about dome teams from cold-weather cities traveling in a southwesterly direction and playing a team that's marginally better than them? I think there is. Pick: Arizona

New England at Oakland
Aaron: The death of Matt Cassel's father this week only means one thing: 500 passing yards for the Pats QB, all dedicated to the memory of his pops. (See how inspiring death can be, Al Davis?) Pick: New England

Joe: Aaron, they're not all Brett Favre, you know. Pick: New England

Denver at Carolina
Aaron: The mediocre Broncos are going to win the AFC West and the slightly better Panthers looked like world-beaters a week ago. I miss the certainty of Johnny Unitas. Now, there's a haircut you can set your watch to. Pick: Denver

Joe: You think the Panthers are only slightly better than the Broncos? Guess it's just that No Coast Bias coming into play. Pick: Carolina

Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Aaron: Last time I mention my fantasy playoff game (hopefully, just for this week!): I've got Hines Ward AND Derrick Mason AND the Steelers' defense. The Ravens, meanwhile, are targeting Ward with the most publicized bounty since that whole Boba Fett/Han Solo thing back in '80. How can I lose?! Ugh. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: The Ravens at home after a emotional comeback win by the Steelers SEEMS like the right call. But "AFC North Campion Baltimore Ravens" certainly sounds odd. Let's see what happens when I put all my chips on Joe Flacco. Pick: Baltimore

N.Y. Giants at Dallas
Aaron: Come on, Tony Romo! (I can't say why, as I used up my quota of fantasy football self-references earlier in this post.) Pick: Dallas

Joe: It's pretty kind of TO, Jason Witten, and the entire road company of Wade Phillips's Bumbling Wild West Show to make the post-Plax Giants the LEAST distracted team on the field this week. It's closing in three weeks. Pick: NY Giants

Cleveland at Philadelphia
Aaron: Isn't it about time for Donovan McNabb to come back down to earth against an opponent he has no business losing to? Stupid Ken Dorsey. Why can't you be at least average? Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: The silver lining to another Eagles win is that we'll get another week of the very same sports pundits throwing dirt on Philly's grave three weeks ago telling the rest of us how stupid and disrespectful we were for thinking Donovan and Co. didn't have the rest of the league right where they wanted them all along. Awesome. Pick: Philadelphia

Sure-Thing Suicide Spread:
Aaron: Denver (+7.5) at Carolina

Joe: Buffalo (+7.5) at NY Jets

Brief Thoughts On...

...the Golden Globe nominations:

-- Heck Yeah (!) for three (three!) nominations for In Bruges, (Best Actor for Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and Best Picture Musical/Comedy). Even at this late stage, it's one of my top two or three movies of the year. There's probably no chance any of them take the inanimate fucking object home with them on Globe night, but it good recognition.

-- James Franco for Pineapple Express (but not Milk) manages to be not only kind of correct, but also the good kind of weird surprise the Globes tend to deliver.

-- Tom Cruise for his cameo-on-uppers in Tropic Thunder? That's the bad kind of weird the Globes tend to deliver.

-- A hearty FUCK YOU for categorizing last month's 24: Redemption as a TV movie (rather than the first episode in this coming season) just so they could have another chance to suck Keifer's dick, particularly when Battlestar Galactica: Razor wasn't given the same benefit (Michelle Forbes will have your balls for this, HFPA).

-- Four acting nominations for In Treatment certainly sounds like something I'd love, but when two of them are for Melissa George and Blair Underwood (rather than the infinitely more worthy Mia Wasikowska and Josh Charles), my parade gets rained on.

-- Much love for Rebecca Hall's nomination for Vicky Christina Barcelona. Love her lots.

-- Happiest nomination from pay cable: True Blood for Best Drama Series. Angriest nomination from pay cable: Kevin Connolly for Entourage.

-- And good for January Jones for getting some love for Mad Men. I just watched Love, Actually again a couple weeks ago and was pleased to recall her as one of the four American girls so enamored with that doofy British guy. Snubbed there (tragically) but rewarded now!

10-Word Review: Revolutionary Road

I'm honestly so thrilled Kathy Bates lost so much weight!

[10-word caveat: Unless she's ill or something; in which case: not thrilled.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Round Springfield XXXIV

Tara talks about how insufferable Oprah's been getting now that she's pretending that she's right here in the thick of the recession with us, yet how her newly-resurrected weight issues bind her to the rest of us anyway.

Friend of Low Res Marc Hirsh had an NPR song of the day dedicated to high-school icon of Low Res Tori Amos. I don't 100% agree with the take, but that's mostly because I enjoyed most of Tori's descent down her faerie-dust-sprinkled rabbit hole, and I certainly can't expect everyone to have done the same. "Winter" is a great song, and I will totally co-sign that it was a career high point. Also, feel free to read down into the comments for an illustration of why I hatehateHATE most music snobs (and internet commenters). (Not you guys.) (For real.)

I will gladly self-promote my work at SOAPnet, particularly so that you all can be caught up at the latest goings on with one Mr. Tom Cruise. His latest antics are more endearingly awkward (oh, Tom) than horrifically cringeworthy, but still: I'm not sure what's more embarassing: Tom Cruise addressing a framed photo of Spencer Pratt, or the fact that Tom Cruise lost his Blackberry at a taping of Entertainment Tonight Canada. (Doesn't it seem like Robin Sherbotsky would be a lock to host that show were she a real person?)

Finally, if you're a fan of movie awards season and you're not following this week's avalanche of precursor awards at The Film Experience, well ... why the hell not? Go!


...as Jon Stewart SCHOOLS THE SHIT out of Mike Huckabee (who, not to be uncharitable, has clearly been eating his feelings since losing the nomination to McCain).

Yeah, yeah, how utterly radical of me to come down on the side on Jon Stewart's awesomeness. Whatever, so long as so many people in this country insist on being dead-ass fucking wrong, it's still going to be important to continually point that dead-ass fucking wrongness out.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Your 2008 Summer Song Today: F*ck You, Kid Rock

[Roommate Mark, of The Critical Condition fame, joins me in putting this Song of the Summer issue to bed once and for all. This is Part 3 -- please to enjoy Part 1 and Part 2 as well.]


Well, I’m sure Brandon Flowers can handle the SISSY title, but after working out to The Killers’ “Human” yesterday, I just don’t think we can give that song the crown. It’s too autumnal… too lush and lovely to be a summer anthem.

But I think we’ve been dancing around the truth anyway. Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” has the season right there in its title, and it was the biggest cross-format hit on radio this year. Country stations, rock stations, and pop stations were all on board. I don’t love that song, but millions of people do. Could that be our SISSY?Hm… I’m gonna say no. Curse my passion if you must, but I just can’t award a track I don’t love. So I’m throwing my weight behind “Live Your Life.” T.I. will just have to buck up and accept it: For me, he’s the biggest SISSY of the year.


You sort of dangled Kid Rock out there in front of me and then snatched him away, didn’t you? Kind of like a matador with a big red cape. Because for me, no cape is redder than that of Kid Rock. HATE. Hate the surly attitude, hate the shitkicker/hood-rat poses, hate the faux sentimentality of “Picture,” hate “Picture” in its entirety, hate Hepatitis C, hate all of it. And I really hate the “Sweet Home Alabama” riffing in “All Summer Long.” I have no doubt that was really the song that shaped his teen years, but that just makes me hate him more. Does your conscience bother YOU, Kid Rock, as you’re trading on hip-hop culture while waving the flag of a stars-n-bars band like Skynyrd?

Anyway … I think what I’m saying is: we agree “All Summer Long” is out of the running.
And I respect and applaud your ultimate choice of “Live Your Life” as the top SISSY. It’s up there for me. In the end, though, I think I have to go with the pop culture penetration of Beyonce on this one. “Single Ladies” woulda been audible from every street corner, front porch, and patio bar in North America had it been given a proper summer run. It is, ultimately, SISSY Fierce.

[If you're in the New York City area and are down for some southern hospitality, gossip, and a bit o' nog, you can check out Mark in Ruth and Esther's Egg Nog Revue this Sunday at Ars Nova.]



Monday, December 08, 2008

Your 2008 Summer Song Today: Dawn of the SISSY

[Part 1 of this discussion with Mark Blankenship of The Critical Condition was posted earlier today.]

It's the singalong chorus of "Single Ladies" that does it, for sure. Which in a way makes it this year's "Hollaback Girl," and I mean that as a total compliment. If I can come back here in one year's time and say I'm not sick to death of hearing Beyonce kindly, yet persistently suggesting that her man ought to have put a ring on it, then she'll be up +1 on our pal Gwen. A summer song is "of the moment," so you can't retroactively take away SotS status just because it eventually started to drive you B-A-N-A-N-A-S for reals, but the better summer jams ("Crazy in Love," "Umbrella") are more resilliant. ANYWAY, I digress ...
The added tragedy to "Single Ladies" missing the summer zeitgeist is that there was no opportunity to cross-market it with the "Sex and the City" craze. Both song and movie had the same wide streak of "Am I right, girls?" man-centered female "empowerment." Which makes it the more traditional-gender-roles flip-side of someone like Pink, whose best songs are always an FU to some guy or another. Enter "So What?" into our great Song of Indian Summer debate.
The case for "So What?" is simple: it's anthemic. It's the theme song for every girl (and fancy guy) you know who just ended a relationship and wants to go out and drink his/her face off. This, by the way, is the second consecutive single where Pink totally screwed herself out of a song of the summer, because "U + Ur Hand" (up there with "Sexyback" and "Hey Ya" as the most summery non-summer songs of the decade) was foolishly released in the fall as well.
So my questions to you are these: What of the case for "So What?" as our Indian Summer signature song? And after two lady-centric tunes, would a more broadly-appealing tune be a better summer fit?

We need an acronym. From now on, we're looking for a SISSY, or Song of Indian Summer, Say Yeah!

And you don't have to be a sissy to love a SISSY, which brings us to Pink: Homegirl is tough, and I have always loved her for that. I also love her throat-ripping vocals and her ability to be sincere and cool at the same time. Even when she sings about her own fame -- which is my most-hated subject for a pop song -- she has a perspective that makes her seem like a relatable human instead of a chemically processed Famebot.

Lyrically, "So What" encapsulates her appeal. That stuff about being a rock star is just a deflection of her genuine heartache. You don't have to be famous to understand that sometimes you need to brag about yourself to avoid feeling like crap. That lets "So What" be for everyone.

That said, I don't love Max Martin's production. There are so many ugly sounds vying for my attention that I lose focus, and for me, that keeps "So What" from being a SISSY.

But I agree with you about the parade of traditional gender roles in "Single Ladies."

How about "Live Your Life" by T.I. and Rihanna? We can all get behind the message, and it's easy to sing along. Even if you've been dancing for six hours and you're pretty sure that last beer had a hair in it, you can still shout, "Ayyy! Ohhh! Ayyy! Ohhh!"

I think I've come back around to "Live Your Life" being the best of the post-summer bunch. And not just because it feels wrong not to give Rihanna some sort of honor to make up for the fact that it took me so long to latch onto "Disturbia." Forgive me, RiRi!

Anyway, once you get past the fact that the track is forced to make a silk purse out of that sow's ear of a sample, "Live Your Life" has it all. T.I.'s easy flow is like the best summer day you spent chaise-lounging with a tasty cocktail, the call-and-response chorus is the best singalong moment since Beyonce directed us all to the left, to the left, and the breakdown at the end might be the single most awesome thing that went in my earholes all year. Sure, the lyrics are kind of schizophrenic along the boastful/humble axis, but a) who listens to the lyrics of a summer song that closely, and b) the central message of the chorus is a salve for our troubled times.

The only thing that might hold me back from declaring this contest over right now is my reluctance to call T.I. a SISSY to his face. Unless you can talk me into something else. Something by the more SISSY-friendly Brandon Flowers perhaps?

Stay tuned for our thrilling conclusion in Part 3!

Random, Semi-Focused, Bullet-Pointed Thoughts on...

...Zack and Miri Make a Porno

-- I suppose it's a little late in Kevin Smith's career to be giving him credit for improving as a director, but after the a Jersey Trilogy (...that lasted through five films) that remained steadfastly uncinematic, one earnest flop, and one highly depressing regression, this feels like a career reboot for the guy, and while it's lacking in some fundamental ways, it's also probably the most accomplished movie he's made since Chasing Amy.

-- That being said, there's still a lot of work to be done, especially with the serious/romantic elements to the story. Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen came ready to work, but the writing kept falling back on cliches and sappy platitudes at the most crucial moments, and when that didn't work, the soundtrack got cranked up.

-- But Smith still has a knack for making likeable characters, and that doesn't abate here. Elizabeth Banks really flourishes, with a character that's not quite as idealized as Rosario Dawson in Clerks II. (But, you know, kinda close.)

-- The subplot with Justin Long and Brandon Routh as a gay couple (really more like an extended cameo -- where were they in the final reels??) was about as good as I could have hoped for and really helped me solidify my opinion on whether Kevin Smith's gay material is offensive or not. I've always been of the mind that Smith is a friendly (which is clear if you listen to him speak for three seconds) and knowing that I'm fine with the gay-themed comedy. But after seeing this movie, you get a good sense of the utter fascination Smith has with...if not gay culture then at least gay activity. You see this kind of fascination in straight guys all the time, it's just that it's usually followed up by mocking or violence. Not with Smith, though. He manages to keep his gay fixation at a level of enthused curiosity. Long and Routh aren't playing actual gay people, they're playing Kevin Smith's idea of gay people. Yeah, the whole "They're just like us, only they like cock!" stuff could be read as patronizing, but we're all clear that we're no longer looking to Kevin Smith films for flesh-and-blood characterizations, right?

-- I have to be uncharitable, but I have to mention how depressing it is to see Jason Mewes with what appear to be veneers, which I have to assume were necessary after losing his teeth to the meth. Not that I'm jumping to conclusions or anything but...come on. On the bright side, I was kind of disturbed by how good the guy looks naked.

-- I think we can all officially give up the ghost on Traci Lords learning how to act. The lady's been in many movies (legit, non-porn movies), with real directors and actors to learn from, and it's just not going to happen. That being said, she spent the entirety of Zack and Miri looking SUPER happy to be there. So that was nice to see.

-- My favorite part of the movie was trying out punny porn titles. I can't remember most of the good ones now, but Lawrence of a Labia was a definite highlight.

-- It's tough to say how a director like Kevin Smith can flourish in Judd Apatow's Hollywood -- he gets by this time by basically co-opting a bunch of Apatow regulars and making sure his shit joke is WAY grosser than anything Judd's ever attempted (uh...mission accomplished). Simply swapping out pot references for Star Wars and turning the sex talk to eleven probably isn't enough. But he's got a comfortable (and marketable) genre to sit in while he figures it out.

And the Award...

...for Best Film Performance by an Actor Channeling Cadillac from Planet Unicorn goes to:

Diego Luna in Milk!*

My full thoughts on Milk will probably be doled out sometime during the Oscar crush, as I fully expect it to show up large in the race.

*Not to say I hated the performance or anything, it's just that there were times that the vocal resemblance was uncanny! And you know it just made me long for a cameo from Feathers.

Presenting Your 2008 Summer Song...Today

[So Roommate Mark and I have been talking a lot about how summer 2008 got robbed of an official song, and how the slew of autumn hits tried to make up for that. We figured as long as it was bouncing around our brains, we might as well put it out here on our blogs.]

So, you and I have both talked about this on our respective blogs, this idea of the Song of the Summer and why 2008 seemed to be so light on those particular tunes. And we’ve also talked about this rush of ass-shakin’ goodness that has overtaken our iPods this fall, from Beyonce to Pink and beyond. We decided the Songs of Summer finally made it to us, only delayed by a month or two. (I’d try to come up with an analogy about this being the age of DVR and time-shifting, but I’m just not that fond of stretching.)
Anyway, to kick this discussion off, why don’t you nominate our first candidate for the Song of Indian Summer and tell the good people what it’s got that the official summertime fare did not?

I must commend you for starting this discussion. Every summer needs a song, and Summer 2008 got screwed. I mean, think about “Umbrella,” one of the best summer anthems of all time, and then think about “I Kissed a Girl” or “Lollipop.” They just don’t compare.
Fortunately, the fall has brought an abundance of hot, hot jams, and few of them are hotter than…

“Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” by Beyonce. Seriously. Damn. It’s got a sing-along chorus, a wicked video, and a beat that’s meant to be blasted from your drop top. It also gets bonus points for introducing the world to Beyonce’s “Sasha Fierce” persona, which is so ludicrously irritating that it loops back to awesome. Summertime (and summer anthems) are made for that kind of excess.

So what do you think? Should we declare “Single Ladies” the Song of Indian Summer and be done with it? Should we go ahead and put a ring on it, as it were?

Stay tuned for Part 2!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

"Just Me and My Ganja"

For your weekending pleasure, and apropos of nothing really, here's one of my favorite clips from one of my favorite episodes of "Roseanne." Happy weekend!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Smooth Joey Apollo's 2008 NFL Picks, Week 14

Last Week:
Aaron: 9-7 (1-0 vs. the spread)
Joe: 10-6 (0-1 vs. the spread)

Season to Date:
Joe: 124-67-1 (6-7 vs. the spread)
Aaron: 120-71-1 (6-7 vs. the spread)


Oakland at San Diego
Aaron: Way to sell the merits of your exciting Thursday night schedule, NFL Network! This - this - is the biggest game of the season for the Chargers and their miserable fan base, so let the trash talk and victory parade commence at game’s end. I’ll still have three more weeks to watch Tomlinson sitting dejectedly on the bench by himself with that ridiculous shaded helmet hiding his classy, classy tears. Ass. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Wait, wait, wait. I thought I was supposed to be the bitter hometown fan while YOU were the snarky, detached cool guy. We really should clear this up before we pick the Sunday games. Pick: San Diego

Washington at Baltimore
Aaron: Clinton Portis has been playing injured all season. He's currently being held together with Scotch Tape and twine and may explode on contact with the Ravens' defense. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: I'm starting to become a believer in this Ravens team. HA! Y'all are fucked now, Baltimore fans! Pick: Baltimore

Cleveland at Tennessee
Aaron: How did LenDale White get away with publicly griping about his lack of involvement in the team's offense, then get rewarded with 500 carries in the very next game? Oh, LenDale White. I see. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: So is this Ken Dorsey for the Browns the QB from Miami? I wonder how his arrogant cries of "The U!" will sound from four feet deep in Tennessee's Former Adelphia Coliseum. Pick: Tennessee

Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants
Aaron: A year from now, when Donovan McNabb is finishing up his first season in Chicago or Minnesota, he'll look especially awful in a late-season game in bad weather. This is the prequel. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: I put the over/under on high-handed Plaxico Burress lectures by the FOX crew (please be Joe Buck, please be Joe Buck!) at 99, while the over/under on tasteless jokes about sweatpants and the "shotgun" formation that show a sense of humor about the whole situation is at 2. Take the under on the latter. Pick: NY Giants

Atlanta at New Orleans
Aaron: Let's see... in this week's ESPN Magazine: (1) Matt Ryan is on the cover. (2) Kim Kardashian offers advice on "How to be an NFL Girlfriend". Stay relevant, Saints. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: I should know the answer to this, but it's escaping me: what was the genesis of your irrational Saints hatred again? Not that it's not totally amusing, I'm just curious. Pick: New Orleans

Cincinnati at Indianapolis
Aaron: The Colts have a soft December schedule and look like a team that suckers us all into thinking they'll go farther than the second round of the playoffs. Quit copying the 2006-07 Chargers, Indy. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: It's kind of bizarre to see the Bengals play for next year when, by all indications, they're gonna suck like crazy next year too. Pick: Indianapolis

Houston at Green Bay
Aaron: The Packers are playing for their season each week and got punched in the mouth at home last week. Green Bay will make orphans out of a few Texans' kids. ("Yes, but I imagine their mothers will die of grief.") Pick: Green Bay

Joe: They've been playing for their season for the past two weeks, and they've given up 86 points in that span. With Matt Schaub back under center at Houston, they have cause to be worried. Still, they're at home. Pick: Green Bay

Minnesota at Detroit
Aaron: On the bright side, the Lions would have to be the favorites versus inter-city "whose year's been sh*ttier?" rivals Kwame Kilpatrick and the American auto industry. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: If those two fat Williamses were still suspended, I was all set to pick the Lions to get their first win of the season. Probably not now. Pick: Minnesota

Jacksonville at Chicago
Aaron: That whole "team travels three time zones" storyline gained traction earlier this year, but for my money, it doesn't get any lazier than the ol' "warm weather team plays in cold weather" chestnut. Pick: Chicago

Joe: After the Jaguars basically played at half-speed last week on national television, I wonder if there's a gambler in the country who would put their money on them now. Pick: Chicago

N.Y. Jets at San Francisco
Aaron: I dunno. Favre and the Jets are travelling across three time zones here. Three! And, that was quite the generic storyline earlier this year. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: Yeah, but they're traveling the good way across the country. The way that energizes you and puts you three whole hours AHEAD of everyone else. Kind of like how I'm three hours ahead of -- and thus better than -- you at any given time. Pick: NY Jets

Kansas City at Denver
Aaron: A win by Denver gives the AFC West to the Broncos, so there's that for motivation. On an unrelated note, I'm playing Cutler over Romo in my money league this week, so there's that for picking KC. Pick: Denver

Joe: I wonder if a team has ever been a 20-point underdog at home in the playoffs like Denver's destined to be. Joe Flacco, this team's defense is our eventual Christmas gift to you! Pick: Denver

Miami at Buffalo
Aaron: We do love us some Bill Simmons bashing here at "Aaron and Joe's Cavalcade of Whimsy" and sometimes he really deserves it. In his Friday column, he points to the relocation of this game from Western NY to Toronto as being an advantage for the Bills! And, he uses the Toronto fans as his explanation! He does know the roof's going to be closed, right? No? Jerk. Pick: Miami

Joe: Bill can get back to me in the middle of the first quarter, after the third massive "GO LEAFS GO!" chant. Assholes. Pick: Miami

Dallas at Pittsburgh
Aaron: Just to recap...no running back for the Cowboys means the Steelers ferocious defense can focus on pressuring Dallas QB Tony Nine Fingers and his gag-in-the-big-game gaggle of receivers. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: You know, I stopped touting the Steelers as a Super Bowl-caliber team when I stopped believing in their offense ('round about that Eagles game). But now I'm wondering if they have a chance to be that kind of defense-first AFC champion that all the Tennessee dick-suckers are saying the Titans can be. Pick: Pittsburgh

St. Louis at Arizona
Aaron: Looks like a Certain Someone's been forsaking Kurt Warner these last few weeks! Thankfully, "He only gives us challenges that He knows we can conquer" - Rams Suck 3:16 Pick: Arizona

Joe: I'm still trying to figure out what to get Anquan Boldin this Christmas for saving my fantasy season. You think diamonds would be too forward? Pick: Arizona

New England at Seattle
Aaron: Matt Cassel is going to turn a few huge games versus some terrible opponents into a ginormous free agent contract this offseason. If he's smart, he'll pick San Francisco, just so he'll get to play Seattle twice next year. Pick: New England

Joe: Plus all those fantastic rainy Christmases! Pick: New England

Tampa Bay at Carolina
Aaron: "Jake Delhomme versus even a passable defense" trumps "Jake Delhomme at home". Every time. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: The Bucs defense are going to, by and large, shut down the Panthers offense. En route to a 13-7 loss. Pick: Carolina

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread
Aaron: Tampa Bay (+3) at Carolina

Joe: Minnesota at Detroit (+10)