Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Brief Conversation About Design (+ a call to action)

So my homegirl AB Chao has gone and entered herself into an interior design contest for the amazing new bedroom design she gave herself. So now she's in this contest! With eleven other chumps! Please go vote for her (Room 2!) in order to preserve the meritocracy in our times.

Also, please enjoy this lil' conversation we had about the judgery:

AB Chao: Let's talk about this: Kelly Wearstler is one of the judges.
Joe: !!!
AB Chao: I mean, maybe after I win she will teach me to crimp my hair.
Joe: Imagine what she's wearing while she judges. IMAGINE!
AB Chao: I am TRYING to imagine, and yet, I cannot.
Joe: Opera gloves. A grass skirt.
AB Chao: A midriff-length bathrobe.
Joe: Military jacket. Gardenia in her hair.
AB Chao: Dutch clogs. A live chicken in her hair. Oh wait, you already said gardenia.
Joe: She could have both. Let's not kid ourselves.
AB Chao: I assume the gardenia will be a delicious snack for the chicken.
Joe: OMG, dressing Imaginary Kelly Wearstler is like Mad Libs.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Smooth Joey Apollo's 2009 NFL Picks: Week 3

Last Week's Results:
Joe: 9-7
Aaron: 6-10

Season to Date:
Joe: 22-10
Aaron: 18-14

Week 3:

Jacksonville at Houston

Aaron: In the last two weeks, I've propped up the Jaguars and trashed the Texans '09 chances. That's why they play the games. I heard that on TV somewhere. ESPN, perhaps? Sounded prescient. Pick: Houston

Joe: The Texans' offense officially woke up last week. Somebody please tell Steve Slaton he's a part of the Texans' offense. Pick: Houston

Tennessee at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: Are we sold on the Jets defense, yet? All I read this week was how the Jets beat a declining Pats team as the buzz was more "blame the team that lost", not "credit the team that won". Pick: NY Jets

Joe: The defense is absolutely for real. The offense is gonna have its good days and bad days. Here comes a bad day. Pick: Tennessee

Green Bay at St. Louis

Aaron: Well, here's a home team that we can safely say is ALL figured out for 2009. No ambiguity with the Rams. No, sir. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: It's a comfort to know that, one week after royally fucking me over in my suicide pool by losing at home to the goddamn Bengals, they actually WILL beat a team they should beat. Yep. A real comfort. Pick: Green Bay

Washington at Detroit

Aaron: Nice piece in this week's Sports Illustrated on how baseball's Detroit Tigers have lifted the city with their success. The Lions, it would appear, are like unliftable and sh*t. Pick: Washington

Joe: They're gonna win one. And soon. And Washington is very bad. And they have to win sometime. And their QB is actually not bad. And Washington can barely score AND has a crappy quarterback. ...Shit, here I go. Pick: Detroit

San Francisco at Minnesota

Aaron: Have you heard that this is the first home game of the season for Adrian Peterson the Minnesota Vikings Brett Favre? You will. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: The winner of this goes to 3-0 and earns frontrunner status in the race to become the season's weakest playoff team. Pick: San Francisco

Atlanta at New England

Aaron: Home wins over a mediocre Dolphins squad and a feisty, but not-so-good Panthers team have not yet convinced me that the Falcons can go into New England and beat the Pats in a game New England HAS to win (mostly to shut up the media). Pick: New England

Joe: Can we talk about how New England has managed to dig up yet ANOTHER scrappy, feisty, hustle-laden white wide receiver? I'm no socialist, but should we spread those guys throughout the league a bit better? Pick: New England

N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay

Aaron: At this point, the Bucs should just go all-in: bring back the Creamsicle-colored, "sassy pirate" uniforms and embrace their return to 1970s-80s form. They don't suck, they're retro! And, they suck. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Sure, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham, you both had fantastic receiving performances on Sunday night. But you know Plaxico Burress is doing angry pull-ups at Rikers Island, plotting his revenge. Pick: NY Giants

Cleveland at Baltimore

Aaron: The Ravens beat a crumbling, poorly coached San Diego squad last week and some talking heads are already declaring Baltimore as the team to beat this season. I'd mock them, but (1) I picked the Chargers to win and (2) I picked Cleveland to win last week, too. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Having confidence in a Baltimore team is an odd thing indeed. But they finally put together something of an offense. Be afraid. Pick: Baltimore

Kansas City at Philadelphia

Aaron: I think you guys can take the rest of the NFL season off, Missouri. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: What, no words on the impending football return of Michael Vick? Not looking forward to that dominating any and all coverage of this game for a week? Pick: Philadelphia

Chicago at Seattle

Aaron: I've decided to accelerate my usual "I'm not going to believe in 'Quarterback X' until his team is 8-2" stance. Lucky for you, Jay Cutler. Pick: Chicago

Joe: I really, really don't think we can attribute last week's Bears win to Jay Cutler. But they are up against Seneca Wallace, who has held my disbelief for many seasons now. Pick: Chicago

New Orleans at Buffalo

Aaron: Is Joe ever going to pick his beloved hometown team to win a game in 2009? We've got the potential for some season-long drama here, people. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: If I ever do, it won't start this week. Pick: New Orleans

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Aaron: Reverse that fluke last-second loss in week #1 and the Bengals would be 2-0! Within the confines of that hypothetical universe, they'd be 2-1 after this week. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: The Bengals could barely score against a bad defense against Denver, then seemed to move at will on what I still think is a good Packers defense. Will this reverse psychology strategy keep working. It definitely will. Pick: Pittsburgh

Denver at Oakland

Aaron: Watching JaMarcus Russell regularly over/underthrow open receivers while playing a blatantly dumbed-down offensive system with none of the passion you'd expect from a guy who's actively stealing $30 million from our misunderstood octogenarian owner just hurts my heart. Pick: Denver

Joe: Oakland's woes notwithstanding, they have to be the absolute worst 2-0 team this season, and maybe ever. That being said, picking Oakland in any context two weeks in a row is pretty dumb. Pick: Denver

Miami at San Diego

Aaron: Five years ago, Chad Pennington led the Jets into San Diego and knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs. If he can win here with the Dolphins…ah, who am I kidding? Pick: San Diego

Joe: I actually like the Chargers better with no Tomlinson at all than with a gimpy Tomlinson. Pick: San Diego

Indianapolis at Arizona

Aaron: So, now we live in a world where the Arizona Cardinals are featured in prime time on Sunday Night Football? Did John McCain win the election? Did John McCain win the election?! Timely. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: I don't love the Colts on the road this season, but this feels more like an upset that would happen at 4PM while we're all watching something else than on Sunday night. Pick: Indianapolis

Carolina at Dallas

Aaron: Last week's NBC broadcast from the home opener of Dallas' new bajillion dollar stadium was as shameless as anything I've ever seen. Did anyone ever think the esteemed Al Michaels could out-hyperbole Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay when gushing over a new facility? Pick: Carolina

Joe: On another note, the glee with which other people in the sporting media take in Tony Romo's failures is kind of unseemly. What did that guy ever do besides foist Jessica Simpson on an unsuspecting ... oh. Right. Pick: Dallas

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh, Naomi Watts, REALLY!

Sure, it probably hurt my soul worse to see Sigourney Weaver don her Ripley wifebeater and desecrate Aliens, but at least I could tell myself Sigourney isn't getting lead roles anymore and she needs to pay her pool boy same as the rest of us. But Naomi? The International notwithstanding, girlfriend is still a viable leading lady. YOU DON'T NEED TO DO THIS TO YOURSELF! Diane Selwyn would be masturbating in DISGUST if she could see this. Which she can't. Because she was the not-real one. (...Wasn't she?)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Week in TV (Thus Far)

Glee (9/23)
I have to tell you, I was THIS close to breaking up with Glee, but this episode totally won me back in a HUGE way. For the first time (including the pilot, which didn't hold up as well as I may have wanted it to at first), the tone of the series was clear, and I got an actual feel for the characters and the stories they're telling. They've done an excellent job bringing out characters like Finn and Kurt (still waiting to care about Rachel, but they're doing things with her at least), and the addition of Puck to the crew has been a godsend. They haven't perfected the formula -- Jane Lynch is hilarious but she's adrift in the story -- but even the hysterical pregnancy subplot found a bit of footing this week. Great job all around -- I'm back.

Modern Family (9/23)
Easily my favorite new show of the season (...so far; still time to wow me, Flash Forward and V). I'd already seen the pilot back in May, but I watched it again tonight and loved it even more. In particular, the gay couple wasn't quite as shrill as I'd thought. Ty Burrell is gonna be the breakout from this, though. And I finally have a good reason to like Sophia Vergara!

Cougar Town (9/23)
How to say this nicely ... I really believe the word "cougar" serves a crucial function in our language. ...No. This is not the time for that conversation. Regardless, I'm really glad I didn't get offended out of an opportunity to enjoy an exuberantly funny show with an excellent cast. I really love Courteney Cox here, not to mention Busy Philipps,Brian Van Holt, and Carolyn Hennessy. And the kid who plays Courteney's son is great, too. And for some reason, Josh Hopkins is looking like 500 times hotter than he ever has. Even in footy pajamas.

Top Chef (9/23)
I can't deal with Penn and Teller. I certainly can't deal with Toby Young. Thank God for Michelle Bernstein (and Padma's chic blazer) on that panel. As for the deconstructed dishes, Jennifer's lasagna looked absolutely delectable. Meanwhile, if this entire group could just retire the purees for the duration that would be so swell. It seems like such a lazy way to present an ingredient. Yes, I'm looking at my beloved Ash when I say that. "Pea puree"? Girl, please.

So You Think You Can Dance (9/23)
My eternal push/pull with Tyce Diorio continues. He's completely obnoxious on the judging panel, but ... I can't lie and say there aren't moments I don't enjoy that obnoxiousness. When he just started yelling "Ew! Ew! Ew!" at that one guy, I kind of smiled. Anyway, more good hip-hoppers this week, plus that creepy too-sexy guy, who I kind of liked. Oh, shut up, it wasn't a proud night for me all around.

Melrose Place (9/22)
Okay, it's totally awful that they're setting up Ashlee goddamn Simpson to be the Kimberly Shaw of this crew. But I continue to happpily bop along with this show, partly because it does things like has Taryn Manning play herself (via her all-too-real band, Boomkat). Also, I don't know where they get the balls trying to play off a JANE MANCINI reveal as this bad-ass development. And yet? Kind of got psyched.

Gossip Girl (9/21)
Dan goddamn Humphrey. Every time I think he can't get more loathsome, he goes and says something like "Greenwich Village intelligentsia" and makes me hate him anew. So glad you found another neighborhood in Manhattan to feel inferior/passive-aggressively superior toward, Dan. He totally deserves whatever hell Georgina's gonna rain down on him. On the other hand, I'm kind of loving how powerless Blair is at NYU. Now adapt, Blair! Adapt!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One Last Thing About the Emmys

It wasn't much more than a year ago that I put the idea out into the universe of an Emmys hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Cat Deeley. Now, NPH has hosted the awards to great acclaim, and Cat presided over some kind of fan-voting thing from backstage.

Bottom line? You are welcome, everybody!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Once Upon a Time, When There Were Emmys

One of the great tragedies of me being gainfully employed in this dismal economy is that I have to wait until the next evening to blog about the Emmy Awards for free. What a world.

Anyway, so a wildly successful Emmys at a time when it seemed like we as a society had lost our ability to do anything but bitch heartily about award shows. A little Doogie will do it, it seems. Neil Patrick Harris was pretty much everything good you could possibly be: funny, charming, cute, gracious in defeat (maddening, maddening defeat), and he kept the show hustling along without making you feel rushed. That was my main takeaway from last night, aside from some of my favorite winners: the easy pacing of the show. No speeches were hustled through by the music, nothing felt like it dragged on too long, and the whole thing was done by 11:05. It reminds me of what I always say about Cat Deeley vs. Ryan Seacrest; Ryan always gets credit for managing the Idol behemoth and hitting his marks and hustling this guy onstage and that girl offstage. He gets all that credit because the whole enterprise looks quite...effortful. Cat Deeley manages to do a much similar job and make it look like it takes no effort at all, and that's why she's the better host. NPH made hosting an awards show look like no effort at all. He's earned every bit of goodwill he's getting.

As for the rest of the show, I was about 90% happy with the winners. Even the ones like Alec Baldwin or Cherry Jones where my vote would have gone to someone else. But honestly, was this the geek-friendliest batch of Emmy winners in recent memory or what? The three best moments of the night (at least the ones not involving John Hodgman) were the wins for Kristin Chenoweth, Toni Collette, and Michael Emerson.

Who knew there was much love for Pushing Daisies among television's stuffiest? Cheno's weepy speech was a squeaky delight, and Roommate Mark and I got to talking about how she's currently halfway to a Grand Slam (she's got a Tony and an Emmy ... and I could actually see her getting a Grammy, or even an Oscar).

Collette's win was pretty unexpected to me, too. There was a lot of talk that she could be a spoiler because of the multiple-personality awards-bait nature of the role, but that's not really how the Emmys work. Certainly not in Lead Actress in a Comedy, long the haven of your Helen Hunts and Patricia Heatons. Showy bait is Oscar's thing. And Toni's performance transcends all that business besides. So very happy for her.

And then Michael Emerson, who I thought was probably too good to hope for. Probably the best case for the most deserving nominee winning. And who knew he was married to Carrie Preston, a.k.a. the awesome Arlene on True Blood, a.k.a. one of my favorite characters on TV? Didn't think I could love either of them more, but here we are! Thanks, 2009 Emmy Awards!

Movie Notes: The Informant and Jennifer's Body

The Informant
God, when Steven Soderbergh just doesn't try so hard, he really makes some phenomenal movies. It's interesting to put this movie side-by-side with his other whistleblower movie, Erin Brockovich, a movie that I very much liked but which draped itself in the earnest strivings of its main character. Here, Matt Damon's Mark Whitacre drapes himself in self-serving lies and a seemingly unending labyrinth of deceit, and the film does a great job of bopping along without ever truly taking the audience into its confidence. Smart stuff. (A big assist in that regard has to go to Marvin Hamlisch's dextrous score.) Damon's performance is full of humor and indignation -- it's not a generous take on this guy, but it's a committed one.

Jennifer's Body
Okay, to get the Diablo Cody stuff out of the way: I hated the first half-hour of Juno, but I didn't hate Juno. I'm annoyed by Kate and T on United States of Tara, but I LOVE United States of Tara. That cutesy, overly verbal, try-hard dialogue is certainly present in Jennifer's Body, though like in Juno and Tara, it's relegated to one character, really. Would I like to take a comb through the script and remove about 50% of the quippiness? Sure. But the difference between Cody-speak and Joss Whedon-speak is slimmer than you might think. Anyway, if you hate all that, there's going to be no convincing you anyway. Me? I grit my teeth through the "move on dot org" cringers and as my reward got a smart and seriously funny horror comedy. The ads are misleading in that they promise a high-school allegory, where the Mean Girl is literally evil; and she IS, but Jennifer doesn't get bogged down in metaphors. In their place, we get great interplay between an always-excellent Amanda Seyfried and a shockingly effective Megan Fox. I'm not ready to tag her as a great actress or anything, but the girl knows exactly the attitude this movie requires of her, and she's pretty magnetic. It's not a flawless movie -- there are pacing issues that I can't entirely nail down, Amy Sedaris is wasted -- but I enjoyed the shit out of myself watching it.

Also, I need to shout out the pitch-perfect casting in this thing. So many excellent actors in tiny parts. Sedaris is wasted, yes, but Cynthia Stevenson and Chris Pratt and JK Simmons seem like they're just there to deliver one impeccable line and then be on their way. And can we talk about Adam Brody for several minutes? I liked him on The O.C., of course, and he's been delightful in tiny roles in The Ten and Smiley Face. But he is utterly perfect here, from the very first second. He's both an embodiment of every fake-soulful, guylinered emo rock band you've ever hated AND actively sending up that very over-the-top hatred you have for them. He hits every single line just right and was my favorite thing on the screen.

Bottom line, this feels like a success to me (even if it royally tanked at the box-office). And super-duper bonus points to whoever decided to throw on Hole's "Violet" right before the end credit sequence. Absolutely divine, and it kind of makes up for what I found to be the irritatingly self-conscious presence of "Doll Parts" in Juno. Kudos!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Emmys! Liveblog!

Before I forget to mention it, I'll be liveblogging the Emmys (who ISN'T liveblogging the Emmys this year?) at NPR's Monkey See blog. Watch as I try to convince Linda and Marc that Toni Collette beating Tina Fey wouldn't be the worst thing to ever happen!


Smooth Joey Apollo's 2009 NFL Picks: Week 2

Last Week's Results:
Joe: 13-3
Aaron: 12-4

Week 2:

Carolina at Atlanta

Aaron: I don't want to oversell this. Really, I don't. But, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme might be the worst thing to come out of Carolina since Rae Carruth was found hiding in the trunk of a car in Nashville. Trust me, just Google him. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: It's the fact that he's not coming out of Carolina that seems to be their problem. Pick: Atlanta

New Orleans at Philadelphia
Aaron: Saints QB Drew Brees is doing a damn fine impersonation of 1984 Dan Marino. Eagles fill-in QB Kevin Kolb is more Koy Detmer. The '84 Dolphins went 14-2. The '09 Saints won't. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: I like this new "random facts, tied together with numerous loose ends" approach to NFL analysis. Evolve or die, Ron Jaworski! Pick: New Orleans

Houston at Tennessee
Aaron: I'm not ready to commit to the Titans after an impressive showing vs. Pittsburgh last week. I am, however, SO ready to set fire to the Texans bandwagon after the Jets punched Houston in the mouth on Sunday. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: The ease with which the Steelers were able to carve up the Titans secondary has to concern them a bit, yes? Pick: Tennessee

Minnesota at Detroit
Aaron: Dear Detroit…stack the defensive line and force Old Man Favre to beat you with his withered arm. If this option were available, I'm sure it would've worked in Nintendo's Super Tecmo Bowl. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Another week, another excuse for me to chicken out of calling the Lions' historic "dirst win in many, many games." Damn you, Peterson! Pick: Minnesota

New England at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: I might've mentioned this on Twitter, but ESPN.com's Bill Simmons – a diehard d-bag Pats fan – said that there were three fanbases who took football too seriously: Packers, Raiders and Bills. Super Bowl XLII, Pats fans. WFAN, Jets fans. Pick: New England

Joe: If the Bills' heartbreaking loss to the Pats on Monday was good for anything (it wasn't), it would be that it gives the rest of the NFL to cop an attitude other than "pants-shitting deference" in regards to America's New Team. Pick: New England

Arizona at Jacksonville
Aaron: University of Florida QB Tim Tebow is originally from Jacksonville. My theory is that the residual faith in Jesus Tebow left behind in J'ville is stronger than Kurt Warner's occasionally publicized and oft-underreported faith in Our Lord. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: The Cards and Jags tend to play weird, out of character games against the Niners and Colts, respectively, so it's not like we can glean anything useful. I'll err on the side of Jesus the best player on the field, Larry Fitz. Pick: Arizona

Oakland at Kansas City
Aaron: We had an agreement, Raiders. You were going to suck and I was going to settle in for a sports fan's nuclear winter until pitchers and catchers report next February. Don't, Oakland. Don't make me give a damn about you guys. You'll break my heart and I'll love you even more. Just…don't. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: Come on, Heartbreaker Raiders! Pick: Oakland

St. Louis at Washington
Aaron: Last year, an awful 0-4 Rams team went into Washington and defeated the Redskins, 19-17. This year's Rams are even worse, so does that mean they'll win by more? No, moron, it does not. Pick: Washington

Joe: Two different 0-16 teams in back-to-back years? YES WE CAN! (And with that, we as a society will officially reture "Yes We Can.") Pick: Washington

Cincinnati at Green Bay
Aaron: Are we, as a country, ready to come to grips with the possibility that maybe – just maybe – Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco aren't ever going to be as good as they used to be? This whole "physical skills erode as you get older" is a very real phenomenon, people. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Cincy played so goddamn poorly last week that they can't even bitch about getting beat by the single luckiest play in the history of the NFL. Pick: Green Bay

Tampa Bay at Buffalo
Aaron: Are you ready to talk about last Monday night, Mr. Reid? Pick: Buffalo

Joe: No. Pick: Tampa Bay

Seattle at San Francisco
Aaron: By this time next year, I predict we'll be seeing 49ers coach Mike Singletary yukking it up in one of those Coors Light fake press conference commercials. Pick: Seattle

Joe: The battle for NFC West supremacy (and NFL mediocrity) begins NOW! Pick: Seattle

Pittsburgh at Chicago
Aaron: For years, pundits have been making excuses for the consistent mediocrity of teams led by QB Jay Cutler. It's the defense, the coaching or the dysfunctional culture. Alternate theory: Cutler's an assh*le and none of his teammates have his back. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Still seems pretty stupid of Brian Urlacher to injure himself just to spite Jay Cutler, though. Pick: Pittsburgh

Cleveland at Denver
Aaron: Sorry, Broncos…one fluky last-minute win against an equally awful squad does not convince me. Devour this cupcake and then we'll talk. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: What a terrible matchup. Remember the heyday of this rivalry? The Catch! The Drive! Bernie Kosar must be rolling in his grave. Rolling and not finding an open receiver and taking a sack. Pick: Denver

Baltimore at San Diego
Aaron: I've gotten so used to Chargers RB Ladanian Tomlinson standing motionless on the sidelines n' contributing nil in January that I didn't know what to do when he assumed his usual playoff spot in Week #1! Hoping for 15 more weeks of this! So giddy! Pick: San Diego

Joe: Your complete disregard for LT's talent makes me assume you wouldn't change this pick knowing that he's out for the game. Pick: Baltimore

N.Y. Giants at Dallas
Aaron: It's the heavily-hyped lid-lifter for the Cowboys new bazillion dollar stadium. Here's hoping for several tight shots from NBC's Sunday Night cameras on Dallas owner Jerry Jones' several tight facelifts. Especially the tears. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: It's late. I'm out of cogent analysis. Tony Romo is cute. Pick: Dallas

Indianapolis at Miami
Aaron: Well, my "Colts are in decline" theory didn't pay off last week, so I'll amend it to "Colts are in decline, but will win a few games early before collapsing in November". Airtight, that one. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Taking their cue from the critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated success of 30 Rock, Miami's offense will make their season premiere in mid-October. Pick: Indianapolis

Thursday, September 17, 2009

'Round Springfield XXXIV: Sharing the Love

I've been derelict with my linkage this summer. I shall endeavor to do better in the fall. In the meantime:

The wonderful Kirk Hamilton showed me some blog love today, and I am more than happy to return the favor. Kir's blog, Murfins and Burglars, combines the "whatever strikes my fancy" nature of pop culture talk that I tend to favor here, plus he has the added benefit of talking about his own brilliant music career. Which...I don't tend to favor here as I don't have any musical talent. But other than that, we're like twins! Plus, Kirk was kind enough to partake in our highly scientific Dance poll. You'll love him, click on over.

I'm a dick for not mentioning this earlier, but Roommate Mark has spent the last two weeks counting down his 100 favorite songs of the past decade. It's an incredibly addictive read and will give you bunches of new music recommendations. I'm saving my own list for November/December, but he's given me an awful lot to think about.

Finally, in a lil' bit of self-promotion (I'm as shocked as you are), I've just been invited to start contributing to the utterly brilliant That's Important. I can say that without seeming full of myself because the lion's share of posts aren't mine. And also because it's true. Anyway, bookmark us if you haven't already!

Brief Dance Notes

Writing about the audition episodes has never been my thing, as the show never comes together, for me, until the partnering starts. But there were enough notable developments last night to warrant a series of observations:

-- Oh my GOD, I could not take screaming manchild Jarvis for one more second. I was already feeling bad about how much I hated him because it seems like he's maybe got mental/emotional...issues. And THEN I had to feel double bad after he collapsed and needed oxygen and all that. But whatever, I was happy to see him go. How awesome was Cat, though? Right up in there with the EMTs?

-- Once again, I have a hard time evaluating contemporary dancers in auditions. Once the paired dancing starts, they are almost always my favorites, but it's so hard to evaluate them just from the solos. That being said, that Sasha girl with the huge family was pretty great.

-- As for the same-sex ballroom dancers, I thought they were beautiful, and they rightly got through, and I have no idea how they did all that wearing JEANS. I'm going to try to evaluate this seperate from my annoyance at the high-handedness of places like GLAAD and AfterElton being all "Well THAT'S more like it" -- there was an ugliness to the reaction to the same-sex audition last season, no doubt, but those bitches were AWFUL and these guys were great, and I honestly think that's why they got through.

-- P.S. Love to see Pasha back, doing the choreography.

-- And finally, there was Legacy, who seemed really retro in his breakdancing. Like, he's amazing, but the breakers on this show usually incorporate more modern styles, be it popping or whatever. You can look at it two ways, of course: He's a refreshing throwback, or he's stuck in the '80s. He's sure cute, though. But he seems like he might be a dick, right? Fingers crossed I'm wrong on that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You Guys, I Love Adam Shankman...

But if this So You Think You Can Dance news spells the end of Debbie Allen on the judging panel, I am NOT going to take it well. Call the fire department, honey, this is bullshit!

The (Half) Week in TV

Big Brother (9/15)
You guys, the fact that Jessie isn't my most hated houseguest this season is kind of insane. The fact that even NATALIE isn't my most hated houseguest is almost more insane. But...LYDIA! Oh my GOD hatehatehatehate. And yet weirdly, this house had way more genuinely likeable houseguests than usual -- I'd totally hang with Laura, Michelle, Kevin, and especially Jordan and Jeff. Things are bizarrely trending upward in that regard. Anyway, GO TEAM JORDAN! WHOOOOOOO! I feel kind of guilty that Jordo's victory comes on the back of Jessie and Lydia being unfathomable pricks, but Nat laid down with dogs, almost literally, and I can't feel sorry for someone that annoying.

Greek (9/14)
It can be difficult for me to assess an episode of "Greek," because each episode find of floats into the next, unfailingly enjoyable if not groundbreaking. But this episode was pretty great, with a lot of fun to be had with the whole Gotcha showdown. The exchange between Rebecca (who I now completely love), Cappie, and Rusty ("I thought your kind couldn't come inside without being invited." "Good one.") was gold.

Gossip Girl (9/14)
A place-setter of an episode, so it was never going to blow the doors off. But I liked how certain things were clicking into place: Rufus taking a more prominent position as Serena's stepdad, Serena and a surprisingly compelling Carter Baizen ("Kings" has treated you well!), and, and while Nate might as well be on another show, I'm willing to be interested by all the Vanderbilt stuff, for now. But Blair, Chuck, Jenny, and Eric were all running in place, Dan had absolutely zero stake in anything, and Vanessa...had that awful hairstyle. This episode needed Lily badly. That being said, nothing happened to make me dread the overall plan for the season, so that's good.

True Blood (9/13)
To be completely honest, while I really loved Maryann's "mess with the bull, get the horns" end, I wasn't in love with the rest of the episode, which was pretty clearly filler around that central 10-15 minutes, and it felt like it. All in all, a fun season, and the finale did more to sell me on Sophie Ann in two minutes than the previous one did in sixty, but the most interesting elements were asbent in the finale. And Jason went Dionysian and didn't even take his SHIRT off! Tee Eff, Alan Ball?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adventures in All-Too-Real Web Photos

ALSO Gossip Girl edition!

Seriously, that look says, "We both know I can make her dance, but she doesn't dance for free."

Trailer Trash Tuesday: Overcompensation

Since I haven't posted this feature much this summer, so why don't I hit you with FOUR trailer write-ups today. I'm like the absentee divorced dad who overcompensates at Christmas! Who doesn't love that guy?

You know, I've been waiting on Mira Nair to make something grand and sprawling and not in possession of the myriad flaws that held Vanity Fair back. It'd figure, then, that she'd end up delivering it with a cast of Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, and Ewan McGregor, a trio I could not find more underwhelming. It all looks so plausibly successful, though. Hardcore Oscar bait like this always holds the risk of feeling too put-together, but even Swank -- under the makeup and the accent -- feels more liberated than I can remember her. Can someone help me out, though: what movie does the music from this trailer come from? At least in the first half -- is it the Friday Night Lights movie? Hook me up, lovely readers.

The Fourth Kind
It's an effective trailer, to be sure -- Milla Jovovich as herself, assuring us the movie is entirely supported by "archival" footage (as also scary as fuck). Just the kind of "this is REAL, you rubes" stuff that made Blair Witch so effective. Even when we know it's bullshit, it's fun to partake in the illusion. Taking on the legacy of Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a brazen move, though, and I wonder if this trailer doesn't bite off, on our behalf, more than we can chew.

The Men Who Stare At Goats
This one hit the internet last week and seemed to really blow people away. I'm a smidge more reserved. Wacky Clooney works with a VERY strong directorial hand, and thus far that directorial hand has proved to belong to the Coen Brothers. I'm not entirely sold that his producing crony Grant Heslov can do as good a job. But it's certainly intriguing -- the idea of the military training psychic soldiers, warrior monks, and other such fantastical things is flush with possibility. Jeff Bridges looks like a potential show-stealer, and hey, maybe this is the movie that makes us all like Kevin Spacey again. I said maybe!

This movie came out of nowhere the last few weeks with what feels like a manufactured "OMG you guys, Michelle Monaghan should totally get an Oscar nomination" word-of-mouth campaign. The mouths seem to belong to members of the marketing department. Of course, buzz for past nominees like Melissa Leo may not have been quite so different, but it doesn't seem like anyone's actually seen this movie yet, is the problem. Anyway, I like Michelle Monaghan, so I'm more than willing to give this a shot. Can't say I'm not wary of this too-articulate son of hers, but it's not a dealbreaker.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Adventures in Random DVR Pausing

Gossip Girl

Oh, Penn. This is no way to promote that terrible-looking remake of The Stepfather.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Your Sunday Morning Schmemmy Roundup

The Creative Arts Emmys were handed out last night, as always one full week before the real Emmys. Of course, with arguably one of next week's most deserving nominees getting a statue last night, "real" is relative.

You can check out the results here ... or allow me to break it down for you along my highly subjective guidelines:

The Good

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series went to Justin Timberlake for his SNL performance. I like to think it was my support for Classic Peg that put him over the top.

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series went also to SNL, this time for Tina Fey. Um. Obviously. Not that she didn't earn it for keeping us sane during the Sarah Palin occupation -- she did -- but was there any other possible outcome here?

United States of Tara took the award for Outstanding Main Titles Design. There's a strong case to be made that the True Blood credits got robbed, and I might agree, but the Tara credits are a strong entrant. I suppose you could judge for yourselves.

The Bad and/or Boring

The guest actors in Comedy were breaths of fresh air. The guest actors in drama series? ...Less so. What could be more predictable than an Oscar-winning veteran actress winning for a dark guest turn on a crime procedural, as Ellen Burstyn did for SVU? Well, that would be Michael J. Fox winning for Being Michael J. Fox on Television (or, in this case, Rescue Me).

Outstanding Choreography went to the gaudy musical number at the Oscars (and not even the cool one where Hugh Jackman didn't see The Reader!) and Tyce Diorio's overrated naked-people dance on So You Think You Can Dance. Hello, out of touch Emmys? The people have already spoken and decided Tabitha and Napoleon's "Bleeding Love" routine was the best. What the hell?

The Week in TV

I finally finished Kings, I'm having some issues with Glee, and Project Runway gets ugly. [Reprinted from the sidebar for ease of commenting.]

The Soup (9/11)
They brought back Whitney's "Kiss my ass!" That's all I needed.

Project Runway (9/10)
First of all, I hated Althea's outfit, like a lot, and I hate the weeks where outfits I hate win. Also, not to pile on, but I'm so not feeling these substitute judges. Nina and Michael manage to deliver the "safe" or "boring" critiques without revealing the ugly truth that the fashion industry sneers at anything actual women would wear. Marc Bouwer and the two lady judges seemed to revel in it. Which, again, explains Althea's win. As for Quristal, I was over her round about episode 1, though I appreciated the irony of her being eliminated on the one week she didn't deliver some garish aqua explosion.

So You Think You Can Dance (9/9)
New season! Same delightful Cat Deeley, whose glee at finding out Ryan Kaspyrzak has a smiley-face tattoo on his butt was as pure as anything on TV. And much as I am weary at the prospect of Ryan making the Top 20, his tap-off (trade?) with Bianca was everything Adam Shankman raved it was. Beyond them, and that other tapper who put Ryan's ass tat on blast, were a handful of good contempo dancers, plus getting to watch Mary Murphy stage-whisper all through that "shatter" guy's audition. Insanely short off-season or not, we're back and I'm in!

Glee (9/9)
You guys? I'm sticking with it because I love Ryan Murphy and I think it's got a ton of potential, but this episode has me worried about this show. It needs to figure out the show it wants to be, tune down Jane Lynch's character, get rid of the hystrerical pregnancy arc, figure out a way to do the performances in a way that isn't so depressingly canned, and make me care even a little bit about any of the kids. Lea Michelle has a great voice, but she hasn't been able to draw me to her character. Jayma Mays is the one unquestionable bright spot. Let's build on that!

The Real World (9/9)
I don't think a "Real World" season has ever quite wrapped up with a twist ending before, but that's the only way I can describe it. Joey and Ayiiiiia? Good lord. So now that we're well rid of this season full of jerks, we can get to the task of drafting them into the Challenges. Obviously, CJ is destined to be an alpha dog (provided he doesn't get signed by an NFL team -- HA!); Bronne is a suck-up in the Landon mold; Derek seems game; and obviously Ayiiiiia and Joey are just the kind of bugfuck assholes they're looking for.

I kept the conclusion of this series -- which was pretty much canceled immediately and allowed to play out the string of its first season -- on the DVR all summer, not wanting it to be over. Not a huge surprise NBC couldn't get anyone to watch this, but I sure did love it. The abrupt cancellation had its casualties (Leslie Bibb and Macaulay Culkin's characters seemed the most cut short), but for the most part, this was a complicated and operatic season of TV. If I were re-doing my Emmy ballot, I'd for sure add Sebastian Stan (as Jack, the single most interesting character) and perhaps the aforementioned Bibb. Would've been great to see what Season 2 had held.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smooth Joey Apollo's 2009 NFL Picks: Week 1

Ack! New NFL season upon us! Thursday night game kicking things off a few days early! No time to remind you all that Aaron Cameron has beaten my black ass three consecutive seasons at these little season long prognostication exercises. I'll post our picks for tonight's game right here, then update it with Sunday's picks before the weekend. Enjoy!

Tennessee at Pittsburgh
Joe: And so begins the Super Bowl defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers! The same team nobody thought had enough offense to even win the AFC last year! Of course, Tennessee is a team with an even sketchier offense (stronger running game, but a dsaster in the making for a passing game) and who will have to struggle mightily not to regress from last season's charmed 13-3 campaign. Am I just going to shrug my shoulders, admit I have no idea, then pick the home team? No! I will also classily decline to mention the Ben Roethlisberger rape allegations! Pick: Pittsburgh

Aaron: Well, since Joe stole ALL my week #1 material (trust me, I've seen his picks) I'm forced to resort to my C-level stuff. Anyone else notice that Steelers DB Troy Polamalu is now a spokesperson for Head & Shoulders shampoo? It's a great spot, but I can't lie: Troy Polamalu is no Ironhead. Pick: Pittsburgh

Kansas City at Baltimore

Joe: Oh, hello Baltimore. Once more into the breach where I give you absolutely no respect for an entire season, followed by an ill-advised backing of a Chad Pennington-led Miami team in the wild card round, you say? Oh, not so fast. Pick: Baltimore

Aaron: I was sorry to see KC fire Herm Edwards, but ecstatic to see him immortalized as part of the Coors Light "press conference" campaign. As a Raiders fan, these are the football-related things that excite me these days. Pick: Baltimore

Philadelphia at Carolina

Joe: How exactly did the Eagles become the trendy pick for the Super Bowl team out of the NFC? Tell me this isn't due to the addition of the overrated Jason Peters at tackle. That said, the traditional yo-yo nature of the Panthers -- plus the fact that this is the healthiest you'll see Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook all year -- makes me lean Eagles here. ...Oh, right, also: Vick Vick Vick PETA dogfighting wildcat Vick. Pick: Philadelphia

Aaron: We learned two things from the Michael Vick fallout: (1) Angry white people believe dogs are 90% human ("He thinks he's one of the Models, Inc.!") and (2) most of those people still eat meat, wear leather and use shampoo that's been smeared into the eyes of kittens. Pick: Philadelphia

Minnesota at Cleveland

Joe: You have no idea how much I want to pick Favre's Vikings to fall in the first week, on the road in inhospitable Cleveland. So when that happens, remember who was too chicken to call it. Pick: Minnesota

Aaron: Everyone's looked at the schedule and predicted the usual Favre path: decent for a few weeks, peaks around Halloween, precipitous decline and epic December collapse. Sorry, but this year I just can't wait! Pick: Cleveland

Miami at Atlanta

Joe: Looking at the full week, I feel like I'm taking too many predictable teams. Time to do something stupid! Pick: Miami

Aaron: Last year's "innovation" will undoubtedly lead to eight Dolphins home games where the fans impatiently demand the "wildcat" offense. It'll be like fans screaming "Do 'Freebird'!" at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Pick: Atlanta

Detroit at New Orleans

Joe: Okay, NOW is time to do something stupid. Detroit gets their first -- and perhaps only -- win of the year, right off the bat. ...Ahhh, I can't do it. Pick: New Orleans

Aaron: Every year Joe and I have done this, I dig myself into an early hole with bad picks galore before Joe's cockiness does him in. That said, the Lions have to win at least ONE game before I pick them to win, uh…well, one game. Pick: New Orleans

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

Joe: Jacksonville, yet another team I consistently give zero respect. Last year, that really paid off for me. Think of how badly Cam beats me if the Jags were halfway decent. Pick: Indianapolis

Aaron: It never fails. Each season I foolishly buy into at least one media-created storyline that ends up biting me in the ass. This year it's "the Colts are on the decline". Sounds reasonable to me. No, no…I'm not interested in your evidence to the contrary. Pick: Jacksonville

Denver at Cincinnati

Joe: The Broncos seem to be a train wreck, while everybody seems to be calling for a Bengals offensive resurgence. Can we at least all agree that Chad Ochocinco is a delight? ...No? what's it gonna take, people? Pick: Cincinnati

Aaron: Can't say I ever remember a team and fanbase turning on a new coach as quickly as the state of Colorado has on Josh McDaniels. Brian Griese is not walking through that door. Rueben Droughns is not walking through that door. Pick: Cincinnati

Dallas at Tampa Bay

Joe: What's with all these teams who seem in such disarray entering Week 1? And shockingly, I'm NOT talking about the Cowboys. I think they're in for a mediocre year, but they can outpace this dismal Bucs offense. Pick: Dallas

Aaron: Kudos to the Bucs for setting up new head coach Raheem Morris for complete failure just so they'll have more time to find the guy they really want at the helm. Ten years after the Packers did the same to Ray Rhodes! And, what do those two guys have in common?! Yup, their first names begin with "R". Pick: Dallas

N.Y. Jets at Houston

Joe: If it wasn't Mark Sanchez's first NFL game, on the road, I'd be in for another slow Texans start. Alas. Pick: Houston

Aaron: Joe is picking the "Houston, We Have a Problem" headlines in Monday's New York tabloids. I'm going with the "Mark Sanchez is Jesus" back page from the always restrained and rational Tri-State fan base. Pick: New York

St. Louis at Seattle

Joe: I'm perhaps looking to this Hasselbeck/Houshmandzedeh pairing more than any other subplot in Week 1. If they click, Seattle immediately becomes contenders. Pick: Seattle

Aaron: You won't find insight like Joe Reid's anywhere else on the internet, dear readers. Pick: Seattle

Washington at N.Y. Giants

Joe: Stupid Jason Campbell, holding me back from picking against a Giants team in flux. Pick: NY Giants

Aaron: Racist. Pick: NY Giants

San Francisco at Arizona

Joe: I'm annoyed that everybody is bandwagoning a Super Bowl swoon for the Cardinals. That being said...this seems like a game they lose Week 1, right? Pick: San Francisco

Aaron: Even if holdout WR Michael Crabtree sits out the entire season, what's the over/under on how many fewer 2009 receptions he'll have than Raiders' WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (picked three places before Crabtree)? 5.5? Too high? Pick: San Francisco

Chicago at Green Bay

Joe: The Bears will be good, bit it'll take a few weeks. The Packers are going to win their division. Pick: Green Bay

Aaron: Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Chad Hutchinson, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese… How will Jay Cutler escape those long shadows? Pick: Chicago

Buffalo at New England

Joe: Oh man. Okay. Only three weeks ago, I was optimistic: No-huddle offense; great depth at RB and WR. A healthy linebacking corps for the first time in ever. But the bottom has fallen out in a serious way, highlighted by shitcanning the offensive co-coordinator, RB Dominic Rhodes, and out starting left tackle (!) within five days of each other. Plus the schedule looks positively rapey, starting with the g-d Pats. This is fixing to be the ugliest season I've seen. Pick: New England

Aaron: Uglier than the 2001 Bills team that went 3-13 under the tag team tandem of Alex Van Pelt and Rob Johnson? At least that season led to the number four overall draft pick, which the Bills used to select T Mike Williams. The Sporting News called Williams the fourth biggest draft bust of the past 20 years. Uglier than that, Joe?! Pick: New England

San Diego at Oakland

Joe: In all my pre-grief over the Bills upcoming abomination, I momentarily forgot to pick the Chargers to destroy the Raiders. Oversight addressed! Pick: San Diego

Aaron: As an Oakland sports fan, I signed off on 2009 back in April. See y'all next year. Pick: San Diego

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Looking Forward ...

So earlier I talked about the best movies of the year so far. One of the things that reminded me that it was time to divide the year between what's happened and what's happening in the coming months was the arrival of Entertainment Weekly's Fall Movie Preview. Even way back before I started blathering on the internet about whatever the hell, movie-wise, I'd always pick up the Fall Preview and pore over this glorious list of movies waiting to rock my face off.

Now I tend to know much more about the movies that are being previewed, but it's still a great resource for setting the agenda for the last few months of the year. What looks good and what looks sketchy? Here's my list of the ten movies I am most excited for this fall (in absolutely no order).

The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson, opens 12/11)
You could've knocked me over with a feather at the beginning of the year if you'd told me I'd be this geeked for The Lovely Bones. Not that I'm some big Peter Jackson hater -- the Lord of the Rings backlash sickens me, after all -- but King Kong had dampened my enthusiasm some, and the source material (full disclosure: never read it; don't tell Oprah) seemed to doom this project to prestige hell. Shame on me for underestimating, at least based on what I've seen so far. The trailer suggests a wholly cinematic creation, with Jackson's imagination in fine form. I'm looking forward to the Rachel Weisz and Stanley Tucci performances, but it's the sight of Susan Sarandon perhaps finally getting another role worth sinking into that has me most excited. I'm not without reservations -- the impressionistic nature of the afterlife scenes could creep into What Dreams May Come-style overkill, and Mark Wahlberg is making me nervous that he still hasn't shed whatever hoodoo M. Night Shyamalan pulled on him in The Happening. But I'm firmly on the side of "psyched" right now.

Where The Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze, opens 10/16)
Look, I never said I was a good person with pure motives. So when the Where the Wild Things Are trailer dropped and everybody lost their minds over it, and I didn't entirely get it, there was a semi-conscious part of me that turned on the movie, sight-unseen. Hey, at least I'm owning up to it. But now with all this Avatar nonsense -- another movie everybody lost all sanity over and decided was some revolutionary piece of cinema based on nothing whatsoever -- and seeing how Avatar looks for-real shitty, I've been able to focus all my pissy annoyance on James Cameron. Which is a good thing, because now I can admit Spike Jonze's dark little children's tale looks pretty damn amazing.

Whip It! (Drew Barrymore, opens 10/02)
My most anticipated movie of the Fall Movie Season (aka Gimmie Gimmie Oscar Gimmie Time) is a Drew Barrymore-directed roller-derby movie with zero awards prospects whatsoever? I'm as shocked as you are. But damn, every time I see that trailer I get so pumped for this. I've already talked about why, so now I'm just going to expound upon some suggestions for awesome derby names. It's a decently fun exercise to pass the time; best I can tell, derby names kind of split the difference between drag names and Garbage Pail Kids names. Anyway, most of these have likely already been taken but who knows?: Lucille Brawl; Eleanor of Smack-uitaine; Ambulatori Amos; Scarro (like Charro, but...you know); Gretchen Maul; Bea Aggressive; Janice Kick-in-shin; Martina Not-til-it's-ovah; Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott.

Jennifer's Body (Karyn Kusama, opens 9/18)

You guys, I think I'm gonna end up liking Megan Fox. GodDAMNit. But first I'm going to get to rave about Amanda Seyfried, so there's that. I'm in a very Diablo Cody-positive place after the first season of United States of Tara, so this is probably the best time to foist something like this upon me. Keeping it funny but not cutesy is going to be an issue, but the preview footage suggests it strikes a good balance. We'll see. Thinking positive!

Famous Boxes and Precious Foxes -- click below for the rest of the list!

Fame (Kevin Tancharoen, opens 9/25)
Probably setting myself up for a disappointment here, but I can't not be psyched for something as dumbly entertaining as a modernization of Fame. Surem I'll almost certainly walk out wanting nothing more than to see the original. But then I will! And won't that be amazing? Honestly, this is more an heir to the Center Stage/Step Up empire, and that's totally cool with me.

An Education (Lone Scherfig, opens 10/09)
Well it seems like everybody's shot-in-the-dark Oscar predictions for newcomer Carey Mulligan seem to be all that closer to coming true than ever before. I like the idea of a girl's coming-of-age story in England -- have I seen something like that before? Nothing springs to mind. The supporting cast -- Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams -- is incredible, and everyone who's seen it has flipped for it. Done. Sold.

The Box (Richard Kelly, opens 11/06)
As one of three people worldwide who loved Richard Kelly's Southland Tales, I have no reason to have reservations about his next movie. The plot? Something about a box that grants wishes at a "Monkey's Paw"-style price. The era/hairstyles? The 1970s, for some reason. The accents? Southern, for some even stranger reason, particularly since Cameron Diaz has no affinity for it. None of this bothers me, nor does the release date, which has been pushed back about a dozen times. How can any of those concerns possibly matter when Frank Langella shows up on their doorstep with a hideous scar and a devil's bargain. The trailer looks impossibly fantastic.

Precious (Lee Daniels, opens 11/06)
Yes, yes, this would be the "Monique gets an Oscar nomination" movie that blazed a trail through every festival on the map this year and left critics positively breathless with praise. So...yeah. Let's see it, then.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, opens 11/25)
I maintain that Wes Anderson is one of our best filmmaker/storytellers, and the fact that he's stayed within his own signature style actually strengthens my argument. But that's a position to be defended on another day. For now, I'll say that the Fox project kind of perplexed me until I saw the trailer footage. All of a sudden, the concept of a Wes Anderson stop-motion adaptation of a Roald Dahl book not only makes sense but seems exciting. If Clooney doesn't overshadow the whole thing, this could be great.

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, opens 12/25)
What kind of sneering, humanity-hating, joke's-on-you high-handed moralizing could Michael Haneke possibly have up his sleeve that would win over the Cannes jury for the first time ever? And exactly how brilliant will the filmmaking be? And how frustrated will audiences be as the former wrestles with the latter in their aggravated brains? Guess we'll all find out on ... Christmas Day?! Jesus.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Johnny Weir, I (Still) Love You

"I know Elvis Stojko was a big proponent for butching up men’s skating, but I have a hard time taking suggestions from a man who rocked purple pajamas in the Olympic Games and World championships. In my opinion, anyone who wants to change the actual people who are doing the figure skating can suck it."


Wednesday, September 02, 2009


So last night, at about one o'clock, right before I was going to only get to bed about an hour later than I'd have liked, Roommate Mark informs me that he needs to watch Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! So, um, needless to say, I didn't get to bed 'til almost 3.

The great thing about Faster Pussycat is that it actually lives up to its cult status as iconic trash. And so few movies whose legends have grown up around them being so terrifically bad actually live up to big expectations. This one did it with one pristine line of dialogue, delivered by our catsuit-clad, go-go dancing, karate-chopping heroine. Confronted by a square-headed himbo with a dismissive"What's your point," she fires back: "The point is of no return! And you're reaching it!"

Here's the other thing: there is a STRONG streak of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in this movie. Faster! predates TCM by a good nine years, yet it often plays like a feminist response to it. Look, these girls stumble upon this weirdass family, the dad's in a wheelchair, he's got a giant retarded son who he makes commit violent crimes for him, and when the victim girl escapes, she's picked up by another family member who's headed back to the house. I don't know if this is just an archetype that the culture keeps returning to, but I have to believe Tobe Hooper saw Faster, Pussycat! before he made his movie.

I can't even get into everything that's awesome about this movie. The women look like nothing you have ever seen, yet they're instantly iconic images. Burned into the culture's brain against its will. This movie was retro kitsch from the moment it hit the celluloid, and that shit endures.

This monologue will endure. Delivered by a wheelchair-bound misogynist old man regarding our trio of hard-ass go-go dancers (which I immediately had to transcribe and post to Facebook at 2 AM):
"They let 'em vote, smoke, and drive -- even put 'em in pants! So what do you get? A Democrat for President, a lot of smoke up your chimney, Russian roulette on the highway! You can't even tell brother from sister ... unless you meet 'em head-on!"
God. Brilliant.

So You Thought The Dance (and The Lists) Were Finished?

It's back, you guys! So You Think You Can Dance returns on Wednesday for their first-ever fall season, and they're kicking it off with a special highlighting the greatest routines from the first five seasons. And since I spent the last season assembling an ever growing cabal of Dance fanatics -- and since I'm something of a list-making dork (or haven't you heard?), I figured I'd put the call out to my peeps -- in this case, Kirk, Jeff, Lauren, and Vance -- and find out what OUR favorite routines are. I asked for 25, because that's how nuts I am over this show. Let's see what we all came up with:

*Note: Due to a tie, we actually get 26. Even better/crazier!

26. Katee and Joshua -- Bollywood
(Nakul Dev Majakan, Season 4)
Maybe the strongest initial pairing in all five seasons, Katee and Josh were the recipient of the very first Bollywood routine on the show. Predictably, they knocked it out.

25. Travis, Heidi, Benji, Donyelle -- "Sexyback"
(Wade Robson, Season 2)
Couldn't find a good video! Sorry, guys. But it's Wade Robson teaming with Travis, Heidi, and Donyelle! (And, okay fine, Benji.) You can probably draw your own conclusions.

24. Sara and Pasha -- West Coast Swing
(Benji Schwimmer, Season 3)
The three runners-up and next-highest vote-getters in our survey all featured Sara (jazz with Jesus, jazz with Pasha, disco with Neil). Seriously, how could you not love Sara, the b-girl who turned out to be amazingly adaptable at pretty much any genre?

23. Lacey and Danny -- Samba
(Dmitry Chaplin, Season 3)
Hip-hip, chin-chin, and the hottest samba EVAH.

22. Nick and Melody -- Paso Doble
(Mary Murphy, Season 1)
This routine is enough to make me want to seek out Season 1.

21. Heidi and Travis -- Paso Doble
(Mary Murphy, Season 2)
How two such tiny people could pull off a routine this towering is a mystery only if you've never seen Heidi and Travis in action. Also, dig Mary Murphy as choreographer!

Click below for #s 20-1!

20. Courtney and Gev -- Contemporary
(Mandy Moore, Season 4)
It's not a flawless routine, but those ragged hems end up adding to the sweet, youthful romance of the dance. [Kirk's #1 selection.]

19. Season 2 Top 6 -- "Hide and Seek"
(Mia Michaels, Season 2)
Mia's group routines can lose the intimacy of her duos, but this one fused six bodies into one undulating, united form. [Vance's #1 selection.]

18. Travis and Benji -- Hip-Hop
(Shane Sparks, Season 2)
Nerd funk! The answer to the question: How do you get a sissy and a spazz to look plausibly hardcore?

17. Ivan and Allison -- Contemporary
(Tyce Diorio, Season 2)
Watch this routine and try not to adopt Ivan before it's over. Just try.

16. Brandon and Janette -- Jazz
(Wade Robson, Season 5)
I watched this with the sound off while I compiled this post and I think I liked it even better. Bounless energy, ethusiasm, creativity, and some wickedly quick movement.

15. Brandon and Janette -- Argentine Tango
(Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, Season 5)
It's the highest-ranking ballroom routine on this list for a reason.

14. Jeanine and Brandon -- Pop-Jazz
(LaurieAnn Gibson, Season 5)
Okay, all at once this routine gave us LaurieAnn Gibson for the first time, shot a rocket up Jordin Sparks's "Battlefield," paired up Season 5's eventual top two for the first time, and wrapped it all up in the hardest pop jazz you'll ever see.

13. Kayla and Kupono -- Contemporary
(Mia Michaels, Season 5)
Breathtaking in its emotional commitment -- Kayla and Kupono go some places in this one -- yet possessing of the lightest touch of any routine on this list. For my money, this was the signature routine of Season 5, and the best thing Mia Michaels has done on this show not involving a bench or a leap.

12. Lauren and Neil --Jazz
(Wade Robson, Season 3)
The routine that pretty much saved these two and propelled them into the Top 6; Wade's angel-devil dance (set to Roisin Murphy, natch) lets Neil and Lauren act as much as they dance; their big personalities shine.

11. Courtney and Mark -- Jazz
(Sonya Tayeh, Season 4)
Oh SONYA! With your crazy weirdness. The fact that her avant garde gothic brothel aesthetic fit Mark like a glove was no surprise. It was seeing sweet (but repeatedly and remarkably game) Courtney take to it so energetically that sold the routine.

10. Season 2 Top 10 -- "Ramalama (Bang Bang)"
(Wade Robson, Season 2)
If I didn't know so much about how much the guy adored Michael Jackson, I'd comment on the balls on a guy stepping up on national TV and choreographing a zombie dance -- any zombie dance, really, but a group zombie dance to boot. "Thriller" isn't budging from its position in the American cultural pantheon, but Wade delivered something every bit its equal. [Lauren's #1 selection.]

9. Lacey and Kameron -- Contemporary
(Mia Michaels, Season 3)
As I've said before, this was the very first routine I ever saw on So You Think You Can Dance, and it's still the one that sticks with me the most. Simple, sure, but watching Lacey throw herself into Mia's choreography, literally, is breathtaking. Even more impressive is how she glides around the stage like she's weightless. Plus whatever those Son of Harem Pants things Kam was wearing really add to the otherworldliness. [Joe's #1 selection]

8. Jamie and Hok -- Jazz
(Wade Robson, Season 3)
Ahh, the Hummingbird and the Flower. Wherein Wade Robson very literally recreates the dance between a hummingbird and a flower. IT'S ABOUT SEX, PEOPLE. Hok was easily a Top 5 most lovable contestant ever -- how one season managed to contain both him and Sara without floating away on little cartoon hearts I'll never know.

7. Jeanine and Jason -- Contemporary
(Travis Wall, Season 2)
The immense waves of pride and joy that (deservedly) crashed upon Travis after this routine might lead one to believe the raves this got were sentimental. Don't get it twisted. The exhilaration of watching Jason finally dance with someone with whom he connected -- and for Jeanine to get a partner who could keep up with her -- spills over in every step. To borrow a Debbie Allen quote (she was actually the judge on this episode but the quote comes from a season prior): call the fire department, honey, that was HOT.

6. Lauren and Pasha -- Hip-Hop
(Shane Sparks, Season 3)
Aw. You guys, look at Pasha up there being all hard and adorable. If you look closely at the routine you can see Lauren is carrying the pair, true, but Pasha was more than game to follow her lead, and they both really let Shane Sparks's creativity shine through.

5. Katee and Joshua -- Hip-Hop
(Napoleon and Tabitha, Season 4)
This was a heck of a debut routine from Napoleon and Tabitha right here, fusing the big concepts and bigger emotions of contemporary to creep into something that still moved like hip-hop. Josh immediately jumped to the head of the pack (and never really faltered), while Katee made the most remarkable one-week turnaround ever, from the last, weepy rung on the ladder (her Vegas histrionics won her few fans) to instant front-runner.

4. Katee and Twitch -- Contemporary
(Mia Michaels, Season 4)
Katee again! See what I mean. This was the big Mia highlight from what was kind of a lackluster Season 4 for her. But it's a hell of a highlight -- funny and athletic and combative at once.

3. Heidi and Travis -- Contemporary
(Mia Michaels, Season 2)
Better known as the Park Bench routine, this nabbed Mia an Emmy and instantly (for me at least) made Travis and Heidi the two best dancers in season 2. It really capitalizes on Travis's aloof charisma -- does anyone really believe they could hold onto this guy for a second? -- and brings this amazingly desperate side out of Heidi. It even manages to elevate a decidedly lesser Celine song!

2. Sabra and Neil -- Jazz
(Mandy Moore, Season 3)
Mandy Moore's crowing achievement, and in a just universe it would've won her an Emmy besides. To take a concept that shockingly LITERAL from "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and make it feel fresh simply by virtue of the dancing is incredible. Neil's all over the stage in this one, using his gymnastics to his utmost advantage, while Sabra shows the adaptability to any genre that won her Season 3.

1. Chelsie and Mark -- Hip-Hop
(Napoleon and Tabitha, Season 4)
Okay, NOBODY on this panel didn't love this routine, easily the signature dance of Season 4, the one that opened our eyes and made Mark and Chelsie instant contenders, the one that made us reluctantly reconsider that Leona Lewis song even if for a minute, the one that brought suburban angst into the heartbeat-heavy hip-hop context. Let's see Season 6 try to top this one! ...No, really, I want to see it. [Jeff's #1 selection]

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It's a Comfort to Know...

...that the only person more captivated by Jonathan Groff and his perfect face and his magnetic presence and his calming demeanor and did I mention the face is Ang Lee. Because not only did my man Ang pepper Taking Woodstock with a dozen or more loving, lingering closeups on Jonathan's perfect mug, but he also frames his character, Michael Lang, as this kind of boyish pied piper who leans in close and gets you to agree to anything because he smells wonderful. (And by the way, I've seen Michael Lang interviewed -- this "hypnotizing sex elf" incarnation of him belongs to Lee and Groff almost entirely.) It was just another moment where I was reminded that Ang Lee and I are in this together.

Jonathan Groff isn't the only area where Ang and I are on the same page. I pretty much was on board with him the whole way through Taking Woodstock, which I think would be crucial to a movie like this. Ang's making a movie about the fairy tale of Woodstock, first and foremost. There must've been a temptation in 2009 to make a movie about the grim, mundane, certainly less than legendary realities of Woodstock, hard truths beneath the hippie haze, the dirt, and the muck, and how it all began to fall apart not six months later. Weirdly enough, Ang Lee makes these points, too (the Woodstock team is never not pragmatic; the seeds of Altamont are already being sown), but primarily this is a movie about the Woodstock legend. (Personally, I'm not sure what value there is in Woodstock without the legend, so I think Ang and I are on the same wavelength there too.)

In fact, Lee's chosen to tell the Woodstock story through the eyes of maybe the one person for whom the Woodstock Fairy Tale truly applies, Elliott Tiber, played steadily and with some nuance by Demetri Martin. Elliott takes the leap of faith of inviting the Woodstock organizers into his crap-ass Catskills town, and in doing so, he becomes the reality at the center of the fantasy: He IS set free, he DOES open himself up, his world really is changed. Oh, stop rolling your eyes.

Martin's performance is a strong one among many strong ones. Groff is more utlized than anything, but he knows exactly where to direct his charisma at all times; Liev Schrieber and Henry Goodman share best in show honors; Mamie Gummer is fantastically lived-in, and Emile Hirsch knows when to pull back from a LARGE character. I wasn't as enchanted with Imelda Staunton as I could have been, but you can't win them all.

Thinking on this movie, and on Lee's other American movies (The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain, not so much Hulk), I came out of Woodstock having a real sense of the immense love Ang Lee has for America. That's about as simply as I can say it; Ang Lee loves America -- Americans, really -- so much, that he might be the one person on the entire planet who can make a Woodstock movie this joyful and not seem like a total sap. After making a movie about the America that the free love movement couldn't reach (Brokeback) and the America that the free love movement mutated into (The Ice Storm), Ang Lee finally gets to wrap his arms around a movie that says there was a moment in there where it all played out like the fantasia they all said it was. Where old Jewish parents let loose on hash brownies and benevolent trannies kept the peace and even the cops wore flowers in their hair. It's a complete fairy tale, but the truth of the matter is it never hasn't been.