Monday, February 28, 2005

TV: Celebrity Poker Showdown

I was all upset when I finally got around to watching last week's episode of Celebrity Poker Showdown, featuring Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Fred Willard, Jesse Metcalf, Heather Graham (growl!), and Andrea Parker (nice sweater! Double growl!). The stupid TiVo had recorded it incorrectly; I only had an hour of the program, rather than the full two hours.

Well, turns out it wasn't TiVo's fault. (I'm sorry, TiVo! Let's never fight again!) The show actually was only half its usual length, due to the unbridled, unprecedented domination of Malcolm-Jamal. Metcalf eliminated Parker (on a tremendously stupid play on her part), and M-J took care of the rest in brutally efficient fashion. There literally was not enough card-playing on tape to fill out two whole hours. The blinds had only increased once by the end of the game, and I may be wrong here, but I believe they increase in thirty minute increments. If that's right, there was less than a full hour of poker before M-J's incredibly lucky cards and the other players' vast incompetence brought the show to a close.

That's an ass-kickin', plain and simple.

I look forward to seeing M-J in action at the Finals tomorrow night. I have to think he's a huge favorite to win it all, though we hardly saw him play long enough to judge his true skill. It will help him that the other finalists aren't exactly poker experts -- Colin Quinn, Bonnie Hunt, Brad Garrett, and, by strange coincidence, M-J's co-star on the horrible, horrible Listen Up, Jason Alexander (who will probably be M-J's only real competitor).

MOVIES: Friday Night Lights

First of all, thanks to all of you who checked in on my Oscar liveblogging, and left such nice feedback, both here and at your own sites. Especially as I was still updating it. This is the first event I've ever truly live blogged, with constant updates throughout the night; usually I just wait until the event is over, and my coverage is complete, before posting my entry. It was challenging, but fun, and I look forward to doing it for the Emmys.

Before the Oscars I watched the DVD of Friday Night Lights. I generally like sports movies -- they're mostly predictable, but in a very comforting sort of way -- but despite a great deal of praise, this is one of those films that I just hadn't gotten around to seeing before (still haven't seen Miracle, either).

This is based on the true story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team, and holy crap, those Texas boys are out of their freakin' minds for football. It's not that I question the reality of the maniacal devotion the town shows to the team, and their truly unhealthy obsession with winning the state championship at any cost, but I just can't relate to it. At all. Maybe it's a Southern phenomenon only, but I can't even imagine anyone, let alone an entire town, getting so worked up over a high school game.

But the movie does an incredible job of pulling you into that world, that mindset. It's great in portraying the pressures on the teen athletes ("It feels like we're going to war," says one, and he doesn't mean it lightly; he couldn't be more frightened if he were about to be shipped out to Iraq), as well as on the head coach (when he loses a big game, a dozen For Sale signs are planted in his front yard). Billy Bob Thornton is the coach, and he plays it mostly with a quiet, powerful determination; he doesn't seem as crazy as the townsfolk, but he truly wants and needs to win every bit as much as they do.

The younger actors are mostly effective as well. For the longest time, I had a nagging feeling that I recognized the actor playing Mike Winchell, the quarterback -- something about his voice, his accent, rang familiar to me. Finally it hit me -- I remembered him as a child actor, from the TV show American Gothic, from the X-Files movie (he's the kid who gets infected with the black oil right at the beginning)... and from Billy Bob's Sling Blade (in one of the extras, he mimics Billy Bob's performance in that film, and it's hilarious). His name is Lucas Black, by the way.

Derek Luke (of Antwone Fisher) plays star running back "Boobie" Miles, and his story is the most heartbreaking. He's spectacular on the field, cocky, charismatic, with obvious NFL potential, until a career-ending knee injury in the first game of the '88 season. For these kids, almost the only way to get out of that small town was through football. Boobie never made it out. In the extras on the DVD are interviews with the real-life people the movie is based on; Boobie Miles is still cocky and charismatic, but you can see in his eyes when he talks about football that it eats at his soul. It's devastating. As is Luke's portrayal of him in the film.

There's a good deal of football action in the film, and the final game certainly pulls out all the cliches, but it's not really about the action. It's about how these characters survive in a town like this, with pressures like these. Despite the liberties taken (reportedly a great many) in translating the original non-fiction book to the screen, it's far more realistic than nearly any other sports movie I've ever seen. It's a smart film, by turns bleak and uplifting. Don't rent this looking for Varsity Blues.

Minute-by-minute at the 2005 Oscars Ceremony

5:30 -- The ceremony begins with a montage of great film moments narrated by Dustin Hoffman. My favorite clip -- and what will almost certainly be one of my favorite moments of the night: a clip from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is included, with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter saying, "Whoa!" That is genius.

5:33 -- They show the inside of the hall, and there are giant TV screens plastered all over the ceiling, so that the action on the central movie screen can appear to burst forth and soar over the audience. Nice touch.

5:34 -- Chris Rock emerges, and the audience is very slow to get on its feet and give him an ovation. They stand in bits and pieces until the ovation is total, while Rock says, "Thank you! Thank you!" And the way he says it is part, "Let's get on with this," and part, "I won't stop saying 'thank you' until all your asses are out your seats, motherfuckers." He then of course says, "Sit your asses down."

5:34 -- He scores instantly with, "Welcome to the 77th and last Academy Awards," and I can already tell this is going to be a brilliant hosting job.

5:35 -- Rock contrasts the Oscars with other awards ceremonies. "You go to the Source Awards, there's singin', dancin', and shootin'." Cut instantly to P. Diddy in the audience, with a half-hearted, almost sheepish smile: "Who, me?"

5:36 -- He gets off a zinger at Nicole Kidman's expense (re: her phony reaction to losing the Oscar to Halle Berry). She doesn't appear to be present. I hope to hell Rock isn't limiting himself only to targets outside the theater. (He mentioned Morgan Freeman a second ago, but in a less pointed way than he named Kidman.)

5:36 -- He nails Cuba Gooding a moment later ("I saw Boat Trip the other day, and I immediately sent Cuba Gooding a check for eighty dollars"). He ain't there, either.

5:37 -- Tobey Maguire is next on the dissed in absentia list ("Clint Eastwood is a star. Tobey Maguire is just a boy in tights"). Jude Law immediately follows. Come on, Rock, rip on some people right in front of you. Please!

5:38 -- Rock pulls the ultimate deflation on his act by turning it on himself. Regarding making movies before you can secure a star: "If you want Denzel, and all you can get is me -- wait!" Some good jokes so far, but relatively toothless (relative for his usual act, that is; for the Oscars, it's scathing).

5:39 -- A Michael Moore fat joke? Dude, that is beneath you.

5:40 -- First great bit of the evening is about Dubya, and how he had the nerve to reapply for a job while there was a movie in every theater that showed how much he sucked at that job. Regarding Bush's deficit: "Now, just imagine you worked at The Gap. You closing out your register, and it's 70 trillion dollars short. The average person would get in trouble for something like that, right? Not Bush!" He fucking kills on this bit.

5:41 -- "I saw Passion of the Christ. Not that funny, really."

5:43 -- He finally takes a shot at someone in attendance: presenter Halle Berry, who "will next be seen in the eagerly awaited Catwoman 2."

5:44 -- Jesus, they're really going through with it. All the nominees for Art Direction are already on stage, revealed by a curtain drawing back, before the award is presented. This is so incredibly tactless it boggles my mind.

5:45 -- The Aviator wins, making me an early 1-for-1 on my predictions.

5:47 -- Yo-yo dieter Renee Zellweger presents Best Supporting Actor. She's on the emaciated end of the scale again, by the way.

5:49 -- Morgan Freeman wins! (Making me 2-for-2.) He gets a huge ovation, which is wonderful. Guess they went the "lifetime achievement" way after all. Not that he didn't deserve it, far from it, but this was a damn tough category, and I think his previous nominations (and losses) helped seal the deal.

5:51 -- Freeman could give a seminar on simple, gracious, dignified awards-accepting. He's such a class act. Strangely, as he leaves the stage and we go to commercial, the orchestra strikes up the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme song. Nice segue...?

5:55 -- Robin Williams does a bit on which cartoon characters might be gay, and punctuates each one with, "Hello!" Robin, on behalf of America, may I say: "Goodbye!"

5:58 -- The Incredibles wins Best Animated Film. I'm 3-for-3. They appear to be not so quick on playing people off in the middle of their speeches this year, which is nice, and long overdue. For some of these people, it's the one big moment in their lives. Give them thirty extra frickin' seconds, would you?

6:00 -- Oh, Christ, they're going through with this, too! Cate Blanchett is out in the audience to give out the award for Best Makeup. See my previous comment. Let them take the stage to get their frickin' awards, would you?! P.S. Cate Blanchett is hot.

6:01 -- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events wins, making me 3-for-4. It's so sad, the way these people have to just stand in the aisle and make their speeches. Very shoddy treatment, Academy, very shoddy.

6:02 -- Drew Barrymore (always an inspiration to those with speech impediments -- much like Alicia Silverstone) presents the first Best Song nominee, which is something in French from a film you've never heard of (unless you're French -- and probably not even then). It is sung -- in French -- by Beyonce, which makes perfect huh wha??

6:06 -- Okay, previous snotty comments aside, that was quite a beautiful song. And Beyonce? Smokin' hot.

6:10 -- As we come back from commercial, a man in tuxedo rushes madly on stage to hand Rock a mike, then rushes madly behind the curtain again. Now that's comedy.

6:11 -- A taped bit, in which Rock apparently wants to make black moviegoers look stupid. He goes to the Magic Johnson theaters, and asks the patrons what the best movie of last year was. "Alien vs. Predator," one answers. "Saw," says another. "Chronicles of Riddick," says a third. He asks them if they've seen the nominees for Best Picture, and none of them have, then he asks if they've seen White Chicks, and all of them have, and loved it. It's like Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" bits, only specifically targeting the black moviegoing audience. Rock's willingness to exploit them for cheap laughs, combined with the plethora of cheap laughs elicited from the live audience, makes me wince. I guess Rock achieved his objective: he made this white boy uncomfortable.

6:12 -- Suddenly, one of the patrons he's talking to is Albert Brooks, and the bit turns on a dime from questionable to genius. "Did you see Sideways?" "Yes." "Did you see Finding Neverland?" "Yes I did." "Did you see Million Dollar Baby?" "Oh yes." "Did you see White Chicks?" Straight into the camera: "Best movie of the year! They got robbed!!"

6:13 -- Scarlett Johansson comes out on a balcony to talk about the Scientific and Technical Blah Blah Blah Awards that aren't important enough to be given out tonight. In other breaking news: Scarlett Johansson is sexy as all git-out. (Except that damn hair!)

6:16 -- Pierce Brosnan is demeaned into co-presenting with a cartoon character. I don't care if it's Edna Mode, it's still fucking demeaning.

6:18 -- The Aviator wins Best Costume. I'm 3-for-5. I'm going to regret every pick against The Aviator tonight, aren't I?

6:22 -- Tim Robbins, presenting the same award he presented at the Golden Globes, makes sure to pronounce Closer correctly this time (you know, as in "one who is more close," rather than "one who closes things"). Well done, Timmy!

6:23 -- Blanchett wins, bringing me up to 4-for-6. Still hot!

6:25 -- A Sierra Mist commercial makes me strangely happy. It features Michael Ian Black, Jim Gaffigan, and from Mad TV past and present, Debra Wilson, Aries Spears, and Nicole Sullivan. I love Nicole Sullivan. These are better commercials than the Super Bowl so far!

6:26 -- A nice tribute to Johnny Carson hosting the Oscars, including his classic line, "I see a lot of new faces. Especially on the old faces."

6:30 -- Leonardo DiCaprio presents for Best Documentary Feature. The poor bastard nominees are all gathered on stage again.

6:31 -- Don't you ever tell me I don't know the Oscars! My reasoning on this category was dead perfect. I know exactly how the Academy thinks! Born into Brothels wins, making me 5-for-7. Don't you question my skills, bitches!

6:33 -- Film editing (presented by Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom, who are equally pretty) goes to The Aviator, making me 6-for-8. I'm a god among men!!

6:35 -- Mike Myers presents Counting Crows singing the second Best Song nominee, "Accidentally in Love." And you know what? I love this song! That's right! Love it! I don't care what you say! It's very sweet. So there.

6:42 -- Presenters Adam Sandler and Catherine Zeta-Jones are announced, but only Sandler comes out, setting up a very funny bit in which Rock pretends to take Z-J's place. Rock slays with the line, "As a little girl growing up in Wales..."

6:44 -- Once again my Oscar reasoning is dead on, as Sideways wins for Best Adapted Screenplay. 7-for-9.

6:46 -- Jake Gyllenhaal and Ziyi Zhang co-present for Visual Effects, apparently for the sole purpose of making me have to look up the spelling on their names.

6:47 -- The nominees are packed on stage together like sardines. Ridiculous! Spider-Man 2 wins, making me 8-for-10.

6:50 -- Al Pacino presents the honorary Oscar to Sidney Lumet. You will forgive me if I fast forward through this part on the TiVo, to try to get a little caught up on the broadcast.

7:04 -- Emmy Rossum presents Beyonce to sing the third Best Song nominee, from Phantom of the Opera. Which Minnie Driver sings in the film. I'm sure Beyonce is a much better singer than Driver, but still. Burn!!

7:09 -- Rock introduces "Comedy superstar Jeremy Irons," which gives me the first big laugh in a while. And how shocking it is to say that -- there's more than one big laugh in the entire ceremony! Unprecedented! Irons, sadly, is out in the audience, as Blanchett (still hot!) was, which sucks for the nominees for Best Live Action Short.

7:09 -- As Irons is delivering his spiel, a very loud BANG! occurs offscreen. Irons shows that the gift for cool, calm, witty ad-libbing at the Oscars is not restricted to David Niven when he says, "I hope they missed."

7:10 -- Best Live Action Short goes to Wasp. Whatever. I'm still 8-for-11. I do admire winner Andrea Arnold for saying "this is the dog's bollocks." Saucy monkey!

7:11 -- Laura Linney presents Best Animated Short. She is also stuck out in the audience, but guess what? No, guess. Go on, guess! She's still hot. You could've guessed that!

7:13 -- Ryan wins. Double whatever. I'm 8-for-12. The short categories screwed me!

7:15 -- Kate Winslet gives the Cinematography award to The Aviator. 9-for-13! Is Aviator going to be one of those films that wins all the side awards but loses the big one, or does this indicate (as with Return of the King last year) that it's a mortal lock for Best Picture and Director? I'm so far behind on this telecast, all of you probably know by now. I'm still on the edge of my seat! (Because I'm drunk, and I'm sliding off.)

7:20 -- Rock introduces the accountants who tabulate the Oscar votes, but instead of the weedy little white guys you'd expect, out come two gigantic, red bow-tie wearing Nation of Islam brothers. Awesome.

7:20 -- "You won't be able to take your eyes off these next four presenters: Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek!" Get it? Get it??? I don't.

7:21 -- Oh! He's talking about their gigantic breasts! Ha! HA HA HA HA HA!!! No, wait. Lame. What is he, Benny Hill?

7:23 -- Ray wins for Sound Mixing. My Oscar theories let me down there. Huh. 10-for-14.

7:25 -- I reversed it. I should've picked The Incredibles for the Sound Editing category, not Sound Mixing. I didn't. 11-for-15*. Frick!

7:27 -- The Best Song nominee from The Motorcycle Diaries is performed by Carlos Santana and... Antonio Banderas?? Weird. He ain't that great. Should've used Beyonce again.

7:35 -- Natalie Portman flitters out on gossamer butterfly wings to present Best Documentary Short. The award goes to Mighty Times: The Children's March. After taking a couple of blows, my Oscar logic has been restored to legitimacy. I am triumphant! Actually, I'm only batting .750. But it's better than you, dammit!

7:38 -- Rock puts this whole monkeying around with how the Oscars are presented in its place: "Next you're gonna give out Oscars in the parking lot... be like a Oscar drive-thru lane. Get your Oscar and a McFlurry and keep it movin'!" Rock RULES.

7:39 -- Travolta presents Original Score. Part of his speech is, "Whether someone is walking down a New York street with attitude..." He pauses, waiting for the audience to acknowledge his iconic movie moment from Saturday Night Fever. They don't. BURN!!!

7:40 -- Someone with a difficult name to spell wins for Finding Neverland. John Williams will have him rubbed out within 48 hours, I'm confident. 12-for-17, dammit.

7:43 -- Martin Scorsese presents the Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Roger Mayer. Fast forward, fast forward....

7:48 -- Yo-Yo Ma performs during the Obituary Page portion of the evening. Applaud for the most popular!

7:51 -- Ronald Reagan, Peter Ustinov, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Orbach, Janet Leigh, Christopher Reeve, Ossie Davis, Rodney Dangerfield (who gets a "Whoo!"), and Tony Randall are among the early leaders. But then, of course, there's Marlon Brando. Brando wins! Brando wins!!

7:52 -- All of you definitely know who won the major awards by now. I'm still playing catch-up. That's a little frustrating. I hope I'm done before I have to go to work tomorrow.

7:55 -- Rock introduces "Sean Combs." As opposed to P. Diddy. He comes out and nods somewhat menacingly at the audience for a while, like, "If you do not applaud for me, I will have your ass shot." A waft of dry ice smoke curls behind him as he introduces the fifth Best Song nominee -- from Polar Express? Whaa?? It's sung by Josh Groban and -- say it with me -- Beyonce.

8:00 -- Prince comes out to present the Best Song Oscar, to what sounds like a riff from "Carry on My Wayward Son." Now that's odd.

8:01 -- Motorcycle Diaries wins. Kind of cool, first Spanish-language song ever nominated. But it continues screwing up my picks. I'm 13-for-18**.

8:02 -- Sean Penn comes out to present Best Actress. "Forgive my compromised sense of humor," he says, and actually goes on to defend Jude Law from Chris Rock's jokes of, like, two and a half hours ago. Compromised? Try non-existent. Douchebag.

8:05 -- Hilary Swank! FUCK YEAH!! This was the award I had the highest hopes for this evening. This is just incredible. (14-for-19, by the way.) I hope Chad Lowe doesn't cry like a little girl again. And I hope she doesn't make a big deal out of thanking him, after forgetting him last time. But I know she will.

8:06 -- She does.

8:09 -- Another Sierra Mist commercial, with Debra, Michael Ian, and Nicole. Did I mention I love Nicole Sullivan? I do.

8:14 -- Gwyneth Paltrow presents Best Foreign Language Film to The Sea Inside. Apparently, it's the only one the Academy has heard of, too. I'm 15-for-20. I'm back to .750 again!

8:17 -- My Oscar logic holds solid once again, as Charlie Kaufman wins for Eternal Sunshine. Kaufman refers to the countdown for speeches as he says, "Thanks to the Academy... 29 seconds, 27 seconds... that's really intimidating." 16-for-21.

8:22 -- Charlize Theron comes out to present Best Actor. She's all ruffley! (And hot.)

8:25 -- Jamie Foxx! 17-for-22. Please don't do that thing where you try to get the audience to do the Ray Charles call-and-answer "Oooh!"

8:26 -- He does. Seriously, he is always making an acceptance speech! You know, bless him for all his awards, so richly deserved -- but thank god this is the last one.

8:28 -- All my bitching aside, he gives one of the most heartfelt, touching Oscar speeches ever. To his dead grandmother: "I can't wait to go to sleep tonight, 'cause we've got a lot to talk about!" That will become a legendary line in Academy Awards history. Beautiful, just beautiful.

8:32 -- Julia Roberts comes out to present Best Director. Damn, she's got the boobs now to play Erin Brockovich without falsies! I guess that's what twins do for you.

8:33 -- Holy crap, Eastwood wins!! Un-freakin-believable. He gets an instant standing ovation. Criminy, Scorsese could turn lead into gold and he wouldn't get an award. Poor, poor bastard. Well, that drops me to 17-for-23, but still, yay Clint! (And sorry, Marty.) Wow, even after all the previous awards for The Aviator, this throws Best Picture back up in the air. I could've sworn the Oscars would be split between Director and Picture. Now (since I picked Baby to win, and since I love it so much) I hope they aren't.

8:36 -- Legends Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand come out to present Best Picture, but how sad is it that they can be announced as "the Fokkers"? What a messed up business this is.

8:38 -- MILLION DOLLAR BABY!! INCREDIBLE!! This is so, so awesome. It's very, very rarely that the film I thought was the best of the year wins the Oscar -- in fact, the last time this happened (without doing research) might've been 1993, when Unforgiven won. Damnation, Clint is the best! I'm so thrilled by this. And that puts me at 18-for-24, 75% for the night. Not bad.

8:40 -- Chris Rock calls it to a close with "Good night Brooklyn! Yo! A-huh-huh." He likes laughing at his own material a little too much. But all in all, it was a great hosting job: very, very funny, with a few well-planned, controversial bits, but nothing so racy or charged to send the viewing audience into conniptions. If he hosted again, I wouldn't be adverse. Although I think Mike Myers and Conan O'Brien need a shot at it sometime soon, too. Anyone, anyone, as long as Whoopi Goldberg never, never, never, never, NEVER does it again. NEVER. Never.

*EDIT: I'm surprised nobody caught me on this, but I credited myself with a correct guess on Sound Editing when I shouldn't have. So that drops me to 17-for-24 for the night. Which is still pretty good, I think. And hey, I got 7 out of the top 8 categories (Picture, Director, Acting, Writing), which ain't bad at all!

**EDIT AGAIN: Crap! I did it again on Best Song! Well, that goes to show you the hazards of drinking and liveblogging. 16-for-24. I'm down from 3/4 right to 2/3. Bummer. I should stop proofreading before I find out I missed every category! Dumbass.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Minute-by-minute at the 2005 Oscars Pre-Show

The pre-show begins at 3:00 on the West Coast (that's L.A. coverage, featuring Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper for ABC 7; I don't think the national coverage starts until 5:00). Now, I like the Oscars, but that's a little much even for me (although I have started drinking, to get in the proper frame of mind). I'll be checking in only occasionally until the "official" pre-show -- featuring that abomination against nature, Billy Bush -- begins.

3:20 -- Richard Roeper agrees with me that Best Director and Best Picture will be split between The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby. He even agrees with me in the way it's going to split -- Scorsese for Director, Baby for Picture.

3:37 -- Laura Linney. Oh, Laura Linney. I could write sonnets about her. I could too! You don't know!!

3:42 -- When they go in for a close-up on Ebert talking to Catalina Sandeno Moreno, you can see a flesh-colored bandage underneath Ebert's chin, a fairly big one. Chin tuck? Is he the new Joan Rivers?

3:48 -- Sophie Okonedo is adorable, very clearly overwhelmed by the pomp and glamour but holding up gamely. She is asked if she's replaced the $500 car it was reported she owned six months ago. "'No, I'm still driving the same car,' she says shyly," she says (shyly). Adorable!

3:55 -- P. Diddy equates wearing a $100,000 bracelet with "sophistication." "You know, 'cause I'm a chameleon," he says.

3:57 -- We can only assume that Melanie Griffith equates her gigantic boobs hanging out the cleavage of her gown with "sophistication" as well. She's leaning on a cane; when asked about it, she claims to have broken her foot scaling Mt. Everest. Yes, I'm sure that's exactly what happened. If by "Mt. Everest" she means the bathtub, and her sherpas were a bottle of oxycontin.

4:05 -- Ebert and his reporting partner marvel over Hilary Swank and her skin-tight gown for a moment, and I can not blame them one bit. It looks like it was painted on her, bless her heart. Not only can I judge the exact temperature outside from looking at her in that dress, I think I can actually tell how many freckles she has.

4:17 -- "Scarlett Johansson -- Has a twin brother" the onscreen caption tells us. You've got to love this kind of hard-hitting, insightful reporting we've come to expect from the Academy Awards. By the way, her bleached hair is awful. She's still hot as a very hot thing that's hot, don't get me wrong. Now she just has kind of a hooker-clown hair color to complement that hotness. Like a lazy eye, or a cold sore.

4:40 -- Cate Blanchett. I could write poetry about her, too. Look, here's a haiku:
This is a haiku
I forget how many syllables go in the second line
Cate Blanchett is hot
See? Easy.

4:41 -- If Johnny Depp is not the coolest person in the world, well... I don't know how to finish that sentence. Because clearly he is. He's got gold teeth in his mouth -- he's filming the Pirates sequel. Most actors in that part would have gold teeth that could easily be removed in between takes. Depp is not most actors. I think if he played Popeye he would gouge out one eye.

4:45 -- Samuel L. Jackson. Does he throw into question my declaration of Depp as the coolest person in the world? No. Sam is the baddest person in the world. Please make a note of that.

4:53 -- While Ebert's partner talks to Jamie Foxx, we can see over Foxx's shoulder Martin Scorsese, who is grinning and waving at Ebert. Ebert then introduces Foxx to Scorsese, and both of them start talking to each other, exchanging compliments, completely ignoring the interviewers.

4:55 -- Clint Eastwood has sauntered up, and now he and Scorsese talk to Ebert. This is the kind of meeting that makes me love a night like this.

5:00 -- The "official" pre-show begins. Chris Connelly, Jann Carl -- ahh! Billy Bush! My ears! My eyes! Make him go away!!

5:02 -- I love Hilary Swank, but if I have to hear once more about how she and her mother had to sleep in a car when they first came to Hollywood, I'm going to smash my TV. Hilary, go tell it to Jewel, okay?

5:04 -- And Jamie Foxx can put a cork in it, too. It's a great success story, and it's very nice he thanks Ray Charles and his family at every opportunity -- but he never stops giving an acceptance speech.

5:04 -- Halle Berry. Holy cow. Everybody always talks about how beautiful she is, and I always think, "Yeah, she's okay, but there's plenty of women as pretty as her." And then I actually see her again, and my jaw drops -- it's hard to conceive how impossibly gorgeous she is when she's not right in front of you. It's like, "Nobody's that beauti -- oh, lord, I take it back."

5:08 -- I would mention again how lovely Laura Linney is, but I'm right in the middle of composing a sestina to her. Look at this, I've got links and everything right in the middle of my liveblogging! Those other livebloggers ain't shit!

5:19 -- Okay, I refrained from mentioning Cate Blanchett again, and I wasn't going to mention Scarlett Johansson, either, but then they did a slow pan up the full length of her hourglass figure, and I had to go sit down here in the other room for a while and catch my breath. Whew! Still awful hair, though.

5:24 -- Billy Bush asks Penelope Cruz about her dress, and the way she says, "Oscar de la Renta made it for me," it's the sexiest sentence spoken in human history. Narrowly beating out whatever sentence she said just before that, and losing the crown to whatever her next sentence will be. Some people just got it. And she got it.

5:27 -- Connelly and Carl sign off. Let the main event begin!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 2/23/05 continued

Grimjack: Killer Instinct: Loving this series. I'm digging how it's explaining parts of John Gaunt's backstory (now we know why he uses the alias "Joe Chaney" in his later years) while adding more mystery to it at the same time (like how he became "Brother John" of the Knights Sewar -- funniest line of the issue: "...according to the holy text of Uncle John's Reader, Volume 19..."). Also nice to see Gaunt making the progression from thoughtless hired gun to becoming his own man. And hey, cameo appearance by Bob the watch-lizard! (Now, where's Munden's Bar?) Timothy Truman's artwork continues to amaze -- the airbike/wraith collision on page 3 is particularly nice, as is the zombie/wraith encounter on pages 10-11 -- although there were a couple of Liefeld-like perspective irregularities, especially on pages 18-19. And I still don't get why Gaunt's ears are so damn pointy! When did he become an elf? Overall, though, it's such a damn treat, I feel petty for nitpicking. Great stuff.

Fantastic Four: Okay, this is not Waid & Wieringo's last issue, as I said before. Wouldn't that have been an ass-kicker of a cliffhanger to hand off to a new writer? This was great fun, and exemplifies everything I'm going to miss about this team on this book. Each character is handled so well. And the wrap-up to Galen/Galactus' story is satisfying, while being intentionally open-ended -- Waid knew he couldn't even begin to pretend he had gotten rid of Galactus forever, so he didn't try to, but still gave a decent resolution. Okay: next month, we'll say goodbye to Waid & Wieringo -- and I'll say goodbye to Fantastic Four, once again.

Spider-Man/Human Torch: I loved every single panel of this comic. It fits so perfectly into continuity -- Capt. Stacy is aware of Spider-Man's identity, but doesn't let on, Mary Jane is flirting with Peter shamelessly while Harry watches (MJ's dreamy expression when she has her head on Peter's shoulder is so gosh darn adorable!) -- while poking fun at it as well -- Spider-Man's "And what's with the big black dots everywhere?!" is a hilarious nod to classic Kirby cosmic artwork. Dan Slott should be given a continuing Spider-Man title to work with -- I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have Norman Osborn boning Gwen Stacy (which is probably why he won't get a regular Spider-title -- he's just interested in being entertaining, rather than playing the short game of shock value).

Powers: I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but at the end I just thought, "Did we really need 22 pages just to get to Blackguard's wife as the bad guy?" It's like, Bendis comes up with big, cliffhanger, chapter stops to his stories, then uses the rest of the issue to monkey around until the page count is full. I generally like the characters and dialogue enough to enjoy the pages and pages of monkeying around, but it's wearing on me more and more. Recently, I've dropped Daredevil and The Pulse over similar complaints; I'd thought Bendis wouldn't allow his flagship title to suffer in the same way, but it's starting to appear I was wrong.

Invincible: This was a weird, funny issue. I appreciated the joke at Y: The Last Man's expense, and I loved the bizarre London street cult that is worshipping the crap Mark has thrown into the sky in earlier issues. Some good character moments, like Mark's mother finally recovering, and Amber showing that she's no Lois Lane or Mary Jane -- she's not going to stand for being abandoned in the middle of a crisis.

Y: The Last Man: Speaking of which. Hero finally redeems herself, to a certain degree. And who is the letter Yorick gave Hero for? Looks like the next story's gonna be all about Dr. Mann, as the Simpsons go to Japan! Hey, Australia's just a hop, skip, and a jump from there -- I bet we'll be seeing Beth story after next.

Seven Soldiers of Victory: I had no idea what kind of an event this was setting up until I got to the end of the issue. And I think I liked this issue enough to sign on for the rest -- which will be a good year's worth of an investment on my part. This is great Grant Morrison stuff -- weird, but not so inexplicably weird for the sake of being weird that it makes no sense. Gorgeous art, too. And, like I said, I knew nothing about the whole upcoming event, so I sure as hell was surprised by the ending.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Oscars 2005 -- My Picks

The Oscars are on Sunday, and, as with the Golden Globes, and the 2004 Emmys before that, I will be liveblogging the event. In preparation for it, and as a service to all you people playing in your local Oscar pools this weekend, I will now give you my 100% foolproof guaranteed winners for every category.*

I previously picked the top six categories. I'll include them here as a reminder. I did change my mind on one of those early picks; I thought Portman was strong, coming off the Golden Globes, but I think it's Blanchett with the edge now. My picks are in boldface.


    Don Cheadle - HOTEL RWANDA
    Leonardo DiCaprio - THE AVIATOR
    Clint Eastwood - MILLION DOLLAR BABY
    Jamie Foxx - RAY


    Alan Alda - THE AVIATOR
    Thomas Haden Church - SIDEWAYS
    Jamie Foxx - COLLATERAL
    Morgan Freeman - MILLION DOLLAR BABY
    Clive Owen - CLOSER


    Annette Bening - BEING JULIA
    Catalina Sandino Moreno - MARIA FULL OF GRACE
    Imelda Staunton - VERA DRAKE
    Hilary Swank - MILLION DOLLAR BABY


    Cate Blanchett - THE AVIATOR
    Laura Linney - KINSEY
    Virginia Madsen - SIDEWAYS
    Sophie Okonedo - HOTEL RWANDA
    Natalie Portman - CLOSER


    SHREK 2



    I still don't think The Aviator is going to win Best Picture (though I'm still only 51% sure on that), but I think it's going to be strong in pretty much every other category it's nominated in. Like this one.



    And this one.



    They usually give this one to big, historical epics, don't they?



    I really believe Scorsese will finally get his Directing Oscar, but again, I'm not strongly sure. Could very easily go to Eastwood, even though he's already got one.



    Tupac? No. Here's my impression of the average Academy voter: "Who-pac?" Super Size Me? Too popular. The most popular docs almost always lose. I'm picking Brothels for the sole reason that I saw a clip of it on Ebert & Roeper last week, and it looks appropriately depressing enough to get the Oscar.



    A story about Birmingham, Alabama, from previously-nominated directors. Seems like a solid choice.





    I'm going with the only one I've heard of.



    It's gotta win something, right?



    These are some pretty weak nominees. But it's hard to pick against John Williams.


    "Accidentally In Love" - SHREK 2
    "Al Otro Lado Del Río" - THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
    "Believe" - THE POLAR EXPRESS
    "Learn To Be Lonely" - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
    "Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" - THE CHORUS

    Wow, no Disney song! That leaves it wide open. I'm gonna have to say Phantom because, while none of the voters will have heard this new song, they've all probably seen and loved the original musical.



    Tough, tough call.



    It looks like a Pixar film (even though I think it has nothing to do with Pixar), which should give it the edge.



    Just a hunch.



    Big action movies usually win this category.



    Hey, it's also a big action movie, right?


    I, ROBOT



    In my experience, the writing categories are often sympathy awards for the best films that don't have a shot at the main categories. Which here would be Sideways.



    Same reasoning as above.

*Not a guarantee.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

TV: Lost

Among the many things I enjoy about Lost is the emerging interconnectedness of the castaways' lives before they even got on that plane.

In an early episode, we saw a flashback to Jack at the airline check-in desk; in a later episode, following Sun, we saw that she was in line directly behind Jack at that moment. In another episode, we saw Sawyer and Boone (I think it was those two) at the same police station at the same time. Two weeks ago, we saw Sawyer have a fateful encounter with Jack's father. And this week was the most subtle connection so far.

When Jin went to the minister's house to deliver his father-in-law's message, the minister's daughter was watching TV. I almost missed it, but something caught my eye and made me rewind the TiVo. Did anybody else see who was on that TV?


That's bitchin'. I can't wait till we get to Hurley's backstory, and we find out what the hell that was about.

By the way, this episode was called "...In Translation." I didn't get it until I saw it spelled out on TiVo's info bar -- "Lost: '...In Translation.'" Funny.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 2/23/05

It's time again to play, "What did Tom buy this week?" in which I try to remember, without looking, which comics I spent all that money on.

First of all, there's the Scurvy Dogs TPB, which is just a fantastic package. I was laughing out loud just at the foreword. I've got all five issues, and still I had to buy this. For one thing, it's nice to have them all in one book, because they're so damn funny they can be reread time and time again. Secondly, there's a ton of extra material, including author's notes introducing each issue, a previously uncollected story, and pages and pages of annotations for the whole series at the end. I love that kind of stuff, even when the material pretty much speaks for itself ("I'm damn funny," it says). And finally, you can't beat the price -- $12.95, which is a real steal, these days. Try to tell me $12.95 isn't worth seeing a gasoline-drinking Rod Stewart carrying around Dr. Theopolis like Twiki from Buck Rogers. Just try!

Then I got seven other comics. Let's see if I can recall them all! First and foremost, of course, is Grimjack: Killer Instinct #2. The revival of this series continues to make me so happy I just wanna muss up my hair and quack like a duck. (That's a line from one of my favorite comic strips, by the way.)

Then there's Spider-Man & the Human Torch, by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton. Sad though it is that She-Hulk is out of commission for the time being, at least I'll still be getting a monthly dose of the funny from Slott on this book.

Also got Fantastic Four, the last issue of what has been an incredibly entertaining run by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo (guess FF drops off my buy-list again next month); Invincible; Powers; Seven Soldiers of Victory, one of those Grant Morrison titles which I'm sure I'll enjoy issue to issue, but which I'll probably eventually wish I had waited for the collection instead; and...

There's always one I forget. Give me a second.

Dammit. I'm gonna have to cheat and look it up.

Y: The Last Man! Stupid! Only my favorite comic. (Well, bumped down to second favorite again, now that Grimjack's back.) I actually said to myself, "Did any Brian Vaughan comics come out this week? Nope." D'oh!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

TV: Potpourri

Battlestar Galactica: I see on executive producer Ron Moore's blog that the second season has been confirmed. That's great news. This is an absolute must-see series for me, right up there with Lost, or Arrested Development.

I'm fascinated by the way religion is depicted on the show. The humans are multitheistic; they worship "the gods of Kobol." Their religion has yet to be fully explored, but I'm wondering if their gods are like one Christian god, times, say, twelve, or if they all have individual personalities and stories, like the Greco-Roman pantheon. Whatever it is, it seems to me that the typical religious viewer of the show wouldn't identify with this "Kobol" religion -- would, in fact, hold that religion to be as quaint and absurd as modern society regards Ares, Aphrodite, and Apollo. (Hmm... Apollo. Maybe their gods are the Greco-Roman gods.)

The Cylon god, on the other hand, appears so far to be remarkably similar to the Christian god. There's just one, first of all -- the Cylons are devout monotheists. (Actually, I'm only assuming it's all Cylons; the only Cylon yet to speak of religion has been Number Six, whom I will presume, until proven wrong, speaks for all Cylons.) He's a benevolent god, the creator, the source of love -- but he can be vengeful, too, as Baltar found out in this last episode. I find it tremendously interesting that the religious belief that translates most directly to the dominant Western religion is held by the evil Cylons.

I get the feeling that the Cylon god is not as unknowable and intangible as the Christian one. I think before too long we're going to find out exactly what or who it is.

Celebrity Poker Showdown: It's so frustrating to watch this show sometimes, with its dumb players and their lucky cards. Last week's episode with Colin Quinn was agony to watch. He was so bad, so very, very bad. Played any two cards, never folded. And he kept winning. There is no way for a good player to beat a bad player with lucky cards. A good player can bluff, and another good player can read the odds and know when to fold. But a bad player will just keep throwing money at the pot, completely oblivious to anything else. Usually, they'll lose their shirts in ten minutes. But sometimes, like Quinn did, they'll win it all. Unbelievable.

I've also got on TiVo the latest Hollywood Home Game edition of the World Poker Tour. Mekhi Phifer (the last Celebrity Poker Showdown player to win with blind, stupid luck) is playing, as are Andrea Parker (Less Than Perfect), Adrian Young (No Doubt's drummer), John Hensley (never heard of him), and LeVar Burton and Wil Wheaton. I'm guessing it's going to come down to the two Trek vets, and I'm rooting for Wheaton to get the win.

Teen Titans: Everybody caught the Battle of the Planets reference in this week's episode, right? Just checking.

Desperate Housewives: A friend of mine told me he'd read that they're already working on a spin-off to this show, to star (he said) one of the four main actresses on this show. That can't be right, can it? Has anybody else heard this? Because that is just stupid. No better way to sabotage a successful show than screwing with what makes it work.

Loonatics: Have you heard about this? The WB plans on updating the classic WB cartoon characters by making them EXXXXTREEEEME!!! superheroes in the distant future. Wow. Just, wow. This is the most idiotic marketing idea -- and perhaps the most idiotic idea, period -- since New Coke. Everyone involved in this fiasco needs to be put in a line, and then slapped across the face one after the other, Three Stooges-style.

Monday, February 21, 2005

COMICS: 100 Things I Love About Comics

Apologies for my extended absence. Hopefully you all muddled through it somehow. Assuming you're still there. Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyhoo! Here at long last is my list of 100 Comics-Related Things I Love. Apologies again for how long it's going to take these images to load.

Scroll over images for additional notes. Click on 'em to check out sample art pages, sketches, and other nifty stuff. (You might want to right-click and open them in new windows, since, seriously, this is going to take a long, long time to load.)

This is the first time I've ever done anything this elaborate, so please bear with me if there are glitches. For all I know, Photobucket (my image host) may instantly shut down, leaving a plethora of the dreaded red exes in place of my pretty and oh-so-painstakingly and time-consumingly Googled pictures.

Oh! And I omitted mentioning all you fine, fine folks in the comics blogoverse. I could do a top 100 list with just you people alone. And frankly, that would be boring. So consider my love for the lot of you to be a given. (Well, if not love, a very strong like. I'm not quite ready for that level of commitment. DON'T PRESSURE ME!!)

In no particular order -- well, except for #1:

  1. John Ostrander & Timothy Truman's Grimjack.

  2. Evan Dorkin.

  3. "Alright! So I'm back! -- Now I quit again!!!"

  4. The classic dumb green Hulk's catchphrases: "Hulk smash!" "Hulk is strongest one there is!" "Puny humans!" "The madder Hulk gets -- the STRONGER Hulk gets!"

  5. Calling everyone "Larry."

  6. Garth Ennis.

  7. The greatest fictional character in the history of the English language.

  8. Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman and Mark Hamill as the voice of the Joker.

  9. Zander Cannon's The Replacement God.

  10. Phil Foglio.

  11. Mike Baron & Steve Rude's Nexus.

  12. Frank Miller.

  13. Peter David's The Incredible Hulk.

  14. Sergio Aragones.

  15. Chris Claremont & John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men.

  16. "Continued on 3rd page following." As if they thought all the readers were going, "What the hey! The story just stopped! I am frightened and confused!!"

  17. "Stupid, stupid rat creatures!!"

  18. Grant Morrison.

  19. Mad Magazine.

  20. Steve Dillon.

  21. Cerebus: Church & State, one of the most ambitious and most impressive stories ever told in comics. Way back before Dave Sim went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

  22. The good-natured mockery of the letterer in the credits of early Marvel books.

  23. Steve Moncuse's Fish Police.

  24. The team of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.

  25. Garth Ennis & John McCrea's Hitman.

  26. "Did I err?"

  27. Kyle Baker.

  28. The facial expressions in Linda Medley's artwork.

  29. J. Jonah Jameson.

  30. All those L.L. initials in Superman's life.

  31. Ten Ever-Lovin', Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo, by Walt Kelly.

  32. The ever-lovin', blue-eyed Thing.

  33. Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury.

  34. Matt Howarth's Those Annoying Post Bros.

  35. "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

  36. "I'm a carton of hate!" "I'm a wedge of spite!"

  37. Geof Darrow.

  38. Destroying the Marvel Universe.

  39. "With great power there must also come great responsibility."

  40. The Winslow.

  41. Alan Moore.

  42. Ty Templeton's Stig's Inferno.

  43. John Romita, Sr.'s run on Spider-Man.

  44. "Holy jumping mother o' God in a side-car with chocolate jimmies and a lobster bib!"

  45. Ralph's Comic Corner in Ventura.

  46. Those Hostess Fruit Pies ads.

  47. Harvey Kurtzman.

  48. Nick Fury.

  49. Kyle Baker's Why I Hate Saturn.

  50. "Something tells me to stop with the leg. I don't listen to it."

  51. Will Jacobs & Gerard Jones' The Trouble with Girls.

  52. Gilbert Shelton's Fat Freddy's Cat.

  53. Joe Matt's Peepshow.

  54. Marvel's Essential Library. (Except for the Ant-Man one. Ant-Man is not Essential.)

  55. Sam Henderson's The Magic Whistle.

  56. John Totleben.

  57. Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' Watchmen.

  58. Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!

  59. Neil Gaiman.

  60. Eric Haven's Angryman.

  61. Mike Allred.

  62. Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca's Street Angel.

  63. That a pair of eyeglasses keeps the world from knowing Clark Kent is Superman.

  64. James Kochalka's American Elf.

  65. The incredibly strange and funny world of Jay Stephens.

  66. "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot."

  67. Mark Martin's Gnatrat.

  68. Bill Sienkiewicz.

  69. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.

  70. Fred Schiller's Rust.

  71. Brian Bolland.

  72. Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

  73. Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon's Preacher.

  74. Comic Relief in Berkeley.

  75. Joe R. Lansdale & Timothy Truman's Jonah Hex.

  76. "Mustn't. Black. Out."

  77. Mile High Comics, a great online store with great online images.

  78. Miracleman, both Alan Moore's and Neil Gaiman's versions.

  79. Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo.

  80. James Robinson and Tony Harris' Starman.

  81. "Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch!"

  82. Ert!

  83. Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's Y: The Last Man.

  84. Batman: The Animated Series and all its follow-ups.

  85. Dan Slott & Juan Bobillo's She-Hulk.

  86. Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo's Shade: The Changing Man.

  87. Frank Quitely.

  88. Peter Bagge's Hate.

  89. "I'm the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn't very nice."

  90. Spoon!

  91. That every Marvel superhero in the '60s got their powers from radiation, and every Marvel villain was a Communist.

  92. Andy Garcia's Oblivion City.

  93. That a primary color can be a superhero's weakness. (I'm looking at you, Green Lantern. You big sissy.)

  94. Doug Gray's The Eye of Mongombo.

  95. Terence Stamp as General Zod: "You will bow down before me, Jor-El!"

  96. Julie Newmar as Catwoman.

  97. That SNL sketch where Belushi as the Hulk stinks up the bathroom.

  98. Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

  99. Spidey! on The Electric Company (entertaining and educational).

  100. Boxing Glove Arrow!

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