Sunday, August 27, 2006

TV: The 2006 Emmys Ceremony

The Pre-Show.

--Conan O'Brien begins the show with a pre-taped bit where he crashes on the Lost island. Hurley makes a cameo. It's pretty sweet. O'Brien asks Hurley if he wants to come with him to the Emmys. Hurley: "Well, we weren't exactly invited." SWEET.

--O'Brien climbs down a hatch into the set of The Office. Dwight: "Damn it, Jim!" Jim: "No, I did not have Conan O'Brien fall through the ceiling."

--Segue into a 24 bit. Jack demands O'Brien get off the phone. O'Brien: "I don't think so, Kiefer." "I'm Jack Bauer!"

--House: "Subject anemic -- possibly albino... Age: 92. Or 12... Subject emitting an odor of burnt cheese."

--South Park: "Dad! Conan O'Brien won't come out of the closet!" Tom Cruise makes a cameo, popping his head out of the closet. AWESOME.

--Finally, O'Brien walks into Dateline NBC: "To Catch a Predator." Great, great opening bit, all told. Good omen for the rest of the show.

--And on to the real deal! "Welcome to the 58th and final Emmy Awards!" Hey, Chris Rock made the same joke at the 2005 Oscars.

--"It's my second time hosting, and as you'll see tonight, the third time's the charm."

--On Ellen Burstyn's nominated role, which took up exactly 14 seconds of screentime: "I know from experience: just because something lasts for only 14 seconds doesn't mean it's not spectacular."

--O'Brien jokes the $51,000 gift baskets for the nominees includes "a gift certificate to The Olive Garden for $50,000."

--"Please don't thank your parents. If you were raised in a nurturing environment, you wouldn't be here tonight."

--A Music Man parody? Hmm, okay. It's pretty good, actually. "NBC's got trouble, with a capital T and that rhymes with G as in 'Gee, we're screwed'."

--Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey present Supporting Actress in a Comedy to Megan Mullally. Shucks. I took a chance with my pick, Pressly. Oh well. Mullally gets played off in what seems a very short time.

--Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Sean Hayes present Supporting Actor in a Drama to Alan Alda (who isn't there, saving us a speech). I was way off. He would've been my fourth or even fifth choice. Whoops! I'm off to a good start.

--A bit about the show running over its allotted time. Predictable. But -- a twist: Bob Newhart is locked in a glass cage "with exactly three hours of air." If the show runs one minute over, Newhart dies. Newhart's expression is priceless.

--Charlie Sheen and Martin Sheen walk out on stage before O'Brien can complete his joke about father-son pairs nominated this year. So much for rehearsal! Their "banter" makes me wish to hell O'Brien had been able to finish his joke instead.

--They give Supporting Actress in a Drama to Blythe Danner. (Another missed pick for me!) Two Emmys in a row for her for Huff, a show nobody watched and which is now cancelled. Also: she's a babbling mess. Shut up! SHUT UP!!

--Jaime Pressly and Jason Lee. Lee congratulates her on her nomination. Pressly: "Playing your greedy, whorish, foul-mouthed, slutty skank of a wife is reward enough."

--I knew this winner in advance, thanks to my accidental discovery on the internet: Jeremy Piven. Very, very cool. I wish to hell Will Arnett, who was the funniest part of one of the funniest shows ever, had gotten it. But Piven is also way awesome. He makes a very short, heartfelt speech, which also manages to include the word "fluffer."

--After a testosterone/Marion Jones joke doesn't go over well, O'Brien warns, "It gets rougher, folks."

--William Petersen and Dennis Haysbert present Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. I think the clip they show of Ellen Burstyn may actually be her entire appearance in the movie.

--Kelly MacDonald wins for The Girl in the Cafe. Yay for her. She's lovely. And she got all kinds of naked in Trainspotting. That's right, I linked it!! You're welcome. (Or: I'm sorry.)

--O'Brien does a comedy bit, following up with, "What a fantastic waste of time!" Cut to Newhart, sweating away in his glass cage.

--Heidi Klum, John Lithgow, and Jeffrey Tambor present Variety, Music, or Comedy Program to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I thought The Colbert Report might actually pull the upset -- and so did Stewart, apparently.

--Jennifer Love Hewitt and Ron Livingston introduce other people, which is always the crappiest gig. They bring out the winners of Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy, Leslie Jordan for Will & Grace, and Cloris Leachman for Malcolm in the Middle (which makes her an eight-time Emmy-winner -- a new record! Very nice).

--They present Directing for a Comedy to My Name Is Earl. How that show didn't get a nomination for Best Comedy is a mystery.

--And they present Writing for a Comedy to... My Name Is Earl. Seriously: HUGE mystery. Greg Garcia gives an awesomely funny speech. Among the people he pointedly doesn't thank is God: "You took my hair, and that's not cool."

--Simon Cowell comes out to present the tribute to Dick Clark. He actually gets booed, which isn't tremendously classy of the audience.

--The clips for Clark are surprisingly moving. As is Clark's subsequent appearance on stage. He is only partially recovered from his stroke, and his speech is labored, but his words are touching. Great moment.

--And then Barry Manilow performs "Bandstand." It's fun! But I think I need another beer now.

--Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan present Individual Performance in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program. It's Barry Manilow! Didn't we just see him? Damn, Colbert missed another one. Next year: two Emmys for Colbert, I guarantee. Next year.

--O'Brien introduces the Emmy accountants from Ernst & Young in the style of a basketball arena announcer. The last one: "And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!" Who actually appears. RIGHT ON.

--Evangeline Lilly and Wentworth Miller introduce other people. They get the crap gig, too! Guest Actress and Actor in a Drama are Patricia Clarkson, for Six Feet Under (who doesn't show, sadly -- love her!) and Christian Clemenson, for Boston Legal.

--Clemenson presents Directing for a Drama to 24. I have no joke here.

--Clemenson bails before presenting the Writing award. Weird. Lilly and Miller give the Emmy to The Sopranos. I tell you, it's a pretty entertaining, fast-moving show this year, but it still feels like I've been doing this for three days already.

--Mariska Hargitay and... Tom Selleck? Selleck rules, but what the heck is he doing here? They present Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie to Jeremy Irons for Elizabeth I. Hargitay interrupts him in the middle of his speech to force the Emmy into his hand.

--Megan Mullally and Howie Mandel painfully work their way through some lame jokes. Then, even worse, they do a Deal Or No Deal bit. NOO!!

--They present Directing for Variety, Music or Comedy Program to the guy who directed the Academy Awards, who is also directing this Emmys show. The fix is in!

--The nomination clips for Writing for Variety, Music or Comedy Program are always hilarious. Colbert does it best: all the writers are bears, and Colbert is the hunter with a shotgun. The Daily Show wins another one. Next year, Colbert!

--Hugh Laurie and Helen Mirren do a very funny bit, in which he translates her narration into French. They present Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie to Andre Braugher.

--Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford. Whitford goes on a long ramble about how much he loves this night, and celebrating the accomplishments of his peers. Perry: "I despise the success of others."

--They present Lead Actor in a Comedy to fucking Tony Shalhoub. HORSESHIT. Shalhoub: "There's been a terrible mistake." No SHIT. Carell got screwed. When they show Carell in the audience, he looks like he's in pain. I was right to underestimate the Emmy voters; I should've stuck with my original hunch on this pick. Have I hit one correct pick yet? I think I haven't. The two surest things, I thought, were going to be Sandra Oh and Steve Carell. The Emmys suck.

--Candice Bergen presents the Chairman and CEO of the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences, who then woodenly introduces Joan Collins, Stephen Collins, and Heather Locklear to pay tribute to Aaron Spelling. It's not nearly as touching as the Dick Clark tribute.

--Joan Collins points to the sky and says, "I owe you one, babe," which is when I start screaming, "SHUT UP!!"

--The original Charlie's Angels show up at the end of Spelling's tribute clip. Woohoo! Ah, Kate Jackson. I always liked her best. Jaclyn Smith still looks damn hot, too. Farrah Fawcett looks a little crazy before she even opens her mouth. Wait, are any of them going to talk other than Jackson? Oh, here goes Fawcett. She's shockingly sane and sweet, and with her tears, she actually makes it all genuinely emotional. Smith goes last, but Jackson and Fawcett said it better already.

--Eva Longoria (are we all sick of her? Can we all agree on that?) and James Woods present Best Movie to The Girl in the Cafe. They showed that movie about 8,000 times on HBO over the last year, and I never bothered to watch it. Maybe I should have?

--O'Brien, introducing the next presenters, says "fake news," and the crowd goes wild before he can even get to the names of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Colbert opens with, "Good evening, godless sodomites." He points at the giant Emmy statue on stage: "Kneel before your god, Babylon!" And finally, weeping, "I lost to Barry Manilow!!" We all feel your pain, buddy. "Can I hold one of yours?" he asks Stewart. They present Best Reality Show to The Amazing Race.

--I'm over two hours into this, and I'm beginning to realize that pretty much no one cares. I should just go to bed.

--But I won't!

--Omar Epps and Katherine Heigl present Directing for a Miniseries or Movie, or something like that, to Elizabeth I. The director's acceptance speech is incredibly stiff and awkward. Next comes Writing for Etc., which goes to The Girl in the Cafe. He's not here! No speech! Hootie!

--Edie Falco and James Gandolfini present Best Miniseries to Elizabeth I. I can't imagine caring less about anything, ever. I'm getting really burned out now. I need another beer.

--Hey, it's the Who Croaked This Year? portion of the evening. Clap for the most popular! Dennis Weaver, Don Adams, Red Buttons, Mike Douglas, Pat Morita, Al Lewis, Maureen Stapleton, Buck Owens, Jack Warden, and John Spencer all have good showings, but Don Knotts and Richard Pryor, I'd say, tie for Favorite Dead Entertainers. Congratulations!

--Kiefer Sutherland and Felicity Huffman present Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie to Helen Mirren for Elizabeth I. Hardly a shocker at this point.

--Calista Flockhart and Craig Ferguson? That's an odd pairing. Also: ah! Now I know why Harrison Ford was in the audience. They present Lead Actress in a Drama to fuckin' Mariska Hargitay. STUPID. Jesus Christ, she shouldn't even be nominated. If you can't find five better actresses on TV than her, you need to pull your head out of your ass and LOOK HARDER.

--Tyra Banks and Victor Garber present Lead Actress in a Comedy to... Julia Louis-Dreyfus! Holy crap, did I get one right? I got one right!! About time. Specifically: 2 hours, 41 minutes into the show before hitting my first correct prediction. WOW, I suck.

--Virginia Madsen and Ray Liotta present Lead Actor in a Drama to Kiefer goddam Sutherland. So much for two in a row. (EDIT: Uh, DOY. I picked Kiefer to win. I blame the beer and my general stupidity.) This is his 1st Emmy win, and 9th nomination, the announcer says. Ninth? Did I hear that wrong? For what?? IMDb says he's been nominated five times for 24, and zero times for anything else. I must've heard it wrong. (Another EDIT: Noel Murray points out in the comments that, as a producer of 24, when the show has been up for Best Drama, Kiefer added those nominations to his total, too.)

--Conan O'Brien and Bob Newhart, now released from his glass cage, present together. O'Brien tells Newhart that a majority of callers wanted him to live: "Fifty-two percent!"

--They present Best Comedy to The Office. Hell yeah! That's extremely satisfying (although in this very strong category, only Two and a Half Men would've been a disappointment). And hey, I got a second third pick correct.

--Annette Bening presents Best Drama to 24. I took a shot on my pick with the "buzzworthy" Grey's Anatomy, but if I had taken a moment to actually think about it, I would've realized no drama garnered more buzz last year than 24. Bad move on my part.

--And that's it! They actually brought it in under three hours! Despite the many poor nominees and wins, it was a pretty good show overall. Time to sleep, people, time to sleep.

TV: The 2006 Emmys Pre-Show

Normally I call my liveblogging "minute-by-minute," because I can pause the TiVo and note the time for each item I jot down. This year, it's on the fly. And here we go!

--Oh, Christ. Billy Bush. Already I regret this.

--He and Nancy O'Dell talk to Patrick Dempsey. She calls him "so big." Bush asks him if he does his own hair. The Goodyear blimp broadcasts a message to "McDreamy." So much hatred, so quickly.

--It is over 100 degrees, Bush says (it would've been 4 PM at the time). That's why I stayed inside today.

--Bush talks to Randy Jackson. Jackson refers to himself as "the Dawg."

--Steve Carell approaches and Jackson hugs him. Ew. Bush calls Carell a "great sweater." Bush is a douche.

--Jean Smart is rockin' some cleavage. Way to go, girl!

--O'Dell switches back to Bush, who is standing with Lisa Kudrow. Oddly, she just wanders off while he starts talking about some Project Runway crap. Weird.

--Sarah Chalke looks so gorgeous. Why the hell can't she get some Emmy love? Scrubs is bitchin'.

--Maria Menounos has a giggle like fingernails on a chalkboard.

--Jon Voight is surprisingly serene and modest and cool, and then O'Dell has to press him on his daughter, Angelina Jolie, from whom he is estranged. It throws him for a loop; he stammers and evades and mutters some half-hearted niceties. O'Dell is a douche, too.

--Kudrow is back with Bush. They might as well have skipped it.

--Trivia question! "Which series set the record for the most Emmy awards won in a single season?"
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The West Wing

I should know this. Wasn't it West Wing? (EDIT: Look at me doing research for you: yes it was.)

--O'Dell is with Kyra Sedgwick. I like her without the accent she uses on The Closer. It's not a very good accent, is it?

--Bush is with Jaime Pressly. She's purty. She's very gracious. Bush keeps calling her "baby."

--The Shat! They run a factoid below his face: "Never nominated for Star Trek." NO! Really? What a shocker. Then O'Dell actually asks him why that was. "I guess I wasn't very good," he says. Good man!

--Bush talks to Mariska Hargitay. He mentions that her son, August, was born in June, and Bush asks if he was born two months early. She doesn't seem to get it.

--Ellen Pompeo talks to Bush. She's lovely, if a little Zellweger skinny. Kind of makes me want to watch her show a little. Just a little.

--Debra Messing and Megan Mullally talk to O'Dell. Like Sedgwick, it's nice to hear Mullally without the put-on voice, too.

--Kevin James' real-life wife is even more undeservingly hot than his fake TV wife.

--Kiefer Sutherland with O'Dell. He says it's just an honor being nominated along with the other actors. I suspect that was more true in previous years. This year's whole crop of nominees, across the board, is one of the weakest and most cluelessly wrong-headed I've ever seen. And for the Emmys, that's saying a lot.

--A note on a commercial: I was already going to watch Heroes because of Greg Grunberg, who is awesome, but how nice that it appears the show is actually going to be good.

--Julia Louis-Dreyfus with O'Dell. O'Dell of course brings up "the Seinfeld curse," because she's a dumbass.

--Jeremy Piven talks to Bush. Bush asks if he's met Jennifer Garner's baby, or Brad and Angelina's. Piven responds with a heaping helping of contempt. "I don't go hunting for celebrity babies. I have 116 other things to do. Thank you, Billy... Can you focus on other things?" SO FUCKING AWESOME. I wish I could've paused and rewound that to get the entire exchange. So, so sweet.

--Denis Leary with O'Dell. Out of the blue, she asks him his opinion on Tom Cruise being dumped by Paramount (as Bush just did of Piven -- wish I could've transcribed that, too!). What the hell is with these people?

--More Project Runway crap. More Menounos. Ugh.

--Bush is talking to Evangeline Lilly. She's so hot. I don't care what you say, Samurai Frog!

--This is crushing my soul. I just thought you should know that.

--Barry Manilow is here! He is not looking good. He's going in for hip surgery tomorrow. Damn, now that's a trouper!

--Bush talks to Paula Abdul. She looks a little loopy. Shocker!

--Sean Hayes is dating a woman! No, wait, it's his niece. My bad.

--O'Dell with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. O'Dell asks Bening if she wants an Emmy to go with her Oscar. "He has an Oscar," Bening awkwardly has to correct her. Yikes.

--Bush and O'Dell and some guy named Tony inanely babble away the last moments before the show starts. Please go away now. And they do. On to the real travesty!

TV: Emmys Liveblogging

I'm planning on doing some light liveblogging of the Emmys later tonight. I don't have access to TiVo, so without the ability to pause, it's going to be a little more down and dirty than usual -- less detail, but more timely with the updating.

Timely as in: three hours late. As you probably know by now, the Emmys, unlike the Oscars, are tape-delayed to the West Coast. Or, as I like to say: "Live! Everywhere except the time zone in which they actually occur!" The ceremony is actually going on right now, though I won't be able to see it for another two hours.

I wanted to make my predictions right now, but looking around the internet for a list of nominees, I've already spoiled a few of the winners for myself. Grr! Luckily, I have an issue of TV Guide which has a list that I can crib from. I'll just quickly mention the major categories, and skip the ones I've already found out.

Comedy Series:
Arrested Development
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Office
Two and a Half Men

I want Arrested to win, but it won't. I'll pick The Office, which is a damn fine second choice.

Drama Series:
Grey's Anatomy
The Sopranos
The West Wing

I didn't even watch The Sopranos this year (I'm still a season behind on the DVDs). I'd normally pick it to win, but I've seen a lot of backlash against this last season. I'll go slightly out on a limb and pick Grey's Anatomy, which is the newest of the shows (along with House, I think; aren't they both two seasons old?), but which seems to be getting all the buzz these days. I don't watch it, so I can't really speak to its quality myself. 24 would be my second guess.

Lead Actor, Comedy:
Steve Carell
Larry David
Kevin James
Tony Shalhoub
Charlie Sheen

I almost want to pick Shalhoub, because the Emmy voters are so clueless, they still think Monk is a good show. Hell, they even think Charlie Sheen and Kevin James are worth nominating! (Just some good-natured ribbing, fellas! Maybe.) But it's got to be Carell.

Lead Actress, Comedy:
Stockard Channing
Jane Kaczmarek
Lisa Kudrow
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Debra Messing

This category is pathetic. I'm going to pick the one actress from a show that will actually be on the air next year: Louis-Dreyfus.

Lead Actor, Drama:
Peter Krause
Denis Leary
Christopher Meloni
Martin Sheen
Kiefer Sutherland

Also pathetic. No Gandolfini? (Even if I didn't watch The Sopranos this year, I still know how awesome he is.) No Michael Chiklis? I'll take Sutherland, because 24 had a buzzworthy year, even if he doesn't have much to do other than be intense and be more intense.

Lead Actress, Drama:
Frances Conroy
Geena Davis
Mariska Hargitay
Allison Janney
Kyra Sedgwick

I gotta go with newbie Sedgwick. I just don't want to live in a world where Mariska Hargitay is voted the best actress on television.

Supporting Actor, Comedy:
Will Arnett
Bryan Cranston
Jon Cryer
Sean Hayes
Jeremy Piven

I already know who wins. I'm not disappointed, and he would've been my prediction. But I wish it had been a certain someone else.

Supporting Actress, Comedy:
Cheryl Hines
Megan Mullally
Elizabeth Perkins
Jaime Pressly
Alfre Woodard

I'm going out on a limb, but I'm picking Pressly. Maybe my hunch that the Emmys will waste another award on Mullally is justified, but I have an opposing hunch that Pressly will be a surprise upset. Those of you on the East Coast probably already know if I'm a genius or an idiot. (Hell, everyone everywhere already knows that.)

Supporting Actor, Drama:
Alan Alda
Michael Imperioli
Gregory Itzin
Oliver Platt
William Shatner

I saw that the winner for this has already been chosen, but I swear I didn't see who won. So if my pick of Itzin is correct, it's an honest choice. If it's wrong, well, I'm a dummy.

Supporting Actress, Drama:
Candice Bergen
Blythe Danner
Sandra Oh
Jean Smart
Chandra Wilson

I'll believe the buzz, and take Oh.

I could make more picks, but I'm so late on this I just can't get into it. I'll stick with these ten nine (I forgot about the winner I've already seen). I'll be back shortly with a look at the Pre-Show!

Weekly Sidebar Update: Now Monthly!

Ahoy hoy! Say, it's only been five weeks since my last "weekly" sidebar update. That's pretty good for me, this year. Let's get to it.

The Object of My Affection is the lovely and talented Amy Adams, who charmed the heck out of me in a fairly minor role in Talladega Nights. I also remember her as Jim's girlfriend on The Office -- the one he dumped in the Booze Cruise episode. She was also apparently very, very good in Junebug, for which she got an Oscar nomination. Haven't seen it yet. I do know that Roger Ebert lavished such incessant, moon-eyed praise on her for that role that I expected him to leave his wife and start stalking her. Hey, get in line, pal!

Reading: Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, by Bruce "Don't Call Me Ash" Campbell. This book (an "autobiographical novel," which means "everything in the book actually happened, except for the stuff that didn't") could've used a second fine-tuning by an editor or a proofreader -- or a first. It's jammed full of misspellings and missing or duplicated words, which bugs the hell out of me. So amateurish. (Please do not now point out any typos in this post. It will not endear you to me.) But it's a breezy, funny read, just like If Chins Could Kill.

Watching: NewsRadio season 4 on DVD -- the best season of the show. I started watching it a while ago, and got distracted, and now I'm back to it again. This is the year that starts off with a series of episodes featuring Lauren Graham as an efficiency expert hired by Jimmy James to make cutbacks in the office. I love me some Lauren Graham; in fact, I think this is where I first developed my crush on her. But apparently, according to the commentaries, her presence caused some strife; when asked if she recalled why Khandi Alexander decided to leave the show, Maura Tierney says, "Two words... Lauren Graham." Ouch! I hate knowing bad stuff behind the scenes of shows I love. And man, do I love this show.

Listening: Highway Companion, Tom Petty. Not a very inspired choice, considering I already wrote about it. But I haven't bought any new albums since then. And it really is very, very good. Hey, at least I didn't say the Snakes on a Plane soundtrack!

Hating: Sports Stacking. I don't often do this, but I am going to repeat here the entirety of a post I made elsewhere concerning this crap:

This is the lamest thing I've ever seen:

Speed Stacks

It's a "game," consisting of 12 plastic cups, which you stack in pyramids. That's it. That's the whole thing. You try to stack your plastic cups in pyramids faster than your opponent.

These 12 cups, plus assorted crappy accessories, sell for $39.99.

You have got to be SHITTING me.

Forty dollars. For a dozen plastic cups.


What is wrong with America??

And on further research, this isn't just some "never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public" scammer looking to bilk suckers out of forty bones by pretending stacking cups is fun. I mean, it's not just that. Oh no. This is more than a game. This is a sport:

World Sport Stacking Association

ESPFN (that's ESP Fuckin' N) -- the original, not ESPN2, not even the Ocho, but the original ESPN -- which, last I checked, still bore some resemblance to an actual sports network (despite the presence of Stuart Scott), aired a one hour special on Sport Stacking last Wednesday.

I weep for this country. I truly do.

I'm going to market my own game for idiots now. It's called NUT PUNCHING!! You send me forty bucks, I send you one (1) Nut Punching Glove and a paper cutout target for your nuts. Then you punch the fuck out of your nuts!! It's NUTPUNCH-TASTIC!!!
America is dumb.

Lyric of the Week: "In State," by Kathleen Edwards. I like her more the more I listen to her. She's just tremendous. Her music is usually classified as "alt-country;" to me it sounds kind of like a little bit of Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams. Maybe that sounds awful to you, but at least give her a try. Here's the video for this song:

And here's a link to a video for another great song, "Back To Me," from the same album (also called Back To Me). She's just great. And a likely future candidate for Object of My Affection, to boot. So purty!

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Deluxe Extended Version of this post will be released in time for Christmas

So I'm reading Chris's Invincible Super-Blog, which I just recently added to my sidebar, and which I should've added a long time ago, because Chris is smart, funny, and he adds alt text to his pictures for bonus humor just like I try to do (if you've never noticed this before, well, now you know; scroll over the pictures on my sidebar for examples). And I see this.

It's the very last item in that post, about the trade paperback for The Middleman, a tremendously entertaining comic I enjoy the hell out of. The paperback collects the four issues of the second mini-series. But it also includes, per Chris: Three new stories ("Tales of the Middlemen" stories by guest creators) and a few pages of bonus material.

That is HORSESHIT. It's things like that which make me glad I'm killing the comic book industry (as I mentioned in my last post) with my recent switch to waiting for the paperback collections instead of buying the individual issues. What incentive do I have to support comics companies on a monthly basis by purchasing the floppies, when they're going to try to force me to double-purchase the product by including extra material in the trade? They're doing the same thing the DVD people love to do, creating bonus material to try to force multiple purchases of the same item -- which version did you buy?

Hell, you can find the same thing in the (non-comic) book industry, too. I just bought the paperback of Bruce Campbell's Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, which contains a significant amount of new material not in the hardback (as did his previous book, If Chins Could Kill). And now I find, via his blog, that John Hodgman has added 20 extra pages to the paperback version of his excellent The Areas of My Expertise. God DAMN, that pisses me off. I shell out the twenty-thirty bucks for a hardback book, and now you try to make me buy the paperback, too?

Screw you, John Hodgman. Screw you, DVDs. And screw you, comic books. I'm sick of this shit. As an Average Joe fan, with significantly less than unlimited cash resources, I give you my money for your product, and instead of thanking me for it, you punish me for not waiting for the for reals, super-duper, bonus-filled version to be released? And you wonder why people pirate this stuff off the internet.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Just because I don't let go of an obsession so easily:

Cobra Starship, "Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)"

It's a damn catchy song! So sue me. Also, the babe who keeps trying (but failing!) to show you her boobs is the lead singer from The Sounds, whom I like.

Question: can anyone identify the graphic novel Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson is reading in that video? I at least can identify his T-shirt: Snakes Flying a Plane, as created by Overcompensating's Jeffrey Rowland (whose actual involvement with the movie, including his contribution to the DVD commentary, is documented -- with slight exaggerations -- in strips found here and here; also, the original strip which got Rowland swept up into the whole Snakes phenomenon can be found here).

I find it amusing that my blogging about Snakes on a Plane seems to have taken the same course as real world interest in the real movie: my preview post received 10 comments; my actual review got 2 comments. Remarkable correlation to the sharp drop-off in interest in the Snakes juggernaut once the product switched from potential to reality.

I'm seriously considering doing another insanely obsessive swath of reviews of all the new 2006 Fall Season TV shows, the way I did last year. I know I swore I would never, ever, ever, ever do that again, but it turns out I may have lied. I've already got the first Fall debut, Fox's Vanished, recorded on TiVo. And I can tell you, without even watching it: this is a turd of a show. It is going to suck, and it will be cancelled within eight episodes. I have absolutely zero interest in it. And yet: I recorded it. The call of TV completism beckons. Television, you are a bitch goddess. And I love you.

Did I mention I watched Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby? No? Well, I did. And it is frickin' high-larious. See it. NOW! Will Ferrell is the funniest man in America, and I will poke you in the eye if you disagree. And Sacha Baron Cohen is most likely the funniest man in whatever country he might come from. Also, Amy Adams is so adorable (despite her limited screentime), I may have to kidnap her. Or at least add her to the Object of My Affection area of my sidebar. Tremendously funny good time. My favorite bit: Ricky Bobby's contractual obligation to mention Powerade during grace.

And two hard-boiled eggs.

My plans to destroy the comic book industry (and save money) by skipping individual issues and waiting for the trade paperbacks continue apace. This week, I bought only two comics: The Walking Dead, which is still in the middle of the storyline it was on when I made my ultimatum, and Fell, which is an odd, excellent comic that may never be collected. Last week, I bought: nothing. Nada! For the first week in far too long, I spent exactly zero dollars on comics. This may make Mike and his comic-pushing overlords unhappy, but it suits me just fine. Comics are really, really bad, anyway. Seriously, they're just awful these days. Don't read comics. Except for Little Lulu. Little Lulu is awesome.

You're still here? It's over! Go home!

Monday, August 21, 2006

MOVIES: Snakes on a Plane

Wow, I didn't realize there was such a high demand (as measured in comments on my previous post) for a timely review of Snakes on a Plane. If you were waiting for my review before seeing it, you may already have missed your chance. Despite a critical consensus leaning surprisingly toward the positive side, Snakes failed to light up the box office (much to Dorian's glee). I saw the 7:30 showing on Friday night, and there were maybe 20 other people in the theater. That's a second-week Tuesday matinee crowd, not prime time opening night. Ouch.

I went into this movie not with the expectation of ironically getting a kick out of something that sucks, but with genuine anticipation that it would be a good, if lightweight, action movie. Turns out I had to rely a leeetle more on the irony factor than I was hoping in order to fully enjoy the film. When a movie opens with some XXXTREME!!! dirt-biking, coupled with some of the worst acting I've ever seen (namely, Byron Lawson as the gangster bad guy and Nathan Phillips as the dirt-biking witness), it's already got a major hole to climb out of. I mean, I watched most of Boa and Python on the Sci-Fi Channel on Sunday morning (it was a lazy day, so sue me). Boa "starred" Dean Cain, and the big draw of Python was Robert Englund (although on the plus side, it did feature a purple-haired Wil Wheaton, and Jenny McCarthy getting decapitated). And Lawson and Phillips would've been laughed out of those movies.

Fortunately, Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson shows up not too much later, and things get a little better. There's a little plot that gets in the way of the action (Jackson has to convince Phillips to testify, and takes him under his protection), and then we have to meet all the lame crew and passengers on the plane who will soon be dying (at least there was the joy of seeing David Koechner as the co-pilot, playing basically the same sexist doofus character he did in Anchorman). But then. THEN! The snakes get loose, and the fun begins.

There are a couple of snake-induced jolts, and some excellent gross-out moments, which I appreciated, but mostly I spent the entire remainder of the film laughing. Listen: a woman goes to throw up in a barf bag, and a snake jumps out of it and bites her on the tongue. How do you not love that?? The craziness just keeps escalating, the action keeps getting wilder, the people keep getting stupider, and you just have to take your brain off the hook and laugh yourself silly.

One problem with the film (only one??) is that, other than Jackson, there's not really anybody to root for on the plane (with the possible exception of Saturday Night Live's Kenan Thompson, who is the best intentionally funny part of the movie). They're all basically stupid or vile or completely undefined, so that when the snakes start chomping, you don't really care who gets saved and who doesn't. You just want the snakes to get everybody. When the death that hits the hardest is that of the actress best known for being completely disgusting in a couple movies from the Farrelly brothers, well, maybe you should've spent a little bit more time on the characters. (Other than the snakes.)

Jackson does his level best to carry this movie, and it's a large part of why it manages to be fun. (It was a small crowd, but we still all cheered at his line, "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!") But he's carrying an awful lot of weight. Even if you don't try to actually analyze the movie, even if you don't bother wishing it made at least a little bit of sense, it's still not a great work of art. It's cheesy goodness at best. I laughed a hell of a lot (sometimes even at things meant to be funny), and I came out of it feeling glad I'd seen it. I enjoyed it, but on a lower level than I was hoping it might achieve. Yes, unbelievably enough, it seems I expected too much out of a movie called Snakes on a Plane.

Friday, August 18, 2006

MOVIES: Oscar Season Officially Begins

I am sick of these muthafuckin' snakes on my muthafuckin' blog!

I am so there. Tonight. I've got Snakes on a Plane fever, baby!

My review of the most review-proof movie of all time should follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

MUSIC: Tom Petty, Highway Companion

Highway Companion

For my birthday last week, my sister gave me Tom Petty's latest album, Highway Companion. And I've been loving it. It's easily one of Petty's best complete albums. As I mentioned in this post (and as Noel Murray mentioned before me), Petty has a tendency to make great singles but very uneven albums. Such as, say, The Last DJ, which, despite repeated efforts on my part (and the support of Mr. Lowery), has yet to impress me as being much more than one really good single and a lot of so-so filler.

Highway, on the other hand, is solid from beginning to end. The beginning, suitably enough, is probably the strongest track: "Saving Grace," the first single from the album. The opening riff to the song is remarkably similar to the George Thorogood version of "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," which I hope and presume is purely coincidental, what with the recent kerfuffle over the striking similarities between the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Dani California" and Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance." It's a rousing, toe-tapping, finger-snapping tune, punctuated with a very unusual and distinctive sound during the opening verse and chorus -- a rapid metallic "tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik," which is revealed in the song's video to be the drummer rattling his sticks on either side of his cymbal's steel support pole. And, continuing from that last post I mentioned above, it's got a great opening line: "I'm passing sleeping cities/Fading by degrees."

The album doesn't quite match Petty's masterpiece, Full Moon Fever, but, similar to that album and his other non-Heartbreakers effort, Wildflowers (to go off on a tangent, the official Amazon editorial review for that album is an astounding load of horseshit), it's better overall than pretty much every single Petty w/Heartbreakers album (with the notable exceptions of Damn the Torpedoes and She's the One). Seriously, I'm beginning to wonder why Petty even goes back into the studio with the Heartbreakers.

The feeling of Highway is strikingly different from Petty's first solo venture; where Full Moon was anthemically defiant, boisterous, whimsical ("Hello CD listeners"), mischievous, and generally rocking, Highway is more thoughtful, mellow, reflective, poetic, melancholic, and generally representative of a man coming up on 20 years down the line from Full Moon. Where "Saving Grace" kicks off the album with the familiar excitement of a road trip, it's followed just five songs later with the diametrically opposed "Turn This Car Around," and shortly after that, "Night Driver," with its chorus, "Night driver, drifting home again." The open road clearly no longer holds the same appeal for Petty as it did in Full Moon's "Runnin' Down a Dream;" the road back home has become more attractive.

I'm still digesting the album at this point. Aside from "Saving Grace," other standouts for me so far include:

--"Big Weekend," whose jangly guitar in the chorus feels like the album's most blatant nod (along with the strings on "Ankle Deep in Love") to E.L.O.'s Jeff Lynne, Petty's Traveling Wilburys bandmate, and the producer of both Highway and Full Moon

--"Jack," which brings to mind the indomitable young(ish) lover of Full Moon with the chorus "You say what you want to, Jack/I'm gonna get my baby back"

--"Flirting With Time," a bittersweet acknowledgement of the passing of years: "You're flirting with time, baby/Flirting with time, and maybe/Time, baby, is catching up to you"

This is a fantastic album. It might be a little harder to listen to quite as frequently as some of Petty's other milestones, because a great deal of it muses on the passing of time, the inexorable aging process. Any one of us who recalls buying Full Moon Fever brand new can probably share Petty's Highway sentiments somewhat (damn, dude, that came out in 1989!), but putting this new album on REPEAT doesn't generate a similar kind of joy as did Full Moon. In fact, it might get a little depressing. But administered in reasonable doses, it's a beautiful collection of music, one of Petty's very best.

Monday, August 14, 2006

MOVIES: Descent

"I saw a really good horror movie this weekend," I told my friend Lew, "called The Descent." (Yes, I use hyperlinks in everyday conversation.)

"Is that the one about all the women who disagree with each other?" he asked.

I had to think about that one for a second. "No, not The Dissent!" I finally barked. "The Descent!"

"Oh, that's different." Very funny, Lew. Homophones are the lowest form of humor.

The Descent (as opposed to The Dissent, starring Sigourney Weaver, Susan Sarandon, Ashley Judd, and Natalie Portman, opening in limited release at year's end in time to qualify for the Oscars*) is the story of a group of women who take annual wilderness adventure vacations together. This year, they go on a cave-diving expedition. Bad things happen. The end.

There honestly isn't much more to it than that, although, as with any well-made film, there's actually a lot more to it than that. From the poster image --

The Descent

-- which is an homage to Phillipe Halsman's "Dali Skull" (thanks to Jim Emerson's Scanners blog for pointing this out) --

Dali Skull

-- The Descent is filled with visual tributes, primarily to classic horror and suspense films, from Carrie to The Shining to Picnic at Hanging Rock to Deliverance to Nosferatu to Night of the Living Dead and beyond. But it also bursts with originality and invention, packing in more genuine shudders and jolts than any new horror film in quite a while.

The scares are better-earned in The Descent than in, say, a film like Hostel (which I liked, I'll remind you), which mostly relied on pure viciousness and gore to get the job done. There's plenty of gore in The Descent, but by the time the blood really begins to flow, the atmosphere of mystery, dread, and impending doom has already been fully developed; I was already on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, before the real nastiness commenced.

In part, this is due to my overwhelming fear of confined spaces -- not, like, "locked in a closet" confined spaces, but "buried alive, arms pinned to your side" confined spaces. Just watching these women thread their way through tunnels scarcely inches bigger than their bodies had my heart doing backflips. GOD, that's terrifying. Imagine getting stuck, trapped under thousands of tons of rock and earth, unable to move, unable even to breathe -- geez, I'm freaking myself out again. So, yeah, that stuff already had me upside-down. Another sequence, in which the women have to traverse a deep chasm, was also tremendously suspenseful -- remember the opening scene of Cliffhanger? Yes, the Sylvester Stallone movie. Say what you will about the rest of it, but that opening scene was intense. Same thing in The Descent.

As for the women themselves, they're mostly blank slates. Sarah, the main character, suffered a terrible tragedy following the women's adventure from the previous year. Juno, the leader of the expedition, knows more than she's saying. That's about it for backstory and motivation. But this is intentional; it lets you slide into the action with as little fuss as possible, and once the action gets going, there's scarcely a moment to catch your breath, let alone take a break for extended character development. This is streamlined scariness, pure energy and terror with an incredible visual style and reverence for horror history, and it's a fine accomplishment.

I don't want to say much about exactly what does happen to the women down in the caves. I agree with a number of critics who have decided it's better for the audience to discover that for themselves. Hopefully, you'll skip any spoiler-filled reviews, and just get yourself to the theater. This is a great horror flick; in fact, it's a damn fine film, period.

*Not really. But I bet I could totally write that movie. I picture it taking place at an all girls boarding school in turn of the century New England. No, it's a family reunion of quirky Southerners. No, wait! Suffragettes! And golf! Lady golfers, and suffragettes! And maybe witchcraft. That's a Best Screenplay for sure, and possibly a Best Supporting Actress for a surprisingly restrained, career-changing performance from Tara Reid. Don't steal my idea!!

Monday, August 07, 2006

MUSIC: Tom Petty

My blogging has become a weekly occurrence, it appears! The sidebar languishes un-updated; so many TV shows and movies remain unmocked. So sad. And the likelihood of more entries in the immediate future is slim at best; tomorrow is my birthday, and much rejoicing shall take place. Followed by much recovering.

So! Just a quick post to point you in the direction of Noel Murray's latest "Inventory" piece at the Onion's AV Club, 14 Classic Tom Petty Opening Lines.

Petty is one of my favorite artists (though I would agree with a point Noel makes in his review of Petty's latest release, that Petty makes lots of great singles, but doesn't often make great albums). And I loved this "14 Lines" feature. Petty's a terrific songwriter, and these are some truly noteworthy beginnings. Such as this, from "Breakdown": "It's all right if you love me, it's all right if you don't" -- there's something tremendously evocative and compelling about that, especially in the languorous way Petty sings it. Does he care, or not? Is he expressing resignation to his lot in life, or is it a warning to the woman he's singing it to, that he's incapable of feeling?

Anyhoo. I notice one of Petty's albums not represented in this feature is one of my favorites, perhaps my second favorite by Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever would be first, of course): the 1996 soundtrack to the Edward Burns film She's the One.

It's a wonderful album, and one I think has been unjustly forgotten by fans of Petty -- or just fans of good music, really. It's a great soundtrack coupled with a mediocre film. The opening track and the album's first (only?) single, "Walls (Circus)" (repeated later on the album in a stripped-down version, sans Lindsey Buckingham's backing vocals, as "Walls (No. 3)"), is a stirring opener, upbeat but with Petty's typically conflicted personality imprinted on it. Its opening line could've made the list, so compact is it in its optimism/pessimism: "Some days are diamonds/Some days are rocks." His cover of Beck's song, "Asshole," is another album highlight ("She'll do anything/She'll do anything/She'll do anything to make you feel like an asshole"). "Angel Dream (No. 4)" is one of the most beautiful songs Petty's ever written, light and lovely and heartbreaking (opening line: "I dreamed you/I saw your face").

But the song I really would've liked to have seen on this list is "Hope You Never," which right with the first line sets itself up as somewhere between an earnest protective wish, like, say, Cat Stevens' "Wild World," and a blistering kiss-off:

"I hope you never fall in love/Hope you never get your heart broken/I hope you never fall in love with/Somebody like you."

The mood and direction of the song change with every few words. What kind of a cruelty is it to wish someone never falls in love? Then: oh, it's not cruel, it's caring, if maybe a little overprotective, maybe a daddy praying his daughter doesn't get hurt. Then, that last kick: "Somebody like you." And you can taste the bitterness, you understand that this is sung by a man who's been crushed by a woman -- he hates her, but he probably still can't help but love her a little bit, too.

Love that line, love that song, love that album.

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