Wednesday, February 28, 2007

TV: Heroes

Question about last Monday's episode of Heroes:

When Bennet, aka HRG --

Okay, let me digress right off the bat. Why is this guy commonly referred to as Horn Rimmed Glasses, or HRG for short, in TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, or wherever? As far as I know, it's a nickname that hasn't actually been applied to Bennett within the show. It's just weird to me that a character is almost universally known by a name that (again, as far as I recall) originated in publicity for the show, rather than on the show itself, either in dialogue or in the credits. (Even "Cigarette Smoking Man" was explicitly referred to as such in the credits for The X-Files, wasn't he?)

Okay, my question: when HRG shot Claude in the last episode, did it appear to anyone else that HRG was just as surprised by the gunshot as Claude? I don't think I've seen anyone else bring this up, so I thought I would. When the first shot is fired, Bennet -- sorry, HRG -- isn't really even aiming, and he reacts with a look of pure shock, as though the gun went off accidentally... or perhaps was made to go off by someone or something else? (Hey, you never know; this is Heroes, after all.) And when the second shot is fired, HRG doesn't look surprised (or as surprised), but it still seems to be accidental -- the gun goes off abruptly, right in the middle of HRG talking to Claude, when it seems HRG is not finished talking to Claude.

Just me? Or did anyone else notice this?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Great Lines in Not-So-Great Movies

Principal: "Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
Billy: "Okay, a simple 'wrong' would've done just fine."

-- Billy Madison

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Minute-by-minute at the 2007 Oscars Ceremony

2007 Oscars Pre-Show.

5:30 -- We open on a black screen (as I open my 4th beer) with a white title: "The Nominees." We go to pre-taped interviews with the stars. The awesome beginning: interviewer to O'Toole -- "You were nominated for Lawrence of Arabia.... Now, why didn't you win for that?" O'Toole -- "Somebody else did."

5:31 -- Eastwood, uncaringly: "We're nominated for Picture, Director... things like that."

5:31 -- Someone I don't know says, "I've been nominated 19 times, and I have yet to win." OUCH! I wonder what category that guy's in.

5:32 -- Someone else I don't know, possibly the screenwriter for The Queen: "Any sexual thought about the Queen is a treasonable thought. Let's be quite clear about that. Off with your head!"

5:33 -- Randy Newman: "Music isn't cheating. Except sometimes."

5:33 -- Eddie Murphy stares blankly, humorlessly into the camera. The audience eats it up. Interviewer: "You're funny doing that!" Murphy: "Really?"

5:34 -- The audience inexplicably begins applauding wildly when Adriana Barraza appears. I have to assume something is happening onstage in the theater to make them react like that. Has Ellen come out? (You know what I mean.)

5:35 -- We cut live to the theater, and all the nominees are made to stand at once. It's a nice acknowledgement for the lesser crafts, though I feel sorry for Peter O'Toole for having to support his weight for so long on his spindly little stick legs.

5:35 -- I love that the nominees use this time to meet and greet one another. Will Smith kisses Kate Winslet; Martin Scorsese kisses Helen Mirren. I'd like to see all four of them work on a project together! That would be interesting.

5:36 -- Ellen DeGeneres hits the stage. Surprisingly, she's not in a dress. Portia De Rossi, her looooover, is prominently featured in the audience. Ellen notes that the preceding filmed segment was by Errol Morris. Cool. "Tonight, we're celebrating the nominees. As opposed to all the other years, when we pretty much just celebrated the winners."

5:37 -- "I think most people dream of winning an Academy Award. I had a dream of actually hosting the Academy Awards. And, so let that be a lesson to you kids out there: aim lower."

5:38 -- "This has gotta be your favorite part of the night.... You don't really know who's gonna win. Unless you're British, and then you know you've got a pretty good shot."

5:40 -- Ellen throws out the billion number. It's a lie! Then: "Let's be honest: it's not that we don't have time for long speeches, it's that we don't have time for boring speeches." Then: "Tell them that you lived in your car. They love that."

5:40 -- Why is Michael Chiklis here? Holy crap, is that Jack Nicholson?! He's shaved his head!

5:41 -- "Abigail Breslin... how old are you? Eight? Ten? Nine? She's a four-year-old girl.... She's just happy to be here. And that's how it is, really, for your first nomination. But then after you've been nominated a few times, you just want to win, really. Am I right, Peter O'Toole? ...Eighth nomination tonight, is that right? You know what they say: third time's a charm."

5:41 -- "Jennifer Hudson was on American Idol, America didn't vote for her, and yet she's here with an Oscar nomination. That's amazing. That's incredible. And then, Al Gore is here, America did vote for him...." The audience goes nuts over this. Look for Al Gore to declare he's running sometime in the next week.

5:42 -- Ellen lists the diverse people who have been nominated: "Djimon Hounsou, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Steve Carell...." Carell sells it by giving a mystified double-take. He rules.

5:43 -- "If there weren't blacks, Jews, or gays, there would be no Oscars.... Or anyone named Oscar, if you think about that."

5:44 -- A Gospel choir comes out and files into the audience to back up Ellen's "celebrating the nominees" bit. Ellen: "I would not want to follow that. Our first two presenters are...."

5:45 -- They're Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, by the way. They present Art Direction. It goes to Pan's Labyrinth, which gets me started on a perfect record for my picks this year. A perfect record of all wrong. (I picked Dreamgirls.)

5:48 -- Maggie Gyllenhaal recaps the Scientific and Technical Awards portion of the Oscars, aka "the Oscars not important enough to make the TV show."

5:50 -- Voiceover superstars Don LaFontaine and Gina Tuttle are the announcers for the Oscars this year. That makes more sense than when they made actual actors Peter Coyote and Glenn Close do it.

5:53 -- Will Ferrell! He's got a ridiculous huge hairdo. He sings a song about "a comedian at the Oscars": "A comedian at the Oscars is the saddest, bitterest alcoholic clown." Jack Black joins him onstage: "What did you think when you took off your pants/And you ran around that racetrack and you did that silly dance? What did you think?" Ferrell: "I thought they'd loooove me."

5:54 -- Black: "We may not win tonight, but we shall win the ultimate fight. And I'm not speaking in a metaphor, I mean literally, I am going to fight the nominees.... Hey, Leo! You think you can date supermodels and win awards? I'm gonna elbow you in the larynx!" Ferrell: "Ryan Gosling: you're all hip and now. Well, I'm going to break your hip -- right now." Ferrell, later: "Mark Wahlberg! Where are you?!? I won't mess with you. You're actually kind of badass. Once again, I hope we're cool. You are very talented."

5:55 -- John C. Reilly stands up from the audience and joins in. He sings about meshing drama with comedy. Singing: "I chose to be in both Boogie and Talledega Nights."

5:56 -- Ferrell: "I'm gonna lose forty pounds to play Ralph Nader." Black: "I'm gonna do that gay coal-mining film with James Spader!"

5:56 -- All three: "So Anthony Hopkins you can laugh, but someday soon you'll see/Helen Mirren and an Oscar will be coming home with me!" Now THAT is how an Oscar musical number should be done. SO INCREDIBLE.

5:57 -- They stick around and present Best Makeup. It's Pan's Labyrinth. I'm 1-for-2.

5:59 -- Ellen does a bit backstage with a stagehand. It's exactly as unfunny as when she did a similar thing at the Emmys. I hope this isn't a running bit.

6:00 -- Abigail Breslin and Jaden Smith present Animated Short. They are both scarily composed, and read their hokey banter better than most adults. Well done. The Danish Poet wins. Whatever, dude. I'm 1-for-3.

6:03 -- Breslin and Smith return to present Best Live Action Short. It's West Bank Story. Dammit! Getting a good overall record in Oscar predictions requires a good record in these short categories. I'm hurting already.

6:05 -- Clip for Best Picture nominee Letters From Iwo Jima. I'd like to see that.

6:11 -- Ellen introduces the Hollywood Film Corral Sound Effects Choir. They do just as their name suggests -- make sound effects (wind blowing, tires screeching, etc.) to film clips running behind them. Kind of neat.

6:13 -- Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear present for Sound Editing. Carell: "Sound Editing is very much like sex. It's usually done alone, late at night, surrounded by electronic gadgets." Kinnear: "And, let's face it, if you really want to do it right, it's always best when you pay top dollar for a true professional."

6:15 -- Letters From Iwo Jima wins. I'm already a miserable 1-for-5. This guy, by the way, gives the most boring fucking speech I've ever heard. And I'm about a half hour behind real time already. Time to get another beer! That should help me type faster.

6:17 -- James McAvoy and Jessica Biel present Sound Mixing to Dreamgirls. About time I got another one right! 2-for-6. And I'm back on the right track. Let's fast forward this crap.

6:20 -- Rachel Weisz comes out to present. Last year's Best Supporting Actress -- let's hope this means she's finally going to give an acting award; the previous year's winners usually present the current year's winners in the same category for the opposite gender. And she is indeed presenting Best Supporting Actor. Whee! It goes to... Alan Arkin! The easiest upset pick of the night, and yet I neglected to pick it (I went with the safe pick of Murphy). Dang it! 2-for-7. And good for you, Roger. I should've listened to you.

6:29 -- Clip for Best Picture nominee The Departed. Just seeing this clip makes me remember it even more fondly than I already do. Man, I hope this wins.

6:30 -- James Taylor and Randy Newman perform the nominated song from Cars. It's every bit as electrifying as you'd expect. Meaning I take a short nap.

6:33 -- Melissa Etheridge sings her song from An Inconvenient Truth. The nap continues.

6:35 -- Leo DiCaprio and Al Gore come out together, and announce that the Oscars have gone "green" this year. DiCaprio presses Gore: "Are you positive that all this hard work hasn't inspired you to make any other kind of major, major announcement to the world tonight?" Gore pulls a speech out of his pocket: "I'm going to take this opportunity right here and now to formally announce--" And the orchestra strikes up the music to play him off. Funny.

6:42 -- Ellen: "Well, because the show is green, the Academy wanted me to recycle some jokes from earlier in my career. So here we go: 'What about that Gilligan's Island, huh?'"

6:42 -- Cameron Diaz. Still hating her. She's presenting Best Animated Feature. Characters from the nominated films are shown in the audience. I always hate that crap. And HOLY FUCKING HELL, it goes to Happy Feet. I haven't even seen it, but judging from the number of voices Robin Williams performs in it, it is clearly the least worthy winner of this award in Oscar history. That is some horseshit right there. Also, I drop even farther in my picks, to 2-for-8. Dag!

6:45 -- Ben Affleck, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, is a surprising breath of legitimacy following Happy Feet's win. Then, he introduces a clip about writers in the movies, compiled by offensively awful hackmeister Nancy Meyers, and it's all back to shit again. (Well, hell, she's still better than Nora Ephron.)

6:49 -- The disturbingly shaved-headed Jack Nicholson mimes like he's writing something after the montage is over. He's scaring me.

6:49 -- Tom Hanks and Helen Mirren present Best Adapted Screenplay. It's a delight to hear Mirren say the title, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

6:52 -- The Departed wins. Hooplah! I'm 3-for-9. Hopefully this is opening up a run of successful picks for me.

6:55 -- Backstage, Chris Connelly is babbling about some nonsense. Suddenly, Hanks, Mirren, and the Departed screenwriter cross his path. Connelly concludes, "More fun to come, right?" and passes the mike to Hanks. Hanks gamely enthuses, "You bet, Chris, more fun!!"

6:59 -- Ellen comes out wearing an Oscar baby Bjorn. That's not a bad idea, actually. Dig how I hotlink that site, right in the middle of my liveblogging. The fucking AV Club doesn't have any hotlinks, do they? I thought not!! (I hope not, anyway.)

7:00 -- Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway of Devil Wears Prada come out holding hands, and make me think dirty thoughts. Thank you, Oscars! They do a bit where they're still kowtowing to Meryl Streep, who's in the audience. Streep plays along and gives them a steely glare. Nice.

7:03 -- Marie Antionette wins, and I am officially a full hour behind live TV. At least this is a win for me. 4-for-10.

7:05 -- WAAUUGH!! Tom Cruise is onstage! Are the Scientologists finally launching their preemptive military strike??? No, he's presenting the Jean Hersholt award to Sherry Lansing. Whew! We're safe for another year.

7:10 -- Fast forward, fast forward. Man, that was some boring crap. Ellen goes out to the crowd to interact with Clint Eastwood. He gives her a bunch of shit, and it's pretty sweet. At long last, she gets Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her and Eastwood "for [her] MySpace page." She then makes him retake the picture, which is even funnier.

7:11 -- Gwyneth Paltrow presents Best Cinematography. It's Pan's Labyrinth. Frick! I am getting my ass kicked in my picks. 4-for-11, I think.

7:20 -- Naomi Watts and Robert Downey Jr. present Best Visual Effects. Downey pokes fun at himself: "Visual effects: they enable us to see aliens, experience other universes, move in slow motion, or watch spiders climbing high above the city landscape. For me, just a typical weeknight in the mid '90s." Well played. The Oscar goes to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. I'm 5-for-12. The lead speaker for the winners gets off a good first line: "You know, the naysayers said four blind kids from the Bronx couldn't make any visual effects, but here we are."

7:23 -- Catherine Deneuve and Ken Watanabe acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. By a striking coincidence, I have just opened my 50th beer. Not really. It's only my 7th. But seriously, that's still pretty frightening, isn't it?

7:29 -- Clive Owen and Cate Blanchett present Best Foreign Language Film to The Lives of Others (Germany). This has to be considered a HUGE upset over Pan's Labyrinth, especially considering the three awards it's already won tonight. Wow. I'm 5-for-13. Ouchie.

7:33 -- George Clooney comes out to present Best Supporting Actress. "I was just backstage with Jack Nicholson and Vice President Gore, drinking. I don't think he's running for President. My apologies."

7:35 -- It goes to Jennifer Hudson. Finally, a favorite comes through! She's got a career ahead of her, if her histrionic acceptance speech is any indication. Halle Berry and Sally Field should be jealous. "I definitely have to thank God again." God says, "Fuck you, I picked Abigail Breslin in the office pool." I'm 6-for-14.

7:41 -- Clip for Best Picture nominee Babel. Still don't want to see it.

7:42 -- Eva Green and Gael Garcia Bernal present Documentary Short. Green is so freaking hot.

7:43 -- The Blood of Yingzhou District, about a Chinese AIDS orphan, wins. I almost picked it due to my typical reasoning that the Oscars love documentaries about horrible things. I don't know why I picked otherwise. This should've been the obvious choice. I'm 6-for-15. [EDIT: Here's where I began screwing up my record. I originally said 7-for-15. Picks are adjusted from here on out.]

7:44 -- Hey, it's Jerry Seinfeld! He's presenting Best Documentary Feature. As well as two minutes of his new act. He introduces the "five incredibly depressing" nominees.

7:48 -- An Inconvenient Truth!! Very, very cool, and not just because that's one for my picks. [7-for-16. Adjusted per above EDIT.] Al Gore once again gives a speech that makes me wish he were running for President, even though I still don't think he will.

7:49 -- Clint Eastwood comes out onstage to the strains of the theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Gee, I wonder if this is the Ennio Morricone tribute. Eastwood's casual, not-caring attitude begins to seem more like a don't-know-what's-going-on attitude. It's not an insult to rehearse, Clint.

7:55 -- Celine Dion performs the "world premiere" of "I Knew I Loved You," from Once Upon a Time in America. How can she be performing a "world premiere" from a movie over 20 years old? This makes no sense.

7:59 -- Morricone gives his acceptance speech in Italian. Eastwood says he will translate. I suspect a Daily Show-style "translation," where Eastwood just makes up whatever he wants to say. I have no way of proving whether this actually happens or not. At least Eastwood doesn't use a funny voice.

8:06 -- Hugh Jackman (who has a huge ackman, I've heard) and Penelope Cruz (who's been hit in the face with a 2x4, I've heard) present Best Original Score. It goes to Babel. Crap. Another loss. 7-for-17. I'm doing awful this year!

8:09 -- Ellen: "Every time I come out here, Jack Nicholson is smiling and laughing, and it made me feel so good. And then a little while ago I saw him back there in the corner by himself, smiling and laughing... and shaving.... He has a good time. I like it."

8:10 -- Ellen presents the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Even with Ellen's challenge to him to bring it in under 60 seconds, it's still lame.

8:11 -- Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst enter to the theme from the '60s Spider-Man cartoon. Good thing they're not being typecast by those movies or anything.

8:14 -- They present Best Original Screenplay to Little Miss Sunshine. Hey, I got both Screenplay awards. Good thing, I haven't gotten much else. I'm 8-for-18.

8:16 -- Connelly, backstage: "Pan's Labyrinth, by the way, already has two Oscars." No, it doesn't. It's got three, by my count: Art Direction (5:45), Makeup (5:57), and Cinematography (7:11). Either I'm drunker than I thought I was, or I should have Connelly's job. Hell, it can be both!

8:20 -- Jennifer Lopez presents the three Best Song nominees for Dreamgirls. Fast forward!

8:27 -- Ellen: "I would not want to follow that! Please welcome...."

8:27 -- It's Queen Latifah and John Travolta presenting Best Original Song. I'm opening my eighth beer. Please take that into consideration if you spot any typos. [EDITED to fix typo in Queen Latifah's name. Seriously.]

8:29 -- Melissa fucking Etheridge wins for Inconvenient Truth! What the CRAP. So many upsets tonight! (8-for-19.) So weird. Melissa thanks "my incredible wife, Tammy, and our four children." Four? Dang, she should get a vasectomy.

8:34 -- Best Picture clip for Little Miss Sunshine. I really want to see this.

8:35 -- Will Smith. He introduces Michael Mann's clip show of America, via film clips. What an odd, vague thing to honor -- "America." That said, I'm very happy it includes a snippet of the West Side Story song, "America": "Life is all right in America/If you're a white in America."

8:40 -- Kate Winslet presents Best Film Editing. The Departed. Did I pick that? No, I picked Babel. Mother of pearl! I'm 8-for-20. This is one of my worst years ever! At least there are only four awards left.

8:44 -- Continuing tonight's theme of "Year of the Lesbian," Jodie Foster enters. Then she somberly presents the "Who Croaked This Year?" montage, and I feel bad for making that last joke. But only a little.

8:45 -- All right, folks, time to applaud for your favorite dead entertainer. Glenn Ford and Bruno Kirby both get early mild smatterings of applause, which makes me sad. A President's ex-wife (Jane Wyatt) gets more praise than those other actual superlative actors, which makes me even sadder. [EDIT: As Alan points out in the comments, I was thinking of Jane Wyman. Which makes me all the sadder.] And then we have Don Knotts, who takes the early lead! Red Buttons comes close, as does Joe Barbera, bless him. Maureen Stapleton gets up there, but James Doohan puts her to shame. Peter Boyle gets a rousing round of applause, as do Jack Palance, Mako, and Jack Warden. Hey, Basil Poledouris died? Damn! He scored Robocop, one of my favorites. There's always one that's a surprise. That one stings, and I'm not kidding. And, at the end -- it's Robert Altman! Robert Altman is the favorite dead entertainer of the year!! Congratulations, you win five seconds of clapping. And silence as the show goes to commercial.

8:51 -- Ellen: "Well, that's our show!" Then, fake-listening to earpiece: "My bad, my bad. Don't take that tone with me." She intros Philip Seymour Hoffman, to present Best Actress. And it is of course Helen Mirren. I've had some weak picks tonight, but I literally would've bet a million dollars on this category if I could've. I'm 9-for-21, and I've suddenly realized that my TiVo may not have enough padding to record this entire awards ceremony (even though I've already added a half hour to the advertised running time). I might get screwed on this.

8:57 -- Chris Connelly babbles some more. I still have Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture to go, and I only have three minutes left on the program. Hold on while I try to see if I can do some monkeying around with it.

9:11 -- It turns out I can't. I rejoin the Oscarcast just after Scorsese wins his Oscar for Best Director. I hit my pick (10-for-22), but I missed his speech. God DAMN it! How did I screw this up? I added a half hour to the program, and I'm still a half hour short? That can't be right! And yet it is. Frick. I don't even know who won Best Actor yet.

9:14 -- Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton give Best Picture to The Departed!! AWESOME!! Scorsese doesn't accept it (even though he was a producer), but he already got his long-overdue award. I can't believe I missed that moment! DAMMIT!! Oh, also, I guess Forrest Whitaker won for Best Actor. Missed that, too. What a fuck-up on my part.

9:17 -- The show is called to a close, and as best I can tell, I'm 12-for-24. I missed an award! [EDIT: No, I didn't, if my drunken double check is accurate (I originally said 12-for-23). Which, frankly, it might not be. We'll find out tomorrow.] Thanks for following along here (assuming you have). And let me know your thoughts on the show in the comments. Crazy upsets? Stupid dance routines? Vent about it to your heart's desire.

EDIT, THE MORNING AFTER: Wow. I seem to have set several personal records last night, including "most beers consumed," "most errors made," and "least comedy generated." Lesson learned: drunker does not necessarily equal funnier. I'm sure I'll be fixing little bits and pieces of the above for the rest of the day, but for now, I'll simply say thank you to those few brave souls who followed along with this mess. Also: ow, my head.

Minute-by-minute at the 2007 Oscars Pre-Show

2006 Oscars Pre-Show.

2006 Oscars Ceremony.

My 2007 Oscar picks.

3:00 -- Richard Roeper takes Roger Ebert's place on the red carpet this year, for the local ABC channel's pre-pre-show. Joining him is Ebert's usual partner, the crass and awful George Pennacchio. He's the one who couldn't stop asking attendees personal questions about their salaries last year. I expect more of that crap this time out. What an ass. I open my first beer, and away we go!

3:02 -- Technical difficulties with the sound mar the initial appearance from fashion reporters Michelle Tuzee and Randolph Duke. I can't say I'm saddened by this.

3:03 -- Sharon Stone, in a puff piece about Randolph Duke: "I know how to stand, because of this man." So many, many jokes.

3:04 -- Marc Brown looks lonely without Richard Roeper, his usual partner in exile away from the celebrities, up in the balcony. "Nuke" Roeper got called up to the majors, while Brown continues to languish with the Durham Bulls.

3:08 -- Michael Sheen, Tony Blair in The Queen, speaks to Roeper. He's damn fine in the film, but frankly he makes for a boring interview. At least, in the context of the Oscars, where you want a little more spectacle than a mostly unknown Brit.

3:13 -- Keith Robinson from Dreamgirls talks to Roeper. Wait, who? Pennacchio perpetuates the "billion people watching" myth. You realize that's a load of crap, right? There's not a billion damn people watching. Think about it: there are 300 million people in America. Maybe, maybe 20 or 25 million will watch. So they can't even get more than 6-8% max of this country to watch. Do you think over 16% of the entire rest of the world is going to watch? Not bloody likely.

3:18 -- Wow, Jennifer Hudson is bustin' some cavernous cleavage. Now that's what you want to see at the Oscars!

3:22 -- First oddball red carpet sighting: Larry David is there? Why??

3:24 -- Roeper introduces Al Gore as "the biggest rock star of all." He later says, "The Al Gore that we see in the movie, some people have said, 'I wish we had seen a little bit more of that character and humor and personality when you ran.'" Kudos to Roeper for having the balls to speak that bit of truth right to Gore's face.

3:26 -- Pennacchio asks Tipper Gore if she agrees with Melissa Etheridge that watching Al's Inconvenient Truth can be life-changing. Way to ask the tough questions, Pennacchio!

3:30 -- Did you see Pennacchio as guest critic on Ebert & Roeper this week? If not, in case you were wondering: yes, he is as awful a critic as he is an interviewer.

3:31 -- Pennacchio asks Roeper his pick for Best Picture. Roeper: "I'm predicting Babel. I thought it was going to be Nacho Libre, but it didn't make the cut."

3:31 -- Brown keeps talking about celebs that he's seen from the balcony, but of course hasn't been able to interact with, then introducing pre-taped segments on crap like the fans in the bleacher seats lining the carpet. I feel bad for him.

3:35 -- Roeper and Pennacchio talk to Catherine Deneuve. What with her shaky English, and Pennacchio's dopey fashion questions, it's very awkward.

3:36 -- A very scary Sally Kirkland stumbles up and kisses Pennacchio's microphone, then attempts to explain her bizarre outfit: "Okay, the rabbi and the reverend! The rabbi, stopping the rabbi to design this, it's kabbalah, it's Isadora Duncan, um, I'm the reverend, he's the rabbi...." And so forth. She's coocoo for Cocoa Puffs. Roeper, deadpan to the camera as Kirkland twirls like a dervish behind him: "That's the exact same speech we got from Al Gore when he was here just a few minutes ago."

3:37 -- Kirkland ends her diatribe by saying she was "George's former lover." While Pennacchio stammers, Roeper again delivers a zinger: "Well, that makes two of us. That's really not that unique, either." My estimation of Roeper is skyrocketing.

3:40 -- Duke: Jennifer Lopez looks "delicious." Tuzee, oddly: "I love that word, delicious."

3:42 -- Pennacchio to Lopez: "You don't have to come to this, but you really do support your industry, and I think that's always grand, that you make a point of being here when you're invited." Subtext: "You're never going to be here because you're nominated for anything."

3:45 -- In talking to Rachel Weisz, Roeper mentions her upcoming movie Fred Claus "with my buddy, Vince Vaughn." Wha?

3:47 -- Jennifer Hudson talks to Roeper, and she's wearing a different, more conservative dress than the one they showed her in earlier. Was that a clip from another awards show? I feel cheated. Anika Noni Rose, who is with her, is sporting an extremely low-cut bodice, so good for her for picking up the slack. (For those keeping score at home: I've just opened my second beer.)

3:52 -- Jessica Biel talks to Pennacchio and Roeper. Pennacchio throws out the "billion" number again. It's not true, dammit! (That article, by the way, suggests more like 40-45 million people watch in the U.S., as opposed to the 20-25 million I named earlier. Whoops. Well, it still ain't a billion!)

3:54 -- Will Smith, wife Jada Pinkett Smith, and son Jaden speak to Roeper and Pennacchio. Will offers some good advice: "[The Oscars] can't be important. It has to be fun.... You just can't allow it to be a neccessity for you to validate your worth. It's almost a cancerous idea, if you allow yourself to need it." It's pretty awesome to see someone on the superstar level like him who's got such a level head, and seems to make an effort to keep his kid grounded.

4:00 -- It's the difficult name portion of the show, with Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón talking to Roeper. Man, getting those accents correct in HTML is hard. That's the last time I do that tonight.

4:03 -- While Roeper and Pennacchio wait for Jackie Earle Haley, you can hear the bleachers crowd in the background going "WOOOOOOOO!" at regular intervals. It's like being in a roller coaster car.

4:04 -- Pennacchio kicks Haley to the curb when Helen Mirren appears behind him: "We'll say goodbye to you, and we say hello to Helen Mirren!" That's a shame. I haven't seen Little Children, but I just like the story of Haley's comeback from a non-voluntary (as in, no one would hire him) thirteen-year acting hiatus.

4:05 -- Mirren shouldn't share any of the blame for Pennacchio's assness. She's fantastic. And she looks lovely.

4:12 -- Pennacchio: "Richard, who you wearing?" Roeper: "This is Vinnie, from the South side of Chicago. He told me I could erase the debt if I wore this and mentioned it by name." Why is Richard Roeper the funniest guy on the red carpet? Where the hell is Will Ferrell?

4:13 -- Duke wins me over a little by critiquing Sally Kirkland. "She's definitely my Best Dressed. You know, I just think this is the way women should look on the red carpet. Not." I forgive the 15-year-old not "witticism" because of his follow-up line: "This is literally crazy.... Clearly, she's lost her mind."

4:16 -- I watched The Devil Wears Prada last night, and I mostly liked it, but after Ugly Betty, its novelty is hugely diminished. For example, all the praise for Emily Blunt, who plays the bitchy Emily in the film, leaves me cold. I felt like I'd seen it all before. And I had. But here she is on the red carpet, and she looks hot. So: well played, I guess.

4:18 -- Celine Dion talks to Pennacchio and Roeper. She's performing for the Ennio Morricone salute tonight? Weird. I wonder if she'll do the whistle from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

4:19 -- Dion throws out the same line as Jessica Biel did earlier, that she's wearing a long dress to hide her shaking knees. Next time I have stage fright, I'm going to wear a long dress, too. Although that may open up a whole slew of new problems.

4:19 -- Sacha Baron Cohen appears on the red carpet. He apparently couldn't be bothered to shave.

4:21 -- Roeper and Pennacchio kill some time with Forrest Whitaker's wife while he finishes up another interview. She seems nice. Meanwhile, I open another beer. Oh, things are going to get mean tonight if I keep this pace up.

4:25 -- Kirsten Dunst and brother Christian talk to Pennacchio and Roeper. I like her less when it's over.

4:30 -- Ahhh, Cate Blanchett. Love her. She reports she's in the middle of making a movie with Brad Pitt and David Fincher in New Orleans, and that is some damn good news.

4:31 -- Beyonce. She bugs me. It's unsettling to see someone so young who's already so phony.

4:33 -- Clint Eastwood pauses at another interviewer before getting to Pennacchio and Roeper. Pennacchio creepily leans way over with his microphone as though he's going to poach the interview. Roeper looks appropriately embarrassed.

4:35 -- Eastwood walks away from Pennacchio in mid-interview, while his wife lingers behind to explicate him. She fails.

4:39 -- Eddie Murphy makes a very uncomfortable appearance. Pennacchio notes that he just saw Murphy hugging Mickey Rooney. Murphy: "Yeah, that was surreal." Pennacchio asks what's next for Murphy. Murphy: "I got a script for Pluto Nash 2."

4:44 -- Ryan Gosling. He's wearing a pin for Amnesty International, which will be auctioned off after the Oscars to benefit the rehabilitation of child soldiers -- his pin will specifically benefit a Ugandan girl who has burns covering 80% of her body. Admirable, noble cause and all, but damn, Captain Bringdown, way to harsh my buzz.

4:46 -- Peter O'Toole ignores Pennacchio's pleas to come over for an interview; shortly thereafter, so do Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. HA! AWESOME.

4:49 -- Adriana Barraza speaks to Roeper and Pennacchio. She barely speaks English. Time to fast forward.

4:51 -- Reese Witherspoon continues looking sexy as hell, post-breakup with Ryan Phillippe. Good for her. Hell, good for all of us.

4:52 -- Is Meryl Steep really a "big, huge, mega-star," as Tuzee describes her? She's unquestionably one of the best actresses ever, but "mega-star"? That's an odd descriptor.

4:53 -- Martin Scorsese endures Pennacchio's questions about his daughter's pet bird, which is named "Leo" after DiCaprio. It's kind of creepy Pennacchio knows that.

4:54 -- Tuzee refers to a "strip tease" that Abigail Breslin does at the end of Little Miss Sunshine. I haven't seen that movie. Is that accurate? That is creeeepy.

4:55 -- Pennacchio asks Roeper if Roger Ebert had given him any tips. "He warned me about you, and everything he said was actually true, George."

4:56 -- Pennacchio and Roeper sign off. Already? They keep referring to people trying to get inside before the show begins. I thought the show started at 5:30. Are they just talking about the official pre-show at 5:00? I'm confused.

5:00 -- Road to the Oscars 2007. I guess this is what they were getting ready for. It opens with a bit from the penguins from Happy Feet. One of the penguins refers to the "million people" watching. You're correct not to say "billion," but now you're going too far in the other direction!

5:02 -- It's Chris Connelly! It's odd that this actually feels like a step up from what we've just gone through. Connelly opens with Leo DiCaprio. Good get. DiCaprio says some great things about Scorsese, which he damn well better.

5:03 -- Lisa Ling talks to Nicole Kidman (burn, Pennacchio!) and Naomi Watts. Ling asks the two friends what a typical night out for them entails. "Barbecues," says Kidman. "Lots of barbecues," adds Watts. My kind of gals!

5:05 -- Andre Leon Talley is covering fashion. So I hope this will be the last time I mention him.

5:06 -- Connelly talks to Steve Carell, which feels like a breath of fresh air. "Greg Kinnear has intense body odor," Carell shares. That's about as funny as he gets, but at least, finally, somebody other than Richard Roeper is trying to be funny.

5:12 -- I used to think Penelope Cruz was hot. Now, her weird face alarms and disturbs me. I wonder when that happened. Probably when she stopped getting naked in movies.

5:14 -- I've wondered before when I started hating Cameron Diaz. I'm still not sure, but man, do I ever hate her. Her quirky humor, which used to charm me, now seems so deliberate and calculated, and that frighteningly dark tan doesn't help much, either.

5:15 -- As Ling talks to Eddie Murphy, I realize I'm sufficiently far behind enough that the actual awards are about to begin. I'd better try to get caught up! Murphy makes another Pluto Nash joke.

5:18 -- Ryan Gosling is with his sister, Mandy, and his mother, Donna. I don't think Pennacchio and Roeper even attempted explaining why he had a woman on each arm. Thank you, Connelly.

5:22 -- Connelly talks to Mark Wahlberg. Connelly says, "First time in a Scorsese film, you get a nomination right off the bat." Wahlberg makes the obvious observation: "Why wasn't I in a Scorsese movie earlier?"

5:24 -- Ling has moved indoors, and she's talking to Kate Winslet. Winslet: 31 years old, and the youngest actress to receive five Oscar nominations. Wow, impressive. And she still has yet to win -- and won't win this year, let's face it. Seems like the consensus is, she'll get hers eventually. But at this rate, she could pass Peter O'Toole's 8 noms with no wins by the time she's my age (which is 36, you nosey bastards). Ling then asks Winslet about her nude scenes in Little Children, which is crass, but I still thank her for it.

5:28 -- And it's over. Time for the real travesty!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Toxic Hell

According to Achewood, the secret Taco Bell menu:

You can get a beer with your Ranchones if you order them Beer Style.

To have access to this menu, you must be a breast man, as opposed to an ass man. Hey, I don't make the rules.

Don't forget: my epic Oscar liveblogging begins with the pre-pre-show, at 3PM Pacific time tomorrow. Tell all your friends! No, seriously, tell them.

Friday, February 23, 2007

2007 Oscar Picks

In preparation for my always-epic liveblogging of the Oscars -- this Sunday! Don't miss it! The liveblogging, I mean; the ceremony itself, you can skip -- here are my picks in every category. I used to think I was pretty good at this, but last year I only got 12 out of 24, which is pathetic. The year before that, I got 16 for 24, which isn't shabby, but I still like to think I can do better than that.

Best Picture
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

We'll start right off with the big one, and it's a much tougher call than usual. Even last year, when Crash upset apparent frontrunner Brokeback Mountain, I was able to make that call -- even though I later chickened out and changed my guess, fool that I am.

This year, any one of these films has a chance. Babel is, like Crash, one of those seemingly profound ensemble pieces, meshing disparate lives and stories in supposedly meaningful ways, which makes it very attractive to Oscar voters. But I suspect after the Crash backlash following last year's awards, it's not enough to win. Letters from Iwo Jima has Clint Eastwood behind it, whom the Academy adores. But that's about all it's got going for it. The Queen features the surest lock of the evening, in the Best Actress category, and has an overall impressive pedigree. But in this close race, it's the longest shot. And Little Miss Sunshine is the little picture that could. It's a quirky but accessible feel-gooder without much negative feedback. And with the voting (I'm predicting) split among so many strong choices, it could very easily sneak through and take it all. (And Vegas odds have it at even money!) But my bet is that finally, finally, this is Scorsese's year. Not that The Departed isn't a fine film -- it is, it truly is -- but I just think this is the year the Academy makes up for so many past snubs (primarily for Raging Bull and Goodfellas), and gives it to Marty. At least, I hope they do. (Vegas also has The Departed at even money, by the way.)

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

I think Whitaker takes it, almost by default. None of these performances were in especially widely-seen films (except for Will Smith's, but he doesn't have a hope in hell, despite Vegas having him at 5-1). DiCaprio got nominated for the wrong film (as far as winning is concerned -- I personally believe he did give a better performance in Diamond than Departed, but the voters didn't love the former the way they loved the latter); Gosling is an unknown to the majority of voters (who, always remember, are mostly very, very old, and afraid of the fresh or controversial); and O'Toole, while appealing to those old folks, is in a film nobody saw, and, I'm calling it now, he will break the record for most acting nominations without a win (that would be eight). Whitaker's got the buzz following his Golden Globe win, and he'll get the Oscar, too.

Best Actress
Penélope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Mirren. Surest lock of the evening. (Vegas odds: second-runner Streep at 7-1; Mirren at 1-25. You'd have to bet 25 dollars on Mirren to win one back. That's astronomical.)

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

A little tricky. I'm gonna go with Murphy, who won the Golden Globe in this category, but he's just barely edging out Alan Arkin as my choice. Especially considering the sheer awfulness of Norbit, whose ubiquitous advertising may have genuinely damaged Murphy's worthiness in the eyes of the voters. (Yes, they're that petty and fickle. And can you blame them? Would you want to be responsible for giving your industry's highest honor to the dude in fat suit drag?)

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

This category is traditionally wacky, with children and ingenues frequently besting respected screen legends. Breslin has an outside shot, is what I'm saying. But in the end, Hudson is the overwhelming favorite, and I'm sticking with her.

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
Paul Greengrass, United 93
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

See my Best Picture reasoning above. Scorsese wins. I hope!

Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

The Screenplay awards, as I've noted in past years, frequently go to the most beloved or critically acclaimed films that don't have a shot at Best Picture (like, say, Lost in Translation). Using my logic, then, I'd probably have to go with Children of Men (I think the extensive improvization in Borat sinks its screenplay hopes). But I'm not. I'm picking The Departed. Hey, I said "frequently," not "always." Though I have to say, it's a tough choice. I'm very tempted to go with Children, just out of a stubborn desire to prove how I've got the Academy pegged, hoping for an upset. I may regret this, but I'll stay with Departed.

Best Original Screenplay
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

In any other year, I think Little Miss Sunshine would fit my above reasoning -- the most beloved film without a shot at Best Picture. Despite this being a year where it does have a shot -- a strong one -- I'm still picking Sunshine for the win. So I'm going completely against my usual logic, and picking both frontrunners for Best Picture to win Screenplay awards. Well, that's how it went down last year with Crash and Brokeback, so why not this year, too?

Best Animated Film
Happy Feet
Monster House

Normally, Pixar is a slamdunk here, but Cars, though very, very popular, did not garner the usual unconditional love and devotion we expect from that studio. It was solid, but not brilliant, like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles. I want to pick the quirkier, far less lucrative Monster House as an upset. But I think box office does hold sway in this category. Monster House: about $75 million. Happy Feet: almost $200 mil. Cars: almost $250 mil. Cars wins. Cynical? Yes. Incorrect? I doubt it.

Best Art Direction
The Good Shepherd
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Prestige

Now we come to the lesser, harder-to-pick categories, the ones I'll often take the lead on from other magazine and online prognosticators. For Art Direction: Dreamgirls has the most nominations of any film, which usually means it'll take a lot of smaller awards. But it's not up for Best Picture, which weakens it. Pan's Labyrinth is eye-catching and original, but little-seen. Pirates is the box office champ of the year, and the Academy does like to show some appreciation for that kind of thing in these categories. Tough call. But I'll go with Dreamgirls.

Best Cinematography
The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
Pan's Labyrinth
The Prestige

Nothing that really leaps out at me as sweepingly epic, which usually takes this category. But I keep reading about Children of Men's impressively long, handheld tracking shots, so I'll go with it.

Best Costume Design
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Marie Antoinette
The Queen

I think Oscar likes period pieces in this category, and since I've never heard of Curse of the Golden Flower, and I'm betting neither has most of the Academy, I'll say that leaves only Marie Antoinette. (Yes, Dreamgirls is a period piece, too, but it doesn't go back far enough.)

Best Documentary Feature
Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq In Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

The Academy is mostly old, and often conservative in their movie tastes, but they tend toward the liberal in their politics, which makes me think Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth wins. Traditionally, though, the most popular doc at the box office is snubbed here. But with last year's March of the Penguins win, that may no longer be the case, so I'll stick with Gore.

Best Documentary Short
The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands

Two Hands, about a pianist who loses the use of his right hand, but learns to accomodate for it in his music, is the right combination of tragic and uplifting to win here, and it seems to be the general consensus of the Oscar forecasters. Though Yingzhou, about a Chinese AIDS orphan, definitely has a shot. The Oscars love documentaries about horrible things!

Best Film Editing
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed
United 93

Babel, with its interweaving stories and whatnot. Just a strong hunch.

Best Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding, Denmark
Days of Glory (Indigènes), Algeria
The Lives of Others, Germany
Pan's Labyrinth, Mexico
Water, Canada

Pan takes the Oscar.

Best Makeup
Pan's Labyrinth

Click??? Whatever. Pan wins again.

Best Original Score
The Good German
Notes on a Scandal
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

I'll go with The Queen, though I actually saw that film, and I don't particularly recall the score. Just another hunch.

Best Original Song
"I Need to Wake Up," from An Inconvenient Truth
"Listen," from Dreamgirls
"Love You I Do," from Dreamgirls
"Our Town," from Cars
"Patience," from Dreamgirls

It's gotta be Dreamgirls, despite the potentially vote-splitting three nominations. I had to check the online consensus on this one, and it seems to be for "Listen," and that's fine by me.

Best Short, Animated
The Danish Poet
The Little Matchgirl
No Time for Nuts

Matchgirl, because it's by Disney.

Best Short, Live Action
Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)
Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

Haven't the slightest. I'll go with the Oscar-picking community again, and say Eramos Pocos.

Best Sound Editing
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

This one often goes to big budget, special effects flicks, so I'll take Pirates. Even though Flags of Our Fathers seems to be a favorite pick of several prognosticators.

Best Sound Mixing
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

This one often goes to movies with music, so I'll take Dreamgirls.

Best Visual Effects
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Superman Returns

I'll have to let box office decide this one, and that would be Pirates in a landslide.

And that's it! Any quibbles or picks of your own? Let me know! And don't forget to check back here on Sunday, to get your fill of mean-spirited, drunken snipes at people far more famous and wealthy than I can ever hope to be. Aw, I'm sad now!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why Comics Are Good

Last week, when I linked to this review of Spider-Man: Reign at the Savage Critic(s) blog, and subsequently started seeing a bunch of other links to it popping up all over the place, I flattered myself by thinking I had started the avalanche of awareness of Graeme's awesomely outraged look at a very nasty development.

Then Jeff (Graeme's fellow Savage Critic) pointed out that Journalista was the first to link to it, the day before me.

Dang it! I swear I never saw that Journalista piece. I actually thought I was ahead of the curve on this one. Turns out I was behind Journalista. And Bookslut. And Wired. And Time. D'oh! So much for my grand illusions. Did nobody read about it in my blog first?

Hey, turns out someone did: Fred Hembeck! As Roger Green points out in the comments to my post, the good Mr. Hembeck not only tumbled on to Graeme's review via my blog, he gave me credit for it in the latest installment of THE FRED HEMBECK SHOW! (The hilariously titled Episode 92: "Peter Parker's Pecker Problem.")

Yay for me! And thank you, Fred (and Roger). Maybe comics aren't so bad after all. We just need more of Fred's humor, and less of Spider-Man killing his bride with radioactive spider-semen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Coveted Sidebar Update

Welp, it's been almost a month since the last one, so it's about time for another "weekly" Sidebar Update. Enjoy at your leisure. Ignore at your peril!

This Week's Object of My Affection is Rena Sofer, who has just about the loveliest eyes I've ever seen. She's gorgeous, and she's funny, but much like Paula Marshall, she's also a showkiller. Which has gotta make fans of Heroes and 24 nervous, since she's a recurring character on both shows this season. Among the cancelled series littering her past: the one-season (or less) wonders Oh, Grow Up, The Chronicle, Blind Justice, and Coupling, and one season each of Just Shoot Me! and Melrose Place -- which in each case turned out to be that respective long-running show's last season. In all fairness, it's not like she alone can be blamed for, say, the awfulness of the American version of Coupling, nor the failure of Blind Justice -- remember that one? Ron Eldard as a blind cop who still got to carry a gun? Yeah, I'm not putting that one on Rena's head. Still, there's a point where you have to think, Why do people keep casting this chick? Then you look in her eyes and go, Oh, right.

I'm still reading Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, at the pace of about one page per week, so I should be finished some time in the 22nd century. Meanwhile, I picked up the most recent Doonesbury book as comfort reading during my recent illness: Heckuva Job, Bushie! A lot of it -- most of it -- is still sharp, poignant, and hilarious, especially B.D.'s continuing road to recovery from his war injury; some of it, though, made me wince, such as the astoundingly clueless swipes at blogging, or the toothless attacks on softball targets such as Donald Trump or former rocker Rod Stewart's covering oldies on his latest albums. There's actually a Sunday strip with Joanie complaining about the slovenly appearance of today's protesters as opposed to those of the '60s. Now, that might be a knock on the changing perspective (or fading memory) of baby boomers like Joanie, or it might be boomer Trudeau's real outlook, but either way, it's pretty weak. That said: still mostly damn fine cartooning.

I've been watching the wonderful British sitcom (or "Britcom," if you will, though I hope you won't) Black Books (which was first brought to my attention by Dorian -- thank you very much). I've got season 1 on DVD, and I've been watching the new-to-this-country season 3 on BBC America. It centers around Bernard Black, the riotously foul-tempered owner of the Black Books book shop; his best friend and drinking buddy, Fran (with whom he may or may not have a romantic past: she won't allow him to recall, and he obeys); and his helplessly loyal and abuse-absorbant employee, Manny. If you like Spaced, you'll like Black Books -- the two programs share a comedic sensibility, as well as several actors guest appearing back and forth (including Simon Pegg as Manny's temporary new boss in season 3 of Black Books); if you don't know what Spaced is, then seriously, I just can't help you. So hop it.

Listening to Dropkick Murphys' The Warrior's Code, another dose of fantastically rousing Boston Irish punk rock. If you've seen The Departed, you've heard at least one tune from this album: "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," which was prominently featured in the film. And which was written by Woody Guthrie (!) but never before recorded (as far as I know). Damn fine song, damn fine album.

The Hating category is painful for me this week. I used to be a big fan of Tim Hardaway back in his days with the Warriors. Then, last week, in response to retired NBA player John Amaechi's coming out as gay, Hardaway had this to say to a Miami sports radio program: "Well, you know, I hate gay people. I let it be known I don't like gay people. I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world, in the United States, I don't like it." I know, it shouldn't shock me quite so much: News flash! Athlete is homophobic! But it does. It's disappointing to learn that someone you admired, even if only for his ability to handle a basketball, is a hateful scumbag.

Lyric of the Week comes from John Mellencamp, back when he was still John Cougar Mellencamp: "Authority Song," from the poetically-named album, Uh-Huh. "Dyin' to me don't sound like all that much fun." Amen to that, brother Mellencamp. In fact, I'm planning on skipping it entirely. I'm not sure how, yet: I may ascend to a higher plane of being, one of pure thought, perhaps, or I may simply not die. I'll let you know how it turns out in a million years or so.

And that's it! Go home now.

NOTE: Posted at 10:00 PM Tuesday, but post-timestamped to midnight Wednesday for your my convenience. Hey, it helps Mike keep his blog daily; I might as well try it with mine, if I'm ever going to create the semblance of a daily schedule.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Excuses, excuses

Another dearth of blogging, another excuse: I was sick. Again. From the same thing, as a matter of fact. And I'm not the only one who's had a recurrence of this stomach bug that's going around. So watch out, Mike. You may think it's over -- but it's not. (Kind of like Return of the King.)

And again, while I was gone we've suffered a celebrity death. Last time it was Anna Nicole Smith. This time, it's the last lingering shred of Britney Spears' sanity.

You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?

Speaking of Anna Nicole -- those of you who have compared her to Marilyn Monroe: STOP IT. Just fucking stop. It's wrong, insanely, incredibly wrong. Being a blonde with big boobs who appeared in Playboy doesn't make you the next Marilyn. Nor does having a train wreck of a personal life. I tell you what: I'll give even a molecule of credence to this suggestion if you can show me Anna Nicole's Some Like It Hot. Or Seven Year Itch. Or Bus Stop, or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.... Or anything in which Anna Nicole was not horrifically, painfully bad, the object of pity more than desire or appeal. And don't say The Hudsucker Proxy; it's the exception to the rule (assuming you even think it was a good movie, which I do but many do not), and it's not like she had much to do in it. My assessment of Anna Nicole remains (warning: very mean-spirited): at least she established the proper exit strategy for insanely wealthy and famous but completely worthless people. Paris Hilton, take note.

Coming up soon: my full list of Oscar picks, followed by my traditional liveblogging of the pre-show and main event on Sunday. Here's how excited I am about the Oscars this year: I didn't even realize they were this week until I saw the cover of TV Guide at the supermarket last night. That's okay: I will replace any lacking enthusiasm, as usual, with beer. Lots and lots of beer.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brill Building R.I.P.

Ian Brill retires the Brill Building blog.

It's a shame to see it go. My buddy Ian and his blog have long provided smart, funny, and insightful comics commentary. It's nice to know Ian is just transplanting his deep knowledge of and love for comics from his blog over to print journalism, but I'll miss the blog nonetheless. It was, after all, responsible for the beginnings of this blog, as you'll see if you look at my first ever entry.

So long, Brill Building. And keep up the good work, Ian!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why comics are bad

Wait a second. Spider-Man killed his wife -- HOW?!?

I don't even want to spoil it for you anymore than that. Go check out that link, and read the review of Spider-Man: Reign. And then come back and tell me if you're not completely disgusted. Tell me I'm not right for cutting comics almost entirely out of my diet.

I swear, it's like the comics companies are getting bonuses for driving customers away.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Studio 60 no more!

If you've been waiting for my recap of all the annoying things in part 2 of that Studio 60 episode I watched last week... well, I've got some bad news for you. My TiVo made the tough decision for me, and deleted the episode before I could watch it. And I say: thank you, TiVo. Always looking out for my best interests.

There's a new episode on tonight, but you know what? I'm out. I'm done, finished, through. I am officially giving up on this show, about ten episodes after all the sane people gave up on it. It's just a stupid waste of time to keep sitting through an awful program, week after week, waiting for it to get better, when in fact it only keeps getting worse. To remind you: the last episode I watched ended with Danny, who has been stalking his boss, Jordan, trapped up on the roof with her in the most pathetic of sitcom cliches; Matt, the comedic genius who can't write funny, harrassing Harriet, the comedic genius who can't act funny, in the most chemistry-free non-romance ever seen on TV; and Cal, the super-competent director, about to unleash a fucking coyote in the studio. JEEZUS, what a moronic show. Yep, I'm good and done with this crap. Hooray for me!

Studio 60 is being pulled from the air soon, anyway, to make room for The Black Donnellys. If we, and television as a whole, are very lucky, this will be one of those "temporary hiatuses" that turns into a permanent vacation. And all these talented people will be able to find work for a show creator who isn't exorcising his personal relationship and workplace demons in the ugliest, clumsiest fashion possible.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith is dead and I'm not feeling so hot myself

Hey folks. Sorry for the lack of posting. I've been sick as a dog (Tom the Dog, specifically) all week. Still not over it. But at least I was able to get to the comics shop -- after spending a full hour at work before the boss told me to just go home -- and get myself a couple of comfort books to read. Two trade paperbacks: The Goon and Little Lulu. Hey, smirk if you want, but Little Lulu is comedy gold -- gold, I tell ya!!

That's about all I wanted to say. Except for one random note: did you know John Mellencamp and Stephen King were collaborating on a stage musical? For years now, apparently. It's called "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County." How can something as bizarre as this exist without my knowledge?!?

One last thing: does anyone know the origin of the phrase I used in the post title? "X is dead and I'm not feeling so hot myself." Where does that come from, and why do I know it?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Layout Update

I switched over to the new version of Blogger, and tried to update the look of the blog for a little while. But the new version of Blogger is kind of screwy, and I got bored and frustrated and switched back, mostly. I'll be changing things bit by bit over the next few days, probably, as I figure it out, so bear with me.

Now let's see if this post looks normal, or if it's all screwy, too.

World Series of Pop Culture

Thanks to Swimming in Champaign for this info: VH1's World Series of Pop Culture is gearing up for a second season!

Man, I'd love to be on that show. I watched last season, and I think I could've done tremendously well. The problem would've been finding a couple other people who would want to form a team for the audition.

Sadly, it looks like it's too late to make any of the auditions this year. Everything's booked to capacity, and the L.A. auditions are already past, anyway. How did I miss this?? However, there is still an upcoming online quiz: February 14, 7PM & 10PM Eastern (4PM & 7PM my time). Three of the highest-scoring test-takers will be selected to form a wild card team, and be entered in the main tournament! Guess that solves the problem of having to form a team myself.

I wonder if I'm not allowed to apply, having already been on a game show this year. Oh, well, I'll take the test anyway, and see what happens. And so should you! Good luck if you give it a try.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Studio 60 test

I'm still watching Studio 60. Yes, I know it's awful. But I can't seem to stop. I think I'm watching it now specifically to get angry at it. Which is perverse, but it's not like I've never done that before. I did the same thing with 7th Heaven for about a season and a half. Watching terrible TV for the joy of complaining about it afterward. That's sad. Hi, I'm Tom!

I need to stop doing this to myself. I'm sure all this rage at my TV is bad for my heart, as well as the assorted knickknacks I keep hurling against the wall (those Lladros smash real pretty, but it's getting to be prohibitively expensive). Yet I still come back for more. I think, in the back of my mind, I keep secretly convincing myself that, because a show has all the ingredients for being good -- many actors I like, a rich premise and interesting setting, scripts written by someone known for his sharp, funny dialogue -- the show itself must be good. And it's not. It's really, really not.

So I'm going to try something here. I'm going to write the numbers 1 through 10 below. Then I'm going to go in the other room and watch the most recent episode of Studio 60. Every time I get mad enough to pause the show in order to preserve my sanity, or to throw something, I'm going to come back in here and write about it. If I get all the way up to #10, I'm going to stop watching the show, no matter how far I am into it, and I'm going to delete it from the TiVo. I'm hoping this will either break me of the habit of watching the show, or, at the very least, give me a blog post which makes the watching slightly more worthwhile.

1. 0:16. Wow, made it all the way up to the 16 minute mark before getting too irritated to continue. Probably because most of the top of the show involved Steven Weber's Jack, and Jack is my favorite character. Mainly because he seems to hold the other characters in as much contempt as I do. And the stuff with Matt bidding for a date online with Harriet, while spurning her for a date in real life: though insanely stupid and obnoxious, I was able to get through it because I was already exposed to it last episode. But this nonsense between Darius and Simon is escalating in an ugly way. Simon apparently is determined to crush and control Darius, using the excuse that as the only black men on the show, they have to stick together. So, in the name of brotherhood, Simon is trying to dominate Darius through abuse and intimidation (at this particular juncture, by slipping Darius some racist hate mail in the guise of fan mail). Real nice. And the way Matt relishes Simon's presumable eventual victory over Darius is also distasteful in the extreme. Damn, Simon, maybe Darius didn't want to write your sketch about a militant new Fruit of the Loom fruit because it's stupid. But since every sketch on this show is stupid, I guess that can't be it.

2. 0:20. Immediately after the commercial break, we have Harriet and guest star Masi Oka filming Heroes-themed promos for the fictional Studio 60. Pretty much everything about Harriet annoys me; I think she's the worst character on the show, an alleged brilliant actress and genius comedienne who has yet to show even a glimmer of talent. Here, she can't get through an unfunny promo ("Save me, save the world") without cracking up for no reason and ruining it, and she does her "Dolphin Girl" voice again, which has the director and crew in stitches, but which is so far from being funny it would need to take two buses and a taxi to get there. I do enjoy, though, the fact that Masi Oka, who's got half a season of a semi-popular sci-fi show to his credit, snottily informs Harriet that to play Anita Pallenberg (in the film role she's been signed on for), she will have to act, rather than do funny voices. BURN!! When the time-traveling guy from the superhero show thinks you're a shitty actress, that's hard to overlook. Also, when she does the Dolphin Girl thing:

Masi Oka: What the hell was that?
Harriet: Dolphin Girl. Funny new voice.
Masi Oka [completely disbelieving]: Really.
That's awesome.

3. 0:23. Tom's lying to Lucy about why he has to break their date. It's so lame, so Three's Company, complete with the traditional repeating of a question (Lucy: "What happened?" Tom: "What happened?") before inventing an outrageously transparent and unnecessary lie to that question. And gee, I wonder if it will all blow up in his face? I also wonder if the sun will rise tomorrow.

4. 0:27. Okay, this commercial parody: "Dora's Hammer of the Gods" for Playstation 3? What the hell is this even about? I can't even understand the supposed humor here. Is "Dora" supposed to be Dora the Explorer? Is "Hammer of the Gods" supposed to be a reference to this video game from 1994? Or a reference to Led Zeppelin? Or just some generic menacing-sounding term that's inappropriately paired with Dora the Explorer (if it is Dora the Explorer)? And what do the poisonous snakes have to do with anything? This doesn't make a lick of sense. But, as the show will surely have you believe, somehow it's brilliant! And I don't even want to get started on the whole missing snake bit, which sounds like the set-up for another Three's Company-level prank.

5. 0:36. Matt, to Danny, re: Jordan: "You know you don't have anything to apologize for." Danny: "Yeah." No, nothing at all. Aside from the stalking! Asstard.

6. 0:38. Aaaannnd Danny and Jordan get stuck on the roof. Three's Company! I have to assume they're on the roof only because the set didn't have an elevator for them to get stuck in. Or a walk-in cooler. This is pathetic. Next week, Mrs. Roper is going to overhear Chrissie talking about removing a wart and think Chrissie is having an abortion. (Actual Three's Company episode, by the way.)

7. 0:41. One of the most obnoxious habits of Aaron Sorkin's writing is to have all his characters know insanely obscure trivia details that no one would know in real life. Right here, Matt meets his online auction competitor, "Lukes5858," and when the kid mentions his screen name is Star Wars-based, Matt immediately knows this is because George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch is at... 5858 Lucas Valley Road. Why? Why? Why would he have that knowledge? Even if he's been to Skywalker Ranch, there's no reason for him to have the address photographically memorized like that. I'm sure there are big Star Wars fans reading this. Did you know that address? Even worse is when Sorkin contrasts impossible knowledge with impossible non-knowledge -- when smart characters don't know something smart people should know. My favorite example is from The West Wing, when nobody in the White House had ever heard of the animal, the lynx.

8. 0:42. Neither Danny nor Jordan can get cell phone reception on top of a building in Los Angeles. WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID, SCRIPT?? STOP BEING SO STUPID!!

9. 0:53. We're supposed to believe the promo with two seconds of Harriet's stupid Dolphin Girl voice has become an internet sensation?? How stupid does Aaron Sorkin think everyone on the internet is? (Oh, yeah: very stupid.)

10. 0:56. TO BE CONTINUED?? God DAMN it. This lame-ass episode, with the snake in a drain and the dopes on a roof and the slutty Juilliard girl and whatnot is deserving of a part two? Why must the torture be stretched out like this?!?

And there we go. I was probably being generous, spacing things out so that I got to #10 right at the end of the show. But that's all right. You know, I think it actually helped me, to write this post, and get everything out of my system. That should last all the way until the next episode. Which is tomorrow.

Right now, I understand there's a football game about to start. Have you heard? I was thinking of checking it out if I don't have anything better to do.

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by