January 29, 2009

Get lost

Let’s talk about 'Lost'. (Again – if you are anywhere that’s not up-to-date, this is your spoiler alert.)

What a mediocre episode, huh? Actually, scratch that – what a mediocre first half of an episode, rescued by an amazing reveal. Well hello there, young overzealous Island-resident-who’s-not-Dharma-but-not-yet-Hostile, Charles Widmore!

This episode, ‘Jughead’ (which we saw etched on the side of the H-bomb that’s taken up residence on the island in 1954, courtesy of – gasp! – the US military) asked a lot of its loyal fan base, by focusing on all new characters (even Desmond isn’t an original beachie, and when the only original character being focused on is John Locke, you know you’ve got a problem.) and, more importantly, all new mythology. The producers aren’t leaving any room for doubt – this year is all about the time travel. We’re not flashing back and learning more about a character, or flashing forward and continuing their story. We are seeing all new ones created right in front of us. Without Jack, Kate or Ben. It’s a lot to take in.

Some random thoughts about the episode:

  • Angela Chase’s dad as the hardnosed lawyer who wants to take Aaron away from Kate? (Fine, that’s from the preview for next week, but still.) Blasphemy!
  • This was a good break from self-preserving, in-love-with-Kate, sarcasm-spewing Sawyer, which was getting a bit one-dimensional for my taste towards the end of last season and in last week’s episodes. It was classic, toned down Sawyer, and he had the best line of the night, as new blonde Other asks Faraday about time travel: “You told her??”
  • Anyone feel like they are dividing the loyalties of Those Who Left the Island among Ben and Widmore? I know Desmond isn’t an Oceanic 6, but I feel l like they’re lining him up to be working with Widmore (more on that below), and we already know Sun is. Jack and Sayid are with Ben. Where will Hurley and Kate land?
I’m not one for theories. I barely read them, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had one – I prefer to trust the writers and creators to take me where I need to go with this story – but I just got a feeling last night about the impossibly blue-eyed, possibly dead Charlotte. There’s something there between her and the Charles Widmore-funded coma (for lack of a better word) patient.

“She’s not here right now,” said comatose girl’s sister. So, her consciousness is where exactly? Are we really supposed to think that Daniel Faraday fell in love with some girl, convinced her to participate in his experiments that involve transporting rat brains through time, just to heartlessly abandon her penniless and comatose and go off on adventures. They haven’t been building up his character as a nervous softy to throw that one at us.

I can’t believe I’m about to write this sentence, but: What if during these experiments, he “lost” her somewhere in time and this whole time he’s been searching for her, and she somehow is Charlotte, about to move times again and that’s what’s going on with the bloody nose thing? Yes, I realize she has a different body. I haven’t figured that part out yet.

Okay, that is enough mind-boggling for the day. Moving on. Final 'Lost' thought for the day:
Dear Desmond,

You are a moron. I have never been more mad at a television character, and this includes when Lorelai cheated on Luke. You go straight to the man who has proved he’s absolutely moral-free when it comes to island-seeking, whose own daughter is afraid of what he’s capable of, and tell him who you’re looking for? That’s great that you didn’t answer any of his questions. That’s great that you half-heartedly tried to tell Penny that you weren’t going to follow any more clues. Fact of the matter is that you are now headed – wife and son in tow – to an address that was given to you by Charles Widmore.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Nice sunglasses though.


PS: Thank you for naming your adorably curly haired child Charlie. That is really nice.

January 28, 2009

Ensembles, redux

There’s a problem with my proposal for the Academy Awards to add a Best Ensemble award, and, for this problem, I blame Trevor.

While we complained to one another that ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ had won ‘Best Ensemble’ at Sunday's SAG Awards, putting it one notch closer to taking home the Oscar for Best Picture, a move that everyone will regret once the dust settles and they look around and realize that the Feel Good Indie of the Year was, at best, a mediocre movie levied by credits that rolled over a Bollywood dance number (What would have happened, people, if 'Little Miss Sunshine' had actually WON the Best Picture award it was nominated for?), Trevor asked “How could it win Best Ensemble, when only one member of that ensemble was nominated individually?”

I’m paraphrasing here. But, it’s true. If you, the SAG Board, are nominating the Best Actors (Sidenote: I truly appreciate that the SAG Awards call both males and females “actors”.) throughout individual categories, shouldn’t the movie with the most nominated people have the best ensemble? Doesn’t that just make sense? The fact that, in this case, that movie would have been 'Doubt' - a film I disliked much more than 'Slumdog Millionaire' (which I actually liked some - it's mostly the backlash talking) - is unfortunate, but when a good point has been made, who am I to disagree?

Consider yourself warned.

Don’t turn on your TV on Thursday night looking for a new episode of 'The Office.' This week’s episode is airing on Sunday after the Super Bowl. Annoying.

Initially, this spot was reserved for the premiere of a new Office spinoff, and would have ostensibly been hoping to capitalize on the huge number of viewers carrying over from the Super Bowl. But, now The Office spinoff is no-more, having evolved into the upcoming Amy Poehler sitcom. So, now, instead of airing a very popular TV show on its very popular night, before a show that needs the lead-in, they are asking me to stay up way past 11PM, for an hour-long episode, after I’ve probably already been sitting in front of the TV for 4 hours [drinking beer]? At least it looks hilarious (obviously):

Mostly, I wonder why it can’t be on on both Thursday AND on Sunday with new episodes. Okay? Thanks.

Free at last, free at last

Betcha thought with a title like that, this would be another entry about the inauguration and the change coming to our country courtesy of one Mr. Barack Obama. Nah, not today. Instead, I’d like to talk about the most liberating thing I’ve ever done.

See, I work in the suburbs and there’s very little foot traffic. If I make it to the gym after work, I wait at a bus stop where literally an hour can pass without another pedestrian (I know this for a fact, thank you very much MBTA.). On Friday, as I stood in the cold waiting for the 7:03, one of my favorite songs by The National came on, and as the cars whizzed by – windows up of course – I found myself singing along.

You know you have a permanent piece…

And it was awesome. As the song built, I glanced around just to make sure there was no one approaching – and started singing louder.

Take all your reasons and take them away
To the middle of nowhere, and on your way home…

This may seem tame – and, I admit, it probably is – but I’ve never been skinny dipping. You couldn’t pay me enough money to go streaking. And I’m barely congnizant enough during my morning shower to remember to shampoo, so singing never happens. I’ve got to take these liberating thrills where I can get ‘em.

January 26, 2009

Movie Review: Man on Wire

Every year, there’s a documentary that achieves some semblance of mainstream success. (As much as a good chunk of the country would hate to admit it, a large reason for this, in recent years, is Michael Moore. Before he became quite so self-righteous and abrasive he was shedding some needed light in ‘Roger and Me’ and ‘Bowling for Columbine’.) This year’s ‘March of the Penguins’ is ‘Man on Wire,’ a film they’ve been showing at our local independent theater for – no joke – the last 6 months. Of course, we wound up seeing it on Netflix instead.

Please note that the film is named ‘Man on Wire’ because those are the words that appeared – in all capitals – on the police report, to describe the wrongdoing: MAN ON WIRE. That’s much more hilarious than it being some kind of play on the barely mediocre Denzel Washington film, ‘Man on Fire.’

It’s the story of a tightrope walker from Paris, who in 1974 put a tightrope between the two towers of the newly constructed World Trade Center, and walked between them. Leading up to this stunt, he had also “wirewalked” at Notre Dame and over a bridge in Sydney, some pretty daring feats, but nothing compared to the wire suspended 102 floors up at the World Trade Center.

The movie was interesting, and included interviews with the actual wirewalker, as well as his cohorts (the guy who was working at the WTC at the time, who they were able to send supplies to, his girlfriend, etc.). Unfortunately, they also introduced characters (for lack of a better term) who, it turned out, dropped out of the stunt before it went down, which made little sense to me. Especially, since we were already keeping track of one Jean-Francoise, one Jean-Louis, one “Australian”, one Albert and one Alan.

It was particularly neat to see actual footage from planning and training meetings interwoven with the interviews, which made it strange that the director also included re-enactments. That part was just kind of awkward. Also awkward: The wirewalker in one scene, in an attempt to illustrate hide-and-seek, does so with just his head poking out of a curtain.

All in all, an enjoyable movie to digest – I hope some of the real-life people get to go to the Oscars!

7.5 Twix bars!

January 23, 2009

An open letter

Dear Brendan Fraser,

Please explain to me the difference between the last 3 movies you’ve been in:


"Journey to the Center of the Earth"

"The Mummy 3"


January 22, 2009

It’s a beast

Can you believe the amount of marketing dollars that are being spent to promote ‘The Beast,’ the new A&E original series starring Patrick Swayze?

Let’s count:
  1. At AMC & Regal Cinemas, it is part of the pre-show entertainment promotional extravaganza, featuring cast interviews, pilot excerpts, etc.
  2. The pilot is available for free download through iTunes
  3. It’s being advertised with prime time commercials on non-affiliated networks
  4. There are radio commercials through online streaming radio stations.
Here’s the thing, part 1 – I really respect the integrated marketing plan they’re attempting.

Here’s the thing, part 2 – Everyone loves Patrick Swayze, for one of the following reasons: Dirty Dancing/Ghost (requisite chick flick), Road House/Red Dawn (requisite tough guy flick), Point Break (requisite for everyone ever) or Donnie Darko (requisite indie flick). For the most part, he avoided becoming a washed-up star, and (And I truly don’t mean this to sound callous), now that he has cancer, people love him even more because they're rooting for him.

But there is only so much you can do, when, by most accounts, Patrick Swayze is the only good thing about this show (Check out the reviews from: Entertainment Weekly, New York Times,
Hollywood Reporter). So, it's hard to not feel like A&E knows that people want to be supportive of Patrick Swayze, regardless of the context, and that is why they are shoving a mediocre show down our throats so much.

Of course, it seems to have worked, because I DVRed the pilot episode. But, I don’t know if I can watch it, because if I hear “You can trust your case file. And you can trust ME” one more time, I literally might scream.

So many questions

This post is going to be about 'Lost'. Consider it one giant spoiler if you’re anywhere behind last night’s 2-hour season premiere. Got that? SPOILER ALERT.

Okay. These are clearly just the beginning of the questions, but here we go (screen caps courtesy of lost-media.com):
  • Are they trying to make Sun potentially evil? Like, she probably isn’t, but they’re going to give her borderline sketchy lines so we don’t really know? How much does she blame Jack for Jin’s death?
  • When do we get Charles Whitmore's back story? Why do I still feel like he's Caleb from The OC?
  • Is anyone else annoyed by the eye makeup future (or is it now current?) Kate wears? We get it – eyeliner means she’s not on the island anymore, but I feel like it makes her eyes look swollen, as if she’s been crying for the last three years of her life.
  • Doesn’t it seem like they have really turned up the musical score over the last 2 seasons? It’s like we’re constantly being reminded how dramatic everything is.
  • Is Miles the son of the main Darma Initiative guy (from all the videos)?
  • Why has nothing bad happened to Kate since being off the island?
  • Why (Whyyyy) on earth would they cast the Aaron Burr/Got Milk guy as the annoying castaway who we mysteriously have never seen before?
  • Say Sawyer gets a shirt (heaven forbid) from their camp on the beach if/when that reappears. Will it disappear when they move times?
  • Is Desmond “special” because he kind of landed on the island of his own volition? But do we even believe that? (It’s awfully coincidental that he would go off on a boat trip to prove to Whitmore that he’s worthy of the love of his daughter, only to land on the island that Whitmore himself is searching for – and if 'Lost' has taught us anything, isn’t it that there’s no such thing as a coincidence?). Did the island pull him in? Does the island want Whitmore to come back? (Yes, *back* – that’s one of my very few theories,)
  • Why doesn’t Walt have to go back to the island?
  • Why do Hurley’s parents have such awful hair?
  • After everything that he put her through, would Kate really have a picture of Jack and Aaron on display in her house?
I think that's enough for now. I know you have more - What did I miss?

For the record, all these questions have nothing to do with my enjoyment of this show. I am good with there being questions – that’s what keeps me watching. Also, I feel like there will be some fan backlash on this upcoming season’s reliance on time travel, but I’m also good with this as a plot arc. I think they need ways to keep everything fresh, and this is the new mystery, just like The Others were originally, and then Desmond, and then the future, etc. I am so glad it's back.

January 20, 2009

The one thing Apple does wrong

The search functionality on iTunes could not be worse.

When looking for a song titled “The Wrestler”, which is performed by one “Bruce Springsteen”, should there really be no search results when you type in “The Wrestler Bruce Springsteen”? This has proven a problem in the past, as I’ve searched for some classic Blink-182 songs (don’t judge me). I’m sorry, but, really – who knows about that dash in between Blink and 182? I’m not sure that should be a requirement to find ‘Adam’s Song,’ okay? This is less of a problem on YouTube:

The only thing that’s possibly less functional within iTunes is that inane invention, Genius, which proved so useless I had to disable after just a week. It was supposedly designed to recommend songs and artists that you would like based on what you were listening to, but it didn’t A) Take into account the rest of your library (So you'd be recommended songs by the same artist that you already own - even ones on the same album), or B) Move along with your playlist (So unless you went in a physically highlighted a different song, you'd have the same information constantly). Useless.

Whoops – I guess that was 2 things Apple does wrong.

Thoughts on the Inauguration

I was lucky enough to be able to watch most of the inauguration ceremony today at work – they set up a full projection screen in the kitchen, but I opted for the privacy of my office, so I could share thoughts with Trevor, and (just maybe) shed some tears in peace.

Here I am with President Barack Obama:

What did you think? Here are just some things that went through my head:
  • Aretha Franklin is amazing, even if she dresses up like a bow.
  • It’s hilarious that Diane Feinstein is considered this evil beacon of liberal-ness – and she’s just this normal-looking woman with Grandma hair.
  • Do you think that Joe Biden and Obama decided what color ties to wear, so that one would be in red and one in blue?
  • He’s only the 6th youngest president?
  • Bill Clinton got WHITE hair.
  • Just two things I appreciate from Obama’s inauguration speech: He mentions non-believers in line with all those of all different religions that make up this country. And he points to the great heroes who make up this land, including the soldiers and the firefighters, and wrapping up with mention of some the greatest heroes: Parents. My favorite tiny quote excerpt: “As the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself." (Complete inauguration address text)
  • That benediction from Reverend Joseph Lowery (co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.) was amazing: "Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow can be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right...Say Amen!" Amen!
In all seriousness – it has been a long time since I thought about America as a democracy and about the position that we hold, to have had 44 consecutive peaceful transfers of power. It’s something to be proud of. Something else to be proud of: There are qualities that we all as Americans have in common, regardless of political and religious leanings:

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true."

Thanks for the reminder, Mr. President. And so it begins!

From the Inauguration

I loved this poem - though not the reading - of Yale Professor, Elizabeth Alexander (my advance apologies for any error in transcription):

Each day we go about our business
Walking past each other
Catching each other's eyes or not
About to speak or speaking
All about us is noise
All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din
Each one of our ancestors on our tongues

Someone is stitching a hem
Darning up a hole in a uniform
Patching a tire
Repairing the things in need of repair
Someone is trying to make music somewhere
With a pair of wooden spoons
On an oil drum
With cello, boom box, harmonica, voice

A woman and her son wait for the bus
A farmer considers the changing sky
A teacher says ‘Take out your pencils. Begin.’

We encounter each other in words
Words spiny or smooth whispered or declaimed
Words to consider, reconsider

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone
And then others who said
‘I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.’
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain that many have died for this day
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here
Who laid the train tracks
Raised the bridges
Picked the cotton and the lettuce
Built brick by brick the glittering edifices
They would then keep clean and work inside of

Praise song for struggle
Praise song for the day
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign
The figuring-it-out at kitchen tables

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thyself”
Other by “First do no harm” or “Take no more than you need”
What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national
Love that casts a widening pool of light
Love with no need to preempt grievance
In today’s sharp sparkle
This winter air
Anything can be made
Any sentence begun
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp
Praise song for walking forward in that light.

January 19, 2009

Movie Review: The Wrestler

I’m not ruining anything when I tell you that ‘The Wrestler’ is the story of possible redemption for a washed up professional wrestler. Twenty years have passed since he peaked with a victory over his wrestling world rival (His estranged daughter is also probably about 20). He’s living in a trailer, for which he can only sometimes afford the rent, and he spends his time waiting for his next match or "Legends" appearance, playing classic Nintendo games (featuring himself) with the neighborhood kids, or crushing on stripper Marisa Tomei. In other words, he’s a loser – down on his luck, looking for his way back to the top, sure that with another chance, he wouldn't make the same mistakes.

Brought to us by Darren Aronofsky, the man behind ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘Pi,’ two of the more challenging movies to achieve mainstream success in the last decade, ‘The Wrestler’ is at its core a classic sports movie. A hero that’s down and out, who needs to prove to the world (and himself) that he can succeed – it’s a plot that we know well, but because of who's behind the camera, ‘The Wrestler’ has just enough of an edge so we don’t feel like we’ve seen it before.

Mickey Rourke was as good as he was supposed to be, (Maybe even better, because I’ve never seen him in anything before, and his performance is powerful without the kind of ‘comeback story’ reference point all the critics are pointing to) and when I think about this movie, I’ll think of two insightful peeks into his character: There’s a scene where Ram goes to work behind the deli counter, and you see him walk out through the plastic curtains, getting all pumped up as he (and we) imagines the roar of the crowd that awaits him at a wrestling match. And there’s a scene where he stumbles home after the kind of night out that symbolizes a turning point, takes his hearing aid out, and falls into bed.

On the minusing-of-Twix-bars side, I’m pretty over the stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold storyline, and I felt like the storyline with Ram’s daughter was left incomplete. I actually could have done without Evan Rachel Wood altogether, not through any fault of her own, but because the three scenes that she’s in seemed so removd from the rest of the movie.

All in all, it’s a powerful story, and one with more of a kick-to-the-gut ending than you might expect. I am also officially in love with Bruce Springsteen’s song from this movie. (Even though it runs in the credits – I’m always borderline annoyed with this. If it’s so significant, why not have it actually play a part in the film?)

7.5 Twix bars!

Parenthetically, the pictures from the premiere of this movie are cracking me up – First, we have a solo Benjamin McKenzie (Ryan from ‘The OC’), who, as far as I can tell, hasn't completed anything since 'The OC' ended. This is immediately followed by a shot of Jared Leto, Darren Aronofsky and Marisa Tomei (Okay, making more sense)…and then a picture of those three, except Marisa Tomei has been replaced with…Marlon Wayans? This is rounded out by a picture of Mickey Rourke with 50 Cent. Looks like it must have been quite a party!

January 16, 2009

On Twilight

I’m not sure how, but I had never heard of ‘Twilight’ until this summer, right before the final book came out. Not a peep. Yes, once I saw the big article about it in Entertainment Weekly, random things started to make sense – like all that Edward / Jacob Flair on Facebook – but, somehow, three books had passed without me, an avid reader and pop culture enthusiast with the frequent taste of a teenager, catching on to this phenomenon.

But now, with the book series complete and the movie franchise pretty much taking over the world, I’m torn. I’m caught somewhere between itching to know what the hype is all about, and wanting to swear it off forever, like I did with ‘Titanic’. Yes, when I decide to be, I can really be very hard-headed and close-minded about pop culture trends (Perhaps you’ve heard me rant about ‘Mystic River’?).

Parenthetically and because I can hear the rumblings: You must not confuse my well-documented and oft-professed love for all things 'Buffy' for some kind of vampire “thing”. I have no more invested interest in reading about vampires than I do to reading about…macaroni and cheese, one of my other favorite things.

Actually, as I think about it, I’m sure that ‘Twilight’ fans would get in as much of a tizzy about their books being called “vampire books” as I would about Buffy being called a “vampire show”. Oh boy – this might make me rethink everything…

So, should I do it? I probably will eventually pick up the first book (Is it actually called “Twilight’?) and then fly through the whole series in a can’t-put-it-down-obsession. But, I draw line at the movie – and obsessing about Robert Pattinson’s hair.

January 15, 2009

Clear eyes, full hearts - Must Watch.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but ‘American Idol’ is back. And ‘The Office’ finally returns from a holiday hiatus tonight. And, ‘Lost’’s season premiere is next week! It’s like Christmas all over again! As much as I love (love love) them, each of these shows has their fair share of viewers. Another show is finally returning to mainstream prime time this week, and it deserves all our attention. I’m speaking, of course, of ‘Friday Night Lights.’

Love the sport or hate it, just like the book (and way moreso than the movie) the show isn’t about football. It’s about a town and its relationships. Husband and wife, mothers and daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends, football coach and booster president, divorcing parents and their children, brothers, moms and sons, guidance counselor and students. And it's awesome.

Too general for you? Here are just three things that I love about Friday Night Lights:

Tami: The coach’s wife and high school guidance counselor (upgrading to Principal in this new season) is one of the most fiercely realistic women on television today. Realistic because she’s this super supportive wife and mom who also keeps her family firmly in check and aware of her expectations. She’s this sweet, tough woman, and she is played with amazing subtlety by Connie Britton.

Smash & his Mom: Smash is the running back on the football team, and, after fallen quarterback Jason Street, the one with the most God-given ability and best chance of going far. He’s been told his whole life how amazing he is, and he’s hardheaded and cocky – in an incredibly lovable way. When things go wrong – a knee injury, a team suspension, race issues – he’s likely to have a [voluntary or forced] conversation with his mom, who breaks it all down for him and makes the world make sense again, in a way that makes me cry pretty much every time.

And you want to talk about moving scenes? Tami as Corinna’s patient at the clinic, finding out she’s pregnant.

Having been a senior at the end of last season, Smash won’t be a character for much longer – and I am going to miss these two.

Tyra: I'm not all that attached to Tyra in particular, especially not compared to Riggins, Saracen or even Street, but Tyra is a great representation of why, collectively, I love all these characters so much; She has relationships with everyone: Ex-girlfriend of Riggins, close friend to Julie, frenemies with Lyla, love interest of Landry, pet project of Tami. We know how much I love all things ensemble, and it’s probably not a coincidence that, just like ‘Lost’ and ‘The Office,’ the characters on ‘Friday Night Lights’ are at their best when interacting with one another in new and unexpected ways.

‘Friday Night Lights’ tries to do a lot of things, and it succeeds at pretty much all of them. It’s about teenagers without being cheesy. It’s about a sports team without being predictable. It’s about a relationship that’s actually realistic (Talking about Tammie and Eric here, because even I can’t get fully behind the logic of Lyla and Riggins giving it a real shot.). It’s consistently among the best television available and you should watch it. Got it?

Rumor mongering

When I saw this picture of Heidi Klum at the Golden Globes, I assumed that she was, once again, carrying the beautiful spawn of Seal, and I had just missed out on the announcement in the midst of all this Dear-God-When-Will-This-Project-Runway-Debacle-Be-Over drama.

But I see nothing on the internets about this. What's the deal?

Where did we go wrong?

The next 36 hours where my parents are:

The next 36 hours where I am:

One has a whale.

While we're on the subject - DB Sweeney was in ‘The Cutting Edge’, while Michael Madsen was in ‘Free Willy.’ My eleven-year old self couldn’t tell them apart, and I still kind of can’t.

Also - yes. both of those movies were completely awesome.

Setting the bar low.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that 'American Idol' isn’t the classiest show around. In the audition rounds, the tackier and more pathetic you are, the more likely you are to get screen time. Once the talent portion actually begins, short skirts and shiny tops abound – for the ladies at least (Perhaps you remember Haley Scarnato?). No, it’s never been the finest example of respectability, but it sunk to new lows during this week’s season premieres.

Exhibit A:

On Tuesday’s season premiere, the final audition from Phoenix they showed was a nearly blind 20-ish gentleman named Scott. Already it’s hard not to feel like this kid – moderately talented vocally, will probably go up a few notches when he gets behind his piano – is being exploited (We’ll save the blind kid for last – that’ll keep people watching!). Then, once the judges pass him onto Hollywood, he emerges to the cheers of his family – and to Ryan Seacrest trying to give him a high five.

Trying to high five a blind person. It’s bad enough that this happened – Seacrest himself was visibly embarrassed at the gaffe. But the fact that the producers – who have been editing these audition segments since August, and had plenty of time to piece together a montage of three dozen people singing Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead or Alive’ – left it IN is what really annoys me.

Exhibit B:

Oh Simon Cowell. In so many ways, I have a crush on you. You’re not as mean as you like to pretend, and you have a tendency to wink at people conspiratorially, and I kind of like it. But you also have a tendency to be chauvinistic (See: That twinkle in your eye as you advance Bikini Girl) and a little too opinionated about how people look and their outfits (See: Carly Smithson). On Wednesday’s show, Simon expanded his typically female-centric criticism and told one of the advancing guys that he didn’t like him because it looked like he was coming from a meeting with Bill Gates – “You know, that Silicon Valley type” – as far as I can tell, on the sole basis that this kid is probably Indian:

Simon, honey. He’s not an MIT student. You’re not near Silicon Valley. He just told you that he’s getting his masters from UNC in anthropology or something, and that his undergrad thesis was about Southern American culture, using barbeque as a sort of metaphor. You think that because he’s from South Asia, he HAS to be a computer geek? Let's try to keep such close-minded borderline racist comments to ourselves from now on, mmk?


The worse for wear

Question: Is Greg Popovich performing in his own version of ‘The Santa Clause’?



January 14, 2009

Things that hurt my head

With the help of my sister and Entertainment Weekly, the mystery of my Ralph Fiennes/Liam Neeson brain block has been solved (You see, I’ve never seen ‘Schindler’s List’. And while I’m 100% sure that it is a spectacularly made film, I’m not sure I ever will, because, well, I cry at dog food commercials.). Don't worry, I’ve got 2 more:

I can never remember Alan Rickman’s name. I stare at him, and I know that he’s Snape, and I know that he’s not Jeremy Irons and I’m pretty sure he’s not Gary Oldman (Somewhere in Iowa, Mandy, my childhood friend obsessed with all things British and villainous, is ashamed of me.), but when I try to come up with a name, I inevitably land on “Alan Ruck”. For those playing along at home, Alan Ruck was the panic-prone Cameron in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’ as well as someone kind of significant on ‘Spin City’ if I remember correctly.

Also – Tim Roth. I constantly think he’s John Turturro. They both have a penchant for working with the same directors: For Tim Roth, it’s Quentin Tarantino – they’ve done 3 movies together. For John Turturro, it’s the Coen Brothers (4) and Spike Lee (9!). For some reason, I find this very confusing.

January 13, 2009

All about American Idol

T-minus 4 hours until 'American Idol' roars back into our lives. Can you believe that a year ago, we had never heard of David Cook or David Archuleta? Behold the power of television and a lot of marketing dollars.

As the show enters Season 8, they’re going to have to work hard to keep things feeling fresh.

Obviously, the most noticeable update will be a 4th judge at the table. Her name’s Kara. She’s 38, has written songs for Pink, Gwen Stefani and Hilary Duff and will go between Randy and Paula. All involved insist she’s not being bred as a replacement for Paula, and – considering that Paula Abdul got her involved in the music industry in the first place – I’m willing to bet that’s true.

(Did you know that this isn’t AI’s first attempt at adding a fourth judge? Attempt #1 was in Season 2, but after the first few cities, radio personality Angie Martinez she had to drop out, because she couldn’t handle being mean to people.)

The voting/results/preliminary rounds are going to look a little different this year. Here's how it's going to work:
  1. After the 2-part, 2-hour each season premiere (January 13 & 14), audition episodes will air in 1-hour segments, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from January 20-28. This leads into Hollywood Rounds (which, for the first time are being held in actual Hollywood, not Pasadena). These will be 1-hour segments, February 3, 4, 10 and 11. At the end of the February 11 show (I lied: that one is actually 2 hours), judges will announce the Top 36 (Yes, Top 36 - that's a first).
  2. Once these Top 36 are revealed, they’ll be grouped into 3 groups of 12. For the next three weeks, each of these three groups gets 1 week each: Each week, a different set of 12 will perform on Tuesdays (in a 2-hour show) and the results will air on Wednesdays.
  3. In each results show, the male and female with the highest number of votes instantly becomes a Top 12 finalist. Then, the third highest vote-getter – regardless of gender – will also pass into the Top 12. With me so far? For the math majors out there, you’ll notice that this doesn’t yet add up to 12.
  4. After these three weeks of the Top 36, there will be a special “Wild Card” episode. During this, each semifinalist group’s highest remaining vote-getter who didn't already advance to the Top 12 will perform for the judges.From this Wild Card episode, airing March 5, the judges will choose 3 who advance, to round out the Top 12.
** Potential B.S. Alert: According to the AI producers, not only the highest vote-getters will perform; also “several” additional semi-finalists, “up to 9 or 10”. This will be the point where the producers push through the Sanjaya-wannabes who are awful singers, but for whatever reason good for ratings. **
And then things go back to normal (With the exception of the fact that this year the producers are apparently making an effort to recruit some younger, hipper mentors - I don’t know why they feel that’s necessary, I think kids these days love Dolly Parton, right?).

Something else that’s new is actually a Lack Thereof – For this year at least, 'Idol Gives Back' is no more. I don’t know the reasons behind this, but I’m pretty aghast. This is a fundraising event that not only brings together tons of celebrities and makes for a damn good hour of television – it also has raised over $130 million in the 2 years it ran. Were the sponsors just not there this year? Last year’s sponsors included Ford, Coca Cola, AT&T, iTunes, All State Insurance and MAC. I know the economic crisis is hitting everyone, but somehow I think these giant corporations still have plenty of money. Did the judges not want to travel to third world countries? Did the producers think it would be a hard sell getting viewers to open their wallets in these trying times? Whatever the reason is, it's not good enough, because hard economic times are even harder for those who were in need to begin with.

Let’s not end on a negative note about corporate greed. Instead let’s talk about the real reason that I love 'American Idol,' which can be summarized in two words: Elliott Yamin.

As my favorite 'American Idol' contestant of all time, Elliott Yamin represents all that is good about AI – the chance for someone to come from nowhere and show the world their genuine talent. Of course, that’s what the show is all about, but what makes Elliott so much more awesome is that he did it without a kitsche (Soul Patrol, anyone?) and without being the cutest guy in the bunch. Instead, he used his genuine talent, joy for performing, and just plain ol’ nice-guy-ness – that’s what had me on his side from the get-go, and that’s why he’s the only AI alum whose album I own (and love). Oh Elliott Yamin, you’ll always be my American Idol.

January 12, 2009

It Stings

In the notes that I took about last night's Golden Globes, I wrote in big capital letters: STING?!? And then somehow failed to mention him below.

On second thought, I'm not actually sure what else there is to say.

Coming up Golden

The Golden Globes went down last night at the Beverly Hilton in sunny Beverly Hills, California. For better or worse, Globes have become a legitimate precursor to the Oscars – at least as far as buzz goes. Of course, with the Golden Globes, you are relying on 90 international journalists to cast their votes (There are closer to 6,000 Academy members) so the results can sometimes seem a bit…skewed.

Questionable category: What is the point of awarding best supporting actor/actress for a television series, miniseries or TV movie? Neil Patrick Harris for amazing comedic work week-in and week-out as Barney in How I Met Your Mother versus Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin in an HBO movie? Talk about apples and oranges.

Notable absences: James Franco, Sean Penn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Will Smith, Frances McDormand. Also, it seemed like a lot of celebrity couples were missing their other halves: Susan Sarandon was there, but Tim Robbins wasn’t. Tom Cruise was there, but Katie Holmes wasn’t. Darren Aronoksy was there, but Rachel Weisz wasn’t. Also, are David Duchovny and Tea Leoni not separated anymore? Because, great.

Wow, You’re Actually Kind of Adorable Award: Colin Farrell? I’m as shocked about this as you are.

Let’s Tone This Down Award: Renee Zelwegger - That hair. Those sleeves. That expression. You used to be so normal looking.

Tacky Joke Award: Helloooo Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks - I am not sure jokes at the expense of someone's sobriety are all that funny. (I wasn’t all that offended by Sasha Baron Cohen’s joke about Madonna divorcing Guy Ritchie to cut her staff expenses – and I liked how he handled the response.)

Where’s the Love?: No nominations for 'Lost'? Not showing anyone but Steve Carrell and Rainn Wilson from The Office? They were all there (except apparently John Krasinski?). Come on!

There’s not too much else to say. Danny Strong has apparently become somewhat legitimate (You’re always legit to me, Doyle.). The show moved pretty quickly, and it was definitely the year of white/nude dresses:

January 9, 2009


Boston Magazine has just released their list of Boston’s 50 Best Restaurants. To get to ‘em, they combined editorial reviews from the major news outlets here, as well as Chowhound and Yelp. Of the 50, I’ve been to 8, which is equal to the number of restaurants I hadn’t even heard of. I probably won’t make it to more than another 8, because let’s be honest, these places are expensive and fancy restaurants don’t tend to be the most vegetarian-friendly places in the world, especially when they’re French (Or when they’re named, say “The Butcher Shop.”). But, it’s a great list to have, as a handy reference for where to go during Restaurant Week (the awesome twice yearly event that has restaurants around town offer a prix fixe menu for $30), or the next time Trevor or I get a massive promotion/bonus/raise.

At the top of my To Go list are Uni and Dante, and the next time someone’s in town with a car (Got that, sister o' mine?) we should make Blue Ginger a priority. Some random thoughts before the whole list – My favorite name on the list (and one of the ones I’d never heard of) is T.W. Food. Love it. The best of the restaurants that I’ve been to is Ten Tables. I lived 2 blocks away from Lineage and never made it there. I don’t know if going to “Hell Night" at East Coast Grille should count, since it’s a different menu – same thing with Union, since I’ve only been there for brunch, but hey, I need the numbers. And finally, the only one on here I’ve been to more than once: Toro. I would walk there in a snowstorm for that corn – luckily, it’s now served at Ken Oringer’s gazillionth Boston restaurant, La Verdad, conveniently located a 10 minute walk from our condo.

Here’s the full list:

  1. O Ya
  2. L'Espalier
  3. No. 9 Park
  4. Uni
  5. Clio
  6. Aujourd'hui
  7. Radius
  8. Hungry Mother
  9. Hamersley's Bistro
  10. Oleana
  11. Craigie on Main
  12. Meritage
  13. Salts
  14. Oishii
  15. Ten Tables
  16. Neptune Oyster
  17. Icarus
  18. Persephone
  19. Mistral
  20. Sorellina
  21. Rialto
  22. B&G Oysters
  23. Troquet
  24. Lumiere
  25. Pigalle
  26. Toro
  27. Blue Ginger
  28. Upstairs on the Square
  29. Excelsior
  30. Benatti
  31. Sage
  32. TW Food
  33. Locke-Ober
  34. Taranta
  35. Rendezvous
  36. L’Andana
  37. The Butcher Shop
  38. Via Matta
  39. Dante
  40. Scampo
  41. 51 Lincoln
  42. Lineage
  43. Bistro Five
  44. Grill 23
  45. East Coast Grill
  46. Estragon
  47. Union Bar and Grille
  48. Il Capriccio
  49. Bin 26 Enoteca
  50. Avila

Hey Oscar, chew on this!

With the Golden Globes on Sunday, and Oscar nominations just around the corner, there’s likely to be a lot of talk (around my condo) about movies and awards. Just to prepare you.

Let’s kick it off with a proposal. I don’t know what it would take for the Oscars to add a new category (The last addition was Jessica's favorite, Best Animated Film, in 2001; Before that, nothing had been added since 1981 – Best Makeup.), but I think they could benefit from following the SAG Awards example and offering an Academy Award for Best Ensemble. Movies are about the complete experience, and, more often than not, that requires a full cast of powerful performers, not just one. Sorry, Will Smith. A Best Ensemble award would serve to acknowledge the bit parts that contribute to a movie’s success.

Think about it: Isn’t ‘Almost Famous’ as good as it is because of everyone from Patrick Fugit and Billy Crudup to Fairuza Balk (“is this Mary Ann with the pot?”)? Doesn’t the complete cast of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ elevate the movie from a typical story to a heartwarming one? Tom Hanks gets all the credit for ‘Forrest Gump’, but where would he have been without great performances from Robin Wright Penn, Sally Field, Gary Sinise and the guy who played Bubba? (And it doesn’t have to be a big cast to qualify as an ensemble – Isn’t ‘Before Sunset’ so good because Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke play off one another perfectly?)

It would also help in situations where multiple actors from the same film are nominated, and risk splitting the vote – If I already voted for Brad Pitt, maybe I shouldn’t vote for Cate Blanchett too. Or more likely, I will vote for both of them, but then ignore the supporting actors and actresses who did just as good of work, just with fewer lines. Instead of pitting actors and actresses against their fellow cast members, you get to acknowledge the combined power of all. (Okay, now I just sound like a socialist.).

I would nominate 'The Visitor' and 'Milk' for this year's Best Ensemble - decent movies completely elevated to near greatness by the chemistry between its actors. Apparently, the board meets every year to discuss potential new categories, so it could happen. I mean, actual new awards that have been proposed include Best Title Design and Best Stunt Coordinator. Come on.

If I were her…

How do you think Paula Cole feels about being a one-hit wonder unavoidably associated with waterfront/dock photos and Katie Holmes in her innocent days?

Her song, "I Don’t Want to Wait," is presumably about war? Or returning from it? Or the things that shape us as children? I don’t know, it’s about something. But it will forever be The Dawson’s Creek Theme Song, bringing to mind images of Michelle Williams with bad hair, a practically creaseless Joshua Jackson, and JCrew ads. In a really good way.

How do I not own this complete series on DVD?

January 8, 2009

I thought it was going to be warmer today.

Note to self:

When the sidewalks in Boston look like this...

You should not be wearing these:

January 6, 2009

Movie Reviews: Don't Doubt My Milk-Frosted Button

I hear ya: How can you really evaluate a movie without more than 17 syllables – and with no Twix bar rating?! So, here we go – a few more details on the movies we caught this weekend.


I went into 'Milk' expecting it to be a little bit of a vanity piece for Sean Penn. I thought we’d see an imitation of an easily imitable character, on a backdrop of nothing-else-too-impressive (Think ‘Ray.'). I was wrong. Sure, there were problems with this movie – a few script falters, one too many scenes of James Franco’s character staring pensively, and a questionable setup for the pivotal assassination scene (No, no spoiler alert for that one) – but for the most part it was a well-told, extremely well-paced, touching and relevant story, with a powerhouse performance by Penn, and, almost more impressively, great supporting work from those around him, including James Franco, Emile Hirsche, Diego Luna and even Victor Garber.

I’m curious to see what creative liberties Gus Van Sant and his team took with this, and will report back after the Netflix-screening of the ocumentary, ‘The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.’

8 Twix bars! (For those new to the rodeo, this is out of 10).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This is pretty close to an epic. A sprawling tale that covers a lot of ground, supported by beautiful backdrops and a rotating cast of interesting characters (Captain Mike being one of my favorites).

Of course it doesn’t end happily. It doesn’t even start happily. As Trevor aptly put it, it’s essentially three hours of constant sadness. But it sure is beautiful. Like ‘Doubt’ fails where ‘Closer’ succeeded (more on that below), this movie knocks it out of the park where ‘Big Fish’ flyed out, by taking a larger than life story – a fantasy, essentially – and grounding it in meaning.

8 Twix bars!


I had a lot of problems with ‘Doubt,’ and most of them can be blamed on directing. The movie, an adapted version of the award-winning play, was written and directed by its playwright, when it would have been much better served by a fresh perspective and a movie-smart filmmaker.

The movie felt short, and yet every character was underdeveloped. Sure, part of the power of the story itself is in the vagueness – the audience isn’t meant to know what (if anything) actually happened). But there’s subtlety, which can be powerful, and there’s lack of direction, which robs the film of meaning. And, worse, where there was meaning, we were whacked over the head with it: The metaphor of the weather (which had “never been like this before”) might have translated well on stage, but – just like Meryl Streep and that accent – it was obvious and overdone in the movie.

6.5 Twix bars!


To be honest, I’m probably just glossing over a lot of problems with 'Frost/Nixon' because we saw a lot of movies this weekend, and this was the last. But, I really enjoyed this movie because it felt like an accurate, yet fresh, version of the play. The faux documentary part felt unnecessary, confusing in context with real historical footage, and also not post-dated enough to be relevant. I can overlook this, and some classic Ron Howard heavy-handedness, in light of the riveting Nixon performance by Frank Langhella. The scene where he calls David Frost in his hotel room – that was clearly torn directly from the play, and the dialogue was perfect.

7.25 Twix bars!

I’m glad to have seen each of these, but after 4 pretty heavy movies set between 1907 and 1978, I’m ready for some meaninglessness and modernity. ‘Bride Wars,’ here I come.

Man of the Month: January

I’m clearly more of a pop person than a politics one, but the relevance of what’s about to go down in Washington cannot be ignored. Barack Obama is January’s Man of the Month.

As President, the demands will be huge: Fix the economy and end the war. As Man of the Month, I have just one demand: Do your best. As President, he will rub elbows with the leaders of the free world. As Man of the Month, he joins the illustrious company of previous title-holders, including Paul Rudd, Joshua Jackson and Taye Diggs. As President, he will be ridiculed mercilessly by late night talk show hosts, looking for errors in every action. As Man of the Month, I will choose flattering photos to pepper the blog with, and, just as I did with James Franco, overlook any missteps in my (one-month long) blind devotion.

There you have it: If he’s going to be president, he can probably live up to the title of Man of the Month as well.

On a more serious note, to say that I’m excited about the dawn of the Obama era would be a little bit of an understatement. It’s not just that he can put a sentence together. It’s not just that he stands more to the left than most mainstream politicians. And it’s not just that his beliefs happen to coincide (for the most part) with my own. It’s the fact that he’s committed to bringing this country together, regardless of political leanings, religious credo and personal convictions, to be a productive member of the global village we all now live in. And that I believe he can actually do it.

I have this wonderfully hopeful feeling about the United States under such a president – and it’s more powerful than any giggly butterflies previous Men of the Month have given me (no offense, guys).

And away we go!

January 5, 2009

A final word on 2008

Before we jump full force into 2009 (I’m talking to you, Man of the Month), I’d like to provide a little closure on the year 2008. Here is some of what went down:

I learned some important lessons (Don’t be afraid to apologize. Don’t wear red scarves – their remnants will haunt you for weeks). After (what seemed like) years of hemming and hawing and stress dreams and trips to the bathroom to cry, I said goodbye to TT and moved onto a new position at an advertising agency. And, perhaps best of all, I didn’t do any wedding planning.

I said goodbye to friends as they left Boston for bigger, better adventures...

...and welcomed back some very dear ones from adventures of their own.

I spent too much time in Las Vegas, and not enough time in Prague. We made our first trip to Ireland, and another one to Colorado. We celebrated my mom’s 60th in Hawaii, and our first anniversary in Provincetown. I spent a few rapid-fire days in San Francisco, and even got back to camp for a few hours.

I rode roller coasters on both sides of the country...

and celebrated my sister’s 28th birthday by doing Irish Car Bombs with her boyfriend’s mom. Then, I celebrated my 26th with some themed-drinks of my own.

I cried as the Lakers lost to the Celtics in the NBA finals, then I cried the good kind of tears at something actually important - the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Pop-cultureways, I tried – and gave up on – 'Dexter,' 'John from Cincinnati' and 'Lipstick Jungle,' and added 'Mad Men,' 'Gossip Girl' and 'Greek' to my Must See TV Roster.

I read some amazing books...

...and scratched my head through a few too:

I obsessed over The National, listening to The Boxer and Alligator over 200 times each. I put Consolers of the Lonely by The Raconteurs on repeat and walked through Needham, and relentlessly used Elliott Yamin and spoof songs about the Lakers to cheer me up.

Oh, 2008. You weren’t quite epic, but you were certainly a year to remember. Bring it '09!