Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Don't forget to get your entries in for the Catwoman: Mad Libs contest!

Retraction II: Encore

Again, I spoke too soon (by about 13 minutes, if you check the datelines) when I wrote:

"...Eminem is dropping a new album in just two and a half months (though I haven’t found confirmation of this November 16 release date anywhere)!"

Thanks to Theo's Gift for linking to some confirmation of the release date, as well as a title. I guess Em ran out of aliases to use in the titles of his LPs.

Three's Company

This sounds like an interesting project, huh?

Comic Teases

NBC, you're breaking my heart!

What was the ONE REASON I said that I was going to support this lame Season 1 vs. Season 2 format for Last Comic Standing 3? The ONE REASON! Because I thought it meant more air time for the beguiling Bonnie McFarlane. So, out of twenty comics, who is the ONLY ONE not to return? That's right. Bonnie. And to add insult to injury, you replace her with... this?

So, why, Bonnie? Why?

Does it have something to do with my recent discovery that you're dating Season 1 comic Rich Vos? As much as it would sadden and disgust me, you two could be the Romeo & Juliet of Last Comic Standing 3! Unless maybe you've since broken up with Vos and can't stand to be on the same stage as him, in which case, maybe you're on the lookout for a sexy, single Pop Culture Petri Dish to make him jealous. Or perhaps, as I've suspected all along, you're just above all this cheap-reality-rehash-whoring-for-one-last-shred-of-the-limelight.

No matter what your reasons, know that I support you, even if I miss you.

Oh, and NBC, I can't stay mad at you... not when you've come up with the clever marketing technique of creating Friendster profiles for their 18 Apprentice wannabes. My early fave is Stacie J. (anyone who appreciates the highly underrated Devil's Advocate is good in my book). And don't forget, NBC is airing the season premiere of the brilliant Scrubs tonight.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Moonman Overboard

The good old days

How are the MTV Video Music Awards different from The Grammys again? This year’s ceremony offered no shock and no awe and really, nothing worth watching. I guess after peaking last year, they just gave up on the whole starting the show off with a memorable stunt - I mean J. Lo? Usher taking his shirt off? Shaq? Are you kidding me? That’s like the Republicans kicking off their convention with the megawatt star-power of beloved Hollywood icon Ron Silver – wait, really? What, was Zeljko Ivanek busy? Does anybody outside of the Timecop fan club know who this guy is? And have the evangelists caught his morality play The Beneficiary on Skinemax?

Anyway, during Usher’s performance, I kept waiting for Michael Jackson to pop up from under the stage and school him (not that the VMAs playing the Jacko card would be all that revolutionary – see him kissing Lisa Marie or dancing with N’ Sync or accepting “The Artist of the Millennium Award” from Britney – but it would’ve been something).

The most exciting surprise was an ad proclaiming (or rather suggesting) that Eminem is dropping a new album in just two and a half months (though I haven’t found confirmation of this November 16 release date anywhere)!

The only other moment of joy came from seeing Marc Anthony do his intro from directly in front of P. Diddy (whoever staged that earns an honorary Official Pop Culture Petri Dish Gold Star), which came just a month after P.’s “it’s not awkward” encounter with Ben Affleck in Boston.

Speaking of Democrats, perhaps the most shocking water cooler moment/most shocking upset of the night was the rude reception given to the daughters Kerry. It was clear that they, like me, assumed the MTV audience would be in their camp, because when the boos started, one of them (not sure which) turned around to see if the Bush twins had just appeared on the screen behind them (they hadn’t). Maybe the MTV crowd was just pissed that Alexandra was wearing something opaque. Oh, and is it just me, or does one of the Bush twins (I think Barbara) look a lot like another famous twin?

Surprisingly, though several artists encouraged people to get out and vote, there was no overt partisanship aside from a small pin on one of the Beastie Boys.

After all the fuss about the Olympians ditching the Closing Ceremony to attend the VMAs, where was Paul Hamm? Were they afraid he might take somebody’s Moonman and refuse to give it back?

Overall, the performances mostly ranged from bad to worse. Artists I sort of like (Jet, Polyphonic Spree) played relatively bad sets, and “artists” I can’t stand (Hoobastank, Yellowcard) were even more ear-grating than usual. With so many off-key numbers (Simon Cowell would’ve had a field day), they should just go back to lip-synching.

Old-school meets new-school match-ups like Chaka Khan & Kanye West and Stevie Wonder & Alicia Keyes were good in theory, but under-whelming in execution. A better use of the latter pair would’ve been a tribute to Ray Charles, joined by some combination of Norah Jones, Billy Joel and Elton John. Maybe at The Grammys.

All in all, though, there was a definite lack of showmanship in the performances this year, with only Xtina & Nelly and Outkast attempting anything visually and phonically stimulating. Turning the place into a convention floor at the end was a pretty clever idea, though it would’ve been nice if they’d decided to actually show some of Andre 3000 or his backup dancers during it. Hey, it’s probably the last time we’ll ever see “Hey Ya!” played at an awards show.

Speaking of last times, this is probably the last time anyone (besides The Latin Grammys) holds an awards show outside New York or L.A. The star wattage was pretty low. Even nominees and media-whores Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Eminem couldn’t be bothered to make the trip down to Miami. What a lifeless disappointment.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Is Bruce Willis the new Farnsworth Bentley?

Friday, August 27, 2004

Where's Woody?

Fun for kids of all ages!

Now that Melinda and Melinda is scheduled for March 2005 (in the United States, anyway – in a rare move for an American movie, the film will be distributed in several European territories well before its rollout here), 2004 will mark the first year since 1991 that Woody Allen hasn’t released a movie in American theaters. Before 1991, the last time was 1976, but in both those years, he did appear in other directors’ movies (Scenes from a Mall and The Front, respectively).

Still, for a 68-year-old director – hell, for any director – that’s pretty darn close to earning a perfect attendance award (even if quantity has all-too frequently outpaced quality).

In 1977, he came back from his brief hiatus with Annie Hall – one of the greatest films of all time. Here’s hoping (but doubting) that Melinda and Melinda is half as brilliant.

Real Worlds Colliding

As if I needed another online distraction to keep me from earning a living, I stumble across The Fishbowl - an amazing hub for reality junkies like myself. Not only does it mean that I haven't seen the last of one of my favorite reality contestants of all time, but it conjures (and even provides digital) images of a secret society/cult of reality "stars" who all hang out with and date each other in the most awesome crossover in television history!

There was a hint of this during Survivor: All Stars when the Survivors from different seasons would talk about knowing each other outside the game and how big a Survivor-slut Ethan was, but I had no idea it spanned the entire landscape of reality - from the gold standard (Survivor) to the trashy nadir (Temptation Island - don't be mad, you know I loved you, baby). Now I want to go on a reality show, only so that I can be admitted to this head-spinningly cool fraternity.

I just hope they're exclusive enough to turn Colin and Randy away.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Reality TV's Most Wanted

Bad boys, bad boys...

I hope that The F.B.I., local authorities in Corpus Christi and criminal profilers are watching reality television this summer, as I've spotted two future felons already.

The spousal abusive tendencies of Colin Guinn (not to be confused with the nearly-as-repugnant Colin Quinn) have already been well-documented across the blogosphere, and are immediately obvious to anyone possessing eyes or ears who isn't a former Miss Teen USA. As if we needed another reason to root against Scott & Laci (not to be confused with the far-more-compatible Scott & Jasey) in The Race, just look at these ominous words from soon-to-be-corpse-ish Christie:

"Another reason for doing this Race is that it is a test to see if we are marriage potential. I know we can win, and if we do, we're getting married right after the show."

For her own well-being, I pray they lose (although please, please don't let it be because she burns dinner).

With Randy from Amish in the City, the warning signs aren't as obvious. There's just something about him that screams (in a muffled voice from under the floorboards) future serial killer, and I'm noting it now because I don't want to be one of those neighbors that pops up on the eleven o'clock news to say: "He was nice, but kinda kept to himself. I never would've thought he could do something like this..." because I totally think he could do something like that!

Oh, and as long as I'm being vigilant, I'd be remiss if I didn't also include Fraternity Life's Earl Altheide, a future serial killer if ever there was one. And I'm betting that, as cliche as it may be, he starts with his dear mother.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Woman's Libs

So that's how they "wrote" the "script!"

In honor of this amazing discovery, The Pop Culture Petri Dish is launching another exciting contest! The directions are ridiculously simple: Everyone knows how to play Mad Libs - all you have to do is come up with random words that fit the parts of speech listed below. These words will then be plugged into an actual story from Catwoman: Mad Libs (A Price Stern Sloan Classic). The writer whose set of words creates the most unintentionally hilarious story will win the much-coveted Official Pop Culture Petri Dish Gold Star and possibly the chance to script Halle Berry's proposed Catwoman sequel.* So start channeling your inner John Brancato, Michael Ferris and John Rogers:

1. ADJECTIVE _____
2. A PLACE _____
3. ADJECTIVE _____
4. NOUN _____
5. ANIMAL _____
7. NOUN _____
8. VERB (PAST TENSE) _____
9. NUMBER _____
10. NOUN _____
11. VERB (PAST TENSE) _____
13. PLURAL NOUN _____
14. PART OF THE BODY _____
15. A PLACE _____

Post all submissions in the "Comments" section. You may enter as many times as your brain and fingers will allow. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 pm on August 31, or some time around then. Winners will be determined at the discretion and arbitrary taste of The Pop Culture Petri Dish.

*Chances of getting to script Halle Berry's proposed Catwoman sequel are nil.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Top Ten (Potentially) Best Movies of Fall 2004 Ever

1. The Life Aquatic
2. Ocean’s Twelve
3. Team America: World Police
4. The Incredibles
5. Spanglish
6. The Aviator
7. Alexander
8. Sideways
9. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
10. Finding Neverland
10½. The Polar Express

Fall Movie Preview: December

My Seven Most Eagerly Anticipated Movies of December:

1. The Life Aquatic (Dec. 1, Dec. 10 or Dec. 25 depending on where you look)

I absolutely loved The Royal Tenenbaums and Bill Murray’s been doing some of the best work of his career lately (thanks in large part to Wes Anderson). My hopes are very, very high.

2. Ocean’s Twelve (Dec. 10)

I absolutely loved Ocean’s Eleven. Let’s hope Soderbergh can catch lightning in a bottle twice. Taking them to Europe and adding Catherine Zeta-Jones to the mix sounds like a step in the right direction, though I am a little worried about the loss of writer Ted Griffin (at least he wasn’t replaced by Rob Reiner on this project).

3. Spanglish (Dec. 17)

I absolutely loved As Good As It Gets and think that James L. Brooks is one of the most brilliant minds in film/television comedy. Then there’s Adam Sandler. Who will win out?

4. The Aviator (Dec. 17)

I absolutely… uh, kinda, sorta, didn’t hate Gangs of New York? I’m not the world’s biggest Martin Scorsese fan (the only one of his films that I personally consider great is Goodfellas), yet I always get my hopes up that his next project will win me over. The subject matter and cast are an especially good start on this one.

5. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Dec. 17)

I don’t know anything about the books, but if Jim Carrey’s there, then so am I. On top of that, Meryl Streep seems to have entered the Jack Nicholson phase of her career where she’s just having fun, which is great fun for us filmgoers (her turn in The Manchurian Candidate was the only enjoyable thing in that movie).

6. The Phantom of the Opera (Dec. 25)

Never seen the show, but I’m all for the return of the filmed musical. The images in the trailer look lush, from what I could make out through the ridiculous pureed editing. Guys, I know you want the Moulin Rouge! crowd, but the cuts in that masterpiece never had me covering my eyes to prevent the onset of a headache. Tone it down.

7. Synergy (Dec. 29)

Despite the abbreviation of the Oscar season (which resulted in only one twelfth-month release grabbing a Best Picture nod last year), December looks to once again be the most quality-packed month of the fall. The battle for this seventh slot on my list was intense, with Proof, Meet the Fockers and Blade: Trinity all close runners-up. Ultimately, my appreciation for the cast of Synergy combined to put it over the top.

Other December Movies that I’m Interested in:

Dec. 3

Dec. 10
Blade: Trinity
Imaginary Heroes (or maybe Feb. 4, 2005)

Dec. 22
Meet the Fockers

Dec. 24
An Unfinished Life
The Woodsman

Dec. 25
Bride and Prejudice
Fat Albert

The Assassination of Richard Nixon
Out to Sea

Saturday, August 21, 2004


I spoke too soon last week, when I wrote:

Looking back at the Actual blockbusters of yesteryear, many were originals, including the still-reigning holy trinity of Titanic, Star Wars and E.T.

Shrek 2 has bumped E.T. out of the top three on the all time list. I remember when E.T.'s record seemed untoppable, lasting about 15 years until the Star Wars Special Edition re-release.

A moment of silence.

Fall Movie Preview: November

My Seven Most Eagerly Anticipated Movies of November:

1. The Incredibles (Nov. 5)

Pixar has had one of the most incredible winning streaks in cinema history (my least favorite of their movies, Monster’s Inc., was "just" very good). I have no reason to suspect that The Incredibles will disappoint.

2. Alexander (Nov. 5)

I have to admit, I was (and still am) really rooting for the Baz Luhrman version. But Oliver Stone is a very interesting director who we haven’t seen much from in recent years. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with such a huge sandbox to play in. I’m torn on the cast – Love Angelina Jolie, Rosario Dawson and Anthony Hopkins; Hate Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer and Jared Leto. Hopefully it’ll all balance out and this epic will be more Gladiator than Troy.

3. Finding Neverland (Nov. 12)

Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are always fascinating to watch, even in bad movies (except The Life of David Gale – but that really wasn’t her fault, I mean, her character’s name was Bitsey Bloom for God’s sake), and lately, they just keep getting better. I can’t wait to see them feed off each other. I also can’t wait to get my first glimpse of the boy who would be Peter Ostrum.

4. The Polar Express (Nov. 10)

In my book, Robert Zemeckis rivals Pixar in terms of winning streaks. I’ve seen every movie he’s directed since 1985, and have enjoyed all of them. I was never too cool to cop to my love of Forrest Gump. As a kid, I loved the books of Chris Van Allsburg, especially the snowy wonderland of The Polar Express. So when I first heard that Zemeckis and Tom Hanks were reteaming to adapt that book, I was very excited. The new technology sounded pretty cool, and the first teaser seemed magical. But then the full trailer showed up in theaters, and the animated people just looked creepy and the magic kind of wore off. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works in the feature, creating a true holiday classic. Then again, I also loved Jumanji, and look what Hollywood did to that.

5. A Very Long Engagement (Nov. 26)

I don’t know much about this movie, but after Amelie, if Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tautou are involved, I’m there. Jodie Foster is just the cherry on top.

6. Kinsey (Nov. 12)

I’m interested in the subject matter. I guess that makes me a perv, huh?

7. National Treasure (Nov. 19)

It was a toss-up between Bridget Jones and this one for the final spot, but testosterone won out. I find Jerry Bruckheimer movies thoroughly entertaining about half of the time, and since King Arthur sucked, it seems he’s due for a good popcorn movie.

Other November Movies that I’m Interested in:

Nov. 5

Nov. 10
Seed of Chucky

Nov. 12
After the Sunset
The Ringer
Surviving Christmas

Nov. 19
Bad Education
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

Nov. 24
Beyond the Sea
Christmas with the Kranks

Flight of the Phoenix

Friday, August 20, 2004

And the winner is...

The Official Pop Culture Petri Dish Gold Star

There were some great entries, but in the end, as in the Spears-Federline wedding, there can be only one winner.

And so, in the first ever Pop Culture Petri Dish captioning contest, the caption that most accurately expressed what the stepmother-to-be was thinking is:

"The little brat is looking at my hooters!"

That means the winner of the Official Pop Culture Petri Dish Gold Star is... dipped in chocolate! Congratulations, dipped in chocolate!

In case you were curious, the answer we were looking for was: "Damn it! Which one's his kid and which one's his dog?" But all the replies were freakishly accurate. If I were Britney Spears, I'd tell you all to get out of my head. Then I'd tell that "trashy bandwaggoning dance gigolo" to get out of my bed. And then I'd call the Pop Culture Petri Dish and ask him to take a trip to Vega$ with me, causing a serious identity crisis and possibly a rift in the space-time continuum.

Thanks for playing and stay tuned for your next opportunity to win the Official Pop Culture Petri Dish Gold Star!

Big Brother Vocab Lesson of the Week

Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad... grammar, that is

I hope Scott was watching last night as we all learned a new word:



1. To make someone paranoid: "I kinda think maybe they did it on purpose, and kept him in there as long as they possibly could to maybe paranoi me;" Past tense: "I... I... I don't know what it was that paranoid me so bad about Drew being in the H.O.H. room with them."

Thank you, Diane.

You proved the other night, in your astronomical conversation with Nakomis that you were no rocket scientist, but you cemented your status as house space cadet tonight when you couldn't figure out that the House Guest "who said they don't have a favorite author because they don't read" was Scott. C'mon, that was a gimme! (to be fair, Nakomis missed that one, too)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

That'll buy a lot of pie tins and fishing line!

Spielberg, right ahead!

Okay, I'm officially very excited about War of the Worlds now, more than even my typical level of excitement at the announcement of a new Spielberg Joint. It sounds like he's really swinging for the fences with this one:

Steven Spielberg's upcoming movie War Of The Worlds is poised to make history in Hollywood as the most expensive film ever made - surpassing Titanic's $198 million budget. The Oscar-winning director and actor Tom Cruise, who first teamed up in Minority Report, will pocket a fifth of the box office profit from the film based on HG Wells' classic story about Martian invaders. A source says, "No expense will be spared. Spielberg wants to make it the film of the decade."

Now, Spielberg isn't one to break the bank. Both Jurassic Park and The Lost World were relatively inexpensive, considering the groundbreaking effects and assured hit status. In fact, only one of his films - coincidentally Minority Report - has (just barely) topped the now-standard $100 Million budgetary mark (though these are all based on studio-reported figures, which I've been dubious of ever since hearing that Batman & Robin cost nearly twice as much as its reported budget... and anyone who's peeked at a blockbuster's real budget sheet and compared it to reported numbers can attest that this fudging is commonplace). Of course, Spielberg and his big stars (namely, the Toms) tend to defer their big paydays for backend, keeping the costs down. However, there's no denying that Spielberg literally gets more bang for his buck than just about any other director in Hollywood. So imagine how many bangs he'll deliver with at least twice as many bucks as he's ever had to play with before?

One caveat about this whole story - I haven't been able to find a single source to confirm this Titanic-topping mega-budget outside of IMDb News or British tabloids, neither of which abide by anything resembling journalistic integrity or authenticity 100% of the time, so I take it all with an iceberg size grain of salt. But if this turns out to be true, then Earth: Prepare for Spielberg to blow the !@#$ out of you!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Yeah, that's the way to win votes from New Yorkers

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Fall Movie Preview: October

My Seven Most Eagerly Anticipated Movies of October:

1. Team America: World Police (Oct. 15)

Here’s what I wrote back in July.

2. Sideways (Oct. 20)

I love Citizen Ruth and Election, but About Schmidt tempered my enthusiasm slightly for “The Next Alexander Payne/Jim Taylor Movie.” But I’m enthusiastic, nonetheless.

3. I [Heart] Huckabees (Oct. 1)

Seems like it might be a return to Flirting With Disaster form for David O. Russell. I don’t really like Lily Tomlin or Mark Wahlberg, but Dustin Hoffman’s usually entertaining when he’s allowed to have fun.

4. Ray (Oct. 29)

I was worried about Jamie Foxx’ performance, which looks in the trailer to be almost like an In Living Color impersonation. But after witnessing his great turn in Collateral, I have faith that he may be able to pull this off, making for a moving and inspirational eulogy.

5. Shark Tale (Oct. 1)
Again, it all comes down to the trailer. I was pretty excited about this project when I first heard about the cast, but the latest trailer does not look good. And in animation, the wattage of the cast is nothing without good writing. Let’s hope the whole is better than the sampler platter.

6. Alfie (Oct. 22)

Never seen the original, but it sounds like a good character for Jude Law.

7. Friday Night Lights (Oct. 15)

My interest was piqued by a nice, evocative poster hanging in the theater lobby, followed by a well-cut trailer. Even though I don’t care much for sports, I’m a sucker for a good underdog sports movie. I’m also impressed that Peter Berg is choosing such diverse projects, refusing to pigeonhole himself as a director. Though I haven’t loved either of his previous features, he shows a lot of promise.

Other October Movies that I’m Interested in:

Oct. 1

Around the Bend
Ladder 49

Oct. 6

Oct. 8
I Am David
Stage Beauty
Taxi (which looks absolutely horrible – almost as bad as Bringing Down the House – and yet, like a bad car accident, I have a sick desire to actually see it)

Oct. 15
The Machinist
Shall We Dance?

Oct. 22
The Grudge

Oct. 29
It’s All About Love

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Fall Movie Preview: September

My Seven Most Eagerly Anticipated Movies of September:

1. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Sept. 17)

When I first saw the trailer, I thought: "What is this movie... and when can I see it?" It looks visually intriguing, has a good cast (I'm a sucker for Angelina Jolie, no matter how many bad movies she makes) and appears to have good geek buzz coming out of Comic Con. The only thing that worries me is that in the most recent trailer, there's a character named Totenkopf, which just reeks of cheesiness and sounds ridiculous coming out of Gwyneth Paltrow's mouth. Still, I'm anxious to see it.

2. The Motorcycle Diaries (Sept. 24)

Advance word of mouth from the festival circuit is excellent. I wasn't wowed by Walter Salles' Central Station, but am anxious to see if this film lives up to the hype as a serious Oscar contender.

3. The Forgotten (Sept. 24)

The trailer looks interesting, it's got a nice one-sheet and it seems like Julianne Moore gets to go through the emotional ringer, which is always fun to watch. I could see this one going either way, but I'm hoping for something along the lines of the suprisingly good thriller, Breakdown.

4. Silver City (Sept. 17)

It looks like in this movie Chris Cooper is doing to George W. Bush what John Travolta did to Bill Clinton in Primary Colors (though against an even less literal story). And it looks like Cooper may be almost as funny as the real deal was in Fahrenheit 9/11. Plus, John Sayles often does good work.

5. A Dirty Shame (Sept. 24)

John Waters is a lot like Woody Allen - I like both auteurs more than their films, at least lately. But there's sure to be at least a few funny moments. And I can't remember the last NC-17 comedy (Showgirls excluded).

6. Vanity Fair (Sept. 1)

I'm not a big "period" guy - if I wanted classic literature, I'd pick up a book, which I don't want to do - but the "Bollywood" aspect intrigues me, as does the involvement of Reese Whitherspoon and Mira Nair. And based on what I hear from more well-read sources, Whitherspoon's character is closer to Tracy Enid Flick than the bland Melanie Carmichael. And that's cause to celebrate.

7. First Daughter (Sept. 24)

I've got a crush on Katie Holmes.

Other September Movies that I'm Interested in:

Sept. 3
The Cookout

Sept. 10
When Will I Be Loved

Sept. 17
Mr. 3000

Sept. 24
The Final Cut
The Last Shot

Big Fat Greek Meddling

I don't really, you know, care about the Olympics. Unless somebody's clubbed somebody else in the knee, I never have. But I watched the Opening Ceremony this year, and I have to hand it to the Greeks - it was a beautifully designed and choreographed affair - or it would have been, if Bob Costas and Katie Couric weren't commenting inanely over the whole thing. Most annoying was their incessant chatter over Bjork's performance - the main reason I tuned in at all. Hell, I like Katie as much as any red-blooded American has to (she's almost literally the girl next door, hailing from my home town) - but shut up, already!

Still, more artistically satisfying than Troy.

Next Comic Standing

I'm fine with John Heffron winning. I would've been fine with Alonzo Bodden or Gary Gulman, too. I think those two would be better suited to sit-com stardom than Heffron, but who am I to second guess America? Especially since I didn't vote.

I think there was some confusion at NBC as to whether the premise of Last Comic Standing 3 was supposed to be a surprise. There was an ad that revealed the twist during Tuesday night's penultimate episode of Last Comic Standing 2. However, on Thursday night's finale, Jay Mohr kept teasing the twist as a secret to be revealed at the end of the show. Weird.

Anyway, the big surprise twist is that the next installment will be House vs. House: The comics of Last Comic Standing 1 pitted against the comics of Last Comic Standing 2. I'm a tad underwhelmed by this. I understand that it's probably necessitated by NBC's desire to rush a third season into production in time to salvage their fall schedule, which would prevent a full nationwide talent search to cast new comics. However, one of the biggest flaws of the franchise is that the comics only have so much material - I can't imagine how they're going to develop enough new jokes to keep it from playing like a re-run (especially those from Season 2). And is the match up even going to be close? Last year's top two, Ralphie May and Dat Phan were painful to watch on Thursday night.

Still, if this means more air time for Bonnie McFarlane (who looked absolutely adorable with her new 'do and stylish shades on finale night), count me in. I guess this explains why she has no stand-up dates scheduled after August 7.

Oh, and on the subject of ads revealing "reality twists," I just saw a promo for the new season of Survivor, which indicated that there will be 18 Survivors. I thought that was just an All-Star thing. Does this mean they'll be replicating the whole three tribe format? Not sure how I feel about that.

Entertainment Annually

My downFall

I love Entertainment Weekly. I’ve been a subscriber for eleven years now. Every Friday, I race to my mailbox to see what the geniuses at EW have in store for me. I read it religiously – if not cover to cover (who has time for those pesky book reviews), close to it. While every issue is special in its own way, there are certain annual special issues that I look forward to (it seems there are more and more each year, making them somewhat less special).

There’s the Spring and Holiday Preview issues, the previews of the Year to Come, the obituary issue, the Guilty Pleasures issue, the occasional seasonal Music Preview (usually in the Summer), and the It/Must List. The Power 101 List is a fun novelty every October and the two-time Pop Culture Quiz is a welcome new tradition. The Fall TV Preview can be quite helpful in scheduling my life for the next nine months as well as identifying potential new addictions. As an Oscar junkie, I eat up their quadrilogy of Academy Awards coverage: The nomination prediction issue, the nominee issue (which used to be a newsstand only, truly special edition), the odds on winner issue and the Awards wrap up issue. The Year in Review issue is a favorite – I like to try and predict who their 12 Entertainers of the Year will be, because, I have no life. The Summer Movie Preview is always fun and helps get me hyped about the blockbusters to come. But the one issue I anticipate more than all the rest is the Fall Movie Preview.

It could be that the second issue I ever read was 1993’s Fall Movie Preview (with Michelle Pfeiffer on the cover, for The Age of Innocence). I still remember studying that issue. Back before Internet movie coverage allowed me to hear about every movie in the pipeline, that magazine gave me my first notice of movies like The Good Son, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Schindler’s List and Philadelphia, all of which filled me with excitement (some turned out better than others).

Even with the all-seeing eye of the Internet, the Fall Preview still surprises me every year, as autumn release dates, unlike their summer counterparts, often sneak up on you. It’s an opportunity to get hyped up over the less hyped movies that promise more substance, and to start prognosticating in earnest the year’s Academy Awards contenders.

Anyway, today I received my glorious Fall Movie Preview double issue. I know this shouldn’t be one of the happiest days of the year, but it is, and I make no apologies. Now that I live on the West Coast, this is foliage. I’ll be back with my thoughts on this fall’s lineup as well as preliminary Oscar predictions after I’ve had a chance to bliss out and spend some quality time with my new 134 page best friend. Until then, go pick it up and enjoy.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Gross Negligence

You know, I haven't always been a proponent of Adjusted Gross lists over Actual Gross lists. As a young box-office tracker, I clung to the Actual gross in part because I enjoyed the inclusion of movies I'd actually seen, and in part because it allowed for some fluctuation in the Top Ten (before Titanic, the last movie to crack the Adjusted Top Ten was E.T.) I even defended it (to myself, since I didn't have a blog or anybody who cared back then), believing that the modern distribution patterns (defined by home video) as well as more competing entertainment media handicapped current releases in a way that balanced out inflation (in fact, I arugued - again, to myself - the rise of ticket prices themselves presents a hinderance to the potential blockbuster as fewere people are willing to risk ten bucks on a piece of entertainment than were willing to gamble a quarter on Gone With the Wind).

However, now that FOUR of the Top Ten domestic grossers of all time have been released in less than a year, I may have been converted. I might be dating myself here (and sounding like my grandmother), by I still remember a time when movies like Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark and Beverly Hills Cop were in the Top Ten - and it wasn't that long ago, only about a decade. Back then, there were less than a hundred movies that had earned a hundred million dollars - at the time an important milestone, which for some reason has remained one in Hollywood, even as there are now over three hundred such movies and the average cost of producing and releasing a movie has inched closer and closer to that figure.

Now, I'm no economist - in fact, I can barely balance my own checkbook - but it seems to me that in the last seven years, ticket prices have been inflated at a rate much greater than the national rate of inflation, and much greater than the rate at which they had been inflated prior to 1997 (does anybody out there want to back me up on this with actual statistics?). I still have matinee ticket stubs from 1996 that cost me less than three dollars, and I seem to remember this being a fairly steady price for a while before that. Now, I consider eight bucks to be a bargain, and I've spent as much as fourteen bucks on a single ticket (without including parking or refreshments).

The point of all this is that movies that don't really rank, for me, among the classics or cultural phenomena are taking over the Top Ten. True, this perspective could be skewed by my age at the time of their release compared with my age at the time when those earlier blockbusters were released. And I very much enjoyed two of this year's entries in the Top Ten, thought one was pretty good and the fourth... well, let's not get into that now. Yet, I defy anyone to claim that they contain lines as quotable as those in Star Wars, E.T., Forrest Gump, Jaws, Batman, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Ghostbusters; or images as memorable as those in Titanic, Jurassic Park, The Lion King, Independence Day or Home Alone. I will give it to The Passion of the Christ though - it was the only one of the four that captured that feeling of being a true surprise phenomenon that accompanied so many of those earlier blockbusters.

It's also of note that all four of this past year's additions to the Top Ten were franchise pictures(Christianity being one of the world's biggest franchises ever). Looking back at the Actual blockbusters of yesteryear, many were originals, including the still-reigning holy trinity of Titanic, Star Wars and E.T. The Lion King (though part of the Disney animation franchise), Independence Day, Home Alone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop were all originals. And though some lump literary adaptations in with other franchise movies, being based on a novel hardly guarantees blockbuster status (unless that novel features Harry Potter). In this category would be Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump and Jaws, all original in their own rights.

Well, that concludes my old-fogey rant of the day. Now I'll get back to eating Metamucil and watching VH-1.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Adam Sandler: Hooker with a Heart of Gold?

Apparently, great directors see something in Adam Sandler that I don't. How else to explain why he's so often cast or talked about being cast by them.

First Paul Thomas Anderson, who made the worst film of his nascent career with Sandler (even at half the running time of Magnolia, it felt twice as long). Then my personal idol, James L. Brooks, cast him in the forth-coming Spanglish. Ordinarily, I would expect nothing but genius from Brooks, but Sandler has me worried. For almost as long as he's been talking about his WWII epic Inglorious Bastards (and it feels like forever - please make the movie already!), Quentin Tarantino has dropped Sandler's name as a potential star. I just discovered that we narrowly dodged a Bulletproof when talks between Michael Mann and Sandler fell through to cast him in Jamie Foxx's role in Collateral. On top of that, I see he's in talks to work with the once brilliant director of Trainspotting, Danny Boyle.

If he's ever in a Spielberg movie, I quit.

The Pepsi Challenge

Wicked awesome stepmother

It''s time for the first ever Pop Culture Petri Dish captioning contest!

Whoever submits the caption that most accurately describes what the stepmother-to-be is thinking in this picture, wins a virtual gold star.

Post all submissions in the "Comments" section. You may enter as many times as your brain and fingers will allow. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 pm on August 17, or some time around then. Winners will be determined at the discretion and arbitrary taste of The Pop Culture Petri Dish.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Second Chance for Love

In case you missed any of Joe Schmo 2, Spike TV will be re-running the entire brilliant season on Tuesday, August 10th, from 9 am until 5 pm, all leading up to the two-hour finale at 9 pm. Set your TiVo's, set your VCR's, call in sick to work, 'cause tomorrow is Joe Schmo 2's Day!

Top Ten Best Twist Endings Ever

No flying cows allowed

1. The Sixth Sense
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. Fight Club
4. The Usual Suspects
5. Memento
6. Fallen
7. The Planet of the Apes (original)
8. Chinatown
9. Primal Fear
10. The Thomas Crown Affair (remake)
10 ½. 12 Monkeys

The Shyamalan Redemption

Fear can hold you prisoner...

I liked The Village much more than I thought I would, though I could easily see how people would hate it, which is why I’m reluctant to recommend it to anybody.

To put my reaction into perspective – I liked both The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable a lot, though I could see the beginnings of M. Night Shyamalan’s filmic masturbation at work in the latter, with its long, uninterrupted takes. Then came Signs, a movie I really wanted to like – and I went along with it for about an hour or so – but then it got to that scene where he himself took center stage, and it went downhill from there. Needless to say, I hated it, and sharpened my knives for its writer/director/star. It didn’t help that Time Magazine idiotically declared Shyamalan “The Next Spielberg,” which I took as a personal affront and yet another sign of Night’s out-of-control hubris, even if he never claimed to be the successor to the director’s chair himself.

To me, The Village is a response to all that (though I could be reading too much into it). The twist in this film (don’t worry, I won’t divulge any spoilers here, even if my review is already over a week late) is on his own mythology, which may explain the nearly universal disappointment in it. It reminded me of that April Fool’s stunt Trey Parker & Matt Stone pulled way back in the early days of South Park – like that twist, this one is the perfect embodiment of what its creator stands for, and yet in being that, it totally pisses off the audience. I love it! I only hope that I read it correctly in that it was Shyamalan putting the “twist” phase of his oeuvre to sleep.

But as with his other good movies, there’s more to The Village than just the twist. I like the way he raises some serious sociological issues in the film, specifically concerning “fear,”, and I kept flashing to Bowling For Columbine in my head throughout (when the DVD comes out, I’ll have to do a double feature). It also brought to mind a college course I took on monsters that focused on the creation of “Us vs. Them” binaries. The Village would be an interesting text to study in that context. The main thing tempering my appreciation for the movie (aside from the often stilted dialogue – though still less stilted than the “contemporary” dialogue of She Hate Me) was the unclear message Night was sending with two choices. First, making Adrien Brody’s character “retarded” (there’s no other word for his portrayal, or for his decision to accept this role, which may be explained by this quote from Entertainment Weekly: ''My agents weren't even allowed to read the script,'' says Brody. ''To this day, they haven't read it.'') really confuses things for me and I think dilutes the power of what it seems he wanted to say – to go into more depth, I’d have to get into spoilers. The second issue is the Bryce Dallas Howard’s (who by the way is a beautiful revelation here) character’s decision at the very end of the movie. I’m curious to see if Shyamalan addresses any of this on the DVD.

So I still think it’s cinematic blasphemy to call Shyamalan the next Spielberg. At this point in the latter’s career, he’d already made masterpieces as diverse as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders of the Lost Ark (okay, and 1941 was somewhere in there, too, but I’ll take that over Signs any day). Jaws vs. The Sixth Sense? Close Encounters vs. Unbreakable? Raiders vs. The Village? Even dated by twenty years, Spielberg wins hands down every time. But Shyamalan shouldn’t feel bad. I personally don’t believe there’s a single filmmaker in the hundred years of the medium that’s comparable to Spielberg, but that’s an article for another day.

And what of Shyamalan’s unbreakable ego? It’s still there, but he seems to be having fun with it. His Hitchcockian pseudo-cameo in The Village is equal parts mea culpa and “fuck you” to critics, like me, of his star turn in Signs. “You don’t want to see me in this movie, fine, you won’t.” “Oh, you don’t think I could find a way to fit an Indian-American in a lily-white, bucolic, nineteenth century village? I’ll show you!” The kid’s got some piss and vinegar in him!

Then there’s The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan, the controversial Sci-Fi exposé, which was exposed to be a crock-umentary. Yeah, it was cheesy in parts and there was no need for it to be three hours long and it sort of tries to elevate its subject to god-status, but other than that, it was surprisingly well-made and entertaining. It was also a very creative marketing tool for a movie that the director wanted to keep totally hidden before its release. And it too showed that Night has a sense of humor about himself, turning in a pretty convincing portrayal of an egotistical diva who won’t let visitors to his set make eye contact. The biggest shock of all, however, was that they got Johnny Depp to do a cameo – how, I don’t know, although Michael Eisner must have some pretty good blackmail on the guy.

Oh, and by the way, I’m dead. Turns out, I was allergic to water.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Beware the Ides of Manchuria

I'm not an overly superstitious person, but I'm a little worried Paramount may be tempting fate by releasing their remake of The Manchurian Candidate in this Orange Alert climate leading up to the November election. After all, the original, released a little over a year before that tragic day in Dallas, had to be pulled from circulation following the assasination of John F. Kennedy (who, ironically, was in part responsible for it being brought to the screen in the first place).

This is especially troubling given the "20 Years Rule" I recently heard about. It's another superstition/coincidence that augurs a national tragedy in our near future.

We can only hope these portents go as unfulfilled as the potential of the lame Jonathan Demme remake.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Garden State of Mind

I don't have much to say about Garden State. I liked it, didn't love it. There's a particular sense of humor at play in the film that I enjoyed, and it conveyed that odd feeling of not being able to go home again well. However, I just couldn't get involved emotionally and the characters and story fell flat (regardless of comparrisons, this is no Graduate or Harold and Maude - something the auteur readily admits). Some people seem to really like Natalie Portman's performance - I found it a bit irritating (and I really like her as an actress). I will say that Zach Braff is a very talented man, who's as strong behind the camera as he is in front of it. I'd like to see him direct somebody else's script - or collaborate on a script with a more technically proficient writer (maybe even Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence).

And thanks to the good people at Tagline, I've discovered Mr. Braff's blog. It's a bit heavy on the promotional side and I could do with less effusive thanking of his fans - though it's clear it comes from a sincere place. Like his character on Scrubs, he appears to be a smart, funny and all-around good guy. Good for him.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Top Ten Worst Movies Directed by Directors I Usually Love

1. She Hate Me
2. Punch-Drunk Love
3. Solaris (Steven Soderbergh)
4. Waking Life
5. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
6. Vanilla Sky
7. About Schmidt
8. Planet of the Apes (Tim Burton)
9. Amistad
10. Hannibal
10½. “The Man From Hollywood” segment of Four Rooms

Spike Lee Stinks up the Joint

I hates She Hate Me, which completes Spike Lee’s grammatically incorrect pronoun trilogy. He should have called it: Everything I Need to Know About Lesbians I Learned From Watching Cinemax. This is a shame because I really like Spike. When he’s at the top of his game, he makes great movies like Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, and Bamboozled. Even some of his less-than-great movies like He Got Game and 25th Hour have some interesting stuff going on and some very good elements. But when he’s bad, boy is he bad. Now I haven’t seen Girl 6, but up until this past week, I thought Summer of Sam was his worst film. But She Hate Me make Summer of Sam look like… a not horrible movie.

For starters, nothing in the movie makes the least bit of sense. Not the way the characters behave, not their reactions to things, not the story – not nothing.

The dialogue is stilted and condescending. I don’t know who he thinks his audience is, but he obviously doesn’t have enough faith in them to get his message or to even know what Watergate was without explicit instruction from him and his cast of walking pamphlets.

In David Poland’s scathing review, he compared Lee to Woody Allen, and the analogy is apt in many ways. In particular, both used to have a talent for capturing the way that contemporary people spoke. Yet now, both just seem out of touch, as though the pulse of modern life no longer courses through their veins.

The movie is also offensive in its racial and sexual stereotyping and its sheer ridiculous portrayal of lesbians. In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman nails one example of this:

What's truly ugly about the film is that without any apparent irony, it appears to buy into the most hideous possible stereotype of black men as simultaneously the most coveted and the most dehumanized of sexual beings.

In addition, Lee once again with the help of John Turturro, grinds an axe against Italian-Americans using one-dimensional mafia stereotypes who are reduced to imitating Marlon Brando as The Godfather. And just about every straight Caucasian in the film is an overt racist, which is fine in a surreal piece like Harold & Kumar, but is just lazy in a purportedly “thought-provoking” film. I don’t know which white people Lee’s been subjected to over the years, but are there really white folks under the age of 70 who still use the word “colored?” I’m sure there are plenty of whites who are more subtly racist – I’ve known a few – and while that doesn’t make them better people than the white-hooded ones, it does make them more interesting characters to explore issues of race with in a film.

As for the lesbians – oh man. Where to begin. It’s as though his entire philosophy regarding homosexuality stems from Jason Lee’s (no relation to Spike, and again, not to be confused with the star of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story – also no relation to any of them) line in Chasing Amy:
All every woman really wants, be it mother, senator, nun, is some serious deep-dickin'.

Because the lesbians in She Hate Me loves them some dick. They can’t get enough of it. In fact, even though they should only be interested in Anthony Mackie’s character for his baby batter, they want to see the Full Monty before laying down their cash. And when they do get a load of his – presumably large (you know, ‘cause he’s black) – endowment, they are sold! Apparently, Lee didn’t read the fine print in the dictionary definition of “Lesbian,” the pesky part where they’re not sexually attracted to men, because these girls all LOVE sex with Mackie, proving once and for all that they just haven’t found the right man. Mackie should be expecting a call from the Vice President, setting up an appointment with his daughter.

Many of the flaws in She Hate Me have been creeping into Lee’s movies over the years, even the good ones. Yet they stand out in this film because they are even more glaring and there is nothing of cinematic or ideological value surrounding them. One of these recurring themes – one I’m almost hesitant to bring up – is that many of his protagonists consider themselves victims and refuse to take responsibility for the parts they’ve played in rendering their own predicaments. This is an allegation sometimes leveled at members of the African American community, from both within and without, most recently and publicly by Bill Cosby. Based on interviews, I don’t get the impression that Spike Lee himself fits into that proposed category, so I wonder why so many of his characters do. Everyone from Mookie (played by the auteur) in Do the Right Thing to Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) in 25th Hour to Jack Armstrong in She Hate Me embodies this attitude. Yes, Jack gets a bum deal from the corrupt company he worked for, but nobody forces him to sell his seed to lesbians. And when he goes before congress to testify, he says that he did nothing illegal, but, and correct me if I’m wrong, he did prostitute himself to tens of women, which last time I checked is illegal. He may not have caused all his problems, but he refuses to accept any accountability whatsoever, and that is disturbing.

Oh, and did I mention that the movie is a whopping 138 minutes? Why?