Friday, March 31, 2006

The More You Know

I know I love you, Pam

How great were those in-character The Office PSAs NBC ran last night? I'm kind of shocked (and impressed) NBC actually put them on the air at the risk of dilluting their 17-year-old, Emmy Award-winning "The More You Know" campaign and confusing viewers.

In fact, I'll admit that when I first saw the Timothy Treadwell-esque Dwight spot, I thought for about two seconds it might be real. Yes, I'm gullible.

"We need Rainn! Downy is hungry, Tabitha is hungry!
Melissa is eating her babies!"

Anyway, check them all out. And prepare to learn a lot about CDW.

It's like, you know...

Also, just because I can't remember the last time TV made me laugh out loud this hard, I present the following quote from Kelly (delivered perfectly by Mindy Kaling):
I never really thought about death until Princess Diana died. That was the saddest funeral ever...

That and my sister's.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ace's Faces

Is it just me?

Like, woah!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Arrested Developments

Well, there's good news and bad news in Bluthland.

First, the bad news:

By now, we all know that creator/exec producer/genius mastermind Mitch Hurwitz has called it quits, effectively doing what the FOX network could never do on its own - killing Arrested Development. As disappointed as I am, I have to respect Hurwitz' choice and just be thankful that he gave us 53 magical half-hours of television. And hey, at least now I don't have to shell out for that Showtime subscription!

More good news:

Tonight, everyone's favorite kissing cousins George Michael (no, not that one) and Maeby - Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat - both guest star on UPN's Veronica Mars! In a fun bit of Tommy Westphallian incest, you may recall that on one of Arrested Development's final episodes (the more incestuous than usual - thanks to the Bateman siblings - "Family Ties"), "George Michael asks Maeby if she wants to watch a DVD, but the name of the DVD is bleeped. Subtitles reveal that under the bleeping was a 'reference to off-network high school private eye drama censored by FOX.'" Ah, cross-network pollination. Is there anything more beautiful?

Finally, some good news/bad news:

Apparently, Tony Hale (Buster Bluth) appears in the new "movie" Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. While it's nice to see the brilliantly talented Hale getting work (besides those Citibank ads), I can't help but wonder what Hale's TV adopted-brother-in-law (and Larry the Cable Guy arch nemesis) David Cross thinks. Or what his Doppelgänger thinks. Hopefully this won't cause a rift in the highly functional Bluth family.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Subliminal Mess-Up

Almost a year ago exactly, American Idol "accidentally" displayed the wrong phone numbers during the end-of-episode recap. Well, to mark the anniversary, they did it again tonight... briefly.

During Mandisa's performance, her name and number flashed across the screen, though over a random strip of violin footage from the orchestra rather than the traditional blue backdrop with the Cingular logo:

Sexy and violins

Then, for less than a second, it switched to the blue Cingular backdrop we all know and love... while subliminally plugging Taylor Hicks and his phone number:

Did Taylor dye his hair or something? He looks different somehow...

Quickly, the Chyron dissolved back to Mandisa's information (still over the violin) for just over a second before vanishing completely.

I'm guessing FOX probably won't bother re-airing tonight's episode with the correct Chyron tomorrow night, since Unan1mous actually seems to be doing well in the ratings. Though I do wonder why they couldn't have corrected this mistake between the live broadcast on the East Coast and the West Coast broadcast.

Now with video:

Or not... YouTube has removed the video as a result of "a third-party notification claiming that this material is infringing." While technically, legally, this may be true, and this blog does not claim to be above the law, one has to wonder what sort of damages a mere ten second clip could cause... especially while (at least for the moment) all these other Idol clips are still online at YouTube, many of them longer and posted before my clip.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Betamaxed Out

Well, it's official: Betamax is dead.

I've just discovered that my Microsoft Word spell checker doesn't recognize the word "Betamax."

"Laserdisc," however, it knows. For the time being...

It just dies


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Will & Restraint

I'd like to nominate Will & Grace for a special Emmy for doing an entire episode about a gay cowboy bar without a single reference to Brokeback Mountain (not even a "Just Jack? Just Jack Nasty!"). Pretty impressive.

Also impressive - NBC apparently ran something of a Shohreh Aghdashloo theme night, featuring the brilliant actress on both Will & Grace and ER. Sadly, I didn't learn of her stint in the ER until it was too late, and I'm afraid she's not quite as adept at comedy as she is at heart-breaking drama (to be fair, it wasn't the best written special guest role ever on the show), but still... bravo, NBC.

Now if only 24 could stop killing characters off long enough to bring Dina Araz back from the dead.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Crash and Burn

"In There Deep":

"It's the sense of touch... In L.A., nobody touches you... I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

So, Crash. Best Picture. That happened.

Unlike many people out there, I wasn't really upset. If anything, I was a little amused. I chose to look at it, not as Crash winning, but as Brokeback Mountain losing. I happen to think they're both pretentious, mediocre, ultimately vapid movies that have had way too much importance ascribed to them by people all-too-eager to see what they wanted to see – The Emperor's New Best Picture Nominees. So I was rooting for neither one to take home the prize. However, I knew that it was going to be one or the other, so I spent some time before the Awards debating which was the lesser (or should I say "greater?") of two mediocrities?

My biggest problem with Crash is that it fails to reflect the realities of racial tensions and the realities of the way that real people interact with one another in Los Angeles in the year 2005. A part of me wondered, as I left the theater, whether or not Haggis and co. actually intended to make a very hyper-real film – almost a satire. Yet, in all the undeserved praise I've heard lavished upon this movie – both from admirers and the people who made it – I think Haggis is just that divorced from reality (I'm not the first to point out that this was clearly foreshadowed by the horribly one-dimensional, stereotypical portrayal of a redneck family in his Million Dollar Baby).

My problems with Brokeback are manifold, but they primarily stem from my inability to buy that Jack and Ennis were in love. Maybe this is me applying my modern views or my urban views or my heterosexual views to a decidedly non-modern, non-urban and (debatably) non-heterosexual "love" story (I can't decide whether it's a very progressive thing or a very unprogressive thing that I've heard no uproar from the gay community that this "monumental" film was entirely written by, directed by and acted by heterosexuals). Maybe I was mislead by the pre-release hype (I really need to see it for a second time, knowing what to (and what not to) expect). Whatever the reasons, I just couldn't get invested emotionally in the film's central "love" story (or "lust story"). Aside from (or because of) that, I found the whole movie rather slow and tedious and redundant (much like its Academy Award-winning score). Throw in some truly atrocious, laugh-out-loud dialogue, embarrassing aging makeup and a bad Sling Blade impression, and well, no amount of pretty Canadian landscapes is gonna convince me this is the Best Picture of the year.

So, given the choice between a movie that doesn't work in relation to the real world (and may in fact do more harm than good) but does kinda work as a movie and a movie that has its heart in the right place but doesn't work (for me) as a movie, I'd have to give the Oscar to the movie that works (more or less) as a movie. More than that, if I were to be stranded on an island with only one of these two movies, I think I could bear more repeat viewings of Crash before taking my own life than of Brokeback. It just seems more "watchable."

And as insufferable (and inexplicable) as Crash fanatics are (what happened to Roger Ebert?), Brokeback's champions are even more self-righteous. It was like the second coming of The Passion of the Christ. A religious experience. I don't for a second question the sincerity of its adherents, though I do believe, as with The Passion, Brokeback served a severely underrepresented portion of the population and reflected a true dearth of something (be it Christianity or a gay romance) in the marketplace. In this non-Christian, non-gay's eyes, both audiences were so starved (and rightly so) for that something that they over-praised movies that didn't truly deserve it.

The thing that really bothered me was this pervasive attitude that attacking – or even not liking – this movie made one a homophobe. The same thing happened with critics of Schindler's List being called anti-Semitic or critics of The Passion being called anti-Christian. Sure, many of Brokeback's admirers were more tolerant than this, but as in most situations, the most vocal were the most extremist.

Granted, there were many people who hated this movie because they hate gays… but then, I feel confident in saying that most of them refused to even see the film before judging it. But in some people's eyes, someone like me, who was ready and willing to be wowed by this movie and wasn't wowed, is lumped in with crackpot homophobes like Ann Coulter. Sure, for a moment the company makes me question my position, but I think of it as like when Osama bin Laden came out to endorse John Kerry. I didn't like being on the same side as him, but I'd be damned if I was going to let him influence my vote one way or the other.

This "If you're not with us, you're against us" campaign vocalized by Brokeback fanatics continued after it lost Best Picture to Crash. Suddenly, the Academy (which had seen fit to bestow the most nominations of any movie this year on Brokeback, had nominated Capote for Best Picture, given Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar for playing a character who happened to be gay, nominated the even-gayer-than-Brokeback Transamerica for two awards) was filled with homophobes. That could be the only explanation possible for not voting for Brokeback (no word on if Munich and Good Night, and Good Luck were also too gay for the Academy).

Whispers abound that many (presumably older) voters refused to even see Brokeback because of its content. If that's true, then that's reprehensible and those voters should turn in their Academy memberships. If you can't (or won't) see all the films nominated (especially the five Best Picture nominees) you have no business voting (though I'm sure many voters every year fail to see all nominated films). That said, I wonder how many voters refused to see Munich because they heard it was favorable to terrorists or anti-Israel. Or how many suffered epileptic fits during the opening of Moulin Rouge! and failed to see it through to the end. Or how many popped out the tape of Pulp Fiction because of the language. Or the tape of Goodfellas because of the violence. Or how many died of boredom while watching Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Again, none of this should forgive actual homophobes in the Academy who refused to screen the movie out of bigotry. I'm just suggesting that there's never a level-playing field when it comes to awards that are entirely based on subjective, personal tastes.

So, yeah, I took some joy in seeing the undefeated champ blowing it in the big game (now I know how all those Texas fans felt after the Rose Bowl – or to be more precise, how all those Bruins fans felt). Sure when I look back at the movie that won Best Picture in 2005 I'll be a little disgusted… but at least I'll have lots of company.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oscar, Mayor: Winners

Best Tourism Campaign Ever:
And the film did get a little hometown push, including from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

He "was wonderful to us," Haggis says. "He really embraced the film. He said 'Yes, this is our Los Angeles.' "
That's right, tourists... come to L.A. where you too can get carjacked, shot (with blanks, of course), diddled by a racist cop, pulled from a flaming car wreck by said racist cop and called vicious racial epithets to your face by media relations consultants! All the glamour of the movies, come to life!

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Oh Snap!

Spielberg had me worried there for a minute. But all is as it should be:

I asked him about "Indiana Jones 4." What’s up?

I said: “George Lucas told me recently that there’s a script and he’s happy with the story.”

Spielberg: “George Lucas isn’t the director. I am.”

Oh snap!

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Monday, March 06, 2006

A Few Thoughts Before I Crash

How much did Jack Nicholson have to pay to get seated next to Keira Knightley?

Usually the previous year's Best Supporting Actress presents Best Supporting Actor, so where was Cate Blanchett? Sneaky that they replaced her with Nicole Kidman who was reportedly originally supposed to play Blanchett's Oscar-winning role in The Aviator. Which brings me to this odd bit of trivia: In the past two years, two of the voices Anthony Hopkins used to create his Oscar-winning portrayal of Hannibal Lecter have been immitated by actors also going on to win Oscars - Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote. Early bets for next year's awards should be on whoever plays HAL 9000 in a biopic.

The music underscoring acceptance speeches from the start? A horrible idea. Almost as bad as last year's presenting in the aisles fiasco.

When Jon Stewart made that Scientology crack, why didn't the cameras cut to a celebrated Scientologist like Academy Award-winner Paul Haggis or John Travolta? After all, they cut to Jamie Foxx whenever anybody said the word "black."

I can't wait to see Crash: The Musical live on stage! Though I have to say, without the (Academy Award-winning) nail-on-the-head dialogue, I had trouble understanding that racism is bad. However, that musical number was ridiculous and over-the-top and thus the perfect tribute to the (Academy Award-winning) film that inspired it. Also, I want to give an Emmy to whomever cut to the close-up of faux-(Academy Award-nominee)Matt Dillon finger-synching faux-Thandie Newton. That they can show on TV, but Taraji P. Henson had to sing "A whole lot of witches jumpin' ship?"

Speaking of the luminous (and tragically un-nominated) Taraji P. Henson, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was brave enough to perform tonight (unlike Terrence Howard - who must've understandably had other things on his mind). Sadly, (Academy Award-winners) Three 6 Mafia's performance didn't do justice to the song and probably left everyone who hasn't seen Hustle & Flow wondering how it ever won Best Song. When "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" is performed in the movie, it's an exhilirating scene of inspiration and passion, surpassing even the great sequences in Ray and Walk the Line where the legends give birth to "Hit the Road Jack" and "Folsom Prison Blues" respectively. Those characters recite those lyrics with such intensity and emotion and rawness that the moment transcends the song itself. Even listening to Howard and Henson on the soundtrack, divorced from the visuals and context, the song doesn't sound half as good as it did in the theater. That shouldn't take away from its Oscar win (AP headlines to the contrary) - it's nice to see a song that's truly integrated into (and integral to) the movie (I believe the film school term is "diegetic") win as opposed to the end credit tack-ons that usually dominate this category. Still, unless I missed it (which is entirely possible), Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard thanked Jamie Foxx but neither Terrence Howard nor Taraji P. Henson to whom they truly owe their win (the official transcript thinks they said "George Clooney" and not "Jamie Foxx," but still no mention of Howard or Henson - except Howard is noted in their "SPECIAL ONLINE THANKS" section).

What was with all the montages? It's never been this bad or incoherent (and I'm usually a fan of the Chuck Workman Oscar montages). They just kept getting more and more random, culminating in the genre of "Movies That Look Good on the Big Screen (AND NOT DVD!!!)." But all was redeemed, when, during the "Important Issue Movies" montage they included a clip from the iconoclastic classic Day After Tomorrow! Man, Fox's marketing of that movie as a serious political statement about global warming really stuck! My theory is that they included it just so they could have a shot of water over-taking a city, followed by somebody saying something about the director of FEMA. Whatever the motivation, I was thrilled. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Network and The Day After Tomorrow... all woefully ahead of their times.

Wondering: When Larry McMurtry mentioned "The Golden Globes" in his speech, was that the first time those words had ever been uttered on the Academy's stage? I know they like to pretend they're the only game in town. Oh, and what kind of sedatives were he and Diana Ossana on?

As if Crash's wins weren't painful enough, we had to sit through the orchestra's awful, operatic rendition of "In the Deep" every time.

Academy Award-winner Paul Haggis' acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay perfectly illustrated his writing style. "Bertolt Brecht said that art is not a mirror, but it is a hammer." So that's why - rather than accurately reflect real life and the way that real people really speak to one another and how subtle and veiled, yet none-the-less corrosive, racism really pervades our real society - he used a hammer to hammer his "message" into the heads of viewers. It's all so preclear now! Give this man an Oscar! Hell, give him two!

So Ang Lee thanked the fictional characters from his movie... but not the actors who played them? Whoops! Guess Academy voters weren't the only ones to snub Heath, Jake and Michelle tonight.

Ironic that in a year when the recurring theme seemed to be "Big Screen, Good. DVD, Bad," the Best Picture won thanks to blanketing all of Hollywood with shiny little discs.

Why wasn't Don Cheadle in attendance? Was he bitter that he wasn't listed as one of the nominated producers for Crash? Was he bitter that Matt Dillon got to molest Thandie Newton and get an Oscar nomination for it?

I've got more to say about Academy Award-winning Best Picture Crash, but it'll have to wait until I get some sleep.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Black People Steal, White People Win

Did the AP learn nothing from Katrina? Or at least take away the profound (albeit subtle) message of this year's Best Picture winner that racism isn't good?

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Grumble Grumble

My last minute Oscar predictions are up. I'm not really certain about much, except that I'm going to be disappointed for much of the evening. If I were a braver man, I would predict wins for Crash (Best Picture), Felicity Huffman, Matt Dillon, Michelle Williams, Dan Futterman, Murderball, Star Wars (Makeup) and "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." But I'm not that brave.

Good Night, and Good Luck... especially to Munich, Steven Spielberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Terrence Howard, Frances McDormand, Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, Murderball, Street Fight, Cashback and Six Shooter.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lake v. Peterson

One of my favorite parts of any new Amazing Race season is the nicknames that teams bestow upon one another before they learn everyone's real names. And this season premiere did not disappoint! Among the early sobriquets: "The Frosties," "The Hippies," "Ken & Barbie," "The Ho's," "The Einstein Couple," "Double D," "Mom & Daughter," "The Gay Guys," "Frat Boys" and "That Black Girl" (not to be confused with The Black Family).

But, by far, the greatest moniker of the night was offered by Jo (of "MoJo" fame), who called Lake Garner "Scott Peterson!"

"I'm sorry. That was... partially my fault really."

While there's no doubt Lake is the most likely to murder his pregnant wife and dump her body in the ocean, personally, I think he looks more like another jailbird...

Check out that air guitar!

Anyway, I'm just waiting for somebody to call these douchebags "Jeric"

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