Friday, January 19, 2007

"It has become physically impossible to kiss your face": Grey's Anatomy



It's been a very mixed season so far for Grey's Anatomy, current king of the zeitgeist. But this two parter "Six Days" has helped to wrap up some of the less savory storylines in typically dramatic fashion.

It also introduced a new hospital couple, Addison and Alex ('Addisex', for those of you not in the know), which I'm far more dubious about. Now, I'm well aware that Grey's is shameless in throwing its cast into every possible pair situation possible, but I just can't see this one lasting. Their little clumsy, stammering, supposedly adorable routine was cute enough in this episode, but how much do they actually have in common, apart from being good-looking, single and looking for some fun? Then again, I guess I would have cocked an eyebrow if someone had mentioned hooking up Ryan and Taylor on The O.C. last year, so I guess I'll give them a shot. All that aside, Kate Walsh is easily doing the show's best work currently, probably because Addison is one of the least compromised characters on the show. Her major revelation this week, that she aborted Mark's baby, was delivered in the perfect way: almost offhand, not over-the-top at all. Walsh played it just perfectly.

Derek and Meredith's micro-drama over these two episodes seemed almost like a joke by the show's writers, like, what else could possibly impede these two? Even when insulting each other they had enjoyably brittle banter and the resolution, especially bringing in Meredith's sweet little milquetoast of a father for advice, was nicely done.

Definitely the best thing about the two-parter was T.R. Knight's performance, not that he didn't have a totally Emmy-baiting storyline (totally worth it if he gets the nomination!). It's the first time that I've really believed in him and Callie, though I've always liked them--them kissing over his dad's urine output and then holding hands in the farting scene were both fine moments, balancing the super-drama of his dad's plight well. And not to get too heavily into the media fracas involving Knight and Isaiah Washington, but it's interesting how great their scenes together were yesterday. In fact, they've always been a good pair. Just goes to show how well-hidden such strife can be through solid acting. Even though I feel Washington basically has to be written out of the show because of his behavior, I was reminded that I actually do like the Burke character. It's a shame that this season, flawed as it has been, has been so massively overshadowed by off-set drama. Here's to some great water-cooler television (if you haven't heard about the upcoming ferryboat disaster episode yet, you will!) in the coming months.

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The O.C.: Like sharing a sweat lodge with the Blue Man Group



Five episodes to go! I couldn't be happier that this show is ending on such a high note, but it does feel like a bit of a waste that all this great material is coming so late in the game for The O.C., especially after two very mixed years. Methinks part of the reason the storylines are much smoother than usual is because Josh Schwartz & the gang know the end is near, and thus feel less compelled to go for the extreme drama of the past to try and reel in viewers.

All in all a cute episode, although the wheel-spinning on the Ryan/Taylor relationship was slightly yawnsome (Taylor saying she wants to figure herself out - is that not the same note that Seth/Summer ended on in the previous episode?). It's great how quickly these two have so quickly outstripped Ryan/Marissa in every aspect of coupledom: chemistry, humor, looks (oh no he didn't!). Taylor, like Ryan's other great girlfriend Lindsay (of season 2), is a sexy dork, and that mix of intelligence and neuroses seems to mix much better with his stoic, super-deadpan approach. I guess it's a good thing that they won't have future seasons to turn into the on-off monster that Ryan/Marissa became. Also, Ryan's poem was adorable, and the drumroll when he announced he had a poem was just hysterical.

The best aspect was easily the full-blown return of Che and his misadventures with Seth. Todd told me about someone's fantasy O.C. spinoff that featured Taylor and Kaitlin living large on campus--why not throw in Che too? His big goofy grin when Seth slapped him had me giggling like an idiot. His major 'revelation', that he seems to be interested in being more than just friends with Seth (who--lest we forget--he serenaded naked earlier this season), is a funny new spin on the Seth/Summer love triangle storyline, and right out of left field. Here's hoping they mine that one for all it's worth.

The other plots of the week were less compelling. Kaitlin and the band geek is fairly uninteresting, although I guess they had to give her something to do. I enjoy her more when she's sniping from the sidelines and being deliciously amoral, rather than actually appearing to give a damn about...basically anything going on. Julie's latest screwup also does nada for me, considering that her little dramas always go the same way--she commits some horrible wrongdoing, one of the Cohens bitches her out, and by the next episode she's back to being a hilarious bumbling sidekick for Kirsten. A return of the Bullet to lecture us on the Jewish media conspiracy would be nice. Where did he go, exactly?

Oh, and one final thought--just when you think there won't be better sweat lodge hallucinations in the 06-07 season, Seth goes ahead and out-Lockes John Locke. I want to meet my spiritual otter!

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What's new on the AFI 100 Years, 100 Movies (part 2) list?


When the American Film Institute announced that it was going to do a new 100 Years, 100 Movies list to update the old list, it was only natural to assume that they'd add films from the last ten years (the cutoff date on the last list was 1996 -- the cutoff date for this one is 2005). They added over 40 films made between 1997 and 2005, including everything from the three Lord of the Rings films to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

But the AFI didn't just stop there. They added a number of films by directors who missed the last list in an attempt to rectify some oversights. Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. joins his The General from the original list, and John Cassavetes lands A Woman Under the Influence on the list. But in adding all of these new films, they didn't simply expand the list of 400 films eligible for the 1998 list to 500 or more. Instead, they replaced a bunch of films on the original list with new ones. Now, there are not a lot of films that have been replaced that will truly be missed (and the rumor is that the ones replaced were the ones with the lowest scores in the 1990s balloting), but there are a few curious choices of removal, to go along with a few curious omissions.

A UK poster on the Oscarwatch forums called "spicebrain" has compiled this helpful list of every film added and removed from the list. A note: Foreign films, short films and documentaries are not eligible. If you want to see the original ballot, it is here (warning: PDF). The new ballot is here.

First, the films that are new to the 2007 shortlist, broken up by decade:

  • "Broken Blossoms" (D.W. Griffith; 1919)
  • "Sherlock, Jr." (Buster Keaton; 1924)
  • "The Freshman" (Sam Taylor & Fred C. Newmeyer; 1925)
  • "Queen Christina" (Rouben Mamoulian; 1933)
  • "Jezebel" (William Wyler; 1938)
  • "The Great Dictator" (Charles Chaplin; 1940)
  • "Stormy Weather" (Andrew L. Stone; 1943)
  • "Mildred Pierce" (Michael Curtiz; 1945)
  • "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (Tay Garnett; 1946)
  • "Ace in the Hole" (Billy Wilder; 1951)
  • "The Thing From Another World" (Christian Nyby; 1951)
  • "Roman Holiday" (William Wyler; 1953)
  • "The King and I" (Walter Lang; 1956)
  • "A Face in the Crowd" (Elia Kazan; 1957)
  • "The Sweet Smell of Success" (Alexander Mackendrick; 1957)
  • "Porgy and Bess" (Otto Preminger; 1959)
  • "The Great Escape" (John Sturges; 1963)
  • "Harold and Maude" (Hal Ashby; 1971)
  • "Sleeper" (Woody Allen; 1973)
  • "A Woman Under the Influence" (John Cassavetes; 1974)
  • "Young Frankenstein" (Mel Brooks; 1974)
  • "Halloween" (John Carpenter; 1978)
  • "Airplane!" (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker; 1980)
  • "The Shining" (Stanley Kubrick; 1980)
  • "A Christmas Story" (Bob Clark; 1983)
  • "The King of Comedy" (Martin Scorsese; 1983)
  • "This Is Spinal Tap" (Rob Reiner; 1984)
  • "The Breakfast Club" (John Hughes; 1985)
  • "Hoosiers" (David Anspaugh; 1986)
  • "Stand by Me" (Rob Reiner; 1986)
  • "Bull Durham" (Ron Shelton; 1988)
  • "When Harry Met Sally..." (Rob Reiner; 1989)
  • "Boyz n the Hood" (John Singleton; 1991)
  • "Groundhog Day" (Harold Ramis; 1993)
  • "The Usual Suspects" (Bryan Singer; 1995)
  • "As Good as It Gets" (James L. Brooks; 1997) (the first film released too late to be eligible for the old list)
  • "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (Jay Roach; 1997)
  • "Boogie Nights" (Paul Thomas Anderson; 1997)
  • "Good Will Hunting" (Gus Van Sant; 1997)
  • "L.A. Confidential" (Curtis Hanson; 1997)
  • "Titanic" (James Cameron; 1997)
  • "Rushmore" (Wes Anderson; 1998)
  • "Saving Private Ryan" (Steven Spielberg; 1998)
  • "Shakespeare in Love" (John Madden; 1998)
  • "There's Something About Mary" (Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly; 1998)
  • "American Beauty" (Sam Mendes; 1999)
  • "Being John Malkovich" (Spike Jonze; 1999)
  • "Fight Club" (David Fincher; 1999)
  • "The Insider" (Michael Mann; 1999)
  • "The Matrix" (Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski; 1999)
  • "The Sixth Sense" (M. Night Shyamalan; 1999)
  • "Three Kings" (David O. Russell; 1999)
  • "Erin Brockovich" (Steven Soderbergh; 2000)
  • "Gladiator" (Ridley Scott; 2000)
  • "Requiem for a Dream" (Darren Aronofsky; 2000)
  • "Traffic" (Steven Soderbergh; 2000)
  • "A Beautiful Mind" (Ron Howard; 2001)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (Peter Jackson; 2001)
  • "Memento" (Christopher Nolan; 2001)
  • "Moulin Rouge!" (Baz Luhrmann; 2001)
  • "Shrek" (Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson; 2001)
  • "Chicago" (Rob Marshall; 2002)
  • "The Hours" (Stephen Daldry; 2002)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Peter Jackson; 2002)
  • "Finding Nemo" (Andrew Stanton; 2003)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (Peter Jackson; 2003)
  • "Lost in Translation" (Sofia Coppola; 2003)
  • "Mystic River" (Clint Eastwood; 2003)
  • "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (Gore Verbinski; 2003)
  • "The Aviator" (Martin Scorsese; 2004)
  • "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (Michel Gondry; 2004)
  • "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (Alfonso CuarĂ³n; 2004)
  • "Hotel Rwanda" (Terry George; 2004)
  • "Million Dollar Baby" (Clint Eastwood; 2004)
  • "Ray" (Taylor Hackford; 2004)
  • "Sideways" (Alexander Payne; 2004)
  • "Spider-Man 2" (Sam Raimi; 2004)
  • "Brokeback Mountain" (Ang Lee; 2005)
  • "Crash" (Paul Haggis; 2005)
  • "Good Night, and Good Luck." (George Clooney; 2005)
There are a lot of puzzling inclusions in the more recent films, but the older films seem to be a genuine attempt to make up for shortcomings in the older list, including films by ignored directors (as mentioned above) and a lot of genre films that were overlooked in the 90s (Halloween and Airplane! for example). I'm surprised, for example, that The Sweet Smell of Success and The Postman Always Rings Twice weren't eligible on the old list. Of the older films (and I'll admit I haven't seen a few), only The King and I strikes me as an odd inclusion -- it's one of the lesser Rodgers & Hammerstein films.

Here are the films removed from the 1997 ballot to make room for the films above, again broken up by decade.

  • "Richard III" (AndrĂ© Calmettes & James Keane; 1912)
  • "Within Our Gates" (Oscar Micheaux; 1920)
  • "The Broadway Melody" (Harry Beaumont; 1929)
  • "Morocco" (Josef von Sternberg; 1930)
  • "Cimarron" (Wesley Ruggles; 1931)
  • "Cavalcade" (Frank Lloyd; 1933)
  • "David Copperfield" (George Cukor; 1935)
  • "The Little Colonel" (David Butler; 1935)
  • "The Great Ziegfeld" (Robert Z. Leonard; 1936)
  • "A Star Is Born" (William A. Wellman; 1937)
  • "Boys Town" (Norman Taurog; 1938)
  • "Babes In Arms" (Busby Berkeley; 1939)
  • "Only Angels Have Wings" (Howard Hawks; 1939)
  • "The Mark of Zorro" (Rouben Mamoulian; 1940)
  • "Bataan" (Tay Garnett; 1943)
  • "Hail the Conquering Hero" (Preston Sturges; 1944)
  • "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" (Mervyn LeRoy; 1944)
  • "The Yearling" (Clarence Brown; 1946)
  • "Intruder in the Dust" (Clarence Brown; 1949)
  • "A Letter to Three Wives" (Joseph L. Mankiewicz; 1949)
  • "Sands of Iwo Jima" (Allan Dwan; 1949)
  • "The Gunfighter" (Henry King; 1950)
  • "The Greatest Show on Earth" (Cecil B. DeMille; 1952)
  • "The War of the Worlds" (Byron Haskin; 1953)
  • "The Caine Mutiny" (Edward Dmytryk; 1954)
  • "Carmen Jones" (Otto Preminger; 1954)
  • "Salt of the Earth" (Herbert J. Biberman; 1954)
  • "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (Richard Fleischer; 1954)
  • "East of Eden" (Elia Kazan; 1955)
  • "Lady and the Tramp" (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske; 1955)
  • "Mister Roberts" (John Ford & Mervyn LeRoy; 1955)
  • "Oklahoma!" (Fred Zinnemann; 1955)
  • "The Seven Year Itch" (Billy Wilder; 1955)
  • "Around the World in Eighty Days" (Michael Anderson; 1956)
  • "Run Silent, Run Deep" (Robert Wise; 1958)
  • "Anatomy of a Murder" (Otto Preminger; 1959)
  • "Imitation of Life" (Douglas Sirk; 1959)
  • "On the Beach" (Stanley Kramer; 1959)
  • "Shadows" (John Cassavetes; 1959)
  • "Elmer Gantry" (Richard Brooks; 1960)
  • "El Cid" (Anthony Mann; 1961)
  • "Judgment at Nuremberg" (Stanley Kramer; 1961)
  • "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske & Wolfgang Reitherman; 1961)
  • "Cleopatra" (Joseph L. Mankiewicz; 1963)
  • "From Russia With Love" (Terence Young; 1963)
  • "Hud" (Martin Ritt; 1963)
  • "The Pink Panther" (Blake Edwards; 1963)
  • "Tom Jones" (Tony Richardson; 1963)
  • "The Americanization of Emily" (Arthur Hiller; 1964)
  • "Fantastic Voyage" (Richard Fleischer; 1966)
  • "Barefoot in the Park" (Gene Saks; 1967)
  • "In Cold Blood" (Richard Brooks; 1967)
  • "The Jungle Book" (Wolfgang Reitherman; 1967)
  • "Two for the Road" (Stanley Donen; 1967)
  • "Bullitt" (Peter Yates; 1968)
  • "Oliver!" (Carol Reed; 1968)
  • "Medium Cool" (Haskell Wexler; 1969)
  • "Little Big Man" (Arthur Penn; 1970)
  • "Fiddler on the Roof" (Norman Jewison; 1971)
  • "The Goodbye Girl" (Herbert Ross; 1977)
  • "Melvin and Howard" (Jonathan Demme; 1980)
  • "Missing" (Costa-Gavras; 1982)
  • "Local Hero" (Bill Forsyth; 1983)
  • "El Norte" (Gregory Nava; 1983)
  • "Return of the Jedi" (Richard Marquand; 1983)
  • "Beverly Hills Cop" (Martin Brest; 1984)
  • "Children of a Lesser God" (Randa Haines; 1986)
  • "Hannah and Her Sisters" (Woody Allen; 1986)
  • "Lethal Weapon" (Richard Donner; 1987)
  • "The Untouchables" (Brian De Palma; 1987)
  • "Dangerous Liaisons" (Stephen Frears; 1988)
  • "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Martin Scorsese; 1988)
  • "Batman" (Tim Burton; 1989)
  • "Pretty Woman" (Garry Marshall; 1990)
  • "Rambling Rose" (Martha Coolidge; 1991)
  • "The Player" (Robert Altman; 1992)
  • "The Fugitive" (Andrew Davis; 1993)
  • "The Joy Luck Club" (Wayne Wang; 1993)
  • "Casino" (Martin Scorsese; 1995)
  • "Leaving Las Vegas" (Mike Figgis; 1995)
There's a lot of quid pro quo going on here -- a R&H musical (Oklahoma!) traded for another (The King and I); one Cassavetes (Shadows) traded for a more nominatable one (A Woman Under the Influence). And, honestly, there's not a lot that's going to be missed. I think that even with the chaff in the list of films added, that list is a stronger bunch overall -- is anyone really going to miss The Joy Luck Club or Cleopatra?

I wish they had made room for The Player or Imitation of Life or even The Fugitive (a popcorn favorite of mine), but I also don't see how any of the three above would have made the new list (maybe Imitation of Life, given the love bestowed upon Douglas Sirk in the wake of Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven). Every Best Picture winner ever was on the old list (with one exception), and all of the Best Picture winners since 1996 have been added, but seven old ones were cut -- The Broadway Melody, Cimarron, Cavalcade, The Great Ziegfeld, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days and Oliver! These are probably among the worst Best Picture winners ever, so neither of them is a huge loss either. Laurence Olivier's Hamlet was not on the old list or on this one, but that probably stems from eligibility problems -- it was produced entirely with British money, unlike, say, Lawrence of Arabia, which had some American money involved in it.


What's missing from the list of additions? Not a lot. I would have included The Incredibles, for instance, but Finding Nemo is a good substitute for showing the dominance of Pixar in the animation field in the last 10 years (Toy Story was eligible the last time around but didn't make the list). It's also sort of curious that none of the films from Steven Spielberg's remarkable run since 2001 (A.I., Minority Report, Catch Me if You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds and Munich) have been included, but critical opinion (and commercial opinion) on those is still fairly mixed. Honestly, one can quibble, but the AFI seems to me to have made a good shot at varying things up on this new list, and they should be applauded for that.

Then again, how likely is it that any of the new films will make the list? While the AFI list is unique in that it polls regular folk in addition to film critics and film professionals, it's not as though Citizen Kane's stature is going to suddenly crumble simply because George W. Bush has been added to the voting pool (I assume). The old list was very baby boomer friendly (The Graduate made the top ten for no discernable reason) and nostalgic for the films of the 60s and 70s above all else. But, honestly, I don't see the new list reflecting the huge rise in the numbers of film critics made possible by the easy availability of DVD and the popularity of criticism blogs.

So that means, sadly, the number of additions will probably be kept to 10 or so. Certainly a Lord of the Rings will make it in, and I would wager that a Pixar entry will as well. Saving Private Ryan will boost Spielberg's total (he had five on the last list, and I don't see any of those five -- Close Encounters, E.T., Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Schindler's List -- dropping off). The Shawshank Redemption should make a good showing, and hopefully, Keaton, Preston Sturges, Ernst Lubitsch, Terrence Malick and others finally land a film on the list.

I tend to not get too worked up about the AFI lists, as some do. They're populist lists, and as with any populist list, broad-based entertainment is going to place heavily. The last list, at least, sparked a lot of discussion about Citizen Kane (my mother didn't even know what it was!), and it's the random cineaste favorites that crack the top 100 that make the special worth watching. The AFI, of course, could poll 100 of the most respected critics and come up with a list of 100 masterpieces of American film, but the special would never end up on television and no one would pay attention. At least with the more populist AFI lists, people are getting exposed to 100 very good-to-great movies (aside from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?). It's not a perfect system, but it's not awful either.

Addendum: spicebrain has also come up with this list of the directors with the most entries on the list. All have three or more entries.

  • [10] WILLIAM WYLER -- "Dodsworth" (36); "Jezebel" (38); "Wuthering Heights" (39); "The Little Foxes" (41); "Mrs. Miniver" (42); "The Best Years of Our Lives" (46); "The Heiress" (49); "Roman Holiday" (53); "Ben-Hur" (59); "Funny Girl" (68)
  • [9] ALFRED HITCHCOCK -- "Rebecca" (40); "Shadow of a Doubt" (43); "Notorious" (46); "Strangers on a Train" (51); "Rear Window" (54); "Vertigo" (58); "North by Northwest" (59); "Psycho" (60); "The Birds" (63)
  • [8] HOWARD HAWKS -- "Scarface" (32); "Bringing Up Baby" (38); "His Girl Friday" (40); "Sergeant York" (41); "To Have and Have Not" (44); "The Big Sleep" (46); "Red River" (48); "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (53)
  • [8] STEVEN SPIELBERG -- "Jaws" (75); "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (77); "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (81); "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (82); "The Color Purple" (85); "Jurassic Park" (93); "Schindler's List" (93); "Saving Private Ryan" (98)
  • [7] JOHN FORD -- "Stagecoach" (39); "Young Mr. Lincoln" (39); "The Grapes of Wrath" (40); "How Green Was My Valley" (41); "My Darling Clementine" (46); "The Quiet Man" (52); "The Searchers" (56)
  • [7] GEORGE STEVENS -- "Swing Time" (36); "Gunga Din" (39); "Woman of the Year" (42); "A Place in the Sun" (51); "Shane" (53); "Giant" (56); "The Diary of Anne Frank" (59)
  • [7] BILLY WILDER -- "Double Indemnity" (44); "The Lost Weekend" (45); "Sunset Blvd." (50); "Ace in the Hole" (51); "Stalag 17" (53); "Some Like it Hot" (59); "The Apartment" (60)
  • [6] FRANK CAPRA -- "It Happened One Night" (34); "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (36); "Lost Horizon" (37); "You Can't Take It With You" (38); "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (39); "It's a Wonderful Life" (46)
  • [6] STANLEY KUBRICK -- "Paths of Glory" (57); "Spartacus" (60); "Dr. Strangelove..." (64); "2001: A Space Odyssey" (68); "A Clockwork Orange" (71); "The Shining" (80)
  • [6] MARTIN SCORSESE -- "Mean Streets" (73); "Taxi Driver" (76); "Raging Bull" (80); "The King of Comedy" (83); "Goodfellas" (90); "The Aviator" (04)
  • [5] CHARLES CHAPLIN -- "The Kid" (21); "The Gold Rush" (25); "City Lights" (31); "Modern Times" (36); "The Great Dictator" (40)
  • [5] GEORGE CUKOR -- "Camille" (37); "The Philadelphia Story" (40); "Adam's Rib" (49); "A Star Is Born" (54); "My Fair Lady" (64)
  • [5] ELIA KAZAN -- "Gentleman's Agreement" (47); "A Streetcar Named Desire" (51); "On the Waterfront" (54); "A Face in the Crowd" (57); "Splendor in the Grass" (61)
  • [5] VINCENTE MINNELLI -- "Cabin in the Sky" (43); "Meet Me in St. Louis" (44); "An American in Paris" (51); "The Band Wagon" (53); "Gigi" (58)
  • [4] FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA -- "The Godfather" (72); "The Conversation" (74); "The Godfather: Part II" (74); "Apocalypse Now" (79)
  • [4] MICHAEL CURTIZ -- "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (38); "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (42); "Casablanca" (42); "Mildred Pierce" (45)
  • [4] CLINT EASTWOOD -- "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (76); "Unforgiven" (92); "Mystic River" (03); "Million Dollar Baby" (04)
  • [4] JOHN HUSTON -- "The Maltese Falcon" (41); "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (48); "The African Queen" (51); "The Man Who Would Be King" (75)
  • [4] LEO McCAREY -- "Duck Soup" (33); "The Awful Truth" (37); "Going My Way" (44); "An Affair to Remember" (57)
  • [4] RIDLEY SCOTT -- "Alien" (79); "Blade Runner" (82); "Thelma & Louise" (91); "Gladiator" (00)
  • [4] WILLIAM A. WELLMAN -- "Wings" (27); "The Public Enemy" (31); "Beau Geste" (39); "The Ox-Bow Incident" (43)
  • [3] WOODY ALLEN -- "Sleeper" (73); "Annie Hall" (77); "Manhattan" (79)
  • [3] ROBERT ALTMAN -- "M*A*S*H" (70); "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (71); "Nashville" (75)
  • [3] JAMES L. BROOKS -- "Terms of Endearment" (83); "Broadcast News" (87); "As Good as It Gets" (97)
  • [3] MEL BROOKS -- "The Producers" (68); "Blazing Saddles" (74); "Young Frankenstein" (74)
  • [3] D.W. GRIFFITH -- "The Birth of a Nation" (15); "Intolerance" (16); "Broken Blossoms" (19)
  • [3] PETER JACKSON -- "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (01); "...The Two Towers" (02); "...The Return of the King" (03)
  • [3] STANLEY KRAMER -- "The Defiant Ones" (58); "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (63); "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (67)
  • [3] DAVID LEAN -- "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (57); "Lawrence of Arabia" (62); "Doctor Zhivago" (65)
  • [3] ERNST LUBITSCH -- "Trouble in Paradise" (32); "Ninotchka" (39); "To Be or Not to Be" (42)
  • [3] SIDNEY LUMET -- "12 Angry Men" (57); "Dog Day Afternoon" (75); "Network" (76)
  • [3] SYDNEY POLLACK -- "The Way We Were" (73); "Tootsie" (82); "Out of Africa" (85)
  • [3] ROB REINER -- "This Is Spinal Tap" (84); "Stand by Me" (86); "When Harry Met Sally..." (89)
  • [3] STEVEN SODERBERGH -- "Sex, Lies and Videotape" (89); "Erin Brockovich" (00); "Traffic" (00)
  • [3] PRESTON STURGES -- "The Lady Eve" (41); "Sullivan's Travels" (41); "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (44)
  • [3] ORSON WELLES -- "Citizen Kane" (41); "The Magnificent Ambersons" (42); "Touch of Evil" (58)
  • [3] ROBERT WISE -- "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (51); "West Side Story" (61); "The Sound of Music" (65)
  • [3] SAM WOOD -- "A Night at the Opera" (35); "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (39); "The Pride of the Yankees" (42)
  • [3] FRED ZINNEMANN -- "High Noon" (52); "From Here to Eternity" (53); "A Man for All Seasons" (66)
Weird that Wyler, a thoroughly competent director but not an amazing one, tops the list, but he did work in a lot of genres and had a lot of famous films.

Also, only three Altman? I get that The Player was dumped, but I'm surprised to not see Short Cuts -- which has grown in stature in the last few years -- or any of his remarkable other 70s films.

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"It all started with a penny in the door": Scrubs



It's actually difficult to say much about this episode that hasn't been said--NBC did a good job promoting it, and it's too bad that it didn't seem to put much of a bounce in the show's ratings. Nonetheless, for a musical episode, a gimmick that can have wildly mixed results (for example, David E. Kelly's attempts at it have never impressed me, but who doesn't love Once More With Feeling), it was a job well done.

In these non-professional situations it's all about effort, and it helped that the cast really went for it. Judy Reyes (who looked more luminous than usual) was particularly good, making a real go of Carla's tango with Turk. And John C. McGinley's little Gilbert & Sullivan monologue number was even better, so much so that I wish there could have been more of him. Obviously the two standouts were JD & Turk's duets "Guy Love" and "Everything Comes Down To Poo", both of which NBC had previously posted on YouTube in an impressive bit of viral marketing. They emphasized the effortless, adorable chemistry Zach Braff and Donald Faison have always had--there's just no TV couple that feels more like one in real life. I've always loved them most about Scrubs, more than the zany fantasy sequences or Dr. Cox's fiery ranting.

Other standout things:

--Stephanie D'Abruzzo! Even without a puppet on her arm she's still awfully cute and a great singer. Someone get her a TV contract!

--Ted's band The Worthless Peons, making an appearance. We don't see enough of them these days. A musical episode was a great excuse to feature them heavily and it's too bad there wasn't more of them, or even just Ted alone.

--Turk dancing. Duh. He should do that at like, the Oscars or the Nobel Prizes or something.

--"I was shot!" "Check the poo!"

The real question is, will this start a trend? Maybe the ratings weren't as high as NBC would have hoped, but you can't deny the buzz it generated. Me, I'm looking forward to Sawyer and Locke breaking into song. Or maybe Jack and Chloe? The cast of Rescue Me? Anyone else have an opinion?

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The review schedule

David and I are splitting up reviewing duties on some of our favorite shows. If you want to join the fun, e-mail me or post in the comments about the show you'd like to cover from week-to-week. We can't do it all! Shows of PARTICULAR interest are listed.

Sunday:
Battlestar Galactica (Todd -- linked to House Next Door reviews)
Brothers & Sisters (David)
Entourage (David -- when it returns)
Extras (Todd)
Rome (David)
Showtime series (Todd)
The Sopranos (Todd -- when it returns)

Shows of interest we're not covering:
The Amazing Race (starts in February)
The Apprentice
Cold Case
Desperate Housewives
Dresden Files
Fox animated comedies (can be done as one entry)
Without a Trace

Mondays:
24 (Todd)
Everybody Hates Chris (Todd)
Heroes (David)
How I Met Your Mother (Todd)
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (Todd) -- I mean, if Aaron Sorkin hates me. . .

Shows of interest we're not covering:
The Bachelor
The Class
Dancing with the Stars
The New Adventures of Old Christine
Prison Break
Two-and-a-Half Men
What About Brian?

Tuesdays:
American Idol (Libby)
FX Shows (David)
Gilmore Girls (David)
House (David)
Veronica Mars (Todd)

Shows of interest we're not covering:
Boston Legal
Law & Order: SVU
NCIS
The Unit

Wednesdays:
America's Next Top Model (Libby)
American Idol (Libby)
Friday Night Lights (Todd)
The Knights of Prosperity (Todd)
Lost (Todd)

Shows of interest we're not covering:
Bones
Criminal Minds
Jericho
One Tree Hill

Thursdays:
30 Rock (Todd)
ER (David)
Grey's Anatomy (David)
My Name Is Earl (Todd)
The O.C. (David)
The Office (Todd)
Scrubs (David)
Ugly Betty (Todd)

Shows of interest we're not covering:
CSI
Men in Trees
Smallville
Supernatural
Survivor

Fridays:
Like a show on Fridays? Let us know. You'll get first dibs!

Of course, all of this will change and shift up. But if you want a show, let us know. Join the SDD family!

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"Imagine Christmas wishes shooting out of your eyes": 30 Rock

First, congrats to Alec Baldwin. A well-deserved Golden Globe win, sir.

Second, spoilers within!

Okay. When I reviewed the script of this, I said it felt rather like a backstage Scrubs, but when I finally saw the pilot, I wasn't sure that was the case anymore -- the pace was a little slower and the tone was a little zanier (Scrubs mixes pathos and comedy -- sometimes awkwardly). Gradually, though, 30 Rock HAS turned into a backstage Scrubs.

The first indication of this was in the cutaways to the odd sight gags in the show. The second was in the mentor-ish relationship between Tina Fey's Liz Lemon and Baldwin's Jack Donaghy. But what's really driven it home is just how fast the show has gotten. It's still zany, but it burns through four or five plots per episode -- in this episode alone, we had Tracy's autobiography, Liz and Jenna's dating, Jack and Kenneth's role swap and Kenneth's showbiz dreams. All of this was ridiculously funny, but some of it felt rushed by.

Oh, who am I kidding, this show makes me laugh more than any other show on TV right now.

Some highlights.

--Jack's attempts to choose between various new shows for the network (my favorite -- the talk show without a host, just the voice of the dead woman from Desperate Housewives).

--Liz's nerdiness shining through (the Star Wars references and her love for Heroes, in particular).

--Tracy Jordan's Christmas album (quoted from above).

--The homeless man -- "Gimme your fingernails!"

--Liz's attempts to dissuade "the hair." "If you're a gay guy looking for a beard, well, I don't do that anymore."

The one thing I didn't like is that the show went back on the two fairly major plot developments -- it turned out Liz was dating a third cousin, and the TV show Kenneth created was too easy, leading to his career ending in ruin (though he was oblivious, of course). Change is coming for these characters, it seems, but often incrementally. Ah, well. They can't all be The Wire.

Did you watch?

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"Why don't you have me ride in on a donkey?": The Office

Spoilers for The Office within. But, really, you're not going to be surprised by any of this.





So, obviously, they weren't going to keep Dwight away forever, but I was surprised that his absence lasted one episode. Andy Dick's Matthew on Newsradio (sort of a proto-Dwight if you go back and look at that show) was fired in the show's fourth season and ended up back at the station after a large chunk of the season (he was fired in September and officially rehired in the Christmas episode to give you an idea of time). The Office did all the right things with the Dwight absence -- using it to soften the character of Angela and almost bring Dwight and Angela's relationship out into the open -- but in some ways it felt like tired plot twisting.

Dwight has always been one of my least favorite characters on The Office. He feels like he's dropped in from an actual sitcom, not the ostensible documentary the show consists of. It's no fault of the writers and Rainn Wilson, who have crafted a memorable character on both ends; it's really both of their faults -- the writers and Wilson are, it seems, constantly pushing each other to see just how much the office weirdo Dwight can be.

Still, it was nice to see an episode where the cast acknowledged that they had grown used to Dwight's oddness -- that they rather missed him when he was gone, especially when compared to Ed Helms' Andy, who reached new levels of obnoxiousness here. The Officer and a Gentleman parody when Michael (Steve Carell) went to get Dwight back from Staples was a little forced (again, especially in a documentary), but the sly nod to the film in the Muzak scoring put everything over the top just enough to make it all play.

More troublesome is the way that the Jim/Karen pairing is working out. It's one thing to have Jim realize he still loves Pam, as he seemed to this episode, but it's quite another for him to regard Karen as a "rebound" thing (as he suggested in an earlier episode). Jim and Karen had formed a rather natural bond, which was disrupted by the relocation to Scranton, and to say that it didn't have any basis to it feels like a cheat (though, of course, Jim could be lying to himself -- which is interesting to see). I feel like the writers are trying to simplify a pretty interesting love triangle at this point -- really, what can Karen do now but get out of the way, knowing that her heart's going to get stomped on at some point.

Then again, if this is all going to be salvaged somehow, The Office's writing staff will be the staff to figure that out.

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"It's somebody in the wide wide world of web": My Name Is Earl

Okay. I'm not posting pictures for all of these until I get access to the networks' publicity sites.

Spoilers herein, but the episode won't really be ruined if you know how it ends -- not that Earl is often a plot-heavy show.

A lot of the sentiment within My Name Is Earl feels forced on occasion. Earl's transformation from rapscallion to do-gooder has occasionally felt forced, especially as Jason Lee's performance often gives a hint of just how enjoyable Earl was as a bad guy. What's more, there's an attempt to tie everything together with a big bow in the voiceover that is often grating.

I felt that a lot of tonight's Earl was the same way -- roughly the first two-thirds were kind of draggy with too few laughs. It's hard to humanize a dead guy that we've never met before in a television format, and Earl really sort of tried too hard to do that. But, somehow, the last revelation (that the dead guy was really popular on the Internet) saved it all.

The Internet is usually portrayed as a bad thing on television -- a place where malcontents breed and meet to harm our children. Every crime procedural on CBS has done the cautionary "they met on the Internet -- IT ENDED IN DEATH" episode at least five times over. So it was nice to see a show acknowledge the many ways people use the Internet in social ways. Admittedly, it ended with the overdone "Then they all started to do more in their real lives" beat, but the way the dead guy used the Internet to meet people from all over the world and share his interests with them was genuinely sweet.

So what did you think?

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

"It's our secret bird code!": Ugly Betty

If you plan on watching last night's Ugly Betty later, stay clear. There's a massive, show-ruining spoiler contained herein, involving the true motives and nature of Rebecca Romijn's character. Click away! Click away!











Look. I think it's great that there's a transgendered regular on a network TV show, even if said character is, ostensibly, evil. There are more lesbians and gays on TV now, but the B&T of the LGBT community get left out all too often. So, hey, bully for Betty, which I THINK is the first primetime show to have a transgendered regular.

That said.

LOOK AT REBECCA ROMIJN! I know that her character comes from a ridiculously rich family, but isn't that setting the bar a little high for transgendered men who just wanna be girls?

I realize I'm treating this a little lightly, but it's interesting that a potentially historic plot point has essentially been thrown in at the last minute (and, honestly, I half expect Jamie Weinman to come in and inform me of how wrong I am about the historicness of this).

To be perfectly honest, though, this is the first soap opera plot machination that has completely worked on Betty. It was so bizarre and over-the-top that it managed to loop back around to tie in with the show's weirdly sweet worldview (I know that sounds disingenuous for a evil transgendered woman plot, but. . .hey. . .). What's more, the preparations for Romijn's character to return gave everyone something to do, including the wonderfully goofy Becki Newton (who plays Amanda). Newton didn't impress me in the first few episodes, but she's really grown into a joy to watch as the season has gone on. She's that rare thing -- a truly attractive person who can play funny and hurt. Newton really sells you on the idea that Amanda feels underappreciated (even with those looks!) and unloved, and that makes her character a bit of a loose cannon.

It helps that the show gave us some winning moments between Betty (America Fererra, fresh off her Golden Globe win) and her boss (Eric Mabius, who somehow has channeled his sliminess into warmth). The two went on what would have amounted to a "date" with anyone else, but the gap between Betty and Daniel is still great enough to not be crossable. And in the American version, that gap is far less about looks and more about class and geography. The river that separates their two worlds might as well be the Grand Canyon.

I was tempted to put Ugly Betty on my top ten list last year, but I didn't. The show was too hit-and-miss. To be honest, though, it picked up in the last few of 2006, and it's willingness to expose new layers of its characters means that even though it fights against a weird, warped soap subplot, it'll still be worth watching.

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You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having: The Shins "Wincing The Night Away"


There was a considerable amount of hype that The Shins had to live up to with their mere third lp (as The Shins), Wincing The Night Away. Claims of being "the voice of a generation" and "culturally important" have been oh so flippantly thrown around between their extended hiatus after Chutes Too Narrow, and now...the zero hour. As for The Shins themselves, they've remained relatively quiet. Pensive perhaps, prepared to let their work speak for itself. There's only so much one can say when faced with such expectation, after all. Their subtle, yet abrasively emotional, Wilson inspired pop confections while, perhaps, immensely over-examined do tend to speak for themselves more often than not. Since Oh, Inverted World The Shins with their lofty vocalizations and grounded compositions have easily struck a chord with the right kind of listener because it's the kind of sound that is both free of pretensions yet filled with trepidation. With Wincing The Night Away, arguably the most important album of their young career, an odd and slightly off-putting balance is reached between an obvious and sedulous desire to expand their borders while grasping onto the sound that made them and makes them who they are.

Initially, the compelling factor has much to do with the admittedly expansive production, which, for better or worse, is far more crisp and grand than anything that has been put behind The Shins as of yet. It is decidely uncluttered but lacks some of the charm conveyed through the spacious and surprisingly towering moments found within their previous LPs. Realistically though, this is only a minor adjustment of sorts. By and large, WTNA is filled with copious attempts at sonic friction but finds itself far more at home when it's, well, at home. Mercer's breezy vocals and enigmatic lyrics are always marginally relatable if not remarkably cogent, and that seldom changes here. His accompaniment isn't always as complimentary as one would hope, however. It's not that The Shins have gone off the deep end creatively or created something strange with this album. It's simply that they seem to have only travelled part of the way. The end result is an album that seems to be looking onward towards the sky but, in the end, remains stagnant still.

For all the talk of stretching their legs, and expanding their sound with Wincing The Night Away, The Shins have really only done half the work. In tinkering with their already successful modus operandi, instead of creating a more powerful arsenal they seem to have simply ruined the old one. Well, almost. The end result is acceptable, but really kind of boring.

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Who's in trouble, who's not?

It's that time of year, when fans of TV shows hold hands and try to figure out what, exactly, will be back next season.

Well, fear no more. SDD is on the case, and we're going to take our best guess at what's coming back on every broadcast network.

Please note that we have no inside information. All of this is based on critical buzz and ratings performance.

ABC:

Will be back:
20/20
Boston Legal
Brothers & Sisters
Dancing with the Stars
Desperate Housewives
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Grey's Anatomy
Lost
Primetime
Ugly Betty

Probably back:
America's Funniest Home Videos
Men in Trees
Supernanny
Wife Swap

On the bubble:
According to Jim
The George Lopez Show
Knights of Prosperity (ABC will want to keep one comedy, and this may be it despite anemic performance)

Probably won't be back:
In Case of Emergency
What About Brian?

Canceled (if not officially, then almost certainly):
Big Day
Help Me Help You
The Nine
Show Me the Money
Six Degrees

Yet to air:
Notes from the Underbelly (probably March)
October Road (probably March or April)
Traveler (probably March)

All in all, ABC has had a strong fall. The 14 shows in the top two categories are all good building blocks, and I have high hopes that Traveler will join their ranks and possibly Underbelly, which looks good for the post-Dancing with the Stars slot in March. Then again, I thought The Nine would be the hit of the fall, so grain of salt.

CBS:

Already renewed:
Survivor

Will be back:
60 Minutes
The Amazing Race
Close to Home
Cold Case
Criminal Minds
CSI
CSI: Miami
CSI: New York
Ghost Whisperer
Jericho
NCIS
Two-and-a-Half Men
Without a Trace

Probably back:
How I Met Your Mother
The New Adventures of Old Christine
Numb3rs
Shark
The Unit

On the bubble:
The Class

Probably won't be back:

Canceled (if not officially, then almost certainly):
3 Lbs.
Smith

Yet to air:
Rules of Engagement (February)

Honestly, I don't know what to say. Some things that would be sure renewals on, say, ABC (HIMYM and Christine in particular) are in a lower category just because the network is so strong. I should probably bump everything down one category, just because they'll need to cancel SOMEthing, but since they solved their persistent Wednesday at 8 problems AND fixed Sunday nights, I guess there's really not a lot left. The Class is almost certainly gone, leaving room for one comedy, and the Tuesdays at 10 sore spot remains, but other than that, this is one of the most dominant networks ever, fueled entirely by an appetite for crime and smarmy laughs.

The CW

Back if they want to be/gone if they want to be:
Gilmore Girls

Will be back:
America's Next Top Model
Beauty and the Geek
Everybody Hates Chris
Friday Night Smackdown
Smallville (for what will likely be its final season)

Probably back:
Girlfriends
Reba

On the bubble:
All of Us
The Game
One Tree Hill
Supernatural (should bump this up a slot, but the tough time slot has been murder)
Veronica Mars

Probably won't be back:
7th Heaven

Canceled (if not officially, then almost certainly):
Runaway

Yet to air:
Hidden Palms (March)
The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll (who knows?)

This network's launch was a big mess. When you consider that two of the shows in the "will be back" slot share a time slot and alternate throughout the year, you see just how much things are screwed up at The CW. If there's going to be a network that renews ALL of its on the bubble shows, it'll be this one. More hope for we Veronica Mars fans! Hidden Palms is the great white hope at the moment, but it'll be up against the Dancing with the Stars results show and House when it debuts, so that'll be a problem.

Fox:

Already renewed:
The Simpsons

Will be back:
24
American Dad
American Idol
Family Guy
House
King of the Hill (I recall reading that this had officially been picked up but can't find the press release)
Prison Break

Probably back:
Bones
Nanny 911!
Trading Spouses

On the bubble:
The War at Home
Til Death

Probably won't be back:
Standoff

Canceled (if not officially, then almost certainly):
Happy Hour
Justice
The O.C.
Vanished

Yet to air:
Drive (April)
The Loop (2nd season) (unknown -- and I don't have high hopes, sadly)
On the Lot (May probably)
Wedding Bells (March)
The Winner (March)

Fox continues its weird, schizophrenic performance. Its inability to launch a single new show this fall that stuck is a sore spot, to be sure, and they're going to try to make Til Death a hit by sticking it after American Idol. Other than that, this year has been something of a wash for Fox, though you wouldn't know it, as American Idol came back, strong as ever. I'm unclear on the status of the animated shows, which are renewed earlier than live action shows, so if you have corrections for me on those, please let me know in the comments. Also remember that Futurama will be back sometime next season, and Fox can air the new episodes if they so choose.

NBC:

Already renewed:
The Apprentice (though a summer burnoff seems likely)
ER
Football Night in America
Heroes
Law & Order: SVU
My Name Is Earl
The Office
Sunday Night Football

Will be back:
1 Vs. 100
Dateline
Deal or No Deal
Scrubs (though it could migrate to ABC if too expensive)

Probably back:
The Biggest Loser
Identity
Law & Order
You're the One That I Want (but how do you do season two?)

On the bubble:
30 Rock
Friday Night Lights
Las Vegas
Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Medium

Probably won't be back:
Crossing Jordan
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Canceled (if not officially, then almost certainly):
Kidnapped
Twenty Good Years

Yet to air:
Andy Barker: PI (who knows?)
The Black Donnellys (March)
Raines (March)
The Singles Table (who knows?)

NBC is decidedly more ambiguous. Heroes and football have bought them a measure of breathing room, but they're still in trouble all over the place. That's what leads me to believe a lot of their on-the-bubble shows could be back. I'm not as optimistic for Studio 60, which is really expensive. But who knows? The show could suddenly become a huge hit.

Anyway, if I've missed something, please let me know in the comments.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

JLT/JLT Year in Review



I am participating in something of a round table over at the JLT/JLT blog. Some very sharp minds tossing some thoughts around in regards to 2006. And...I am there as well. For some strange reason. Anyway, it will be updating all week. Check it out if you like.

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Watch some videos, will ya?

Hot Chip - Boy From School




Herbert - The Audience




The Knife - Pass This On




Robyn - Cobra Style

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Jewel?: American Idol season premiere

As mentioned, we won't be blogging the American Idol audition rounds as extensively as we'll be blogging the competition rounds. But I thought I would check in with the season premiere and see if the complaints I've always had with the audition rounds still held up.

The auditions are still an occasion for the judges to make fun of hapless singers, who then go out into the waiting room and scream about how misunderstood they are and how great their singing is. Inevitably, they are comforted by a relative, and Ryan Seacrest stands off to the side, looking sympathetic and shaking his head. "Those crazy judges," he seems to say, "when will they learn?" This format grew tiresome seasons ago (and, what's more, it's invariably cruel and only goes so far), but these episodes are by far the most popular episodes of the show (aside from the finale, which draws big ratings every year), simply, I imagine, because the audience likes to laugh at a self-deceiving fool (and it's nice to feel superior to someone on TV for once).

But, hey, I'm not going to go against the majority of Americans. Watch what you want.

That said, I think that the audition rounds of Idol, in their attempt to fit in as many bad singers as possible, are eliminating an ample chance for both drama and getting to know the season's "characters." Of course, Seacrest, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson are the show's only "regulars," and it's important to have some time with just them as our identifying point, so we can get reacquainted with them all over again, but one of Idol's flaws in recent seasons is that it sends a whole bunch of kids off to Hollywood for the rounds there without really letting us get to know any of them outside of their singing ability. Heck, we don't even get to know much about that in these audition rounds, which lean heavily to the bad singers and those with easily promotable storylines (girl soldier with husband in Iraq, boy who could barely afford to drive to the auditions). Idol has never been known for giving us a rounded portrait of the very real people at its center, but by trading away time that could be spent on developing the good singers who have a good shot (or at least letting us get a better idea of their singing ability), the show cheats itself out of additional drama.

Even better, though, are the people who almost make it, but don't quite have it. Every audition episode has one or two people who have nearly enough talent but not quite enough. Invariably, these people have some incredible story of overcoming personal adversity or some other storyline (the guy who tried a whole bunch of songs but still had his grating rocker voice was a highlight tonight). These are fascinating moments of human drama -- letting us get to know a person, then getting to see their dreams get dashed when the judges cut them down or watch them hang on to those same dreams by eking out a performance better than what they did before. These moments are little one-act plays, acted out on the biggest stage possible, and the show would do well to give us more of them.

But, again, I clearly am not plugged in to the zeitgeist on this. All told, I did like lady soldier ("Oh, you're just so cute!" she said to the judges in her Minnesotan accent) and the curly-haired girl from Wisconsin, who I think could go far. And, honestly, I enjoyed the bad singer who could juggle. That's the kind of thing I want to see more of on TV.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Pseudo-live blogging the Golden Globes with Todd, Libby and Tram

(If you came across this earlier, it's complete now. Check it out!)

Okay, so I know who won everything. And we're getting this on a three-hour tape delay. But here we go.

8:00: Hollywood's biggest night? I wager there are bigger.

8:01: One Night Only? Here's hoping.

8:02: George Clooney! What a rake!

8:03: Libby is overwhelmed by the cut to America Ferrera as Jennifer Hudon wins. Plus-size sisters stick together? Hudson almost falls as she goes up the stairs after winning.

8:05: Florence Ballard shoutout. America Wikipedias.

8:06: Original song nominees. Whatever happened to Will Smith awkwardly rapping the title of every movie he was in and having it become a Top 40 hit? I mean, Pursuit of Happyness, that's just crying out for rap excitement.

8:07: The Golden Globes are probably the most awkwardly-produced awards show that there is. And, what's more, I don't even like them that much. Libby is futilely pressing the fast forward button on the TiVo, trying to make the commercials go away.

8:11: Time for Miss Golden Globe. Vincent Chase doesn't sound very excited about this.

8:11: Wait. . .Jack Nicholson procreated? And the result was hot? What the hell?

8:13: "I think the guy who plays Eric on Entourage had to point out who Jeremy Piven was to Jeremy Irons, but I cannot be completely sure," Libby says. "It looked as though Jeremy Irons congratulated him, and then he had to say, 'Oh no, it's not me, it's him.'"

8:14: Brad/Angelina cutaway tally -- 3

8:16: "Wow. You're famous in another field. Here's a Golden Globe." -- Libby

8:17: Why are they playing soft core porn music as Kyra Sedgwick mounts the stage? ... See what I did there?

8:17: Libby hitting fast forward in vain tally -- 4

8:18: Tally of times Libby uses the word "ugly" to describe the spawn of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick -- 17

8:19: For those of you who watched Access Hollywood, Nancy went with the BLACK dress. And we WONDER why the terrorists hate us?

8:19: Brad/Angelina cutaway tally -- 4

8:24: Libby disputes that Naomi Watts' looks are completely natural. "If I had a team, I could look like that too," she says. No. No, honey. You couldn't.

8:25: "Naomi Watts is hawt," Tram says. TWO TO ONE, LIBBY!

8:26: Renee Zellweger is a little TOO enthusiastic about the HFPA, if you know what I mean. I think I know WHY she's won so many Golden Globes, for that matter.

8:27: Meryl Streep is surprised to learn she's been nominated for many Golden Globes. An old Australian man had to tell her.

8:28: Jessica Biel? Sean Combs? Everyone in this awards season can give up now -- there will be no more awkward and bizarre pairing.

8:29: Emily Blunt wins for a little-seen BBC movie. This is fine by me. Because now we get to stare at her at length.

8:31: Tram and I discuss the finer points of Katherine Heigl's performance in "Wish Upon a Star," which she describes as "like 'Freaky Friday' but with sisters." Then we discuss whether Bill Nighy and Bill Nye, the Science Guy are the same people (they're not).

8:32: Kiefer Sutherland is sitting by Jason Lee. Just wanted to note how odd that was.

8:33: Hugh Laurie draws a laugh from Libby -- which is quickly stifled by Tom Hanks, still sporting Da Vinci Hair.

8:35: Libby points out that the Globes have put the most intimidating people in front of the microphone, including the Spielbergs and Jack Nicholson.

8:35: These Access Hollywood interviews are not the value-add NBC thinks they are. As Cate Blanchett wanders through the background, Libby says, "I'll bet she has to take a dump."

8:37: Having watched tonight's 24, we are forced to turn to The Class. This is not pleasing to us.

8:40: Brad and Angelina cutaway tally -- 5

8:41: Did ANYone see Bobby? BESIDES Jonathan Rosenbaum?

8:44: John Lasseter is TOTALLY drunk.

8:45: Lasseter's wife kind of looks like Libby, who agrees with me that "He might be a LITTLE bit drunk." Tram thinks his tie looks horrendous.

8:46: Annette Bening is drunk too! "Annette Bening looks less like Clay Aiken now," Tram says.

8:46: Renee Zellweger is squinting so hard that her eyes have COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED.

8:47: Meryl Streep just took a long while to talk to Jack Nicholson's daughter while we all just wanted her to talk anyway. She immediately begins her speech with a rumination on a birthday party featuring snakes.

8:48: Seriously. Renee Zellweger's squint looks as though it may cause her pouty little face to FOLD IN ON ITSELF.

8:49: Tram highly doubts that the only man for Reese Witherspoon is me.

8:50: Meryl Streep demands that the audience go to theater managers and demand to see movies with scant distribution like Pan's Labyrinth and Little Children. Libby, who works at a movie theater, says, "I am gonna' f***in' kill Meryl Streep."

8:51: Brad/Angelina cutaway tally -- 6

8:54: Man, that Danny/Jordan relationship on Studio 60 is creepy.

8:55: I don't care. I still like Borat. And that subtitle, which is still great. "Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." EVERY WORD of that is funny.

8:57: Libby informs me there's a rumor that Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz are lesbians. This strikes me as a positive development.

8:58: A lot of people say The Queen is a strong central Helen Mirren performance in search of an actual movie. Maybe so, but that goes doubly for Elizabeth I, the miniseries that was a little boring outside of Mirren. No Bleak House, HFPA? FOR SHAME.

8:59: "In a Premiere magazine interview, Salma Hayek reveals that she and Penelope like to make fun of people with tics in their spare time," Tram says. "Hawt."

8:59: Tom Hanks looks like a stroke victim.

9:00: Brad/Angelina cutaway tally -- 7 (though it sort of doesn't count as he was nominated for an award).

9:02: Steven Spielberg looks highly skeptical of Eddie Murphy. I'm just hoping he wins at the Oscars so the Norbit promotional campaign can get that added boost it needs.

9:07: "Sarah Jessica Parker reminds me more of Kathy Griffin every day," Tram says.

9:08: A friend was surprised to find out today that Devil Wears Prada got good reviews. I'm not sure I can blame her?

9:09: It appears that Reese Witherspoon is Jack Nicholson's date.

9:10: Another victory for Bill Nighy, the Science Guy. "I get that it's the Hollywood Foreign Press," Libby grouses, "but must they solely award foreigners?"

9:11: Sienna Miller's eyes are lifeless. This is the primary thing standing between her and attractiveness.

9:18: Cameron Diaz can't talk and/or read. It's hilarious!

9:19: None of us can figure out how Cameron Diaz just got less and LESS attractive as the years rolled on.

9:20: Hilary Swank has a flower in her hair. THIS SIGNIFIES THAT SHE'S A GIRL. No. Really.

9:20: Side note: If I win the best actor award at the Oscars, then have a sex change, can I then win the best actress award?

9:21: Someone in the audience agrees with Peter Morgan and says, "Yeah" loudly. Libby has decided to give up on the Brad/Angelina tally. She'd rather play Zoo Tycoon.

9:22: Alec Baldwin is hilarious. That's really all I've got. Here are a few Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock quotes: "What am I? A farmer?" "Those shoes are definitely bi-curious." "Ziggy from the cartoon Ziggy." "That's right. He's the rat king."

9:31: Ugly Betty wins the Globe for best comedy series. I know I should care more about the Globe TV awards, but I really just can't bring myself to do so. Still, here's hoping the show's Globe win gets it more viewers.

9:33: The cast members of Ugly Betty seem to really like each other, which is always nice. Then the creator spoke in Spanish and scared roughly two-thirds of America.

9:35: Okay. Djimon Honsou and Sharon Stone. THAT'S the new awkward match-up.

9:36: It's just wrong to have Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood in the foreign film category. I know it's technically Foreign LANGUAGE Film, but still.

9:38: After he quoted from her speech in jest, I hope Clint Eastwood/Jennifer Hudson is the next Hollywood feud.

9:38: WHY DO THEY KEEP CUTTING TO TOM HANKS?!

9:44: Now Jeremy Irons is drunk. "Regally entertaining" is the phrase he uses to describe The Queen. "Regally entertaining," says Libby. "Is that a thing? It doesn't strike me as a thing."

9:46: Tram and I agree on the general excellenceness of Alexandre DeSplat and the long, slow slide of Hugh Grant into obscurity. They've got him presenting ORIGINAL SCORE! That's a long way down the Globes totem pole. It's like Sound Effects Editing at the Oscars.

9:48: And now Alexandre DeSplat is talking. America says, "Get off the stage, Frenchie!" Indeed, Libby says, "I'd just like to point out -- this is another foreigner."

9:50: America Fererra's win pleases us all. I think they should make an America Fererra small enough to carry around in a handbag, so you could take her out at opportune moments and everyone could say, "OOOH!" and "AAAH!" and "Watch her dance! She's so darling!"

9:52: The Housewives -- snubbed again. But Teri Hatcher shall have her revenge! Oh yes, she shall.

9:53: America Fererra stands around awkwardly, then gets asked about the long casting process for Ugly Betty which almost resulted in someone else being cast. Thanks for these nuggets of info, Access Hollywood.

9:58: Lifetime Achievement Award. We won't be blogging this on general principle. Tom Hanks is scary, and who cares about Warren Beatty?

10:21: Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd we're back. Libby is displeased that Dustin Hoffman has come out. She's getting loopy, due to the length of the show and its general boringness. "He's CRAZY!" she says, sounding a little like she's going to leap to her death from the top of the Empire State Building. "EVERYONE KNOWS HE'S CRAZY!"

10:22: Tram likes Dustin Hoffman's Ishtar shoutout. And he really, really, really has turned into a crazy old man.

10:23: Seriously. Little Miss Sunshine. When did it become everyone's religion?

10:24: The camera catches Clint Eastwood with his mouth hanging open. He quickly corrects this error.

10:24: Libby works up a good, clappin' fervor for Martin Scorsese's win for The Departed. It looks as though Babel's going to get shut out! (And, yes, I know how this ends.)

10:25: Libby is unhappy that Martin Scorsese is talking about films she's never seen and how he likes to restore them. If. . .you know what I mean.

10:27: Martin Scorsese talks quicker than most of the characters on Gilmore Girls.

10:28: I feel strongly about Reese Witherspoon. And even more strongly about them making her read the ENTIRE Borat title.

10:29: Well, Sacha Baron Cohen worked "anus" and "testicles" into his speech. So I guess he wins speech of the night by default.

10:31: Okay. That was actually pretty funny.

10:36: Dane Cook?! I have yet to find anyone who finds him funny. And what does he have to do with Thank You for Smoking?

10:37: WOW they're rushing this. I'll bet they wish they had cut some of the awkward Access Hollywood interviews and/or Warren Beatty now!

10:38: Bill Condon looks like a leprechaun that was genetically fused with Mr. Clean.

10:42: The local news is promoting a story about what happened to a man when his cell phone exploded. Now that's going to get me to tune in.

10:43: Well, good for Grey's Anatomy. Let's see if they can get them offstage in the 20 seconds the guy-whose-mic-was-not-turned-off insisted upon.

10:45: Choose the best joke. Philip Seymour Hoffman looks like a.) Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren (Libby); b.) a 1970s direct-to-video gay porn star (Todd); c.) actually he looks a lot better than Mike Holmgren and I don't want to imagine him in a porn (Tram).

10:47: Helen Mirren was a fox back in the day. Scarlett crossed with Gwyneth. And she's still got it! Rowr. Caligula.

10:52: Are you on the list? I'm guessing I'm not.

10:52: Two awards to present in eight minutes. They're not gonna make it.

10:54: Forest Whitaker wins, and a random white girl jumps up in the background in celebration. Whitaker just keeps saying "Wow" over and over.

10:55: I mean, he was okay in Last King of Scotland, but this? No.

10:56: Well, at least he remembered to thank God. For helping him play a bloodthirsty dictator. Yeah.

10:58: Hey! Little Children didn't get a clip package! I didn't like it that much, but shouldn't we play fair?

11:00: It's the governor. The stars all look at the camera and cheer ironically.

11:01: Schwarzenegger takes SO LONG to open the envelope. And then he says, "BAAAAAHHHBEEEELLLLLL." Libby gets very upset. "That was a f***ing pile of s*** movie. It may be worse than Crash." Well, I wouldn't say THAT.

All right. Let's never speak of this again.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is he having a laugh?


Ricky Gervais is currently on top of the world: his podcasts have broken records for worldwide downloads, his recent UK tour sold out in nine minutes, and he's making increasing inroads into the States thanks to the success of NBC's remake of The Office and his own follow-up Extras, which begins its second season on HBO tonight at 10. Extras is no Office, but it's still a good time, mixing broad English comedy with a Larry David-esque comedy of manners and celebrity.

The first season followed a rather basic formula: struggling actor Andy Millman (Gervais) and his ditzy friend Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen, now making a name for herself on Ugly Betty) work as extras on a film set and encounter exaggerated, ridiculous versions of various celebrities (Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller et al). It was cute but extremely inconsequential, and even those who knew Gervais would never even try to try and top The Office were a little let down. Season 2 acknowledges these faults and adds a little depth. Andy is now somewhat of a success, as the BBC have greenlit his sitcom idea 'When the Whistle Blows'. But it's twisted out of his hands and turned into a cheap catchphrase-based workplace comedy, the likes of which are seen on UK TV every day (hell, The Office could have been such a thing). Gervais uses this to explore that certain, rather lame kind of fame English TV personalities have, with one episode set at the BAFTA TV awards, and another dealing with Andy's entanglements with the British media, and it's rather effective, but might well go over the heads of many an American viewer.

Thankfully, the celebrities are still here, including a sex-crazed Daniel Radcliffe, a pompous Orlando Bloom and (best of all) a rather deranged Ian McKellen. Although it's fun to see such big names merrily stamp on their reputations, it does tend to overshadow the plot and obscure any real pathos the show could derive from Andy's situation. Better is co-writer/director Stephen Merchant's role as Andy's bungling agent, which has been expanded from the first season. He's an obnoxious boor who seems to have little regard for Andy's actual talent or any social convention whatsoever. His scenes with Andy (or with his hapless, depressed assistant Sean "Barry" Williamson, a real has-been soap star playing himself) are definitely the funniest in the show. It's nice to see Merchant making a bit of a name for himself, as he's always lurked in the background before despite being just as involved in writing and directing The Office.

The six episodes run smoothly and meet an agreeable end with a real A-list guest star (whose identity HBO seems to be hiding, but wikipedia will tell you) and some sweet moments between Andy and the eternally clueless Maggie. I've heard rumblings of a third season and I personally hope Gervais decides to move on: Extras has been a fun diversion but I'd like to see if the current king of British comedy can produce something more challenging (other rumors suggest he's looking into producing an hour-long drama, or even a film project). Nonetheless, Extras is definitely recommended viewing if only for a good few laughs.

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