Saturday, February 24, 2007

You know what you almost never see?

A sexy girl ventriloquist.

After you have a look at that and fall in love with her, if you want to know more about who she is (as you will), go here. Small aside: Among many other roles, her father, the actor Tom Conti, had the lead in a film I remember very fondly, the apparently underseen Reuben, Reuben.

But enough about him. I just discovered Nina herself in a small role in For Your Consideration. There's a handful of other video clips of her performances to be found on YouTube, enjoy.

(This post counts as a public service)

Lord knows, I'm the last person to say men cannot empathize with women's issues...but...

Reportedly, a couple of gay-rights bills are considered very likely to be passed by the new Congess this year. These would be the first major federal such bills ever passed.

If you read that item, notice that one of the conservatives they quote in opposition is Tony "named after a famously closeted gay actor" Perkins.
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, contended that gay-rights groups exaggerated the extent of anti-gay bias as part of a broader push to achieve their political goals.

"I'm sure there's probably a case here and there," Perkins said. "But I've seen more discrimination of people of religious faith than I've seen of gay people in the work force."


(Sometimes a man has to resort to sarcasm)

Another cited opponent is from "Concerned Women For America."
Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America held out hope that Bush would block the measures. "Hopefully," Barber said, "the president will show that the veto pen is mightier than the politically correct sword."

You may remember the CWFA. This is the organization that warned parents against allowing their children to watch Buffy because of Willow & Tara's relationship.

They even found something to object to on the coffee cups at Starbucks.

Also notice that the spokesperson for "Concerned Women For America" a man.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Being a psychic is catching

So I'm watching tonight's episode of Psych. And reflecting, as I have in a previous episode or two, on how Maggie Lawson, who plays the character Juliet, is fun to watch walk away. And I continued thinking in a not-sexist way, that what this series needs is an episode in which for a completely plot-relevant reason, she wears less clothing.

Next thing I know, up comes the "next episode" preview. She's going undercover in a sorority house. Ask and ye shall receive.

By the way, I found something out looking for an image to run with this very important post. A few years before joining the cast of Psych, Lawson had the lead in an unsuccesful attempt to bring the Nancy Drew character back to television.

A hip teen girl detective? What a surprise that didn't get picked up. There's no making a good series out of that idea in this day and age...

At least she won't have much time to mourn the loss of "Studio 60"

Amanda Peet and her screenwriter husband David Benioff welcomed a a baby girl, Frances Pen this week.

All due congrats, though I'm made slightly ill by the thought of a writer naming his child "Pen."

A self-evident statement

Drew Barrymore is looking rather good.

That is all.

Like you, I was expecting I would be told I was...

...British pop cheese. Or ersatz Broadway cheese. But no, apparently, I'm:

Meira is a traditional Iraqi cheese, made from sheeps milk. The curds are cut into strips and matured in a sheepskin bag for between 6 and 12 months.

(Our man "Cheddar" Klemow sent the following...)

What kind of cheese are you?

Talking to the wind

Good commentary piece here about how the need to have everything pre-visualized diminishes the imagination. I agreed with it even before I found the Joe Jackson quote.

When MTV and the music video dawned, '80s singer/songwriter Joe Jackson warned about the effect of limiting the boundaries of the viewer's imagination with images.

"Things which used to count, such as being a good composer, player, or singer, are getting lost in the desperate rush to visualize everything. ... One result of this is that artists are now being signed for their video potential rather than for their musical talent." (And those prophetic words were spoken a couple decades before "American Idol.")

How can a child grow up without a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses" to take down and read on a summer afternoon? Or "Grimm's Fairy Tales"? Or any of the Harry Potter series?

I don't believe reading will ever really die, there will always be people like me and you who like few things better than curling up with a really good book. And after all, you're reading this, aren't you?

But there's no denying we're just not a word-centric society anymore, if, indeed, we ever were. And yes, I am aware of the irony that "word-centric" is in itself not a word. But even when more people read, it's not as though everyone was going around reading Stevenson and Grimm to each other. There's always been romance novels and other trashy books.

I'm afraid the writer of the commentary is just, well, see my headline.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Consider this (The hint of the century)

Though he can be a great deadpan comic actor, I've never been as big a fan of Christopher Guest written and/or directed films as I know some are. Most of his movies that I have seen are a little thin on laughs for me personally.

Doesn't mean he's not funny, just that he doesn't happen to get right into my pocket. But I continually try again. Just because I don't find as many laughs in his films as many do doesn't mean I don't find any.

And he almost always goes after irresistable targets, like drug-addled rock 'n' roll bands. Or actors and the film industry. In For Your Consideration, he returns to the latter topic for the first time since The Big Picture in 1989.

It's about a trio of actors who are either at the end of (Catherine O'Hara), never had (Harry Shearer), or just starting (Parker Posey) a career when they get bitten by the Oscar buzz. It's actually not as good a film as The Big Picture, which I've long felt was badly overlooked.

But it's got a kicker, a sting in the tail. Something that makes you realize this time, maybe part of the reason the laughs haven't been coming as fast and furious is because the film is not only a comedy. It's truly a comi-tragedy.

The problem here is that I can't say too much about why without dulling the impact. Not that it's a big twist like the meaning of Rosebud or something, but it should be revealed to you gradually.

I will say that there's a big hint in this news item. Which actually managed to make me cool off on someone I've long thought was as close to a dictionary definition of "hot" as I was ever going to get.

I remember once reading an interview with a couple of members of Aerosmith. The first time they saw Spinal Tap, it was a time when they were at a real low ebb in their careers. In so many words, it scared the hell out of them.

They could relate to it so closely that it touched too deep a nerve to laugh at.

I suspect that one or two actresses in their 50's, or probably even younger, will be having a similar reaction to Catherine O'Hara's performance in this movie as the cruelly named Marilyn Hack.

It's the key to the whole tragedy.

The carousel spins; it only brings some people so close to the fire, and the only thing more rare than a second chance is that first one. So if it comes around again, some people hold on so tight to that gift horse that they squeeze the very life out of it.

Schadenfreude Pronunciation Key: (shaedn-froid). Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others, malicious satisfaction.

These are excerpts from the reviews of Gray Matters, A.K.A that Heather Graham movie what had been making me feel so hopeless:

Gray Matters is as unhinged as its characters.

dull, contrived, obvious, and at 96 minutes, seemingly endless

Sitcommy, forced and forgettable.

Never have I ever wanted to climb into the screen and kill every single character as much as I did with this movie.

Gray Matters could be recommended to gay women whose erotic fantasies are located in the stuffed French poodle department of FAO Schwarz.

Drawing on their sitcom chops, Graham and Cavanagh cover for their cloth-eared dialogue with trumped-up camaraderie, pushing and pulling at each other like toddlers in playgroup.

This warms the cockles of my little black heart.

I'm so happy...

Oh, good. Michael Medved has weighed in.

No play on words intended. Medved, the right-wing film critic with whom I once enjoyed a screening of the film Tomcats, has lent his voice in support to Tim Hardaway. Hardaway is the NBA player who recently opened his mouth and exposed the depths of his hatred for homosexuals.

Medved's thesis is that the "no openly gay guys in the locker room" policy makes sense, and to prove it he invokes the wisdom passed down by T-shirts through the ages, "No Fat Chicks." Yes. Medved feels,
The ill-favored, grossly overweight female is the right counterpart to a gay male because, like the homosexual, she causes discomfort due to the fact that attraction can only operate in one direction.

Well! As you might imagine, Shakespeare's Sister has some useful contributions to make to this discussion, including:
I love the presupposition that fat chicks and gay dudes automatically want to fuck NBA players, and that NBA players are so insecure that even if someone to whom they weren't attracted was in their vicinity, they couldn't begin to function. In fact, I just love the entire idea of straight men who are made uncomfortable by the mere presence of someone wanting to fuck them whom they don't want to fuck. All I can say is that these assholes would crumple if they had to spend a week as a woman, getting chatted up, having their space invaded, being subjected to unwanted touching, and all other manner of unsubtle displays of attraction by, well, them. It's precisely the kind of drooling, moronic Neanderthals who proffer asinine arguments like this one that have the least compunction about aggressive horniness—which is, I suppose, why they can't imagine that there exist people who, even if they are attracted to someone, don't feel compelled to practically hump his or her leg to show it.

Yes, that's the brains and "balls" she could have used for John Edwards if he had enough of either, in other words, if he weren't such know.

Well, this is a flashback

Back when I was a freshman in high school, I wrote a pro-gay opinion piece for my high school newspaper. I have no doubt I would cringe if I saw it now. Not because of the sentiment, obviously, but the one or two lines I remember...well, if one or two of you think I can be confrontational in my writing now...

This was me at 14 years old, having only recently come under the influence of Harlan Ellison. And this was in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1985, for pete's sake. Universe knows who I thought I was standing up to.

But anyway, it caused a small (almost miniscule-I don't want to make this into more than it was) amount of controvery. Someone wrote a reply piece, and I wrote a reply to that reply piece, blah blah blah.

I tell you this for two reasons. One is to preen that I'm no gay rights-come-lately, you know. The other is because over twenty years later in Fort Wayne, Indiana, someone is going through the same shit.

A student wrote a similiar editorial (though probably much better reasoned and more persuasive than mine). The school principal responded by demanding the right to read all materials submitted to the newspaper in the future, to make sure it's "appropriate."

When the journalism teacher refused, he accused her of insubordination.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This post would probably be rated R

I've just seen the movie This Film is Not Yet Rated, a documentary on the MPAA and their ratings system. It's most entertaining, especially when showing filmmakers telling their own horror stories about why their films were given performance-crippling ratings.

It may surprise you to learn that the movie studios are thrown into a tither at the sight of anything representing female sexual pleasure onscreen. I know I was shocked.

The film makes the same points so many times that it begins to feel like padding. This is even worse when it starts to focus on the P.I. the documentarian hired to ferret out the identities of the very hush-hush ratings board.

Her story may be fascinating to some (though not to me), but there's no denying it's got nothing to do with what the film is obstensibly about.

Also, I question whether this film tells any of us "right-thinking" people anything we don't already know. The treatment of sex vs. violence in American movies is often hypocritical, I mean, who didn't know that?

However, it's a point worth making and the film makes it well in a couple spots. Actress Maria Bello and actor/filmmaker Kevin Smith are particuarly eloquent on this subject.

Bello describes hearing that it was a brief glimpse of her lower nude body during a well-fucked scene which got her film The Cooler an NC-17 rating. She "wanted to go in and fight for my pubic hair," she says. You have to like a woman like that.

Smith fans should be sure to check out the deleted scenes in which he imagines himself a 16-year-old girl going to see Jersey a hypothetical world in which anyone went to see Jersey Girl, he admits ruefully.


Sometimes I pick up on a good TV show early-Bones, Veronica Mars, Boston Legal. But more often than not it can take me a few seasons before I start watching something & find out I really like it-24, House, Psych.

I then start hunting down all the previous episodes on DVD (thank God for the wonder of man's technology). My most recent late-date discovery? Monk, which is in its fifth season now. I'd had the show recommended to me by a friend or two, but never sat down to watch an episode until USA ran a "viewers choice marathon" a few weeks ago.

Well, I had nothing else to do that day. And I figured if these were the episodes that Monk fans liked it should certainly tell me whether I had the capacity to be a Monk fan. Turns out I do, and I am.

Why? Well, let me put it this way. One reason is...I don't want to make too big a great deal of this, but something occured to me recently. One thing that all my favorite TV shows, including all of those listed above, have in common is this: A lead character who, to one degree or another, has difficulty living but is redeemed by at least one really cool thing they can do. I don't think it requires too much insight to see why.

Anyway, getting back to Monk, there seem to have been two "debates" among longtime fans of the series. One is which version of the theme music they prefer, the original, instrumental guitar-based version, or the song written and performed by Randy Newman.

For what it's worth in that one I come down on the Newman side, which is weird because I've never really been a part of his cult following. It probably helps that the theme is over in less than a minute. For me a little of Newman's voice goes a long way.

The other "debate" has been over which of the two assistant characters the fans prefer, Sharona or Natalie. And here again I come down in favor of version 2.0, Natalie, played by actress Traylor Howard. Natalie just seems nicer, though I don't really dislike the Sharona character.

Actually, it's Howard's real-life situation that sparked this post, which I'd been off-handedly looking for an excuse to write and "declare my affections." Last Spring she became pregnant and she gave birth to a son this past November.

According to this Monk site, she named him "Sabu." So I was going to ask, what kind of a person names their son "Sabu" in this day and age? And then it dawned on me: The kind of person whose parents evidently saddled her with the name "Traylor."

I can't think of any way that could have been turned around on her in the schoolyard, can you?

Holding up the dignity of screenwriters everywhere seeks "companion" for Oscar night on Craigslist.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oh, that's all I need

Entry here from the Dlisted blog (and if you can't rely on them, whom can you rely on?), quoting Anne Hathaway, heretofore known as the love of my life, on the subject of bad girls.

“You know, Lindsay [Lohan] and I have a lot more in common than people think. We’ve all done things we shouldn’t, it’s just I did stuff at college, when nobody knew about it, so I’m not a saint. I wasted time doing self-destructive things but it didn’t work. I found out you can only dance on so many tabletops.

Aside from making me really wish I'd attended Hathaway's college, this is all to the good. But then the blogger goes on to speculate that Anne's longtime boyfriend, some fella in real estate heretofore known as the unworthy swine, might just in fact be...a beard.

That's right. To wildly misquote Peter O'Toole in Beckett, will no one rid me of these meddlesome dykes?

How the mighty, etc

If you're sick of hearing me talk about Sorkin and/or Studio 60, you may...or may not...want to follow this link to a column by Tim Goodman of the SF Chronicle. I think most of what he says is true.

Perhaps especially:

Who's the rooting interest here? (Take your time.) Ultimately, it was hard to care. Those who tried to care were Sorkin loyalists

I cared about Matt, as I care about most characters who care about writing well. But even as a "Sorkin loyalist" was hard to care as much about him after last weeks episode practically begged for our sympathy.

I have a few other exceptions or at least qualifications which I'll get to now.
It was a drama about a comedy show but the skits weren't funny.

And it didn't help that the series kept asking us to believe this was supposed to be not just a more-than-fitfully-funny show. On the order of the best years of Saturday Night Live. No, this was The Virtual Reincarnation Of The Commedia dell'arte.

Even an experienced troupe of sketch comedy writers and players would have had trouble living up to what Studio 60, in the reality of the series, was supposed to be. Aaron Sorkin & crew never had a chance.

Sarah Paulson [was] not funny in this series playing [a] comic...

Same thing. I'd argue that she was...but not so funny as we were asked to believe she was. Sarah Paulson was my discovery of the series, and I look forward to seeing her in projects where the writing doesn't put her in untenable positions.

Here the writing failed her twice. First by telling us over and over that Harriet Hayes was supposed to be not just a hardworking actress and comedian but something like a less-flitty Drew Barrymore.

Someone who is perceived to be so talented at comedy and at drama, and so sexy, that the worlds and men of show business lie at her feet. Come on. Talk about giving someone a heavy burden.

And then, to my dismay, Sorkin backed away from one of the things I found most interesting about the character: Her religious faith. There were lots of places I think that could have gone, not all (but some) to do with her relationship with Matthew.

It's a path-less-traveled in television, whereas we've all seen the inter-office dating stories (and seen them, and seen them, and seen them). But it seemed much of that got thrown by the wayside in an attempt to find something, anything, for a mass audience to latch on to (and by extention, not be offended by).

Maybe better he should have made this about such a show's first year on the air. Then maybe we wouldn't have had those embarassing moments where the characters are celebrating their great ratings victory...when we know it's just not true.

Oh, okay, a Britney Spears post

Or, "Why The Internet Was Invented, Part Four." So we could have sites with lists like this:
Eight Women Who Look Better Bald Than Britney

I'd say they're pretty dead-on. And this does give me an excuse to run my all-time favorite picture of Sinead O'Connor.

No, she's not bald, but how often are you gonna see her like that? Also note how in the picture provided at the site, Demi Moore looks just like Robert De Niro.

Do you believe in miracles?

Last night was, what will in all likely probability probably be the last new episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to be broadcast on NBC. It hasn't "officially" been cancelled yet, don't have to be a programming executive to read the old writing on the wall.

And it's a shame, really. It's not a shame because "Aaron Sorkin is incapable of writing poorly!", clearly, he isn't. And his surrogate character admitted as much in tonight's show when he learned the ratings of the series within the series had gone down and immidiately blamed the writing (ie, himself).

It's a shame because it showed that good ideals and the best of intentions aren't always enough. A creative team both behind and in front of the camera that no one could possibly find fault with is not enough if the magic just aint there. And Studio 60, for all that there was often much to value, was sorely lacking in magic from the beginning.

Nobody's career will be crippled by this thing. Sorkin's got that Tom Hanks movie coming up; Tommy Schlamme won't have to go begging for a job anytime soon. The cast members who weren't already multi-millionaires all got, at the very least, a few great scenes to add to their "reel." And I have to believe a Sorkin/Schlamme credit is still nothing to sneeze at in Hollywood.

The reality is that Studio 60 was a noble failure. Back in October, I said,
If [Studio 60 doesn't] make it, I feel like it'll say something about how, in fact, there isn't a place for smart shows on network television these days. Which would be a real shame, especially since a big part of the soul of Studio 60 is about arguing just that point-that there is such a place. I'd really hate for that to be proved wrong.

So...has it been? Well, Veronica Mars has gone back to being great again. Boston Legal continues to carve out a very special niche for itself. And most of the rest of the shows I watch...well, I wouldn't call them stupid (he said modestly).

Maybe Studio 60 not making it didn't show anything other than that this time, Aaron Sorkin didn't have it. And they were not, in fact, "the very model of a modern network TV show." And sometimes I think: More's the pity.

Because with all the damn "reality" shows, soap operas about Desperate Housewife lesbians, game shows, and fucking American Idol... would have been nice if I could have had one show that said the arts and entertainment can be more than this. It's just a shame that, whether in concept or execution, Studio 60, it turns out, is not that show.

It is a shame. We need shows that say that. We need a lot of things that say that. Or at least, I do. Because the other sad reality is that for a lot of people the damn "reality" shows, soap operas and so on are enough.

But they're not for me. They're not what I want to watch, and they're not what I want to do. And that may help me put my finger on what bothered me most about Studio 60 in recent weeks.

Sports Night and especially West Wing made me want to write well. They almost always made me think, "I have to do better." Studio 60 may have made me think, "I actually can do better." I have no idea right now whether that's a good sign, or not.

Studio 60

Rest in peace.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Playboy magazine, in stunning reversal of previous policy, comes out in favor of big tits

SCARLETT JOHANSSON has been named Sexiest Celebrity by Playboy magazine. The publication brands the LOST IN TRANSLATION star as "the apex of beauty and sensuality - from her porcelain skin to her fully feminine figure to her mysterious charisma, which is at once palpable and undefinable."

Oh, for the love of...

It's not undefinable.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Too true, tattoo.

You're an Passionate Kisser

For you, kissing is about all about following your urges
If someone's hot, you'll go in for the kiss - end of story
You can keep any relationship hot with your steamy kisses
A total spark plug - your kisses are bound to get you in trouble

Random Flickr-blogging 6754

I apologize in advance for this joke. Ahem:

When Quan wished to marry a guy with a large organ, this wasn't quite what she had in...oh, I hate myself...