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Friday, September 28, 2007

This Weeks YouTube Video of The Week!

Dig The Osmonds getting heavy! Mitt Romney could learn a few tricks from this clip on how to muss up that clean cut mormon's "Crazy Horse" by The Osmonds:

Music News: Rock and Roll Hall of Lame

The Shangri-Las: Still waiting for their induction...

The Rock Hall is set to vote on the next round of inductions and it's a very mixed bag, (the notes in parenthesis are my personal preferences):

Madonna (yes, she is that influential even if she is not "rock' per se)
The Beastie Boys (yes but not before Run-D.M.C. )
John Mellencamp (no, a handful of good songs should not make for a Hall of Famer)
Leonard Cohen (yes, one of the great American songwriters)
Afrika Bambaataa (yes, a rap and electro pioneer)
Chic (yes, one of the greatest and most influential disco acts)
the Ventures (no, too tied to the surf genre)
Donna Summer (no, not without Giorgio Moroder)
Dave Clark Five (no, second string British invasioneers)

Five of these lucky acts will be inducted March 10, 2008, at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Who could be here in their stead? The Replacements, Black Flag, Television, Cheap Trick, The Shangri-Las, The Chi-Lites, Joy Division, Jontahan Richman and countless deserving others...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Politics: Thoughts on Last Night's Democratic debate

The Democrats at last night's debate in Hanover, N.H.

Last night's debate in New Hampshire, moderated by Tim Russert, showed the campaign for President shifting gears as time begins to run short for candidates who aren't Hilary Rodham Clinton. It also showed that Russert is like a nightmare combination of your most hated high school teacher crossbred with a pitbull. The conventional wisdom has been that Clinton wins these things by emerging relatively unscathed and there is some truth to that. Last night she took some scuffs but when she is focused she is still the best candidate on the stage at :
a) sounding Presidential

b) Ducking a direct question with aplomb

c) turning a hit into a plus for her.

Russert was harder on her than some of the candidates but she did survive loony Grandpa Mike Gravel's scorn ("I'm ashamed of you...") , John Edward's pursed lip simpering challenge on leaving "combat" troops in, Biden's grudging run-through of her unlikability, and Obama's barely-there criticism of her health care leadership.

She seemed to be in prime cruising mode until the last two questions. Russert brought up the Hsu fundraising ruckus which she ably parried but when he followed up with a direct question about making the funding of her husband's foundation public she seemed thrown and gave a transparently evasive answer. Yes it's Bill's foundation but doesn't she have an opinion on it? There was a more graceful way to not answer that one. The last question was a boneheaded "Yankees or Red Sox" question designed to test non-New England candidates mettle in Sox territory. She ably gave the tough answer "Yankees" but Russert had to tighten the noose and ask her a hypothetical one on a Cubs/ Yankees matchup. "Well I would probably have to alternate sides." a statement that neatly encapsulates the hesitation many Democrats have about supporting the former first lady.

Were that she had parried as well as when Russert played "Gotcha!" by reading her a pro-torture statement that she roundly rejected. The statement was by -- da DA DUMMMM! -- her husband, Russert revealed in a bit of hackneyed theatre that must have thrilled the trial lawyer in John Edwards. "Well he's not standing here right now." She said, to applause.

Edwards knows he has an uphill battle but he also knows that to keep his campaign alive he has to pull one of this non-victory second place victories a la' Clinton in New Hampshire in 1991. Last night suggested he may just do it. He put a lot of ground between himself and Clinton and was far more animated than the Illinois Senator. Still, Edwards has the demeanor of a lawyer winking at a female jury member at times. It can feel like too much, a bit shiny and contrived.

Clinton's numbers are unlikely to move much in New Hampshire out of this but I suspect that Edwards will start to challenge for second.

TV News: Knight Rider Rides Again

Hasselhoff: "Are you staring at my belt buckle?"

Proof of the adage that no idea is too stupid to be done twice, NBC is looking to revive eighties David Hasselhoff cheesefest Knight Rider -- with that little dash of Transformers to make everything that much more derivative. NBC is tapping Go and Bourne Identity director Doug Liman to helm the TV movie with an eye to taking it to series. No word yet on whether "The Hoff" will cameo, whether the Jersey shore will be scoured for '82-'83 black Trans-Ams, or whether the folks at NBC have lost their freaking minds. Here's the juice from Variety's article on this:

"Success of "Transformers" had a role in inspiring NBC Entertainment chief Ben Silverman's decision to revive "Knight." The thinking is that smallscreen f/x have advanced to the point where it'd be feasible to have a weekly series in which cars shift shapes.
It's also likely the new show will explore the idea of "evil" cars to offset the heroic talking K.I.T.T. car of the original skein, which starred David Hasselhoff. That said, skein is expected to essentially remain focused on the story of a single man fighting for justice with the help of his superadvanced car."

Best case scenario:
Bruce Campbell gets the lead, the car is voiced by Jm J. Bullock, and the whole thing is played tongue-in-cheek.

Worst case scenario:
Zac Efron gets the lead, the show is "younged up", the car is voiced by Sinbad and is a Subaru WRX that can shape shift into a robot.

Movie/Music News: Scorsese to Direct George Harrison Doc

George Harrison: Indian phase? What Indian phase?

Martin Scorsese will direct a wide-ranging biography of former Beatle George Harrison, who dies of lung cancer in 2001. The doc, which will be prepped for thetrical release, will cover all aspects of Harrison's career including wit his band, as a solo artist, a film financier and activist. Scorsese already has an impressive roster of music docs under his belt including The Band's film The Last Waltz, the upcoming Rolling Stones film Shine a Light and the acclaimed Bob Dylan biodoc No Direction Home.

This Week's Chart Beat

The Donnas sport that wind in your hair look

Sassy sitcom singer Reba McEntire's Duets album struts it's way into the number one spot on the Top 200 as both Kanye and 50 Cent see their album sales drop by an astounding 75% + each. Barry Manilow noses in at number four with his The Greatest Songs of The Seventies (no there's still no Clash or Cheap Trick on it) while spots 7 - 12 are filled with debuts from the likes of uber-sensitive soldier James Blunt, scowly Chamillionaire, cute multi-instrumentalist popster KT Tunstall, lyrical flow specialist Twista, Pearl Jam frontman and Bush effigy assaulter Eddie Vedder, and shift-key impaired band him. Diana Krall (Mrs. Declan MacManus to Elvis Costello) sees her Very Best at number 19 and all the way down at 89 are those sweet misspent youths The Donnas.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Music: The Best Thread on I Love Music Right Now

The ILX messageboard has outdone itself with it's new thread entitled Can We Get Some Sort Of Consensus About What Music Video Is The Craziest/Most Over The Top On Youtube? A challenge, but one ably met: Some examples...

Samwell's "What What (In The Butt)" -- didn't Eddie Murphy cover this er...territory first?

This Army of Lovers video was disabled from embedding by request but it's a must see!

And finally Lou Reed from his Honda scooter ads era doing "No Money Down" like it's an afterschool special on the dangers of angel dust.

Politics: O'Reilly -- Blacks Eat Just Like The Rest of Us!

Bill O'Reilly: Shocked at absence of, B----,, etc...

CNN reports that regular guy and Fox News talking head Bill O'Reilly was surprised to find patrons of Sylvia's in Harlem (where the fried chicken is fantastic -- I've had it) didn't carry on and say "M.F. er". Of course until I saw the story on CNN I'd never heard anyone say "". Either way, O'Reilly seems to feel that this astonishing bit of news actually stems from his enlightenment as a human being and not from his utter stupidity. Dan Froomkin at The Washington Post draws the connection between O'Reilly's boneheaded comments and his pal Juan Williams. Williams was asked, by special request of The White House, to interview the President about race. His employer NPR declined as they have been attempting to have a reporter of their choosing, preferably an anchor, interview Bush (Williams already has). The goodhearted folks at Fox made sure that Williams and the Pres got their sit-down. For a baseball guy the President sure enjoys softballs, and that's all Williams was pitching.

Music News: New Radiohead Next March?

Radiohead: almost out of the woods...

Rolling Stone claims to have cracked Radiohead's code, and they didn't need Robert Graysmith to do it. The venerable music pub has been peering at the cryptic messages on the band's website and have suggested that the release date for their eagerly awaited seventh album will be March 10th (in the UK new music comes out on Mondays, unlike the U.S. which does it on Tuesdays). No word yet on a label for the band, which is free of their contract with Parlophone/Capitol. Below is an example of one of their coded images:

TV Review: Reaper Harvests Grins

Reaper's Harrison and Labine: Who you gonna call?

TV pilots have become mini movies now, with name directors and expensive special effects. As Variety points out this week, many series television is getting pricier with pilots alone costing as much as $4 million dollars. The CW's new show Reaper, for instance, sports some fancy-shmancy special effects and Kevin Smith as a director. The question, as is often the case these days -- is whether episode 5 will be as much fun to watch as last night's high-concept pilot episode was. Bret Harrison plays Sam, a guy who discovers that his 21st birthday brings the consummation of his parent's deal with the devil for his soul as well as the usual drinking privileges. The superb Ray Wise plays the devil as an unctuous businessman, as ruthless as he is charming. Sam's friends are a guy named Sock (Tyler Labine) who comes straight out of the Kevin Smith/Jay Apatow arrestedly developed male factory, and is none the worse for it, and crushworthy Missy Peregrym who could pass for Hillary Swank's little sister.
It seems that Sam's new job on behalf of Satan (in addition to working at a hilarious Home Depot style hardware superstore) is to collect escaped denizens of Hell and to return them via Hell on earth portals (such as the local DMV). There is a dollop of Buffy The Vampire Slayer here but if the offbeat wry tone is maintained this could work very successfully as a hybrid of that show's buddy demon fighting with the sensibility of My Name is Earl. So far so good, now let's see what the next few episodes bring.

Reaper gets 4 out of 5 pitchforks:

Politics: SCHIP Hits the Fan

Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner (R) could be targeted for his vote. "Why can't the little buggers just use emergency rooms?" *Not an actual quote.

The House voted in favor of the new State Children's Health Insurance Program, setting up a veto showdown President Bush. Bush, who opposes the program on "philosophical" grounds, seems to feel that think-tank bromides trump sick kids. Though 45 Republicans sided with the Democratic majority on the bill, 151 Republican lemmings marched off this particular cliff -- allowing Bush's veto to stand and giving Democrats a prime election year cudgel in 2008. 8 Democrats also voted against the bill, among them Dennis Kucinich. Here are the full yeas and nays.

Politics: Rice Gums Up Blackwater Inquiry

Condi's finger falls short of the goal -- a metaphor for Iraqi democracy?

Rep. Henry Waxman (D- CA) is accusing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of slowing down and blocking parts of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's investigation into Blackwater and security in Iraq. Read the Washington Post's report here. Once again the Imperial Bush White House has done what it can to politicize every department it comes in contact with.

This Just In: Rudolph Does Double-Take

Maya Rudolph has changed her mind and will be re-joining the cast of Saturday Night Live this year after all. No word yet on whether "the funny" will be back after several years absence but here's hoping!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Music: New Release Tuesday

Nellie McKay contemplates her own pinkness

This week's new releases are headed up by the Foo Fighters, who bring back The Colour and The Shape producer Gil Norton for the poorly named Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace .

Sam Beam's band Iron and Wine open up their sound with The Shepherd's Dog which features previous collaborators Calexico and a broader palette than his earlier folky releases.

Chaka Khan comes back after 11 years with Jagged Edge and hip-hop/soul chanteuse Jill Scott busts out with Real Thing: Words And Sounds Vol. 3.

Quirky cutie Nellie McKay releases her latest Obligatory Villagers.

Way alt-country troubadour Steve Earle issues Washington Square Serenade.

Joni Mitchell breaks the silence by releasing a new album on the Starbucks Hear Music label at the same time as jazzman Herbie Hancock puts out a guest-studded Joni covers disc.

Weird beard Devendra Banhart sends Smoky Rolls Down Thunder Canyon into the world like so much incense smoke.

Stars In The Bedroom After the War finally sees release in stores after being available online for some time.

Politics: Bush Out on a Limb -- Will House GOPers Follow?

Cannibal turkey? "This reminds me of that conference I had with Larry Craig..."

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has warned the White House and fellow Republicans that they are in danger of facing an even more hostile electorate if President Bush vetoes the new State Children's Health Insurance Program bill as he is expected to do. If the House fails to override his veto Grassley expects a pounding from Democrats going into next year's election. Read the article in the Washington Post to see just how steamed up Grassley is it the President of his own party. Grassley is absolutely right on all counts here, and the White House has shown once again the contempt for fellow Republicans as well as Democrats that's the hallmark of an imperial presidency.

Politics: Hill KO's GQ Piece

Here is a litmus test photo. If you think "dirty hippies" you are a red stater. If you think "Man they were cool!" you are a blue stater. If you think "What the? Heath Ledger is dating Chloe Sevigny now?" you are smoking a bong in your dorm room.

The Politico reports that Hillary Clinton's vaunted media mafia managed to put the kibosh on a GQ story they didn't like. The leverage? A planned front page story on a certain ex-President/member of the Senate Spouses tea club. The article (which is hotlinked above) does a good job of showing how disciplined and single-minded Team Hillary is, even in contrast to her husband.

TV News: Rudolph Takes Off -- SNL Down To Two Women

Rudolph: Done with Lorne Michael's reindeer games?

Just less than a week before Saturday Night Live's season premiere comes the news that Maya Rudolph is ankling the show. No word yet on whether the split between Lorne Michael's baby and the spawn of Minnie Ripperton is amicable or whether there is Wake Up Wakefield movie in the future.

Film Review: Killer Zodiac Mesmerizes

Downey in Zodiac

I finally caught up with David Fincher's Zodiac on DVD and boy am I sorry I missed this in the theatre. Here's hoping that Warner Bros. and Paramount re-releases this for a late year Oscar push, (though its unlikely considering the crush of prestige films this fall). This is quite simply one of the most stunningly shot films of the last few years. The great cinematographer Harris Savides creates a San Francisco that goes from a spooky, gauzy dreaminess at the films start to a hard-edged bright dystopia as we head into the seventies. He is ably abetted by top-notch production design by Donald Graham Burt that brings the period to life. Check out the stunning opening sequence:

What puts this up with Fight Club as one of Fincher's masterpieces is the fusing of this meticulous attention to detail with a stellar cast and a mature, ruminative screenplay. Robert Downey Jr. is sardonic hard-living San Francisco Chronicle Reporter Paul Avery, Jake Gyllenhaal is quirky straight-laced Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith, Mark Ruffalo is superstar San Francisco cop David Toschi and Anthony Edwards plays Toschi's levelheaded partner. All four of these actors are at the top of their game, and all portray characters drawn into the web of the Zodiac killer, with life altering results.

As befits a director who has clearly sweated every last period detail, this is not a procedural, a cat and mouse film, or a slasher pic. Rather it is a story about obsession. Late in the film, a character tells Gyllenhall that he has "the look." He doesn't know what she means but we d. It's the look of a man who is driven, the look that Downey has as he trades one addiction for another, the look Ruffalo has as he sees his case moldering, the look Edwards has as he lets go of the same case. Obsession spreads like a virus, from the Zodiacs letters seemingly to characters like Gyllenhaal's who are initially tangential to the hunt for the killer. As the trail goes colder and the paint on the pillers in the Chronicle's newsroom goes from hot red to cool blue, Gyllenhaal puts his marriage to Chloe Sevigny and his family aside in his quest. Eventually the Zodiac could be anyone or no-one, the heavy phone breather or the dedicated cop, just as Downey wonders at the beginning of the story whether Gyllenhall could be the killer. In the end Fincher seems to feel that they have a good idea who did it, but as with his characters there is enough ambiguity to leave a smidgen of doubt. That little bit of darkness is the shadow that cinematographer Savides spends the film chasing into the corner -- but he can never eliminate it.
Zodiac gets five out of five Golden Gates:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Movie News: Leave Pelham Alone -- I Mean it!

Matthau with Ben Stiller's dad in Pelham

Looks like the dried-up ideas well in Hollywood has sputtered up yet another pointless, needless re-make of a classic film. Flashy director (and brother of Ridley) Tony (Top Gun) Scott is tackling the 1974 action classic The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 and is bringing Denzel Washington (who should have learned his lesson from the boneheaded Manchurian Candidate re-do he starred in) aboard to tackle the role of Walter Matthau's crusty transit cop. Sigh. It's bad enough that I get excited every time I see Bad News Bears on my cable guide only to be confronted with Billy Bob Thornton's Bad Santa version.

Iraq: Wack Tactics -- Using Weapons as "Bait"

The Washington Post reports today that the military has had sniper teams in Iraq leave "bait" in the form of weapons and explosives material. They then kill whoever happens to try to leave with the items. One has to wonder if it has occurred to the Pentagon mega-minds behind this latest strategy that in a country with a thriving black market, civilians would be remiss in leaving perfectly good wire, explosives, or weapons just laying out there. When it comes to weapons, if I were an Iraqi civilian, I know I'd rather have the ammo that's sitting in the middle of the street than let some extremist take it and then turn around and use it on me or my family. This is a dumb, wrongheaded policy and it ought to be halted. Now.

TV News: Networks Less Queer -- Cable More So

Fox New's Shepherd Smith -- Cross-dressing on weekends alert: elevated

GLAAD reports that broadcast television has fewer depictions of gays and lesbians on primetime, while cable continues to get more diverse. Of the depictions of gays and lesbians on broadcast, the vast majority appeared on ABC. Read AP's report here . See more of the very-not-gay-in-a-Larry-Craig-way Shepherd Smith below!

Music News: Westerberg Chats about Songs -- Next Up: Frank Black Francis, Aimee Mann

Paul Westerberg: Sometimes a guitar is just a guitar...

Billboard reports that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's interview series The Craft (not to be confused with the film about teenage witches in catholic school girl uniforms) just finished up a great session with Paul Westerberg where he talked about solo and Replacements work and played ten songs. There are some great nuggets at the Billboard link above so definitely check it out. Elvis Costello, Ben Gibbard, Patty Griffin, Jim James from My Morning Jacket have all been taped and Pixies frontman Black Francis aka Frank Black and Aimee Mann are due up next. Unfortunately one has to go the Rock Hall itself to checkout the full interviews but short versions can be seen here. Former Del Fuego Warren Zanes conducts the interviews.

The Spirit of Alice Ghostely

Alice Ghostely died this weekend. Her partner in weekend mortal coil shuffling-off, Marcel Marceau, was a master of comedy and drama with his body but Ghostely was all about her voice. Whether singing beautifully or quavering comically she was a delight -- a highlight of weekdays watching Bewitched reruns as a child. Here is a rare clip of her with a delicious -looking Patty Duke from the 1971 hippie-dippy TV movie Two on a Bench . She plays Duke's mother, a kleptomaniac, and she gives a how-to here in how to steal a scene by chomping on the scenery.

Veepstakes Underway!

Wes Clark theorizes on how wide a "wide stance" is...

Things are looking good for Hillary Clinton -- up in the polls, on 5 of the Sunday gabfests without a gaffe, her health care plan is being taken seriously. The only bad news is the Republicans seem to be as excited as she is to have her as the nominee. President Bush, once again wired into his Rovian brain, predicted a Hilary win this weekend. The good news is, this guy also predicted a Republican House and Senate in 2006 and a quick victory in Iraq.

So now Team Hillary can start the process of trotting out VP picks. Look carefully at her recent string of endorsements: Vilsack, Bayh, and Wes Clark. All three of these guys have to be considered front-runners, more so than Obama or any of her other primary opponents. My money is on Clark. I saw them in a surprise joint appearance last week and Clark really brings the right kind of balance to the ticket. He made a football quarterback analogy when asked about General Petraeus (the quarterback doesn't say it can't be done even when the score is 20-0) that may have made a bunch of liberal New Yorkers eyes glaze. For voters who aren't sure about Hillary however, here is a way of viewing the world that they can feel comfortable with. His military experience helps to shore up her perceived weakness in relating to the armed forces and is directly relevant to the war in Iraq. You heard it here first!

Mime Silenced: Marcel Marceau Dies

Famed French mime Marcel Marceau died this weekend at the age of 84. Marceau was most famous for his white-faced be-hatted character Bip, and he entertained audiences all over the world starting in the 1950's. Marceau was also part of the French Resistance during World War II helping to hide Jewish children from the French police and German authorities. His father was sent to a concentration camp and was never seen again.

I had the great pleasure to see Marcel Marceau perform and to meet him backstage when I was a child, and his kindness and warmth left a lasting impression. Here is the obit from the International Herald Tribune. Below is one of Marceau's best known clips in America, from Mel Brook's 1976 film Silent Movie. In a typical Brook's gag which the voluble Marceau must have loved, the mime is the only one in the entire film who's voice is heard, just once.

Friday, September 21, 2007

YouTube Video of The Week: Michael Cera Does Self-Help

Enjoy this hilarious and thoughtful self-help vid from Superbad and Arrested Development comedy wunderkind Michael Cera. Remember, Impossible is the Opposite of Possible! Special shout-out to birthday girl Toni Capra for sending this my way...

DVR Alert: SNL Announces Musical Guests

Spoon: Look in the 791. section...

Saturday Night Live has revealed the first batch of musical guests for this, their 93rd season. What, no Les Savvy Fav with Armisen behind the kit?

The fun starts September 29th with rhyme-challenged MC Kanye West, fresh from vanquishing 50 Cent.

Indie kids rejoice on October 6th when Spoon graces the stage at 30 Rock.

October 13th will see dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters tear it up joined by Jon Bon Jovi who will do it all -- host, play music, show up in sketches, and release a faux-country album.

Music News: Jack White Finds a Replacement For Meg?

"Hmmm Bob White...I like the sound of that..."

As Rolling Stone Magazine's website has been breathlessly reporting all week, Jack White has taken to sharing a stage with Bob Dylan lately and spurring His Greatness to play songs not previously or rarely played live. Could Bob be angling to become Grandpa Bob White? Or perhaps Jack has his eye on George Harrison's vacant Wilbury spot. Either way, fans who are lucky enough to catch the Amos Lee/Raconteurs/Dylan shows should have a unique experience.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Rampant Joke Stealing! This Time Colbert is Caught

Colbert: Joke Theif or Plain Ol' Sexy American?

CNN reports that Air America morning host Cenk Uygur is claiming that Steven Colbert stole his joke about Republicans sounding like Klingons. Hmmm... kind of like what New York Magazine did to me! Here is Uygur's full charge below via YouTube. To be fair, Colbert's was funnier (while I was much cleverer than New York Magazine).

Book Review: Winner of the National Book Award -- Clever, Witty, Slight

Jincy Willett: Hyperbolous Titler

Jincy Willett's Winner of the National Book Award comes with that attention-grabbing title built-in. One of the Barnes and Noble readers reviews begins thusly: "I needed a book to read on a train ride, so when I read 'Winner of the National Book Award' on the cover of this book, I hastily grabbed it, trusting that it would be a good read. It wasn't until later that I realized that this is the *name* of the book, and that no such accolades have been (or will be) awarded to this novel." The reader goes on to castigate the book, which really is a lot of fun before a somewhat dour last quarter. Willett has a gift for character description and much of what she writes is quite funny coming as it does from the voice of the book's narrator, Dorcas Mather. Dorcas is a reserved caustic Rhode Island librarian fated to share life with her outgoing voluptuous twin Abigail. Abigail is the subject of a poorly written tell-all which crosses Dorcas' library transom. "Winner of the National Book Award" is Dorcas' rebuttal to what she feels is an offensive intrusion into her life, partly at the hands of her sister. In some since Willett doesn't seem to take this far enough. There is the merest hint that Dorcas's may be whitewashing her own role in the events a tad but this is never really played up as much as it could be. Bits of information, like the daughter the sisters contrive to raise together, are released in a rather arbitrary way that is undoubtedly purposeful but frustrating. The book winds up with an ending that is inevitable but not nearly interesting enough to warrant some of the very funny and well-drawn scenes that occur earlier on, such as a barroom wedding reception marred by a grieving priest. There is plenty of well-observed humor at the expense of the book world, with authors pompous and popular and their readers all coming in for the skewer. Overall this is an enjoyable read but I suspect Willett has something even loftier and just as funny raring to get out.

Winner of the National Book Award garners 3 out of 5 trophies:

Train Wreck News: Courtney Love Perfume Mogul? May We Suggest Flopsweat as a Name?

One of these two people is Courtney Love.

Courtney Love seems to have some serious L.A.M.B. envy, musing about starting a clothing line and a perfume brand to the folks at BANG Showbiz. It's hard to imagine a woman who seems to have had all the pores in her face fused shut shilling for perfume but there it is. Even better is her re-invention (no. 23 in a series) as a Beverly Hills soccer mom. "I know how to play the game now. I have to navigate the system, follow the rules and stop being a rebel. I can't afford to be a 43-year-old rebel." Nor can she afford decent plastic surgery, evidently. God forbid she and Kathy Griffin show up at a party together and realize they are wearing the same face...

This Weeks Chart Beat: West Bests Gritty Fitty

Hot Hot Heat: Someone always insists on looking in the wrong direction, wearing a different outfit and throwing off all sense of perspective with their freakishly tiny proportions...

By now we all know who came out on top in this week's Billboard Top 200 shootout: Black Francis. Hah, I wish! Kanye West wins fair and square with his Can and Daft Punk sampling Graduation logging almost a million units. 50 Cent has to settle for number two and a set of steak knives. Riding in at number three is Kenny Chesney, representing for the hat act brigade. Further down the big chart Feist proves once again that Madison Avenue is the new MTV as her Apple ad sends The Reminder back up from 95 to 44. Psych-jam weirdos Animal Collective storm the big time at number 72 with Strawberry Jam followed by Hot Hot Heat's Happiness LTD. at 86. Despite all this action sales are still down from the same week last year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New York Magazine Reads This Blog!...and Rips it Off!

Could this weeks Approval Matrix be merely an incredible coincidence? See for yourself , and also above. They do the exact same Damien Hirst/Indiana Jones gag I did last week! I demand restitution, free iced coffee or some form of mea culpa from the culture vultures at New York who dared to rip me off...

Film: The Lives of Ulrich Mühe

The late Ulrich Mühe listens to Darkside of The Moon the way it was meant to be heard... has a great interview with Best Foreign Film Oscar winner The Lives of Others director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck about his star Ulrich Mühe, who died recently of stomach cancer. It's well worth reading about the political power of art.

Music: Beastie Boys Stay Silent -- Let Others do the Rhymin' and Stealin'

Beastie Boys: "London Bridge is falling down...lemme hear it!" reports today that The Beastie Boys are working on a mix-up of The Mix-Up the all-instrumental album released earlier this year to mixed response. On the shortlist of hotshots to do the vox: M.I.A., Lily Allen and Jarvis Cocker. The boys themselves will stay silent, though a new album is in the works as well, presumably with their trademarked old-school rapping.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Music: New Releases of Note

Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis: Guesting on Manilow's Greatest Songs of the Eighties?

Clearly the favorite is Barry Manilow's continuing attempt to schlock his way through the decades, this time The Greatest Songs of The Seventies, and no, Televisoin's "Marquee Moon" is not on the playlist. Manilow, who had most of his big hits in that era, thoughtfully includes a few of them amongst these "greatest" in acoustic-styled unplugged arrangements. "These covers retain the integrity and emotion of the originals.." he tells Billboard. Oh goody.

Seriously though, Thurston Moore, aka Sonic Youth head lanky guy and husband to Kim Gordon, issues a solo album follow-up to his mid-90's solo debut. He expands on the more song oriented palette that Sonic Youth explored on their most recent album, only in acoustic-styled unplugged arrangements. J. Mascis guests, as does Youth drummer Steve Shelley.

Emmylou Harris is anthologized with a four-CD box that covers every phase of her impressive alt-country career.

Rogue Wave say goodbye to Sub Pop and hello to Jack Johnson's label with Asleep at Heaven's Gate. In all fairness it is a pretty long movie.

Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew Spirit If... is a clever way of allowing people to connect Drew with the loose Canadian collective band he leads on this first semi-solo outing. This does not consist primarily of acoustic-styled unplugged arrangements but J. Mascis does guest.

TV: Brett Somers Dies -- God Completing Home Version of Match Game -- Watch Out Betty White!

Actress/comedienne Brett Somers died at her home in Connecticut Saturday of cancer. She was 83. Somers is best known for her cackling, caustic appearances on the classic TV game show Match Game in the 1970's where she would trade barbs with Charles Nelson Reilly, Betty White and Richard Dawson. Somers was married to actor Jack Klugman in 1953 and though they never divorced they separated in 1974. They were divorced on television however when she played the recurring character of Oscar Madison's ex-wife on Klugman's sitcom The Odd Couple. Match Game is still one of the most popular reruns on The Game Show Network and Somers is a good reason why. The boozy breezy camaraderie between the stars takes precedence over the silly "game" and the point of the show is merely to hang out with them and revel in their back and forthing. Somer's a self-described bohemian, will be missed.

Here's a CBS morning show appearance from 2002 with Brett and the late, great Charles Nelson Reilly.

TV News: The Emmys

By now you probably know who all the winners of last nights Emmys were. I was unable to watch the show live last night as my cable was out though it's a show that is usually second in pointless silliness only to MTV's VMAs. Every year the batch of nominations is announced and duly trashed and then out of the poor grab bag of nominees some decent and deserving winners are spread amongst the nominated shows. This year was no different. I used to feel that if a show or creator on a show was nominated one year that they should not be allowed to be nominated for the same exact category and same show/performance the following year. The argument against this is that an actor or show could have a particularly strong year after having been nominated the year before and how would we recognize this. My reply is, nominate one of the other actors or writers who may be eligible. Perhaps winners shouldn't be allowed repeat noms? Either way I think it would broaden the parochial nature of a group that nominates the same shows and actors again and again to the detriment of shows like The Wire or Gilmore Girls. Also, there ought to be a best ensemble award for dramas and comedies. Shows like The Office or The Sopranos are a collection of several fine performances and it seems unfair to nominate a few of what is usually a fine overall cast.

Film Review: 3:10 is Rousing Acting Masterclass

Christian Bale and Peter Fonda keep their eyes peeled for Dick Cheney

3:10 to Yuma, James Mangold's new western, isn't a reinvention of the genre. Rather it's a re-embrace of a lately neglected storytelling idiom that is uniquely American. The years immediately following World War II were arguably the golden age of the Western when films like the Delmar Daves' original 3:10 to Yuma, High Noon, and Shane used the frontier as a staging ground for explorations of morality that often touched on the contemporary political scene. So it is with the Yuma remake.

Essentially this is a story about integrity in the face of raw greed -- two men who have it amidst a world sorely lacking in it. Christian Bale plays struggling rancher and family man Dan Evans who agrees to help deliver Russell Crowe's elegant outlaw Ben Wade to justice. Crowe underplays his character brilliantly, never going for the easy line reading or over the top scenery chew. From the way he beckons his horse to his sly smile Crowe has built a shaded contoured performance that is among his best. It would be easy enough for him to walk away with the film. Bale however matches him note-for-note with his hangdog appearance and penetrating eyes. He also has a smile, though his is full of fatalism and even humor at his own stubbornness. Bale is physically similar to Crowe's acting partner Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential and it would be easy enough to see him in this role. The difference between Bale and Pearce is the way Bale allows his characters (like Patrick Bateman in Psycho or even Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins) to see themselves as others must see him, and even revel in this self-knowledge.
Rounding out the cast is haggard western vet Peter Fonda as a mercenary Pinkerton, an excellent Ben Foster (180 degrees from his role as Russell on HBO's Six Feet Under) as an avenging member of Ben Wade's gang, and an underused but effective Gretchen Mol as Bale's wife.

The scenery is stunning, as it should be, and setpiece scenes such as a stagecoach robbery and a chase through the railroad cut under construction come off well. But as much gunplay as there is, the film really centers on what makes a person feel they can live with themselves and what their price is. Time and again Bale is offered the money he so desperately needs in exchange for his principles and similarly Crowe has ample opportunity to be the cold-blooded killer he is reputed to be. You get to know what drives these men to their own version of higher principles as they get to know themselves. Whether you buy the film's ending or not depends on whether you can accept the film's philosophy or whether you only care for the mechanics of a shoot-em-up.

Politically both red and blue staters can take from Yuma what they like, but consider this. Like many westerns, there is a deep strain of the little guy getting pushed around by powerful interests intent on 'civilizing' the region , often embodied by the railroad. In Yuma this is Dan Evan's, whose ranch stands in the railroads way. Later on we are introduced to a pocket of holdout Apaches who, like Evans refuse to vacate their land in the face of wholesale occupation and slaughter. Evans has also been let down by a government who's bureaucratic indifference values his body like a piece of meat in the wake of his Civil War service.

3:10 To Yuma sticks with you, and here's hoping it sticks with Oscar voters when it's nomination time as both Bale and Crowe turn in award-worthy work. Yuma gets four of of five choo-choo trains:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Music: Yet Another Hot YouTube Clip

Don't believe Black Francis is back and badder than ever? Check out this hot clip of the former Pixies head honcho burning it up with his cover of Fatboy Slims "The Rockafella Skank". Unbelievable!

YouTube Clip of The Week: The Late Bobby Byrd

Enjoy Bobby Byrd doing his cover Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" in 1968...R.I.P.

Music: Portland -- Indie Haven

Anthony Kiedis: Soon to be borrowing sugar from the likes of Stephen Malkmus and Colin Meloy

Check out this Slate article by Taylor Clark about Portland Oregon's indie invasion. Seems half the Matador and Merge rosters call Portland home and things are getting so bad that past-their prime wanna-be hipsters like Anthony Kiedis are sniffing around for real estate. Does this mean Brooklyn will be affordable again?

Music News: Bobby Byrd Dies

Bobby Byrd 1934-2007

James Brown collaborator and friend Bobby Byrd died Wednesday in Atlanta. He was 73. Byrd was Johnnie Johnson to Brown's Chuck Berry in some ways, inviting Brown into has nascent band The Famous Flames only to have Brown take it over with his dominating genius for songcraft and showmanship. Byrd stuck with the Flames and later, the JB's , into the mid-seventies and played and sang on the records that would revolutionize music such as "Sex Machine" (where he utters the phrase "get on up"). Byrd was an integral part of Brown's incendiary live show for many years, usually functioning as the warm up for Brown. Byrd also had a string of solo recordings done under Brown's imprimatur including the 1971 classic "I Know you Got Soul"(see below)