Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ten Unused Headlines for Lisa Tucker's 'Idol' Elimination

Bye Lisa. We liked you so much in the audition rounds. Why were you such a dud when the pressure was on? Sigh.

The combination of Lisa's booting and her malleable last name is sure to yield at least some measure of headline writing fun.

My colleague Rick went with the reliable "'American Idol' Is All Tuckered Out."

Quickly, before my coffee settles in, here are a few alternative headlines that I welcome lazy copy editors to take advantage of while there's still time:

"Tucker Not-So-Ever-Lasting"
"'Idol' Voters: We're Gonna Git Ya, Tucker"
"With a Name Like Tucker She Had To Be Better"
"Tucker Free City"
"Tucker: The Woman and her Dream Deferred"
"Tucker? I Hardly Even Knew Her"
"Tucker Very Thin" (which I think may be a Mark Twain reference)
"There's a Tucker Eliminated Every Minute"
"Plucky Tucker Needs More Luck, er, Votes"
"Into the Frier, Tucker" (which I think may be a Robin Hood joke)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"American Idol" 03/28/06 -- Final 10 Perform

As hard as it is for the "Idol" Top 10 to whistle a happy tune in Kevin Covais' absence, they just have to soldier on, as Tuesday (March 28) night's show delivers an insurmountable challenge -- the music of the 21st Century.

Song: "Because of You"
My Take: A Kelly Clarkson song? Really? Must we? Lisa warbles her way through a losing battle with the surprisingly prominent brass section of the "Idol" orchestra. She's taking this song much too seriously -- note her "This song is very important" eyes-clenched scowl -- which makes it even more annoying when her voice struggles in and out of a pleasant range. Already in some jeopardy, this wasn't what Lisa needed.
Simon and the Chipmunks Say: Randy begins by calling it a'ight before admitting it wasn't that good. Paula starts with compliments, heads off in the direction of constructive criticism and then, abruptly, stops. Simon says that the song was too big for Lisa's voice and actually painful at times.

Song: ""Suds in the Bucket"
My Take: First, Kellie explains to us that the song is like a funny fairy tale. Why, then, does she deliver the ridiculous lyrics so earnestly? She's trapped in a restrictive, clingy top and her jeans are so tight that they somehow make my butt feel uncomfortable. She goes through the whole song in a flat country twang, but her last note is remarkable. It starts off out of tune, finds the note, loses the note, finds the note again, wanders someplace totally different for a couple seconds and then, exhausted, limps across the finish line. This is going to be a very bad evening.
Simon and the Chipmunks Say: Randy's puzzled by the song choice. Paula thinks that all of America deserves better. Simon also blames the song. Kelly stands with her face contorted into an unreadable rictus.

Song: "Drops of Jupiter"
My Take: Ace is feeling this one. He can see those pesky drops of Jupiter everywhere and he keeps reaching out into the air, grasping at invisible symbolic images. At random intervals, he stops plucking things from in front of him and uses his hand to mimic a shooting star. Is Ace miming tonight for the hearing impaired? If so, that's very altruistic of him. Those of us with the gift of hearing have to deal with notes which come right from Ace's nose. He sounds like a muppet. But he's a pretty muppet, so the gals in the crowd approve.
Simon and the Chipmunks Say: Randy is wincing in pain. Hey Randy, you have it easy, dawg. I started my night at a screening of "Basic Instinct 2" and this show is already making me nostalgic for Sharon Stone's heavily made-up breasts. Paula thinks Ace was refreshing and then suggests that she and Ace can get together in private so he can explain the scar on his chest ("Mary Ellen Moffat. She broke my heart."). Simon and Randy are wishing they'd slipped saltpeter into her Coke.



Fien Print Neologism: Daltry Calhoun

Because the English language is a living breathing creature, it's necessary to come up with new words and parts of speech. A fine entry:

New Phrase: Daltry Calhoun
Part of Speech: Verb
Definition: To be lured under false pretenses and left hanging.
Used in a Sentence: We were told the club would be full of hot women, but we were Daltry Calhouned, because the crowd was all swarthy men.
Origin: Last fall, Miramax was dumping movies left and right as the Weinstein brothers were leaving. The movies were pretty awful, including "An Unfinished Life" and "The Brothers Grimm." But none were worse than a little dud named "Daltry Calhoun," starring Johnny Knoxville. No reporter wanted to cover the movie on its press day until Miramax sent out a release listing executive producer Quentin Tarantino among the talent for the press day. Suddenly a number of us signed up, suffered through the movie and showed up for interviews just to get a few quotes from Tarantino. We arrive, we're in the room and somebody casually mentions that Tarantino isn't doing press. Suddenly we had no reason to be there beyond Johnny Knoxville, which is worse than nothing at all. We were Daltry Calhouned. Interestingly, we were Daltry Calhouned by Tarantino again at the press day for "Hostel," which was at least a less awful movie.
Proof of the Phrase's Subtleties: Something's mere absence isn't enough to constitute being Daltry Calhouned. Case in Point: Yesterday, there was a press day for "Friends With Money." The movie is about the relationship between four women. The press had already been told in advance that Jennifer Aniston was only doing limited TV interviews. We'd also been told that Frances McDormand wasn't doing press at all for the movie. That's fine. We were not Daltry Calhouned by either actress. However, Joan Cusack was supposed to be there, was listed on the talent sheet a day before the press day, was never confirmed as absent until the publicist mentioned midway through that she decided not to be there. That left us covering a movie about four women based on interviews with only one woman (the lovely Catherine Keener, who earned my eternal respect). Thus, we were Daltry Calhouned by Joan Cusack.

Try it on for size. Use it at your leisure. It's fun to say.

"We were Daltry Calhouned!!!"

Moviewatch: "Lonesome Jim" (plus a question)

"Lonesome Jim"
Director: Steve Buscemi
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 55
In a Nutshell: "Lonesome Jim" is a quintessential indie first film, yet another story of a sad man (Casey Affleck) returning home to his dysfunctional family (featuring Mary Kay Place, Seymour Cassell and Kevin Corrigan) and his pathetic small town (somewhere in Indiana here). The conceit is somewhat undone by the fact that this is Buscemi's third film and it actually marks an obvious technical and storytelling regression from "Trees Lounge" and "Animal Factory." This is a shambling tale of darkly comic misery and self-absorption and even when it works -- and it often does -- it's only on a modest level.

That capsule review is really just an intro to my Fien Print challenge for the day (that nobody will participate in, so who cares?): In "Lonesome Jim," the wee Affleck shares love scenes with Liv Tyler, who was last seen sharing love scenes with Ben Affleck in "Jersey Girl." My question: What other examples can anybody think of of actresses who have had varying degrees of big screen nookie with siblings. Probably to make things harder, it shouldn't be an intentionally skeevy scenario a la "The Fabulous Baker Boys."

So any thoughts?

Oh and my full review of "Lonesome Jim" will be up on on Friday, March 31.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Am I Going to Hell?

If you didn't already see it attached to prints of Spike Lee's "Inside Man," there's a new trailer up for "United 93," Paul Greengrass's sure-to-be-jittery docudrama about the 9/11 flight that went down in rural Pennsylvania.

It's a good trailer, full of chilling moments and Greengrass's obligatory shaky-cam work. The movie is sure to be harrowing, sure to be heroic and sure to be unpleasant theatrical viewing, less than five years after that tragic day.

But is it evil of me that I watched the trailer and as the terrorists were swarming the cockpit and people were panicking, all I could think was, "Well, at least they got somewhat lucky. At least there weren't Snakes on the Plane."

Somebody else will make that ghoulish observation eventually. I just wanted to be ahead of the curve.

Incidentally, if you aren't checking out SnakesonaBlog, you're missing out.

And as a second aside... If you look at the poster for "United 93" that's up on the Apple trailer page, you'll notice it features a plane, the Statue of Liberty and the flaming World Trade Center Towers in the background. What did United 93 have to do with New York or with the Towers? I understand that it's all about the iconography of that horrible day, but the plane was heading for Washington. It was never anywhere near New York City. It's a little tacky, if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Eraserhead's Baby Aborted? Say It Ain't So, America!

Once again, Joni Mitchell has it right.

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til it's gone?

Let me say this, America, I didn't like Kevin Covais, but I'm gonna miss that plucky little embryo.

As you've probably already heard, Kevin was the latest casualty on that little show I like to call "American Idol." If you haven't already heard, zip over to a little website I like to call and check out the recap by my colleague Rick Porter.

It's a well accepted fact that stand-up comics, editorial cartoonists and "American Idol" recappers do their best work in environments of adversity. That is to say that as long as we have a President who bonks interns or another President who lies to the nation and can't pronounce basic words, that's good for business. As long as the vice president goes around shooting people, that's good for business. Kevin Covais, standing in front of millions of viewers blinking, lisping and bellowing is good for business. What Dick Cheney does to his hunting buddies, Kevin Covais did to music.

And now he's gone!

What am I going to do now? Make fun of Mandisa's weight? First, that's tacky. Second, Mandisa rocks. What am I going to do? Make fun of Taylor's hair? First, that's boring. Second, Taylor rocks.

Eventually, and it saddens me to admit this, I'm going to get bored with mocking Kellie and Bucky for being stupid. Then where will I be?

I guess I'm just going to have to stay in bed with my case of McPheever.

Kevin Covais, if I had a 40, I'd be pouring out just a little for you, my fetal homey.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

That "Idol" URL

Because everybody loves pretty pictures, check out my recap over on Zap2it as well... It's EVERYWHERE!!!

"The Fifties Are Nifty for 'Idol' Final 11"

"American Idol" 03/21/06 -- Final 11 Perform

NOTE: Eventually, we're gonna figure out how to get these "Idol" recaps up same-night on Zap2it. When that happens -- as I've said before -- I'm gonna go to just teasing my Zap2it recap here and then providing a handy and helpful URL here. Until that day comes, though, here's the full recap for you instant gratification junkies.


Tuesday (March 21) night is '50s Night on "American Idol," which means that viewers can expect cheesy covers, nuclear hysteria, Red baiting, forced integration, teenage rebellion and lots of trouble around the 38th Parallel.

Without further ado, let the rampant Adlai Stevenson jokes commence...

Song: "I Don't Hurt Anymore"
My Take: Mandisa's got a saucy new look, complete with subtle make-up and springy ringlets. Those wacky "Idol" stylists even have her looking slimmer. It's a breeze of a song for her, but she sounds splendid, breaking out of the safe range by the end. I'm not entirely blown away, but I'm not sure how it could have been better. It's polished and brassy.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy, fighting a cold, calls it an unbelievable way to start the night. You know Paula is just dying to mention that she knows the decade well, because she once took a time machine back to the '50s for that great "Rush, Rush" video. Simon raves that Mandisa's blossoming and even dubs it sexy and "a great stripper's song."

Song: "Oh Boy"
My Take: Bucky substitutes his own goofball charm for Buddy Holly's geek-chic swagger. His approach is also sluggish and lackadaisical where Holly was manic and galvanic. As a dumbed down version of a great pop song, it's OK, though Bucky doesn't sing so much as he barks lyrics with telegraphed country gruffness. It's tough to complain about pitch, because he ruffs over almost all of the actual notes.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy doesn't think it was his best vocal, but he liked the sound choice. Paula, looking confused, is itching to talk about the time she went back in a time machine to the '50s and was interviewed by Edward R. Murrow. Simon calls it a "pointless karaoke performance."

Song: "Fever"
My Take: Wait. Hasn't Paris sung this before? Back in the Hollywood round? She was unaccompanied for that performance, but she synchs up perfectly with the band tonight. Goodness, she's got pipes. She sways around the stage, commanding it completely. But when will somebody make a good choice on what to do with her hair? Oh well. I guess if "Idol" hasn't figured out how to hide Constantine Maroulis in a shallow grave, certain tonsorial failings must be forgiven. Since ABC doesn't seem to be interested in Constantine's sitcom anymore, he's become the "Idol" equivalent of The Fonz. He's just living over the garage at this point.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy alleges that Paris "blew it out da box." Paula seems eager to mention her trip in a time machine to dance on the original "American Bandstand." Simon says Paris has the perfect voice for that kind of song.

Song: "Walk the Line"
My Take: It sounds like a wacky and risky song choice for Chris until he reminds us of his relationship with his wife. Awwww... This isn't Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line," or even Joaquin Phoenix's "Walk the Line." I'm sure somebody knows this arrangement, but I don't. It hasn't a hint of '50s style, but it's haunting in its own way. Chris' unblinking intensity is a tiny bit freaky, though. He's not really on the same show as the other people. You sense that the band and the lighting crew just love it whenever he performs, which is an unfair advantage.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy praises his manipulation of the theme. Paula's wondering if anybody remembers when she took a time machine back and was launched into orbit with Laika on Sputnik 2. Simon thinks Chris is the first uncompromising artist they've ever had on the show. In your face, Constantine.

Song: "Come Rain or Come Shine"
My Take: If ever an "Idol" singer has been meant to dance out on stage in poodle skirt, it was Katharine. Alas, she lets me down. But only a little. She's got enough sultry goin' on for me to forgive. Hands up, men, if you're convinced Katharine was singing to you tonight? Well, you're wrong. All me. She does a few weird things vocally (not that I noticed) and it takes a bit of time for her to massage several notes (not that I noticed), but she's a knockout.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy calls it really really strong. Paula thinks there isn't enough recognition for that day in 1953 when she and Tenzing Norgay took a time machine back and helped Edmund Hillary climb Mt. Everest. Simon announces that Katharine turned into a star tonight.

Song: "Not Fade Away"
My Take: This, Mr. Bucky, is how you do Buddy Holly. It's much too easy a song, but Taylor bounces around the stage with enough energy to cover his total absence of vocal fireworks. I wish we could just boot Bucky and let Taylor sing "Oh Boy."
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy didn't love the performance, but he loves Taylor. Paula makes the observation that somebody should be shooting Taylor's performances. Ummm... Paula? What do you reckon the cameras are for? Simon compares it a hideous party performance. Paula tries talking over Simon, who tells her to stop being a blithering idiot. Of course, Paula's jabbering because she's ashamed to admit the time she went back in time machine and named names at the HUAC hearings.

Song: "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"
My Take: Lisa's losing ground to Paris. But you know the best way to gain votes? Flood pants! She may have been excited by all those key changes, but it's the rhythmic changes that mess her up. She sounds OK, but she's never comfortable with what's happening behind her. But at least if the plumbing breaks, her slacks won't get soaked.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy doesn't think it was the dopest he's ever seen her. Paula's time machine-aided early appearance in Playboy has, thankfully, been lost. Simon feels like he's trapped in a high school musical.

Song: "When I Fall In Love"
My Take: Eraserhead's Baby chooses the most vulnerable, sincere, innocent, earnest song imaginable. I choose to floss. Anybody want to speculate on what Kevin's right hand was doing in his pocket for the whole performance? Is that just to play up his "Oh shucks" fetal charm? The best moments are when the director has two images of Kevin superimposed. Double Kevin, Double Trouble!
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy raves that Kevin did a "pretty good job." She was wearing a mask at the time, but in 1956, thanks to a time machine, Paula caught Don Larsen's perfect game. Simon spits out the backhanded compliment that Kevin's audience will love him.

Song: "Teach Me Tonight"
My Take: Unsettling smile aside, Elliott's back in his element tonight. There's a bit too much vibrato and he forces a couple runs, but it's a suave performance from a man who probably isn't all that suave in real life. Elliott has the Everyman appeal that people keep misattributing to Kevin.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy says he worked it out. Paula doesn't want anybody to know that she went back in a time machine and gave Charles Van Doren the answers on "21." Simon calls Elliott fantastic.

Song: "Walkin' After Midnight"
My Take: As cute as she is and as solid as her voice may be, Kellie will forever be hamstrung by the fact that she doesn't understand a word she sings. Ever. I've yet to hear a Kellie Pickler performance where she caught the nuances and storytelling of her particular song. So it is that a beautiful song of melancholy becomes a bland all-voice/no-feeling showcase for Kellie and her over-rouged cheeks. I guess the pure music of it was acceptable, but whoever did her makeup tonight needs to be instructed to avoid the Tennessee Hooker look.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy says something. Paula doesn't want to brag, but she isn't just a songwriter -- she once used a time machine to zip back and write Richard Nixon's "Checkers Speech." She keeps mum. Kellie wouldn't understand anyway. She's too transfixed by the pickle with her face on it. Simon welcomes her back.

Song: "In the Still of the Night"
My Take: Ace sings right from the nose. I like his rendition a bit more if I'm not watching him sneer and shake his finger at me. Also, I hate to say it, but his falsetto really isn't that good. I wish people would stop raving about it. It's reedy and weak.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy gives props. Ace has Paula too hot and bothered to think of any additional '50s moments she might have experienced courtesy of her time machine. Simon isn't enthusiastic about the vocals, but he calls it a helluva lot better than last week.

TONIGHT'S BEST: Paris, Mandisa and Katharine
IN DANGER: I'm not dumb enough to believe that Kevin is in danger, but he'd go in my Bottom Three with Bucky and Lisa.

Moviewatch: "The Inside Man"

"The Inside Man"
Director: Spike Lee
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 72
In a Nutshell: I've actually seen a few good movies in the past couple weeks. That's hopeful. And the best of the films I've seen this year, "Brick," I saw before I started blogging... Anyway, "The Inside Man" is a bit of an odd mishmash. It's a heist movie, to some degree, but thanks to Lee and first-time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz, it comes across as genuinely intelligent, rather than merely glossy and glib in the way that some many post-"Usual Suspects" and post "Ocean's 11" genre films have been. The point isn't colorful characters with funny names and huge implausible twists that you'd never see coming because they don't make any sense. It's a movie about smart people playing simultaneous cat-and-mouse games with other smart people and, as a result, the viewer is forced to constantly pay attention and constantly think things out, just in order to keep track of motivations, strategy and, mostly, who's playing whom. Lee and cinematography Matthew Libatique deserve kudos, as does the entire cast, which includes typical standout work from Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, as well as good supporting turns from the likes of Christopher Plummer, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Willem Dafoe. I'm not sure, though, that Universal has done a good job marketing this one. The title is generic and the Blue Note Jazz-inspired poster graphics are cool, but probably remote for most viewers. In addition, viewers don't really like excessive thought with their popcorn movies. "The Inside Man" will have fans, but I'd be surprised if it were a smash.

Check on Friday, March 24 for a full review.

Helping My Former Roommate Find a Roommate

Do you live in Manhattan? I don't.

Do you need a roommate? I don't.

But if you do and if you do, you might wanna drop my former college roommate Andrew Melbourne (he calls himself "Drew" now, but don't believe the hype) a line. See, Andrew needs a roommate.

Don't believe me? Check his blog.

Andrew lives in Spanish Harlem and the rent seems to be relatively cheap. He's on the quiet side and, if 8 years ago was any indication, his hygiene and overall cleanliness was sub-par, but hardly sub-human.

Andrew thinks it's ironic that he's looking for a roommate, because Andrew also happens to be the author of a little comic book he likes to call "ArchEnemies." Now "ArchEnemies" is being released by Dark Horse Comics on April 4 (That's 04/05/06) and it's plot involves a superhero and a supervillian (clearly modeled after me) who are also enemies and roommates in their secret identities. The first issue is really funny and I'm not just saying that because one character is obviously based on me. That being said, I find it more coincidental than ironic that Andrew needs a roommate at the same time his comic about roommates is being released. Alanis Morisette, however, would probably be in Andrew's camp.

So in any case, visit Andrew's site if you feel like living in Spanish Harlem with a soon-to-be-indigent comic book writer. After all, who DOESN'T?!?!?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Moviewatch: "Game Six" and "The Benchwarmers"

"Game Six"
Director: Michael Hoffman
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 70
In a Nutshell:It's possible that you don't need to be a writer and a Red Sox fan to be captivated by "Game 6," but I suspect that it helps. On one level, "Game Six" is a bit of an intellectual thriller, with Michael Keaton's frustrated playwright on an inexorable path of destruction heading toward two parallel potential tragedies, one involving Bill Buckner -- if you don't know what the title of the movie refers to, don't bother going to see it -- and the other involving Robert Downey Jr. as an evil film critic. Unfortunately for impatient viewers, very little happens in Don DeLillo's script. Characters meet and bounce ideas off of each other about life and art and fate and happiness. Then they depart. The dialogue often achieves its elegant and humorous aspirations and the performances are all solid, but the final payoff will probably be a dud for anybody who didn't get shivers watching highlights of the Red Sox and Mets battling in the 1986 World Series. For me, the ending was a beautiful and logical release. I'm a small audience, though.


"The Benchwarmers"
Director: Dennis Dugan
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 14
In a Nutshell: Imagine the comedic possibilities of a mythical movie starring Jim Carrey, a young Tom Hanks, Bill Murray and Buster Keaton. Now imagine the exact opposite, the inversion of that movie. It would probably star Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Lovitz and that annoying guy from "Napoleon Dynamite," wouldn't it? Exactly. Now how about if I told you that second movie could come from the screenwriters of "Grandma's Boy" and that it would be directed by the guy who did "Big Daddy." Now imagine that the movie sort of has a plot involving three grown men who beat lots of little kids at baseball (but don't add *any* extra details to flesh out the scenario or the characters). Whatever you're thinking of, no matter how unfunny it seems in your head, it has more laughs in it than "The Benchwarmers."

Check on Friday, March 24 for my review of "Game Six." You're gonna have to wait until April 7 for a full review of "The Benchwarmers. Sorry.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Idol" Elimination 03/15/06 -- Melissa McGhee

As we all already know by now, Melissa McGhee was eliminated from "American Idol" on Wednesday night, the first cut from the Top 12.

Anybody surprised? Didn't think so. Yes, it was bad that she utterly murdered the lyrics to Stevie Wonder's "Lately." In retrospect, she's probably aware that when you botch Stevie's lyrics in rehearsal and Stevie makes fun of you and you feel ashamed and that event becomes a pre-performance video clip, the one thing you don't want to do is mess up the lyrics again. It makes you appear ungrateful and just a little bit stupid.

Here's the thing: Melissa was going home regardless. Even if she'd been nearly perfect on Tuesday night. I'd bet (a dollar or so) that the voting results weren't even close, particularly given that Melissa had two semi-favorites with her in the Bottom Three.

Melissa just joins the esteemed likes of Julia D'Amato and Lindsay Cardinale (too lazy to check spelling), very attractive and very uninteresting gals who somehow slipped into the Top 12, but were neither hot enough to mobilize male viewers, nor talented and approachable enough to mobilize female viewers. The Approachability Factor (not to be confused with the It Factor, Wow Factor or the Eiger Sanction) is where audition-round TV time -- something Melissa got screwed on -- comes in. I know nothing about her story. If FOX had given me various sob stories from her past, though, I'd have read that knowledge into her story. If, for example, Melissa thought she was a boy until she was 16 and only recently found out and made the change, I'd have been extra impressed by her femininity. Or something like that. Regardless, she had no core group of voters behind her, no reason for audience sympathy or interest and finally no reason to be around.

Also for our other two Bottom Three-ites? Well, I guess that was a tiny bit surprising, seeing Ace Young and Lisa Tucker up there as well.

It was just Tuesday that some pundits were declaring Ace a shoo-in to win this whole thing. Not to be mean, but that was obviously a guy who had never really watched "Idol" before. He based his judgment on Ace's ability to make his wife swoon. If making the little gals go weak at the knees was the major qualification to be "American Idol," Justin would have beaten Kelly, Clay would have beaten Ruben, Anthony Federov would have made the finals against Carrie instead of Bo and nobody would have won in Season Three. Yes, giggling teenage girls make up their huge bloc of "Idol" voters, but teenage girls aren't a boy-crazy monolith. There's ample evidence that their voters are more aspirational than fueled by dreams of romance. Kelly and Carrie won and gals like Diana DeGarmo and Jasmine Trias had long runs because the girls in the audience wanted to be like them, wanted to hang out with them and that was more important than which guy the girls thought was cutest.

Why don't girls want to hang out with Lisa Tucker? Dunno. Why didn't they want to hang out with Tamyra Grey or Jennifer Hudson? Well, in those cases, Tamyra had talent, but she wasn't as approachable as Kelly. And Jennifer had talent, but she wasn't as approachable as Fantasia. Is Lisa doomed because as polished and professional as she may be, she doesn't seem as bubbly and as endearing as Paris? I don't think that's the whole reason for it, but it's bound to be something.

On a side note: I'm still not sure how Melissa outlasted Ayla Brown based on my own theories about approachability and aspirational voting. As a smart, athletic, attractive, hard-working gal, surely Ayla should have had voters wanting to hang out with her, date her or just admire her. Perhaps she was too hard-working and too "striving"? Dunno. It still seems like Ayla should have been here instead of Melissa.

Ace and Lisa have to watch out or else they're going to become this season's Anwar Robinson. Anwar, if you'll recall, entered the Round of 24 as a favorite, entered the Top 12 as a favorite and managed to get bumped through a string of lackluster performance. He was never the least gifted singer in any given week, but after he ceased to be the best singer, his fans forgot he was there. Ace and Lisa were both OK this week, but if they don't become better than OK, they're going home.

Oh and as for Kevin Covais? We're obviously stuck with him for a while. He's got the support of the grannies, the tweens and the VoteForTheWorst gang. The VFTW crew isn't actually strong enough to carry a contestant to a championship, I don't think. They are, however, sufficient to outweigh those of us who think that Eraserhead's Baby really really really needs to go home. I figure that Kevin's heading for a Scott Savol-style run, into the top six or seven. Long enough to make this particular recapper want to tear his hear out.

But that's just what I'm thinking this morning before the coffee sets in.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My Name Is 'Idol' URL

In case anybody's curious as to how my "Idol" recap looks in its proper home over at Zap2it, here's the URL...


Oh and while I'm goin' URL crazy, you can also check out my review of "V for Vendetta," which is also already up at Zap2it...


We're currently in a star-less phase over at the site, but I'd be stuck somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars in a 4-star system and right around 4 stars in a 5 star system. Give or take.

Oh and lest I be seen as a link whoore or a credit whoore or an "Idol" whoore or, well, any kind of whoore at all, you should check out by bud Alan's own "Idol" recap. That's assuming, of course, that you aren't either sick of "Idol" recaps or that you didn't get here via his page in the first place...


That's all my URLs for now...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"American Idol" 03/14/06 -- Top 12 Perform

NOTE: As of tomorrow morning, this recap will be up on That's who it was written for. However, as production issues prevent the recap from being up on the site in timely fashion, I'm posting it here now for anybody who cares.

In future weeks, all recaps, except for possibly a teaser, will be posted directly and exclusively to Zap2it with only a link here, I suspect.

It's a work in progress, kids. Bear with me.

'Idol' Top 12 Is Some Kind of Wonder-ful

The past, as they say, is prologue. In the case of "American Idol" that means nearly 20 episodes of shrieking sociopaths, insufferable twins and Ryan Seacrest, all leading up to Tuesday (March 14) night.

It's Stevie Wonder Night. Let the Top 12 commence.

Song: "Do I Do"
My Take: Hands up if you bought Ace's tearful speech about how Stevie Wonder isn't just battling blindness, he's battling life. My hands? Not-so-up. Ace shows no fear on the big stage, going down the ramp, into the crowd, onto a platform. He serenades men, women and children alike. He doesn't really, um, sing. He's sharp at the beginning and the combination of movement, energy and really fast phrasing leaves him quickly breathless.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy thought it was just a'ight. Paula bats her eyes and disagrees. Simon guarantees it won't be the night's best vocal.

Song: "Blame it on the Sun"
My Take: Hand's up if you bought Kellie's blank-eyed admission that she didn't really know much about Steve Wonder before this week? I'm waving my hands in the air like a frat boy dancing to "Jump Around." The song has been country-fried just enough to make it easy for Kellie and to make it as dull as a lazy day at the old fishing hole with Jethro. If they'd put Kellie in the middle of the show, it'd have been a well-earned nap.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: For Randy, it was a non-event. Even Paula notes she was too safe. Simon says everything went wrong. The audience doesn't even boo Simon's insults. Kellie tells Ryan her fake eyelashes make her feel like she's wearing tarantulas.

Song: "Knocks Me Off My Feet"
My Take: Elliott, he of the partial deafness, is also reduced to tears by Stevie. If the makeover police have gotten their hands on Elliott, their good work isn't obvious yet. Somebody -- somebody who should be fired -- told Elliott to smile more and open his eyes wider when he sings. The expressions are creepy, but Elliott's singing mostly overcomes his dinner jacket, his bobbing and his leering.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy thinks Elliott has some "flavor vibe." Paula's impressed that Elliott was impressed with Stevie. Simon's misses the "Wow" factor.

Song: "Don't You Worry Bout a Thing"
My Take: Mandisa blunders through the first verse in a daze, barely moving her feet. It's too low. She finally gets to belt and then her personality comes bursting out. She's so great on the high parts of the chorus that I wish she could have chosen a song that was all in that key. This is a performance that displayed both her considerable strengths and some previous unnoticed weaknesses.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy wanted to see something a bit more original, but calls her the best so far. Paula repeat's Stevie's claim that Mandisa can sing anything. This was the best of the evening for Simon.

Song: "Superstition"
My Take: Bucky, like Kellie, had never really listened to Stevie before. I hope that Bucky and Kellie have been kept apart at the "Idol" facilities, because if they got together and procreated, their kids might be a little -- what's the nice way to put this? -- dim. They'd be very nice, but they'd be bumping into walls. On his song -- probably my personal favorite Stevie track, assuming nobody launches into an expanded version of "Living for the City" -- Bucky shows an unexpected bit of funk. The funk begins as a little bit of a rasp, expands into a full-on growl and finally devours his vocals entirely. His stage manner consists of pretending to ride a stationary mechanical bull.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy enjoyed seeing Bucky give his all. Paula giggles. Simon calls it one of Bucky's best.

Song: "Lately"
My Take: Top split from neck to navel, Melissa-in-a-Dress has some nerves. In all honesty, Peter Dinklage could have done cartwheels across the stage in the middle of her song for all I know, because after a minute of her lazy drawn-out notes and mumbled lyrics, I just quit paying attention. Given that she turned the lyric "Hope my premonition misses" into "Mope ma regognition mistes" on three different occasions, she's not worth my effort.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy calls her on the lyrics, but forgives her for flat and sharp notes. Paula also doesn't care about the three minutes of botched lyrics. Simon calls it her best performance so far. Well, dear friends, we're just going to have to agree to disagree here, OK?

Song: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"
My Take: Have we heard Lisa go up-tempo yet? I like it. It's not exactly in her vocal sweet spot at first and she gets lost a little amidst the backing vocals. I don't think she had to do any acrobatics on this one, but she gets points for proving she could so something fun and energetic.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy was bored in the middle, but happy at the end. Paula liked when she took chances. Simon swears Lisa's got the "It" Factor, which is different from the "X" Factor and possibly different from the "Wow" Factor. Hopefully it's also different from the Cuba Gooding Jr. movie "Chill Factor," because that blew goats.

Song: "Part-time Lover"
My Take: Is it mean for me to say that Kevin -- so thin, so under-developed, so meek, so mild -- reminds me of Eraserhead's mewling baby? Yes. Yes it is. This is what you push me to, America. The more you vote for Kevin, the crueler you force me to be. Here's the thing: This is perhaps the best Kevin's sounded all competition, but he can't really move and he can't really emote and he can't really sell any of the lyrics (at least he remembers them). Are we just going to keep grading him on a curve all spring? Yes, I suppose we are. Might as well just make "American Idol" into a high school musical and let Kevin have a go at "Shipoopi."
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy chuckles like a fool and raves. Paula giggles like a fool and raves. Simon looks like he wants to gouge his eyeballs out and stuff them in his ears so he can experience total sensory deprivation.

Song: "Until You Come Back to Me"
My Take: Allow me to be serious for a minute: Has Katharine lost a noticeable amount of weight since this competition began? In the interviews, she looks wan. On stage? Beautiful. Not sure what to make of that. It's the evening's best song choice so far, giving Katharine plenty of chance to show range, adorable personality and spark.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy says she's off the chain. Katharine's voice pierces Paula heart. Simon makes a Kelly Clarkson comparison.

Song: "Living for the City"
My Take: I swear I made my "Living for the City" comment before getting to Taylor. Taylor is, until further notice, my "American Idol." He takes a brilliant song and avoids doing a carbon copy Stevie impression. Taylor makes it his own song in all his twitchy glory. America, Taylor Hicks loves you. Won't you please love him back?
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy calls it fearless. Paula squishes her head in happiness. "You're like every dad who's ever got drunk at a wedding," Simon compliments him.

Song: "All I Do"
My Take: Ah. This is the Paris I liked in the auditions. There's more than a little Lauryn Hill to her vocal style tonight. She's the second straight performer with the guts to interpret the song and make it her own. She's got everything going on tonight.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy's glad to have her back. Paula tells Paris that she's only 17. Simon's glad the second half of the show is kicking into gear.

Song: "Higher Ground"
My Take: If Chris' professed goal is to combine Stevie and the Chili Peppers. It's a bit more Chili, but he comes really close to succeeding. He gets a bit tripped up in the song's pacing and occasionally falls back on shouting from his nose, but he's entertaining and different. My real disappointment is that Chris doesn't slam the mic into the big "Idol" screen at the end.
Simon and the Two Blind Mice Say: Randy announces that Chris worked it out. Paula's glowing. "Thank God for Chris," Simon declares.

TONIGHT'S BEST: Paris and Taylor were my favorites with Chris and Katharine right behind.

IN DANGER: Damn you Melissa for making me hope that somebody other than Kevin gets the boot. My bottom three would be Melissa, Kevin and some unholy union of Bucky and Kellie.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Moviewatch: "V for Vendetta"

"V for Vendetta"
Director: James McTeigue
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 73
In a Nutshell: Sue Grafton is at it again with "V is for Vendetta," the latest Kinsey Millhone mystery! Yeah. That's probably not funny. The Wachowskis' adaptation of Alan Moore's punchy comic is sure to be the year's most misunderstood and misappropriated movie, a film that filters a message about questioning authority and resisting fascism through a tacit acceptance or endorsement of terrorism. If the movie was meant to be taken entirely literally, it might be disturbing. If you take it as allegorical satire -- which it is, of course -- it's surprisingly powerful. Director McTeigue plays heavily on melodrama and there are precious few subtle moments in "V," but thanks to an improbably grounded performance from Natalie Portman (how much trouble would the filmmakers have been in if Portman had looked freakish without hair, rather than just differently hot?), the film has an anchor. Oh and points for Hugo Weaving as V. You may never see his face, but he suggests humanity behind the Guy Fawkes mask. Certain sequences -- the climactic scene mixing citizen uproar with a complex domino run -- feature a kind of original filmmaking that suggest that the rumors of McTeigue just being a puppet for the Wachowskis may not have been true. Those "Matrix" hams couldn't have made this movie, I don't think. What flaws "V" has are generally attributable to Moore's book, which also using a hammer to make its points and occasionally becomes boring and talky when it should be exciting.

More to say, but for a complete review of "V," check on Friday, March 17.

Moviewatch: "The Notorious Bettie Page" and "Slither"

"The Notorious Bettie Page"
Director: Mary Harron
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 49
In a Nutshell: Plays like a generic HBO biopic, which is kinda is. No idea why there's going to be any attempt to forge a theatrical release for this one one, frankly. Gretchen Mol is surprisingly good as the pinup queen. There's an exuberance to her performance that's both sexy and refreshing. Mol, who had always come across as a generic blonde cutie, is liberated by a black wig. She's constrained, however, by the structure of Harron and Guinevere Turner's script, which is just a string of events that are meant to somehow convince us that Page's transition from near-valedictorian to nudie model to religious zealot is entirely organic. The film has an interesting visual style, going between black-and-white, newsreel exteriors and a neat technicolor effect for Bettie's scenes in Florida. It'll look great on the cinematographer's reel, but it's a bit distracting here. Ultimately, I kept waiting to feel anything for any of the characters for a single second. Nothing.


Director: James Gunn
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 52
In a Nutshell: "Slither" skips nimbly along from one different movie to the next with such speed that many viewers will be so distracted by the homages that they'll ignore how hollow and pointless the whole thing is. "Slither" just aims to be a jokey horror patchwork and I guess that'll make some people happy as the movie zips from "Evil Dead" to Cronenberg to "The Thing" to "Tremors" to "Dawn of the Dead" and to dozens of cheaper more exploitative movies along the way. An alien attacks earth in the form of a seed pod that leads to a monster that leads to killer slugs that lead to zombies. Whee! As the aliens munch flesh, the actors munch scenery. Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry are having particular fun. Nate Fillion plays the hero role with such perfect deadpan that I wish he'd actually had a defined character rather than just being "sarcastic cop guy." The effects are pretty gross and decent, I guess. My problem is that if I want to watch a darkly comic version of "Shivers" or "Rabid," I'll watch the Cronenberg films, which were already smart satires to begin with.

Check on March 31 for my full "Slither" review and on April 14 (?) for my "Bettie Page" write-up.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"American Idol" 03/08/06 -- Top 8 Men

Intense negotiations are ongoing about possibly moving these recaps back to the home from whence they came. That's not necessarily a promise, but if you find me missing next Tuesday, it's just because my recap is elsewhere. If you find me missing tomorrow night? It's because I'm enjoying the killer slug-creatures of "Slither".

Song: "When a Man Loves a Woman"
My Take: I don't mind Gedeon, but from week to week, I don't even remember he's on this show. Now that I know he's a mediocre painter, though, I'm sure to remember. He's like a more soulful Thomas Kinkade. It's a totally fine, unspectacular cover. He ends it well, but mostly he cruises along, put little personal stamp on the song and just gets through. I think there are enough people worse than Gedeon, so he just needed not to mess up.
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy thinks he's an a'ight old soul. Paul calls him a showman. Simon calls him odd and asks him to explain his painting.

Song: "Broken"
My Take: Oooh, if Dishwalla ever decides to go on CBS' "Rock Star" looking for a new lead singer, Chris can try out! No. I don't know if anything has happened to original Dishwalla lead singer J.R. Richards (no, not former Astros star J.R. Richard), but I like saying "Dishwalla" and I like noting that if Chris wasn't able to make it big in the late '90s when half the bands on the radio had a lead singer who sounds like him, he's gonna have a hard time making it now. His pained intensity isn't quite as effective tonight, but he could totally sing for a band opening for Pearl Jam. Eight years ago.
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy urges him to rock on. Paula thinks he could sell out stadiums. Funny Paula. Simon worries that Chris may be taking this a bit too seriously.

Song: "Starry Starry Night"
My Take: You've done enough, America. Have you no sense of decency, viewers, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? Little Bleating Spectacled Fetus has had a fine run. His mediocre semi-operatic voice isn't awful, but how long must we watch Young Kevin standing in the spotlight blinking, twitching and singing out of his nose? Yes. We know. He's hip-hop. Yes. We know. Ladies Love Cool Kevin. Now can he just go finish fifth grade?
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy says something that I tune out. Paula thinks Kevin commands the audience. Simon compares him to watching puppies play. Ryan is an insufferable twit.

Song: "Wave on Wave"
My Take: Am I actually going to say this? Yes. I didn't hate Bucky tonight. He still needs a major fashion makeover -- start with the hair, move to the facial hair, eventually get to the clothing -- but for an awful song, he didn't sound wretched. The notes are in tune. Points for Bucky. He doesn't deserve to be here, really, but I apparently don't get a vote.
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy is pleased that Bucky doesn't stretch or do anything different. Paula likes that Bucky's stupid. Her exact words are "unpretentious." Bucky doesn't know what that means. Neither does Paula. Simon thinks it was OK. Ryan doesn't understand the concept of identical twins. He's, um, "unpretentious."

Song: "How Sweet It Is"
My Take: Is it possible to be flatter and more inoffensive than James Taylor? Congrats, Will. It's not a very difficult song to sing. Will doesn't do anything distinctive or special with it. He's just there, half-asleep for three minutes, and then he's gone. His performance consists of a half smile and an outstretched arm.
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy, thought it was below average. Paula's flirting with Will and says he raised his game. Simon thought it was utterly average.

Song: "Takin' It To The Streets"
My Take: THE GUY USED TO DRESS AS THE EASTER BUNNY!!!! Why do I find Kevin Covais twitching so sickening and Taylor's twitching so darned fun? Oh yeah. Because with Kevin, it's a palsy, with Taylor, it's entertainment! He's dancing up a storm tonight. I'd say that he starts off rough and brings it on home, but then I might sound like Randy. That can't be. Instead, I'll just say the same thing I've said several times before: If you don't vote for Taylor, you've got something else to confession to your priest this weekend. That'd be a sin, baby.
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy invokes the pound of dawgs. Paula says she's gonna incorporate Taylor's steps into her next job. So if you see a life-sized Subway sandwich waving its arms like a maniac tomorrow, say hi to Paula for me. Simon warns that Taylor could kill the music video industry, but then calls it the best performance so far.

Song: "Heaven"
My Take: I like Elliott, but this is just karyoke. It isn't bad by any means, but I really like this guy's voice and this wasn't worth the effort. I'm also a bit uncomfortable with the "I'm half-deaf sympathy ploy." Well, not uncomfortable, but it doesn't make this performance any better.
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy thinks it was hot. Paula calls him phenomenal and amazing. Simon thought it was a cop-out.

Song: "Butterflies"
My Take: I'm not completely buying the squeaky falsetto or the skullcap, but this was a better performance for Ace overall. He looks tired, but he didn't look terrified as he has several times in the past. We're three performances in for Ace and I don't have a clue what his strengths are beyond that he's pretty and he isn't incapable of singing. Tonight there was at least a glint of star power.
Larry, Moe and Simon Say: Randy loved the falsetto. Paula thinks it was better than the original. Simon thinks Ace's personality carried any vocal flaws.

TONIGHT'S BEST: The Easter Bunny.
IN DANGER: Well, it ought to be Bucky and Kevin if we're really going to get down to the best six guys. Want an upset pick? How about Elliott and Gedeon.

Great Minds Agree: Kellie Pickler's Gotta Be Punking Us

In my recap last night, I mentioned my fantasy that Kellie Pickler is a college student at a tony Southern university and that all this talk of calimari and sal-mon and minks and puppies and incarcerated fathers and absentee mothers has just been a huge put-on.

I dunno who Leslie Gray Streeter is, but we share an opinion.

Oh and one thing I didn't mention in my recap that I wanted to: Did you catch the look of horror on Katharine McPhee's face when Ryan asked if she was pregnant and jokes that Kevin Covais might be the father and then we cut to the Spectacled Fetus yukking it up? It was a look that said, "Yo, Geek Boy, you're goofy enough to joke about, but don't start buying into the hype that you're some Doogie Howser-style sex magnet. I won't be your Wanda!"

It's time for the Kevin Covais backlash to begin. Possibly this evening?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"American Idol" 03/07/06 -- Top 8 Women

OK. So "American Idol" and I are entirely day-to-day. Sure, I like tearing people to shreds, but what's the point of watching every episode if you don't actually feel like rooting for a single person in the entire competition. It's not a good sign, kids.

Song: "Conga"
My Take: Well, she's less boring than last week. Heck, I'd say she sounds better on this song than Gloria Estefan. That doesn't mean that I'm really entertained. It's still a silly karyoke song elevated a tiny bit by an energetic performer. She at least looks young. When Paris gets to dance and lets her hair down, she's at least vaguely appealing. Where, though, is that exciting vocal stylist we saw in the audition rounds?
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy isn't feeling the song choice and wants her to challenge herself. Paula somehow thinks this was a difficult song to sing. Simon's glad she did a younger song and says he'll see her next week.

Song: "Where I Stand"
My Take: This isn't good. We're getting both of the talented, slightly robotic teens upfront this week. That means a lot of boredom backloaded. We're only a couple weeks in and I'm tiring of Lisa's "BOY, I'M FEELIN' THIS SONG" facial expression. The song isn't fantastic, but she really sings it hard. Looking away from the screen, I could listen to her without any pain. I'm not blown away, but what do I expect?
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy still thinks Lisa's singing too old and he begs her to oversing. Paula says nothing about the evening's performance. She looks dazed and sedated. Simon thinks her mum is choosing the songs.

Song: "What About Love?"
My Take: Last week I compared Melissa to Jessica Sierra and noted that like Jessica, Melissa needs to use her sexuality to advance. Well, maybe that's not true. She looks a little hot, but boy is her Heart cover mediocre and forgettable. Can she sing? Yes. I think she can. But too often I wasn't sure if I was hearing Melissa or the backing vocals. This ought to have been a slam dunk. It isn't.
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy liked the song choice and the performance. Paula calls her a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. Simon, thankfully, is right. He says that the last note booked her ticket home.

Song: "If I Ain't Got You"
My Take: Whoa. I don't want to hate on a gal who loves chitlins, but parts of Kinnik's early performance are brutal to listen. She picks it up somewhat in the middle, but it's a really bad outfit and even when it's good, it's only so-so. Don't sing Alicia Keys if you're not gonna hit the notes.
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy somehow thinks she started out amazing and then fell apart. We don't hear the same things, Randy and I. Paula's confused and confusing. She says she sounded great, but that she also sounded sharp. "You just messed it up," Simon says. Ryan's a moron. I swear, the two deaf judges and the self-important host are getting worse and worse.

Song: "Think"
My Take: Geez I wanna root for Katharine. She's just adorably apple-cheeked. Yes. I'm superficial. Want more superficiality? Katharine sounds fine on "Think" and I totally want to go get a cup of coffee with her, but this may be the whitest rendition of this song ever. There's something very infectious about her performance, but it sure isn't soulful. Does that matter to anybody? Not to me. Not in the least. Go Katharine!
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy wakes the Dawg Pound. Paula thinks it's fun to see her have fun. Simon thinks it was a risk and she pulled it off.

Song: "Tryin' Not To Come Undone"
My Take: What's that, Ayla? I can't hear a word you're singing. You know why? Because you chose a song that starts quiet and somewhere outside your range. Sure you pick it up a bit, but that's a pretty one-note song throughout. I don't listen to the right radio stations to hear this song, but if I did, I'd turn it off, the radio version or Ayla's. Sorry. It's better than Melissa or Kinnik. That's all that matters this week, I think.
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy, rarely correct, notes that it wasn't a singer song. Paula says she fights the fight. Simon thinks it was pretty good and wants her to be younger. My goodness she's huge. She's two feet taller than Ryan. That doesn't take all that much, I know.

Song: "I'm Every Woman"
My Take: How many of this year's constestants could have pulled this song off? Yeah. That's right. One and only one. I'd kinda have liked for Mandisa to go head-to-head with Katharine on "Think" this week, because this gal makes soulful look easy. Is it the best vocal version of the song I've ever heard? Nope. But I love that she tries it and doesn't embarrass herself for a second. This is such an easy song to be undistinguished on, but she distinguishes herself. She isn't fakin'.
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy calls it the season's best vocals. Paula says she owned the song. Simon says she made everybody else appear ordinary.

Song: "I'm The Only One"
My Take: Kelly's deep dark secret is that she loves dogs. I'd love to find out that she's actually an English major from Vanderbilt with two upper middle class parents and that this has all been a joke. Anyway... This is the second week Kelly's tried a country song that requires a bit more edge than she's capable of providing vocally. I found her voice flat and generic. On the other hand, after saying last week that I found her a bit bland looking as well, this week I've gotta say... Kelly is SMOKIN'. She should go with this look from here on.
What the Two Morons and Simon Thought: Randy is pleased. Paula thinks guys are in love with her. She's just bouncing around on stage. "Kelly, you are what's known as a naughty little minx," Simon says. She doesn't have a clue what he means. But then he says that he prefers Kelly to Carrie Underwood. Whoa. Tee-hee. She thinks he's calling her a mink. PLEASE LET HER BE KIDDING. She says she had a sal-mon this week for lunch. Sigh. She really isn't kidding, is she?

TONIGHT'S BEST: Mandisa for sure. Maybe Katharine. On some perverse level? Kelly.
IN DANGER: So here's the thing: When the Round of 24 began, the six best women were Lisa, Paris, Katharine, Kelly, Mandisa and Ayla. I would certainly be surprised if they aren't the six women who advance to the Top 12. It's only right. Bye, Kinnik and Melissa.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Proposal For Next Year's Lifetime Achievement Oscar

Last night, the Academy finally found the time to give a lifetime achievement award to Robert Altman. Frankly, Altman deserved the real trophy back at the 2002 ceremony for "Gosford Park," but the Oscar voters felt that Opie was somehow more deserving. They were wrong, but at least Altman got his honorary Oscar at a time when he could appreciate it and also deliver a heartfelt and intelligent speech.

On the shuttle going back to the parking garage, a colleague, discussing people who didn't have Oscars, mentioned cinematographer Gordon Willis. It's not too early to begin planting the seeds to get Willis an honorary Oscar in 2007.

Willis is currently 74 and hasn't shot a film since 1997's forgettable "The Devil's Own" and 1993's somewhat more memorable "Malice." The Academy has had problems recognizing Willis in a timely fashion. His only two Oscar nominations have come for "The Godfather III" and "Zelig," both splendid pieces of filmic photography.

However, here are a few of the films shot by Willis without proper Oscar recognition, even in the form of a nomination: "Klute," "The Godfather," "The Parallax View," "The Paper Chase," "The Godfather II," "All the President's Men," "Annie Hall," "Interiors," "Manhattan," "Pennies From Heaven" and "The Purple Rose of Cairo." That group includes a trio of best picture Oscar winners, some best picture nominees and an assortment of Oscar winning performances.

You need only watch the seminal cinematography documentary "Visions of Light" for some inkling of the man's importance to his craft.

Willis has had some difficulties getting recognition across the board. The American Society of Cinematographers only nominated him for their top feature prize in 1991 for "The Godfather III," though the guild gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1995.

If I figured anybody was reading, I'd ask for votes as to other deserving lifetime achievement honorees....

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mini-Oscar Post-Mortem

I hate to say "I Told Me So," but back in November, before it became hip to think of "Crash" as being a major Oscar contender, I wrote a column for Zap2it banally titled "'Crash' and Burn" in which I talked about the film's simmering awards momentum. I explained why people were responding to the movie and vented just a tiny bit of my spleen about how bad a movie it is.

A quote from that column:
"It's not just that people out here spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, rubber-necking mangled wreckage as we wait for congestion to clear, or that we're too ashamed to admit that we find more in common with David Cronenberg's far superior film of the same name. It's more that "Crash" is a consoling pat on the back to a concerned multi-ethnic metropolis."

Oh well.

I just returned from the ceremony and I'm darned tired.

Here's my Red Carpet story. My backstage story will be up later tonight or tomorrow morning.

12 hours of work on a Sunday? And for this? Sigh. Off to sleep. Stupid "Crash."

Moviewatch: "Find Me Guilty" and "The Shaggy Dog"

"Find Me Guilty"
Director: Sidney Lumet
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 52
In a Nutshell: I'm tempted to wonder how long the initial cut of this movie -- which stars Vin Diesel as a mobster representing himself in one of the longest real-life trials in American history -- must have been. What's on the screen now is a wildly over-long, unfocused mixture of drama, comedy, legal procedure and Mafia cliches. But every once in a while, there are indications of a better movie lurking off to the side. For example, every time Peter Dinklage -- playing a lawyer for another of the accused wiseguys -- is on the screen, "Find Me Guilty" moves up several notches and becomes quirky, involving and entertaining. Interestingly, the scenes where Dinklage and Diesel share the screen suggest that the "Pitch Black" star is capable of easy charm and minor wit. For the most part, though, Diesel's performance is acceptable but one-note -- he tells us early on that he's a gagster not a gangster, but it doesn't get much deep than that. The current cut is that worst of cinematic animals, a movie that feels too long and yet also feels like it's missing a lot.


"The Shaggy Dog"

Director: Brian Robbins
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 38
In a Nutshell: See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. Sorry. I was just trying to properly simulate the experience of sitting through "The Shaggy Dog," a Disney movie that has a point to make and the confidence to keep making that point over and over and over and over. The movie relies entirely on Tim Allen's likeability much more than his comic chops. When he's getting in touch with his inner canine, Allen goes through all of the motions -- he scratches, pees while licking his legs and hisses at cats -- but never fully commits. Watching him, I was tempted to wonder what a gonzo comic actor, a Jim Carrey or even a Steve Carrel might have done with the same material. A hint shows up late in the movie when bad guy Robert Downey Jr. makes his own transformation and raises the ante on tics and goofy stunts. I'd have rather watched Downey in the lead, personally. Regardless, Allen is too genial to hate on. The movie itself is just a flat assemblage of cliches and shoddy special effects, but I rarely felt offended by its dialogue or message. I rarely laughed either.

Check on March 10 for my full "Shaggy Dog" review and March 17 for my "Find Me Guilty" review.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Moviewatch: "The Hills Have Eyes" (2006)

"The Hills Have Eyes"
Director Alexandre Aja
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 25
In a Nutshell: Is there a paucity of disturbing ideas in the world that somebody felt the need to remake Wes Craven's 1977 film, which is, in its dated way, still fairly effective. The problem is this: When Craven made the original, he was acknowledging the primally fearsome nature of the central scenario -- poor family stranded in the desert and terrorized by inbred hicks in the hills. When Aja does a remake, it's invariably cynically saying "I know that this formula of putting innocent people through hell in the desert works, so I'm just gonna reproduce it because it's a sure thing." Does that make sense? Craven made his warped movie, but he wasn't sure it would work. He took the risk. Aja's just shooting fish (and tourists) in a barrel (and a Gulfstream). Aja's actually not a bad director when he isn't relying on the cheapest of scare tactics, but he falls back on all of the oldest tricks in the book here. The results aren't pleasant to watch. On the bright side, at least now I understand why Fox Searchlight sent me a styrofoam box containing an ear. That'll help me sleep better tonight.

For a full review, check Zap2it on Friday, March 10.

Moviewatch: "Ultraviolet"

Director: Kurt Wimmer
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 15
In a Nutshell: Although the "Fien Print Rating" system is already fatally flawed (I know, for example, that I overrated "Freedomland"), we finally have an empirical truth: Milla Jovovich's belly and its constant cinematic exposure, is worth EXACTLY 15 points in my system. Wimmer's film is like "Aeon Flux"-lite, a genre that nobody requested and that, I'm willing to bet, nobody will respond to beyond a first weekend. However, Jovovich, like Luc Besson before him, is obviously in love with his star, at least to some degree. He shoots her in innane gauzy close-ups where her nose actually appears blurry (all of the other actors look normal) and he makes sure that her perfectly toned bod is exhibited in nearly every frame. The special effects are raw and the action sequences peak with the opening scene. That's a bad sign. Oh and it's interesting that this is a movie about a vigilante terrorist rebelling against a fascist regime and that the main character is often just called "V" (her name is Violet). Where have we heard that before? Thankfully, the movie is entirely unrelated to the far superior 1998 British series of the same name.

My Zap2it Reviews for the Week:
"Ultraviolet" -- 1 star
"16 Blocks" -- 2 stars
"Dave Chappelle's Block Party" -- 3.5 stars

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"American Idol" 03/01/06 -- Top 10 Men

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Nobody's reading this anyway, but I just wanna quickly say that I may well be done with this American Idol tripe. There aren't 8 good singers left, much less 12, much less 20.

Song: "Easy"
My Take: Children love Santa Claus. Children should also love Taylor Hicks. He's a lot like Santa only without the beard, presents, affiliation with Christmas and prodigious list of good and bad deeds. He is, indeed, easy like a Sunday morning. The song offers no particular challenges for the Gray Pony and, if I'm being honest, he butchers some of the notes entirely. But I don't care. You're either with Taylor Hicks or you're with the terrorists.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy likes him even with the pitch problems. Paula likes him, didn't much like the performance. Simon thinks the song was a problem and says something confusing about a bubble. Paula calls him Mr. Mean.

Song: "Mood for Love"
My Take: Ol' Neckbeard is looking REALLY tired. The bags under his eyes have replaced his awful facial hair as his defining trait. If I don't look at him, he sounds fantastic tonight, smooth and melodic, nicely modulated. If I look at him, his teeth distract me. His sideburns distract me. So maybe I just won't look anymore. OK. Much better. Good song choice. Nicely delivered. Pity about the package. Somebody fix this guy up. Please.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy stands for him. Paula admires the song choice and the interpretation. Simon's seeing a boost in confidence and calls it a great performance.

Song: "If I'm Not Made For You"
My Take: The tidbit about the beanie in Ace's pocket is the least interesting factoid I've ever learned about an "American Idol" contestant. Ever. Ace is singing out of his nose tonight. That's not a good idea. Tonight he's actually really cheesy. He actually goes from flat to sharp without a couple notes and his falsetto is weak. I think this guy may have really awful taste in music and only limited awareness of his own strengths. That could be trouble.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thinks he showed a bit more range this week. Paula thinks he was good. Why are people praising his falsetto? Simon thinks he struggled with the song.

Song: "Change Is Gonna Come"
My Take: This is one of the greatest pop songs ever written. Vocally, Gedeon is decent. He over-emotes in really unappealing ways and has to push some of the notes into shape. There are some places, particularly toward the end, that I really liked. I don't, on the other hand, think he had a clue what he was singing about. That's disappointing, but there's something very very different about him.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thinks he started shaky and worked it out. Paula predicts decades of success. Simon calls him a "funny little thing." I like Simon's point that Gedeon sounded authentic. He didn't sound perfect, but it wasn't embarrassing. That's saying something.

Song: "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
My Take: We're one week into voting and the Spectacled Fetus has taken to heart that he's a sex symbol? I couldn't explain the horror of his Marvin Gaye impression if I tried. He makes no effort to move. He just stands and twitches. He over-vibratos a song that doesn't benefit from that treatment. He's unlistenable. The line between encouraging and condescending is very fine. This isn't a competition to be patting special children on the head.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy really enjoyed it. Moron. What a waste of time. Paula calls him infectious. No. This must stop. She says she "loved his performance." Simon, the only one with any sense, says that he'd turn it off if he were on the radio.

Song: "Overjoyed"
My Take: "Sway" starts off with some excruciating pitch problems, but he benefits from following Kevin Covais. Once he figures out the notes, he sounds fleetingly confident and mature. You can evaluate him as an artist, rather than just saying that for the dorky kid in homeroom he's OK. Sway's flat much more than he should be and he's bland as a performer.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy and Paula didn't think he was connected tonight. Simon says there wasn't anything original.

Song: "Lady"
My Take: The only thing you need to know about Will: The dude mentions meeting Justin Guarini as a personal highlight. I was looking away from the TV and I thought, "This isn't inspired, but he sounds OK." I looked up and Will is making this horrible "I'm intense and I feel this song even though I don't have a clue what it actually means" face. Am I the only one feeling like this season could be in serious, serious, serious trouble?
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thought it was alright, but not amazing. Paula thinks he has a good tone, but too safe. Simon compares it to an audition for "Cats."

Singer: BUCKY COVINGTONSong: "Thunder Rolls"
My Take: Bucky washed his face and shaved a little! Like Kelly Pickler, he's confused by the big city. How sad is tonight? Bucky gives what an unimpressive country karaoke performance -- he'd be laughed off the stage of "Nashville Star" -- and I may have to put him in the top half of the evening's singers.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy's a moron. I've lost all respect of him. I never respected Paula. Simon thinks he's a support act, not a star.

Song: "Someday"
My Take: A story about how David didn't have a belt? Are the producers trying to put us to sleep? This is the best they can do? As a lazy, sleepy bar crooner, I guess David's OK. Yup. My expectations have diminished to this point. Kids doing mediocre Sinatra are sounding fine to me. Well, not fine. He's singing alone in the shower. Why must I listen?
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Don't care.

Song: "Hemorage"
My Take: Does Chris' arm hurt? Why is he clutching it? I think I'd like to start a Candlebox or Collective Soul revival band with Chris as the frontman. He's got the right voice of that. Is that a compliment? Who knows? Probably. He's not great, but I'm awake and that something. On an awful night, he moves to the front of the class.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Something or other. Whatever.

TONIGHT'S BEST: Elliott and Chris
IN DANGER: Well, I'd get rid of Kevin, Bucky, Kevin, Will, Kevin, "Sway," Kevin and Kevin.

Moviewatch: "16 Blocks"

"16 Blocks"
Director: Richard Donner
Fien Print Ratings (out of 100): 52
In a nutshell: If an unknown director had made this movie on a budget of $3 million with a cast made up entirely of unknowns, I think I would have been more generous. "16 Blocks" feels like the kind of conventional genre script a writer turns out because the individual twists and turns have already been mapped so many times that once you decide on your characters -- a washed up cop (Bruce Willis) has to transport a petty crook (Mos Def) accross 16 blocks to a courthouse, but runs afoul of some dirty cops along the way -- it writes itself. Donner, a solid practitioner, keeps the camera tight on the actors and gets decent performances, even if Willis is a bit too sad-sack for my tastes and Mos Def talks through his nose the whole time. I kept waiting for something to surprise me, though, for something to cheat expectations. It's ultimately a painless B-movie and nothing more or less.