Saturday, March 31, 2007

MovieWatch: "The Lookout"

"The Lookout"
Director: Scott Frank
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 74
In a Nutshell: A moody and frequently depressing mix of "Memento," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," "Brick" and sanitized Jim Thompson, Scott Frank's "The Lookout" keeps being referred to as neo-noir, which is just because for lazy film critics "noir" has become a catch-all that encompasses all variety of vintage pulp thrillers, some of which are noir and some -- like this film, really -- aren't. I'm OK with a revised catch-all like "film blanc" -- a term that could be used for more successful efforts like "Fargo" and "A Simple Plan" (both more Thompson than anything noir-y) and less successful (but not uninteresting) stabs like "The Ice Harvest" -- but even that isn't exactly right. Regardless, my only point is even if all noir films are somewhat pulpy, not all pulpy films are noir and I guess we should blame 20th Century Fox and several other companies for releasing dozens of different '40s and '50s B-movies under the "noir" banner because they needed a selling point.

OK. Deep breath. I really didn't mean to go off on a ramble there.

To be quickly reductive in a different way -- I really liked "The Lookout." The statement "Joseph Gordon Levitt is becoming a strong dramatic actor" is one that I'm finding as offensive as the over-categorization as noir. Joseph Gordon Levitt *is* a strong dramatic actor. The "becoming" process took place over the course of "Manic" and "Mysterious Skin" and "Brick." He's arrived, not that he should be necessarily exempted for his mis-steps just yet (the way we do with Edward Norton, who gets over-praised even when his performances are awful -- see, "The Illusionist). His work in "The Lookout" -- as a former hockey star turned brain-damaged burnout after a horrible accident -- is deceptively placid. That, in fact, may be Gordon Levitt's "thing," going flat on the surface and letting his body language and eyes convey the rest. Here, it's mostly frustration and poorly contained rage, as the character's mind and body have both betrayed him and he can't blame anybody but himself.

Frank's script wanders a bit too close to allegory at times, over-layering thematic and visual metaphors and setting up too many images and snippets of dialogue for future use. But he stays true to the pulp formula of the crippled man who becomes the pawn of a charismatic criminal (Matthew Goode, completely unrecognizable from "Match Point" and *shudder* "Chasing Liberty") and a squeaky-voiced moll (Isla Fisher, who deserved much more screentime than she gets here). Thompson would have had the guts to surround the main character with different shades of grotesques and never would have settled for a semi-femme fatale as adorable and winsome as Fisher, but so it goes. The story takes place in Manitoba, which is pretending to be Kansas, but won't fool anybody. Midwestern America? Midwestern Canada? Same difference, eh?

Frank's directing eye is attuned to performance nuance and every member of the cast is superior, including Jeff Daniels adding a dose of humor as the main character's blind buddy and Bruce McGill, who plays Gordon Levitt's father with a perfect shade of wealthy rectitude and pity. The acting was so good that I was generally overcome by the melancholy of the piece, the sense of pervasive doom, the same sort of encroaching, twisted downer I get from reading a good Thompson story, only not as twisted. Frank isn't aiming quite that deep and "The Lookout" finds an ending that's more crowd-pleasing (people in my audience clapped) than would have pleased me.

The absence of twistedness that slightly disappointed me at the end isn't the same as the lack of twistyness that will probably disappoint other viewers. We've seen so many of these slick crime thrillers that we have come to expect trickery, but "The Lookout" can't think any faster than its lead character. I was totally OK with that. Frank may have adapted "Get Shorty" for the big screen, but "The Lookout" is less quippy and cool, more sad and yearning.

Lest I start to ramble more, tis bedtime. I kind of think this one will get better as I mull it over more. But nothing will get better if I don't sleep.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Did 'Lost' stage its own 'Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead'?

In "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," Tom Stoppard did an intellectually tricky thing -- he decided to take two marginal characters from "Hamlet" and move them from the background to the foreground. That's not the tricky part. The tricky part was conceiving a self-absorbed path for the two characters to follow while one of literature's great tragedies was taking place behind them, a self-aborbed path that led directly to a different tragedy. In the bitingly funny and strangely haunting play, Stoppard is able to tease out the themes of "Hamlet," while making his own work more than just a complimentary side text.

I guess that if the writers of "Lost" had titled this week's episode "Nikki & Paolo Are Dead" that might have been a bit too on-the-nose, but for my money that's what the episode named "Expose" was going for.

Fans have complained about Nikki (the lovely Kiele Sanchez, finally shown to her full advantage this week) and Paolo (Rodrigo Santoro, pretty in his own right, I suppose) all season long. They've technically been regulars (so say the opening credits), but their integration into the main storylines has been haphazard at best. Actually, forget the "at best" part. Fans whined when Nikki and Paolo made a pointless excursion into the Island with the main characters and they whined when Paolo only popped up for a single scene practicing his golf swing. The assumption was that the "Lost" writers were *trying* to wedge the characters into the main storyline and that they were failing. Perhaps we were all wrong to assume that any effort was being made to make Nikki and Paolo part of the gang.

"Expose" made the interesting argument that Nikki and Paolo have always been in the middle of the Island's mysteries, but that they were too wrapped up in their million-dollar dramas (stolen diamonds, specifically) to properly care about the precariously perched plane that eventually killed Boone or the hatch that so transfixed Locke. If they'd been more engaged with Jack's "Everybody come together now" ethos, perhaps they'd have casually walked up to somebody on the beach and said, "Dude, we found the weirdest thing off in the jungle" or "Yo, Jack, I was down in a mysterious hatch and some freaky guy without a chin was talking about entrapping you into doing something bad." But people on "Lost" don't talk that way. Like more attractive Zeligs, Gumps or Chance the Gardeners, Nikki and Paolo just waltzed past the island's more fanboy-friendly surprises with their eyes firmly on what they thought was a bigger prize.

Just as nothing in "Hamlet" was advanced by the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, nothing in this season of "Lost" was impacted by having Nikki and Paolo being buried alive, but spending an episode concentrating on the utter meaninglessness of their deaths may have been a good way to highlight the solipsism of the main "Lost" characters. Sawyer, Hurley and the Hobbit pretty much kill Nikki and Paolo, which isn't a great loss, by any means. But over three seasons, how much survivalism has been sacrificed so that the Island's strongest residents can keep exploring banal mysteries and going on fool errands? In the vast majority of episodes, none of the main characters even mention that possibility of a life after the Island, because they're getting off on the game of being there. Nikki and Paolo died because they were placing less value on their present and more on a pile of rocks that remained worthless as long as they stayed marooned.

But I guess I'm a strange "Lost" viewer if this week's episode interested me more than most of the season's sub-par hours. Nobody's going to mourn Nikki and Paolo (I sure won't), but the episode tied in well with the season's main thematic concerns, so I bought in. Plus, Billy Dee Williams? Works every time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Idol" Results: The 'Fro Patro' Is No Mo'

As you may or may not know by now, the latest "American Idol" eviction is none other than Mr. Christopher Sligh, which is a relief to me because I never figured out how to avoid writing his name as Chris Slight, which turned out to be appropriate, if typographically incorrect.

Chris was eliminated for two big reasons that I can see:

1)He stunk this week and he stunk in a way that even people who think Sanjaya Malakar is musically gifted (by that I mean the tone-deaf among us) couldn't deny. He didn't sing the notes right, but what was worse was that he physically couldn't sing the song. He lacked the rhythm to do it. That's not disgraceful in and of itself. The song has a tricky tempo and Sting's voice isn't easy to duplicate it (although Phil Stacey did an admirable job). But unless Gwen Stefani was telling the camera things she wasn't telling her pupils (making her a shameful mentor), Chris couldn't get the tempo in rehearsals either. That means that Gwen Stefani knew he couldn't sing the song, the "Idol" musical directors knew he couldn't sing the song and, since Chris isn't a stupid guy, Chris must have known he couldn't sing the song. So why did he sing the song? If you're a figure skater and you realize you don't have the momentum to get a triple jump, sometimes it's OK to just do a double. Don't judges look a smidge more kindly on that than on trying a triple and tripping across the ice, doing a face-plant into the boards and failing the rest of your elements? Or did Chris realize too late that he couldn't sing the song and the band and background singers were locked in? In that case, has he known he was a dead man walking all week? Regardless, Chris was actually worse than Sanjaya this week and anybody who pulls off that trick deserves to go home.

2)In my Zap2it recap of tonight's results, I said, "So long, Chris. You weren't the worst singer left, but 'American Idol' is a game and you didn't play it correctly." Chris' "Idol" strategy was just wrong. Would Taylor Hicks have won last year if he'd entirely stopped with the twitchy dancing, started singing less cheesy songs and no longer embraced the Soul Patrol at every turn? OF COURSE NOT. As the results on the current album charts are telling us, Taylor Hicks was a cult of personality and he won by recognizing that the people who loved his cornball routine far outnumbered the people who wanted to beat his gray head like a pinata. He never tried to prove that he could sing challenging songs or that his ticket to the Kodak Theatre could be punched by displaying his massive range. He knew that he couldn't beat Katherine McPhee or Chris Daughtry like that. He knew the only way to beat them was by having a large group of fans LOVE him, everybody else be darned.

Chris Sligh could have had that. Sepinwall and I have a running debate each season regarding whether the worst contestants are subversive geniuses or whether they're just awful. Alan, for example, remains convinced that Jon Peter Lewis is a subversive genius. I'm doubtful. But Chris Sligh seemed like the real deal in the audition and Hollywood rounds. He mocked the conventions of "Idol" announcing that he just wanted to make David Hasselhoff cry. He mocked the normal suspense of the Top 24 selection when he greeted the judges in Hollywood with "I guess you're wondering why I called you here today." I didn't think he could sing when the Top 24 began, but I had high hopes he'd deflate the pomposity of this stupid pageant we call "Idol." After five seasons and one Taylor Hicks win, "Idol" may have needed the sort of ego-puncturing Chris looked ready to provide.

Instead, he opted to take the whole thing seriously. He sang strange indie rock songs without melodies. He sang Christian rock songs without melodies. In British Invasion week, he joked he was going to sing "Henry the 8th." Why didn't he?!?!? Taylor Hicks would have. Jon Peter Lewis would have. Chris lacked the courage of his convictions when it came to being class clown. It's like he wanted viewers to respect him rather than like him.

That's not the way the "Idol" game is played.

Bye-bye Chris Sligh. Good night, Chris Slight.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"American Idol" 03/27/07 -- The Top 10 Perform Songs Gwen Stefani Let Them

The theme for Tuesday (March 27) night's American Idol performance episode was announced as Pop Music. Then producer Nigel Lythgoe narrowed it down to any music that influenced the night's guest mentor, Gwen Stefani. But at least three of the performers opted to sing No Doubt songs, which implies that Stefani's biggest influence is herself, with a little Donna Summer and Police on the side. It made for an oddly limited night of songs.

Tonight's performances:

Singer: LaKisha Jones
Song: "Last Dance"
My Take: LaKisha has mostly stuck to a simple formula this season -- walk to center stage, clutch the mic, belt. Part of the reason for that is that she has a difficult time maintaining her breathing when she moves too much, a problem that strikes the second the song picks up. Eventually, she finds control and her performance is solid, albeit not nearly as exciting as the Spider-Man 3 trailer that immediately follows.
Dusty Bottoms, Lucky Day and Simon Say: Randy declares that LaKisha was like a fly diva. Paula thought she did well with the tough Donna Summer material. Simon loved LaKisha's boots and announces that she's 30 years younger this week.

Singer: Chris Sligh
Song: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
My Take: Who knew that Chris Sligh had a so-so Sting impression in his back pocket? He starts sharp and nasally, which isn't pleasant. It gets worse. Stefani warned that the tempo would be Chris' problem and she proves a wise soothsayer. Initially it's the brutal reverb that throws Chris off, less than 10 seconds in. Then the background singers chime in, but they're singing with the band and not with Chris. He's not even close and it becomes uncomfortable to listen to. I don't know that I've ever seen an Idol contestant get so lost and do so little to try to correct the problems.
Dusty Bottoms, Lucky Day and Simon Say: Randy liked the song choice, but calls Chris on the tempo problems. [It can't be a good song choice if it's a song he couldn't sing, Randy.] Paula compares it to an auditory eyesore. Simon calls it a mess. Three people boo, all probably related to Chris. The curly-haired clown goes, "My bad."

Singer: Gina Glocksen
Song: "I'll Stand By You"
My Take: Gina's lucky to be following Chris. Still reeling from the Police brutality, I'm on edge, but Gina sets me right by being completely competent. She's reassuringly on-beat and the notes are in tune. She looks great in a short skirt and high boots and though this is far from her most performatively dynamic turn, it's her most vocally assured. The crowd roars in appreciation and relief.
Dusty Bottoms, Lucky Day and Simon Say: "This must be boot night," Randy announces before calling it one of her best performances ever. Paula says that Gina is improving each week (a blatant falsehood) and calls it her best to date. Simon's all "Gina, it wasn't one of your best performances," everybody boos, "It was your best performance." Oh Simon, you wily prankster! He adds that the comparison between Gina a few weeks ago is literally "chalk to cheese."

Singer: Sanjaya Malakar
Song: "Bathwater"
My Take: I am loving Stefani. She basically rolls her eyes and says that the song will probably be too hard for Sanjaya, but it was his choice. Also his choice? A faux-hawk comprised of a long row of individual ponytails. Sanjaya's demeanor suggests that he's trying to have fun tonight, but his vocals are flat and inexpressive. Because we have low standards for Sanjaya, I'd say this was among his best moments, but that may have something to do with the fact that I keep needing to repress what came before. I'd planned to make Ashley the Crying Fan into a running joke, but she's already become an overexposed little tweener.
Dusty Bottoms, Lucky Day and Simon Say: Randy calls the hairdo interesting and admits that he's speechless. Paula thinks Sanjaya didn't quite go for it enough. "Well, I presume there was no mirror in your dressing room tonight," Simon begins. Sanjaya responds, "You're just jealous you couldn't pull it off." Simon throws up his arms and says that there's nothing he can say that will make any difference with "If people like you, good luck."

Singer: Haley Scarnato
Song: "True Colors"
My Take: Haley starts by sitting on the edge of the stage, with the cameraman noticeably creeping towards her, equipment aimed low to check if he could see up her short skirt. That's another public service from the network that brought you The Littlest Groom. The answer? No. But enough objectification. Time to look away from the screen and just listen. It turns out that Haley's voice is very thin, but she sounds nice enough. She also seems to have taken Stefani's advice to mostly just sing the song. Sight unseen, I would describe her performance as simple, not unpleasant and inoffensive, defined mostly in the absence of glaring negatives.
Dusty Bottoms, Lucky Day and Simon Say: Randy wasn't jumping up and down. It was just aight for him. Paula wanted a younger performance, rather than adult contemporary. Simon calls it "sweet, but forgettable." Haley gives a big smile and bats her eyelashes.

But what of the rest of the night? Who soared? Who came crashing down? Check out the rest of the recap at Zap2it.

Odds & Ends for 03/27/07 -- Yogurt!

1)Watch "Friday Night Lights" this Wednesday. It's the best hour of network television in the history of the world. That last statement may not actually be true, but "FNL" needs viewers and if I have to resort to excessive hype, I'm willing to do so. If it's good enough for the FOX promo department, you'd think NBC would catch on. In truth, it's the exceptional show's best episode since its pilot -- well-written, marvelously performed and loaded with moments guaranteed to produce man-tears (or woman-tears). No pressure, but if you aren't yelling at your TV set by the end of the episode, you have no soul. NO SOUL.

2)I get worked up by "Friday Night Lights." Nobody got worked up about "What About Brian," which is part of why Monday night's episode was probably the show's last. Boo. I'd say that it was one of my 10 or 15 favorite network shows this season, but you never see networks using "Better Than Average!!!!" as a promo blurb. I wrote more than that over at Zap2it.

3)Kirk Douglas, 90 years young, has a MySpace page. I don't have a MySpace page (I drew the line at Friendster, darnit), but I almost want to join just so that Kirk Douglas could be my MySpace friend.

4)Curt Schilling's new blog 38 Pitches is great, almost on the same level as Gilbert Arenas' blog. Schilling's already getting into flame-wars with fans and reporters and if he's going to have a psychotic break this season, it will probably happen on the blog. As long as he's on the Sox, I like to think of Schilling as one of baseball's great intellects and wits, as well as a gutty warrior. If he goes to another team next season? He'll just be another bum with a bloody sock in his closet.

5)Fans on the Internet are, frankly, weird. They think everybody is watching "Veronica Mars" and get outraged by the idea that a network could potentially cancel such a popular show. They get really worked up over the idea of a movie like "Snakes on a Plane." They're sure they've single-handedly saved shows like "One Tree Hill" by clicking on E!Online polls (the show has really been saved by the fact that Sunkist has taken out advertising space on Chad Michael Murray's forehead). Thus far, pilot resurrection on YouTube, iTunes and BitTorrent hasn't managed to get a single episode of "Nobody's Watching," "Aquaman" or "Global Frequency" onto the air. But maybe someday.

Perhaps a good place to start would, in fact, be with this week's YouTube test case, the Jon Stewart-produced pilot "Three Strikes," about an independent minor league baseball team populated by former stars who have been kicked out of the majors for a variety of infractions. The pilot, was ultimately rejected by Comedy Central and posted on YouTube, is often more coarse and lewd than actually funny, which is why basing your pilot episode around a Sex Boat is a risky thing. I laughed out loud several times, though, and I could see myself watching a few more episodes, if only for the brain-damaged Wave mascot who keeps bumping into things and makes "Yogurt!" into a glorious new catchphrase. While a network is unlikely to revisit a pilot because a couple thousand people gave it four-star ratings on YouTube, Comedy Central may have lower standards.

They seem not to want me to embed "Three Strikes," but you can watch the first episode here and it'll lead you to the next couple parts.


6)Tonight's "Idol" theme: The music that inspired Gwen Stefani. I don't know if I can wait another three hours.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

'Grey's Anatomy' Has 'Crossroads' Nostalgia

I need to mention this because I'm not sure I've seen it mentioned anywhere else and what's the point of having a blog if you can't mention the things that amuse you/worm your way into your head and won't get out:

Tonight's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" was directed by Tamra Davis. You might know Tamra Davis as the director of the, um, "classic" rap film "CB4" or the Adam Sandler "classic" "Billy Madison" or, perhaps, the stoner "classic" "Half Baked." [She's versatile. No doubt about that. Lots of good TV stuff on her resume, actually.] Alternatively, you may know her as the wife of Beastie Boy Mike D.

But if you're noticing that she directed tonight's "Grey's Anatomy," the only context it's important to know her from is through her previous collaboration with "Grey's" creator Shonda Rhimes. You've probably forgotten that Rhimes wrote and Davis directed the Britney Spears vehicle "Crossroads." And that reunion makes me giggle, particularly with the episode airing the week Bald Britney exited rehab. Why didn't ABC play that up more? Geez.

I have little else to say about this week's episode except that the "Grey's" writers have been clumsier than usual lately when it comes to cases that symbolically echo the lives of the doctors, or cases that are unified by a common theme. This week? All about bones, shaving them, being covered by new ones, having infections spreading through them. From what I understand, bones are, you know, like a metaphor for rigidity and immobility, making the episode all about people avoiding risk and the relative important of just going forward and accepting that mistakes happen, but you can't go backwards. Or something like that. I ignore the things Meredith tells me in voiceovers. Yawn.

Really, though, I'd much rather discuss the Red Sox moving Jonathan Papelbon back to the bullpen, which is probably the best thing for the team, unless you stop and look at the contenders for the No. 5 starter position. You know who'd be a great 5th starter right now for Boston? Bronson Arroyo. Sigh. Lester's the best bet in the long run (and the feel-good story, what with beating cancer and all), but my temporary vote is for Baseball's Ugliest Man, Julian Tavarez. He's a brawl waiting to happen and if Major League Baseball weren't screwing me out of my Extra Innings package, I'd be looking forward to watching the lunatic.

But that's a different conversation entirely.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stop calling Stephanie's "Idol" elimination "shocking"

First off, Wednesday night's American Idol result wasn't a shocker, no matter what E! and the AP and other various media outlets are saying. The only people shocked were people who don't know the way this show works. For heaven's sakes, Tony Kornheiser was predicting Stephanie's potentially surprising departure and as much as I love the guy, American Idol isn't his bread-and-butter (he should consider himself lucky).

The elimination of Stephanie Edwards does, indeed, weaken the show for the rest of the season. It was, indeed, hardly the correct elimination choice. But the notion that it was in any way shocking is ludicrous.

The maxim always goes that without a compelling story and quality on-air pimping time, you just can't go very far on this show. It's always been true and it was true with Stephanie, just as it was with Sabrina Sloan, the season's other so-called-shocker.

Stephanie was this season's fourth best vocalist, but also the season's fourth best female vocalist, which meant that at almost all times, she had to steal attention from several other women just to be noticed at all. She was never as good as Melinda or LaKisha and in the past two weeks, she hasn't been as good as Jordin. At a certain point, she just wasn't in position to get those female votes, because there were other options. And while she was a very good-looking woman (certainly moreso, conventionally, than Melinda and LaKisha), Stephanie was never going to get the lecherous male vote as long as first Antonella and later Haley were around. So who was going to vote for her? Sabrina had the flaw of being the *fifth* best female singer in the competition, so she had even less margin for error. Regardless, both women had to know that the second they delivered a so-so performance or two, they'd be gone. And that's how it went.

What else did Stephanie have to draw votes? Did she have a fantastic backstory about overcoming adversity or giving a kidney to a beloved relative or saving orphaned dogs? I don't know. I know *nothing* about Stephanie Edwards. LaKisha's a mom. Gina's auditioned over and over again. Haley's smokin' hot (but not as hot as Katherine McPhee). Jordin wants a boyfriend and her dad played in the NFL. Melinda was a background singer. Antonella was caught in near-nudie pics.

And Stephanie? She was too talented to be eliminated this soon, but whatever they told me about Stephanie, I promptly forgot, because "Idol" wasn't interested in telling her story.

She's not the first contestant to suffer this fate, nor will she be the last. Could somebody discuss that with a couple rare exceptions (Chris Daughtry, mostly), most of the most egregiously prematurely booted contestants were African-American females. Tamyra. LaShundra (Ooops... "Trenyce"). Jennifer Hudson. LaToya London. That's not a coincidence, though it also probably isn't racism, at least not pure and simple. Whatever the case, it happens enough that it's not shocking, no matter what "Idol" neophytes may try selling you. That doesn't make it any less disappointing, though.

I could go on, but I'm tired and full of steak.

Odds & Ends for 03/21/07

None of these seem to require their own post, but when they unite, they're like Voltron, baby.

1) I'm not ready to declare victory on this one, but mere weeks after I launched my Employ Kathleen Robertson campaign, Claire, the chancellor's slutty daughter, has been cast as an evil witch of some sort in Sci Fi Channel's updating of "The Wizard of Oz." Huzzah! That's not as good as being cast in a really good network pilot, but it's far superior to being cast in a really bad network pilot.

2) Again, I'm not ready to stop pushing for Robertson, but with at least some measure on that front and in my Keep Eric Balfour Busy campaign, I must once again remind those of you who haven't done so to go sign my petition to get "Method & Red" released on DVD. It's slow-going, but you too can help enact tangible change.

3) Check out the new K-Swiss "Free Running" commercial in which some guy uses the powers of parkour to make it to the stadium in time to watch Anna Kournikova play tennis. I'm still impressed by folks running up the sides of buildings and whatnot, but is the commercial's true message that K-Swiss shoes have the ability to transport you to the past? I mean, K-Swiss is discovering the marketing might of parkour five years after Nike's classic Angry Chicken ad from 2002, which is appropriate, because that was the last time anybody spotted Anna Kournikova playing tennis.

4) When did Avril Lavigne and Kristen Bell cease to be different people? I'm sure that Kirsten Bell would be able to pick up Avril's singing slack, so it's possible that Avril no longer needs to be with us.

5) Did ABC get a package deal on Three Dog Night's "Shambala"? First it was the song in Hurley's flashback and then in his miraculously repaired mini-bus on "Lost" and then it was the song that signaled Bryan Greenberg's liberation from New York City on "October Road." Toss in its more ironic usage in "The Devil's Rejects" and that's a lot of exposure for a 34-year-old chestnut.

6) And last and probably least... If you live in Los Angeles, you've gotta head over to Olympic and Robertson to check out the shiny new BP gas station [Or just check out pics here]. It's either the ugliest gas station I've ever seen, or else the coolest. I'm not sure. All I know is that last week, the gas station was closed to the public so that they could host a private party there. At a gas station. As my homeboy Yakov would say -- What a country!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"American Idol" 03/20/07 -- Top 11 Perform British Invasion Tunes

Show of hands -- How many of you are planning on going to Idol Camp with me this summer? Swimming! Sailing! Shabbat dinners! Obscure theme nights! It'll be just like Meatballs!


OK. On to Tuesday (March 20) night's performances, as our Top 10 (Plus Sanjaya) perform entirely random British Invasion tunes under the esteemed tutelage of Lulu and Hermit (from Herman's Hermits [Peter Noone, if you like])

Singer: Haley Scarnato
Song: "Tell Him"
My Take: I liked Lulu telling Haley not to be intimidated by the girls with the bigger voices and to just be proud of what she's got. Tonight? As ZZ Top observed, she's got legs. The performance starts with a dramatic center-stage leg-cross and continues with Haley parading her wares through the audience and then strutting with determination across the stage in her short-shorts and high heels. Even after forgetting the words last week, Haley doesn't seem at all confident with the lyrics tonight. She never actually misses any words, I don't think, but she certainly descends into mumbling on several occasions. I'm cheering for her ability to stay standing throughout and for her saucy chest-wiggling climax. That sounds dirty, doesn't it? It's so very pageant-ready I expect her to close by making a plea for world peace.
Klotho, Atropos and Simon Say: Randy's enthusiastic, declaring this Haley's best performance, gushing that she has the "Yo!" factor. I guess that's a bit more dignified than "Girl, you got gams!" Paula praises her, um, girl-ish side (also clearly euphemistic). "You naughty little thing," Simon declares, thankfully shunning coy language and calling it fun, young and a bit shrieky. He warns that the people will be talking about more than her singing, which gets a teasing raised eyebrow from Haley.

Singer: Chris Richardson
Song: "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying"
My Take: I cringed through last week's Diana Ross Night, but I love tonight's theme. Even with a stripped down performance -- just the singer and a guitarist on the stage -- Chris oversings just a bit, not trusting the pure melody quite enough. Still, this is was decidedly his best vocal turn of the competition thus far -- less nasally, less breathy, more pure -- even if I wasn't fully buying his half-lidded sincerity.
Klotho, Atropos and Simon Say: Randy's feeling tonight, calling it beautiful. Paula, stealing from Randy's playbook, says Chris is in it to win it. Simon agrees that it was Chris' best.

Singer: Stephanie Edwards
Song: "You Don't Have To Say You Love"
My Take: How much is Stephanie's degree-of-difficulty elevated by the campy arrangement that forces her to compete with what sounds like a 50 person choir? It's a big, bold, soulful song that requires total confidence in your voice. Although she should be that self-assured, Stephanie keeps pushing the ends of notes with vibrato and flourishes that Dusty Springfield never needed to bother with. Stephanie's in a tough position, because she tries hard songs, songs that none of the men could even sniff at, but only doing so-so work on those songs puts her in danger.
Klotho, Atropos and Simon Say: Randy thought it was pitchy and that she's a better up-tempo songs. Paula loved her outfit and the song, but contends that she isn't having enough fun. Simon asks how she thought she did. She replies "Well." Simon argues that it was a cabaret performance and that she's becoming too old.

Singer: Blake Lewis
Song: "Time of the Season"
My Take: The thing I've always loved most about the original is its eerie, deliberate phrasing. Squinting at the gals in the audience and cocking his head suggestively, beatboxing and dancing through the breaks, Blake gives it his own twist, which I'm not entirely opposed to. However, the arrangement elevates the song painfully out of Blake's range and his attempts to approach the chorus with anthemic high notes -- a head-voice at odd with the rest of the performance -- only exposes his limitations. Actually, if you go back and listen, he does very little actual singing, filling in the gaps with the beatboxing.
Klotho, Atropos and Simon Say: Randy is impressed with how current Blake made the song. Paula thinks Blake could release it and that he's raised the bar. Simon just calls it a million times better than last week. I feel like this is one Simon will listen to tonight and wonder why he was so enthusiastic.

Singer: LaKisha Jones
Song: "Diamonds are Forever"
My Take: How do I feel about LaKisha's very calculated attempts at mimicking Shirley Bassey's very particular twist on the lyrics? Well, it keeps her from making the song her own. This is the kind of thing you can --- I'm just guessing here -- catch in drag bars or wherever people love their Shirley Bassey impersonators. But it isn't easy to do Shirley Bassey like Shirley Bassey and I doubt you can here Shirley Bassey impersonators this good just anywhere. Some of LaKisha's phrasing is spectacularly on-point, but why do I think Melinda could have done the same song with far more panache and individuality?
Klotho, Atropos and Simon Say: Randy didn't feel enough LaKisha (the audience boos, but he's right). Paula says absolutely nothing about the performance. Simon calls it "LaKisha in 50 years time."

As always, for the rest of my Recap, including reviews of the night's best and worst performances, head over to Zap2it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

MovieWatch: "The Host"

"The Host"
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Fien Print Rating (out of 100): 70
In a Nutshell: "The Host" is so solid and seemingly effortless a piece of popcorn filmmaking that more than a few viewers -- this one in particular -- will walk out of this South Korean monster movie wondering why Hollywood can't seem to master the same craft. Some over-eager fanboys have attempted to hype Bong Joon-ho's latest film as something that transcends its genre, a claim that I don't think I'd make. Why bother? Is there anything so wrong with making an effects-heavy creature feature that manages to mix simple scares with unexpected character humor? It can probably be debated whether "The Host" is the best "Godzilla" movie ever made, but it's most certainly the movie Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich *wanted* to make when they attempted to reboot the giant lizard franchise nearly a decade ago. That "The Host" was made for only $10 million is all the more reason why Hollywood studios should be desperate to bring the director stateside.

Like most good monster movies, "The Host" is peppered with social commentary, aimed pointedly against both the Korean government and the pervasive imperialism of the United States, but none of the satire is over-articulated. Really, the movie is about a giant many-armed creature that lives in Seoul's Han River and takes a particular interest in a dysfunctional family forced to band together to rescue one little schoolgirl. Critic Colin Covert is being blurbed comparing "The Host" to a fusion of "Jaws" and "Little Miss Sunshine," an analogy that I like so much I won't try to top it. I would go so far as to say that "The Host" is a much funnier movie than "Little Miss Sunshine," carried by strong work from stars Song Gang-ho, Park Heui-bong and Bae Du-na [Song also starred in the director's "Memories of Murder," a solidly made rural police procedural.]

The creature -- masterminded by San Francisco's Orphanage FX house -- isn't up to big budget Hollywood standards, but the technology isn't jarringly outmoded either (he looks a bit like the Geico lizard gone feral). I was completely engaged by Lee Byong-woo's score, which has more classic film influences than I can count, and a rumbling and effective (rather than just loud) sound design.

"The Host" is intense, but never gory enough that it becomes unpleasant or uncomfortable to watch and whenever things become too scary or emotional, Bong isn't averse to tossing in a pratfall or mugging character actor to return the focus to the fun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"American Idol" 03/13/07 -- Top 12 Perform Diana Ross

Tuesday (March 13) night's American Idol is packed with more individual performances and more of the sage wisdom of Diana Ross than any human being should ever have to stomach in a two-hour period.

So let's just talk performances:

Singer: Brandon Rogers
Song: "Can't Hurry Love"
My Take: Do you think somebody had the guts to tell Diana Ross what a great job Beyonce did playing her in Dreamgirls? Brandon starts off sharp and almost immediately he's out of synch with the massive orchestra. Uh-oh. This is a disaster. Between the frantic band, the off-beat audience clapping and Brandon's broken-hip dancing, it's a mess. Around the mid-point, a frog explodes from his mouth in one of the worst notes I've ever heard from an Idol singer and then later he forgets the lyrics, smiling sweetly over the awkward silence. Bye, Brandon. It's been fun.
Domingo, Pavarotti and Simon Say: Randy loved the last two notes, but mostly tears Brandon to pieces. Did Paula get fresh collagen or something today? Her face looks extra-paralyzed, as she tells Brandon that he must have had nerves. Simon calls it a complete letdown, saying he came across as the background singer to a background singer.

Singer: Melinda Doolittle
Song: "Home"
My Take: Melinda's contention that she's more of a tennis shoe and sweatpants gal both briefly humanizes Little Miss OCD and prompts a climax to the season-long homoerotic escalation between Simon and Ryan, culminating in Ryan telling Simon to stay out of his closet and Simon telling Ryan to come out. They seem more amused by this banter than they should be. Anyway, I don't want to sound, um, Ryan-esque, but the Idol costumers should be working to elongate Melinda, not make her seem more compact, which tonight's outfit does. I only point this out, because the next three months should be all about polishing the few rough spots Melinda has, since vocally she's pitch-perfect. Again. I'd take this performance over Diana Ross' original any day and not just because I dislike The Wiz.
Domingo, Pavarotti and Simon Say: Randy scores it 1-0 for the girls (Brandon was so bad the girls should get an extra point). Paula's bawling in true Season Three or Season Four fashion. Oye. She'd been so well-medicated this season. What happened? Simon says Melinda reminds him of a young Gladys Knight.

Singer: Chris Sligh
Song: "Endless Love"
My Take: Am I the only one slightly scared by bare-faced Chris? Bring the glasses back. It's interesting to hear Chris sing a song with a straight-forward melody. While he hits a few bum notes at first, he ultimately does a fair impression of a guy who can sing, which isn't nearly the same as an impression of a guy who can perform. There's a lot of emoting, minimal emotional connection and no impact.
Domingo, Pavarotti and Simon Say: Randy didn't like the arrangement of the song, which made the whole thing a mess for him. Paula took something at the break, because she's briefly coherent. Simon thinks Chris turned a beautiful song into a drone. "Even the boos are light," he says, when only a couple fans protest his opinion.

Singer: Gina Glocksen
Song: "Love Child"
My Take: I can't think of 10 songs I dislike more than the lyrically inane "Love Child," but I kind of like the arrangement that lets Gina turn it into a serviceable anthem to illegitimacy. Her voice shows strain throughout, never a good sign this early. When people talk about Chris Daughtry's premature departure last year, nobody remembers how rough his voice was sounding by the end. Rocking Idol-style isn't easy.
Domingo, Pavarotti and Simon Say: Randy didn't feel any excitement. Paula thinks "Love Child" is a feel-good song and Gina's been better. Simon says he doesn't have much to say about the performance and then babbles for a couple minutes.

Singer: Sanjaya Malakar
Song: "Ain't No Mountain"
My Take: Sanjaya is love. So says Diana Ross. She also dismisses the idea that his secret power is in his hair. Once again, Sanjaya falls apart when the song moves out of his two-note comfort zone, and the last minute is an off-key hum (like living under a powerline, with less risk of cancer). But I'll give him some damning praise: This is certainly one of the best four performances he's given since the Top 24 began and he wasn't worse than Brandon. It's still rather embarrassing to see him up there.
Domingo, Pavarotti and Simon Say: Randy's in the nervous giggle mode he got into with Kevin Covais last season, as if he's temporarily forgotten what show he'd judging and he knows nothing he says matters anyway. Paula loves Sanjaya's smile. "When you hear a wail in Beverly Hills, that is where Diana Ross is watching this show," Simon says, complimenting his bravery. Or maybe he said "When you hear a whale..." Sanjay was similarly perplexed.

Singer: Haley Scarnato
Song: "Missing You"
My Take: Good. Somebody instructed Haley that her only shot of avoiding instant elimination is by being this season's Hot Girl, but while she looks fantastic, again I have no sense that she knows what she's singing about or cares (repurposing a song meant as a tribute to the late Marvin Gaye as a love song to your boyfriend is just weak), so it hardly matters when the lyrics vanish entirely for a while. Incidentally, I endorse the short skirt, but that's not a skirt you wear if you're going to mostly be singing from a stool. Between her attire and her blundered and mumbled enunciation, I don't even know if Haley was in tune.
Domingo, Pavarotti and Simon Say: Randy says that it was a valiant effort. Paula says Haley looks lovely. "I didn't think it was that bad," Simon says, saluting Haley's relative poise and presence. Haley's reaction -- half-tears, half-relief, half-who-knows-what -- is shockingly unreadable.

Check out the rest of my recap (with images as soon as TypePad stops SUCKING) over at Zap2it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

American Idol Party Gift Bag Contents

Just back from the party. In the 2:30 I was there, not a single person affiliated with American Idol even made it into the main party area. The contestants were stuck on an endless red carpet. Haley Scarnato? Far cuter in person. She should accentuate that more, rather than her voice. Jordin Sparks? She could take you out. Girl wasn't kidding about that football thing. Justin Guarini? Still alive. Just thought you might be relieved to know.

Because I'm sure *somebody* cares, the contents of the party gift bag:

1 XL Coca-Cola t-shirt (white)
1 L Shelby GT Ford t-shirt (black)
1 hankerchief/scarf thingie (pink)
1 American Idol picture frame (blue)
2 Hot Wheels Ford Cars (one Mustange, one Fusion)
0 Naked pictures of Antonella Barba
1 Ford-sponsored to-go coffee cup
1 Idol make-up mirror
1 Idol keychain
1 Idol inflatable beach ball
1 Ford-sponsored "What Does it Take to be a Warrior?" bookmark
1 Idol Beetle clip
1 Idol iPod mini case
1 Idol chapstick
1 Ford-sponsored deck of cards
1 Idol Season Six Elimination Scoreboard.

Good times!

Bye, Antonella. It's been, um, swell.

In 10 minutes I'm heading off to a FOX party for the Top 12 American Idol contestants and I have to say that I'm darned sorry Antonella Barba won't be there. I don't have a camera in my phone, but I'm sure I could convince her I did.

Anyway, before rushing off to have a few drinks on FOX and maybe telling Melinda I hope she crushes everybody, I wanted to give my extremely quick reactions to the Top 12.

First off, I know we're supposed to be sad that Sabrina Sloan is gone. We're supposed to feel that the talent pool has been shallowed or something like that. The fact is that while I know the competition is better served having Sabrina rather than Haley Scarnato, I can't bring myself to care one way or the other. Haley's cute, so I'll ignore that her voice is mediocre, but it's not like she's Antonella-bad or Alaina-bad. Maybe she'll find her niche as the competition goes along and shock everybody? Yeah. I'm kidding.

The other contestant who didn't necessarily deserve to be going home is Jared Cotter, who's certainly better than Sanjaya and possibly better than Phil and maybe one or two of the other guys. But just as I can't begrudge Haley's presence in the Top 12 because it's not like she's *awful* I can't get worked up about Jared's absence, because it's not like he's *good*. The competition loses something in Sabrina's absence, but Jared is just another guy who can't sing or perform enough well enough to have been around at all at this point. Once we were only allowed to eliminate two men this week, he might as well have been one of them.

Sundance and Antonella? Well, they were both among the two worst contestants of their gender. That means they deserved to go home. Sundance couldn't survive forever by virtue of 30 seconds of quality in his audition (even his "Mustang Sally" was overpraised). And Antonella couldn't survive forever by virtue of horny men hoping she'd wear a wet t-shirt to perform.

That's just how it goes.

You can check out my other random thoughts on the episode over at Zap2it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"American Idol" 03/07/07 -- Top Eight Women Perform

American Idol is all about equality. Even though the men all stink, for example, six of them are making it to the Top 12. Would it be so surprising, then, for the Idol producers to have secretly equipped each of the ladies with a Harrison Bergeron-style microchip designed to emit an electric shock if any of them became too exceptional?

I'm only asking because after two straight weeks of frequently dynamic and exciting performances the American Idol Top Eight Women caught just a touch of the Man Disease on Wednesday (March 7) night.

The ladies...

Singer: Jordin Sparks
Song: "Heartbreaker"
My Take: If any of the women were going to do Pat Benatar, wouldn't you have figured it would be Gina Glocksen? Anyway, the first note from the band is like a gunshot and Jordin's just racing along trying to keep up. Sometimes she's right on the beat and sounds fantastic, other times she's worried on the verge of getting lost, tentative and a bit shrill. She has just enough sass to sell the rough parts, but there are several bum notes.
Simon, Crackle and Pop Say: Randy points out that it's a different show when the girls perform (somebody should warn him that that won't be the case next week). Paula thinks Jordin is exploding into her own artistry. Simon found it a bit manic, but he's sure she'll still be around.

Singer: Sabrina Sloan
Song: "Don't Let Go"
My Take: The danger of doing a group song -- like this En Vogue track -- is that instead of feeding off of the energy of the people around you, you're forced to build off a few random background singers who aren't as invested in your success. Perhaps that's why Sabrina takes so long to lock in. She can't quite find the melody at first and she plods along. By the halfway point she starts shouting and eventually she moves into singing. In isolated moments, she's very good, but not overall.
Simon, Crackle and Pop Say: Randy thought it was solid, but not her best. Paula says Sabrina can sing, sing, sing. Simon insists it was robotic compared to Melinda, Lakisha and Stephanie.

Singer: Antonella Barba
Song: "Put Your Records On"
My Take: In addition to being a mediocre singer, we now know that Antonella is a mediocre violinist. There's an inherent nostalgic sweetness to Corinne Bailey Rae's song that's completely at odds with Antonella's wannabe-brassy voice. The notes that should be lilting and soft are just loud and the lower notes get lost in a register Antonella doesn't possess.
Simon, Crackle and Pop Say: Randy thought it was pitchy in the beginning, but that she was only OK. Paula endorses the song choice. Simon lets out a deep sigh and announces, "You've gone as far as you can go, Antonella." He also becomes the first person to mention her dirty picture scandal on-air, praising Jersey's finest for keeping her chin up amidst the media coverage. He ends with, "I just wish you could sing better." This would be a good time for humility, Antonella doesn't have it in her. Instead, she says that she isn't trying to be like any of the other singers in the competition and they aren't trying to be like her. Oooh. Oooh. Who wants to be the one to explain to Antonella why the other girls aren't trying to be like her?

Singer: Haley Scarnato
Song: "If My Heart Had Wings"
My Take: Haley, apparently a former gymnast, should have come out on-stage in a leotard, done two or three flips and then yelled, "Superstar!" At least then people would have remembered who she is. Instead, she's just that really cute girl with the great shoulders who didn't realize that Faith Hill songs aren't so easy to sing.
Simon, Crackle and Pop Say: Randy wasn't jumping up and down. He wanted some "Wow!" and some "Pizzaz!" and some "Yo!" Paula says she sang it well and looked great. Simon says it was horrible, like "some terrible, ghastly high school musical" performance. Then Simon admits he doesn't remember Haley's name. Unlike Antonella, Haley is able to just nod and accept there's no point in fighting.

Check out the rest of my recap over at Zap2it to find out who I liked best tonight. Here's a hint: Her name rhymes with Shelbinda Slewbittle.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"American Idol" 03/06/07 -- Top Eight Men Perform

I was at an event the other night where they showed us an edited version of last year's Idol finale and I found myself wondering: Is there a single guy this season on the level of Taylor Hicks, Elliott Yamin or Chris Daughtry? Short answer -- Nope.

Maybe Tuesday (Match 6) night's American Idol performance episode will feature a breakout performance from one of the Top Eight Men...

Singer: Blake Lewis
Song: "All Mixed Up"
My Take: Will Jimmy Walker Blue, Blake's redneck alter ego cost him votes in the key Southern States? He probably should. This is another entirely unexpected artist selection from Blake, somehow trying to tailor 311 to the Idol format. The vocal turntablism is fun as usual, but it's just a low-key mimeograph of the original. This is the first time I've felt that Blake was basically coming across as the lead singer of the kind of band that plays frat parties and really wants to do its own stuff, but has to whip out a few lackadaisical covers for the drunken masses.

Melchior, Balthasar and Simon Say: Randy, who's never heard the song, loved how current it is. Paula also didn't know the song, but liked it. Hmmm... How hip. The song comes off a 1995 album. Simon didn't understand a word of the song, but says Blake stands out and that it wasn't karaoke. How would Simon know if it sounded like karaoke if he doesn't know the song?

Singer: Sanjaya Malakar
Song: "Waiting On the World to Change"
My Take: Sanjaya caters to the all-powerful Hawaiian voting block by showing off his hula skillz. What's next, a shout-out to Camile Velasco? After mis-rocking the Corey Clark ponytail last week, Sanjaya has ironed his hair tonight. It's quite straight and well-conditioned. Bravo and well-coiffed, Sanjaya. If I keep talking about his hair can I just not address the performance? He's now had three straight weeks without showing a second of emotion, without building to a single powerful note and without putting his stamp on a single moment.
Melchior, Balthasar and Simon Say: Randy calls him on his lack of energy and wonders where Sanjaya's spark went. Paula doesn't agree completely, but sure agrees mostly. Simon's good news is that it wasn't as ghastly as last week and suggests that Sanjaya's hair might be keeping him in.

Singer: Sundance Head
Song: "Jeremy"
My Take: Ugh. Is anything more 1993 than an awful Eddie Vedder impression? It's just a shrieky version of what every guy I knew in high school used to think was a flawless Pearl Jam voice. We were wrong. Sundance doesn't get any favors from an arrangement that seems to pick up at an arbitrary point mid-verse and the background chorus of red-shirted "Hoot"-ing African-American women is just hilarious.
Melchior, Balthasar and Simon Say: Randy, though, found it kind of hot and appreciated the try. Paula says he pulled into his Sundance groove mid-way through. Simon thought he lost his charm and became a generic bar singer. Sundance argues that the shouting-over-singing style was true to the original. He's wrong.

Singer: Chris Richardson
Song: "Tonight I Wanna Cry"
My Take: Taking a one-week hiatus from bouncing around like a boy without a boy band was a good choice for Chris. The Keith Urban track isn't forgiving to Chris' early pitchiness and there's a flatness to the entire performance. I'll try to pretend that that was intentional, since he's been so animated in the past. I'm still waiting for Chris' voice to sound as good as it did in the first audition.
Melchior, Balthasar and Simon Say: Randy is loving things about everybody and he throws out the in-it-to-win-it idiocy. Who isn't in it to win it, exactly? And what, pray tell, are those folks in it for? The chance to be used as cheap labor on future Ford commercials? You're getting boring, dawg. Paula thought Chris adapted well. Simon criticizes Chris' voice as timid and nasally, but says he sold it.
Amazingly, things only got worse. Check out the rest of my recap over at Zap2it, particularly if you're curious about how I worked the Kuleshov Effect into my Idol musings.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

MovieWatch: "Zodiac"

Director: David Fincher
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 75
In a Nutshell: This posting is being written as I sit in the San Francisco airport killing time before my already-delayed flight back to Los Angeles after an absolutely wasted weekend at San Francisco's WonderCon (Memo to Event Organizers: If New York ComicCon is gonna crush you again next year, you either want to schedule a new date, or you probably shouldn't count on Zap2it coverage). But the reason why the weekend in the Bay Area wasn't wasted is because there couldn't possibly be a better place to have caught Fincher's new serial killer drama.

The Zodiac Killer was front-page news all weekend in the San Francisco papers and first segment-worthy on the local news. This was just a good way to get perspective on why Fincher felt the story was worthy of being a 160-minute film -- the Zodiac's legacy is still strong in San Francisco. People of a certain age still vividly remember the fear and discomfort and paranoia they felt 35 years ago. That provides the complimentary scope that Fincher's film is somewhat lacking.

"Zodiac" is an absolute triumph of big-screen filmmaking and a triumph of a very specific kind of screenwriting. In many ways, I'd compare James Vanderbilt's script, based on the book by Robert Graysmith, to the job done by William Goldman adapting "All the President's Men." The major difference is that Goldman's script had a built-in satisfying, happy ending. Vanderbilt isn't so lucky. What he's done, though, is written a movie that is remarkably thorough and remarkably dedicated to procedure and process. Many people have correctly called "Zodiac" a movie about obsession, but I'd say that it's actually a movie about the things obsessed people *do*.

I think there's a difference, because while Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. are perfectly serviceable leads and do fine work, the character study of obsessed people doesn't go an iota deeper than "When people get obsessed, their regular lives get torn apart." There just isn't enough time to really get to know any of the three main characters, so their development is only articulated to the degree that the actors are able to suggest it, which they do by amplifying their standard acting tics. That's why Jake becomes more doe-eyed as the years pass, while Ruffalo becomes more mumbly and Downey becomes more twitchy.

The number of recognizable supporting players is distracting, and I guess I liked John Carroll Lynch and Brian Cox best from the character pack. I liked the combination of Ione Skye in a bit part, complimenting Fincher's earlier use of her daddy's fabulous "Hurdy Gurdy Man."

It's only March, but I can't imagine Harris Savides' cinematography -- lovely yellows, greens and oranges and POV work -- not being worthy of an Oscar nomination. Ditto with Angus Wall's editing, which deserves much of the credit for never letting the movie bog down despite the absence of traditional dramatic story momentum.

I still prefer "Seven," though. Does that make me evil?

Grumble. I hoped that by writing long, my plane would magically arrive.