Friday, October 26, 2007

May '30 Rock' Be On TV For 10 Years

Is it a coincidence or just a beautiful instance of serendipity that in the same week Alec Baldwin was on Inside the Actors Studio, he turned in this performance for the ages on last night's 30 Rock?

Oh, and Tracy Morgan's line - "Who's crazier, me or Ann Curry?" - is yet another gem.  The Tracy Jordan Line of the Week could be a blog in itself.

Gawker thinks Baldwin just won himself an Emmy.  Who's to argue?  But here's something to fight over: Was Baldwin better in that or in Glengarry Glen Ross?  ("Coffee is for closers only.")

UPDATE:  Damn, the video was taken down.  Should've figured that would happen.  So I guess we'll have to wait until the rerun to see the magic.  Good job, NBC.  Was this Jack Donaghy's idea?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Today's Reading - 10/25/07

Bruckheimer and 'Pirates' Writers Eye 'The Lone Ranger'

To quote Mars Blackmon, "Please, baby, baby, baby.  Please."  A Lone Ranger movie is so damn overdue.  My friends are tired of hearing me say it (along with saying "I should write a Lone Ranger screenplay").  Westerns are trendy again.  Superheroes are hot.  Bring on the Western superhero, Kemo Sabe!  

(via The Movie Blog)

Indie films could use a little 'Sunshine'

Are independent films suffering because too many of them are being released in theaters?  Even movies with big names like George Clooney (Michael Clayton) and Brad Pitt (The Assassination of Jesse James) are drawing squadoosh (totally an industry term) at the box office.  In Ian's world, no one's going to see independent films because far fewer of them make it out this way these days.  But maybe that's because the market is over-saturated.

Mario Unclogged: How to Sauce Pasta

According to Mario Batali, we put too much sauce on our pasta.  "It should be noodles, with a little stuff."  Guilty as charged.  (That is, if I were eating pasta nowadays, which I'm not.  I am currently hating life.)

Farewell to Arms

This article is more than a week old now, and probably has the faint whiff of "Pervy Old Man" to it, but Stephen Hunter's lament for all the (female) flesh that will now be covered due to the chillier fall weather is a beautifully written ode to... flesh.

Scranton Embraces the ‘Office’ Infamy

Next week is the first annual The Office Convention in Scranton, PA.  And my former podcast partner, Matt Sommer, will be in attendance with press pass in hand (as he should be).  The whole thing seemed to come together pretty late, but sounds like it'll be fun for all involved.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford: A Four-Sentence Movie Review By the Windbag Ian Casselberry

Whenever I hear that a movie is featuring Jesse James, I'm reminded of the dozens of times I watched The Long Riders on whatever movie channel we had once we got cable, how glorious the gunplay and sex (and Caine as a cowboy!) was to my grade-school self, and how that movie (along with the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone flicks) surely must have influenced my current affection for Westerns.  Unfortunately, The Long Riders was a long time ago, and to the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been a portrayal of Jesse James (and that includes the one with Colin Farrell and the chick from Heroes) that's come anywhere near a movie that made me run around our townhouse complex with my friends, shooting die-cast metal six-shooters (cap guns were the shiznit, I reckon), and constantly getting me in trouble with neighbors - and thus the manager of our complex.

Going into this version of the James story, I knew that it was going to be slowly and deliberately paced, with plenty of long, lingering shots of wheat stalks swaying in the wind and clouds moving along the sky, along with the added tedium of characters contemplating... whatever the hell the voiceover narration (blurgh) told us they were contemplating, but was also confident that the presence of Sam Shepard (for any Western to be good, it must have Shepard, Sam Elliott, or Robert Duvall in the cast), as well as the assassination referenced in the title meant that the movie wouldn't be missing too many key ingredients.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like the fable-like tone of the movie - including the camera's loving adoration of Brad Pitt simulating the culture's fascination with the outlaw, and everyone in James' company shivering with fear and suspicion, reminding us that this "hero" was a thief and a killer - is actually perfect, better suited to deal with a legend and whatever tales might come with that, rather than attempt a closely historical account that could demystify any memories - from movies, storybook, or otherwise - that some of us might still enjoy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Shouldn't 'B.Y.O.B' Also Mean 'D.Y.O.B'?

It's been a long time since I've posted something from Gene Weingarten's Tuesday chat ("Chatological Humor") at (mostly because I'd gotten out of the habit of reading it myself), but sometimes, readers bring up a dilemma or observation that seems worth putting to the (decidedly smaller) readership that takes the time to stop by here each day. But here's something from this week's chat that I'd love to see other people weigh in on:

Wuntuma, N.Y.: Etiquette question: A couple (the husband is a co-worker, known for three years) is invited over to watch a football game.  He brings a six-pack of lower-tier canned beer.  Said friend puts his six-pack in the fridge, and then says, "Ooh, you have Guinness, mind if I have one to start?"  His wife then says, "That sounds good, could you grab me one too?"  There are four Guinness in total.  The husband, in response to his wife, says, "Honey, ask (host) if it's alright with him."

Relevant data: 1. Guinness was purchased by host for the host, and was sort of "hidden" in the fridge behind a gallon of milk.  2. The beer that was brought was, in the host's mind, undrinkable.  3. A twelve-pack of decent bottles was purchased by the host and in the fridge as "guest beer."  4. This was maybe the sixth or seventh time convening with these friends outside of work.

What is the acceptable course of action at this point?

Gene Weingarten: It depends.  How much did the Guinness cost, and did you have the receipt?  How much did your guests spend in gas or whatever to arrive at your house, and did they dress up especially for this occasion, incurring dry cleaning costs?

Dude -- get a life.  This was the pettiest question ever received on this chat.

Well, I must also be petty, because that would've ticked me off, too.  And I'm surprised Weingarten - who's usually more than willing to poke fun at any perceived social faux pas - react the way he did.  I mean, yes - you invited people over, they're your guests, help yourselves, etc.  But if you brought over shitty beer, shouldn't you be drinking it?  Does "upgrading" to the better beer in the fridge - especially if the gathering is more of a get-together - strike else anyone as tacky?

Or maybe this is why I live a life of seclusion and grind my teeth.  Is this a "Lighten up, Frances" situation?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tonight's Reading - 10/14/07

How to Calculate Musical Sellouts

This strikes me as an article that's a bit too late.  Really?  You just noticed that a lot of artists are allowing advertisers to use their music?  What's baffling is that the writer completely neglects to mention the role radio has played in giving bands no other option for their music to be heard.  It's not about "selling out."  It's about selling - period.  Let Volkswagen use a song, because it's sure as hell not going to be played on the radio.

Wrong for Each Other, Right for the Show

When I recently told a friend that Jan Levenson had become my favorite character on The Office, she suggested that the character's recent "enhancements" greatly influenced my opinion.  Well, sort of.  It's that she made such an effort to win back a dolt like Michael Scott.  I'd already enjoyed Melora Hardin's portrayal of Jan in past seasons because she reminded me of people I worked with and for.  Yet she's also become believably unhinged and somewhat endearing because of it, and I find myself enjoying The Office a lot more when she's in an episode.

Redemption Hunting

If you've seen ads for Gone Baby Gone, have you noticed that the director of the film isn't mentioned?  Maybe that's often the case, or maybe Miramax doesn't want to risk anyone making a face when "Directed by Ben Affleck" is shown on the screen.  But a film should also be judged on its own merits, not on whether or not a guy was overexposed in tabloid culture.  And if this movie is as good as critics say it is, maybe Affleck will have re-invented himself.

Scientists Explain Chocolate Cravings

So get this: the type of bacteria living in your digestive system might determine whether or not you have cravings for chocolate.  This might hold true for other foods, too.  When those scientists find that pizza-craving bacteria, they will truly have blinded me with science.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pushing Daisies: A Four-Sentence TV Review

Maybe it makes me feel like a smarter pop culture consumer, or maybe I just yearn for something different among much of the like-minded entertainment we're served these days, but I tend to have a soft spot for movies and TV shows (and books, even) that are near-impossible to sum up in one sentence, and Pushing Daisies most certainly fits in that category.

Okay, it's the show about the guy who can bring people back from the dead with one touch and happens to use that talent to solve murders on the side, which helps supplement his pie shop, but that's kind of a run-on sentence, and if you've been reading these Four Sentence Reviews for a while, you know I don't often favor such comma-filled, punctuation-exploiting, word-bloated rambles.

I'm not sure there's ever been a television show so infused with whimsy, romance, and pathos, featuring an utterly charming lead character who's encountered so much tragedy in his life that it compels him to shut himself off from many of the emotional comforts we all crave, and whose supernatural talent pays the bills, but also happens to keep him from experiencing the only true happiness he's ever really wanted.  Not everyone will like Pushing Daisies (I can think of some friends who might not care for it), and its quirky, goofy, sweet, surrealist tone (which is very reminiscent of the movie Amelie, if you saw that) will either be loved or hated by viewers, but if the rest of the series lives up to the pilot episode that premiered last Wednesday, this is a show that deserves to be appreciated for daring to be different and challenging the limits of programming that television can give us.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Today's Reading - 10/04/07

Curbside, We'll Never Have Paris

During the summer, I found myself wondering several times what the big deal was about eating outside, on the sidewalk.  And it drew some crooked looks from friends.  So this article by Frank Bruni seems exceptionally well-timed to me.  I don't get it, man.  We're not in Europe, okay?  I don't get the appeal of eating with cars blowing fumes into your face, with pedestrians leaning over barriers to see what you're eating, with insects landing onto your food, and most of all, while you're sweating your ass off in the humidity of July and August.  Yes, I was indoors all day, but if I want to go outside, I'll take a walk.

On the other hand, all those people eating on the sidewalk does make a city seem more alive during the summer.  I just don't want to join them.

(By the way, this isn't to be confused with drinking outdoors on a summer night.  That's different.  You're not eating; you're people watching.  You're kicking back with a beer or cocktail.  The sun's down.  It's more relaxing than standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowded bar.)

A Cult Classic Restored, Again

Is it hypocritical of me to roll my eyes whenever I hear about George Lucas or Steven Spielberg wanting to tweak or alter one of their old films, yet get kind of excited when Ridley Scott is doing the same thing to Blade Runner?  If there's something that Scott feels he didn't get right before, but can fix now, I guess I'm all for it.  However, there's one story change he apparently feels quite strongly about that I don't agree with.  But if that's something he originally wanted to include, who am I to tell him he's wrong?

'Blade Runner,' Take 3

Here's a different version of the story, from the Los Angeles Times, focusing more on the historical influence of Blade Runner and the process of getting it made, rather than the changes that have been made to the new cut.

Is the ‘Mom Job’ Really Necessary?

I'm not sure this is something I should have an opinion on, given that I'll never experience anything like this.  It seems like kind of a disturbing, superficial trend, though.  But if you're a mother reading this, I'd be very curious to hear what you think about the "Mommy Makeover."

The Night The TVs Go Out

If you still get your TV through an antenna, you might want to consider an upgrade.  You have a year-and-a-half.  After February 2009, you'll be analog in a digital world.