Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

American Idol, ten women

Time for the women to sing. I look forward to the women singing so much more than the men. Inspired by Wilder's post about the men, I'll give letter scores. Please note that I'm a tough grader. Have to allow room for improvement.

Gina Glocksen. "Alone." Carrie Underwood so much better on this song. I'm surprised she chose it considering how incredible Carrie's rendition of it was (I liked, but never loved, Carrie, but I was blown away when she sang "Alone."). I didn't think she sounded that great, and I thought that the back-up singer showed her up and sounded a lot better. I also didn't think that the harmonization worked well. I'm surprised the judges liked it as much as they did. C.

Alaina Alexander. "Not Ready to Make Nice [??]" I thought she was overpowered by the back-up vocals during the chorus (they seemed to tone it down during the second chorus, I wonder if this is why). Which maybe isn't shocking, since she is a back-up singer. C-.

LaKisha Jones. "MIdnight Train to Georgia." This is one of my favorite songs of all-time (so is "Time After TIme," which Brandon slaughtered last night). Luckily, LaKisha doesn't slaughter this at all. And she's a big girl who looks really good in the miniskirt! Not as good as last week, but she still sounded good. Gobo is wondering if she is wearing a wig. B+.

Melinda Doolittle. "My Funny Valentine." I have never liked this song. She sang it really, really well, but it's just such a bad song. A-. Gobo pointed out what a departure it was from Sanjaya's "Steppin' Out with My Baby." Truly night and day, despite the genre being so similar.

Antonella Barba. "Because You Love Me." Terrible. She probably has the worst voice of the women in the competition, so she decides to take on a Celine Dion song? Bad move. She also had a particularly bad draw, going after what will probably be the best performance of the night. D+.

Jordin Sparks. "Reflection." The first few notes didn't sound great, and when she had to go very low, it seemed out of her range, but the high notes sounded really good. And a lot of people have covered this song in the seasons of AI, and I think this was the best rendition. B.

Stephanie Edwards. "Dangerously in Love." What a weird song (I have never heard it before). The cadence is so odd. Stephanie sounds like she has to take sharp breaths between every two notes, probably because of the quick time of the song. I guess she sang it okay, but it's hard to tell. B-.

Leslie Hunt. "A New Dawn, A New Day." She sounded good, but not great. It needed more power. C+.

Haley Scarnato. "Queen of the Night." I had totally forgotten about her until she got on stage. She did a fine job, but the white girls in this competition all seem out of their league. C+.

Sabrina Sloan. "He Fills Me Up." I didn' like her as much as last week. She sounded a little strained and shouty. B-/C+.

This dedication thing is out of control this week. Who dedicates "He Fills Me Up" to her grandmother? Also, Paula has been wittier the past two episodes, and also generally more lucid. Gobo thinks she has maybe stopped drinking.

My votes for elimination this week: Sanjaya, Nick, Antonella and Alaina.

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American Idol - Guys Part Two

Um, well the guys were better this week than last but they certainly weren't as good as you would think based on Randy's, Paula's, and Simon's reactions. The judges were surprisingly excited/optimistic/kind/complimentary (I have a feeling Fox literally forced them to act so excited to make the world think for a second that any of these guys were worth tuning in for each week). There really wasn't one performance that was close to as good as some of the women from last week, but here are my quick reviews:

Bald-headed guy. (forget his name and I'm too lazy to check). Eh, he's alright but doesn't have star quality. B-

Nick Pedro. Voice is alright; he was better than last week, but still. No star quality. B-

A.J. Tabasomethingorother. I actually kind of like him, but he's still not close to amazing. B.

Jared Cotter. Cheese-ball but I have to say he's hot. B-

Brandon Rogers. Lame rendition of "True Colors" but he's also pretty hot. Thought not so hot when getting all defensive about why his rendition was so lame. B-

Blake Lewis. I kind of like his whole shtick. He's obviously really talented, but I'm not totally taken by him. One of my favorites of the night, though, for what that's worth. B+.

Sanjaya. I put that as one of the worst Idol performances I've ever seen. D.

Chris Richardson. I kind of have a major crush on him and I thought his Jason Mraz vibe last night was really good. Randy and Paula were a little too excited about his performance. But still one of my favorites of the night. B+/A-

Sundance Head. This guy is just weird I've decided. I guess he sounded good when signing certain parts but I can't fathom why Randy and Paula were so frakkin' excited about him. B.

Who am I forgetting? (Again, lazy. And running to dinner. And can't stop the momentum of my post or else it could be months until I post again. Bad blogger. Bad.)

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A lesson in counting

Who would have thought that Forbes magazine would need a lesson in counting? Apparently, they do.

They just released their list of the top earners in "Young Hollywood." Tops on the list are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, with combined earnings of $40 million in the past year (so I assume $20 million for each Olson? And where is this money coming from? Not movies, right? Perhaps a little from ad campaigns like the one to the right?). Next on the list is Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, raking in $13 million, and, according to Forbes, "third on the list," is Lindsay Lohan, followed by "No. 4," Dakota Fanning, who pulled in four million.

Okay, Forbes, as much as they may not seem to be it, Mary-Kate and Ashley are actually two different people. So when they tied for first, Daniel Radcliffe became the third biggest earner in "Young Hollywood," Lohan the fourth and Fanning the fifth.

A lot of people have trouble with this exceedingly simple concept, and I don't understand why. But Forbes? A magazine about money, and, therefore numbers? That's pretty pathetic.


Monday, February 26, 2007

A Week in the Warmth

As Red Fraggle pointed out, I was on vacation last week, avoiding some of the very low temperatures of the northeast while in the sun of the Dominican Republic. A few things to point out:

1. I will not burden you with details of my stay at the resort. While I'm sure you want to hear about Isaac, Jr.'s first swimming adventure (he loved it) or my three rounds of golf, I won't burden you with the details. I will point out that Chelsea Clinton and George H.W. Bush were both staying at the resort we were at although, you will be shocked to learn, they were not there together. (Alas, I saw neither although Bush was spotted playing a lot of golf.)

2. Mrs. Barteneder and I decided to spend our final two days on the island in the city of Santo Domingo. While most tourists who come to the D.R. stay at their resort, I am quite glad that we added some culture to our trip. Santo Domingo is the oldest European settled city in the Western Hemisphere which meant that we saw a lot of firsts--the oldest university, the oldest street, the oldest cathedral, etc. Our hotel--a Sofitel--was fantastic. It was in a restored 16th century building but our room was uber-modern and it was extremely reasonably priced. We had a guide show us around the city, and I had arranged for a tour of the Presidential Palace. It is amusing to be in the Cabinet Room with just Mrs. Bartender and a tour guide even if it is the Dominican Cabinet Room. Santo Domingo is not Havana (even though it often plays Havana in the movies including in the greatest film of them all, Godfather II), and two days is enough to see the city (and it could be done in 1 day). We were glad to have done it.

3. Finally, we had access to American television while in the D.R., and all I can say is that the spectacles that are (were) Anna Nicole and Britney are truly pathetic. As for the former, she seems to have gotten her final wish--to truly be the center of a media storm. The "hearing" last week was a farce and made numerous absurd court hearings that I have been involved with look like justice at the highest of levels. And to listen to the bloviators (yes, Nancy Grace, I mean you) opine on this stupidity makes one wish they (either the viewer or the bloviators, you pick) were on meth.

As for Britney, not much can be said other than who ever thought that KFed would appear to the stable one? As Bill Simmons stated, she has entered the Tyson zone, where you could hear anything about her ("Britney was arrested for murder," "Britney had a sex change," "Britney is pregnant with Mike Tyson's or OJ Simpson's baby"), and you would believe it. Sad but predictable.

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Oscar fashions

Okay, here is my eagerly-awaited Oscar fashion post. Lots of photos, but how else are Bailey and Holt going to see what everyone wore while they travel?

My worst:

I think I'll just reiterate what I wrote in my last post. The dress itself makes her look very, very thin (and gives the illusion of breasts that I don't remember). But the bow is really too Charlize Theron from the 2006 Oscars. More disturbingly, why does she continue to use Botox? Her face is frozen and she has become a joke. So why not let up and show some wrinkles?

Yes, she has a very nice body. But so do a lot of actresses. The color is horrid, and what's worse, she matched her lipstick to it. The neckline doesn't do her any favors, either--it makes her look like her chest is three feet long.

This was another poor color choice, and I didn't like the shape of the dress on her. The criss-cross bodice looked like it had too much fabric, and the distinct cut-off at the waist doesn't work. I disliked her hair most, though--it just hung there and she seemed to make a real point of swinging it in front of her shoulder. It looked dumb.

Yet another poor color choice. I find it interesting that both Beyonce and Kate Winslet (below) wore the same color with very different skin tones, but neither could pull it off. The seashell-like diagonal strap was strange, and the high slit looks a little cheap.

Not only does this color totally wash Kate out, but the cut of the dress doesn't work for her either. All of the fabric in the bodice makes her look heavier on top, and the fabric seems to outline every stomach and hip bulge. This was particularly disappointing, because I usually really love the way she dresses.

How many bad color choices could there be in one night? A lot. Yellow is not Naomi Watts' color, and the arm band things are ridiculous. And yes, I know she is pregnant, but that's no excuse. Especially when she still has a flatter belly than 98 percent of the population.

The good, with some reservations:

I know that this is on almost everyone's worst-dressed list, but I really liked it. I didn't like the collar and netted top. I hated them, actually. But if those were gone, this would have been a great dress for Kirsten Dunst. The color looked good on her, it created some curves, and the embellishments were interesting but not tacky. I even liked the feathers!

This photo makes J.Lo. look about 30 pounds heavier, and I didn't think it looked this bad on the telecast. I liked the top of the dress, complete with the built-in jewelry. I didn't like how high the empire waist was on J.Lo.--it made her look a bit pregnant (unless she is, in which case, good dress choice). And I didn't really love her hair either (I'm never a big fan when she does short curls). But her face just looked so pretty and the color worked well with her skin. So she snuck onto my okay list.

She is obviously a very attractive woman, and she dresses really well. I definitely liked this outfit. My only problem was the embroidery on the skirt of the dress. It seemed a bit much. But other than that, she looked great.

Sure, the dress is showing some wrinkling, and I'm never a fan of the asymmetric neckline. But I think this is the most put-together Maggie Gyllenhaal has ever looked, so she makes it on the list.

This was going to go on my best dressed list, but didn't quite make it for two reasons: her hair is a little too severe, and I don't love all of the ruching on the bodice of the dress. Regardless, it is a beautiful piece of clothing, and she looked beautiful in it.

My best dressed:

I thought Rachel Wisz looked absolutely gorgeous. Her hair and makeup were great, and I loved the neckline of this dress.

I love the color of Isla Fisher's dress, and I thought the shape was really nice as well. I don't like that she is wearing what appears to be black nail polish, but other than that, the outfit is great.

I like how simple this was, and how great it looked on Jodie Foster. The color seemed to match her eyes and the cut was so light and flowy.

Reese Witherspoon is probably almost everyone's best dressed of the night, and with good reason. The dress fit her really well, the ombre at the bottom was nice, and she looked beautiful. This has actually been a much more successful awards season, fashion-wise, than last year's, when she was winning everything in sight. Unfortunately, her chin is becoming really prominent, probably because she is losing too much weight. Hopefully she'll allowe herself to put on a few pounds.

I know I am in the minority here, but I really liked Cameron Diaz's dress. Would normal people wear it? No. But normal people aren't former models and don't go to the Oscars. It was different and I thought it totally worked on her. I also love that she has not gone back to blonde--the darker hair is so much more flattering. Two things to note: She should try not to stand pigeon-toed on the red carpet. Also, as much as I think white looks great on her with her new hair color, she also wore white at the Golden Globes. It almost seems a little wedding dress, so soon after the breakup with Justin, which is a little creepy, but other than that, I loved it.

Unfortunately, I can't find a photo of the woman I thought was the absolute best dressed of the night: Diane Keaton. Really unfortunate that there is nothing out there showing how amazing she looked. And how tiny her waist was. Oh well, just trust me.

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More Oscar Thoughts

Yes, Red Fraggle already provided much more detail than I ever could, but I had to add my two cents:

1. How could no one make the Jack Nicholson/Britney Spears joke? It wrote itself, and yet no one made it. And no Anna Nicole jokes . . . come on! (At least put her in the dead montage--she was in Naked Gun 33 1/3.)

2. Red Fraggle already mentioned how the Spielberg/Coppola/Lucas triumvirate were intentionally selected to honor Scorsese. I agree, but does Lucas really belong with the other three (including Scorsese). Don't get me wrong, Star Wars is a great movie, but he is not in the same league as the other three. Heck, Marty is almost certainly the best of the lot (although no two films will surpass the first two Godfathers in my book).

3. I've said it before and I heard it again this morning, but releasing Norbit before the Oscars may have cost Eddie Murphy an Oscar. No tears are shed, but if this loss convinces him to take more good rules (and less fat suits), then there is justice in this world.

4. As several I watched with commented, Jerry Seinfeld clearly is lining up to host next year's Oscars. Ellen was fine, but she really left no impression. (I'm definitely in the Billy Crystal camp as the best Oscar host.)

5. Can ABC please get rid of, at a minimum, that first 30 minutes of fluff. If you want the red carpet, watch E! or the plastic surgery that claims to be Joan and Melissa Rivers, but please end this show before midnight on the East Coast. This should not be so difficult.

All in all, a fairly boring telecast, and yet I watch and will continue to do so. The big winners: The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, and Al Gore. Not a great night for Babel (which I still haven't seen) or Dreamgirls (with Jennifer Hudson's expected win and one other minor award).


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar ramblings

I'll just include some general thoughts on the Oscars. My hope is to include a fashion post at some point today, although with Blogger rarely letting me post photos anymore, who knows.

My top two moments of the night:

1.) The Scorsesce win. Of course. I thought this was a generally kind of boring Oscars, but that was a great moment. Although, it really seemed that the Speilberg/Lucas/Coppolla trifecta was presenting specifically so they could give the award to Marty. But what if he hadn't won?

2.) After Melissa Ethridge sang, the camera panned to Queen Latifa, then Jessica Beil, then Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, all of whom have been rumored to be gay. Coincidence?

My other thoughts, in chronological order.

Penelope Cruz often complains when people say she is from Mexico rather than Spain, and Ellen did it. When the camera panned to her, she really didn't look too happy. Of course, Ellen did correct herself later in the broadcast, but I thought the whole thing was funny.

The color mint doesn't work on very many people at all. Kate Winslet looked washed out, and Beyonce, who obviously has much darker skin, couldn't pull it off either (the dresses were also similar in style, with the one shouldered thing going on). I thought Beyonce looked a lot better in the maroon dress she wore for her Dreamgirls performance.

Speaking of clothing, Nicole Kidman looks incredibly tall and thin in her dress, but the shoulder flower is so Charlize Theron 2006 and she really needs to stop with the Botox. So much has been written about this, and yet she continues to do it. Why?

When the interpretive dancers became the Oscar someone's knee was sticking out, leaving a spot of light to filter through (someone to the left) which really kind of ruined the effect.

The Ferrell, Black and Rielly song ("Helen Mirren will be Coming Home with Me") was legitimately funny, and probably one of my favorite moments of the night. And they are right, Helen Mirren really is hot. It's amazing.

Don't they have everyone practice their presenting lines? Poor little Jaden Pinkett Smith messed up more than once. Obviously, he's also a little kid. Abigan Breslin helped out nicely, though. And I thought it was funny when Jaden walked out on stage, way ahead of Abigail, and it looked like Will Smith yelling at him to slow down.

The guy who won the short award for "West Bank Story" is really good looking.

The Sound effects choir was really cool.

Did my TV go out when Kinnear was talking or did he get bleeped by the ten second delay?

Is it me, or is Jessica Beil being shoved down our throats lately? I haven't seen The Illusionist, but isn't it the only legitimate film she has eer been in? Other than that she has what, that movie with Freddie Prinze, Jr.? I don't get it.

Rachel Weisz (presenting Best Supporting Actor to Alan Arkin) is really beautiful. Sometimes you don't notice it, but other times it's right in your face.

Cameron Diaz looks really good. The dark hair really works with her. She also doesn't seem as wasted as she usually does at awards shows.

Why is Tom Hanks still sporting the Da Vinci Code hair?

I didn't think the Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt bit was funny, but for Streep.

Gwenyth Paltrow's dress is ugly and her hair, slung over one shoulder, is a bit ridiculous. Did she and Kidman go to the same stylist?

Naomi Watts doesn't look all that good in yellow.

A montage of foreign film award winners makes me realize I have not seen many foreign films.

Jennifer Hudson wins for Best Supporting Actress (despite the fact that her role was obviously a lead--it surprises me I haven't seen more complaints about this), gets up and hugs Beyonece. Interestingly, I didn't see Eddie Murphy, who had been sitting in one of the seats between the two. Did he leave after he lost? Unfortunately, Jennifer had to invoke God. Yes, because God hates Abigail Breslin, Rinko Kukuchi and Adrianna Barrasso. He might not hate Cate Blanchett, since she already has an Oscar. It is nice to see someone so very excited, though. (Although I don't think she will have acting success long-term--I think this was a role that fit her well, and I don't expect we'll see much more of her in film.) She was so excited that when Clooney gave her the envelope, she didn't even seem impressed that it was Clooney.

Gael Garcia Bernal's "long or short, it's what you do with it that counts" joke went over like a lead balloon. He's cuter without glasses.

The Botox in Jerry Seinfeld's forehead is just creepy. It's strange when part of a comedian's face doesn' move that much. At least his forehead moved minutely, which is better than last time I saw him on "Oprah."

Al Gore wins an Oscar. It never ceases to amaze me how pudgy he has become. I guess if the election had been stolen from me I would have gorged on food as well.

Celine Dion! Let's hope for some cheese. Unfortunately...none. Boo.

The guy sitting behind Nicholson does not think Ellen is funny. He keeps rolling his eyes at her jokes, which we see often since there is apparently some sort of rule that the camera must pan to Jack every five minutes.

I like the way they presented the nominees for the screenplay awards, with the direction read by the presenters.

The women from Dreamgirls are performing. Jennifer Hudson looks really good in that red dress. Although I think I caught a glimpse of her bra. Actually, more than a glimpse. It's now part of the outfit. Couldn't someone have aped her in? The third song they sing, "Patience," is really pretty bad. I can't imagine it will win.

Per usual, Queen Latifah looks great. Whoever does her clothes (I know Bradley Bayou did a slate blue-grey dress she wore a few years ago) does a great job. I'm sure much credit should go to her stylist as well.

Oh my god--Jodie Foster at the Oscars. I feel like I haven't seen her in forever. She is really pretty, and her dress is beautiful. Jodie is still the wearer of my favorite Oscar dress, a long-sleeved, hand-beaded, form fitting Armani from 10-15 years ago.

Jodie is presenting the list of the dead. James Dohan, Peter Boyle were in a dead heat for loudest applause, until Robert Altman's photo came up. He beat them in a landslide. Be adequite.

Philip Seymour Hoffman presenting Best Actress--I guess he took a page from the Peter Jackson style book and decided not to brush his hair for the Oscars. I'm a little baffled by Helen Mirren's "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the queen!" at the end of her speech. Huh?

Reese Witherspoon, presenting Best Actor, looks cute, although her chin is even more prominent than usual. Peter O'Toole looked a little disappointed that he didn't win. Whittaker really seems overwhelmed, and his wife looks so emotional for him. It's sweet.

Nicholson and Diane Keaton presenting Best Picture. This might be the best Keaton has looked since The Godfather. The dress is amazing on her, and it's nice tht she's not wearing any gloves.

And Best Picture goes to The Departed. Which I really need to watch.

That's it. Fashion post (hopefully) to follow.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Don't forget! The event of the year!

That's right, the Oscars are this Sunday. As always, I'm super-excited, and I have high hopes for Ellen Degeneres as the host. So set your DVRs!

I may as well stay home from work on Monday. We all know I'm going to end up spending hours on an Oscar fashions post. Fun!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

American Idol, 12 women and results show

Stephanie Edwards. "?" The women were already better than the men two lines into her song. She sounded better than any guy who sang last night. Gobo said that he didn't think she was that great and it was a little boring, but it's still an entirely different show from when the men sang. Which is great. She also looked good on the stage. One gripe about Idol is that very few of the performers look comfortable in front of an audience.

Amy Krebs. "You Don't." Gobo pointed out "she has the mini Cooper haircut." By that he means Kaitlyn Cooper on the now-departed O.C. She was okay. She sounded nice. She was more charismatic than the guys, but that really isn't hard. I thought it sounded clear and she hit all of her notes, so that was fine. Simon said she isn't memorable, and he's right.

Leslie Hunt. "Natural Woman." I have been thinking that this girl seems really weird in the Hollywood round episodes. She just doesn't have the vocal range for a song like this. She didn't fail to hit her notes or anything, it's just more that this song needs a lot of power to really be a great performance, and she just didn't have it. Gobo thinks that she will be a much better country singer. Her father looked like he was going to get up and murder Simon after he critiqued her.

Sabrina Sloan. "The Way That I Love You." She did a really great job. She was charismatic on the stage and she really sang well. I liked her a lot.

Antonella Barba. "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing." This is going to be terrible. And it is. She definitely didn't deserve the last female spot. That other girl who didn't make it must be so angry. And this is a horrendous arrangement. It's actually almost tough to tell whether she was awful or whether the arrangement was just that terrible. Oh, and she got the Paula "you're an amazingly beautiful girl." I think that would make me cry right there. That's the ultimate kiss of death.

Jordin Sparks. Gobo thinks her outfit is a good one for a larger girl. I didn't like her as much as Sabrina or Stephanie, but I still liked her. Another good stage performer. Some parts of the song felt like they could be sung a little bigger, and some a little smaller, but I thought that all around it was enjoyable. Randy told her to pick bigger songs, which is probably good advice, although part of me worries she could become either one-note or a screamer. But I hope not--she definitely has potential.

Nicole Tranquillo. "Some Erykah Badu song." She reminds me of Melissa McGhee or whatever her name was from last year. They look alike. I don't like the tone of her voice at all. And she's super nasal. She's too screamy and she seems to be trying too hard. Paula really disagreed with Randy, which is almost unheard of at this point, so I guess she must have really liked her.

Haley Scarnato. "All Coming Back To Me." As soon as Gobo heard the first note he went "ugh." Which, yeah, I agree. This song blows. Except the video is absolutely phenomenal. She should totally act out the video. I bet Chris Sligh would be totally up for pretending to ride off on a motorcycle while Haley wears a flowy white dressing gown and wishes he weren't dead.

Melinda Doolittle. "Since You Been Gone." [Not the Kelly Clarkson song.] I don't have big hopes for her. She looks like she's 43. She sounds a little flat throughout the song. She doesn't deserve to go home tonight, but I didn't like this. I guess I'll give her another chance next week. I honestly think that the reason she's a background singer is that she is weird-looking.

Alaina Alexander. "Brass In Pocket." I fast-forwarded past her performance. While rewinding, I told Gobo I had a feeling we were going to feel like we wouldn't have missed anything had I not rewound. I think "Brass in Pocket" is a really tough song to pull off in a competition like this. Chrissy Hynde's voice is just so memorable, and Alaina isn't all that memorable, so she can't compare or make it her own. I bet Simon is going to tell her that it was ironic she was singing "I'm special." Gobo: "Bad song, bad dancing. Really bad dancing."
Okay, so Simon basically said what I thought, including the "I'm special" line.

Gina Glockson. "All By Myself." Interesting choice. LaToya hit this one out of the park when she sang it in her first top-24 round. I still remember it--she wore a white pantsuit. I actually think she has the potential to be an interesting singer, but I didn't think she did a great job with this song. She was a little sharp on the higher notes. And she was no LaToya London, although she is a very different singer.

LaKisha Jones. "And I Am Telling You." Again. Interesting choice, since there would have been Jennifer Hudson comparisons regardless. But she is doing really well. She sang it a lot better tonight than she did in her audition. She was really, really good.

I think this season is going to be a lot like season three, where there were three clear top singers (Latoya, Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson) and everyone else was an also-ran. And like that year, they are all black women. This year there may be four--LaKisha, Stephanie, Sabrina, and maybe Jordin. And maybe five if I can start liking Melinda as much as the judges did. I would send Antonella and Leslie home.

And now for the results (spoilers!):

Fantasia is singing! I really liked her (although I preferred LaToya that season because she had such great vocal range, I think Fantasia had a lot of talent and a truly unique voice), so I'll stop fast forwarding and listen to her sing. God, she won the competition, couldn't they put her in a dress that fits? She's singing something from "The Color Purple," in which she will be starring in April. The song was super boring to be begin, but at least it picked up near the end. But is that the best song she sings in the musical? Because if so, it doesn't make me want to get tickets on my next trip to New York.

Eliminations: First off, it's unfortunate that we just can't eliminate all guys. Or, really, all guys and Antonella. Because I would rather see each of the other women again than at least eight of those guys.

Paul Kim is gone. This is what he deserves for doing his best to slaughter "Careless Whisper." Luckily, "Careless Whisper" is indestructable. No big loss--he was one of the worst two of a bunch of not-very-good guys.

Amy Krebs is gone. No huge loss, although Antonella was really the worst. It's too bad that they wouldn't do a different song for her.

Nicole Tranquillo is gone for the girls. I can't even really remember her. I guess that is why she won't be sticking around. She was actually a lot better at the song than she was the night before. It's really a shame because she was a LOT better. It's really unfortunate that Antonella sticks around for another week (but not surprising, considering the extensive coverage she got in the first rounds--more than anyone else in the top 24, except maybe Sanjaya).

It looks like Sanjaya was also the beneficiary of the excessive camera time, because he's sticking around too. Not only that, but he was in the top four boys. Which is just...insane. Rudy Cardenas is going home, and again, no big loss. But it should have been Sanjaya.

Not looking forward to watching Sanjaya or Antonella next week. Or most of the guys for that matter. Oh well!

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Breaking news: Anna Nicole's body

The judge has just said that he wants Anna Nicole Smith be buried with her son Daniel in the Bahamas. Officially, the guardian of Dannilynn (an attorney) will have custody of her body. It was a strange ruling. The ruling didn't say that she must be buried in the Bahamas, it seemed that the judge was just expressing his preference. The judge also got choked up on the stand, as both Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole's mother broke down crying.

Thanks to streaming TV at work, I have managed to post this before People, Us Weekly, CNN.com and every other print source I have checked.

Poor Anna Nicole. When she will actually be buried is still anyone's guess.

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Britney Shears: a comprehensive rundown for those without internet access this week

This is a quick reference guide to Britney Spears' last week, for Holt and Bailey, who are in Asia without any access to Us Weekly.

Britney checked into rehab last Thursday, but checked out less than 24 hours later. There have been reports that this was done following an intervention by her mom and other loved ones. Source and source.

On Saturday Britney went to a hair salon and asked to have her hair shaved off. The salon owner refused to do it, so Britney took the clippers and did it herself. Perez Hilton has reported that K-Fed threatened to have Britney's hair tested for drugs, which precipitated the hair shaving, although I haven't seen anything to support that. Source, source, source and source.

The National Inquirer reported that she also attempted, or threatened to attempt, suicide twice on Saturday. Haven't seen anything to corroborate that either. Source and speculation.

That weekend, she was also seen partying, wearing a really bad blonde wig. Like something you would get in a Halloween shop if you were going to play Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors. And she was generally acting more than a little crazy. Source , source and source.

On Tuesday, she checked into rehab again. On Wednesday, less than 24 hours later, she checked out. She was seen visiting a criminal lawyer after she checked out of rehab. Source and source.

Apparently her family had her credit cards frozen, although I don't understand how a 25 year old woman who has earned her own money doesn't have control over that money. Source.

Last night, Britney apparently went to see K-Fed, who had moved for an emergency custody hearing, which was supposed to happen today. Apparently he agreed to postpone the hearing if Britney would check into rehab, again, so she did. Perez Hilton says that the deal is she must complete rehab or else he will again move for full custody of the kids. Apparently K-Fed has been taking care of the kids for the past week, perhaps with the help of Lynn Spears. Source, source, and source.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oh Britney.

What better way to re-enter the blogging world (anyone miss me? I didn't think so) than to lament the loss of Britney. I know we lost her long ago, but the last few days have been particularly sad. It has been ridiculously depressing watching her shave her head (the internet is amazing, I can't believe how quickly the live shots surfaced) and go in and out of rehab (yes, she reportedly checked out of rehab AGAIN this morning). I really, truly hope she gets help, in particular for the sake of those two adorable boys. I fear something tragic will happen if she doesn't get help soon. It's amazing how pop culture fodder turns to a sad reality so quickly. Sigh.

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Dancing with the Stars 4: Best cast ever!

A friend just sent me this article revealing the cast members of the next installment of Dancing with the Stars, and I am elated. Who will be on?

Heather Mills. First of all, the entire world hates her because of her nasty divorce with Paul McCartney. As if that wasn't enough working against her, she only has one leg. I realize that she is quite mobile with that leg (although her divorce petition would lead one to believe otherwise), but how will this translate into dancing on live television?

Ian Ziering. Steve Sanders! Dancing! Will he wear a Keg House tee-shirt?

Apolo Anton Ohno. I don't really get this one. He's an athlete at top form. He's not washed up. What is he doing on this show? Then again, I don't think there is all that much money in speed skating, and America does kind of forget about him three out of four years.

Paulina Porizkova. The most disturbing thing about her write-up on D-listed is that they fail to mention her true claim to fame: that she is married to Rik Ocasek. Sure, she was a very pretty model. But what made people remember her was that she was a very pretty model married to a very ugly man.

Vincent Pastore. I can't imagine Big Pussy is going to be very light on his feet.

Joey Fatone. Then again, I can't imagine Fat one will be either.

Billy Ray Cyrus. At least he won't be singing.

Clyde Drexler. Obviously trying to step into the shoes of Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice. I actually find it fascinating when former athletes who were legitimately great players decide to be on a show like this. Why do they do it? They excelled at their sport, and now they are putting themselves on national television, possibly embarassing themselves. Surely they don't need the money. Do they enjoy the challenge? Need the attention?

Leeza Gibbons. Not much to say here. I can't imagine she'll stick around long unless she's a very good dancer.

Laila Ali. Mohammed's daughter and a former boxer, I imagine she'll have the same staying power problems as Leeza.

Shandi Finnessey. When I initially read this list I thought that Finnessey was the only "celebrity" with whom I wasn't familiar. Then I realized that I have actually watched her as the host of the Game Show Network's Lingo, along with Chuck Woolery. Yes, I have watched Lingo more than once.


Another realistic television portrayal of lawyering

Are my endless rants about Studio 60 getting increasingly boring? My guess is yes. But the show annoys me so much, I must press on. (Why I continue to watch is a question I haven't been able to answer. I think because it is already programmed into my DVR and by the middle of the week there is nothing else left that Gobo will watch with me.)

I have been complaining since the first episode that the show's portrayal of professionals is horribly unrealistic. The idea that someone as young as Jordan McDeere could make it to the top of the network heap while having zero respect for her colleagues or superiors was, to me, highly unlikely. But then again, I don't work for a television network, so what do I know?

I do, however, work for a law firm. As a lawyer (when I'm not hanging out in Fraggle Rock, eating Doozer buildings, of course). And this week, Matt and his writing team is interviewed by a young female lawyer in connection with a sexual harassment claim filed against the network, the show, and some of its writers (FYI, the lawyer is played by Kari Matchett, who looked really familiar to me, but after reviewing her IMDB page, I haven't seen her in anything, and it appears her most significant role was in Invasion, a show I never watched). So the network and the show are this attorney's clients. A quick rundown on her treatment of Studio 60's head writer (I'll limit it to the most egregious examples).

Upon meeting him, she immediately questions Matt about how the show's ratings have slipped precipitously over the past four weeks, and questions his decision to have only four writers on his staff. When Matt pushes back, asking her if she would like to run the show, she claims that she is doing this to see what type of witness he will be. Interesting. Perhaps I should put this to use in my work environment. Typically, when we prepare witnesses for depositions, we sit them in a room and discuss the issues of the case with them, and then perhaps we will pretend to be opposing counsel in the case and ask them questions. We don't insult their business decisions in a casual atmosphere, as soon as we have been introduced.

Later, she gives Matt a copy of the plaintiff's complaint to read. However, instead of letting Matt read it, she continually interjects with sarcastic comments about the show--comments that have little, if any, relevance to the subject of her legal defense. Matt shushes her three or four times, but she continues on, undaunted. So I guess the second lesson I learned is to give my client important legal documents to review, but then to ignore his pleas for silence as he peruses them, while I instead continue to sarcastically insult his work.

At the end of the episode, she gives Matt her business card. Which is what any attorney would do after a deposition preparation. After all, she is the attorney who will eventually defend Matt's deposition, and he may have questions. Except when she gives him the card she suggestively tells him to give her a call for "anything." Matt asks her whether she is asking him out, and she says that she was trying to get him to ask her out. So I guess lesson three is that after I have insulted the client and ignored his request to stay quiet so he can concentrate on the legal matter at hand, I should seductively hand him my card and admit I want to date him.

For those of you who have never stepped foot in a law firm, suffered through a deposition or read a complaint, let me be the first to tell you: that's not the way it works. Oh, and as for the rest of the episode, it wasn't all that exciting either. I am looking forward to the cancellation of this show, because then I won't have to make an affirmative decision to drop it from my viewing schedule.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

American Idol, 12 men

I'll real-time my thoughts on tonight's episode as I watch. I started watching tonight at 9:13 (DVRed the show, of course). How long will a two-hour episode take when cutting out the human interest and Ryan?

Rudy Cardenas: "Free Ride." I didn't understand one word, other than free ride. His tone wasn't bad, but he wasn't exciting. He was singing a "fun" song, but it was still boring. And his voice sounded a little sharp.

Brandon Rogers: "Rock With You." Boring. Like Cardenas, his voice was fine, but nothing exciting.

Sundance Head: "Knights in White Satin." Is it an amazing feat of singing that he can sing the loud part of "'cause I love you?" The audience thinks so. But boring, again. Interestingly, I thought he sounded better than the other two, although the judges hated it.

Paul Kim. "Careless Whisper." I already hate this guy because he insists on going on stage barefoot at all times. Gross. But, I LOVE CARELESS WHISPER. Did he choose it because it has the word "feet" featured prominently? What happened to the high part???!!! Gobo and I started cracking up in unison. He sounded absolutely awful when he tried to do a falsetto. Although Randy disliked it, he thinks Paul has one of the best male voices in the competition. Which doesn't make me all that excited about the rest of this season.

Chris Richardson. "I Don't Wanna Be." Bo was sooooo much better at this. There is just no comparison. There just isn't anything else to say, other than to suggest Chris drop the Justin Timberlake look if he makes it to next week, because that isn't working either.

Nick Pedro. "Now and Forever." He has horrible posture and he can't hit any of his notes. His voice is too breathy. Perhaps the worst thus far. Gobo: "These people need to pursue the strategy of singing a good song sung by a bad singer." Gobo is right! I am always shocked that Idol contestants don't pick up on this strategy. People want to vote for songs that they love.

Blake Lewis. "?" The beatboxer! I don't know the name of his song, which brings me back to my comment above, under Nick Pedro. Although the song kind of sounds like it might be popular now, and I'm just out-of-touch. He didn't sound amazing, but he sounded better than anyone else thus far. I agree with Simon that he was right not to beatbox. And he probably shouldn't for the next few weeks.

Sanjaya Malakar. "Knocks Me Off My Feet." Wow. A Stevie Wonder song. What a shock. Why do the men insist on doing this? None of them ever come close to Stevie, so they should just cease covering his song. It's ironic that the words in this song say "I don't want to bore you with this." Nice try. Oh yes! Simon just made the same crack I did about "I don't want to bore you with this." I should write for Simon! Oh, and Sanjaya is definitely the worst of the night. And I'm writing that knowing there are still four more singers to come.

Chris Sligh. "Typical." (I suspect that is what this song is called; I have never heard it before.) This is the guy who wants to make Hasselhoff cry. Therefore, I love him. You never really see wit on this show. Chris certainly isn't the best singer in the competition, but at least he isn't boring. I would rather have him stick around that Sanjaya and Nick.

Jared Cotter. "Back at One." He has really long fingers, which he likes pointing at the audience. Again, not exciting, but I really liked his voice and I thought he sang well. He's one I would be interested in seeing more of, to see if he can do something interesting.

A.J. Tabaldo. "All My Love." The fact that a guy who was rejected four times made it this time tells me the competition isn't as good this year. The fact that he might have been the best performance of the night (even though I'm still bored) bodes even worse for this season. He reminds Gobo a little of George Huff with the squat-hopping around.

Phil Stacey. "These Are the Moments." The guy who missed the birth of his baby. Somehow we are supposed to find this endearing and be impressed? Sorry, no. His bald head, big eyes and ears sticking out looks very alien-like. There have already been too many cut-shots to the wife and we're only halfway through the song. I think he oversang a stupid song, but at least he tried to be a little exciting. But honestly--way too much of the wife. Way too much.

I don't think we have ever had a more boring night of Idol, ever. I would say I hope the women would be better tomorrow night, but could they be any worse? As for who I would send home, I could see most of them go and not be sad. I would like to see Blake and Jared again, and Chris because he's funny. Throw in A.J. and Phil because they sang decently. The rest could go home. I would probably get rid of Sanjaya and Nick first, though.

Ended at 10:05, meaning the entire episode took me 52 minutes to get through a two-hour episode. I actually thought it would be less, so go American Idol producers!

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The lone junkette

I fear this will be a sad week in the blogosphere for Pop Culture Junkette. Bailey and Holt are on a very extended vacation, although they have been making a valiant effort to post from time-to-time. Wilder hasn't posted in over a month. And Isaac is on vacation this week as well. Which means you all are stuck with a whole lot of Red Fraggle.

And any reader of this blog had to expect Red Fraggle's first post of this week would be about The Amazing Race All Stars, right? Here goes (spoilers ahead).

Going into this Race, I knew I would be cheering for Rob and Amber and the Beauty Queens. I love that both teams were strong racers and that they actually respect each other as teammates. I would love to see Rob and Amber win, since I still think they were totally robbed in season seven (and were so dominant that season), but I would love to see the Beauty Queens win it all as the first female team. Although I thought one of the racers (I can't remember who) had a great point when they said they expected the season ten teams would get worn down more quickly, since they basically went from one race directly into another.

Of course, on the other side of that coin are Kevin and Drew. Sure, it's been about five years since they last raced. And they weren't all that physically fit back in 2001. But didn't they at least try to get in shape a little bit before this race? It doesn't seem so. The fact that one of them (Drew, I think; I always have trouble telling them apart) was outrun by a midget is quite a testament to his physical preparation for the Race.

There were some interesting changes in some of the teams. Rob telling the shuttle bus driver to stop for Team Cha Cha Cha at the airport? Unheard of (particularly when all of the other teams were telling their drivers to keep going)! David and Mary doing respectably? Shocking!

It was also nice to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Uchenna and Joyce? Confused and lost! Mirna? Face full of make-up and hair falling in tumbling waves. Ian? Stupid hat and obnoxious attitude. Rob and Amber? First place throughout almost the entire leg (and wearing red again).

I was sad that we didn't see more of the Guidos, and I thought that Eric and Dani did really well, ending up on the last bus (four teams left on a 7 a.m. bus, four on a 7:15 and three on a 7:30) but still coming into the pit stop in fourth place. It must be strange for Eric, who was almost never out of the top two spots throughout season nine, to find himself so far behind so quickly. But they had a nice recovery. Of course, I was saddest to see Jon-Vito and Jill go. I was so shocked when I learned they weren't still together, and I was hoping we would get to see them grow close through the Race. But it does sound as if they both think they might want to get back together. They are so nice, one can't help but root for them.

In all, it was an okay episode, but I was expecting more excitement to start. I do still have high hopes for the season as a whole. And remember--be sure to set your DVR to end the recording an hour after the scheduled time because the Race was again pushed off by a sporting event running too long earlier in the night.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Pale Face

One strange thing about being in Asia is the prevalance skin lightening products. In India, I saw a ton of ads for them and it just seemed odd to see someone explicitly equating light skin with attractiveness.

And today, I was browsing the duty free section of the Bangkok airport and saw that Clinique has a line of skin whitening, er "brightening," products too. I've never seen those at Sephora.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wednesday Night Lights

By now, everyone reading this blog should know how much I love Friday Night Lights. So there's no reason to write yet another post about how great this show is. Instead, just a few questions that popped into my head while watching the show last night:

* How has Jason Street gotten so great at quad rugby so quickly? I get that he is a natural athlete, but it does seem a little strange that he was already given one of the two dozen invites to auditions, after becoming paralyzed only a few months before. Maybe the applicant pool just isn't that large?

* Why didn't Coach Taylor have Mac talk to the players on the team after his racist remarks? The tension was obviously growing, and even if the Coach believes that Mac isn't a racist, the players certainly deserved a personal explanation and apology, didn't they?

* Isn't it a little out-of-character that Smash, a player who was terrified his college career was over before it started, would suddenly decide to lead a walkout right before the playoffs, jeopardizing his chances of having scouts watch him play and potentially gaining the label of a troublemaker (making him less attractive to colleges)?

* Mac told Coach Taylor that he was still getting used to the idea that a man a decade younger than him was holding the head coach job he always thought he would have. Is there only a ten year age difference between the two? Because if so, that's a really rough ten years.

* I love the whole Julie's rebellion story. It's great and it really makes you wonder what a parent can really do in this situation. If you have a good kid who starts to go bad, where is your power? Grounding only works when they listen to you. Do you think that the Taylors are wondering why they were so worked up about Julie liking good-guy Matt? Bad-girl Tyra is definitely a far bigger threat.

* I love Smash's mother. I love that they haven't made her into a stereotype, pushing her son's athletics at all costs. Rather, she is a woman worried about her son as a person first, and is willing to sacrifice his football career if it comes in the way of his health or ultimate happiness. And would you ever say no to that woman?

* Can Tim Riggins get any hotter?

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


So in perhaps the second most exciting "sporting" event of February (after pitchers and catchers reporting because I don't really believe that the Super Bowl actually takes place in February), the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has hit the newsstand. And what model graces this years' cover? None other than, would you believe, Beyonce. It is really sad that SI now needs someone famous for something other than looking really good in a swimsuit to sell this issue. I hate to talk about integrity when it comes to the swimsuit issue, but this is just wrong. I could live with having celebrities in the issue, but there was something sacred about this cover. Alas, no more. (I have previously bemoaned SI's use of multiple covers to cater to the different markets. Just another sign of the end of the world as we knew it.)

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A Very Special Day

Guess what today is?  The first birthday of this here blog. Yay!  Happy blogiversary!

Holt and I are in Thailand. There is not much to report on the pop culture front. In Phuket, we were able to catch a couple of old episodes of The Amazing Race. It was the season with Rob and Amber, and I rekindled my love for the brothers Brian and Greg, just in time to see them eliminated. We also learned that apparently Asia got to see the episodes of "Kidnapped" that were never shown in America, which doesn't seem fair.

Manchester United is mysteriously popular here. They announced while we were boarding our flight from Phuket to Bangkok today that Thai Air Asia is the official airline of Man U. And Holt saw a door for sale with the Man U logo carved in it.  What's up with that Thailand?

I'm now in my extremely awesome hotel room in Bangkok (it has a hammock and sand), watching a bizarre looking sport called Kabaddi, which looks sort of like Red Rover.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Don't Take A Good Look At My Face

I watched the Grammys on and off on Sunday night. A few thoughts"

1. I thought the Police were okay; nothing spectacular. However, I do hope to see them this summer. Mrs. Bartender will slaughter me if I don't get tickets.

2. The biggest problem with the Grammys is that the same people keep winning. Yes, some years the same movie wins again and again at the Oscars, but at least different people are receiving the statue. Here, the same 3 groups/individuals win what appears to be the majority of the awards. Or at least the awards they decide to present during the broadcast.

3. Is Stevie Wonder now as fat as Aretha Franklin? Just asking.

4. What is the difference between record of the year and album of the year and does it matter because the Dixie Chicks won both? Oh year, they also won the song of the year.

5. And the most frightening moment . . . seeing Smokey Robinson. Man, I would love to be his plastic surgeon.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

The worst mother on television

The Real Housewives of Orange County showcases some horrendous parenting. There's Tammy, whose daughter had breast implants at the age of 18; Vicki, who completely suffocates her children; and Jeana, who buys her children everything they want. But no one comes close to Lauri.

Lauri is a single mother of three children, including troubled Josh, who is 17. Last season Josh had a number of emotional problems, and ended up in juvenile hall. This year, he is on probation and going to school in a state-run boarding facility. While on a 24 hour break from the school, Josh apologized for his actions in the past and said he felt that his mother had pulled away from him, to which she responded that she had because she just "couldn't deal," likening Josh to a sinking ship, saying that she felt it was better to cut him off than see their family drown. Never once did Lauri take any responsibility for Josh's problems, despite the fact that the lack of security she provided for him clearly played a role in his issues.

But earning Lauri her spot in the Dina Lohan Horrible Mother Hall of Fame was her response when Josh asked her when she was getting married (somehow the divorced Lauri managed to find another sugar daddy to support her after failing miserably working for Vicki's insurance agency). After telling him she didn't know, Lauri told Josh she would be getting married later that month, and that she and her fiance would be taking their families to Hawaii. Of course, because Josh is stuck in the facility, he couldn't join. Disingenuously, Lauri told Josh that she really wanted him to be there, and wished he would be able to make it, blaming him for his inability to do so.

Um...if she wishes that so much, why not wait four months to get married until after Josh's probation is complete? Wouldn't that be what a parent who was concerned about the well-being of her obviously vulnerable child (who just confided that he felt he was being replaced by his mother's "new" family) do? Is four months that important to her?

I rarely give up on television shows, and The Real Housewives is an easy, mindless show to watch. But after watching the most recent episode, I actually felt nauseated. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up.


JT and Special Guest at MSG

First, I note that I hate calling Justin Timberlake "JT," but it does work well in blog post titles. (I guess I could go with JTim.) Second and more importantly, last night at Madison Square Garden, Andy Samberg joined Timberlake on stage to perform their "hit" from SNL in December. You can watch it here but be warned that the quality of the recording is what it is.

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Goodbye, Vicky Lynn

Anna Nicole Smith is dead. Apparently she was found unconscious in her hotel room, was given CPR and taken to the hospital, but has been declared dead.

Anna Nicole (born Vicky Lynn Hogan) has been an interesting pop culture story for over a decade. She followed up being named Playmate of the Year by marrying a billionaire oil tycoon who was about to croak and has been fighting for his fortune ever since; she ballooned in size and starred in her own reality television show, in which she was barely ever coherent, always appeared strung out on drugs, and her teenaged son appeared to be the most stable person in her life; she lost a ton of weight through TrimSpa (although she and the company were sued this week for false advertising); and her son ODed days after her new daughter was born, with the birth resulting in a paternity battle between her former lover and her attorney.

It all seems so very sad.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Much ado has been made of Snickers' Superbowl ad, in which two men inadvertently kiss because they are both trying to get a bite of a Snickers bar, only to be appalled by the liplock. To "remedy" the situation they quickly decide to do something "manly," so they both rip off a patch of chest hair.

Now certain groups, including GLAAD, are calling the ad homophobic. Which, yeah, I get. In response to this critique, Snickers has pulled the ad.

And it's probably a really good move that they did. Because what I found most disturbing was that the ad was so incredibly unfunny. I would have rated it the least funny of all the Superbowl ads on Sunday--when it aired, Gobo and I just looked at each other and said in unison "Dumb." And boring. And yet I haven't seen any commentator mention that this ad is just plain stupid (independent of any homophobia).

And for a real headscratcher: USA Today rated the ad within its top ten ads of the night!


Where have all the singers gone?

Am I the only person who has been really disappointed with this season's American Idol auditions? I haven't seen any one singer who has truly impressed me yet (I still have the San Antonia auditions from last night to watch, but I don't have high hopes). In seasons past, there have been some audition standouts--Kelly from season one, Frenchie from season two and Paris from last year come to mind--but I have not been excited to hear even one person they have shown sing again.

And in looking at the episode summaries over the next few weeks, it looks like there will only be on day of Hollywood Week shown, with the episode following that narrowing the pool to the group of 24. In the past, there has usually been two days of Hollywood Week, which I really enjoy. You get to see the singers do a lot of different songs, and some favorites begin to emerge.

At this point, I'm not all that optimistic about what the final 12 are going to sound like. Of course, I'll keep watching to see if I'm wrong.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spoilers spoil everything

I guess that's why they are called spoilers. I think spoilers are understandable when I'm reading an article on a television show the day after it airs (and I haven't watched it yet), and the writer mentions something that happened in the show. If I didn't want to know what happened in that episode, I should have stayed away. However, I think it's quite another when a network, in its promos for an upcoming episode, ruins what is supposed to be a surprise.

Case in point: the last two episodes of Heroes. (This is the point you should stop reading if you haven't watched the episodes.)

In promos over the past week, we have been told that we would find out who Claire's father was in last night's episode. However, a discerning viewer could strongly suspect it was Nathan Petrelli based on the promos showing the arm of Claire's father as he picked up the phone. The shot showed his forearm, clad in a pink button-down shirt rolled up casually, exposing dark hair on the arm. Who dresses this way in the show? Nathan and...well, that's about it. What's so disappointing about this is that the reveal, without that clip, would have been a good one. It wouldn't have made me gasp, but I certainly would have been a lot more surprised than I was.

Two weeks ago, there was a lot of internet chatter that George Takai would be joining the show. I don't have a problem with the show letting that information get out--I'm sure they thought bringing on Mr. Sulu could help with ratings. However, the informational blurb the network ran along with the episode said that Hiro's father would be appearing. Since Hiro is Japanese, most viewers probably immediately figured out that Takei would be playing his father. So when Hiro and Ando were "kidnapped" near the end of that episode, it wasn't shocking when his captor was revealed to be his father, played by George Takai.

I'm sure that the creators of Heroes can't be happy about this. So why is NBC ruining all of the suspense for the viewers? Are they sloppy? Stupid? Or do they think spoiling the surprise helps their ratings in some way? I remember a few years ago, the creators of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful wouldn't share "coming attractions" for the next week's episodes with soap opera magazines, arguing that it ruined their ability to tell the story. They eventually relented, but have kept those spoilers cryptic. I'm beginning to think they had the right idea to begin with. Sure, I love watching "scenes from the next episode," but not when it makes actually watching the next episode redundant.

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Not Such Dreamy Girls

Last Friday, Mrs. Bartender and I went to see Dreamgirls. While entertaining at times, it is just not a great movie and certainly not close to as goo as the 4 Best Picture nominees we have seen. (If you haven't been keeping score, we have yet to see Babel.) To start with, Jennifer Hudson has been rightly praised for her outstanding performance as Effie. She is the star of the movie, and by far, the most interesting character. The irony, of course, is that just as she is shoved aside for the more beautiful but less talented Deena (Beyonce), her performance is only nominated for Best Supporting Actress and not Best Actress in a Leading Role, which she most certainly is playing. Of course, if she had received the latter nomination, she would not be taking home Oscar, which is what she is going to get to do.

On a side note, is it me or do we now get every year numerous articles complaining about how repetitive acceptance speeches are at the awards shows as the same actors win Gold Globes, SAG Awards, the Cinema Society of Toledo's Golden Calf, etc. before making the same speech Oscar night. I think that just as the actors give the same speech at ceremony after ceremony, the writers just keep re-running these articles year after year. Thus, I expect to hear Jennifer Hudson once again thank American Idol and pay homage to Florence Ballard (the Supreme that Effie is based upon) in Hollywood on February 25.

Eddie Murphy is also quite good and his role truly is supporting. It is a role that I am certainly not surprised Eddie can play, and I wish he would continue to try to expand his range. Does he really need to do Beverly Hills Cop 4? Norbit? I guess he needs to eat.

As for Beyonce, her character is virtually a cipher, used by Berry . . . I mean Curtis Taylor to make the group stars and then for him to get whatever he wants. She is fine in the role, but she lacks the magnetism of Effie. Perhaps that is part of the point (and yes she looks a lot like Diana Ross at times), but she is just not that interesting, nor is the third original dream, Lorrell. There is just not enough time to develop most of the characters in the movie (with the exception of Effie and to a lesser extent Curtis).

Most problematically, the music just isn't great. With a couple of exceptions (Effie's big number--And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going--and perhaps One Night Only), the songs are just not memorable and to the extent they seek to advance the plot, they do so quite weakly. For a musical, this is a fatal flaw.

Finally, one quibble: During one of the numerous montages, it appears that the Dreams are on the Great Wall of China in the mid-1960s. Assuming I am correct, I have news for the makers of this film--no Americans were in China during this period. None. Nada. I don't ask for much, but a little historical accuracy would be nice.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Dull

So, as I predicted in this space on Friday, the Colts defeated the Bears last evening in Super Bowl XLI. For a relatively close game, it was an extremely boring affair as the Colts were far and away the superior team or, perhaps more aptly, the Bears were far and away the worse team. Into the fourth quarter the most amazing thing was that the Bears were still within a single score of the Colts even though they had been thoroughly dominated. Rex Grossman could not have been much worse--two fumbles and two pathetic interceptions--and the Bears defense was completely unable to pressure Manning. As for Peyton, he had a good but not a spectacular game. I guess he deserved the MVP simply because there was no star for the Colts (other than Grossman) although an argument could be made for Addai. Manning did what he needed to, and his legacy is now secure among the elite quarterbacks as he now has his ring.

As for the commercials, with one exception they ranged from average to poor. The highlight: the clip of Letterman sitting on a couch with an unseen woman discussing how even though he's a Colts fan the important thing is that they are in love. The camera then pans back to see Dave on the couch with Oprah in a Bears jersey telling Dave not to talk with his mouth full. Very well done and very funny particularly in light of the often turbulent history between these two. That this ad was the evening's highlight says a lot. (Update: You can watch the ad here.)

Pitchers and catchers report in 2 weeks!


From the Stupid to the Ridiculous

By now, I'm sure you've all heard about how two hippies shut down Boston last week by putting up the above "Lite Brite" around the city as a promotion for a show on the Cartoon Network. Yes, the same device was also posted in other cities without incident, and Turner Broadcasting System, Cartoon Network's parent company, and a contractor have now agreed to pay Boston $2 million to reimburse the city. And yes, criminal charges have been filed against the two gentlemen who put up the devices (although these appear inane as the individuals clearly lacked the requisite intent and, for the most part, stupidity is not a crime).

But just when the story could get no more idiotic, or so I thought, I had MSNBC on this weekend and during a story on this incident, they showed the device pictured above but blurred out its left hand because the character is, it appears, attempting to make an obscene gesture. That a network feels the need to do this is simply risible, and if the FCC received any complaints about people who saw the unedited Lite Brite, these people need some serious help. Just too ridiculous.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Musings

1. We are two days from Super Bowl XLI, and I have to say that I am strangely unexcited about the game. First, I am just not optimistic that we will have a compelling football game (something quite common in this ultimate game although less so in recent years). Having watched the two two teams play over the past several weeks, I just can't see the Bears winning. Part of me says a good defense always wins (see Tampa in 2002), but I am just so unimpressed with the Bears. Even though they crushed the Saints in the Championship game, I just thought that for a team with such a big lead, they did not look very good. The Saints played an awful, sloppy game, but I saw nothing so impressive about the Bears. And, Rex Grossman is the obvious x factor. Sure Manning could choke, the Colts defense could be exploited, or Devon Hester could run wild, but I don't see it happening.

2. If, however, I am wrong (shock of shocks), the monkey remains firmly on Peyton Manning's back. Sure, he played a great game against his old nemesis, the Pats, but the stigma is for not winning the Super Bowl, not in not making it. Heck, Dan Marino is now often seen as slightly surpassed by Elway because Marino never won one (after losing in his second season) while Elway final did, winning the last two years of his storied career. Manning will always remain in Brady's shadow (and the other all time greats') unless he can win at least one.

3. Just to get you excited for upcoming movie reviews, Mrs. Bartender and I are going to see Dreamgirls tonight and, babysitter permitting, Babel tomorrow.

4. Just to beat on a familiar drum, The Office continues to amuse me to no end. Last night's episode, which involved Jim, in lieu of hiring a male stripper for a bachelorette party hiring a Benjamin Franklin historical reenactor, had several laugh out loud moments. The supporting cast--Kevin, Angela, Phyllis, and Stanley are always great (where was Oscar?). And Meredith had a line last night that had Mrs. Bartender falling out of her seat.

5. I've also been watching Rome and Extras on HBO. The former is a typical excellent HBO drama (although there is not a ton of suspense regarding who will die and which side will prevail). Exceedingly well acted and very entertaining. Sorry to see it go after this season, but I can see why it is so pricey. (I don't know what I'm going to do with The Sopranos, Rome, and Deadwood all finished by this summer.)

Extras is even funnier than last season, but there are some (many) cringe worth moments. I guess the biggest criticism of Ricky Gervais is that his characters lack a certain realism, e.g., David Brent could never have lasted as an office manager for as long as he did and why does Andy keep his awful agent around (as well as Maggie who causes nothing but problems). One of the things I love about the American Office (here I go again) is that Michael Scott is (at times) competent and a very good salesman (as is Dwight), but Gervais' characters lack that reality. Nonetheless, I laugh.

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Fast talkers

Lately I have been annoyed by fast talkers on television shows I watch. What is up with this phenomenon? Why do actors and writers think this is a good idea? Do people sound like this in real life? I don't think so.

The biggest offender is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I actually don't know why I continue to watch this show. I put it on grudgingly, and feel like I am punishing myself the entire time I watch. I just don't find anything enjoyable about this show. But one of the least-enjoyable aspects is the fast talking. I know that this is a Sorkin trademark, and I thought it worked well on The West Wing. But I don't think it does on Studio 60. It just makes everything seem horribly unrealistic. People just don't talk like that in real life. Whenever the characters start getting into fast-talking mode, all I can think is "oh, they are fast-talking again." It makes the acting seem so obvious, which is probably not what they are going for, right?

The offender of late is a favorite, Veronica Mars. This season has been a lot weaker than the first two (Percy, do you still go to Hearst?), and Veronica is becoming more of a caricature with every episode. When she was in high school, with her best friend murdered, her boyfriend dumping her without explanation, her mother abandoning her, her father losing his job and her friends ignoring her, her sarcasm made good sense. It was a facade she put on to protect herself. Plus, she was just a little snarkier than the average person, which was fine--she was making fun of everyone around her. But although her life has improved markedly since season one, she has only become snarkier and more sarcastic. It seems that she should be dropping the defense mechanism just a little at this point. More jarring is her banter with Keith, which has jumped from "cute and charming" to "unrealistic and weird." Veronica advising Keith to thrust toward the bachelorette, complete with a demonstration, was a little odd for a father-daughter. And her whole "tough guy accent" when Keith walks in, keeping it up even when he is clearly down, just seems too put-on.

Interestingly, The Gilmore Girls has been doing the fast talking thing for years, and it never really bothers me. I think it's because the only fast talkers are Rory and Lorelai, and I just write it off as a familial trait that they share. It does strike me sometimes, but it never really bothers me. As a disclaimer, I have never been a regular watcher of the show--I just watch it if it is on when I am flipping the channels--so maybe if I watched more often it would bother me just as much.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Can we stop talking about Harry on the horse now?

As most of you have no doubt already read, J.K. Rowling has announced that the final installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be released on July 21.

I am a big Potter fan, so I'm excited, although I question how Rowling is going to resolve everything in one book. We still need to learn more about Lily and James--I would like to know, among other things, what their professions were, why they had so much money and why Dumbledore had James' invisibility cloak (Rowling has promised that we will learn more about them, particularly about Lily, and she has also said we'll learn more about Petunia Dursley), we need to know why Dumbledore had a "look of triumph" on his face when he found out that Voldemort used Harry's blood to be reborn at the end of The Goblet of Fire, Harry needs to find the remaining Horcruxes, he needs to figure out who RAB is (most people think it is Regalus Black, and Rowling has said this is a good guess), and the question of Severus Snape: Good or Evil?, finally needs to be answered.

Hm...in looking at this list, it doesn't seem like there is that much to resolve. But I remember at the end of Book 6 being overwhelmed by how much there was left to learn. So I'm probably forgetting a lot of stuff. Luckily, I have more than enough time to go back and read all of the books again before book seven is released.

And I'm really hoping that Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny make it through book seven alive. I really do want a happy ending.