Monday, January 28, 2008

Class act ...

If you want to know something about Daniel Day-Lewis, watch this clip of his acceptance of the Best Male Actor Award at last night's Screen Actors Guild Awards. The last thing on his mind was the award, There Will Be Blood or much of anything else save one thing - or, more to the point, one man:

And that, John Gibson, is how you honor someone's memory.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Uh-oh ...

Just read online that the president of the Mormon Church and the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church both died today - or, in the latter's case, tomorrow, since it's already Monday in Athens. If the Pope, Billy Graham, a major Muslim cleric, George Lucas or Hugh Hefner pass on in the next 48 hours, I'm outta here, 'cause something will then definitely be up.

P.S. Of course, I'll then also put money on the Cubs to win the World Series. 'Cause naturally they'll go all the way right before the Earth goes poof.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger: 1979-2008

As if the entertainment community wasn't already in a dark mood thanks to the writers' strike and the threat of the Oscars being disrupted, a true tragedy overshadowed all of that ... well, all of that nonsense by comparison. The death of Heath Ledger at the young age of 28 just puts everything into perspective. Much has already been said of his passing, and much more will be said - good, bad and ridiculous - about what may have happened before and up to this afternoon in that Manhattan apartment, and about what could have been in the years to come. All I will say is this - and forgive me if it sounds cliché: I'll never listen to that sad, slow theme from Brokeback Mountain the same way again. That movie broke this heterosexual man's heart. And now it has again in a much deeper way. G'day, mate.

I don't know about you, but I'm sleepy ...

Well, that was fun, wasn't it?

Well, it was fun for me, even if I had to get up at 5 a.m to watch the Academy Award nominations live, even my Oscar predictions weren't exactly on point. Still, I challenge anyone who had both Viggo Mortensen and Laura Linney scoring nominations to please step forward to take your rightfully earned laurels? No? Nobody? That's what I thought.

Seriously, this Academy Awards nomination business is wicked complicated. If you think the Electoral College or how they figure out which presidential candidates get how many delegates per primary is out there, you haven't read the rules that go behind awarding Oscar nods to the lucky few. I would post them here, but then I'd have to kill you to put you out of your misery and then kill myself out of guilt, and my behind costs too much for me to kill myself, so there you go. The old saying goes that you should never see laws or sausages being made; you could throw the Oscar nomination process in to that axiom for good measure. All of which is to say, picking these things down the line 100 percent is very, very hard to do. No matter how much you try to cover your ass every which way but Sunday.

Having said that, here's how I did. You can play along by going to my picks and the actual nominations.

Best Picture - four out of five: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood and Juno were locks because of the collective hype and acclaim these very different films have accumulated over the past several weeks. I also got Atonement right despite the mixed reaction it has engendered, mainly because this big, glossy romantic British epic is the kind of stuff Oscar voters scoop up faster than Amy Winehouse can gobble her daily pharmaceutical intake. I had Sweeney Todd for the final spot, though that pick probably was folly to begin with - most experts had George Clooney's legal drama Michael Clayton in that position, and sure enough, they were right. In fact, Clayton earned seven nominations, quite a haul for a law-based, old-school thriller that didn't exactly take in a lot of box-office cheddar. But the power of the Clooney can't be denied, it seems.

Best Actor - three out of five: Wow, did I get this one wrong. Sure, three of my choices got in, including Johnny Depp, who wasn't exactly a overwhelming pick despite his crackling good performance in Sweeney Todd. And Viggo Mortensen had a decent amount of Oscar buzz for his skills at Russian and swordfighting (you figure it out) in Eastern Promises. But Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah? Most everyone thought that if he did make it into the Academy mix, it would be for his supporting work in No Country, not for his lead work in Elah, a well-received but commercially unsuccessful Iraq War docudrama. Still, the voters have spoken and have voted Emile Hirsch and Denzel Washington off of the Oscar island. That's OK, though - Washington already has two, and Hirsch, well, he's be back in the Oscar hunt next year for Speed Racer! (not)

Best Actress - three out of five: Weird, this category is, I say in my best Yoda. Two of the nominees, Julie Christie and Marion Cotillard, star in movies that were released back in the spring (April and June, respectively) which would seem to defy the logic that the earlier movies are released, the lower their chances of being recognized (read: remembered) by the Academy voters, even in this age of DVD. Yet Angelina Jolie, who got nearly as much acclaim as Christie and Cotillard for her role as Daniel Pearl's widow in A Mighty Heart, is bumped from the proceedings. Heart also came out in June, so maybe her film was forgotten by the Academy - or maybe they just didn't like her performance as much as Cate Blanchett's reprise of the Virgin Queen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And I owe a big time apology to one of my current celebrity crushes, Laura Linney, for giving her virtually no chance of making the final cut for The Savages; this probably hurts my chances at landing a date with her.

Well, that, and the fact that she's engaged.

Best Supporting Actor - five out of five: Let the record show that I nailed this category. About time I nailed something. Hello! I'm here all week - try the veal!

Best Supporting Actress - four out of five: I took a chance on Saoirse Ronan for Atonement and was rewarded for my hunch. I also took a chance on Catherine Keener in Into the Wild and was bitch-slapped, though Tilda Swinton's performance in Michael Clayton was considered something of a sure thing by a lot of people. I'm very happy about Ruby Dee receiving her first nomination at age 83. (Ronan also got her first nod - at age 13. Someone sit both ladies at the same table at the Oscar luncheon.)

Best Director - three out of five: Of the major categories, here was my biggest surprise - Jason Reitman for Juno getting the nod over Sean Penn (Into the Wild) and Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd). For me, this is clear evidence that the Oscar voters, for better or worse, have drank heartedly from the Juno Kool-Aid bowl and love what they taste. It won't be enough for Reitman to beat the Coen brothers, or probably for Page to best the Julie Christie juggernaut. (I'm betting that I'm the first writer in recorded history to use the terms "Julie Christie" and juggernaut" in the same sentence.) But Reitman's presence in this category elevates Juno's chances, however minutely, for Best Picture. That is, until the inevitable backlash that hits these tiny films almost all the time.

I may post later about some of the more perplexing snubs that have me scratching my head, along with some tasty Oscar trivia that you can use at your favorite cocktail parties. So stay alert for that. I know I will.

The actual nominees for the 80th Annual Academy Awards ...

Best Picture
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Foreign-Language Film
Beaufort, Israel
The Counterfeiters, Austria
Katyn, Poland
Mongol, Kazakhstan
12, Russia

Adapted Screenplay
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Sarah Polley, Away From Her
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Original Screenplay
Diablo Cody, Juno
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, Ratatouille
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages.

Animated Feature Film
Surf's Up

Art Direction
American Gangster, Arthur Max (Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino)
Atonement, Sarah Greenwood (Set Decoration: Katie Spencer)
The Golden Compass, Dennis Gassner (Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dante Ferretti (Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo)
There Will Be Blood, Jack Fisk (Set Decoration: Jim Erickson)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Roger Deakins
Atonement, Seamus McGarvey
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Janusz Kaminski
No Country for Old Men, Roger Deakins
There Will Be Blood, Robert Elswit

Sound Mixing
The Bourne Ultimatum, Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
No Country for Old Men, Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
Ratatouille , Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
3:10 to Yuma, Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
Transformers, Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

Sound Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum, Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
No Country for Old Men, Skip Lievsay
Ratatouille , Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
There Will Be Blood, Matthew Wood
Transformers, Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Original Score
Atonement, Dario Marianelli
The Kite Runner, Alberto Iglesias
Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard
Ratatouille , Michael Giacchino
3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami

Original Song
"Falling Slowly" from Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from August Rush, Nominees to be determined
"So Close" from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz

Costume Design
Across the Universe, Albert Wolsky
Atonement, Jacqueline Durran
Elizabeth: The Golden Age , Alexandra Byrne
La Vie en Rose, Marit Allen
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Colleen Atwood

Documentary Feature
No End in Sight
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Taxi to the Dark Side

Documentary Short Subject
La Corona (The Crown)
Salim Baba
Sari's Mother

Film Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum, Christopher Rouse
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Juliette Welfling
Into the Wild, Jay Cassidy
No Country for Old Men, Roderick Jaynes
There Will Be Blood, Dylan Tichenor

La Vie en Rose, Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
Norbit, Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Animated Short Film
I Met the Walrus
Madame Tutli-Putli
Meme Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)
My Love (Moya Lyubov)
Peter & the Wolf

Live Action Short Film
At Night
Il Supplente (The Substitute)
Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)
Tanghi Argentini
The Tonto Woman

Visual Effects
The Golden Compass, Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
Transformers, Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Monday, January 21, 2008

When it rains ... it really rains! (or, Sometimes good news does come in threes ...)

In the course of the past 72 hours, I have been informed that two of my dear friends from college are pregnant with child, and that a third is newly engaged and will be married before the year is out. So what does that make me?

Why, clean and articulate, that's what!

Remember ...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Addendum ...

Three more names to consider as possibilities, however remote, for Oscar nominations:

* Nikki Blonsky as Best Actress for Hairspray: The film itself was a light confection of music and song, but the contribution of newcomer Blonsky as the spunky heroine Tracy Turnblad can't be denied. Plus, considering how she reacted when she won at the Critics Choice Awards, it would be cool just to see how Blonsky would deal with getting an Academy Award nod.

* Helena Bonham Carter as Best Supporting Actress for Sweeney Todd: Johnny Depp dominated the proceedings in Tim Burton's macabre masterpiece, but Bonham Carter brought her own delights to the role of Todd's culinary inclined sidekick-in-crime, meat pie matron Mrs. Lovett - and I don't just mean her pregnancy-enhanced cleavage.

* Russell Crowe as Best Actor for 3:10 to Yuma: This is mostly for my good friend Lisa, who said she'd always question my film acumen if I didn't consider Crowe's contribution to the acclaimed Western - which I admit I haven't seen due to my moratorium on remakes. But since everyone I know who's seen it just can't stop talking about how great Yuma is, I think I'll have to make an exception to my rule.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

There Will Be Oscars ...

Well, that was fast!

Like that creepy polar bear that stalks you without end for months before finally creeping up besides you and pretending to offer you an icy cold Coca-Cola before ripping out your throat and then pointing and laughing while sipping what was supposed to be your Coke, the Oscar nominations have snuck up on me. I think the combination of the gloom of the writers strike, a couple of imposing deadlines and the anticipation of the long-awaited World Championship Season™ of the Chicago Cubs clouded my mind to the upcoming 80th dispersal of the Academy Awards, but I'm wide awake now and ready to unleash my choice of who will be awakened at ungodly early hours in the morn with the good news that they get to hire stylists for the Big Day.

If the Big Day actually happens, that is. But let's not worry about what form the Oscar ceremony will take this year. Let's worry about who is going to get nominated. And that is a lot of worry, as this is again shaping up into one of those weird years where the winners are pretty much set in stone; it's who they will beat that is up in the air. It's also a year in which one of the major precursors, the Golden Globes, have been seriously diluted in terms of the powers of prognostication - not only because the WGA strike reduced the ceremony to a mere blip on the Billy Bush clip real, but also because the Oscar ballots were due the day before the Globes were announced. ("Take that, Hollywood Foreign Press Dudes!" says the arrogant Academy with a harumph and a swash of its molten golden paw.) So not much help there. It's also a year in which perennial favorites such as Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts pulled off good work and yet may still end up on the outside looking in. And, as stated before, it's a year where Daniel Day-Lewis, Julie Christie, Javier Bardem and Amy Ryan might as well start writing their acceptance speeches - if there are speeches, that is. (Seventy-six days and counting, kids ...)

So here we go. I would like to remind you that while I am a professional entertainment journalist, I also often have no idea what the f*** I'm talking about, and that it's a lot easier to pick the winners than it is the nominations. What I select below is done mostly on instinct and sheer dumb luck. Just like life.

OK, here we go. Locks are in bold, and I reserve the right to put down darkhorses as well, the better to cover my ass. And remember, this is just for fun, so please ... no wagering.

Best Picture
No Country for Old Men
Sweeney Todd
There Will Be Blood

Darkhorses: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Michael Clayton

As you can see, there are only stone-cold locks among my picks: the grim thriller No Country for Old Men, the best movie the Coen Brothers have ever done (and that's saying a lot); and the even grimmer oil-drenched drama There Will Be Blood. Chances are the ultimate winner will come from those two, though don't rule out the whip-smart teen-pregnancy comedy Juno, which is about as close to a lock as you can come without actually being one. Still, its Best Picture nod is all but assured and it likely will score multiple nominations (see below) unless it has gotten so much hype, it's now cool to hate it. The other two slots are big-time toss-ups. I put Atonement in the mix because it's the type of lush, large romantic epic Academy voters eat up, but it's one of those movies you either love or hate. And Sweeney Todd is one of my favorite movies of the year, plus Tim Burton is majorly due for some Oscar dap, but was it of enough voters, er, taste? Don't be surprised if either the critical favorite Diving Bell or the Clooney-fied legal drama Michael Clayton sneak into the mix.

Best Actor
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild
Denzel Washington, American Gangster

Darkhorses: Mathieu Amalric, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl; Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson's War; James McAvoy, Atonement, Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

Let's get one thing out the way here: Everyone mentioned in the category save one will be keeping his ass in his seat at the Kodak Theater (or wherever) on Feb. 24 (or whenever). This is Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar, as he again has proven with his awesome performance as a malevolent, win-at-all-costs oil man in Bloodthat he is, pound for pound, the best working actor in the universe. (Though it would be nice to see how he would do in a comedy.) DDL's only guaranteed sacrificial lamb is Clooney, who once and for all proves that he is just more than a pretty face as the title role in Clayton - and that he can look pretty while giving a great film performance. As for the others, Depp just knocks Sondheim's score out of the park in Todd, Hirsch does great De Niro duty (losing 40 pounds) in playing the doomed drifter in Wild, and Washington was outstanding in two very different movies while directing one of them, which would make his Gangster nod one of those omnibus honors. But any or all of those three could be knocked off by any or some of the darkhorse candidates, particular Gosling, who made what could have been a joke of a movie into a touching treat (not in that way) or Hanks, who was effortless as an amoral Congressman with a singular policy goal in the satiric Charlie Wilson's War. And it would be most cool if Amalric is nominated for a role that had him literally frozen most of the time.

Best Actress
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley, Atonement
Ellen Page, Juno

Darkhorses: Amy Adams, Enchanted; Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Remember what I said about Daniel Day-Lewis above? Well, double that for Julie Christie, who if my math is right will make Oscar history for the longest gap between acting awards in history. Forty-two years after she won Best Actress for Darling, Christie will take home Oscar No. Two for her performance as an Alzheimer's patient in Away From Her. (The current record holder? Helen Hayes, 39 years.) The closest thing to competition Christie has comes in the form of 20-year-old Canadian newcomer Ellen Page, who is the cynical, wise-assed heart of Juno. Cotillard is a lock for her performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie, as is Knightley, who will rise above the wishy-washy attitudes toward Atonement. That leaves one toss-up. Will people remember Jolie's heartfelt portrayal of Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart or go for something more current? Blanchett did rule the day in the otherwise disappointing sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And I put Amy Adams's name in the possibilities pile mostly because Roger Ebert did in his prediction article, but who says fluff has no place at the Oscars?

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Darkhorses: Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood; Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma; Andy Griffith, Waitress; Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men; J.K. Simmons, Juno

Again, another category that's done before it even started. Bardem will win the Oscar for his chilling, guttural performance as the oh-so-determined hitman in No Country. But whom will he blow away? Affleck is probably in if only because he gave two great acting jobs, in Jesse James and in big brother Ben's directing debut Gone Baby Gone. And I'll make Hoffman a lock mainly because he was great in three movies this year (Charlie Wilson's War, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead and The Savages) and was really great in the former. Wilkinson is good in everything he does, including Clayton, and Holbrook will get this season's Old Coot Who's Never Been Nominated prize - if it doesn't go to Andy Griffith, who was just sensation in Adrienne Shelly's dramedy Waitress, but who sadly is a longshot at a nomination. Of the other honorables, Jones was stoic and sad in No Country, and the great character actor J.K. Simmons could ride the wave if Juno scores big time in the nomination pool.

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not Here
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Catherine Keener, Into the Wild
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone

Darkhorses: Jennifer Garner, Juno; Allison Janney, Juno; Vanessa Redgrave, Atonement; Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson's War; Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

The Supporting Actress category is usually the most volatile of the acting contests, and this year is no exception; even the likely winner, Amy Ryan, is the least sturdy of the four eventual winners, even if her probability is only 85 to 90 percent as opposed to the 95-plus percent chances of Day-Lewis, Christie and Bardem. Remember, this is the category of Marisa Tomei, Anna Paquin and Juliette Binoche, so nothing is certain here. And that goes for the other nominees. Blanchett could become the second woman to win an Oscar for playing a man thanks to her interpretation of Bob Dylan (or at least a facet of Dylan's personality) in the unusual I'm Not Here. The 13-year-old Ronan, whose first name I still can't pronounce, is the catalyst for the tragedy in Atonement. Keener shows her acting chops yet again in Wild, though her Oscar time may come next year if the buzz about An American Crime is on the money. And then there Ruby Dee, who shakes Denzel Washington to the core in Gangster - and, like Holbrook and Griffith, has never been nominated for an Academy Award. No time like the present, right? Still, this could also be a chance to honor the women of Juno with nominations for Garner and/or Janney. Swinton has collected rave reviews for Clayton. And never rule out a virtual cameo like the one that Redgrave puts in in Atonement - remember Judi Dench and Beatrice Straight.

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Darkhorses: Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Jason Reitman, Juno; Joe Wright, Atonement

In many ways, this is the easiest category to figure out - just go by the likely Best Picture nominees and the DGA Award nominees, and there you are. This time around, I think four of the DGA nominees will match up with the Oscar finalist. You can definitely count on the Coen brothers, Anderson and Schnaebel to be among the five (or six, in this case) men standing. Sean Penn proved that his already interesting directing career will be impressive as well thanks to Wild. And while many Oscar pundits have the fifth slot going to Gilroy or Wright, I think this is the year that Tim Burton will finally get his Academy due thanks to his brilliant melding of murder and music in Todd.

Other things to watch out for in the nominations:

* Diablo Cody (Juno) and the Coens (No Country) will win the original and adapted screenplay Oscars respectively; again, it's only a matter of who they will vanquish.

* Eddie Vedder (Into the Wild) and Clint Eastwood (Grace Is Gone) should have something in common by mid-morning - they both should have nabbed their first-ever nominations for Best Original Song. In both cases, it's about time. And it would be sooooo cool if the title track from Walk Hard sneaks into that category as well.

* Michael Moore should get another opportunity to embarrass himself for our souls, as Sicko is a strong contender for Best Documentary Feature.

* And if the nominations announcement goes on without someone making a joke about the strike, I owe you all a dollar.

Sit back, enjoy the ride and be prepared to tell me so when my predictions implode.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

The mayor has no clothes! (Or, paging Hugh Hefner!)

This morning I came across the story of Carmen Kontur-Gronquist and the efforts to oust her from her job as the mayor of Arlington, a town of 524 that sits on the south side of the Washington-Oregon border. Until now Arlington's biggest claim to fame has been as the birthplace of former Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen, but Doc has nothing on the story that has thrust Mayor Kontur-Gronquist from her position. Seems that there are those in the town who object to the content of her MySpace page - namely, the presence of sexy photos of the good mayor showing off her impressive physique in her bra and panties. The complainers think Kontur-Gronquist has brought shame to their community by having the pictures (which were posted before she assumed the office) there for all of the Internets to see, and they want her to resign - or to be recalled if she declines to go, which she has so far done on the grounds that she has done nothing wrong. Which she hasn't, especially compared to some of the yahoos who pass as politicians these days.

But if Kontur-Gronquist is ousted as mayor, I guarantee you that it won't take long for Hugh Hefner to shoot her an e-mail containing an offer to pose for Playboy, either the magazine or the Web site, in her underwear or far less. She's right up their alley, and not just because of her buffed-out body (I would guess she has taken part in fitness competitions in the past). A mayor targeted for actions that have less to do with her official duties than her private life? Heck, this wouldn't even be the first fired mayor Playboy has done a pictorial on!

Here are two of the photos in question. (Kontur-Gronquist's MySpace page is still up but is currently restricted to friends only, and I don't think she'll be adding new friends any time soon.) They're PG-13, but they may be NSFW depending on where you're employed, so enter at your own risk.

You'll notice, by the way, that both photos were taken on a fire truck; the mayor's day job is as the executive secretary of the Arlington Fire Department, and I'm sure those guys don't mind about the pics!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ask and you will receive!

Beth, in a comment to the post directly below this one, really wanted to a commercial involving bunnies in a pillow fight, not one or the other. Well, this isn't a commercial, but it does involve bunnies taking part in a pillow fight. Ah, YouTube is amazing, isn't it?

What, no? Not exactly the same thing? Hmm ... I see your point. OK, what about this?

Or this?

Bunnies! Bunnies for everyone!

This commercial should win a freakin' award ...

And I don't even like vodka. Wait, let me rephrase - I've never had vodka, so I don't know if I would like it or not. Because hey - alcohol drink made from potatoes? Eww.

Anyhoo, here's the clip:

See - cute! Well, expect maybe if you wear glasses - then not so cute. But overall, cute and clever. And, of course, totally conveying the feeling of drinking a glass of vodka.

Or, if your idea of cute isn't people beating each other silly with pillows but rather is, say, bunnies cavorting, try this out for size:

Very cute. No vodka shill, but very cute. (Right, Beth?)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Speaking of talk-show hosts' beards (and no, I'm not talking about whomever is dating Carson Daly right now) ...

The jury may be out on how David Letterman's strike-fueled facial growth looks (he compares himself to a younger, pre-op Kenny Rogers), but Conan O'Brien's ruddy beard actually suits him. Why, he actually looks 20 years old now. Also, O'Brien may have clinched his role as the young Kris Kringle in James Cameron's upcoming Santa Claus epic ...

Now, if Stephen Colbert comes back on the air next week with a goatee and sideburns, we quit.

Horsin' around ...

My friend Sue sent me this clip this morning, and God love her for it. It's footage from the 2006 World Equestrian Games Freestyle Dressage Final in Aachen, Germany, and the mare in question, with the somewhat unfortunate name of Blue Hors Matine, seems to be the Tiger Woods of her sport. Or maybe, more appropriately, the John Travolta. If someone ever wants to do a series called Dancing with the Critters - and the way the writers' strike is going, who knows - they need to sign this sucker up first thing. Though I don't know how Ms. Matine will look in one of those barely-there glitter outfits.

By the way, Ms. Blue Hors finished second in the entire competition. I'd love to see the horse who won the damn thing!

P.S. Love the sober commentary that goes along with this clip. These guys could use a few more Red Bulls in their diet, and I hate that stuff!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Finally David Letterman and I have something in common ...

... besides the first name and smartass attitude, that is.

Wanna feel old?

Well, you probably don't want to. But the news that Sir Paul McCartney has had a heart operation may make some people feel a bit ancient. The 65-year-old Beatle (enough of this "former Beatle" crap; he'll always be a Beatle) underwent an angioplasty several days ago after not feeling well, according to the Daily Telegraph, but recovered enough to join Kylie Minogue on a New Year's Eve TV broadcast in England.

The idea of someone like McCartney, who so many people remember as being vital and young during the Beatles' heyday, may indeed be enough to give some pause. Then again, the fact that two of his bandmates already are among the dearly departed, no matter how relatively young John and George were when they left, already may have done the trick.

Meanwhile, Keith Richards still walks among us.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Yeah ... this probably isn't the best way to start 2008!

That's right ... Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline, together, if only for a few minutes hours over the New Year's holiday. The two "stars" were at the same Las Vegas party over the weekend, and People magazine goes so far as the two had some private time in Paris' hotel suite.*(I'm sorry if you were eating just then.)

What's more pathetic - the tabloid twins possibly hooking up, or K-Fed's excuse for a haircut? Actually, I think it's the fact that I'm eating up precious bandwidth writing about this. So forgive me. Please.

*I guess we'll know soon enough if Ms. Hilton and the former Mr. Spears actually got jiggy with it - if Paris announces within the month that she's pregnant with white-rapping triplets, that's probably a "yes".