Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Has God abandoned us - again?

First Seacrest is almost eaten by a shark, and now the Earthquake of 2008™ disrupts life in the Big Brother house. What could be next? Does one even dare to ask?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bad headline!

Hmmm ... maybe the editors at The New York Times should have thought a bit more about this headline before slapping it onto their article on the breakdown of the WTO talks in Geneva. Or maybe they were trying to be provocative. Either way, one must wonder what the relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks must have thought if they saw this on their computers. I know how I felt, and it wasn't warm and fuzzy.

UPDATE: Oh, they changed the headline - ever so slightly, but enough to make a difference.

Do you want fries with that shake?

Leave it to me to only post whenever something wackadoodle happens, but I did want to tell everyone who knows me that, yes, there was a fairly significant earthquake here about a half-hour ago, and yes, I'm fine, if a bit, er, shaky. I've determined that I don't like earthquakes that much. So no Charlton Heston disaster movie going on here - yet. The day is young.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Emmy Nominations: No judgments!

Well, maybe just a few:

* John Adams, which raked in a leading 23 nominations, deserves all it can get and more.

* Hugh Laurie is again nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama after being snubbed last year, meaning that all is right with the world. Well, it will be when he finally wins the damn thing.

* Where, o where is Katherine Heigl's name on this list? I'm just shocked - shocked! - that she's absent!

* And Kristin Chenoweth is - well, Kristin Chenoweth.

Outstanding Drama Series
Boston Legal (ABC)
Damages (FX)
Dexter (Showtime)
House (Fox)
Lost (ABC)
Mad Men (AMC)

Outstanding Comedy Series
30 Rock (NBC)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Entourage (HBO)
The Office (NBC)
Two and a Half Men (CBS)

Outstanding Made for Televison Movie
A Raisin in the Sun (ABC)
Bernard and Doris (HBO)
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale (HBO)
Recount (HBO)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter(Lifetime)

Outstanding Miniseries
The Andromeda Strain (A&E)
Cranford (PBS)
John Adams (HBO)
Tin Man (Sci Fi)

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Late Night with Conan O'Brien (NBC)
Late Show with David Letterman (CBS)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special
Bill Maher: The Decider (HBO)
George Carlin: It's Bad for Ya! (HBO)
Great Performances - James Taylor: One Man Band (PBS)
Kathy Griffin: Straight to Hell (Bravo)
The Kennedy Center Honors (CBS)
Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
James Spader, Boston Legal

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Glenn Close, Damages
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Ralph Fiennes, Bernard and Doris
Ricky Gervais, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
Paul Giamatti, John Adams
Kevin Spacey, Recount
Tom Wilkinson, Recount

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
Dame Judi Dench, Cranford
Catherine Keener, An American Crime
Laura Linney, John Adams
Phylicia Rashad, A Raisin in the Sun
Susan Sarandon, Bernard and Doris

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Ted Danson, Damages
Michael Emerson, Lost
Zeljko Ivanek, Damages
William Shatner, Boston Legal
John Slattery, Mad Men

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Rainn Wilson, The Office

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Jean Smart, Samantha Who?
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Bob Balaban, Recount
Stephen Dillane, John Adams
Denis Leary, Recount
David Morse, John Adams
Tom Wilkinson, John Adams

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
Eileen Atkins, Cranford
Laura Dern, Recount
Ashley Jensen, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
Audra McDonald, A Raisin in the Sun
Alfre Woodard, Pictures of Hollis Woods

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Charles Durning, Rescue Me
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Oliver Platt, Nip/Tuck
Stanley Tucci, E.R.
Glynn Turman, In Treatment
Robin Williams, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Will Arnett, 30 Rock
Shelley Berman, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Steve Buscemi, 30 Rock
Tim Conway, 30 Rock
Rip Torn, 30 Rock

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Ellen Burstyn, Big Love
Diahann Carroll, Grey's Anatomy
Shaon Gless, Nip/Tuck
Anjelica Huston, Medium
Cynthia Nixon, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Polly Bergen, Desperate Housewives
Edie Falco, 30 Rock
Carrie Fisher, 30 Rock
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Sarah Silverman, Monk
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
David Letterman, Late Show with David Letterman
Don Rickles, Mr Warmth: The Don Rickles Project
Jon Stewart, 80th Annual Academy Awards

Outstanding Reality Program
Antiques Roadshow (PBS)
Dirty Jobs (Discovery)
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)
Intervention (A&E)
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (Bravo)

Outstanding Reality/Competition Program
American Idol (Fox)
Amazing Race (CBS)
Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
Project Runway (Bravo)
Top Chef (Bravo)

Outstanding Reality Host
Tom Bergeron, Dancing with the Stars
Heidi Klum, Project Runway
Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal
Jeff Probst, Survivor
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dark Knight: "This movie kills ass. Hard."

More than two weeks ago, I became one of the first people in Los Angeles to see The Dark Knight in its completed form. I held back my impressions of the movie, at least to the general public, lest I get busted by anyone at Warner Bros. for jumping the gun - though that didn't stop the likes of Rolling Stone. And now that we're less than 48 hours from the megarelease and every outlet has expressed their opinion about Knight, I risk looking like a sycophant in revealing my feelings about the film. So call me a copycat for saying what's true - because this movie kicks ass. Hard.

And it's not just because of the presence of Heath Ledger as the Joker, though that's a large, large chunk of the movie's overall success. Ledger, whose acting talents obviously were no secret going on, is a revelation as this maniacal, malevolent evil doer who is literally capable of doing anything and everything for no other reason that he can, so he does. There is no trace here of Ennis del Mar or Ned Kelly or any of the other characters he played during his brief career. Indeed, there's no trace of Heath Ledger. When you forget that you're watching an actor play a role, the job has been done. All of the Oscar talk revolving around Ledger is more than true - it's a rock-solid guarantee that he will be among the final five up for Supporting Actor when the nominations are announced exactly one year after his death. (Ledger is so excellent that to watch him as the Joker is almost as heartbreaking as it is exhilarating, for obvious reasons.)

There's much, more to enjoy than just Ledger, though. All of the acting is top-notch, particularly Christian Bale as the tormented Caped Crusader; Michael Caine as his wry and wise butler, Alfred; and Aaron Eckhart as "white knight" district attorney Harvey Dent, who brings a whole new meaning to the term "split personality" when he is transformed into Two-Face with an assist from the Joke. Eckhart brings a different vision to the Two-Face character, but one that is just as chilling as the original. And the story woven by director Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan is dense with material and character development, along with some action set pieces that are all the more enthralling because of Nolan's use of IMAX cameras for about 20 minutes of the film, the first use of that technology in a mainstream feature film. The IMAX images do make a difference, even when seen on a standard screen. And the cinematography by Wally Pfister, which takes great advantage of Knight's locations in Chicago (and, in one sequence, Hong Kong), should net him a Oscar nod to go along with the one he received for Batman Begins in 2005. (That Batpod is killer, by the way.)

Overall, Nolan has created, if not a complete masterpiece, about as close as you can get to one. The Dark Knight is not just a great comic-book yarn or summer action movie; it is a superlative crime drama in the tradition of something that Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola would create in their primes. The only drawback - besides a lengthy running time that could interfere with Knight's chances of reeling in the highest-grossing non-holiday opening weekend of all time - is that it may set the bar too high for forthcoming superheroes flicks, including the inevitable third entry in Nolan's Batman trilogy.

Now go forth and see this film. Good luck getting a ticket, though!

Note: A warning for the grownups: Superhero movie,yes, but definitely not for the kiddies. There is mayhem aplenty here, and not the warm and fuzzy kind. I wouldn't be surprised if the original cut was an R. Parents would be wise to heed the PG-13 rating, no mater how much the tiny tykes in your house protest.

Note 2: I predict that The Dark Knight will gross at least $150 million in its first three days. I don't know if that will be the all-time record, but who cares? That's a lot of cash!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fab ...

At this very moment I am attending the Television Critics Association July press tour in my day job as an entertainment journalist. I've been attending the TCAs twice a year since January 1997, and even though it can be a very tedious experience a times, such as when you've had chicken for five meals in a row or whenever Shannen Doherty shows up, for the most part it has been a valuable experience, and not just in my wallet. Time and time again I get the chance to meet people whom I would have never gotten close to without my career or the tour, such as Buzz Aldrin and Prince Edward and even Gerald Ford. This time around, only four-plus days in, I've already interviewed the likes of Shirley MacLaine and Elvis Costello, Branch Rickey's grandson and the aforementioned Capt. Aldrin, and I've even been kissed by one of Michael Vick's dogs. And today, presented to us was Sir George Martin, who is part of an upcoming PBS show, On Record: The Soundtrack of Our Lives. The series won't start until the fall of 2010, but the memories of Sir George, literally the fifth Beatle, speaking to us in his sober voice about his work with the Beatles (favorite Fab Four song: In My Life) and his opinions about current musical tastes (yes to Coldplay and Radiohead, no to American Idol), is a pure thrill. Sir George is semiretired and, at 82, dealing with a partial hearing loss - the questions from the press had to be transcribed to a monitor so he could be precise on what was being asked to him - but he's as sharp as ever, a treasure trove of knowledge - and very, very polite. I fought the temptation to ask Sir George where the hell the Beatles' songs are on iTunes.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

One hell of a (half) year ...

Baseball is my favorite sport of choice, if that hasn't been made plainly obvious here already. But even non-sports fans have to appreciate the number of epic, all-or-nothing events that already have pocked the athletic landscape in a year that has is barely half over. We have witnessed a Super Bowl that literally went to the last minute before the "other" team won. An NCAA basketball final that went to overtime. A U.S. Open tournament in which the best golfer of all time, playing on one leg, was pushed to a fifth round, and them some, before proving exactly why he is the best golfer of all time. A Stanley Cup Final contest that went three overtimes. Just on Friday, a Nathan's Hot Dog Eating championship that was decided by a "dog-off". (Don't ask.) And this morning, a Wimbledon men's final that squeezed all of the life out of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the fading London sun before Nadal won in five grueling sets to end Federer's outstanding winning streak on the grass of the All England Lawn and Croquet Club.

All of which bodes well for the second half of 2008, which will include the Beijing Olympics (Who will win? Who will drop dead of respiratory arrest?), the World Series (where a certain team will end a certain century-long streak of futility - right?) and, of course, Alex Rodriguez's impending divorce. Who will buy the naming rights to that one?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Age is just a number ... and so is 53.78 seconds!

Congratulations to 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres, who made her fifth U.S. Olympic Team this past week by defeating her teammate and rival, Natalie Coughlin, in the 100-meter freestyle event at the Olympic Trials in Omaha. Also, congrats to Ms. Torres for looking this freaking hot at age 41.

Friday, July 04, 2008

An important milestone (or not) ...

Today is the Fourth of July, the 132th anniversary of the singing of the Declaration of Independence (though it was actually ratified on July 2 - but that's neither here or there at this point) - and the 13th anniversary of when President Whitmore, The Fresh Prince and the nebbishy reporter from The Big Chill saved us from those Rasta-looking aliens. But July 4 is also a key date on the baseball calendar, for tradition holds that the teams in first place on America Gives Britain The Finger Day will go on to win their respective divisions. And this "fact" holds particular meaning to us Chicago Cubs fans this year, for as play begins today, the North Siders, despite some recent bumps in the road, are in fact leading their division by two-and-a-half games over second-place St. Louis - whom the Cubs are playing tonight.

Now, it's important to note that the July 4 rule, like many a chuck of baseball lore, is bunk. Last year, for example, the three National League teams in first place on Independence Day - the Mets in the East, Milwaukee in the Central and San Diego in the West - didn't even make the playoffs. Meanwhile, three of the teams who were still around in October, including the eventual NL champion Colorado Rockies and my Cubs - were stagnating around the .500 on July 4. And these aren't even the most egregious examples. The biggest may have been in 1914, when the Boston Braves were in last place on the important date, 15 games behind the New York Baseball Giants in the eight-team National League. Not only did they go on a major winning streak to take the pennant, the Braves then went on to sweep the heavily favored Philadelphia A's in the World Series. Hope, perhaps, for the Seattle Mariners and all the teams in the N.L. West? Well, maybe not. But in a year when Tampa Bay is cleaning the clocks of both the Yankees and Red Sox, anything is possible.

So what does July 4 ultimately mean to baseball fans? In truth, nothing more than an excuse to down some hot dogs and watch a game. But for the nervous Cubs fans, we'll take any glimmer of hope and prophecy we can get. Though sweeping the Cardinals this weekend would definitely help.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

No, no, latte?

Many scientists believe that the frog is the bellwether to the environment - that however the frogs go will be how the planet will follow. This is why so many biologists and such are freaked out at the decline in certain frog species, reading it as Earth's way of telling the main tenants (i.e., us) to shape up or ship out. Well, one could say the same about Starbucks in relation to the economy. When things are good, the coffee chain is selling frappuccinos like they're going out of style and there is literally a Starbucks on every corner - or sometimes two. When things are rotten - well, Starbucks announced today that the company is shuttering 600 establishments and laying off up to 12,000 employees. You do the math.