Monthly Archives: March 2010

Lost — The Dirty Weekend of TV

Lost is the junk food or dirty weekend of TV. I enjoy it immensely while I’m watching, but feel let down and a bit guilty later. It’s entertaining, but there’s always something missing like uh logic and consistency.

I’m still trying to get my mind around the way the island moved in time, but not all the people on it shifted, and while I enjoy the Sidewaysverse, I know I’ll be disappointed in the explanation.

This is not a theory post nor do I have any inside dope,  just a few words on last night’s Ab Aeterno — spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it.

The episode opens with Ilana and Jacob, but I’ll skip that. The real excitement begins with a flashback of Richard on horseback looking muy buen mozo y como un galán en una novela. We’re in an exotic local, Tenerife in the Canary Islands — sight of the worst aviation disaster in history although this is of course more than a century before that. Richard or Ricardo as he is then known, rushes in to his dying wife. She gives him the cross off her neck, and he rides off to the doctor who turns out to be a greedy son of a bitch who takes the cross and tells him it’s worth nothing.   Richard accidentally kills him,  grabs the medicine and returns home, but it’s too late because his wife is already dead, and then the poor dolt is in jail awaiting execution and the worst priest ever won’t give him absolution, but instead tells him he’s going to hell, and then sells him to the Captain of the Black Rock.

Historical telenovela, much? That’s what it felt like, except if that was the case the wife would be alive, and it would all be about her thinking he was dead and winding up married to the doctor’s obnoxious son as Ricardo struggles to escape and come home while being tempted by the saucy Creole house servant on the plantation in which both are enslaved.

This being Lost, however, he lands on Craphole Island where the Black Rock smashes into the statue.  The Captain shows up and runs his sword through the other guys in chains, and just as he’s about to gut Richard, Smokey intercedes and righteously destroys him.  Then Richard, still in chains, survives on rainwater surrounded by corpses which are being devoured by a wild boar. One day his wife Isabella shows up except it’s probably Smokey playing with him because after that the Man in Black frees him and tells him, confirming what his “wife” said about their being in hell.  MIB tells him that Jacob is the devil and took his wife, and the only way out of hell is to kill the devil.   Blackshirt also admits to being Smokey, but Richard nevertheless believes him about Jacob and is willing to do his bidding.  When he finally meets up with Jacob and Jacob convinces him that he’s the good guy and Smokey is evil, he believes that too.  Jacob explains the island and his role in keeping MIB there by showing Richard a bottle of wine with a cork in it and telling him the wine stands for evil and the cork is the island keeping it from the world.  Jacob decides to keep Richard around as a kind of emissary so that he doesn’t have to get too involved with the people he “brings” to the island as part of his ongoing pissing match with Mr. Evil-Man-with-No-Name-Not-Locke-Black-Shirt-Guy-Maybe-the Devil.  Richard asks Jacob if he can be with his wife, which Jacob admits he can’t do. He asks not to go to hell when he dies which Jacob also can’t give him, so he settles for immortality.

While I was watching, it was entertaining. But after I’m left thinking: So that’s it? That’s all there is to the mysterious Mr. Alpert? A simple type who believes or believed in a literal heaven and hell and was absurdly gullible accepting that the doctor really could cure his wife and the priest was right about damnation? This is the guy we thought had the answers? And whose cute idea was it to name him for Ram Dass? And why did both Jacob and Smokey speak English to him with flat American accents? And what did we really learn here that we didn’t know before?

The whole season has been a tease where we are told that “questions will be answered,” but very few people even seem to ask. Neither Sawyer nor Richard have much to say when told by Man-In-Black that he is aka Smokey. I mean if you’d seen the smoke-monster in action and then you’re talking to some man who casually says, “Oh yeah, that was me.” Wouldn’t you be like, “No shit. How does that work?”

Despite Jacob’s cork blocking a wine-bottle-of-malevolence analogy, I’m still not convinced that Jacob is good though it does look like what’s his name is bad or at least full of crap.

And could we give him a name already?  Too cute by half the lengths they go to in order to avoid saying it.

Favorite bit: I did love it when ghosty-wife shows up at the end with Hurley translating and says, “Tell him his English is magnificent.” Carbonell had such a beatific half-smile when he heard it. You could see all the character’s emotions — love enduring, hope, surprise, pride, and more.

It’s really those little moments, and not the possible answers to the big questions, that keep me coming back.

That Sweet Kiss — Ugly Betty’s Breakthrough Moment

A major television event occurred last night on Ugly Betty. Two teenage boys sharing their first sweet kiss! Too bad America stopped watching the show years ago. Then again, if people were watching, they wouldn’t have done it.

Ugly Betty began on a high note. An American remake of the groundbreaking, and oft-copied, Columbian telenovela, Yo Soy Betty La Fea (I am Betty, The Ugly One) — the show focused on an aesthetically-challenged Latina from Queens making good at a snooty Manhattan fashion magazine. It featured “Dame” Judith Light a veteran of American soaps and made-for-TV movies who always manages to make the make the most ridiculous situations totally real. But its combination of sit-com and soap never really jelled. Both the comedy and the outrageousness of the drama distanced the viewers from the characters. Betty’s deranged-child wardrobe and the character’s lack of growth didn’t help.

But last night, I happened to catch the episode and while I started out only half watching, I could see something was brewing. The storyline we’ve all been waiting for is finally unfolding in the final episodes, Betty’s fabulous, nephew, fourteen year old, Justin — an acting, dancing, fashionista is coming to terms with his sexuality. We’ve seen Justin as the target of bullies. We’ve seen his mother’s pride, love and acceptance of her son for who he is. We’ve seen Justin reach out and develop an appropriate friendship with Mark, Betty’s gay coworker. Last night’s show went further.

Justin who has lately been insisting that he’s not actually gay, became friends with a boy and a girl in his acting class. The boy shared many of Justin’s interests and obsessions. Justin claimed to “like” the girl and had the opportunity to kiss her in a scene onstage. After the show, he was going to talk to her when he saw her kissing the other boy. Later the two boys confront each other. The other one admits he didn’t really like her and did it because Justin had on stage. Soon what we thought would happen, happens and the boys kiss each other.

Justin goes home upset by this, but overhears his mother telling his Aunt Betty that self-acceptance and knowing you are loved and lovable for who you are is the most important thing. The next day he braves his acting class, only to find that the boy he kissed has quit.
Could we have another season, please?

Helluva Town! Why Do People Think It’s Ok to Put Down New York?

Last September my better half and I were visiting Seattle. We were staying at a friendly B&B on Capital Hill where breakfast was served at a big table and all the guests could chat. One morning there was a couple across from us. She was from Sydney. He was a hometown boy, Seattle born and raised, who’d met her on a trip down under. Naturally they asked where we were from.

“New York,” said my better half.

“New York City?” Seattle replied.

We nodded.

“Come here for better life?” he asked without blinking.

Granted, Seattleites are known for a kind of  whacky boosterism completely out of proportion to their town’s place in the universe, but still. What’s up? This was not the first, or last time we heard someone casually put down our home. Why do people feel it’s perfectly ok to disrespect New York even when talking to New Yorkers? . I’ve traveled to some pretty awful places, but I’ve never said to a native, “Wow. It must suck being from here.”

Maybe it’s a popular culture thing.  Even people under fifty are somehow channeling the ghost of Kitty Genovese and the memory of the ungovernable years, but there’s something bizarre about otherwise polite folks from places that pride themselves on “friendliness” saying vile things about a city, things they’d never say about a race, or a nationality — at least not in public and to a person of that race or nationality.

Most of the gibes are complaints about crime and dirt, and of course our legendary rudeness.

New York is cleaner than many US cities, even smaller ones. It may not be Singapore but most people pick up after their dogs. It’s one of the safest urban areas in the world. It has by far the best mass transit in the US, not to mention museums, restaurants and ethnic neighborhoods that make you feel like a world traveler for the price of a metro-card.

There’s an incredible amount of parkland as well. Not just the massive Central Park but old growth forest in Inwood — Manhattan’s northern tip. You can see ospreys nesting in Jamaica Bay. My local dog walk involves a stop at the duck pond, and if we’re very lucky a sighting of the wild turkey of Morningside Park.

Mostly I love my city because there are still are neighborhoods here, distinct enclaves, filled with distinct types, and  despite the encroachment of Starbucks and the like,  independent coffee shops and even bookstores continue to exist. Unlike most small towns in America, you can go to the neighborhood hardware store and ask the owner for what you need instead of driving to Ye Ol” Mega Superstore twenty miles away.

The people, despite their reputation, are friendly and talkative. Always have been, even before 9/11. Conversation breaks out on buses and movie lines. When a tourist takes out a map, a crowd gathers to debate the best directions and where to go. Eccentricity is not just accepted, it’s expected.  We’re not rude to strangers, even those who describe “ground zero” as a must see destination and don’t realize it’s an open wound in our collective heart.

So if you’ve never been, please stop by, but leave the attitude home.

Good Advice

On a social networking site that I still to my detriment visit, a friend posed a question on a thread: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Here are two:

I. I went to an alternative public high school. The school was located in an old rectory next to a church. We didn’t have a certificate of occupancy for the church, which was almost gutted. There were a couple of doors leading there from the rectory that for some strange reason (maybe having to do with fire laws) weren’t locked. Kids being kids, and this being back in the late 70’s, we’d often sneak in and do certain things.

One day, the head of the school called a community meeting. Normally very mild-mannered, Fred seemed angry. He told us he had been leading a tour with government officials and funders from the Ford Foundation and was showing them the church when he found “THIS”. He pulled a nickel bag of pot out of his pocket and held it up. Fortunately, he’d grabbed it before they saw it. He reminded us that this was not the impression he wanted the public to have of our school, and then instead of lecturing us about the perils of the evil weed, he simply said, “Discretion, people! Discretion!”

II. Years ago after a bad breakup, I found myself in a state of constant sorrow. This was before just any GP would give you SSRIs. I was living and working as a clinician in a small city and knew most of the real shrinks professionally and didn’t feel safe seeing them. So I went to see a homeopathic psychiatrist. She was an MD who’d left that life, and believed in alternative methods. She told me to give up coffee and handed me a pill.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a salt.” she said.

“A salt? Like lithium?”

“No, like sodium chloride. Table salt. Lot’s wife. Don’t look back.”

Missed all the movies? This Oscars Live-Blog is For You!

8:35:  Enjoyed the cheezy opening number with Neil Patrick Harris. It was retro and funny while being awkward and amateurish.  It reminded me of why I used to like the movies.

8:41:  Martin and Baldwin. Now it’s just non sequitiers and in-jokes.  Par for the course. But Steve and Alec seem to be having fun.

It all reminds me of being a kid and watching Bob Hope and old Hollywood and now Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are old Hollywood.

8:44: Penolope Cruz presenting supporting actor.  My better half just started to pay attention.

I have not seen anything this year! But from what I heard Waltz deserved it.

8:50:  Ryan Reynolds?  Brian Reynolds? WTF.  Who is this person?  Boy, do I not want to see The Blind Side! Was it written by randomly putting together cliches?

8:56: Animation…. Oh crap — Waltzing with Bashir was how many years ago?

9:02 — Why does Miley Cyrus need a bustier? She’s a teenager.  Her breasts should be able to hold themselves up.  I like Randy Newmann.  I’m really old.

9:05 — Chris Pine?  Chris Hine?  What am I Emily Latella?  (My better half also said, “Who?”)  District 9 looks worth seeing.

Commercial break: Let’s talk about me.  When we do go to the movies we go to what we refer to as the “Lincoln Center Home for Adults” it’s where they show foreign films to New Yorkers.  I don’t think anyone under 45 is allowed in.  The whitest crowd in NY except for Elvis Mitchell.  Or we go to the multiplex in Edgewater NJ — the little city across the river.  It’s kind of like going to Florida to see my in-laws except for the weather.  In the dark, nobody knows you’re in NJ.

9:12 — I think Robert Downey Jr. is high and Tina Fey is having a nervous breakdown about it.  Live!  Anything can happen. Oh, that’s the bit!

9:14 — Damn, just checked Facebook.  David Rees is live blogging the Oscars.  He’s famous.  I’m not.  I hate you facebook friend David Rees.

9:15 — The Hurt Locker, another film I kinds wanna see, maybe.  Oh shit.  Doesn’t anyone even ask wtf all those troops are doing over there?

9:17 — John Hughes memorial thingy:  Molly Ringwald really does look like a deer in the headlights.  Matthew Broderick has that weird look of a never aging elf.

9:22 — Now they’ve sprung a bunch of 80’s has beens out of rehab.   It’s like a high school teacher’s memorial.  I’m finding this whole thing iccky.  Was he a GREAT filmmaker?  Are they giving him a posthumous award?  WTF?

9:24 — Audience shot of Ed Asner.  Anyone for a pool of who’s next to go from the MTM show?

9:27 — Zoe Saldana’s dress:  First, it looks like it weighs a ton.  Second, I’m trying to figure out how you use a toilet in a dress like that?  Third, the slit goes up to the crotch?

9:30 — We’ve hit some horrible dead zone in the descriptions of short films.  Don’t they have a pre-Oscar show for this?

Animated shorts:  now I’m having some flashback to being a teenager and Sunday night after Monty Python, channel 13 followed with a half-hour animation show.  If this wasn’t a special hour for stoned adolescents, then what was it?

The short docs actually look interesting…

The winning is making a speech and OH MY GOD who is this awful woman!  And now the music.  Do they take them off stage and yell at them for going past 45 seconds.

Short feature —  This is sad.  The first guy makes his speech.  Then they start the music before the second guy makes his.  This is a terribly ungracious way to give an award.

9:38 — Ben Stiller bombing in the Avatar bit.  (Haven’t seen it, but my friend Maria Bustillos wrote a scathing review for The Awl — no time to link — live blogging)  I hope Star Trek doesn’t get it.  I did see that one and thought the kabuki Romulans were just silly.

Oh crap!  They won!  Well, maybe it was better than the other guys.

9:43 — Jeff Bridges.  Oh Jeff I remember your perfect behind from Starman.

We are SO netflixing A Serious Man!

Commercial: Why no comments?  Is it because all my friends are also blogging?  Or asleep? Or don’t own television machines?

9:48 — Adapted screemplay:  Haven’t read the books.  Haven’t seen the movies.   I’m glad Precious won.  I used to teach high school in NYC and for lots of girls Push meant everything.  They loved that book and found it hugely inspiring.

9:52 —  Queen Latifah!  Yay!  I love that now allow large lesbians to be Cover Girls!  What a thankless task she’s got having to basically present highlights from the Governor’s Award. Are those the awards they don’t do on TV anymore?  That sucks!  I wanna see Lauren Bacall  and Roger Corman live! Oh good, they are bringing them out!  Oh no, they’re not letting them speak. This sucks!

9:55 — Supporting actress — Penelope Cruz.  Penelope Cruz with glasses.  My better half is drooling.  Vera Famiga — I’ve never actually seen her in anything.  Maggie Gylenhall –I don’t want to see her being Jeff Bridges girlfriend.  It’s icky!  What’s her name, not Vera from, Up in the Air, — gotta netflix that.  Monique — They’ll give it to her maybe.  They like comedienne’s playing serious parts.

Called it!

Monique — great way of addressing the “controversy”.  Smart speech.  I’m now a fan.

10:05 — Sigourny Weaver — Is that a dress or did she just grab a bedspread?  She’s doing the award for set decoration.  Do we care?  Oh, it’s Avatar so this could be a portent.  There’s a theme here:  James Cameron is god or the king of the world or something.

10:09 — Steve Martin made a joke.  Sarah Jessica Parker has something weird growing out of her skull!  Costumes: Is the winner the one who had that credit card dress a few years ago?  Yes, I think she is.

10:11 — Charlize Theron — She is fierce!  And she does a great American accent.  She introduces Precious.  Is this because she once said on TV that she was an African-American because she’s born in South Africa?  My better half and I discuss Precious which we haven’t seen but we both agree that Helen Mirren would have been terrible in Mariah Carrey’s part which she was initially slated for.

10:17 — Back from the commercial.  Martin and Baldwin in a bit.  Strangely funny.

10:18 — Two more people I haven’t heard of.  I am ANCIENT.  Are these The Twilight kids? That would be the logical guess.  They are presenting something about “horror films.”  I don’t consider movies about vampires who have to wait until marriage, horror films.

Jaws — That was when Spielberg was good.  Psycho by the master!  Poltergiest — scary.  The Shining — great!  Rosemary’s Baby!  I’ve seen most of these!  Movies used to be fun.  I miss movies.  Shit now they showed the twins from The Shining.  I won’t sleep for a week!

10:23 — Oh, they’re making the poor girl who just lost to Monique present an award.  She’s presenting Morgan Freeman doing one of those “educational” videos explaining what a sound editing and mixing means.  Can’t they just give these at the show that’s not on the TV?

Yayyy!  Sound editing.  Let’s applaud like we know these guys.  Hmmm.  It’s the Hurt Locker.  Does that mean something?

It also won for sound mixing.  Now I’m thinking there’s a pattern — a CONSOLATION pattern. It’s not going to get best picture.  Or will it?

10:28 — Sci Tech awards! Elizabeth Banks.  Has she been in any movies?  Did they make her speak?  Now John Travolta, Mr. Scientology himself, is talking about Quentin Tarrantino and introducing Inglorious Bastards.

Commerical break. Are these commercials national?  Geoffrey Canada, I love you!

10:34 — Martin introduces Sandra Bullock who looks pretty in her dress.  It’s cinematography. Sandra seems to like pronouncing the Italian name of the winner.  It’s another Avatar win and Cameron again gets thanked.

10:37 — Demi Moore presenting this year’s dead.  No, she’s presenting James Taylor who will sing a song about this year’s dead. Will this be a medley of dead people names?  No, it’s an old Beatle’s song.  Ironically, one played at my sister’s wedding,  so not one I associate with dead people.

They are now showing pictures of dead people while James Taylor sings.

I do not forgive Ron Silver for speaking at the Republican Convention.   Yeah, it’s personal.  I don’t care if he could see the Towers burning from his house in New Jersey. I was less than a mile away, could smell the smoke and feel the earth shake as the Towers fell.  I didn’t suddenly  lose my mind.  Maybe he already had the cancer and it was interferon or something messing with his brain.  If that turns out to be the case, I will forgive him.


10:45 — Jennifer Lopez and Sam Worthington.  Best score.  So they are playing all the scores, while having dancers running around the stage?  I think?   I’m watching the dancers.  This looks like a combination of old West Side Story choreography, jogging on stage and some break dance moves leftover from teh eighties.   The music changes, but the basic dance moves and whatever “story” the dance is trying to tell doesn’t.  They are getting more acrobatic at points, more frantic, but there’s really a desperation and clulessness to the choreography.  It’s showy, but meaningless and distracts from the scores rather than enhancing them.  If dance moves are letters, isn’t choreography supposed to form them into words or sentences?

Winner is…. Michael Giachino (?)  for Up. Another movie I will never see.

Ladies and gentleman:  Gerod Butler and Bradley Cooper — or was it the other way around.  Presenting Special Effects.  They just showed a clip from Avatar and better half says:  “It doesn’t look that outstanding.”  But then, he doesn’t have the special glasses and we still don’t even have a flat screen.  Avatar wins.  James Cameron gets thanked again.

10:56 — Jason Bateman, introduces Up in the Air. We like Jason Bateman.

11:02 — Matt Damon — best documentary.  Oh my god there’s a documentary, The Cove about people killing dolphins for food.  And another about food and bad meat.  Do I sense a theme here you Hollywood radical vegans?   Now a documentary about Ellsberg and the Pentagon papers.  And another about Mexican kids trying to get over to see their illegal parents.

The dolphin film wins.  Wow.  Documentarians are heros!  Could we have an all documentary academy awards next year?

11:06 — Tyler Perry  explaining “editing”.  The Academy Awards, it’s kind of like going to school and being left back and having different teachers explain the same shit to you year after year.   Hurt Locker wins again.

11:08– Keannu Reeves presenting  Hurt Locker.  He is a very pretty, is Keannu Reeves.

Commercial.  If it were just me, I would have changed the channel at the score/dance fiasco, but having started this I’m going to see it through.

Pedro Almodavar and Quentin Tarrantino! — Yeeah!  Best Foreign Language Film. Did I miss something or is the actual name of the Peruvian film: The Frightened Tit?  Argentina wins.  Given that we live in New York and are snooty intellectuals, we may even see it at the movies.

Back to Martin and Baldwin.

Commercial break.  Toilet paper commercial.  My better half is now actually arguing with me about “over” being the only correct way.

11:25 — The woman who used to be Michelle Pfeiffer is talking about what a swell guy Jeff Bridges is.  Like Sigourny Weaver, she is wearing a red dress made out of a bedspread.  It must be the look for “older’ women in Hollywood.

11:27 — Vera what’s her name is talking about Mr. George Clooney, but they keep cutting to him and he is just soooooo  hot.

11:31 — Kate Winslett announcing best actor. Jeff Bridges wins.  Jeff Bridges is  talking about his parents, and thanking a lot of people.  I dare them to start the music.  I guess the biggies get more than 45 seconds.  I love when he keeps saying “man”.  He is, after all, the dude.

11:39 — It’s a commercial break, but I predict that the jokes about going over will now be starting.

11:40 — Best actress.  They’re doing the presentation thing.  Why is Moon River playing?  Haven’t seen any of them, but if Helen Mirren doesn’t win, then I hope the young woman from Precious does.  I want a tee-shirt that says: What would Jane Tennyson do?  Helen Mirren should get the lifetime achievement award for fierceness.

11:44 — Oprah introduces Gabaney.  Oprah’s introduction sounds like a lawyer making her case. If I am ever indicted for murder, I want Oprah defending me.

11:47 — Sean Penn to present.  Man, he was great in Milk. Winner is: Sandra Bullock!  I don’t think so.  WTF?  I’m moving to Canada.

11:52 — Babs. That is one ugly tux or whatever it is.  What’s that around her neck? Did she borrow Rachel Ray’s keffiyah?

Winner:  Kathyrn Bigelow!  I am SOOO happy that Avatar didn’t win! Amazing though she gives her speech about the military, but no one this evening ever questions the mission.

Tom Hanks:  Explaining the 10 nominee thing and then boom.  He just reads the winner without going through the other stuff.  I guess they really have to be done by midnight! It’s Hurt Locker.

Now the writer who was embedded is speaking.  Will he address the occupation in any meaningful way?  Nah.

It’s midnight. Bigelow is speaking again and I’m expecting the music.  She thanks the military one more time. “They’re there for us.”   Ok, I know there’s a time and a place, but ….

Cheesy joke by Martin about going over time “Avatar now takes place in the past”.  A thank you to our sponsors.  And we’re out….