Monday, November 15, 2010

Reasons to love England

There are many things to love about England, our good friend across the pond.  You have The Beatles, queens with great first names, a no-nonsense attitude about getting on with life when things are challenging, and such fine contributions to gastronomy as Ribena and the digestive biscuit.  And, one of my personal favorites, their sense of humor. 

Lately I've been watching and loving hilarious show The Inbetweeners, a cringe-inducing look at the live of four awkward high school students.  One of the most refreshing aspects of this program is that the four leads are regular people, not impossibly good looking model types, and their situations and dialogue seem both believable and funny without being needlessly crass.  Just took their "which character are you" quiz online, and am pleased that I'm most like Simon, who's bio leads off with "Not too painful -- all the time."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"I'm in a very good place right now"

Elisabeth Moss, also known as Peggy Olson on Mad Men, spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the current season of her show and the DVD release of Get Him to the Greek, in which she appears as Jonah Hill's girlfriend.  I hope Fred Armisen is eating his heart out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ben and Locke, together again

More good news for J.J. Abrams and Lost fans: NBC has picked up his new show starring Michael Emeron and Terry O'Quinn, the erstwhile Ben and Locke, respectively.  When Lost was winding up last spring, both actors professed their hope to work again, and the show is said to portray them as former black-ops cops.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcome to Fall

Hello from lovely San Francisco!  Work sends me to some nice cities sometimes, and while this isn't a hotel I'd plan to visit again (sorry, Radisson), I do welcome the opportunity to sit down and enjoy television premiere week on the major networks.  Here's what's on my mind, pop culture wise:

1.  Undercovers from J.J. Abrams.  Currently playing on my TV, and halfway through the pilot episode.  First, the man who created Lost, one of the most spine-tinglingly great shows ever made, is pretty much a genius, so this show already has a lot going for it.  Second, what a fun premise!  Two married former spies are running a catering business, having a nice but unexciting life, when they get pulled back into active duty to find a missing friend.  You get world-wide travel, attractive people in exciting situations with a taste of danger, and how refreshing that it's about an already committed couple who clearly still love and enjoy each other.  You so rarely see that in movies or TV -- the journey often seems to end when they get married.  And for an especially great third, the lead actors are both black and it's not a big deal.  A major show with a lot of money behind it anchored by two charismatic leads who happen to be minorities not usually given major roles in primetime: extremely cool.

2.  A new trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!  How I cannot wait for November, and not just because of a certain birthday.  This. Looks. So. Good.

3.  The novel One Day by David Nicholls, now in paperback.  My love of all things British continues with this laugh out loud funny, moving, and altogether engrossing book.  College students Dexter and Emma meet on the night of their graduation, and although they don't initially seem like natural friends, the relationship continues and each chapter revisits them on the same date for two decades.  True to life in the way we don't always progress in the straight line we envisioned, and how random chance can have such enormous impact.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dragon Tattoo Mania Continues...

Just announced at Entertainment Weekly's website: Daniel Craig, also known as the current James Bond, has been cast as journalist Mikael Blomkvist.  Personally, I'm excited: he has the right amount of grit and intelligence, and is good looking without being pretty.  Maybe now it will make sense to audiences that basically every woman in the books falls for Blomkvist.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Swedish Summer

It's a brutally hot, humid summer in New York City, but those reading Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy can imagine themselves in the more forgiving climes of Sweden.  My book club is currently reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in the series.  We gave ourselves an extra couple weeks between meetings because the length looked daunting, but the books have turned out to be such page-turners that I went on to The Girl Who Played with Fire and am nearly done with The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Since starting the first book, I've been noticing copies of each story in the series everywhere: people reading them on the subway, in airports, across the aisle on planes.  I have a sudden craving for herring, sour cream, and lingonberries.  Even this review of the new chef at Aquavit opens with a reference to the series.

For me, the key to their popularity is heroine Lisbeth Salander, an antisocial computer hacker who teams with journalist Mikael Blomkvist to redress crimes against women.  Lisbeth is an original and exciting creation.  Whenever the narrative leaves Lisbeth, as a reader I can't wait to see what she'll do next.  She's incredibly intelligent and unpredictable.  She has a strong personal moral code and is loyal to those she cares about.  Petite and slim, yet able to physically defend herself.  And best of all, I think, is that despite all the setbacks and tragedies she encounters in her life, she refuses to accept victimhood.

Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress who portrays her in the original film adaptations, is so absolutely perfect in the role that it's almost impossible to imagine any other actress doing it justice in the upcoming Hollywood versions.  This interview with Ms. Rapace from Time Out New York provides an interesting look into her preparation for the films and what playing Lisbeth did to her physically.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

News that is awesome

Soon I'll have a more demanding job and, therefore, less time to peruse the internet for fun pop culture news.  But today I came across some delightful news indeed: while reading an interview with Tina Fey and Steve Carell, I learned that Carell is producing a movie written by and starring Ed Helms, also known as Andy from The Office.  It's about three Civil War re-enactors who get transported back in time to the actual Civil War!  And for someone whose ring tone used to be the theme from The Office, and who recently spent an afternoon at Ford's Theatre checking out books on Lincoln's assassination, well, it doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Buy, Read, Watch

I read Elizabeth Gilbert's soul-searching travelogue Eat, Pray, Love two years ago.  Although it occasionally meanders into preciousness, I found her to be a very endearing and thought-provoking narrator. 

Gilbert is almost unbearably honest about her crushing divorce and subsequent depression, but also, often surprisingly funny.  Her book has been turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts, making one of her increasingly rare leading role appearances.  The trailer is here.  (I tried embedding but it cuts the video in half.)

Incidentally, the song they're using is Dog Days Are Over by Florence & the Machine, which seems to be having a moment.  It popped up on last week's Gossip Girl, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Titanic" to be re-released in 3D

Yes, the dialogue may be bad at times, and it's not cool to like it anymore, but I still harbor a love for Titanic.  It's one of those movies where if I happen to come across it while channel surfing, I just can't turn off.  Following the massive success Avatar enjoyed, it's no surprise that James Cameron has decided to re-release his other billion-dollar baby in 3D.  Personally, I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You're a furry little gnome and we feed you too much.

General love for all things Golden Girls continues, first with Betty White finally being announced as an upcoming host on SNL, and now with this website, That's What Bea Said.  Finally, a one-stop source for quotes from the funniest divorced Brooklyn teacher with a whoopee cushion selling ex-husband who ever lived!

To file under "random discoveries of the day," I'd like to add that when you search Google Images for a picture of Bea Arthur, the first result is of a painting John Currin did, which is titled "Bea Arthur Naked."  Holy crap.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Roger Ebert Speaks

There's no doubt that Roger Ebert is the most famous and popularly influential film critic in America today.  Syndicated in over 200 newspapers, author of more than 15 books, and the co-host of two popular movie review shows with now deceased colleague and friend, Gene Siskel, Ebert is also the first film critic to win a Pultizer Prize for Criticism.  Sometimes Ebert is criticized for being too lenient on movies, but defends himself, I think rightly, for judging pictures based on merits within their genre and the expectations of their intended audience.

Ebert has been fighting thyroid cancer since 2002, and over the course of his treatment and a series of surgeries, he's lost his lower jaw and the ability to speak, drink, or eat.  It is strange and sad to think of a man who became most famous for his never-ending stream of chatter on movies will never speak out loud again, but to see Ebert's recent appearance on Oprah or to read this revealing interview in Esquire, he seems a truly happy man.

Reading the interview, I found the description of his unbridled excitment and enthusiasm for films to be both endearing and moving, not to mention his determination to continue communcating with fans and his loved ones, and his general outlook on life.  I also liked that he's not presented as a saintly sage with important life lessons.  He's still a person.

Moment where I geek out: I once got an email from Roger Ebert!  During my senior year of college, I wrote to Ebert in response to column he wrote about The Shawshank Redemption, wherein he mentioned that women don't usually like prison dramas.  I told him I'd happened to love that movie, and asked if he'd heard any advance word about The Green Mile, which, like Shawshank, was directed by Frank Darabont and based on a story by Stephen King, and was about to be released.  So either Ebert himself, or an assistant who signed RE at the bottom, responded with a nice message and told me he hadn't heard anything about it yet.  The email was maybe two sentences long, but I thought it was awesome nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I heard things

Vanity Fair is a reliable source for deep, dishy articles on celebrities and film classics, and this month they have a fascinating one on the making of Raging Bull.  Some of it will be familiar to anyone who's read Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, but it's an illuminating read nonetheless. 

I haven't watched Raging Bull since film class in college over ten years ago, but I vividly remember how enthralling it was to look at.  It was mt first experience with a boxing film, and I never anticipated how beautifully shot or moving it would be.   

While reading the above article, I was tickled to learn that Scorsese and De Niro had worked on the script in a hotel I once stayed at.  And when you combine that coincidence with my mom's conviction that one of her cousins was once married to one of De Niro's, then obviously, he and I will have a lot to talk about if we ever meet, and he'll no doubt want us to hang out all the time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The return of "Gossip Girl"!

I just realized that tonight marks the first new episode of Gossip Girl in three months!  For a sneak preview, watch the above and read these comments from Executive Producer Josh Schwartz.  Also, nice synergy that the episode title, "The Hurt Locket," is a nod to last night's Best Picture Winner.

What do you smell like, man?

Thanks to Tivo and DVR's, you rarely have to watch commercials these days, but sometimes there's an ad you actually seek out.  Old Spice premiered their new commercial during the Super Bowl, and it's the funniest I've seen in a long time:

For more, visit the Old Spice site.  Thanks to their new spokesman, I've learned that a lady should smell like salt water taffy and butterflies.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Countdown to "The Office" Baby

I had no idea it would happen this quickly, but after the Olympics in two weeks, Jim and Pam will have their baby on The Office.  Maybe it's not that quick -- they found out Pam was pregnant in last season's finale.  NBC's been showing many previews during their Olympic broadcasts, and here's one of them:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway...

One of the best things about New York, or any large city, is the access you have to an amazing variety of cultural events.  I hadn't been to a play in a year until recently, and that streak was broken with tickets to see David Mamet's provocative new play Race in December, and then West Side Story this past weekend.  Two very different experiences, both memorable and impressive in their own way.

In the course of my Amtrak adventures on Saturday, a fellow traveler who was missing out on seeing Race that night told me she could hardly wait to go both because of her undying crush on James Spader and her general love of David Mamet.  Wherever she is, I hope she gets to see it someday because Mr. Spader is indeed very good.

Major standout in the West Side Story cast: Karen Olivo as Anita.  Great singing, great dancing, and stage presence to spare.  Turns out she won a Tony last year for the role, so either I am really late to this or I just have excellent judgment on stage performers.  In this New York Magazine interview, Ms. Olivo reveals that she uses her own hair on stage and recently stopped being a vegan! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Zombies, zombies, everywhere!

You don't have to be a horror enthusiast to appreciate zombies.  I'm on the squeamish side, and yet I love Sean of the Dead and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  But what I love even more is the series of zombie self-help guides authored by my friend Scott Kenemore, he of the bearded ghost and mad drumming skillz.  I have a vivid memory of watching The Thing with Scott and some other friends in college while drinking Jack Daniel's Blackberry Lemonade, and I can tell you with confidence that is not a movie or beverage which should be combined. 

But I digress: Scott's new book, Z.E.O.: How to Get A(Head) in Business, came out in September, and if you like zombies and wish someone would distill their special qualities into a guide for achieving professional success, then this is the book for you.  Scott is interviewed about his zombie series here, and you can also check out his always entertaining zombie blog.  When he's not thinking about the walking undead, Scott spends time with his lovely girlfriend Heather.

Monday, February 8, 2010

And yet another reason to love Betty White

From last night's Super Bowl.  Betty White, can you do no wrong?  The answer is, no.  She cannot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Viva the Golden Girls

If you combine Clueless, Amy Heckerling's hilarious and sweet 1990s update of "Emma," with the comic perfection of the ladies of The Golden Girls, you get this:

My single complaint: why no Bea Arthur?  It borders on tragedy.

And the nominees are...

The nominees for this year's Academy Awards were just announced, with Avatar and The Hurt Locker receiving the most nods.  It should be interesting to see if the new system of ten Best Picture nominees works well, and if it succeeds in attracting more viewers when the ceremony is broadcast on ABC on March 7.  This is by far my favorite television event of the year. 

Another favorite?  Newsweek's annual Oscar roundtable, which is in the current issue.  Conveniently, every actor interviewed this year received an Oscar nomination. 

Also: the final season of Lost premieres tonight!  My head might just explode.

And another also!  My friend just reminded me that Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are co-hosting the Oscars this year.  This is all kinds of awesome. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bill Watterson speaks!

Also known as the creator of the late, lamented comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson is a fellow Kenyon grad.  The reclusive author was just interviewed for the Cleveland Plain Dealer; they note that this is his first time speaking to the press since 1989.  As sad as I was when Calvin and Hobbes took their last sled ride, I think Watterson was right to end the strip when it was still good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Team Coco, always!

Conan O'Brien's finale as host of the Tonight Show was a perfect example of why people love him: silly humor, intelligence, and, finally, complete sincerity.  His speech at the end of the episode was a great example of taking the high road.  It might have been easy or tempting to succumb to bitterness there, but Conan made a very elegant and mature farewell. (Sorry, embedding isn't permitted on that one.)  The very end of his speech is worth taking as a personal motto.  I look forward to seeing what he does next, even if it is in the parking lot of a 7-11.

Interesting side note: hours after appearing in the final musical act as a singer and his very pregnant hippie lady friend, Will Ferrell and his wife, Viveca Paulin, had their third son.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jay Leno, you're not doing yourself any favors!

According to this story from Entertainment Weekly, the Tonight Show situation could be resolved by this weekend, with Conan likely to leave NBC for greener pastures and Leno back in his old digs.  Even if Leno is getting what he wants, ultimately, he's really getting pummeled in the press and by the other late night hosts.  He invited Jimmy Kimmel on his program last night, but it didn't exactly make him look good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Late Night Wars

NBC's decision to create a primetime platform for Jay Leno was observed with rabid speculation last summer, and after only a few months the outcome is clear: the show is a failure, and NBC is has decided to change their late night lineup again.  Leno gets his own show at 11:35, the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien gets moved to 12:05 (which technically means it doesn't air "tonight") and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is on at 1:05.  Apparently, no one's too bothered about the fate of Last Call with Carson Daly.

Earlier this evening, Conan released this statement wherein (no surprise here) he reveals that he does not want to see the Tonight Show's timeslot changed.  I think he's right.  NBC needs to give Conan time to develop his show and audience, and seven months just isn't long enough.  And Leno is starting to seem like a jerk.  It's time for him to move on, perhaps to another network.

Maybe Conan won't get the same numbers Leno did, but he has lowered the age of Tonight Show viewers, which is supposedly what advertisers all want, and he waited patiently to get this gig.  He has behaved honorably, and that should be returned.