Monthly Archives: February 2009

Friday Recommends: Dark Was The Night

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Benefit albums, like the Oscars and New Year’s parties, are usually a mixed bag. The latest Red Hot compliation, Dark Was The Night, is no exception. The difference with Dark is that its high points are quite high, and plentiful.

Red Hot is an international charity founded to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS through music and pop culture. To commemorate its 20th year, Red Hot released Dark, an indie rock all-star gathering produced by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National. The 31 songs are split onto two discs; we’ll carry the all-star analogy a bit further and compare disc one ( “That Disc”) to the Western Conference NBA All-Stars and disc two ( “This Disc”) to the Eastern Conference.

Both discs feature top-notch talent, but where disc one coheres into a thematic whole (think of Chris Paul orchestrating a fluid offense of Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire and Brandon Roy) disc two never quite becomes more than the sum of its parts — like, say, a Mike Brown-coached squad with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade but Allen Iverson and Mo Williams at point guard, two guys who will look for their own shot regardless of who’s on their team. Meanwhile, every other player on the floor thinks, “We’ve got LeBron James and Dwayne Wade and none of our point guards want to pass me the ball, so what am I here for?” In this analogy, Arcade Fire and Andrew Bird are James and Wade, respectively, and while they both turn in solid performances (especially Wade –er, Bird– covering the Handsome Family’s “The Giant of Illinois”), nobody else quite picks up the slack even though there’s talent to burn. Spoon delivers a buzzy but disposable opener ( “Well Alright”) while The New Pornographers never quite go to eleven on “Hey, Snow White.” Beirut and Yo La Tengo deliver solid numbers (“Mimizan” and “Gentle Hour,” respectively) and Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch contribute a beautiful duet ( “Lua”), but Cat Power butchers “Amazing Grace” and My Morning Jacket gets in touch with its soft jazz/lounge lizard side on “El Caporal.” Lots of talent but little chemistry: we’ll jump sports and call disc two the New York Yankees of indie rock benefit albums. 

The standouts on disc one are a fantastic cover of Vashti Bunyan’s “Train Song” by Feist and Zooey Descanel’s future husband, Ben Gibbard; Bon Iver’s “Brackett, WI” (Ben’s vote for album MVP); The National’s “So Far Around the Bend”; Yeasayer’s “Tightrope”; and an operatic, ten-minute, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cover of the Castanets’ “You Are The Blood” by Sufjan Stevens. Disc one is a little darker, a little gloomier, but without question the disc that will stay with you longer, and that — if you’re like us — you’ll keep coming back to. (We’ve had “Brackett, WI” — which you can hear on the Dark Is The Night homepage — on repeat for the past 30 minutes.)

Finally, the album art is pretty sweet. It features Gustave Dore’s illustrations for Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” gothic angels and demons in anguished conflict. As Aaron Dessner says in the liner notes, the images “evoke a ‘fallen’ world of struggle, but also the capacity of art to inspire us to rise above the obstacles put in our path. Our nights may be dark, but music gives us inspiration and hope of brighter days to come.” Good music. Good cause. It’s a no-brainer.

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Filed under Friday Recommends, music, NBA, voreplay

Lost Forum: “The Life And Death of Jeremy Bentham”

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“I’m not gonna juke the stats … Wait, what show am I in right now?”

 

We had the pleasure of watching last night’s episode with our friends Dusty and Lauren, who host an exclusive “Lost” dinner club with two other couples. We were fearful of making a bad impression and being ostracized by this elite group, joking on the drive over how mortified they would be if the first thing out of our mouths was, “Guys, we have this incredible theory! They’re all actually dead, and the island is purgatory.”

[crickets]

We think we played it cool though.

On to the recap:

  • John Locke is alive!
  • Ajira Airways has a website! (Dusty spent much of the evening trying to book a flight.)
  • Lance Reddick is back!
  • So is Malcolm David Kelly!
  • We need to retire the exclamation points!
  • After turning the frozen donkey wheel, Locke lands in Tunisia, where Charles Widmore rigged up a surveillance system so as to catch anyone who “jumps” off the island and immediately begins barfing.
  • We never, ever wish to receive care in a Tunisian hospital.
  • Widmore makes his case for why he’s not a bad guy and Benjamin Linus is. Locke wonders why he should believe Widmore over Ben. Widmore: “I haven’t tried to kill you, John.” Good point.
  • Matthew Abaddon personally chaffeurs John around the globe until he gets gunned down (by Ben, if we take Ben’s word on it).
  • Sayid has found good work building homes in the Dominican Republic.
  • Walt’s voice got a little deeper, and he’s still having clairvoyant dreams/visions. Otherwise that was an awkward (pointless?) little reunion.
  • At the insane asylum in Santa Rosa, Hurley was drawing a sphinx when John showed up. ( “sphinx” = “to strangle” … little foreshadowing there) (h/t Doc Jensen)
  • John’s ex Helen died of a brain aneurysm. (Or did she?)
  • John tries to commit suicide.
  • Ben stops John.
  • Ben kills John.

About that scene, one of the show’s finest: the two vital bits of information that Ben receives are that Jin is alive and John needs Eloise Hawking’s help to return to the island. The second revelation is what pushes Ben over the edge. For those of us who have become devoted Ben ( “The Great Snake of ‘Lost’“) Linus apologists, it was a tough episode to stomach. It’s hard to make the case for anyone who strangles another man with an electrical cord.

The twist at the end is that John, alive, back on the island, now has Ben, half-dead in a makeshift infirmary, in his sights.

Also of note: We get introduced to Cesar (who played a character in Three Kings named — wait for it — Said) and Ilana, who witnessed the Oceanic 6 jump before Frank Lapidus safely landed the plane. Did the O6 jump to the same time as the rest of the plane’s survivors (the third group of castaways the show has given us)?

A few more thoughts before we open things up:

Mike Allen jokingly (we think) suggested (possibly for the sole purpose of aggravating Erik Brueggemann) that the Knights Templar may be involved in all this. Joke or not, he may be on to something. Widmore tells Locke that they’ve met before and confirms that he was the 17-year-old, neck-twisting hothead from the “Jughead” episode. He goes on to say that he and Richard Alpert’s group were the island’s guardians, protecting the Holy Grail, as it were. But somehow Ben hornswoggled him into relinquishing this charge and/or leaving the island without the ability to return (or perhaps the ability to return but not without contracting malignant nose bleeds). To come back to the show’s many Biblical allusions of late, we’ve got a Jacob/Esau thing going on with Ben/Widmore. And the question of which brother was “good” and which “bad” wasn’t the point of the Genesis story – it was that Jacob (Ben) was wily enough to outsmart Esau (Widmore), steal his birthright and still get God’s blessing despite being (or because he was) a schemer. We’re cribbing much of this from Doc Jensen, so it’d be appropriate here to link to him.

Other thought: John has shown himself capable of being manipulated by just about everyone, and the most crushing discovery he made last night was that Helen ( “Have you ever been in love, John?” Kate asked him) was dead. Abaddon took him to the cemetery and everything. But we’ve had the grave switcheroo before with Sun and Jin. So was that simply a ploy to ratchet up John’s desperation? Did Widmore need John to die to fulfill his schemes for returning to the island? Did Ben? How much are Widmore and Ben at cross-purposes and how much are they after the same thing? And would there have been a mystical difference for John’s island fate had he hung himself vs. Ben strangling him?

While we’re at it, can anyone help us make the case that Ben Linus could still be good? Didn’t it sound like he kinda meant it when he said “I’ll miss you, John”? Would you really trust him over Widmore?

We’re not even going to get into the implications of Locke’s alias being Jeremy Bentham. And we’re done trying to book a flight on Ajira: someone named “Reyes, H” bought 132 seats on every flight out of Cincinnati. Jerk.

And thank you, Dusty & Lauren, for hosting us. Hope we didn’t make fools out of ourselves.

 

[photo: abc.com]

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The Kindle And The Blind

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The Kindle. Disembodied hand sold separately.

 

There has been a lot of fretting among bookish types that Amazon’s Kindle will be the downfall of the printed word. Meanwhile, Roy Blount (current president of the Authors Guild) has an op-ed in today’s New York Times drawing attention to a lesser-known concern among Authors Guild types: Kindle 2′s text-to-speech feature allows for books to be read aloud, which means it could significantly cut into the billion dollar audio book market without paying anyone for audio rights.

“You may be thinking that no automated read-aloud function can compete with the dulcet resonance of Jim Dale reading Harry Potter,” writes Blount.

But the voices of Kindle 2 are quite listenable. There’s even a male version and a female version. (A book by, say, Norman Mailer on Kindle 2 might do a brisk business among people wondering how his prose would sound in measured feminine tones.)

 

The National Federation of the Blind asserts that the Authors Guild is preventing the blind from access to the spoken word (while acknowledging that Kindle 2 “cannot be used independently by a blind reader because the controls to download a book and begin reading it aloud are visual and therefore inaccessible to the blind”). To which Blount responds that “publishers, authors and American copyright laws have long provided for free audio availability to the blind and the guild is all for technologies that expand that availability. … But that doesn’t mean Amazon should be able, without copyright-holders’ participation, to pass that service on to everyone.”

Point: Blount. This debate aside, the Kindle is very cool. We don’t have one, but our sister/sister-in-law Ellen does. It’s fun to play with. We don’t think owning a Kindle is mutually exclusive to buying books. (You won’t hear us say this often, but for once we agree with Stephen King’s critical assessment.) Kindle users are probably the types who still buy a lot of books anyway, although they’re surely buying less than they usually might. For our money, nothing can replace holding a first edition hardcover in your hands or appreciating the aesthetics of a full bookcase to compliment the decor of one’s living room. But we’d certainly accept a Kindle with no small degree of enthusiasm if you were thinking about buying us one. 

Does this mean we want everyone to go buy Kindles? No. Since one of us makes a livelihood on selling printed books, we’d encourage you to keep doing that. But is the Kindle the end of the printed word? Hardly. 

Once the Kindle is able to replicate Nic Cage’s voice, though, all bets are off. We’ve always wondered what it’d be like to listen to him reading Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic.

 

[photo: http://www.metastwnsh.com

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Why The Mavericks Have Become Also-Rans: Another Mostly Non-Jazz NBA Post

I doubt we’ll see a more unlikely buzzer beater than this one anytime soon:

 

Several things to note here:

  1. The Dallas Mavericks traded Devin Harris for Jason Kidd a little over a year ago (February 19, to be exact). At the time Kidd was 34 years old, Harris 24. 
  2. The Mavs went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year, in five games to the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul ate Jason Kidd alive. 24.6 ppg/12 apg vs. 8.6 ppg/6.8 apg. This isn’t to say Devin Harris would have fared much better. But he couldn’t have fared much worse. 
  3. Harris is averaging 21.9 points and 6.6 assists per game this season. Kidd is averaging 9.0 and 8.4.
  4. Dallas is 33-23 while New Jersey is 25-32. It may be significant to add that both teams have about equal odds of making (or not making) the playoffs. Dallas would be the eight seed in the West while the Nets are two games out in the East. (No comment here as to the ludicrousness that the six, seven and eight seeds in the East would have losing records.)
  5. It may also be significant to note that Dallas still has Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry while the Nets have Vince Carter, Brooke Lopez, and three cadavers wearing Keyon Dooling, Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons jerseys. Would Kidd have better individual stats if he was still in Jersey? Absolutely. But has Kidd accomplished anything that Mark Cuban hoped for when he traded for him? And is there any reason to expect that’ll change with time? No sports great besides Oddibe McDowell has yet defied the cruel diminishment of skill that comes with age.*

 

So why would Cuban claim he would do the Kidd-Harris trade over again? Maybe because he’s insane.

Now, had David Stern not declared from on high that Dwayne Wade needed to be anointed the next Jordan and Miami won a brutally refereed Finals in 2006, Cuban could probably have refrained from self-destructing his team. Avery Johnson would probably still have his job, Dirk Nowitzki would be considered one of the game’s elite, and Devin Harris would still be running one of the most potent offensives around instead of leading a 3-on-2 break with Jarvis Hayes and Trenton Hassell. 

Or you could forgive Stern and blame Don Nelson for returning from the dead just in time to rip his former team’s heart out during round one of the 2007 Playoffs. And no, Devin Harris didn’t have a great series against Baron Davis. But the key difference there is that Harris was in his third NBA season. Could Harris one day dominate the game the way Kidd did in his prime and be the leader on a team that makes back-to-back Finals? Almost surely not. But would that stop you from making that trade if you were in Rod Thorn’s shoes? 

Finally, there is the question of who you want taking a half court shot at the buzzer with Andre Iguodala draped all over him. I think Harris clearly gets the nod. 

This isn’t to say that the Mavs would be the team to beat in the West had they simply kept Harris. He wasn’t a great fit, and Avery Johnson was close to Harris’s personal Kryptonite. But the trade was symbolic of Cuban’s obsessive need to fiddle and tweak to the point it becomes detrimental. He favors the bold, gutsy shake-up rather than the subtle adjustment. The opposite of this — though I hate to say anything remotely complimentary of them — is the San Antonio Spurs, who have had some luck when it comes to winning championships in the past decade. 

Meanwhile, in other non-Jazz NBA news, the Knicks reached a buyout agreement with Stephon Marbury, paving the way for him to join Boston. Why would the Celtics sign a headcase? Because with Tony Allen out the rest of the regular season, Doc Rivers is turning to Eddie House, Brian Scalabrine and (gulp!) Gabe Pruitt to spell Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. 

There are eight thousand reasons why Boston shouldn’t sign Marbury, but I think it will because of two big ones:

  1. The Celtics are afraid.
  2. LeBron James.

The Celtics got swept by the Lakers and destroyed by James and Cleveland the last go-round. Now KG’s gimpy for at least the short term and no one is quite as fearful of Boston as they were a year ago, or even two months ago. If you’re Danny Ainge, you don’t sit on your hands. You take a page out of Cuban’s playbook and be a man of action, even though that action will almost certainly be disastrous. If the Celtics won last year primarily because of great chemistry, why would you throw a grenade into your own bunker by signing Marbury? So bloggers everywhere can have a field day when Marbury totally self-destructs and takes the reigning champs down with him because he thinks he’s still the man in crunch time? Can KG really survive another tour of duty with Marbury? If they end up on the same team again, one of the them kills the other. Write it down.

Besides, the Celtics already picked up Mikki Moore. What else do they need? (The link is worth clicking on if only to appreciate Moore’s agent Mark Bartelstein making it sound as though every playoff contender thought Moore was the missing puzzle piece. You can usually spot these Missing Puzzle Pieces by this tell-tale phrase: “Waived by the Sacramento Kings.”)

Another almost completely non-Jazz NBA post! Don’t look now, but Utah has won eight of nine, including wins over L.A. and Boston. And Boozer’s back! But I’m not getting too excited until he scores more than 2 points in 21 minutes.

 

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* = This statement is patently false but I could not resist working Oddibe McDowell into an NBA post, even at great cost to my integrity as an NBA commentator.

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Live-Blogging the Oscars

A running diary of last night’s Oscar festivities. But first, our respective favorite Oscar Night memories: 

My (Erin) best Oscar memory by far was 2003. It was my birthday. I was working at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville. Every year the Belcourt hosted a fancy gala to benefit charity. I got to bartend the evening. We poured many a drink, bid on a silent auction or two, watched the awards on the big screen, and when all was said and done karaoked to Dynamite Hack on stage. Highlight of the evening: I was sitting on a bench and a photographer asked to photograph my “exquisite” ankle. It’s as close to famous as I’ll ever come.  

My (Ben) favorite Oscar memory is when I won Best Supporting Actor for my role as Otto West in A Fish Called Wanda.

 

7:37 p.m. While Barbara Walters asks Mickey Rourke why he destroyed his own career, it occurs to us that we still haven’t seen The Wrestler. Or Revolutionary Road. Or The Visitor. Or several other movies we intended to watch before the Oscars, not simply because we’d be better-informed viewers and would-be diarists but also because we still had every intention of finishing our long-promised “Best of Movies: 2008″ post. (This was as close as we got.) As has been widely commented already, 2008 was not a great year for movies. It may not have even been a good year for movies. We don’t feel especially qualified to make a judgment on that because we watched fewer movies this past year than any year since we’ve been married. We saw very good movies (Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, The Dark Knight, and — depending on which member of Voreblog you ask — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), we saw less good movies (Quantum of Solace, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and — we’re being vulnerable here – Yes Man), and we saw two movies we’d classify as terrible: Vantage Point and The Happening. But, again, we left no movie this year thinking, “We just saw a great movie.”*

     We will, however, use this space to make one controversial statement: We think Wall-E was overrated. Saying this out loud has gotten us cursed at by, among others, Matthew Leathers. The first half hour of the movie was close to perfect. But once Wall-E lifts off into space in his quixotic quest to win over EVE, things got pretty conventional and a little boring. We’d definitely recommend seeing it once, but it’s not on par with, say, The Incredibles or Ratatouille

     Phew. Glad we got that off our chest.

7:51 p.m.  Matthew Leathers calls us and unleashes such a blue streak of profanity that we have to remind ourselves we’re not in a “Deadwood” episode. 

7:57 p.m.  Hugh Jackman just gave Barbara Walters a lap dance. We’re not joking.

8:04 p.m.  Sarah Jessica Parker appears to be wearing a tent to support what Erin calls her “50 gallon boobs.” A few other fashion snap judgments: Ben on Kate Winslet: “Classy but she’s got Hillary Clinton hair.” Erin on Miley Cyrus: “I secretly love her dress, but since I hate her, I hate the dress.” Erin on Anne Hathaway: “Love her dress. Love her Chiclet-sized teeth. Jealous of her giant boobs.” 

8:17 p.m.  A preview for Nic Cage’s movie The Knowing! Which Nic Cage will show up?

8:27 p.m.  We get uncomfortable whenever a Red Carpet host fails to acknowledge a movie star’s significant other. Three examples so far, all women: Richard Jenkins’s wife gets the snub, as does Jack Black’s wife and Leslie Mann, who was sandwiched between husband Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan. It’s just rude.

8:36 p.m.  Snap judgments on Hugh Jackman’s opening number: Anne Hathaway is a great Nixon; we’re glad someone said out loud that no one has seen The Reader; and nice work plugging Wolverine too. Good start.

8:39 p.m.  Erin immediately spots Daniel Craig sitting behind Frank Langella. One row over, Philip Seymour Hoffman appears to have a black spore eating him from the head down.

8:40 p.m.  Our apologies. It’s a beret. 

8:41 p.m.  Hugh Jackman acknowledges Meryl Streep and her daughter. “Her daughter’s pretty,” Erin says. “She’s thin and pretty. I hate her.” Then, five seconds later, “She’s a tramp.” “What?” Ben asks. “You just said she was pretty.” “Well, pretty in a trampy kind of way.”

8:43 p.m.  Bevin Beers thinks Hugh Jackman is doing a great job so far. The phone conversation ends abruptly with Erin saying, “Oooh! Emile Hirsch! Gotta go.”

8:44 p.m.  Erin on Tilda Swinton: “She always looks like a crazy space god.” On Anjelica Huston: “You could land a plane on her cheekbones.” On Penelope Cruz: “You could also land a plane on her cleavage.” On Goldie Hawn: “Is she drunk? Are her boobs wearing their own dress?” And we both have a crush on Taraji P. Henson. 

8:46 p.m.  We like having past winners present the nominees. Even though some have not aged well.

8:53 p.m.  We both agree Tina Fey has learned much since her Golden Globe fashion debacle, when Erin said she “looked like a busty hobo.”

8:56 p.m.  We’re glad Dustin Lance Black wins Original Screenplay for Milk. He’s one of the writers for “Big Love.” Two of our favorites from the past year.

9:01 p.m.  Simon Beaufoy wins Best Adapted Screenplay. Now boarding the Slumdog Millionaire Oscar train.

9:03 p.m.  Someone just egged our house and smashed our mailbox with a baseball bat. We call Matthew Leathers’s home phone. No one picks up.

9:08 p.m.  We skip out on the Year in Animation tribute to move a load of laundry into the dryer. Ben offers to do this alone so Erin can watch but Erin doesn’t trust him to identify which of her garments cannot be dried. This goes back to an unfortunate episode during our first year of marriage when Ben dried a Banana Republic sweater he had purchased for Erin the week before. (This was not, repeat not, a ploy for Ben to get out of laundry duty.) (Honestly.)

9:09 p.m.  Oktapodi totally gets snubbed for Best Animated Short Film. We’re just about ready to boycott these shenanigans.

9:20 p.m.  A heated argument erupts as to which one of us has worse gas. The vote is a tie. Scooter Thomas is asked to be the tiebreaker but he is off his rocker on the new catnip we sprinkled on his Trader Joe’s Double Wide Cat Scratcher.

9:31 p.m.  Erin on Natalie Portman: “She looks like a sexy bottle of Pepto Bismol.” And we are very amused by Ben Stiller’s Joaquin Phoenix impersonation. 

9:39 p.m.  From the dining room, Erin mistakes Jessica Biel for Catherine Zeta-Jones. We both hate Catherine Zeta-Jones. 

9:44 p.m.  The best moment in Judd Apatow’s short is Seth Rogen and James Franco laughing hysterically during The Reader and Doubt. Sort of like in Naked Gun when Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley couldn’t stop laughing after Platoon. If you’re gonna rip off someone else’s gag, rip off the best.

9:53 p.m.  Three minutes into an interminable Mamma Mia!-inspired musical number. Ben has never been able to stomach musicals. This should be listed as a job requirement on all youth ministry applications. If you’re going to spend time getting to know teenagers, chances are good you’ll end up at more than a few musicals. Oklahoma. Guys and Dolls. Into the Woods. Once Upon A Mattress. The Wiz. Oklahoma. Oklahoma. Oklahoma. If you can’t at least fake like you’re having a good time watching a musical without wanting to rip your eardrums out, take it from me: You should rethink youth ministry.

9:59 p.m.  Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock need to stop making movies. Other stars we would put on this list: 

  • Adam Sandler
  • Kevin James
  • Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • Richard Gere
  • Gretchen Mol
  • Eddie Murphy
  • Renee Zellweger
  • James Van Der Beek
  • Jason Biggs
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Dakota Fanning
  • Vin Diesel
  • Queen Latifah
  • Robin Williams
  • Mira Sorvino
  • Owen Wilson (temporarily, until he regains his sanity)
  • Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino (anyone who disagrees with this will be strapped to a chair and made to watch Righteous Kill)
  • anyone slated to appear in a future Pirates of the Caribbean

 

10:03 p.m.  Ben is going to run a quick errand to Kroger until he discovers his tires have been slashed. And someone has toilet-papered our lawn.

10:04 p.m.  Still no answer at Matthew’s home phone.

10:08 p.m.  Heath Ledger wins Best Supporting Actor. Voreblog readers are geniuses. 

10:11 p.m.  Erin: “Honey, seriously. I’m going to make you watch upstairs if the stench gets any worse.”

10:15 p.m.  We haven’t seen Best Documentary winner Man on Wire, but Dan Vore loved it. Philippe Petit delivers what will surely be the best acceptance speech of the night. Let’s see Penelope Cruz balance an Oscar on her chin!

10:25 p.m.  Erin: “Who do you think is nicer: Brad or Angelina?” Ben: “I bet neither of them are very nice.” Erin: [gives Ben a disappointed look] “Why don’t you play my games? The correct answer is Brad.”

10:32 p.m.  Erin spots a woman in a fur coat who doesn’t clap when Slumdog Millionaire wins for Best Sound Editing. “What’s her problem? She didn’t start clapping for at least ten whole seconds!” Really, if you get invited to the Academy Awards, you should at least put in the effort and applaud the winners.

10:43 p.m.  Remind us again what Heidi Klum sees in Seal?

10:49 p.m.  Ben cracks a window to air things out a bit.

10:53 p.m.  Danny Elfman does not win Best Original Score for Milk. We’re pissed. This whole thing is turning into a sham.

10:55 p.m.  We wonder if Slumdog haters will soften up given the fact that the most endearing acceptance speeches have been from that movie’s winners. Then two songs from Slumdog get nominated in that category. Seriously? One step forward, three steps back. (And what’s with this anti-High School Musical bias?)

11:00 p.m.  Erin: “Alicia Keys sounds like Maya Rudolph doing Oprah.” 

11:04 p.m.  Ben compliments Erin on her exquisite ankles.

11:11 p.m.  Erin: “Wait, Michael Crichton died?”

11:12 p.m.  Ben: “Wait, Roy Scheider died?”

11:20 p.m.  Danny Boyle locks up Best Director. Goes to show what filming great toilet scenes for a career will get you.

11:28 p.m. Speaking of people who should not be making movies anymore, whatever happened to Halle Berry? Monster’s Ball was, um, awkward. And Swordfish? Gothika? Catwoman? Shouldn’t Academy Awards count for something?

11:30 p.m.  Sophia Lauren scares us out of our pants. Erin: “She’s wearing a red fox on her head.”

11:31 p.m.  Erin: “Kate Winslet is going to win, and she is going to be a crazy, hysterical mess.”

11:33 p.m.  Kate Winslet is a crazy, hysterical mess. But it’s a vast improvement over the Golden Globes. (Why does she always sound like she just ran a marathon?)

11:34 p.m.  What would “Extras” Kate Winslet say about The Reader Kate Winslet? 

11:42 p.m.  While Ben Kingsley salutes Mickey Rourke, Erin cannot help but notice Robert Pattison sitting behind Rourke in the crowd. She apparently knows him well enough to address him as “R-Patts” “R-Patz.” (Ben apologies profusely for not knowing it was Patz with a ‘z’.)

11:45 p.m.  Sean Penn’s hands are visibly shaking as he reads from his thank you list. It’s reassuring to see movie stars and celebrities get nervous. We felt this way when we held up Ted Danson the other week. 

11:47 p.m.  Nice touch for Penn to acknowledge Rourke. Still, we suggest he have a bodyguard escort him to his limo tonight.

11:53 p.m.  Slumdog! Never have so many cute Indian kids accepted a Best Picture award. 

11:57 p.m.  We both agree that Sarah Jessica Parker and Sophia Lauren tied for Worst Dressed. Matthew Broderick is runner-up. Erin gives Best Dressed to Tina Fey. Adrien Brody locks down the “Is He High?” Award. 

11:59 p.m.  Fearless predictions for 2009 Oscars: Anne Hathaway wins Best Actor for Frost/Nixon. A movie about the Holocaust will be nominated for Best Picture. And Christian Bale wins Best On-Set Meltdown. (Imagine the acceptance speech!)

12:03 a.m.  Matthew Leathers is in our front lawn torching squirrels with a flame-thrower. We call the police.

 

Wednesday, February 25, 12:54 p.m.  Hendrik Hertzberg wanders afield and comments on this year’s Oscars. We concur.

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* = Erin: “You didn’t think Milk was great?” Ben: “I thought Milk was very good.” Erin: “Well what’s a great movie then?” Ben: “There Will Be Blood.” Erin: “Milk was at least as good as There Will Be Blood.” Ben: [shrugs]. Erin: “You’re a snob.”

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Filed under marital tension, movies, Nic Cage

And the Oscar goes to…

Voting has closed at the pre-Academy Awards Voreblog poll, and here are the results as predicted by you, the people:

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger [The Dark Knight] [note: Ledger won by a unanimous 14-0 vote]

Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei [The Wrestler]

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke [The Wrestler]

Best Actress: Kate Winslet [The Reader]

Best Director: Danny Boyle [Slumdog Millionaire]

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

 

We second all of these picks except Mickey Rourke. We’re going with Sean Penn for Best Actor.

And the write-in votes for American Psycho as Best Picture were appreciated but also eight years too late. Good effort, though.

Tomorrow: All the Oscar highlights presenting in live diary form!

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Tragic Moments in Retail History

CINCINNATI, OH [AP] — A customer at a local retail establishment approached employee Ben Vore today and asked him where the Bibles were shelved.

“Right over here,” Ben said. “Let me show you.”

As the two men walked to the section Ben asked the man if he needed a specific translation.

“No,” the customer replied, “just something small. I’m burying it with my cat today.”

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Friday Recommends: You Predicting the Oscars

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We fear for Sean Penn’s life if Mickey Rourke does not win an Oscar.

 

Just how savvy is the Voreblog readership when it comes to predicting the Academy Awards? Let’s find out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, disparaging remarks about Slumdog Millionaire can be shared in a comment thread although doing so will put you on the Voreblog blacklist. We advise you not to go to there.*

Tomorrow: Our predictions! Then Monday: An Oscar recap!

 

—–

* = “30 Rock” reference.

[photo: http://www.eonline.com

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Lost Forum: “316″

Summer TCA Tour ABC

“Have we told you that we write ‘Lost’? And that we’re pretty smart guys?”

 

First, a report from Tad Smith that last night’s episode and next week’s episode ( “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”) were originally supposed to show in reverse order. Meaning, whatever happened last night and whatever happens next week are mutually exclusive. Somehow, this knowledge — but more so the fact that “316″ was co-written by Mr. Cuse and Mr. Lindelof themselves — had us pretty psyched.

Did this contribute to the fact we were pretty disappointed with the episode? Maybe. But it was also just a lackluster episode. Very talky. Lots of exposition. Lots of gaps (presumably these will be filled in). It felt a little bit like a “Lost” parody of itself. Eloise Hawking gives a science lesson for ten minutes to expound on all the theories the writers are juggling. (And aren’t those writers pretty smart?) Ben gives a homily on doubting Thomas and Jack is confronted once again with his skeptical unbelief. Kate shows up teary-eyed at Jack’s apartment and they get it on. It all felt clunky, heavy-handed and a little too self-aware.

There were a few bright spots. The beginning — Jack, in a suit, waking up in the jungle, hearing screams in the distance … have we gone back to the start? — and the reveal that at least three of the Oceanic Six have now returned to the island was well done. The literary references sprinkled throughout — The Lamppost station evoking Narnia once again, Ben reading Ulysses, Hurley reading a Spanish translation of Y: The Last Man — were enjoyable. And the reunion with Jin at the end raising the question of when exactly Ajira Flight 316 landed presents more perplexing but promising questions.

But what of our other questions: How exactly did everyone end up at the airport for the same flight in such short time? Who’s escorting Sayid on board? Who bloodied Ben? And what exactly is that disturbing commercial featuring the woman with flowing armpit hair riding a bicycle supposed to be advertising? We were too busy dry-heaving to notice.

Yes, last night’s episode surely laid the foundation for future episodes to flash back to and fill out, but it felt like it was written backwards, as if the writers said, “We know where all these characters will end up, so let’s write an episode that’s intentionally fragmented and opaque so we can juice you with some surprises down the road.” Maybe you go for this kind of thing. We found it too clever by half.

The one spiritual reference we liked last night was maybe the most subtle: “316″ evoking John 3:16, a gesture toward Locke’s sacrificial death for Jack, the Oceanic Six, and the island itself. The lighter the touch with these things, the better.

Enough griping. We hope next week is a return to form.

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Nic Cage Cage Match

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“Hey you. Yeah, you — Evil Nic Cage. It’s time for a Nic Cage Cage Match.”

 

[Scene: A sketchy, poorly-lit Hollywood backlot.]

[GOOD NIC CAGE is sitting on a turned-over wooden crate. A small, 13-inch TV/VCR with bunny ears is sitting on another crate a few feet away. GOOD NIC CAGE is looking into it wistfully.]

[This commercial plays.]

 

GOOD NIC CAGE: Ha ha. Good one, Good Nic Cage. What most people fail to appreciate about me is just how wittily ironic I can be. Contrary to what some might say, I don’t take myself too seriously.

VOICE FROM THE DARK: Is that so?

GOOD NIC CAGE: What? Who said that?

[There is a rustling in the shadows. A sudden gust of wind blows through the lot. It lifts the receding hairline of GOOD NIC CAGE just a little (like so) as he stands up and looks around.]

[From the dark, BAD NIC CAGE emerges. His face is half-covered in shadow.]

BAD NIC CAGE: Hello, Good Nic Cage. Reminiscing about the few-and-far-between successes of your long, bloated movie career?

[GOOD NIC CAGE and BAD NIC CAGE, eyes locked, begin circling one another from a short distance. They start snapping, West Side Story-style.]

GOOD NIC CAGE: So, we meet again, Bad Nic Cage. You have no idea the damage you’ve done to my good name.

BAD NIC CAGE: The damage I’ve done? Au contraire, Good Nic Cage. It is you who have no idea the damage you’ve done to my bad name.

GOOD NIC CAGE: I’m afraid you’ve got it wrong, my evil doppelgänger. I’m not the Nic Cage of 8MM and Snake Eyes, The Wicker Man and Ghost Rider. I’m the Nic Cage of Raising Arizona, Peggy Sue Got Married, Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. I’m the Nic Cage who will always make you laugh when you hear me say, “You’ve been around a lot of dead bodies before. Is THAT normal?”

BAD NIC CAGE: Ah, Good Nic Cage. Your overweening self-regard is your fatal flaw. You think a few solid movies can atone for the grievous pile of cinematic crap you have dumped on moviegoers for the past 25 years? I mean, have you even heard of YouTube?

GOOD NIC CAGE: What are you talking about?

BAD NIC CAGE: I’m sorry I have to do this to you, my friend. But it’s for your own good that you see this.

 

[GOOD NIC CAGE looks increasingly perturbed as he watches the clip of him watching himself in The Wicker Man. He loosens his collar and swallows.]

GOOD NIC CAGE: I am better than the worst thing I’ve ever done, Bad Nic Cage. Movie stars got bills to pay too. Besides, you want to make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs. Or as I once said, “To be a good actor you have to be something like a criminal, to be willing to break the rules to strive for something new.”

BAD NIC CAGE: Are you just quoting yourself from your IMDB profile page?

GOOD NIC CAGE: Yes, and I’ll do so again: “I am not a demon. I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther. I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion.”

[BAD NIC CAGE stops circling, his eyes glazed over. He mouths the words, "Heat-seeking panther?"]

GOOD NIC CAGE: Try this one on for size: “I’m at the point now where I know I’m doing something right when a movie gets mixed reviews, because then I’m not in the box. I don’t want to make it too easy for people and I don’t want to make it too easy for myself. I want to try something unusual. I feel good about the bad reviews because I feel like I’ve affected them on some level. They may not know what I was trying to do but they felt something.”

BAD NIC CAGE: I’ll tell you what I feel listening to you babble on: Complete pity. And you sure affected a lot of people with Con Air and Bangkok Dangerous. You affected them so much they wanted to throw themselves off a building.

GOOD NIC CAGE: You’re jealous I inspire such love and hatred — the true mark of a thespian trailblazer.

BAD NIC CAGE: You’ve deluded yourself into thinking that your career is some kind of landmark cinematic omelette instead of a rancid countertop full of rotting, broken eggshells. 

GOOD NIC CAGE: Listen, there are a few things you may not know about me. Let’s review my illustrious career. First off I’m a Coppola, except I changed my last name to Cage to avoid all appearances of nepotism. I was #37 on Premiere’s Top 100 Powerful People in Hollywood in 1998. I’m one of only three actors with an Oscar nomination for playing multiple roles in one film, that being Adaptation. And I won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas. Plus I ate a real cockroach in Vampire’s Kiss.

BAD NIC CAGE: Let’s just go to the footage one more time:

 

GOOD NIC CAGE: You don’t get it! It’s tongue-in-cheek! I’m not afraid to spoof myself.

BAD NIC CAGE: Clearly not! Gone in Sixty Seconds. And — not to beat a dead horse, but I just have to keep coming back to it — Bangkok Dangerous and The Wicker Man. [BAD NIC CAGE visibly shudders as he says the last three words.]

GOOD NIC CAGE: So I slipped up once or twice! Don’t my chiseled good looks make up for it?

BAD NIC CAGE: Your chiseled good looks? Good God, man. Are you in denial? LOOK AT YOUR HAIR.

nic_cage

 

GOOD NIC CAGE: What’s wrong with my hair?

BAD NIC CAGE: [appalled silence]

GOOD NIC CAGE: You know what I don’t understand, Bad Nic Cage? How can we both be one and the same person

BAD NIC CAGE: You mean, how can one actor have had such great roles and amassed a loyal fan base for playing screwy, idiosyncratic characters and at the same time have made such mind-numbingly bad career choices and embarrassed himself by playing second- and third-rate imitations of the very roles for which he won acclaim and endeared himself to fans?

GOOD NIC CAGE: Wow, that pretty much hits the nail on the head right there.

BAD NIC CAGE: Could it have something to do with the theological notion that while we are created in the image of God we are also a fallen people, mired in sin, composed of two natures in fierce battle against another — sometimes one prevailing, other times being prevailed against — with the higher nature seeking grace, atonement, and ultimately justification while the lower nature seeks to corrupt those things?

GOOD NIC CAGE: Sort of like FBI agent Sean Archer and evil terrorist Castor Troy?

BAD NIC CAGE: Wait, is Face/Off yours or mine?

GOOD NIC CAGE: Depends who you ask.

BAD NIC CAGE: We have that effect on people, don’t we?

GOOD NIC CAGE: Regardless, that was deep.

BAD NIC CAGE: Thanks, man.

GOOD NIC CAGE: Think we can get a drink together?

BAD NIC CAGE: So long as you don’t show me your Oscar.

GOOD NIC CAGE: And so long as you don’t bring up City of Angels.

BAD NIC CAGE: Deal. C’mere you big lug.

[GOOD NIC CAGE and BAD NIC CAGE embrace. They walk into the shadows of the lot with arms draped across one another's shoulders.]

[A screen drops from the sky and this video is projected onto it.]

 

[THE END?]

 

[photo credits: imdb.com; celebrityblahg.blogspot.com]

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