Saturday, June 4, 2005
Friday, June 3, 2005
It's Charlie's Angels 2 bad, Xanadu bad, Hook bad, Howard the Duck bad. It's soulless, unfunny (except for some of costar Vince Vaughn's lines), bombastic, totally sterile and inhuman. Did I leave out hateful?
I don't want to go over the top here so let me take a breath and step back for a minute or two and collect myself. (Beat.) Okay, I've done that...fine. I'm calm. I'm breathing easy. This movie has cancer of the soul. It made my skin crawl.
Let's talk about Brad Pitt, shall we? As correctly explained in the new Esquire, he does not belong in leading roles at all:
One of this summer's big event movies, an action comedy called Mr. and Mrs. Smith, stars Pitt as one of "the world's most deadly assassins." That's already a mistake. Under no circumstances should Brad Pitt be cast as a superlative. The essence of Brad Pitt is detached insouciance; he's most interesting to watch when he doesn't seem to give a shit. About 14 years after he first achieved stardom, Hollywood still doesn't understand that Pitt is a brilliant goofball prankster trapped in the body of a Greek god. As Achilles, he's a magnificently sculpted statue, beautiful and boring. But turn him into a Waspy analogue to the young Elliott Gould—the shambling, apathetic buffoon—and he'd be funnier than Sandler and Ferrell.
Seriously: 12 Monkeys and True Romance? He's fantastic. Eating his way through Vegas in Ocean's 11? Plenty of fun. But Meet Joe Black and A River Runs Through It? Yawn.
Brad Pitt is much more successful as a celebrity than as an actor; does anyone see a movie just because he's starring in it? I guess we'll find out.
(Alternate titles for this post included "Darlin' Don't You Go And Cut Al Leiter, Do You Think It's Gonna Make Him Change?" and "With A Goal Line Stand On 4th and 2 I Hope It's Not A Vulture-Back".)
Thursday, June 2, 2005
But I've gotta ask: is that the original Old Guy for Arrested Development, or did they just hire someone else to perform the hip-hop equivalent of That Guy In A Ska Band Who Doesn't Sing, Doesn't Play An Instrument, But Just Dances Around And Provides The "Vibe"?
(Also, v. upset that the Flock of Seagulls lead singer has gone from new wave up-dos to hiding under a baseball cap.)
Helling Bee: A crafty demon named Dr. Jacques Ba'ally has hatched a plan to open the gates of hell by having a virgin (known as "the Phoeneticist") spell a magical incantation at the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Four demographically diverse prepubescent outcasts from various important Nielsen regions, plus one from Jamaica (an unimportant Nielsen region, but one known for its broad comic appeal), have been mysteriously chosen to save the world by defeating the Phoeneticist at the Bee -- but first they must overcome obstacles (poverty, parental pressure, learning disabilities, crippling social maladjustment, local and regional tournaments) to spell like the wind! And there's a catch: while the five heroes and the Phoeneticist are each mystically aware of each other and of Dr. Ba'ally's evil plan, neither they nor we know which of them is Dr. Ba'ally's pawn. Also, each of the spellers has an impossibly hot parent or sibling (possible casting suggestion: Aishwarya Rai as a single mom?). Pitch for a Friday - Sunday 8 p.m. time slot.
Shonda, is there a chance that one of the Grey's Anatomy doctors will reveal herself to be a former Spelling Bee whiz? A patient, perhaps?
It's official. I'm in love. I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love...
...I'm in love with a wonderful boy.
If you want to get all show tune-y about it.
I'm in love with Samir Patel. Yes, Samir is only 11 years old. So I'm not in love in a creepy Mary Jo LaTourneau-go to jail-plan a wedding-kind of way. No. I'm in love with the Speller within Samir.
Like the other most brilliant spectacle on TV, America's Next Top Model, the Bee gives you many pretenders and one clear contender. On ANTM, it's all a lot of ordinary tall leggy girls who need to eat something and one extraordinarily tall leggy girl who needs to eat something -- so it's not that kind of edge of your seat ride that the Bee is. The Bee shows you many, many decent kids -- all nice spellers, all hard workers, all dressed in the same uber-geek style (not a pair of low-riding pants in the bunch). But then it always gives you a rock star.
Samir is a Spelling Bee rock star. All style, plenty of substance, just enough showmanship to make you sit forward on the edge of your seat when he steps up to the microphone. Samir is the stuff of Spelling Bee dreams. Someone over at ESPN will be crying tears of joy when (and I guess I should also say "if" -- but come on, he's not gonna lose this thing) Samir makes his way to the final championship round.
There are others who had potential. Laura Ann Brown from Alabama who is awkward in that "I'm a thirteen year old girl who is almost 5'9' and tortured daily so I spell to keep from crying" kind of way. But she's also tall and leggy and on her way to being the kind of girl Tom Cruise would pretend to date. I adored her for her bad glasses and oddly Amish A-line skirt -- she reminded me of me. But she froze and went out on "tropholytic" -- a word I can neither spell nor pronounce.
There was Horton Hears A Who Boy: an adorable over-pronouncing, over-enunciating wonder who stopped between syllables of his word to turn his head and whisper into his clenched fist as if he had a tiny person in there to talk back to him. He's a future corporate titan. You can just tell. If only he could get that tiny person out of his hand....
We should also keep an eye on Evan O'Dorney age 11. At least he says he's 11 but he looks like a cuddly toddler. He's tiny and precious and he's spelling his ASS off.
And then there are the heartbreakers. Like the sweet Indian kid Nidharshan who went out in Round 5 because he'd never heard of "muesli". You could practically hear him shouting at his parents: See? I TOLD you I should be allowed to watch television!!
Favorite exchange of the day thus far? #7 Levi Foster, age 14. He was given the word "nuchal".
Levi: Can I have the definition?
Bossy But Cute Dr. Jacques Bailly: Of or relating to back part of the neck.
Levi: Can I have any alternate definitions?
BBC Dr. Jacques Bailey: It also means situated on the back of the prothorax of an insect immediately behind the neck.
A beat of silence. Then:
Levi: (deadpan) That's...helpful.
The audience roared.
I can not wait for the next round to begin.
Congratulations to Anurag Kashyap for winning this year's Bee, spelling that and all these other words too. (Lots of Italian roots, it seems.)
live via Shonda:
Aliya went down. Samir just went down on "roscian."
Anurag Kashyap won the whole thing on [see above] and then burst into tears.
And that's it. It's over. We have ourselves a new champion.
I worry, though, about Samir. I hope he lives to spell another day...
Marshall Winchester is a mouth breathing hyper competitive dark horse. He shrieked YES when he realized his word was "rathskeller"and could barely contain his growing glee while spelling. And there are still 18 spellers to go! He may hyperventilate if he makes it to the top 5.
2:38pm: John Minnich age 14 and #257 gets the word "ulpan". His immediate response is a long beat of silence followed by a very tortured "WHAT?"I can't say that I blame him.
3:02 pm: The Jamaican is down. I repeat: the Jamaican is down.
This year the girls (so dominant in past years) are dropping like flies.
3:11 pm: Hannah Rae Smith went down on "cancrizans". Her first response upon hearing the word was to burst out laughing and say, "Whatever."
Another girl bites the dust.
3:24 pm: Beginning to think the whole thing will come down to #21 Aliya Deri, a remarkably relaxed girl, our beloved mouth breather Winchester and Spelling BabyGod Samir Patel.
It's like the Rumble in the Jungle only with spelling and actually completely different in every way...
3:29 pm: Down to the final six in round 11.
I love his style and his drive but Winchester has facial hair. Can you have facial hair and be in the Bee?
3:33 pm: Winchester has been broken by the word "serang"!
Last year's #4, he finishes this year at #5.
And now, the word is Samizdat!
In other words, it's a list of PILFs (Pentagenarian I'd Like to...).
25 spellers remain. They fall into 2 categories - shocked or arrogant. The shocked kids are my favorites. They have a deer in headlights look, they shift from foot to foot, buy time with inane requests for language of origin one more time. They spell from a place of sheer terror. It's amazing and the look of relief that washes over them when they are correct is some of the best drama on tv, baby.
I hate an arrogant speller. Who has the nerve to be overconfident when you can get stuck with a word like coelostat?
Twenty-seven spellers entered this round; how many will survive?
A perfect seven-for-seven to start the day, and they're definitely getting a little trickier. Get out your sfig-MOM-muh-no-mee-tehr, because the pressure is rising . . .
If you're watching, or just following online like me, the comments are open to you.
Adds Pathetic Earthling: "CALIFORNIA UBER ALLES! Well, at least Northern California Uber Alles.
"My local boy - Evan O'Dorney - grabbed insessorial solidly, as if he had insessorial claws.
"We also have our first victim -- Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan from Boulder -- lost on lihg-NIH-pehr-uss as if her brain had been infected by termites . . . "
edited to add some more: We're now into Round 6, and will keep the pre-lunch round discussion in this thread. Will Anurag Kashyap be enjoying some pruh-SHOO-toe? Was there really just a four-letter word? Whether you've got your bak-uh-LOR-ee-uht degree or not, the excitement is building.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
For those just joining us, the motto round these parts is "Come for the wall-to-wall Spelling Bee coverage, stay for the pop culture nonsense."
- I like Harvest Zhang's words because they work well in a sentence together: "One way to avoid dire Malthusian consequences is to disobey proper algesimeter protocol and just start poking the crap out of people with them."
- Stacey Ann Person, this year's Jamaican entrant, is still in the running. So, too, is one of the eleven Canadian entrants, Alberta's Finola Hackett.
- The only newspaper with two entrants still in the running is the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
- Other than "Matthew" (twice), there's almost no overlap between the most popular birth names of 1993 and the finalists.
Tomorrow's coverage starts at 10am eastern. Join Shonda Rhimes and the rest of us for all the fun.
Cambridge Dictionaries Online. (How sad. The Cambridge Dictionary?)
And, of course, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, which offers us the word of the day: ZAH-pah-TIST-a
(OED is subscription only, alas)
First come, first served. Choose one, and only one. Explain your reasoning, and show all work.
For me, since it's my blog, I get to take four-timer Katharine Close of Spring Lake, NJ. A woman has yet to win this century, and she's battle-tested and ready.
(I look forward to someone taking Alexis Ducotte, given the meager words he's had to spell so far, or Dominic Errazo, he of the three words in sixteen letters.)
More statistics and analysis to come later tonight. Did you know all 4 four-timers have survived to tomorrow's championship?
Here's what we'll do: after round four is over today, I'll set up a Pick A Winner Thread starting at 7pm eastern tonight. Every user of this site gets one selection of the remaining competitors, first-come, first-served. Winner gets fame and glory forever.
And, boom, Round 4 is underway, and bodies are hitting the floor. Sure, you may wear LAY-duhr-ho-zen or play the GLOK-uhn-speel, but how about ih-DUHL-kuh-rait, meaning, "to sweeten".
Thus far, a fairly easy round:
- uh-STIG-muh-tiz-uhm: that eye thing.
- hah-buh-NYAIR-oh: the hot stuff.
- PURR-juh-ree: claiming to not know the meaning of "is".
- nuh-FAIR-ee-uhss: a word never seen without the word "scheme" following it.
- PISS-ta-shee-oh: you're nuts if you can't spell it.
Still, someone was knocked out on KWAH-fyoor, and she'll want to wash that word out of her hair for a long, long time.
Comments open for your ongoing commentary on good words, bad words and everything in-between.
Of the ALOTT5MA S-P-E-L-L-E-R-S of the Day, three-peaters Samir Patel and Nektarios Vasilottos are in, but, sadly, among the eliminated were Calvin Lau (dad stationed in Germany), Philadelphia's Tricia Powles, New Zealand's Charlotte Roose and Larisa Pachuta, who's got plenty of time for her freeze-dried ice cream now.
Regrettably, Morgan Gilliam, the youngest entrant at age 9, whose "main goal is just not to miss the first word they give", missed her first word: PO-dill-uh-juss, meaning "having pollen baskets on the legs". She'll be back.
For me, it starts getting tricky around #16, but I have a feeling Western PA's Joe Levri had no problem with it.
Round two has begun, with all kids competiting in order of home state, and you can follow it live online. Victoria Shih is, apparently, not Jewish, and it's not going well for the children from the Land of Lincoln.
edited to add: Round two is complete. From the very-in-the-news-last-year "catafalque" to a kid born four years after the fall of the Iron Curtain missing "perestroika" to an abundance of food words ("cappelletti", "vichyssoise", "sorrel", "andouille", "jicama" and a zillion others), we have much to discuss.
Round two words that I think most of us could have spelled in our sleep, and will haunt the kids who had to face "trichotillomania" instead?
- ahn-WEE -- how I feel when there's nothing good stored on my TiVo.
- AHRM-uh-stiss -- the end of a war; day on which Paul Simon says the Philharmonic will play
- sur-OH-suss -- when your liver's messed up
- SILL-uh and kuh-RIB-diss -- those two places in that myth you don't want to be.
- ses-kwee-sen-TENN-ee-uhl -- stuff that happened 150 years ago
- ZITE-guyst -- thing that Nick Denton is searching for
- TEHMP-ay -- hippie food
- ruh-SID-uh-viz-um: because otherwise, you'll do it again
- pa-AY-yuh: George Costanza's mom's favorite dish
Take over in the comments.
We do what any show does: bring in the Very Special Guest.
This year, the ALOTT5MA team is thrilled that we will be joined for live commentary tomorrow on the televised rounds by the ultracool Shonda Rhimes, longtime fan of this site and creator of the hit ABC medical show Grey's Anatomy, an hour of television so smart and fun that we long ago dropped any and all complaints about her depriving us of Dennycrane until fall.
Oh: and she is, in her own words, "a crazed Spelling Bee fan and proud of it."
Here's how today's rounds work: first round, occurring as we speak, is a 25 word written round, one point each. Then every competitor has one chance, in round two, to rock the mic in front of his or her parents, all 273 of them. Spell that word right, and it's three points. The 90+ kids with the highest combined scores (including ties at the lowest score needed to produce at least 90) move on to the remaining rounds (two today), while the other 180 will start looking at the IMAX schedules.
Bottom line: if you've got a severe case of logorrhea, we're the cure. Please welcome Shonda kindly, and let the coverage begin.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
JB: Hey, can I hang out with you guys?
CC-B: Get lost, I'm trying to get to second base with [redacted].
JB: I'll tell you a big secret.
CC-B: Pipsqueak, I'm working here. Besides, what secret could you possibly have?
JB: My father is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative journalist.
CC-B: Oh, all right. Spill it and we'll see if it's worth it.
JB: I know who Deep Throat is.
JB: W. Mark Felt.
CC-B: No, I mean who's Deep Throat?
JB: You know, the guy who told my dad to follow the money?
CC-B: Follow who?
JB: The money. Because it led to CREEP.
CC-B: To what?
JB: That's how they got to Stans.
CC-B: You know, I have boobs to fondle, and I don't even know what you're talking about.
JB: About Watergate. You know, bringing down Nixon.
CC-B: Oh, you mean those guys from the Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young songs.
JB: Leonard who?
CC-B: Don't you know anything? Ignorant.
JB: Uh, so anyway, I know who Deep Throat is.
JB: It's W. Mark Felt.
CC-B: Who's he?
JB: A former high-ranking FBI official.
CC-B: Is he in any songs?
JB: I never heard of him before my mother, Nora Ephron, who is thinking about doing a movie with Meg Ryan, told me he was Deep Throat.
CC-B: Your mom knows Meg Ryan?
[extended silence, possibly erasure]
Relive the day with Tim Goodman's 6/1/00 prescient, gushing review of that debut or the six-page (that's it?) TWoP recap ("The narrator, who looks like The Professor, appears again and shows us the teams' treemail. I feel inferior in light of such crafty wordplay. His name, we are told, is Jeff Probst, as if we care.")
Seriously, folks, hasn't Mark Burnett made your life better?
edited to add: Lisa de Moraes' original review, where, for once, she erred, calling it a "voyeur show" ("think "Gilligan's Island" produced by George Orwell") and underestimating it as "merely means to an end -- hawking new fall shows to younger crowds."
In London's Hyde Park, those performing include Mariah Carey, Coldplay, Dido, Keane, Sir Elton John, Annie Lennox, Madonna, Muse, the Scissor Sisters, Sir Paul McCartney, Joss Stone, Stereophonics, Sting, Snoop, Robbie Williams, U2 and REM.
In Philadelphia, acts performing will include Will Smith (hosting), Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, Sarah McLachlan, Rob Thomas, Keith Urban, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, 50 Cent, Kaiser Chiefs and P Diddy.
Among artists scheduled for Berlin are A-Ha, Bap, Crosby Stills and Nash, Lauryn Hill, Die Toten Hosen, Peter Maffay and Brian Wilson.
The concert in Rome will feature musicians including Irene Grandi, Faith Hill, Jovanotti, Tim McGraw, Nek, Laura Pausini, Duran Duran, Vasco Rossi and Zucchero.
In Paris, Andrea Bocelli, Craig David, Calogero, Jamiroquai, Kyo, Yannick Noah, Youssou N'Dour, Placebo, Axelle Red, Johnny Halliday, Manu Chao and Renaud will be among those taking part.
Yes -- yet again, the UK gets a much better show than Philadelphia.
And, yes, it's that Yannick Noah.
Monday, May 30, 2005
What I wonder about most with the show is whether there's going to be any training going on; otherwise, it's just throwing unqualified people into an oubliette of constant abuse, with no realistic chance to impress Ramsay -- or us.
I like the idea of the show -- Apprentice In The Kitchen. But execution? Well, my bouche is amused, but not wowed. You?
Sunday, May 29, 2005
- The upside: Allegedly exceedingly funny and utterly deadpan, featuring a great performance from Jeremy Piven in particular. The second season will be airing as voters vote, keeping the show in perople's mind.
- The downside: May be seen as too "inside baseball" for its own good and too deadpan. Not nearly the "buzzy sensation" that many HBO shows have been. Eligible shows aired last summer, a long time to stay in the memory.
- The upside: Dry enough to please the bitter and sarcastic, but broad enough to appeal to the general audience. Manages to mix the comic and the dramatic highly effectively. Not previously recognized by the Emmys (not even for John C. McGinley). A hyper-talented cast that's well-regarded throughout the industry.
- The downside: A bad ratings year due to a nasty timeslot. Allegedly, saw something of a creative slide (I didn't see much of it this year because it was up against TAR) during the season. Is arguably experiencing Will & Grace syndrome with a constant parade of guest stars (Tara Reid, Matthew Perry, Heather Graham, Juliana Marguiles, Molly Shannon).
- The upside: A critical darling with top-notch writing and performances that's unanimously agreed to have had a creative and ratings renaissance this year after a lackluster 4th season, which has never before been recognized by the Emmys.
- The downside: May not be viewed as "comic" enough, especially this season, where Rory's storyline in particular was very dark, on the WB, may be seen as too "girly."
- The upside: Exceeded just about everybody's expectations by being not merely a shot-for-shot remake of the hugely successful Britcom (see, e.g., Coupling), very funny, tour de force performance by Steve Carrell.
- The downside: Still not as good as the BBC version. Low-rated. Short run (only six episodes) may not be viewed as "enough" to support a nomination.
- The upside: It's the new "biggest sitcom in America." Funny in that utterly disposable way that many sitcoms are. Keeps Charlie Sheen away from hookers at least one night a week, and gives Jon Cryer gainful employment.
- The downside: Utterly disposable, often painfully formulaic, critically loathed, may well be the beneficiary of its timeslot. Does anyone you actually know watch it, much less admit to watching it?
- The upside: Been around forever, has several critics (particularly EW) who adore it, decently rated, and the cast has had success in other media this year (Kevin James in particular).
- The downside: Again, does anyone really care?
- The upside: LeBlanc's coming off three straight nods for playing the same character, moments of pleasant surprise (LeBlanc and De Mateo's chemistry, Jennifer Coolidge), some clever "inside Hollywood" jokes.
- The downside: Not nearly as good as Friends, LeBlanc's schtick/character wears thin quickly. Andrea Anders is horrible in her part (though attractive) and that relationship never got workable, leading to a "huh?" quasi-cliffhanger.