Saturday, October 21, 2006

The End of Your Life?

The TV Revolution is over. I watched 30 minutes of Lost last week. Everything else I'm pretending just didn't happen. I will catch up whenever I have the ability to play DVDs again.

We will post here again, at what point we are not certain. ePolitics, eTheology, ePop Culture....all are boring at the present moment. Until such a time as we want to write about concrete eThings again, be aware of random musings on Catfish Haven or xanga. Be very aware!

End Transmission

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Last Week in TV, Best Last Week Ever

The week that was. The week that wasn't.

Venture Brothers - Frickin' OMG! This is the craziest show on in the history of craziest shows, ever!! And I probably miss half the jokes from laughing so hard. And it's a two-parter, too! Hank and Dean are my heroes. Sigh.

Heroes - We're almost on the verge of this show making sense. I can feel it.

Studio 60 - I don't care what teh internets say, I'm in love with Sarah Paulsen. Evan Handler, too. Basically anyone that talks real fast and still makes sense all the while saying things that make me smile, we're golden.

Veronica Mars - Things aren't all they seem at Hearst College, with like a dozen character introductions who are all officially suspects by the end of the second episode. And Veronica even recapped everything in the last minute for us slower viewers! Boy, she sure is nice. Sigh.

Friday Night Lights - Just when this show is about to go over the top with the melodrama, it reels it back in with a punch to the gut. Seriously, it's like being hit across the forehead with a sock full of quarters and paper cuts every 20 minutes, but substitute across the forehead with openly beating heart. It's alright that I'm not making sense. You stopped reading when I started talking about TV again.

30 Rock - My gigantic Tina Fey crush of 2001 returns! Alec Baldwin is slimy fun. And Tracy Morgan is fantastic. It's nice to see a funny sitcom with smart writing these days. Hell, it's nice to see a funny sitcom period.

20 Good Years - 20 Good Years? I'd settle for 20 good minutes! Ba-dum-bump. *

Lost - Someone other than that terrible love triangle that is Jackatawyer. And Sun shot that bad bitch down! Did you see that Kim Jong Il? Run for cover cause South Korea will take you out! And a Locke episode next week! it doesn't get much better! Sigh.

Six Degrees - I was disappointed by the opening; for some reason I was under the impression that every teaser would be a ten minute flashback to the bank, ala Alias and their crazy opens (which were often the entire first act). Instead, we learned more from those distracting two-second flashbacks spaced throughout the episode. Away with them! The only thing they accomplished was break after break of the tension the show was trying to build. Let the story flow naturally from the cold open -- you don't need to remind us every few minutes that the shit hit the fan during the stand-off. Bad job tire for you, Six Degrees.

*I'm afraid to google it, but I guarantee that joke has been made 1000s of times already.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Things I Would Do If I Were Rich, Part C

Reviving An Ooooooooooold Topic

After posting a couple weeks back about future film plans for James A. Owens' Here, There Be Dragons, I got to thinking of what directors I'd like to see attatched to all these upcoming fantasy pics. And foremost on my mind were the future Chronicles of Narnia installments, books which I fell in love with as a wee little fourth grader, and still enjoy reading today.

That being said, I was mostly disappointed by Andrew Adamson's big screen interpretation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and wouldn't mind another version of it someday. There were some terrible moments, like when Aslan quotes Christ on the cross ("It is finished!") at the end of the big battle, a line which you will not find in the book (I laughed aloud in the theatre when Aslan spoke it). But overall, the film just reminded me too much of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, and failed to hit the right note of child-like wonder and other-worldly adventure found in the novel.

(Then there were children with swords and other weapons, which works in written form, but on the screen was just a little disturbing. It didn't help that the 20 minute final battle near the end of the movie took all of one paragraph in the book. Lewis knew readers weren't going to want to imagine Peter hacking animals with bloodied blade. Adamson overlooked that.)

So here's who I would wrangle, if I were an all-powerful being, to direct each installment of the Chronicles of Narnia. What fun!

Terry Gilliam: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - The first installment needs just the right touch to set the tone for the remaining six books. And Terry Gilliam would be perfect. Don't think The Brothers Grimm, think Brazil by way of Time Bandits. Like I said, perfect.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet: Prince Caspian - I remember Prince Caspian showing oodles more of the peaceful animals and dwarves and manimals (for lack of a better word) of Narnia, and what better director to do that than Jeunet? The director of Amelie would bring the ruins and hidey holes of "Old Narnia" to life in his own fantastical way. Prince Caspian reads like a fairy tale, and Jeunet would be the ideal director to bring it to life.

Alfonso Cuarón: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Dawn Treader is basically a road trip, only with boats. There are some genuinely spooky moments in this book, and it definitely suggests Lewis understood his readers were grower older. From his work on Y tu mamá también, it's obvious Cuarón understands those themes, and his rendition of Harry Potter will most likely stand as my favorite in the series. His panoramic eye is no doubt capable of creating a cinematic feast on the high seas. Dawn Treader would most likely be a breathless film.

Guillermo del Toro: The Silver Chair - I'm basing this pick mostly on Pan's Labyrinth, a film which I have yet to see. But from what little I have seen, The Silver Chair would be the perfect project for Del Toro. I remember getting to the fourth book as a kid, and completely freaking me out. It was so outlandish and fantastic, also, quite possibly the darkest book of the series. Looking back, it almost had a psychedelic bent to it (though Lewis wouldn't have had any of that, seeing as he wrote it in 50s). In a perfect world, perhaps Del Torro would forgo some of the CGI and explore some Jim Henson-ish territory in bringing some of this book to life. Regardless, I'd expect an intense kid-flick.

Tim Burton: The Horse and His Boy - The Horse and His Boy is another fairy tale, and another road trip story, but told in a backwards sort of way. It's the kind of film that horses would make if they ruled the world and made fantasy films with talking boys as side-kicks. Sort of. It's a completely stand alone story, that doesn't follow the chronology of the first four books, which would allow a director like Burton to basically tell this story in whichever way he pleased. Computer animation? Sure! Stop-motion? Yes, please! Bollywood! Why not! I'd just let him run with the thing and pick up the larger storyline in the next pic.

Darren Aronofsky: The Magician's Nephew - Nephew is the closest Lewis gets in this series to sci-fi, with the discovery of dependable way to travel between Earth and other worlds like Narnia. It takes place chronologically before all the other books, and tells the story of the creation of Narnia, yet is set only 100 years in our past. Unlike any of the other books, a good portion of The Magician's Nephew takes place in urban London, and I'd just be tickled pink to see Aronofsky's version of England on the verge of the 20th century. There are some incredibly surreal yet very dramatic moments in this book, and looking at his upcoming pic, The Fountain, Aronofsky looks like he might be the guy to pull them off.

Ang Lee
: The Last Battle - The final installment of The Chronicles of Narnia is an epic conclusion that also manages to be incredibly wistful for all that's come before. It speaks of a grand history and the end of an age. In more mundane hands, it could turn into apocalyptic drivel -- stuff we've seen before a million times. It would take a very romantic director to turn The Last Battle into a film deserving its title, and Ang Lee is one of the few directors who could pull it off. There are a number of very sad moments punctuating a story with incredible amounts of movement and evolution. It's a hard book to describe without getting into theology*, and translating it to film would require no small amount of subtlety and humility. Under Lee, it would be the perfect sendoff to a series very near and dear to my heart.

*And speaking of theology, let's just add Susan to the film version, even if she doesn't appear in the book. I understand Lewis' intentions as an author for excluding her, but as part of a truncated version of the original book, I don't think it works. Some fans might cry foul, but if Lewis were alive today, I think he would understand.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New York, New York: Let the second guessing begin.

Another Early Exit, Maybe Torre's Last

The New York Yankees, the most feared lineup in all of baseball, were no-hit for 5 2/3 innings yesterday, on their way to an 8-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Tigers advance, Yankees go home. And New York sports writers couldn't be happier.

Sports writers are at their best when they have somebody to criticize. World Series wins make for great pictures, but they don't make for great columns. Losses do.

The New York Daily News (NYC's "picture paper") was the first to report this morning that Joe Torre was on his way out (according to those oft-anonymous "sources"). After winning four World Series for the Bronx faithful, the cries of "yes, but what have you done for me lately?" have grown louder and louder since the Yankees' WS loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. Three (count 'em one {1}, two {2}, three {3},) Daily News columnists all but outright challenged George Steinbrenner to fire Joe Torre in the wake of the Yankees postseason performance, hinting or even blurting out the fact that if they take too much time in deciding Torre's fate, former Yankee manager Lou Pinella might slip through their fingers while finding a job with the Giants, Cubs or Nationals organizations. Expect Torre, like the consummate gentleman he is, to take the blame if asked to. Scapegoats are rarely ever to blame, they're just a public personification of an organization's blame symbolically forced on one individual for both comfort and catharsis. Never mind the fact that if the Yankees were a publicly traded corporation, there'd be calls for CEO George Steinbrenner to step down and find a replacement who can produce results. But, in the end, it's baseball. And that means fire the coach.

The New York Post, however, ran actual columns on real reasons why the Yankees went down so quickly in the playoffs. They're no-brainers to anyone that watched the series, but at least the Post had the common sense to blame the Yankees' piss-poor starting rotation, lack of defensive stalwarts, and an embarrassing hitting "attack" led by number eight hitter and two-time MVP Alex Rodriguez. You can't win games if you don't hit. But if you don't pitch or play the field either, well, expect to get schooled.

GM Brian Cashman is already on record saying he doesn't expect to make any changes at manager and third base for next season. Torre is under contract for one more year at $7 million, which the Yankees would still be obligated to pay if they fired him. And A-Rod's monster contract and no-trade clause will make it tough to move him even if they wanted to. But none of that means shit to Steinbrenner. He's already subsidizing payrolls (through revenue sharing) in markets like Kansas City and Tampa, so picking up the tab for Torre and A-Rod's exits while hiring replacements isn't out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if George's past behavior is any indicator, it's pretty damn likely.

And Lou Pinnella's not a bad choice for a replacement. He's a great manger with a quality mind for the game. But the Yankees need more than just a scapegoat. They need an organizational sea-change that starts at the lowest levels and works its way up. They need to take some of the millions of dollars they hand out to free agents every year and pour it into scouting and developmental leagues. They need a GM with a head for getting the most out of a budgeted payroll. They need a front office that understands that baseball is won by rosters with smart pitching, solid defenders, and situational hitters. They need, to be honest, the 1996 New York Yankees.

But most of all, they need an owner with the patience to build these things from the ground up. Unfortunately, that's the one thing George Steinbrenner can't buy. Well, that and another World Series ring.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another Fraktastic Week In Television

Get used to it, I'm officially an addict.

Oh, gosh. What a terrific five nights of TV. I know it shouldn't matter. I know these programs are pure, fleeting pop, and on-air only as long as they shake their money-maker. But I just don't care what the avatars of high culture tell me. Some of these shows....some of these shows tell stories with such depth and richness, it's not hard to see why people don't go the movies as often anymore. Television has real, live genuine storytellers these days. With the guts to buck the trend and tell their tales on the small screen.

Friday Night Lights -- I can't say I've seen a more genuine show this year than Friday Night Lights. And I don't just mean in its portrayal of the game of football. But in its raw, authentic detail to the craft of telling an engaging story. Not since Homicide have I seen a group of actors unequivocally dedicated to being parts of a greater whole, selling their short slice of screen time like their lives depended on it. While it wasn't the flashiest or funniest or most technically sound pilot of the season, Friday Night Lights sure was the most earnest. Here's to hoping it finds the audience it so richly deserves.

Veronica Mars -- Going from gut-wrenching, small-town life to the ever-witty, crime-solving life of Veronica Mars (now with natural collegiate flavor!) is going to be a tough Tuesday night transition. But come on now, sugar. Even though my love for Veronica Mars is roughly on the same plane as my love for Lost, I wasn't quite so VM-hungry for the season premiere in light of my rerun binge (if you haven't seen it, it's new to you!) this summer. Regardless, a good time was had by all. I'm going to say it right now: Veronica Mars might have the keenest wit of show on TV. What am I saying, "might"? It does. This show is solid gold, mutherfrakker, and it held the ratings of its Gilmore Girls lead-in relatively well. The opener might have been a bit complex for new viewers, with all the references to previous seasons, including the subplot involving Veronica's dad, but people, come one. Watch this show, or I'll have to do something crazy. Like move to Vermont. Oh, wait...

Lost -- There's alot of fan criticism directed at Lost because the show won't come out and give any straight answers. What is the island? Who are the Others? What do they want? And a host of others. Some fans want to do away with the flashbacks altogether and get on with the story of the island. But once you do that, all you're left with is a Twin Peaks season two or the last four years of the X-Files. Peaks couldn't last any longer than the Laura Palmer mystery, and though a brilliant show, it ended after two seasons. And X-Files expanded its alien mythology too far too fast, so that eventually its new mysteries seemed half-baked and barely-hearted (in addition to all the internal contradictions). The mystery of Lost is what hooks us; but it's the peeks into the character's pasts that make it so rewarding. There's dozens of shows this year with mysteries, but not one has shown the ability to tell a story like Lost did tonight. J.J. Abram's welcome return as co-writer (his first ep since season one) was badly needed. And I think it's about time we started talking about an Emmy for Matthew Fox. (I mean if Keifer Sutherland can, why not?)

The Nine -- If there's one new show that promises to be as complex and entertaining as Lost this season, it's The Nine. Heroes, while casting a pitch perfect mood and crafting a compelling story, has yet to show the kind of characterization found on Lost. The Nine just about matched it. The flashbacks to the bank robbery serve the same purpose as the scenes in the present do in Lost -- they get under our skin and don't let go. But The Nine is a bit like Lost in reverse. Instead of the bulk of the characterization coming in flashbacks, The Nine will handle the characterization facet in the present; its flashbacks will be what fans want to see more of. It's a kind of near-genius storytelling technique that ought to serve the show quite well. And it doesn't hurt that they've put some great talent in front of the camera (and behind it as well: director Alex Graves, who cut his teeth on the camera-heavy work of ER and the West Wing). All in all, a compelling pilot episode, and tied with Heroes for my favorite pilot of the season so far. The Nine, however, has a leg up on Heroes plot-wise; something I'll get into a little more after another episode or two.

Smallville -- Thursday nights are pretty meh for me TV wise. It's bring home the bacon night for the networks (companies like to buy commercials on Thursday night right before the shopping/movie watching weekend, and networks can charge a higher rate because it), but there's not a whole lot I want to see. Ugly Betty is a nice show, and I hope it makes it and all, but it's not really my cup of tea. Grey's is pretty much ho-hum, and Six Degrees is downright boring. Smallville should be my Thursday breath of fresh air, but this season has been entirely underwhelming so far. The premiere had its moments, but come on! It was the return of General Zod! This shoulda been epic! This shoulda been a two parter! This shoulda opened long lasting consequences for the Clark-Lana-Lex relationship! Lana tried to kill LexZod with that ice dagger thingy! LexZod punched a fire poker through Lana's hand! Clark got the stuffing beat out of him! Yet, ho hum. Super-powered Clark saves Lana from LexZod just after Lana blacks out, which we've seen a gazillion times before. Lex can't remember his battle with Clark after Zod gets exorcised. Again, no beans spilt. Again, more of the same old boring. The least they could have done was stretch this out to epic proportions over the course of two weeks! But I have remind myself this is no Lost, and it probably doesn't have near that kind of budget from the CW. Instead, we get one quasi-exciting episode, then back to the same old same old. If episode two was any indication of the quality of season six's remainder, let's hope this season is Smallville's last.

Battlestar Galactica -- The only returning show in television that I'm picking up for the first time this season is BSG. It was news of the alien occupation that piqued my interest, and after catching a couple of reruns over the past couple of weeks, I was immediately hooked. BSG has all the elements of good science fiction: new worlds, techy spacecraft, and commentary on contemporary life through the lens of the fantastic. But BSG is not your ordinary space opera. It's what's called "sci-fi realism," eschewing bright sets and static camera work for a feel that would be more familiar to viewers of ER or single-cam docu-dramas. In the world of BSG, its hard to tell the good guys from the bad, as the human race (numbering less than 50,000) fights for its survival. Escapes are made, leaving behind friends. Elections are tampered with, by well-intentioned people. And with season three, we have an occupation to deal with, complete with a human insurgent movement, govt collaboration with the Cylons, people being held without trial and suicide bombings. Battlestar Galactica somehow pulls it off without too much "preachiness." Sure there's some, but if Jack Bauer is our post-9/11 James Bond, then BSG is the Star Trek of our current Administration. So a little preaching is to be expected.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Buck O'Neil, 1911-2006

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil died tonight. For those in the know, Buck was a revered veteran of Negro League baseball, and an unofficial spokesman for the game since his appearance in Ken Burns' Baseball. He was 94.

Born in Florida, Buck left his home at age 21 to join a "barnstorming" baseball club, traveling the country to play teams from various cities, some from white ball clubs. He was signed in the initial season of the Negro Leagues in 1937, and played out most of his career for the Kansas City Monarchs. His career was put on hold during WWII, like many other ball players, for a two-year stretch in the U.S. Navy. He came back from the war to both play and coach for the Monarchs, then spent over 30 years as a scout and coach for the Chicago Cubs.

He garnered much attention from his interviews during Ken Burns' Baseball documentary, regaling Burns and audiences with long-forgotten tails of the Negro League. Since then, Buck had become a champion of the league, doing interviews and public appearances for anyone willing to listen. He was nominated on a special Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for former Negro League players this past year, but failed to garner the 75% necessary for induction. Always the better man, he put his love for the game first and agreed to speak at the induction ceremony just this past summer.

Buck O'Neil was one of those men of whom not a ill word could be spoken. Always gracious, ever professional, and beloved by the game of baseball. He will be missed.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Impressions: Studio 60: 103

Who loves semicolons!?!

Our very first third episode! And a keeper, at that. While episode 103 has probably been in the can for a number of weeks, it still managed to deal with a few issues that have popped up across the blogosphere since the pilot and episode 102 aired, all within the context of the show-within-a-show. (Note: To my knowledge, the internets have not come up with a uniform way to differentiate between Studio 60 the show on NBC, and Studio 60 the late-night show-within-a-show.) Please, forgo the headaches and press on!

Issue #1: Studio 60 will never be as popular as the West Wing: To answer that criticism, Sorkin had the entire plot of tonight's episode revolve around television ratings/focus groups, and whether or not Studio 60 (the show-within-a-show) could hold onto its ratings from the previous week. In tonight's episode, the show-within-a show does. In reality, the actual show on NBC didn't (episode two of NBC's Studio 60 saw a drop in ratings; tonight's ratings won't be available until tomorrow morning).

Issue #2: Studio 60 is like nothing on television, hence, regular people just won't "get it": Seeing how NBC's Studio 60 lost viewers after its first episode, this is quite honestly a valid criticism. But Sorkin deals with it within the context of his show by introducing a sketch in his show-within-a-show that most viewers in the focus group just don't get. The producers decide to run the sketch again in episode two (of the show-within-a-show) and the focus group numbers indicate that more people "got it" when they saw the character/sketch for the second time. Sorkin's hope for NBC's Studio 60 is the same. The more often people watch it, the more comfortable they become with the format, and the more they "get" the show.

Issue #3: Sorkin can't possibly write every episode of Studio 60 (like he did on the West Wing), and not burn out at some point (like he did on the West Wing): Sorkin has admitted that he won't try to write every episode of the show, and in his show-within-a-show, Sorkin has Studio 60 head-writer Matt Alby come to the same conclusion. Alby allows other writers into the fold to avoid burn out, just as Sorkin will in reality.

Issue #4: Aaron Sorkin doesn't understand Middle America and criticizes it every chance he gets: This was true at times on the West Wing, and it has been true at times on Studio 60 thus far. Yet, in tonight's episode, Sorkin has two scenes which show he's trying to rectify the situation. One involved a joke about a small-town's decision to replace a school production of The Crucible with the "less-controversial" A Midsummer Night's Dream. The joke was cut from the broadcast version of the show-within-a-show because the cast didn't feel that the small town deserved the same amount of ridicule as larger, more powerful targets like the White House or the Religious Right. And another incident came later in the show when over 400 callers phoned the NBS affiliate in Terra Haute, Indiana, to complain about the affiliate's decision not to air the late-night show-within-a-show version of Studio 60.

Are you nice and confused now? Sorry about that. But until we can talk about NBC's Studio 60 and NBS's Studio 60 (the show-within-a-show) without having to resort to all that wordy blather, I'm not sure what else to do. The solution will come to someone soon, someone much smarter and most likely much prettier than me, and all will be right with the world once again.

Until that day, let's all try to keep up. Shall we?

(Screencaps ruthlessly stolen from

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hollywood finds itself more and more attuned to my fictional reality.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Yes, that is the name of a real movie. And yes, let us all watch it together in our minds until it comes out for really-real-reality sometime next year. Coming to you from the heart of new writer/director Zach Helm, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (so fun to say/so fun to anticipate) tells the story 243-year-old Mr. Magorium (as acted by Dustin Hoffman) who hands his fantastical toy store over to a young manager (played by Natalie Portman). For reasons beyond our ken, the wonderfilled store takes a dark turn somewhere along the way, and absolute amazingness most likely ensues.

Helm also penned the script for Stranger than Fiction, the new Will Ferrell pic where the former Mr. "I Gotta Have More Cowbell" plays an IRS auditor whose life takes a turn for the weird when he suddenly hears a voice narrating over his life. The ever-charming Maggie Gyllenhaal and oft-amuzing Dustin Hoffman (who's interviewed by the Trib here) also star. The film made its international premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and opens this week in the U.S. as part of the Chicago International Film Festival. Expect it to hit theatres everywhere else sooner rather than later.

As if that weren't enough movie magic to send you into a tizzy, Warner Brothers Pictures has just optioned the rights to Here, There Be Dragons, a new juvy-fantasy novel by James A. Owen. Dragons is set during World War I and tells the story of three young men who are entrusted with the "Imaginarium Geographica," a magical atlas of every mythical/fabled land and world. Book hasn't even hit shelves yet, and W.Bros. is already salivating over hopes of a $300,000,000 gross. But the most exciting part is this: Word on the street is that the three main characters, Jack, John and Charles, are based on young versions of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams (the George Harrison of the Inklings group). I'm looking forward to inter-dimensional travel, high adventure, elves, dragons, and maybe even an entmoot or two. Good times.

Simon & Schuster is saying that it's the first in a series of seven books (Potter, much?), so unless Jim Carrey is tapped to act in the film version, expect seven films as well. (Let's all take a moment to remember the film potential Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events had before Ace Ventura sunk his googley-eyed hooks into the series.)

Honestly, someone just needs to commission Pete Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Alfonso Cuarón to handle all these fantasy-pics for the next few years. Is that really too much to ask?