People Who Say “Cheers” Instead of “Goodbye”

Special note on the title: I figured that there must be an opposite of the word “greeting,” and it turns out it’s “valediction.” Instead of using a houty-touty word such as that, I’ve grouped everything into the serves-all “goodbye.” You’re welcome.

I saw some of the MTV Movie Awards tonight, and Johnny Depp, accepting Best Performance for Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (Piratey-Boogaloo), did the normal awards-show spiel after receiving a lengthy standing ovation from the audience. Nothing out of the ordinary… except, instead of ending his speech with “thanks,” “bye,” or even the ‘look at me, I’m a World traveller’ and I want you to know it, “Ciao,” he dropped this gem: “Cheers.” What is this world coming to. And that’s not a question. Given the wide variety of ways to say “goodbye” (even some that serve to combine it with a “thanks” aspect), he has to give the trendy, pretentious “cheers.”

euro
Cheers, hippy

Let Johnny Depp serve as an example for the problems with the phrase, but his usage was no more egregious than any others’. I take exception with this expression for three reasons:
1) “Cheers” is a drinking-related saying. That’s fine, but this what at an awards show, not a restaurant. It wasn’t even the Golden Globes which (obviously) serves alcohol. This is the biggest issue – it makes no sense.
2) It reeks of Eurotrash and, even worse, Americans who wish they were Eurotrash. You know these people – they refer to manual transmissions as “standard” and call elevators “lifts” just so you can make a weird face at them to which they respond by saying these exact words (every time): “I was in London, and that’s what they call them in London.”
3) I’d like to take credit for being part of the cusp of the expression “not so much.” In fact, my earliest documented utterance of the phrase was way back in July of 2004. I challenge anyone to beat that. I’m not claiming to be first, but I’d like to think I beat any of you seven reading this to the punch. How is this related to “cheers?” Well, tangentially at best. I guess I’m just a little bitter, and my lexicographic warning radar is going of like crazy about the soon-to-be “cheers” phenomenon. Consider this my warning to people who want to keep European lingo where it belongs.

People Who Say “Cheers” Instead of “Goodbye” get ZERO stars. The English language has hundreds of thousands of words, and provides myriad tools for making up words (such as “spamera” – n. a digital camera used to take pictures which will later be e-mailed to everyone the camera owner knows, but no one will look at. Usage: “Yeah, my mom is unfortunately bringing her spamera to my nephew’s pre-school graduation next weekend, so I’m definitely going to spend time familiarizing myself with the delete button in my e-mail program.”) Hmm. That’s actually a pretty good made-up word. Anyway. Lots of words, easy to make-up new ones. Does the bowel of the English language that is the British dialect really need to be given a colonic every time someone decides that he’s too cool for “bye” or “thanks?”

The Concept of Eleni’s Oscar Cookies


You can’t even tell which direction Cookie Forest Whittaker is looking in, but man is he still compelling as a pastry.

A few weeks ago, I happened upon this article on EW, briefly discussing the merits of cookies designed with illustrations of the best actor and best actress nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. I found it a little peculiar, but didn’t really think too much about it, until the next day when I walked past the cupcake and cookies store on the main floor of the building I work at. In the window I happened to see the images of the actors, and remembered seeing them on the EW website. I went in to check out the cookies (they’ve done the same sugar screening thing on the top of the cupcake icing too, which i think is creepier), and found that you could buy them in a sixteen pack box set for a mere 56 dollars. For those of you who aren’t hip to the mathematics, that’s 3.50 a cookie. You can check out images of the packs here
Now I don’t know about you all, but unless it’s giant, or some combination of lobster, truffles, filet mignon, and gold, i’m not paying $3.50 for a single cookie. Especially one that’s about the same size and type as the Girlscout shortbread cookies (“trefoils” for those of you pagans out there). But then again, I’ve never eaten cookies that taste like Will Smith.

I get that there are people out there who make a lot more money than I do (especially in NYC), and can afford to purchase extravagant items like this for their Oscar party. I would even argue collectibility, except for the fact that the cookies would totally deteriorate in a not-so-long amount of time. Here’s what I don’t get: At what point does somebody have so much money that his/her sense of worth gets skewed so that they don’t have an issue with buying 16 small cookies for 56 dollars? What makes this whole thing all the more preposterous is that on the Saturday before the awards, they were being sold at half price. Of course, the people there were talking up the “You can buy both sets” deal, but that just goes to show how much the price was jacked up to begin with. And are people really THAT into the Academy Awards? Do people have parties for a five-hour-long, and not particularly entertaining show that lasts until 1 in the a.m? On a Sunday? Is there some prestige earned by purchasing these cookies for your elaborate party? Maybe, but I think that if you went and bought some cheap but vastly more delicious cookies and gift wrapped them yourself, that you’d probably have more. “Ah”, you say. “But they wouldn’t have Peter O’Toole’s mouthwatering face on them”. And to this I say, “I think I’ve just proven my point”.

*

I’ll give them one star for the work that went into creating images of people to put on their cookies, and the fact that anything cookie-related can’t be all bad. Hey, if they were free, I’d totally eat them. But they wouldn’t last long… especially 56 dollars worth of time. That and I don’t find it particularly appetizing to eat a cookie with Helen Mirren on it. Now if they were Razzie awards cookies, filled with raspberry jam…. that might be different.

2006-07 Academy Awards Nominations


This year, the movie that I chose to not see, but still complain about is “Dreamgirls”, a movie that wasn’t even nominated for best picture… and I’m not really even complaining about it… which makes me feel real strange.

The academy awards nominations came out this morning. And for some reason I decided that I don’t really care this year. It’s weird because I don’t know why. In fact, I wrote most of this review on Sunday, before they were even announced. I’ve become jaded to the whole celebrity scene this year, and I’ve stopped seeing this show as an affirmation that the movies that I enjoyed over the past year are good, and more as a means of keeping up the guise of celebrity importance. (review of the near future: celebrity feuds)

Maybe it was seeing people argue about which movies deserved which awards the way I used to, and thinking, “Wow, do these guys see how completely stupid they look, rooting for something that they think they have partial ownership in, just because they kinda liked it? Did I look that stupid, phony, and in over my head when I was complaining about how undervalued “The Man who Wasn’t There” was, or how that ridiculous “THEY MAKE THE RAIN AND SAY IT’S RAINING!!!” rant from Cold Mountain won good ole squinty-eyed Renee Zellweger her academy award? Well, chances are I did for the last one, because I totally used to do an impression of that was intentionally unintentionally hi-larious, and which has since failed the test of time, seeing as how nobody even remembers the movie a mere two years later. This also goes to show the unimportance of these awards, because I highly doubt that all the people that argue about these sort of things could even tell me without looking it up, who hosted the 2001 awards (held in 2002), let alone who won best actor and actress. Whoopi Goldberg hosted by the by, and I don’t even think I could tell you what movie won best picture ( Chicago maybe?) let alone the acting awards. The only reason I remember Whoopi is because my friends and I were watching in a TV lounge filled with people who actually thought she was funny. We couldn’t take it and ended up leaving in a huff. That’s beside the point.

All this is not to say that I’m not going to look and see who’s nominated or who wins. I’ll probably even watch the show. But at this moment, writing this review, do I think it’s worth having an Oscar “party” or doing an awards pool (in which I have participated numerous times)? Not really. Do I find that a little disheartening? Of course I do. Three years ago at this time, I was in the center of celebrity culture. I was in the bleachers for the Screen Actor’s Guild red carpet. I stood by the limo security checkpoint at the Golden Globes to get a glimpse of anybody relatively famous. I can’t say for sure if I would do it again. Maybe just to say I did it. Then again, I never really got “star-struck” to begin with. Most of the pictures I took of people were either for bragging rights, or because I knew friends might want them. But still, even the following year I went in on an Oscar pool.

What’s my point in all this? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that at this specific minute of this specific day, I’m thinking to myself “Don’t we have enough other things to be interested in or worry about than awards for millionaires (I know that the tech award winners are mostly non-millionaires, and the people who make the shorts and documentaries are probably even less well-off) we’ve never met and mostly think they’re better than us anyway?” I suppose you could argue the same of sports, but to me the difference is that football and baseball are designed to be competitions, and film isn’t, or at least shouldn’t. Why should it matter to us if a movie we like wins an award? Shouldn’t liking it be enough? Maybe it’s the validation that comes with being behind something that is regarded by professionals to be the best. Maybe it’s the ability to say to our friends “I totally knew Marcia Gay Harden was gonna win for Pollack, even though I’ve never even heard of the movie because it sounds boring and was only playing in 8 cities”, thereby coming off as knowledgeable, even though you just got lucky or read a newspaper article. Maybe it’s just that feeling that you know a lot about a subject, even if you really don’t, but just know a little bit more than your friends. Besides, ten years from now, “Saving Private Ryan” will be remembered even though it lost to the completely forgettable “Shakespeare in Love”, which was lauded by the pretentious set.

This pretentiousness is something that the Oscars and other awards do spur on, and I guess this is where my whole complaint starts. Soon enough, the debates will rage over which arthouse movie that nobody was able to see was more overrated, which one deserves more attention etc. And all these people will be arguing over the fact that we love a movie that we haven’t even seen, just because of the talent attached to it. And that “you’re” (the royal “you”) stupid and less important because you’ve never even heard of it. And that’s just wrong. I really don’t want to do that again. (Update: I was flipping through the morning shows today to see if anyone was talking about the noms, just to prove my case, and the new FOX morning show had on their two Oscar Experts… two women who looked to be a mere few years older than I am. Of course there were raving about how great Helen Mirren was in “The Queen”… and to make matters worse, the audience erupted in applause. Now, you have to be sure that in this situation, maybe 25 percent of the audience at most has seen this movie, and the rest are either being egged on by the stage manager/audience warm-up guy, or just don’t want to seem like they don’t know anything about anything. Strangely enough, I’m looking at the box-office tallies for this weekend, and “The Queen” is actually playing in more theaters than “Children of Men”, “Alpha Dog”, and “The Good Shepherd”.)

And maybe I’m upset that somehow I’ve grown to see something that I used to see as the Holy Grail of Film-making achievement now as a way to sell movies that otherwise wouldn’t have an audience. I mean, would anyone have gone to see “The Last King of Scotland” otherwise? It’s all part of the self-promoting hype machine, and I don’t know if I’m still down with that. Maybe in a case like this, yes, but that silly red carpet image stuff always seems to undermine the gravitas of the “talent-based” awards.

As for the specific nominations themselves, they seem generally fine across the board, as far as the movies that I’ve gone to see, and those are really all that I can discuss.

**

The 2006-07 Academy Awards Nominations get two stars for being a way to generally promote smaller, higher-quality movies. As far as awards competition goes, I’m not really a fan of how devisive it makes people, including myself, about movies we like, versus ones we aren’t planning on seeing, but dislike just for the sake of it . As far as this year’s specific award nominees go, I’ve got no major complaints, other than the lack of “Children of Men”, but I can live without it, knowing how the voting process, and awards campaigning go. Oh… and the fact that THREE freakin songs from Dreamgirls are nominated…. now that’s something genuine to dislike… but still, does it really matter?

15 Favorite Sports Moments of the Year


You know, if we would’ve sent Sacha BARON Cohen instead, he probably wouldn’t have fallen.

Indy-Pittsburgh Divisional playoff game-Most exciting football game of the year. With the Steelers threatening to put the game away with under two minutes left, (after a disputed non-interception call, an Indy touchdown to put the game within three, and Peyton Manning getting sacked on his own three-yard line on fourth down) Jerome Bettis fumbles at the Indy 1-yard-line. Indy recovers and the guy runs halfway down the field. He’s beaten everyone except Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger who’s run diagonally across the field to tackle the guy returning it, whose wife stabbed him in the leg the night before. With 17 seconds left, Mike Vanederjagt misses a 46 yard field goal which would’ve tied it. Pittsburgh goes on to win the superbowl.

Endy Chavez catch– Game seven of the Divisional series. Tie Score. Shea Stadium. Mets outfielder Endy Chavez goes back to save the game and makes the catch of the yea,r 3 feet over the fence to rob Scott Rolen of a two-run home run for the lead. If the Mets would have won that game, it would go down in the history books.

Tigers beat the Yankees– the underdog team with less than half the payroll dominates the Yankees, sending them home. The best part is Kenny Rogers (not that one) on top of the dugout spraying the crowd with champaign.

U.S. women’s curling team– I watched a TON of curling during the Winter Olympics. I know, I know” it’s boring. Well it can be, but it was always on, and I grew attached to the U.S. women’s team.

Ryan Howard hits 3 home runs in a game– MVP Ryan Howard carries his team to victory with 3 home runs and 8 RBIs in a game. Also of note is the Home Run Derby contest, where he demolished the competition in the last round, and finished by hitting the “hit it here” sign.

Dodgers hit 4 home runs to tie and one in extras to win– Surging into the playoffs, The Dodgers were losing in the bottom of the ninth, until back-to-back-to-back-to-back homeruns tied the game. In the 10th inning, San Diego was up by one run, until Nomar Garciaparra hit the game winning home run.

Travis Pastrana Motocross double backflip at X-games- I don’t usually watch the X-games, but it was on when I was working one night and I caught a ridiculous maneuver. As his competitors watched, rooting him on, Travis pulled off a motocross double backflip, something that’s never been done, and could’ve killed him.

Vince Young beats USC– In the College National Title Game, Vince Young singlehandedly beats the top-ranked team in the country (one with two heisman winners on it) on a fourth down with 18 seconds left by scrambling to the end zone.

UCLA beats USC– Arch-rival UCLA upsets top-ranked USC to block the University of Spoiled Children Trojans from making a third national title game in a row.

Miami beats Chicago Bears– The Miami Dolphins, a 2-6 team, and the franchise with the only unbeaten season in history faces off against the 8-0 Chicago Bears and comes up with a win. Only in the NFL.

World Baseball Classic begins– After Baseball was discontinued from the Olympics for some inane reason, Bud Selig and some other people created a once every four years world tournament. Bravo.

Kobe scores 81– Despite the fact that I’m not the biggest basketball follower, scoring 81 points in a game is a totally insane achievement.

Tiger hits a bogey off a roof– In a classic display of why he’s the greatest, Tiger Woods totally screwed up off the tee and hit the ball onto the roof of a nearby building. The placed the ball on the ground by the building, but still far off the course. To finish only one stroke over par’s a strong achievement.

Agassi plays two classics at U.S. open before retiring– In his last tournament ever, Agassi gives us an unbelievably intense 5 set match, and then goes out in a tough four in the next round. I don’t watch a lot of tennis, but that five-set match was as captivating as anything I’ve ever seen. What made it all the more dramatic was that if he lost, his career was over. And when it finally was, he went out like a pro.

World Cup game– While the Finals game was great and intense (being decided by penalty kicks, and France’s star Zidane headbutting that guy, and the Australian team came out of nowhere to advance to the second round, I think that the U.S.-France game was my personal favorite. The U.S. team lost its first game and looked terrible, but in their second game they managed to tie the second place France team that won all of its other games, save the Finals. Granted, the goal that U.S.A. scored was actually an “own goal” from the France team, but they played most of the game with only nine people. A valiant display from an overall underacheiving team.

The Promotion of ‘Borat:Cultural Learnings of Ame’rica for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’


Maybe this ridiculous outfit is what I need to get the womens. High Five!

This guy is everywhere! I mean it. I mean it. Not just the ubiquitous ads for the movie, either. He may very well be the first person I’ve seen promoting one thing on Letterman, Leno, Conan, and The Daily Show, and a half-hour appearance in Opie and Anthony, in less than two weeks. And not only has the actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, been on all of them, he’s been on all of the as Borat, and done so in multiple segments on at least two of them. On Leno, he made a bed with Martha Stewart, and on Conan, he chased Conan around the stage with a pair of scissors, followed by one of the most bizarre musical performances I’ve seen on his show. In all four appearances the interview topics were different and fresh. Here’s a compendium of all of the media appearances. The guy even had a “float” in the NY Halloween parade, which is basically just a costume showcase and giant party. The “float” consisted of about 20 Borat impersonators. Completely ludicrous. I’m sure he’s got a myspace thing going as well. I have never seen an ad campaign for a film that was so in your face. The thing is, the movie was so inexpensive that it made up its cost in the first week. They can throw all kinds of money into the advertising, and it’ll still come out on top. And it’s an hilarious movie to boot. Congrats on getting everyone in the country’s attention.

*****

There isn’t a person in the country who doesn’t know about this movie. I’m nearly certain. Five stars.

Thinking of What’s Probably the Best Possible Thing to Put in a Going Away Card Ever

I don’t mean to pat myself on the back….well, okay….yes I do. Someone I know who is from Switzerland (the French-speaking part, for whatever that’s worth) and spent the last few years living in the US is moving back to Switzerland very shortly. A blank-on-the-inside going away card was passed around, and it was obvious that most people thought about what to write for about 30 seconds then decided on, “Good Luck! We’ll miss you!” No problem, it’s not like they didn’t mean it. But not this guy. I gave it 15 seconds of thought, and inscribed this gem of pure wit: “…and I thought it was a New Jersey accent!” This ranks right up there with Nate’s Christmas card message about people leaving their dogs outside to freeze during Christmas. Incredibly proud of myself, I thought to sign my name to my masterpiece and pass on the increasingly valuable card, except I realized that maybe I didn’t want the recipient thinking I was all funny and not enough serious, so I stamped a “Good Luck! We’ll miss you!” at the end.

Best. Going-Away-Message. Ever.

card
I see your “BLANK” and raise it…hmm….awesome hundred dollars.

*****

(See, she’s from Switzerland and has a very obvious French accent …. eh, never mind.)

Rockstar: Season 2

This one may balloon to huge proportions again like the season 2 LOST review. That being said, I’m officially starting it on Friday August 18th… we’ll see how long it takes to finish.


One of the contestants on the show is named “Storm Large”. The one night after she performed, Tommy Lee said “I’d like to see more of you”, and she suggested an internet search. I did and this is what I got.

I’m not so much the fan of “reality TV”. Call me a TV snob, but I find the amount of manipulation in the genre to be completely too much. Manipulation of people to do certain things. Manipulation of actual events to make things look a certain way. Manipulation of audience emotions to make us feel empathetic or hateful. Certain people who are even more cynical than I am about such things might say that all of these manipulations are used in any sort of narrative/fiction work, and so therefore I shouldn’t be complaining, because nearly all of my favorite shows are fictional. The difference here is the illusion of reality that exists in the non-fiction genre. Shows like Laguna Beach, Survivor, Big Brother, and yes, even “The Real World”, all have producers influencing actions of characters, the editing of actions to portray people in a certain light, and of course the casting of people to fill certain roles on the show… because without an antagonist, there’s no drama, and without drama, there’s no point. And they manage it by making us believe that these are people without outside influence… as they really are.

Of course in competition reality shows, usually that antagonist comes in the form of a person who isn’t performing upto the standards set by the other competitors, but miraculously does not get voted off, with a much more solid competitor taking that bottom spot. Then there’s always a big “shock” when a popular contestant gets kicked off (once a year without fail), and somehow the one we all seem to hate stays on for another week, until finally they get shelved and we all rejoice.

Where am I going with this? I’m still gonna need another paragraph to get there. You see, I always hated American Idol. HATED it. Even when I was forced to live with it at work every single day of the week. That might’ve actually made me hate it more. The next January though, I was among a high concentration of people who wanted to watch the audition episodes. I knew where it was going to go. A slew of bad singers hoping to be the next William Hung were going to come on and be completely oblivious to their lack of talent and then be exploited to sell advertising space. AHH America! What I never realized though, was that these horrible singers were actually selling the remainder of the season. Sprinkled in with the talentless souls are a handful of people who are either gorgeous and good singers, or they’re unattractive but have overcome obstacles in order to be able to sing the way they do. And while you think they’re just telling you more about the person, they’re filling your head with sympathy or lust. And that’s where they hook you. The personalities. American Idol is a personality contest as much, if not more than it is a singing contest, with terribly bland arrangements, stiff contestants who are oftentimes “pitchy”, and don’t really know how to entertain a crowd for the most part. And product placement. Lots of product placement. Of course I fell into the trap, but I thought I was being anti-Idol by rooting for the completely awesome Bo Bice (still the best contestant they’ve ever had on the show). “The Man” still won though, because by being the provider of such “anti-Idol” material, they got me to watch it. CURSE THEM!

I realized that American Idol was like that terrible contestant who nobody seemed to dislike enough to get kicked off. It’s flashy, attractive and diverse/bland enough for EVERYBODY to like something about it. The problem is that it’s not good. But last year after Idol’s season ended I found a show on CBS that did everything that Idol did, nearly five times better, but nobody really knew about.

Rockstar: INXS was a talent competition to find a new lead singer for the band INXS, probably unknown to most people my age. The show had incredible production design, better camerawork, better direction, better judges, a much much better results show, a phenominal house band, better arrangements week after week, and at least six singers that probably could’ve won Idol. In fact, the top six contestants were so uniquely awesome that any one of them could’ve had a successful solo career had people actually watched the show. There was half-hour backstage episode every week that took a look at the personal interactions of the contestants, challenges and sort of rockstar-seminar things, and song selection/arrangement, which was a very interesting supplement, but got moved to VH1 because of bad ratings. Also, the show had Brooke Burke wearing conveniently revealing outfits. And it was all on during the summer, when nothing else is on. What more could you ask for?

Season 2 definitely has a different feel, and for good reason. The contestants are auditioning for a different band, a new band without any released material, and without a former lead singer. Called Supernova consists of Tommy Lee, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, and former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, who, like INXS in season one, serve as judge and executioner. I’m going to break this all down in good and bad as compared to last season.

First the good.
1. The judges are better than last year. Call me ignorant, but I never knew who INXS was, and I could never tell the band members apart when they were giving their comments to the singers. Not only does Supernova have members that stand out on their own, but are telegenic, and give really good advice much of the time. Of course Tommy Lee is gonna flirt with all the women, and there’s gonna be all sorts of innuendo, but there’s also genuinely constructive criticism.

2. The shows use of alternative media is staggering. They took the backstage show off the air, and put it where people who really would make the effort to watch it have the ability to watch it… the internet. The show’s website has a plethora of activites and information, including “mix-tape” tracklist of contestants, band members, and the houseband’s favorite songs, which you can then buy from MSN.com’s service. You also can vote for your favorite performer online, as well as by phone. During this week, viewers were actually able to vote which songs contestants would sing, from a list of four per singer.

3. No INXS songs. Even though it served all of its purposes in season 1, I couldn’t help but be a bit bored by performances of these songs, mostly because I didn’t know them. I understand that this was partially done so I could get to know them, and that people who once liked INXS would probably like them, but I didn’t. Because Supernova doesn’t have any previously recorded songs, the people in the bottom three pick which songs they’re going to sing for survival. I’m not exactly sure at what point they pick their songs or rehearse with the house band, but it always comes off great.

4. Zayra Alverez. This woman could easily go under the “Bad” column, but I’m gonna count her as “so bad it’s good”. She’s not bad in a William Hung way though. Zayra is what Bjork would be if she were a Latin music performer. She obviously never stood a chance of becoming the lead singer for this band, yet she somehow managed to escape elimination twice… I think because the band thought she’d make good TV, and they knew they’d kick her off eventually. Watch for yourself here. The best ones are Razorblade, and 8675-309. Trust me when I tell you that you have never seen anything on TV like it. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up in the air, but at the very least, it’s incredibly compelling TV.

5. The job to be won is a much more difficult one. Becoming the new lead singer for INXS is tough, no doubt. But you’ve already been given a blueprint and a catalogue of songs to work with. Here, not only will you be creating your own original sound and direction for the band, but the winner is also going to have to hold his own with these three incredibly charismatic musicians, something that INXS didn’t have. Thus the competition is harder and therefore makes for better TV.

The Bad
1. Brooke Burke. I really hate to say it, cause she’s freakin gorgeous, but she’s got no personality this year. Not that she was amazing last year, but she had some life to her. This year, it’s like she forgot how to read over the summer, then started learning again, just in time for the new season. Complete lack of energy, enthusiasm, and sincerity. Come back old Brooke.

2. “ROCKER”. I hate this word. I hate hate hate hate hate this word. I hate the fact that it supposedly stands for individuality and anti-authority, but has become both a stereotype and a tool of the man. When American Idol took it and used it as their own word…. exclusively using it to refer to two or three people, rather than calling them singers, it got to me. It reminds me of how the wrestler A.J. Styles in TNA has to be referred to at all times as “The Phenominal” A.J. styles. Or how wrestlers in WWE are ALWAYS referred to as “Superstars” and not wrestlers. Not only is it lumping all the singers into one stereotype, but they’re using the same word over and over again. I swear I heard the word “rocker” used 4 times in the first five minutes last week. Seriously, I know you’re trying to prove yourself as the anti-Idol, but get a damn thesaurus, and make the script sound a little more natural. Looking on the website, “Rockers” actually has a capital “R” because, obviously, it’s a proper noun.

3. The SAME songs. They have changed it up a bit, but for every “Zombie” by The Cranberries, there’s a “We are the Champions”. How many times must I hear “Creep”, or the four overplayed combined hits of Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. Does Nirvana really deserve to have had eight performances of their songs? And if i have to hear Interstate Love Song, Bring Me to Life, or Cult of Personality one more time, I’m totally going to illegally download the Supernova CD instead of buying it. And I’ll convince all my friends to download it instead of buying it as well. That’ll show them. It’s just like stealing from them, but I deserve it for having to sit through repeats. Please, more songs like “Starman”, “One Headlight”, and “Helter Skelter”.

4. Tommy Lee acting like a sleazebag. I guess it’s hard for him not to, but come on. Grow up.

5. Dave hasn’t played guitar yet. Granted, there still four weeks to go I think, but it’s about time we see him show off his guitar chops and see if the singers can keep up.

6. Enough with the voting info. I understand the need to make it clear to the audience, but it’s way too much to give me the info 15 times in an hourlong show.

As far as contestants go, I’d say that last years group was stronger, but I can’t really remember anyone other than the top six. We’re still at seven right now, so I’m sure that with two more weeks of showing off and getting better, the top five could probably match last years top five. After all, I wasn’t the biggest fan of last years top two, instead liking 3rd-6th place a lot more. This year’s group is a little more hard-edge with the obligatory tatoos and piercings than last years was and that’s for good reason, because the band and its music is more that style. While Mig had last year’s breakout performance with this song, so far there have been at least two really memorable performances this one and this one, both by Ryan Star. His “smoldering intensity” might just be enough to get him to the finals, and as he’s due to sing an original song this week, we’ll see how far his skill set goes. Even if the top six aren’t better than last year, whoever makes the top three has the potential to surpass the IXS top three. It’s all a matter of whoever has the better single, which, in my opinion is why J.D. Fortune won last year.

***½

What I’ve seen of this year’s Rockstar: Supernova show gets a 3.5 star rating by showing constant improvement, a willingness to be different, and the potential to give the band a really tough choice when it comes to the top three. If only Brooke Burke would be able to stop using the word “Rocker”.

The Ubiquitousness of Nic Cage



I honestly think I’d rather see LUKE Cage than Nic Cage right now.

Right now Nicolas Cage is everywhere. It’s hard to turn on the TV and not see his long, thin mug. At the moment, he’s got two movies out… The Ant Bully, and World Trade Center, in which he adds a creepy moustache to his physical repertoire. He’s been doing interviews galore, “waxing philosophical” if you will, about the September 11th melodrama, and the merits of “storytelling about history” as opposed to “entertainment”. Not that he doesn’t have a point at all, and I’ve heard mostly good things about the movie, but his pompous attitude is enough to make you wonder what Tom Cruise and Ben Affleck are doing at the moment. But I just gotta say thank God he no longer has the moustache. It’s been replaced though, with this long, straggly hair, that I can’t find the picture of right now but might have to do with one of his next movies, or maybe he’s taken on some work as an old-age Elvis impersonator.

But in case his grandstanding, pompous interviews for “WTC” weren’t enough, I just started seeing commercials for his NEXT movie, a sure-to-be crappy remake of a terribly over-dramatic British suspense-“horror” movie from the seventies, called The Wicker Man. Now, I’ve seen the original, and I have a feeling that audiences are going to loooooove this movie, because there’s nothing that Americans find scarier than a bunch of pagans dancing around a May-pole with masks on. OOOOOOH. Don’t worry. If you haven’t yet seen the commercial, I’m sure you will soon enough, and over and over again. It will be in movie theatres in about three weeks. By all counts, Nicolas Cage could have three movies out at one time. Who does this guy think he is? Will Ferrell?

You’d think three movies at once would be enough. It probably isn’t, because I’d be willing to make a bet that when you go see The Wicker Man, you’ll probably see the new trailer for Ghost Rider, Cage’s “been in production for five years” superhero movie about a guy who rides around on a skull-and-bones motorcycle fighting the brooding neighbor from American Beauty. It’s directed by the guy who did Daredevil, and wrote Jack Frost and Big Bully. Okay, so the guy also wrote Grumpy Old Men, and did that Simon Birch movie, but citing them does not suit my needs. Ghost Rider is due in February.

The point is this: I am sick of seeing and hearing Nicolas Cage. I don’t hate the guy. I do know people that do, but I happen to like Matchstick Men, Adaptation, the first half of Snake Eyes, The Rock, and theoretically Face/Off, Con Air, The Weather Man, and Raising Arizona. Lord of War was alright, but he’s been in his share of bad movies too… really bad movies. The thing is, he can be really grating when you’re over-exposed to him. When he’s all over the place. And it just seems to be getting worse.

One movie in 2004, two in 2005, three in 2006, four on the slate for 2007, and already four on the slate for 2008. Next up after Ghost Rider, is appropriately titled, Next. After that, Time to Kill, and of course the “obligatory” National Treasure 2… I guess the founding fathers didn’t bury all of their treasure in New York… or they had two treasures. In any case, there goes Washington never telling a lie.

*½

The ubiquitousness of Nic Cage gets two stars because I am fed up with seeing him all over the place. It could be worse though, and the movies that Cage is doing aren’t all that terrible. I would much rather see more entertaining and versetile actors appearing in 5 major movies a year.

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

The Critical To-Do over Lady in the Water


The cast of the movie Miami Vice hard at work

If you keep tabs on the movie world, you’re probably aware that right now, two sort of big deal stories are going on between critics and directors. The first one involves Joel Siegel making a big to-do and walking out on a screening of Clerks 2, and then being called out by Kevin Smith on the Opie and Anthony radio show. Interestingly enough, Smith’s going to be filling in for Roger Ebert on the “Ebert and Roeper” show this weekend. The second one is a little more high-profile, mostly because the movie’s director is a little more mainstream.

M. Night Shayamalan’s new movie “Lady in the Water” was released into the wild this past Friday, and was met with mostly bad reviews. Strike that; terrible reviews. Strike even that: Reviews that not only claimed that the movie was bad, but “a charmless, unscary, fatuous and largely incoherent fairy tale“, or “idiotic, contrived, amateurish or sub-mental… [and] pretentious, paralyzing twaddle” among other things. The movie pretty much received pans across the board, with rottentomatoes counting only 28 “positive” reviews out of 130 total, with nearly all of the major papers/writers, Variety, Entertainment Weekly, and in probably the best-written of all of them, Roger Ebert’s MAMMOTH Mega-Review, completely tearing the movie apart.

Movies get bad reviews all the time though. Just look at the 15 percent that Little Man got on Rottentomatoes, or the 20 percent that You, Me and Dupree got. The difference in these reviews though is that they’re written about the movies themselves. They’re not out there angrily insulting the Wayanses, or whoever was behind the latest Owen Wilson vehicle.

With such terribly scorching reviews claiming that Shayamalan has basically declared himself a god, and that this movie is the “biggest ego-trip” ever devoted to celluloid, I was terribly worried about going to see it. But you know what? I enjoyed it. I didn’t take any of it seriously, because I knew that much of it would involve highly elaborate mythology that was quite silly. I didn’t care though. The movie looked good, was well-acted, and paced well for what was written, which by proxy means that it was directed well. Was it written well? That’s a matter of opinion, and usually that opinion is no. I’d say it’s serviceable while watching it, but the more you think about it, the worse it gets. Ignoring the overelaborate mythology for a second, there’s the way most all of the characters are said to have a specific purpose, and I guess that’s true to an extent, if you count being a red-herring, or standing around watching something as purposes. There are a lot of characters and they are diverse, and so in order to get their personas across in such a short time, he uses some stereotypes, which I don’t mind, but seems to be another cause for the death sentence he’s being handed. To me, the worst part of the writing was the obnoxiously expositional way that the “mythology” was told to the main character and how easily he and the rest of the people in the apartment complex believe it. Yes there are flaws, but while you’re watching it, it’s for the most part an enjoyable film. I’d give it two and a half stars, out of five.

It seems though that the only person who really shares my sentiment is the guy from the Boston Globe. Everyone else seems to be caught up in this M. Night-hating party that’s all the trend. It’s one thing to criticise the movie, but they’re taking aim straight at him for being a complete egomaniac who won’t listen to other people’s ideas and who presents himself as a savior. What’s their basis for these accusations?

Well, first of all, there’s this book that some guy wrote about why Touchstone Pictures (read:Disney) didn’t want to make this movie unless changes were made. Supposedly he refused to make the changes and they walked away, leading him to go to Warner, where they let him have free reign. Secondly, he likes to cast himself in his movies. That’s not a secret. People who thought he was full of it for casting himself in the role he had in Signs will probably be even angrier at this role. It’s not the size of the role that seems to be bothering critics though; it’s the importance of it. He’s cast himself as the person whom the Lady has come to see, whom she’s come to inspire to write a great piece of literature that will cause a great change in the world. Critics have seen this as the ultimate sign of messianic aspirations.

What angers them the most though is the idea that he had the guts to throw in a character who’s a movie critic. He’s cold and unfeeling, snooty, likes to talk about annoying movie conventions, and (this isn’t much of a spoiler because it’s been talked about and the character isn’t important anyway) he dies.

My take on the whole thing is “Why should I care about this book?”. This goes for both the people who put it out, and the reviewers who care to bring it up in every review. They see the book as being a publicity stunt for the movie, and not the possibility that the book people might want to put it out when the movie comes out as a publicity stunt FOR THE BOOK. Even if it was the case, I don’t see why these movie critics chose to review him instead of his film. When “War of the Worlds” came out, critics didn’t say anything about Tom Cruise’s shennanigans. In fact, they all liked the movie, even though the story was terrible and had more plotholes than both Lady in the Water and The Village combined.

As far as casting himself goes, I don’t mind. I find his acting competely fine for the roles he’s cast himself in. He’s usually cast himself in inconsequential parts, and in his most emotional role in Signs, he was perfectly serious and brooding. His delivery seemed natural and all. In this movie, I understand the reasons why they’d think that he was full of himself for putting himself in the role that he was in. But he was perfectly capable in the part. When he wrote it, he knew that he was going to be playing a fictional version of himself, or maybe how he seems himself. But criticizing him for doing this is like complaining about Eminem in 8 Mile, or Woody Allen in that movie with “Humphrey Bogart”. Acting-wise they could do a lot worse, and any no-name actor would’ve been just as good.

As far as the last issue, I actually agree with the critics. The character is useless in serving the story, except to provide some “wink wink”-type moments meant to criticize both the lack of originality in movies, and the pretensiousness of movie critics. At the same time however, the criticisms that the character has of movies seem to all appear in the film. Examples include characters talking aloud to themselves (ironically, this is done by the critic himself, when confronted with an angry creature), “seemingly unimportant” characters actually being “important“, and the climax taking place in a rain storm. He’s simultaneously written himself into a corner AND been brilliant about it. It’s as if halfway through it he realized that plot elements were too convenient, and so he needed a way to say “I know that that these things are too cliche”. While I understand the character’s “purpose” in the story, it would’ve been better off had he decided to either fix the story issues, or get take the character out entirely. The critic is basically the lazy way out.

I guess my thought about the whole thing is that with such bad reviews, I figured I’d be squirming at how terrible it was, or want to walk out on it, or rip my ticket up out of anger. I didn’t, and I think that for critics to go this ballistic is unnecessary, especially attacking the director, and not the movie itself.

For the amount of complaining that everyone does about how there is nothing new and unique that ever gets a big release, or all the gratingly bad horror movies, or Wayans Brothers projects that keep coming out, M. Night is ALWAYS putting out something different and unique. People should at least give him credit for attempting something like this, even if there were majorly unresolved story issues.

*½

The critics’ response to Lady in The Water gets one and a half stars for having a few legitimate issues with the movie to complain about, but instead opting to attack the director for off-screen dealings and the role he’s cast himself in, nevermind about whether he was a capable actor in the role. I think that critics should spend more of their time vocally ripping apart terrible movies instead of mediocre ones.