Tuesday, January 31, 2006
BEST ALBUMS OF 2005
1. Richard Swift – The Richard Swift Collection, Volume One (literate pop)
2. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (eclectic pop)
3. The Eels – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (suicidal pop)
4. Amadou & Mariam – Dimanche a Bamako (world pop)
5. Betty LaVette – I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise/ Various – I Believe To My Soul (soul)
6. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan (bluesy pop)/ Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (folkie pop)
7. Neil Diamond – 12 Songs (pop via Brill Building)
8. Hanna McEuen -- Hanna McEuen (country by way of Everly Brothers)
9. The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers (60s pop via UK)
10. Various – Does Anybody Know I’m Here? Vietnam Through The Eyes of Black America (protest pop)
11. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary/ Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah/ Broken Social Scene/ Marah – If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry (return of Talking Heads)
12. Bill Charlap and Sandy Stewart – Love Is Here To Stay (telepathic jazz duets)
13. Lewis Taylor – Stoned (what Prince and Stevie Wonder used to be)
14. Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate – In The Heart Of The Moon (world music)
15. Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine (pop, the hard way)
16. Heartless Bastards – Stairs and Elevators (rock n roll)
17. Various – Son Cubano NYC: Cuban Roots, New York Spices 1972-82 (salsa)
18. Hard-Fi – Stars Of CCTV (British rock)
19. Neil Young – Prairie Wind (folk rock staring death in the face and smiling)
20. Supergrass – Road To Rouen (underappreciated rock)
"Certainly after this experience, I have to wonder if there is such a thing as a "nonfiction memoir." One can fact-check facts, but how do you fact-check memory and perception?"Wrong. James Frey did not make an honest mistake on details or simply have a different perception of events. James Frey LIED. He made up events out of whole cloth. He lied about his jail time, he lied about his treatment while at Hazelden, he lied every step of the way. And how about at least starting with some of the big facts? James Frey never went to jail and he never brawled with cops. These events are central to the book and easily checked. Frey didn't remember things differently or perceive them differently -- he made up lies to aggrandize himself. Period. Of course there is such a thing as a nonfiction memoir. They don't include lies.
1. Fun With Dick & Jane
3. Rumor Has It
4. Brokeback Mountain
5. Memoirs of a Geisha
6. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardroe
7. Underworld: Evolution
9. Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
10. Just Friends
What Tim Burton said: "I am thrilled that Corpse Bride has been nominated and especially happy for all of the artists that worked on the project."
What Tim Burton should have said: "HA HA! Screw you, CGI! Shut out at the Oscars by hand-drawn old-schoolers like Miyazaki and young, hip back-to-the-future stop-motion animators like me and my homey Nick Parks in the UK! Computers suck! (And thank God Pixar didn't put out a movie this year.)"
Really, how stupid can major companies be? They run screaming from new technology every single time, no matter how often the feared device (VCRs, DVDs, TV, cable, etc.) proves a godsend and financial windfall. (Studios grossed $25 billion from sales and rentals of DVD and VHS last year. Record labels got an extra $1 billion from downloads -- all "found" money.) Now with Apple's legal downloads an immediate success, you'd think studios would be falling all over themselves to make their content available. Nope. Instead, they're frightened out of their wits. In five years, they'll be making billions off of it and living in fear of the next technological breakthrough.
BEST PICTURE: Take back "Munich."
BEST DIRECTOR: Take back "Steven Spielberg"
BEST ACTRESS: Take back Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents and Charlize Theron in "North Country"
ART DIRECTION: Take back "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"
COSTUME DESIGN: Take back "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
DOCUMENTARY: Take back "March of the Penguins" (It's NOT a documentary!)
SCORE: Take back "Munich" (I love John Williams but it's a weak, cliched score)
Quote of the episode comes from once and future love interest Audrey: "Jack, I'm sorry if I'm being a little distant. It's just...it's taking me a little while to get used to you being alive."
NOTE: Oscar expert Damien Bona tells me "Brokeback Mountain's" "A Love That Will Never Grow Old" wasn't eligible because it wasn't heard in the film for long enough. In that case, they should have nominated the lovely, wrenching "The Maker Makes" by Rufus Wainwright, which plays over the end credits.
First thoughts: as everyone will point out, "Brokeback Mountain" got eight nominations, the most, but its absence in key categories (no "Best Song?") means it is hardly a slam-dunk. No Art Direction, no Costume, no Film Editing -- those are all areas it could and should have been recognized. No Best Song is easily the most striking -- only three nominees (including "Crash's "In The Deep") and not Emmylou Harris for "A Love That Will Never Grow Old?" or Rufus Wainwright for "The Maker Makes?" Bizarre. Best Picture and Best Director match up exactly, so no one got cheated and we can't spot any thin support that way. So everyone will call it a horse race with "Crash" the likeliest spoiler. And then "Brokeback" will triumph in the end.
My favorite suprise: best documentary short "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin." Corwin is a legendary writer for radio who wrote brilliant, brilliant pieces that have faded a bit in memory but are thrillingly good. (You can find them on old-time radio compilations.) "On A Note Of Triumph" was written for VE Day and is stunning in its presience, dignity and sheer beauty. I've been looking for an excuse to write about him for years and now I've got my chance.
Monday, January 30, 2006
You gotta love Hollywood. "Friday Night Lights" was a very good book and a very good movie. Now the drama about smalltown life and the high school football team that means everything to the townspeople is coming to NBC as a drama. But how's this for casting? The real life coach is on the left. Billy Bob Thornton (on the right) played him in the movie. And now Kyle Chandler (bottom) plays him on TV. If they make a version for downloading, they're going to have to resurrect Montgomery Clift to keep this up.
And the NY Post reports on reaction to Oprah's show. A sidebar (not posted online) has the juiciest quotes. Tom Wolfe makes the idiotic comment that "Frey didn't cross the line because there was no line." (Does that mean the astronauts in "The Right Stuff" didn't really go into space?)
Finally, publisher Nan Talese's husband Gay says, "Oprah was wrong and then protected herself and her program. She had to go public because she was shown to be a phony." His wife peddles a pack of lies as a brutally honest memoir and Oprah is the phony? As for the suggested disclaimers, there is only one disclaimer that can go on "A Million Little Pieces" and it's a very short one: FICTION.
Of course, what the NYT is describing is THE STUDIO SYSTEM. It's the way movies were made in Hollywood for the first 60+ years of its existence. Directors and actors and costumers and composers signed on to MGM or Warner Bros. for long-term contracts, not just to make one movie. What makes this article especially ignorant is that they claim Pixar will reinvent Disney with this innovation when in fact the Disney animation division is the one area of Hollywood that has stuck to this approach all along. Pixar is a great studio but it isn't because they've invented some bold new approach. It's because they've gone back to the way Hollywood made films for decades. Disney's problem is simply that it lost the animation division's guiding force: Jeffrey Katzenberg. Now they've got John Lasseter and they'll be fine.
1. Big Momma's House -- $28 mil
2. Nanny McPhee -- $14.1 mil
3. Underworld: Evolution -- $11.1 mil ($37 mil total)
4. Annapolis -- $7.7 mil
5. Hoodwinked! -- $7.4 ($37.7 mil total)
6. Brokeback Mountain -- $6.4 mil ($49 mil total)
7. Glory Rpad -- $5.2 mil ($33 mil total)
8. The Last Holiday -- $4.9 mil ($30 mil total)
9. The Chronicles of Narnia -- $4.4 mil ($276 mil total)
10. The Matador -- $3.8 mil ($5.5 mil total)
On the album chart, US act Fall Out Boy is breaking through, along with the superior Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah. But the real shocker is on the singles chart, where A-ha of all people is back in the Top Ten with "Analogue (AQll I Want)."
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Saturday, January 28, 2006
1. Big Momma's House 2 -- $23.5 mil est.
2. Nanny McPhee -- $11.2 mil est.
3. Underworld: Evolution -- $10.7 mil est ($37 mil total)
4. Hoodwinked! -- $8.3 mil ($36 mil total)
5. Annapolis -- $7.3 mil est.
6. Brokeback Mountain -- $6.7 mil est. ($50 mil total)
7. Glory Road -- $5.2 mil est.($33 mil total)
8. The Last Holiday -- $4.9 mil est. ($30 mil total)
9. The Chronicles of Narnia -- $4.4 mil est. ($276 mil total)
10. Fun With Dick and Jane -- $3.6 mil est. ($105 mil total)
Teddy Thompson's "Separate Ways" (which they don't mention)
The Arctic Monkeys (Feb 27)
Nick Cave's score for "The Proposition" (Feb 27)
Elvis Costello's live concert with a jazz orchestra (Feb 28)
Donald Fagen's "Morph The Cat" (March 7)
Outkast's "Idlewild" soundtrack (March 7)
Kris Kristofferson's "This Old Road," with Don Was; first CD in a decade (March 7)
Stephen Merritt's "Showtunes" (March 14)
Willie Nelson tribute album to songwriter Cindy Walker (March 14)
Sparks -- "Hello Young Lovers" (March 21)
LL Cool J's return to Def Jam (March 21)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs' second album "Show Your Bones" (March 28)
Maxwell's new soul album (April 4)
The Vines' hopefully post-drug abuse comeback "Vision Valley" (April 4)
British rapper The Streets' "The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living (April 11)
Elefant's "The Black Magic Show" (April 18)
Dixie Chicks more rock than country (April 25)
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris duets album (April 25)
John Mayer's "Continuum" -- what will his blues outing do to his pop? (May)
Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint -- "The River In Reverse" (May)
The Raconteurs -- side project with Jack White and Brendan Benson (May)
Scissor Sisters -- (May 16)
Nellie McKay's Sony-dumped "Pretty Little Head" (TBA)
Prince -- "3121" (TBA)
Paul Simon's "Surprise," a collaboration with Brian Eno, who always brings out the best in people (TBA)
Friday, January 27, 2006
As for the men's, hopefully Federer will have a great match and win. At least the Aussie Open has given us a great new villain: the hissable, hateable punk Nicolas Kiefer.
As for her special, Oprah did a great job with Frey by not letting him off the hook and insisting he lied. His publisher Nan A. Talese came across as an idiot, frankly, talking about the "authenticity" of his voice when Frey had just admitted it was a pack of lies. They also missed the basic truth of modern publishing: publishers not only don't factcheck nonfiction books, they barely COPYEDIT them. Finally, the guy from the Poynter Institute was foolish, too, discussing how memoirs should be labeled to say how honest they are. Talese jumped at that idea, as if a disclaimer at the beginning would make Frey's lies okay. The only label that "A Million Little Pieces" deserves is the label Frey tried and failed to sell the book under: fiction.
MICHAEL IN NEW YORK: Biboy, that is a GREAT idea. Imagine Bush saying "There were no weapons of mass destruction" followed by Oprah saying, "I feeld duped." Imagine Bush saying, "When we say we're wiretapping, we are always getting a warrant" followed by Oprah saying, "Why did you make that up?" Bush saying "Nobody ever expected the levees to overflow" or "You're doin' a great job, Brownie," pictures of flooding and then Oprah saying, "I am angry and upset." And end with "The truth matters." That would be devastating.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
"The temporary highs that I've felt on drugs pale in significance to the highs of a sober mind, catching a good wave in the water or being in love, or hugging my mama or feeding my chameleons."
Frey's own people have made a huge mistake. His publisher is providing people to try and back up Frey's claims about his treatment at Hazelden, instead of letting Frey blandly claim no one expects a memoir to be true. One is a state judge convicted of mail fraud and could be sentenced next month for up to 20 years. A roommate of Frey's, he failed to confirm brawls between patients, the hole in Frey's cheek or the resetting of Frey's nose by attendants. Anyone needing medical attention would have been taken to a hospital, he admitted. The other witness also admitted he'd never seen any brawls and also admitted Frey lied when describing card playing and gambling by patients during group lectures. And these are people trying to DEFEND him.
Turns out the crank self-published a children's book with the explanatory title "Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: The Story of the Boy Who Traveled Through The Past By Stepping Through The Picture Frame On His Bedroom Wall." (That sure takes care of the need to ask "What's it about?") He's got it on sale at Amazon.com, where four reviews all give it five stars and the reviewers (whom I'm sure the author has never met) say things like "I've never seen such a reaction to a book before!"
Class's own website mostly promotes the book, though it briefly mentions his desire to promote movies that deserve it more than liberal fare like "Brokeback Mountain," "Syriana," and "Munich." His choices? "The Chronicles of Narnia," which celebrates pagan creatures like the centaur; "Harry Potter," which encourages children to dabble in black magic and other Satanic practices; "Star Wars Episode III," which is a thinly veiled attack on President Bush; and "Millions," an Irish film which makes a mockery of religious saints. Some values!
"I will probably do a lot of the new album and then some stuff from my previous solo albums," Fagen speculates about the tour set list. "Then, a couple of Steely Dan tunes and maybe some surprise tunes or covers I've been thinking about."Hey, you read it here first.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
We know Lasseter will put the kibosh on planned cheapo direct-to-DVD sequels to "Toy Story," "Little Nemo" et al. But will he also put a stop to Disney's cheapo direct-to-DVD releases like "Bambi II" (out February 7)? Doubtful. Those aren't his babies and they're wildly profitable. But Lasseter will almost surely bump up their quality -- and he'll also probably revive some hand-drawn animation, stop-motion animation and other styles. He's too smart to be fooled into thinking Pixar succeeded because it was computerized animation. It succeeded because that was the right style for those stories.
But the big question for viewers is, "What will happen to my favorite show?" I've updated the list (I forgot about "Everwood," which isn't airing this week. I think it's safe for another year, unlike the similar and weaker One Tree Hill.) And blogger Magnolia pointed us to a comment by Les Moonves echoing our suggestion that "Gilmore Girls" followed by "Veronica Mars." Let's hope, though tiny signs of life means a third season should happen.
Rosanne Cash -- Black Cadillac (early reviews are very strong)
Duncan Sheik -- White Limousine (another likely best-of-year release)
Soweto Gospel Choir -- Blessed
Tortoise and Bonnie Prince Billy -- Brave and the Bold
Yellowcard -- Lights and Sounds (though I'm worried they tried to "mature")
Arctic Monkeys -- on import
Eric Matthews -- Foundation Sound
And these reissues:
Crosby, Stills & Nash (remastered debut)
Lisa Loeb -- Very Best Of (directorboy has a crush)
Augustus Pablo -- King David's Melody (start with the classic King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown but this is pretty great too)
Kenny Rogers -- 21 Number One Hits (hey, my very first cassette was his Greatest Hits)
Linda Ronstadt -- Best Of Capitol Years (finally, her brilliant "Heart Like A Wheel" gets remastered)
"Definitely, at the script stage we made comments about the aborted fetuses," a Showtime executive said.
1. Fun With Dick and Jane
2. Underworld: Evolution
3. Brokeback Mountain
4. Memoirs of a Geisha
7. Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
8. Just Friends
9. King Kong
10. Cheaper By The Dozen 2
The other brainstorm in LA? After decades of flourishing on UK TV, they're finally getting ready to launch "Top of The Pops" on US TV. Brilliant! (That's the weekly countdown show of the top songs, with bands often performing live.) The only problem? They're about 25 years too late. Now they'll be competing with similar shows like "TRL" on MTV and "106th & Park" on BET -- plus the fact that fans can get the Top Ten online the second its announced, so watching a TV show "revealing" them is one reason the UK "Top of the Pops" has been moribund for years and was shunted off to a weak timeslot.
Everybody Hates Chris
America's Next Top Model
Beauty and the Geek
Aquaman (fall spinoff)
Friday Night Smackdown
Veronica Mars (critically beloved and a good fit with "Gilmore Girls")
Everwood (probably good for another season, unlike...)
One Tree Hill (which is fading fast)
Living With Fran
The seven black sitcoms that helped UPN survive:
One on One
All Of Us
Half and Half
(mostly long in the tooth, with maybe Girlfriends being saved to pair with "Everybody Hates Chris." At least three if not more will be gone.)
7th Heaven (already cancelled -- spinoff still a possibility)
Related (WB on Mondays)
What I Like About You
Monday, January 23, 2006
Here's an interesting observation. Most of the early stories about "Brokeback Mountain" used either the image from the poster (two men near each other but looking away) or a shot of Jake lying on the ground looking at the scenery with Heath nearby. But in the last week, more and more I've seen people use this shot of Jake and Heath in an unabashedly intimate pose. Time magazine used it in its feature on the film's success. Clearly, since America has no problem with the movie, the traditional media is getting more comfortable with it as well. [Photo by Kimberly French of Focus Features.]
And there are plenty of liberal straight guys like Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, who wrote a puckish Op-Ed in the New York Times, confessing, "Cowboys would have to lasso me, drag me into the theater and tie me to the seat" for him to see it.But read the entire column for yourself. Larry David wasn't saying he wouldn't see the film. He was satirizing people who wouldn't; he was mocking the men who were "afraid" to see "Brokeback." For God's sake, he is a comic. Didn't anyone notice that David said he was so easily influenced that if he went to see a movie like that, all bets were off and he might go gay? Joke! He even ends by referencing the famous "Seinfeld" episode about Jerry and George being mistaken for gay that launched the catch phrase "Not that there's anything wrong with it." So enough with people quoting Larry David as if he was serious when he said he'd never go see "Brokeback." It was a joke.
Who exactly does the NYT have in mind? Presumably there are some buffoons out there that don't like Dickens, but they're hardly likely to be reading the Friday arts section of the NYT. Of course, the book that pops up on most reading lists is "Great Expectations," not "Bleak House." But whether students are reading "Great Expectations" or "Bleak House" or "Oliver Twist" or "David Copperfield" or just about anything else by Dickens, their usual reaction is not boredom (it's hardly "The Scarlet Letter" or some other worthy novel short on dramatics but long on critical praise) but excitement over one of the great entertainments. Charles Dickens is one of the most beloved writers of all time; his serialized novels were the "24" of their day, with each chapter providing a delicious cliffhanger. To what possible audience does the NYT think it's talking in assuming that we all think Dickens is a bore? (USA Today made an almost identical claim.)
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Friday, January 20, 2006
Thursday, January 19, 2006
We already knew "Prince Caspian" would be the sequel to "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe." (It's the only other book with all four Pevensie children.) Now comes word they'll start shooting in the fall. But it's the movies after this one that will prove tricky -- with few or no returning characters, they'll have to sell the movies based on the "Narnia" name only. Does that seem an obstacle to you or a slam-dunk? (Pictured: William Moseley as Peter Pevensie.)
Tuesday night, in the first episode of "Commander in Chief" since Geena Davis won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama, the show had a little trouble with international flags. In the lead up to the climactic scene of almost-nuclear war -- as North Korea is beefing up troops on the South Korean border -- we were shown two shots of the guard tower in the DMZ. The problem? Instead of displaying the flags of South and North Korea, they showed the South Korean flag and the flag of Iraq, pre-fall-of-Saddam. Either the producers have a funny sense of humor ("So, Kim Jong-il, you like Western movies and TV? Well, take that!") or they just don't know the difference between members of the one-time Axis of Evil. Very strange. (See relevant flags below)
North Korea *************** Iraq (until fall of Baghdad)
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
As for other shows, they're too embarrassed to say "Arrested Development" is cancelled -- probably because ABC and Showtime want to pick it up -- but admit it's all but dead. The unsung "King of the Hill" -- one of the most believable sitcoms of the past five years -- could come back for more episodes in 2007. And the long-gone "Futurama" is not out of the question for a revival a la "Family Guy." For more news, check out Mediaweek's column by Marc Berman.
Finally, no one mentions the most diabolical reason why Universal would conceivably diss Spielberg. They thought they had a deal to buy their longtime partner DreamWorks but Paramount snatched it out from under them. Maybe this is subtle payback?
And unnoticed at the box office is "Fun With Dick & Jane." A forgettable Jim Carrey vehicle that got almost no attention and even fewer good reviews, it hit $95 million at the box office and will easily hit $120 mil or so. These people get paid huge amounts of money...and they're worth every penny.
In other TV ratings, "Scrubs" was beaten by a repeat of "Commander In Chief" and "Love Monkey" was spanked by "Law & Order: SVU." "Love Monkey" dropped some 33% in viewers but can take comfort in holding on to almost all of the target 18-49 demo.
NOTE: Lots of reports say Kelly Clarkson won't let her songs be heard on "American Idol." (Simon Cowell rightly says that would be stupid of her.) The "AI" producers say they have a call in and it's just a paperwork issue. But didn't someone sing 'Since U Been Gone" last night?
Where to begin? Do no men like Joni Mitchell? My friend Kitty -- who has seen more Dylan concerts than you can shake a stick at -- would have something to say to Stanley. But the idea that any artist or genre or style of music is for men or women only is so childish that it's hard to take seriously. Maybe Stanley doesn't like Dylan. That makes her a fool. But she shouldn't drag every other member of her sex down to her own silly level.