Emily's War of the Worlds Review
And just like that, I love Tom Cruise again.
And just like that, I love Tom Cruise again.
If it's Fourth of July weekend, it must be time for the annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest!
Nothing brings New Yorkers together like competitive eating, and this week New York magazine has jumped on the Amy's Robot bandwagon with a rather touching feature on how our own local favorites are coaching each other to defeat the unstoppable world hot dog eating champion, Takeru Kobayashi. Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes in 2001, doubling the previous record. Since then, no other contestant has even come close to matching him. Last year, he downed an unprecedented 53 hot dogs. Allegedly, the rumor among the competitive eating community is that "the Japanese government had his stomach surgically altered to break the will of the U.S. eating community."
But frankly, we don't really care about Kobayashi. What of Eric "Badlands" Booker, the Official Competitive Eater of Amy's Robot? Well, first of all, he has nothing but respect for the current world champion. “Watching him eat is seeing lightning in a bottle, poetry in motion,”* says Badlands. But he's determined not to disappoint his fans: “I get the tough love,” he says. “People come up on the train and are like, ‘Yo, how you let that little guy beat you? You can eat 40 hot dogs and him.’ ”
All the eaters agree that hot dogs are the most challenging food to eat in bulk. "Hot dogs are the most difficult food for competition," says "Hungry Charles" Hardy. "You’re eating two things at once that are both extremely filling—that bread is harder than you think. And the meat is really salty. You get filled up immediately, but you have to keep going." (Kobayashi's signature trick is eating the hot dog and bun separately. Other competitors will sometimes soak the bun in water to make it go down more easily.)
Will any of our New York eaters win the ultimate prize? Probably not. The East Village's "Crazy Legs" Conti is just hoping to achieve "the deuce", finishing 20 hot dogs. Badlands has come closer, eating 41 hot dogs in a trial run - but they were skinless. (“That makes it a lot easier,” he says.)
But here at Amy's Robot, we are all Badlands, all the time. We'll be cheering him on during Monday's live ESPN broadcast, knowing that no matter where he places, no one can ever take that cannoli title away.
* As someone who has personally seen Badlands down seven pounds of cheesecake, collect a trophy, and then head straight over to the sausage stand across the street - well, that's my definition of "poetry in motion."
A.O. Scott from the Times is a little less enthusiastic, calls the aliens "wicked scary" and the action scenes "fairly spectacular."
Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post has a very long and thoughtful review, in which he calls the movie's storyline "ingenious" and the special effects "brilliant (but understated)."
Roger Ebert is not so impressed. He thinks the characters are one-dimensional, and the logic and motivation underlying the alien attack don't add up for him. He writes, "A planet that harbors intelligent and subtle ideas for science fiction movies is invaded in this film by an ungainly Erector set."
And The Daily News reviewer thought it was "no fun" as well as "nasty and mean-spirited."
But everyone agrees the effects and action sequences are awesome.
Today ADM and I visited Christie's, to check out the items from Marlon Brando's personal property that are being auctioned tomorrow. Most of the items were the same regular, everyday items that you or I might own. Look! There's Marlon Brando's bongos! His garden furniture set! His VHS copy of Less Than Zero! His Price Club card!
There were, however, a number of items that were legitimately valuable, such as vast correspondence from lots of famous people. A letter from Hunter S. Thompson requesting an interview, and urging Brando to read Hell's Angels, since he appears in it. A letter from Mario Puzo asking Brando to consider starring in the film adaptation of The Godfather--he (oddly) says that Brando is the only actor who could bring the "quiet force and irony" needed for the character. The black velvet jersey he wore in Superman. A vast library, many volumes containing cryptic but funny margin notes.
Also up for auction are Brando's two white Lexuses. One is expected to go for a mere $4,000! ADM and I hope to buy both of them, and drive around in a mini-caravan, basking in Marlon's residual loopy celebrity. Here is a photo of one of them.
Many lots are expected to go for around $300. So go get your collection of James Baldwin hardcovers formerly owned by Marlon Brando tomorrow at noon!
To attempt to counteract the free-fall in national support for the war in Iraq, Bush will give a speech on TV tonight to try to make it look like we know what we're doing over there, and that progress is being made. Considering that a few U.S. troops are dying every day lately, and daily attacks by insurgents make the whole country look like a chaotic fireball of death (Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, recently told U.S. lawmakers, "I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago") the hopeful element of the speech will likely be full of total fantasy. Bush will probably point to the gritty determination of the free Iraqis as the solution to all the country's problems, or maybe it will be the unstoppable force of democracy, or maybe it will be magic, or unicorns!
Regardless of the fictions we may be told about how great things are going in Iraq, we'll definitely hear a lot about the tremendous sacrifice of our soldiers over there. And of their parents who "give up their children" to a greater cause of freedom, as though the parents themselves did something to preserve the American way. This kind of language about parents giving their children to the military, as though they were tires being donated as part of a USO rubber drive, has always bugged me. Christopher Hitchens wrote a great vitriolic piece for Slate about this very thing.
He starts off like this: "Oh, Jesus, another barrage of emotional tripe about sons. From every quarter, one hears that the willingness to donate a male child is the only test of integrity. It's as if some primitive Spartan or Roman ritual had been reconstituted, though this time without the patriotism or the physical bravery. Worse, it has a gruesome echo of the human sacrifice that underpins Christian fundamentalism."
And it just gets angrier from there. If we really do respect the work and sacrifice that our military is doing in Iraq, it's time to respect each soldier's decision to join the military of his or her own free will. Their parents didn't "send" them anywhere. Also, as Hitchens points out, the war would not be somehow legitimized if (God help us) one of the Bush twins were over there fighting. "Do I know a single anti-war person who would be more persuaded if one of the Bush girls joined up? Do you? Can you imagine what would be said about such a cheap emotional stunt?"
There will probably be a number of cheap emotional stunts on tonight's broadcast. Though these will probably not involve blowing Jenna's legs off.
Weird piece in the Times today about the growing efforts of the political right to get their movies made in Hollywood. These filmmakers, and the article that profiles them, continue to conflate "right-wing" and "Christian." A lot of stereotypes about liberals running the media get thrown around among these guys, who say being a Christian in Hollywood is a "political liability" and make it sound like they are an embattled people who have to lurk around in the shadows of L.A. and eat lunch in unfashionable restaurants because of their persecuted viewpoints.
Since The Passion of The Christ made over $600 million worldwide, and since the actual political and legislative powers in this country are totally dominated by the right, I'm not so sympathetic of their perceived marginalization in Hollywood. Especially when you look at some of the names dropped in this article as those who form some loose coalition of the right: the producer of X-Men, Clint Eastwood, Ron Silver, Mel Gibson, Gary Oldman (who is described as a "conservative libertarian." ??!!) and people behind projects like the upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia and the ever-growing Left Behind series. It looks like the Christian right is already established in Hollywood, and its influence is growing.
However, there is one obstacle facing right-wing filmmakers that no one has yet figured out how to solve: whether they will be able to make movies that appeal to typical American audiences, who tend to like a steady diet of movies featuring exploding planes, sexy naked people, savage murders, organized crime, poop jokes, and generally anything involving a whole lot of sex and death. The Passion of The Christ was a big hit, but how many people are going to pay $10.75 to see a Catholic-themed documentary on cloning, which one of The Passion's producers is now making?
One conservative producer says, "We have the money, we have the ideas. What we don't have - and what the left has in spades - are great filmmakers."
Swanky Fourth of July parties at the Hamptons this year will have to go without fireworks displays, due to the return of an endangered species of bird, the piping plover, to the area. The federal government will fine any town that disturbs the nests of the birds, and this year, they're all over East Hampton. Government guidelines about setting off fireworks in areas where plovers nest are here.
Well! Though many of them may be environmentalists by the checkbook, socialites of East Hampton are not used to having their parties disrupted by no goddamn birds. The author of the article spoke with Jerry Della Femina, an advertising executive and restaurateur, and his wife, Judy Licht, a photographer and writer, who have played host to a Fourth of July celebration for at least 10 summers. She writes, "The gregarious Mr. Della Femina was first at an uncharacteristic loss for words when a reporter told him the display had been canceled this year. He quickly recovered.
'I just sent out invitations to about 500 people,' said Mr. Della Femina, who is often an outspoken critic of village government. 'That's insane. They must be out of their minds. I'm flabbergasted.'"
He says he still plans to have his traditional party. "We'll still have it," he said, "but we'll be serving barbecued piping plover. I hear it tastes like chicken."
Just wait till next year, pal, when your swimming pool and croquet court are overrun with swarming pissed off piping plovers who crap all over your sun patio and build nests in your sculptured topiary.
We don't want to go for total Lindsay Lohan overkill here, but I would like to point out the surprisingly positive review of Herbie: Fully Loaded by Stephen Holden of the NY Times.
His praise for Lindsay's talent as a movie star is especially strong: "Ms. Lohan, unlike the pallid Michelle Trachtenberg in Ice Princess, [a lesser Disney film from earlier this year] is a genuine star who combines a tomboyish spunk with a sexy, head-turning strut, executed with minimal self-consciousness. Likable but never saccharine, confident but not snooty, and endowed with the natural freckled-faced beauty of an 18-year-old Everywoman, Ms. Lohan seems completely at home on the screen."
ADM saw Lindsay's appearance on Letterman last night, and says this about it:
She hesitated for half a second and said, chipperly but somehow matter-of-factly, "Me."
It made me long for the Lindsay Lohan of old. I mean young.
She doesn't turn 19 for two more weeks, and the girl has already gone from cute child actor in TV commercials to spunky teen actress with promise to pop star to overexposed partygirl/tramp. It sucks to have your public image already worn out while still a teenager.
Oh, hooray! What's better on a Tuesday than a new completely arbitrary list to battle over?
Tonight, CBS broadcasts the AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes of All Time. What will they be? Who can imagine? Will "wax on, wax off" top "E.T. phone home"? Will "I knew it was you, Fredo" destroy "Bond. James Bond"?
AFI has already listed the 400 nominated quotes [pdf], which contain some delightful surprises ("I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum") and some yawns (seriously, Meet the Parents?).
Of course, we all have our own ideas about what constitutes the greatest movie quote ever. Sure, I'm pretty confident that "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" is going to crush the competition. But in my heart of hearts?
I know the #1 spot should be reserved for "I know you're in there - I can SMELL YOUR BRAINS!"
So, Amy's Robot prognosticators, what do you think the top 5 quotes of all time will be? And what do you wish they were?
[tx John for the heads-up]
To get you started, MSNBC's staff has also predicted a Top 10, and identified some important missing quotes.
Update: Well, that was a boring show, although Brando did take the second and third place spots ("Stella!" was shut out of the top 10). Here are the AFI's totally subjective Top 10 Movie Quotes:
10. You talkin' to me? (Taxi Driver)
9. Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night. (All About Eve)
8. May the Force be with you. (Star Wars)
7. All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup. (Sunset Boulevard)
6. Go ahead, make my day. (Sudden Impact)
5. Here's looking at you, kid. (Casablanca)
4. Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. (The Wizard of Oz) [wrong, wrong, wrong - what happened to "There's no place like home?" #23?]
3. You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. (On the Waterfront)
2. I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse. (The Godfather)
1. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. (Gone with the Wind)
Full list is here.
I AM A BRAINWASHED MANIAC. I AM A BRAINWASHED MANIAC.
Two more celebrities for the Should Have Thought First Before Bleaching list: Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson.
Other celebrities on the list include Jessica Alba
and of course Lindsay Lohan.
It used to be that couples therapy was for married people whose relationship had run out of steam, but who were trying to hold it together. Lately, couples therapists have noticed an increase in clients who are still just dating each other, and the NYT Times did a piece on it. Yes, it used to be that if it wasn't working out with your boy/girlfriend, you would just break up. But now people hire someone else to help them figure out if they should break up or not.
Erica is a screenwriter who has been in couples therapy with her boyfriend since last fall. In the NYT article, she "likens couples therapy to picking out paint colors for the living room. 'In our generation, we don't have to be experts at everything anymore. You don't have to be the decorator. You can get a fabulous decorator and still have a lovely home that's yours. And you can have someone help you with the communication problems in your relationship, and it's still your relationship.'"
Couples who are just dating tend to have the same problems--money, sex, religion--as married couples. And going to therapy is surely a helpful process for many couples, regardless of the stage their relationship is in. But what I find strange is that they seem to enter into therapy as a preventive measure against difficulties in a hypothetical future marriage. Like, "well, my boyfriend is a porn addict [as one 35 year-old film producer in the article says her boyfriend is] but if we just go get some therapy, that will solve all our problems and our marriage will be smooth and trouble-free!"
Anyone who has spent any time around married people, or watched any mid-80's sitcoms, knows it doesn't work that way. Does anyone really know what they're getting into when they decide to marry someone, regardless of the issues they've hashed out in front of a therapist? The article states, "Rather than enter into a marriage fraught with problems, young couples want to work through the angst before the stakes get too high, experts say. It is a form of preventive medicine."
But ultimately, going to couples therapy doesn't work like getting a decorator to redo your kitchen, since the kitchen more or less stays redone after the decorator leaves. Getting a professional to help you sort through your relationship difficulties can certainly be helpful, but at some point you're going to have to figure this stuff out on your own.
Since Mormons seem to have happy marriages figured out, we as ever endorse Hot Saints Latter Day Saints onling dating service.
In ascending order of quality:
The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Superman II/X-Men II
If you liked every movie listed after Batman Begins, you should see it. If you disliked every movie listed before it, you should not see it.
One of the biggest reasons that Super Size Me was such a success was the movie's charming, self-deprecating, and ready-for-anything star and creator, Morgan Spurlock (see his blog here.) Tonight his new TV series "30 Days" premieres on FX--read a very positive NY Times review here. The premise of the show combines the cross-cultural transplantation of "Wife Swap" (aka "Help! There's a Bitch in My House!", a favorite show of ours) with Barbara Ehrenreich's first-person insights into class issues in her book Nickel and Dimed, and features people spending 30 days in an environment that challenges their basic assumptions about life in America.
The first episode follows Spurlock himself (and his beleaguered vegan girlfriend who we met in Super Size Me) as the couple tries to live on minimum wage jobs in Columbus, OH. Future episodes take the best elements of "Wife Swap", but make the subjects stay in their new environments for a whole month.
Subjects include a racist Christian guy going to live with a Muslim-American family, a homophobic Christian guy going to live and work in the Castro, a gas-guzzling guy from New Jersey going to live on a self-sustaining eco-village in Missouri, and my personal favorite, a mother concerned about her teenage daughter's heavy drinking who becomes a binge drinker herself for a month, while her horrified daughter watches.
Summer programming! It's the greatest! "30 Days" premieres tonight at 10.
Al Franken's been making some noise lately about running for public office - he's bought a house in Minnesota and is talking about broadcasting his radio show from there. Today's New YorkTimes examines the possibility of a future Senator Franken, but leaves one important detail out. If Franken does run for public office, it will mean the end of The O'Franken Factor.
Air America has been picking up speed of late, but the company's future is far from assured. What would the loss of their highest profile show mean?
Well, it means you have to start cultivating another big name liberal - say, maybe, former public servant Jerry Springer. In April, Springer's weekday call-in show went national on Air America, in the desirable 9am - 12pm weekday time slot. And, to be frank, he's a hell of a lot more listenable and engaging than Al Franken.
But what about speculation that Springer's new non-tawdry talk show format is merely a stepping stone for his own political future? As we've mentioned before, Springer has talked about running for Governor of Ohio, although he tends to hem and haw when asked directly about it. Can Air America afford to build up its biggest draws only to lose them to political office - or does serving as a political breeding ground go further toward achieving their goals than sustaining a liberal media voice?
Franken and Springer's decisions will be interesting ones. As a media superstar, Springer wielded far more public power than he ever did as mayor of Cinncinnati. What's the responsible path for a politically-minded public figure? Use the power of public opinion, or the power of public office?
So what's been going on in Guantánamo lately? Well, human rights lawyers poking around down there have determined that there could be as many as 6 detainees who were minors at the time of their incarceration. "One lawyer said that his client, a Saudi of Chadian descent, was not yet 15 when he was captured and has told him that he was beaten regularly in his early days at Guantánamo, hanged by his wrists for hours at a time and that an interrogator pressed a burning cigarette into his arm."
But can we be held accountable for how we treat minors in captivity? Or can we even be expected to know how old our detainees are? "They don't come with birth certificates," said the chief public affairs officer at the camp. Military authorities say they released all the minors they were holding, three of them, in January 2004. Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross think these three were ages 12 to 14 at the time of their release.
Let's look at some tactics used on one detainee, 14 at time of capture, that he reported to his lawyer: "He describes being shackled close to the floor in an interrogation room for hours with music blaring and lights in his face. He also said he was shown a room with pictures of naked women and adult videos and told he could have access if he cooperated. His description fits the account of former guards who described such a room and said it was nicknamed 'the love shack.'"
Offering porn to pre-pubescent boys! It's an American tradition.
Lucky for us, we don't have to feel uncomfortable or guilty about how we're treating our detainees, because they are all bad people. Or teenagers, rather. That's what Cheney tells us today in an interview: "The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantánamo are bad people. I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the al-Qaida network."
Some Republican Senators have been calling for the closing of Guantánamo, including Chuck Hagel, who said yesterday that the US was "losing the image war around the world."
"We do need some kind of a facility to hold these people. But this can't be indefinite. This can't be a situation where we hold them forever and ever and ever until they die of old age," Mr Hagel told CNN.
Which could be a really long time for some of them.
Ryan Gosling accepts the "Best Kiss" Award at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards.
Inspired by the gajillion dollars generated through sales of products related to the Olsen twins, their former lawyer and business manager Robert Thorne (who is often referred to in conjunction with the word "Svengali") has moved on to the next untapped source of disposable cash: tween boys. Thorne has recently partnered with new tween boy brand Riot Media to "develop, manage and implement licensing, marketing and sales initiatives aimed at 8- to 13-year-old boys."
Being a savvy marketer, Thorne understands what kind of marketing outreach strategies will get pre-teen boys to commit their allowances to purchasing lots of tacky garbage: a website with poop jokes. Riot's website mixes humor with the "scary and gross" elements that marketing research indicates will turn tween boys into loyal customers. The website features games such as "Monkey Pee, Monkey Do", with its tagline, "Think Tacos Give You Gas?" And interactive programs like MuSick, in which players can "sample a fart, backbeat a burp, get a rhythmic retch."
Some original tween-boy-friendly programming content (about chimps, Riot's theme animal) is also in progress: "Plans already are under way to develop a video game and television programing for the brand that features a back story about an evil circus and a heroic chimp named Riot."
And check out all the products these lucky tweens will soon get to enjoy! "Riot will launch Riot magazine and the Riot comic book in late summer, along with Riot trading cards, posters and stickers. Wireless ringtones and wallpaper are rolling out this month, followed by cell-phone games in the fall. An apparel line will be available this month, and additional branded products including a collectible card game, books, toys, electronic games, backpacks and back-to-school items are slated for release next year."
If they were really clever, Riot would also establish partnerships with the kinds of organizations that will be interested in winning these boys' loyalties once they reach their teen years, such as Maxim magazine and U.S. Army Recruiting.
The lowest rung on the ladder of gambling, at least in New York, is without a doubt the OTB. Anyone who has one in their neighborhood is familiar with the haggard old guys who hang out in there, the empty bottles of Wild Irish Rose on the sidewalk outside, and the sad traffic between the OTBs and the check cashing places that are often, conveniently, right next door (a great example of synergy in local business!)
But now the OTB has decided its image needs some work. We need a new, glamorous, sexy OTB! An OTB for sophisticated, urbane New Yorkers! An OTB that can attract those paragons of reputability, women! Gambling is still gambling, no matter where you do it, but OTB wants to keep its traditional, toothless patrons and its newer, beautiful, wealthier patrons very much apart.
The Daily News reports that last night the gaming agency held a fashion show in Chelsea, invited a lot of sleek pretty people, and tried to reinvent itself in anticipation of the Belmont Stakes and other high-profile gambling events. There are now 13 restaurants that are OTB locations, and presumably they will not smell like urine and whiskey.
However, shaking the traditional image might be difficult for OTB, even with the new push. Sal Zaffarese, who played the ponies yesterday while enjoying a beer and a plate of fried calamari at a restaurant that offers betting services, was interviewed by the Daily News.
"Women might not know that this is a nice place, a safe place," he said. "It's not like the parlors, with the $2 bums hanging out all day."
So, I guess gambling is nice and safe as long as you bet high.
New reality show Bridezillas, which starts on WE this weekend, examines the American phenomenon of nice, regular, unassuming people turning into self-obsessed, hyper-demanding, tantrum-throwing terrors in the days leading up to their weddings.
To promote the show, WE held a wacky and mortifying publicity stunt this morning right smack in the middle of Times Square, in which a whole herd of ladies in wedding dresses all crowded around a giant wedding cake, then dove in, tearing into it with their hands and faces, looking for a check for $50,000 buried somewhere in the cake.
Since we strongly support any stunt that adds further humiliation to the experience of appearing in public on a hot day wearing a big ugly poofy bridal gown, we took some pictures.
It was pretty sick.
[tx Cushie for notification]
Things are looking up for our favorite Oscar-snubbed actor Paul Giamatti, who is getting excellent reviews for his work in our favorite phone-throwing man-child Russell Crowe's Cinderella Man. But in this special Who's Older™, we recognize that even as one adenoidal Italian-American's star rises, so does another's fall.
Whither Max Casella, perhaps best-known and loved as Doogie Howser MD's best friend Vinnie Delpino? While Giamatti is landing increasingly high-profile roles, Casella has toppled from the glamorous heights of Newsies to the Italian-American Hollywood Squares of The Sopranos and Analyze This.
So, in honor of you, Max Casella, we present a very special edition of Who's Older™. Make your guess before you continue reading.
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