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August 2009 Archives

August 26, 2009

RIP Dominick Dunne

Dominick Dunne

Dominick Dunne, the man who knew everybody, went everywhere, and did everything, all while looking like a million bucks, died today.

Most recently he was a columnist for Vanity Fair, focusing on celebrities and the crimes and scandals that bring them down. He also covered all the major celebrity murder trials, got sued by Gary Condit, and crusaded for victims' rights, and that was all after a long career in TV and movie producing.

Vanity Fair has an obituary, a letter from Graydon Carter about his amazing career and what it was like to know him, and a retrospective of his career in pictures. There are great ones of Dunne with a young Elizabeth Taylor, with his pal Princess Di, hanging around at parties attended by Claus von Bulow, and my favorite, sitting near a surprised O.J. at his recent criminal trial, wearing a huge smile:

Dominick Dunne and OJ

During a brief conversation they had during the trial, he said he started to like O.J., but no one was happier about that conviction than old Dominick Dunne.

Here's the last article he wrote for Vanity Fair, "What a Swell Party He Wrote", which is just incredibly great. Here's an archive of his other VF columns. ADM once declared on this site that Dominick Dunne is a national treasure. Sure was.

August 25, 2009

Surprise returns

Skins

  • MTV has bought the rights to remake British teen TV show "Skins". The original series was pretty great--you can watch it on BBC America and on YouTube.

    Fans are worried the MTV version will be watered down, meaning there won't be as much drugs, drinking, smoking, swearing, nudity, sex, binging, purging, and suicide attempts, all of which were well-represented on the original. They'll probably pull off casting unknown actors, since they're used to doing that already. It sounds like the original producer and one of the co-creators are coming over for the new series -- the producer says his goal is to make sure the new show is "the absolute opposite of 'Gossip Girl'."

  • I would never in a million years have guessed who has the #1 album this week. It's Third Eye Blind. Huh?
  • Spout is putting out a book based on their blog, probably my favorite of the movie blogs out there.
  • A long piece on Wired about Craigslist is titled "Why Craigslist is Such a Mess", but is really more about the mystery of why Craigslist is so incredibly successful when it doesn't follow any usual business or organizational rules at all:

    Craigslist gets more traffic than either eBay or Amazon.com. eBay has more than 16,000 employees. Amazon has more than 20,000. Craigslist has 30. Craigslist may have little to teach us about how to make decisions, but that's not the aspect of democracy that concerns [Craig] Newmark most. He cares about the details, about executing all the little obvious things we'd like government to do. "I'm not interested in politics, I'm interested in governance," he says. "Customer service is public service."

August 24, 2009

In case you haven't seen the Shutter Island trailer enough

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese's new movie Shutter Island, the movie with the trailer I've seen more times than any other trailer in my entire life, isn't going to be released this October after all, but is getting moved all the way to some time in February 2010.

Which means, I guess, that the studio doesn't think it's a serious Oscars contender, so they're not going to waste their marketing budget on a big For Your Consideration push for this movie.

I feel like I've already seen the thing several times, because the trailer's been there at at least 6 different movies I've seen in the theater lately. Let me recreate for you the scene with the guard at the mental institution and Leonardo DiCaprio, both using this strange, stilted, Boston-accented speech where no one uses any contractions:

Guard: "You ahh hereby requiuhed to surrenduh yah fiahahms."

Leo: "We ahh dooly appointed federal mahshals."

Guard: "But during your stay, you will obey protocol. Gentlemen. Welcome to Shuttuh Island."

[trailer]

I'm looking forward to a time when Scorsese is finished with the Boston accents. Don't any other regions of the country have gritty but haunted blue-collar white people in them?

Anyway, now that there are four more months for this movie to be promoted, you'll have many more chances to watch the trailer and see that scary old bald lady doing the "shh!" gesture, Michelle Williams looking sad and accusatory holding a bottle of whiskey, and Jackie Earle Haley, who I suspect will be the best part of the movie, telling Leo he's a rat in a maze.

Also, you can watch this trailer one hundred times and still only barely catch that Mark Ruffalo is in it. Which he is! There's also Elias Koteas, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Max freaking von Sydow. Awesome.

Now that Shutter Island has moved off of its original October 2 date, we're going to get a bunch of other good movies released then instead: A Serious Man, Zombieland, and Whip It.

Bye Bye Birdie

Peggy on Mad Men

Having seen Viva Las Vegas many times, and watched in awe/horror as Ann-Margret yowled and flailed around in her orange sweater during that one sort of kooky dance number, I could relate to Peggy on last night's "Mad Men" watching Ann-Margret in awe/horror as she camped it up on screen like a crazy 8 year-old in a clip from Bye Bye Birdie [here's the clip]. Ann-Margret's mid-60's performance style seemed to be: mental sexy.

I liked the scenes of Peggy dismissing Ann-Margret's phony little-girl-but-sexy act as being irrelevant to women, and kind of insulting. Even better was the scene of Don reassuring her that, yes, the Bye Bye Birdie clip is ridiculous, but people are morons, powerless to resist Ann-Margret's tits and you have to market to them that way. I'm paraphrasing here; what he actually said was much more subtle, but that was the idea.

[Aside: In a perfect little indicator of the disturbing undercurrent of Bye Bye Birdie, the Daily News had an article today about a revival production that's coming to Broadway. The producers have decided to change a dance sequence in which the heroine cavorts friskily with a bunch of Shriners at their banquet because as Gina Gershon (who will play the character) said, "it seemed a little too gang rape-y."]

Even better was the scene of Peggy practicing her sex kitten routine in front of the mirror, then going out for some hot casual non-intercourse action with a guy she bags not by being a pretend-helpless little kitten, but by being a gutsy smart girl who's not afraid to take a big bite out of a fella's hamburger. It was pretty great.

Other highlights from last night: Don telling his wife's elderly dad to "drop your socks and grab... something", though I wish he'd just finished with "your cocks", as an ex-Army man making a joke with the phrase. This is cable, can't they say that?

Also: Roger Sterling's daughter is going to have one bummer of a wedding the day after JFK's assassination. I wonder if the reference to her wedding date (November 23, 1963) means that this season is going to include the assassination, or if we're just meant to recognize that poor Margaret Sterling's wedding is going to suck big time.

August 21, 2009

"Let's get one of Bambi holding the gun"

waitress with a rifle

  • Some cops in Midland, TX got in trouble for taking this week's best picture, above. Someone called the cops after seeing this young waitress holding a big rifle and hanging out in the parking lot outside a restaurant. When they arrived, it turned out the guys she was hanging out with were other cops, who had been in the restaurant when they invited the waitress out for a little photo shoot. Her name tag, The Smoking Gun points out, reads "Bambi". I love that she still has on her apron with straws and pens in it.
  • New study: "the typical adult video game player is overweight, introverted and may be a little bit depressed."
  • Tuesday night's wild storm knocked down 500 trees in Manhattan.
  • A lot of the big movie star vehicles this year haven't done so well, and studios are trying to compensate, in part by paying stars less. Land of the Lost, Pelham 1 2 3, Duplicity, Funny People all had big stars and did worse than expected. The movies that did well are Harry Potter, Transformers, and Up, none of which were really popular because of their stars.

    And don't forget about that relatively small budget South African movie with zero stars where half the dialogue is subtitled. District 9 was mostly pretty good (except for some terrible dialogue toward the end,) but what I especially like about it is that studios will notice, again, that when a movie is well made (and well marketed) it doesn't need a huge budget, a famous director, big actors, or a dumb plot that's spoon-fed to the audience to make money. I love when people turn out for good, atypical movies and make them hits.


August 19, 2009

Bake sales and teen flicks

Soterious Johnson and Richard Hake baking

  • WNYC made a ridiculously twee little movie with an extended gag about having a bake sale to raise money. Goofy, but it's cool to see Brian Lehrer, Jad Abumrad (whose dessert I would actually eat,) Leonard Lopate, Brooke Gladstone, Terrance McKnight, and our faves Richard Hake and Soterios Johnson (above) all pretending to be terrible bakers. Best YouTube comment: "Soterios´╗┐ Johnson is white?"
  • Interesting op-ed about how struggling newspapers should switch to a nonprofit model like Harper's and Mother Jones.
  • The good news: the first real video inside a print magazine. The bad news: it's a "Two and a Half Men" clip and a Pepsi ad in Entertainment Weekly. I like pop culture just a little bit less now.
  • Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, my favorite movie of 2011, now has Jon Hamm in it, playing a character named High Roller. OK, I guess I like pop culture again.
  • Maybe you've seen ads for this new movie Bandslam. Did you assume it was another cruddy pre-teen High School Musical spinoff? Me too!

    Did you know it might actually be a cool movie that's a victim of bad marketing, and features a scene in the abandoned CBGB's where, according to the Washington Post review, the main character "spots an old Patti Smith poster and gasps in awe, 'Do you know how many times she must have spit on this floor?'" And has a David Bowie cameo? Me neither!


August 18, 2009

Video scratch

Mike Relm, scratcher

  • This is from a week or so ago: Wired has a short video interview with Mike Relm, one of my favorite mashup guys, talking about his live sets where he scratches music and video simultaneously. With stuff like Battle Royale, Pee Wee, Led Zeppelin concert footage, and amateur YouTube videos. It's cool.
  • I like Nicole Holofcener's movies, which center on women and their relationships but are better than most other movies about women and their relationships, and always star Catherine Keener. But here's her next movie: I'm With Cancer, starring James McAvoy and produced by Seth Rogen (who co-stars) and Evan Goldberg. It's about a young guy with cancer.

    I can't decide if I'm annoyed that one of the few successful women writer/directors who makes good movies about women has been absorbed by the Seth Rogen juggernaut, or if I'm hopeful that the next Rogen/Goldberg movie might be a lot better than Pineapple Express.

  • A New York judge ruled that Google has to reveal the identity of a blogger whose blogger.com site, Skanks in NYC (it's been taken down), exists only to diss model Liskula Cohen, who wants to sue the blogger for defamation. (She's also the one who a crazy guy hit in the face with a bottle at a club.) The blogger's lawyer said this case could lead to indiscriminate lawsuits against internet trash talkers, which means the floodgates might have just been opened.
  • The Times says that there are almost twice as many Dunkin Donuts as Duane Reades in the city, which I can't see how that is possible.

August 17, 2009

London Fog, then and now

London Fog ads

  • Last night's season premiere of "Mad Men" featured a storyline about a campaign for London Fog. Above are two real London Fog ads--the first appeared in an copy of Playboy from the early 60s, and features a tearful woman using her man's raincoat as a Kleenex. You can read the text of the ad in a blog post about using deep zoom with Playboy's online archives (for the articles, of course) which touts the coat's imperviousness to "emotional outbursts or sudden cloudbursts". The second ad is a not-so-pregnant-looking Gisele from a few weeks ago.

    Don Draper's new campaign, which he briefly described last night, involves a woman wearing a London Fog raincoat flashing a man on the subway--which sounds a lot more like the 2009 ad than the actual ad from back then.

    And of course, the whole storyline was a big product placement (so was the Stoli reference.) London Fog probably got to request that their ad on the show feature a naked lady to keep their branding consistent.

    (Also, pretty good episode, but Sal and Joan were both great. I bet this season will be good because of the supporting cast, and not so much the stars.)

  • "Reno 911!" got canceled. It ran for SIX SEASONS. If "30 Rock" gets canceled this year, I'm gonna riot.
  • Brad Pitt is allegedly going to be in the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey, Jr/Jude Law Sherlock Holmes movie as Professor Moriarty. He wouldn't be my first choice for Holmes's menacing nemesis, but maybe Eddie Izzard isn't available (wouldn't he be good?)
  • Mike Nichols is going to direct an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Deep Water. The book is about an unhappy couple who agree that the wife can see other people. She does. Then her other people start dying off. Mike Nichols is better at quiet personal dramas than thrillers, but it still sounds cool.
  • And here's a great Times article about Al Bell, former owner of the late, great Stax Records in Memphis. He's trying to bring Memphis back as a musical capital, through the Memphis Music Foundation and one of the greatest museums I've ever been to, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

August 13, 2009

The Bacchae, on and off-stage

Anthony Mackie in The Bacchae

Last night I saw a preview performance of The Bacchae, the non-Shakespeare play of this summer's Shakespeare in the Park season. If you're not familiar with this play, let me give you some of the more spectacular highlights. (The play is 2,500 years old, but, OK: spoiler alert.)

The Bacchae includes a posse of drunken, ecstatic, feral women who worship the god Dionysus. They're out there in the woods, orgiastically cavorting and shaking with ecstasy, tearing apart cows with their bare hands and suckling wolf cubs with their milk. There are also instances of these women rushing around and satisfying the lusts of men or something salacious like that. Then at one point, they pull a man in full drag down from a tree and eat him.

Those Greeks! They were some sick, sick, bloody-minded people! Euripides created all this stuff that would make for the greatest movie ever, and one show-stopper of a live theatrical experience. Unfortunately, because this is Greek tragedy, all the action happens off stage. Which is incredibly frustrating. What's the point of having people savagely ripped apart and eaten during wine-fueled orgies if the audience can't see it? With today's production values, Euripides could have been a Dario Argento-esque master of horror.

You're probably familiar with the crazy, blood-thirsty stuff the Bacchae get up to if you watch "True Blood", where I hear some Maenads have been making appearances. (Bacchae and maenads are both female followers of Dionysus.) Or that book The Secret History about a group of preppy kids whose Dionysian rituals lead to their downfall.

Anyway, I liked the play itself. The moral of the story is this: gods do what they want, and if you worship them or spite them, they can (and probably will) mess you up either way. And don't go out and get too wasted or you might accidentally kill your kids.

But I wanted more godlike bacchanalian mojo from Dionysus himself. He's played by Jonathan Groff, who was also in Hair last year and in Spring Awakening (and in those sexy posters.) He played his demigod character as a chilled-out, smug skater/hippie/greaser, wearing some unflattering jeans and a leather jacket. His hair was fittingly in Grecian ringlets. But I would have loved to see him go all-out Rock God, like an early 70's Robert Plant rockstar dynamo.

In last year's production of the play at Lincoln Center, Alan Cumming played Dionysus in drag, and looks like he gave a much more energetic performance:

Alan Cumming in The Bacchae

This production's Dionysus is all too happy to put the handsome Anthony Mackie (above) in drag before sending him off to the feral drunken ladies. Mackie is great in this role: he's transformed from a determined non-believer to a lovely, shyly glamorous drag queen in a purple dress and swishy strawberry blond wig. It's not every actor who would go on stage in a strappy dress and killer heels and walk around clearly enjoying his new prettiness. Considering that earlier this year, Mackie played both Tupac and a member of an Iraq bomb defusing squad this year, I'm very impressed.

In a recent interview in the Times, Mackie discusses the play and various costume changes, and sounds like he's really proud of this role: "I get to don some five-inch wedge stillettos and show girls how it really should be done." Snap!

August 11, 2009

Crime, movies, Pee Wee

Pee Wee Herman

  • Paul Reubens is bringing back his live show that began in 1980, The Pee-Wee Herman Show, to an LA theater this fall. Most of the original cast and crew will be back, which I hope specifically means Laurence Fishburne.
  • A completed documentary about some guys trying to find the reclusive John Hughes is going to be released. It seems that late last week, they were suddenly able to find a distributor. It's called Don't You Forget About Me, but could also be titled You Forgot All About Me Until My Untimely Death Hit the News.
  • A Brazilian crime show host is being investigated for generating stories for his TV show by ordering killings. I wonder if that's how "Cheaters" works too.
  • A man was found guilty of groping Minnie Mouse at Disney World. The costumed victim said she "had to do everything possible to keep his hands off her breasts."
  • It's real: Bob Dylan Christmas album
  • Upcoming Hank Williams biopic. He died when he was only 29. Who could play Hank? I like Channing Tatum, who's from Alabama like Hank, if he can lose some of the beefiness. Or James Franco (too crinkly?) or Paul Dano (too baby-faced?).
  • A map of drug use across the US, by state. Vermont and Rhode Island like their drugs, North Dakota prefers binge drinking.
  • A report about the Waterfront Commission of New York, which was created to fight waterfront corruption, finds that (surprise!) it's corrupt.

August 10, 2009

Def Leppard and iTunes

Def Leppard from back in the day

As anyone who grew up liking metal (or hard rock, or hair metal, or Top 40) probably knows, Def Leppard is one of the last remaining major iTunes holdouts. Sure, you can get their 2008 album, Songs From the Sparkle Lounge, on iTunes, but since there is probably zero chance that you looked up Def Leppard on iTunes to find that album, they may as well not be up there at all. Also, is that title a joke?

The band has licensed a few of their classic tracks to video games--you can download live versions of "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph" through Guitar Hero III.

Today we heard that "Rock of Ages" is also going to appear in a new metal-themed video game Brütal Legend. This is the one with Jack Black as a roadie running around and fighting evil, with a soundtrack of over 100 metal songs from a vast array of sub-genres (including "hair, black, thrash, British, new wave, goth, industrial and death, just to name a few".) The game's creator, Tim Shafer, says that of all the songs they wanted, "Rock of Ages" was the single hardest one to get. Those guys sure are cautious.

"It came down to the wire," he said. "We were really close to not getting that one. We built an entire mission around that song. It's really appropriate because there's these guys mining through rocks. It was the perfect song to use, so we're really happy to get that in there."

AC/DC, The Beatles and Garth Brooks are also not on iTunes--and these are all bands with insane album sales and really dedicated fans. Maybe at one time, Def Leppard could claim the same kind of power over the music marketplace, but they seem to realize that their fans are probably only willing to forego downloads and buy physical CDs of their old stuff. Which is pretty easy to do--I got a used copy of Pyromania for like 7 bucks a few months ago, though sadly the band won't see a penny of it.

So maybe with the new video game, they were holding out for more money. Or maybe the band has realized that they can demand a lot higher royalties from sales of video games than they can from iTunes downloads, so they wait for those offers instead of settling for their 9 cents per download or whatever. The band has gone on record with their love of Apple, and singer Joe Elliott, guitarist Phil Collen, and new-guy guitarist Vivian Campbell all claim they love their iPods and are Mac guys. I bet they have no problem with iTunes, but their accountants do.

Here's the 80's-Arthurian "Rock of Ages" video.

August 5, 2009

Movie reviews on TV = Saved!

A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips

Disney-ABC has finally decided to make their classic movie review show "At the Movies" into something respectable and good again by booting off the Two Bens (Mankiewicz, who is OK, and Lyons, an embarrassment who has provoked rage and contempt since the day he started) less than one year after they came on as hosts.

They just hired the Times' A.O. Scott and the Tribune's Michael Phillips to take their places.

Well! Hooray!

For those of us who grew up watching Siskel and Ebert (here's an archive of the old shows), this is really exciting news. After Gene Siskel got sick and left the show, there were a few great episodes where Roger Ebert brought on guest critics, but after Richard Roeper was hired in 2000 as a permanent co-host, it got pretty tough to watch. After giving one or two shots to the Two Bens over the last year, I gave up completely.

Scott is one of my personal favorite critics (he's not leaving the Times,) and though I don't read Phillips' reviews in the Tribune, I love when he joins Adam and Matty over at the Filmspotting podcast--he's smart and funny and likes good stuff. Both critics seem like pleasant, affable people, but hopefully they'll stick to their guns and not shy away from on-screen verbal brawls over things like whether Brian DePalma is capable of making good movies anymore.

The new pair will start on September 7. Can't wait.

August 4, 2009

More movie news, other news

Coffee and Cigarettes

A few links for today:

  • A new study shows that people have a lot less self-control than they think they do, and people who think they're good at resisting temptation are actually terrible at it. One of the tests involved college student smokers watching Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes (which features Iggy and Tom, above) while holding an unlit cigarette in their hand or, for the hardcore delusional people, in their mouths. Three times more students who thought they had unbreakable self-control smoked during the movie than the other students.

    The lesson: you are helpless to resist that donut/cigarette/drink/cute flirt, so who do you think you're kidding? As Wilde said, the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.

  • Latest cast addition to Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch: Carla Gugino. If this movie isn't fantastic I'm going to cry.
  • Review copies of G.I. Joe aren't going to be released, which is usually a bad sign. But really, what have they got to lose? Transformers 2 showed that fans don't care what critics say anyway, so why put what's probably a pretty disappointing movie out there to get bad reviews? One reviewer who has seen it called it "a big, silly, pulpy, cartoony action film." Yeah, no kidding.
  • Some statisticians who think language used in song lyrics and on blogs indicate our national mood found that teen blogs use "an abundance of 'sick,' 'hate' and 'stupid.' "
  • Michiko Kakutani weighs in not so positively on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, which sounds like an intentionally breezy read: "it feels more like a Classic Comics version of a Pynchon novel than like the thing itself."

Please don't let Ling and Lee fly home on one of Bill's party planes

Bill Clinton is a red-blooded American man, as we all know. We're sure he was delighted to do his patriotic duty and go to North Korea (as a private citizen of course) to try to secure the release of these two nice ladies who Al Gore hasn't really been able to help. We are terrified of what kind of favors Bill Clinton thinks he might be due in return from these just pardoned journalists.

As you can see from the picture, Bill Clinton apparently had to hang out with all these important people at the world's ugliest banquet hall, complete with special mural and lovely carpet. He's all "Oh my god, when are they sending some honeys over, I can't believe I'm doing this" and Kim Jong-Il is all "Ha! They sent Bill crawling to us."

Looking forward to the tell all, which will undoubtedly be an Oprah exclusive when we will find out whether Ling and Lee were really in a labor camp or a guest house.

Update: Ling and Lee are apparently flying home on Bill's private plane. He will skeeve all over them. Here's hoping Bill does the honorable thing and leaves them alone to nap.

About August 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in August 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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