Will Bigham wins “On the Lot” million $ prize

August 22, 2007 at 1:10 am (pop culture)

will_bigham.jpgYay, Will!  So after gems like “Lucky Penny” and  “The Yes Men” America actually voted for the best (arguably) contestant.  The finale was predictably padded but the judges seemed to be relatively lucid and for once, Adrianna Costa had the twins firmly tucked away.  I felt like Jason was a Brett Ratner in training so I’m definitely happy for Will and his family and can’t wait to see what see what he comes up with next.

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Don’t raise the roof about Karl Rove’s retirement just yet…

August 15, 2007 at 2:29 am (politics)

nn_odongreg_rove_070813300w.jpgIsn’t the timing for this departure a bit suspicious? Do we really think that “Bush’s Brain” will go gentle into that good night right as election season 2008 is gearing up? In plain english, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if evil mastermind Rove was planning to be the new brain of another eager Republican presidential nominee – and if he’s been wooed to Giuliani’s camp, we’re FUCKED.

As much as middle Americans may not accept Giuliani as a true conservative due to his extramarital affairs and divorces, seriously lack in family values (his kids hate him and support Obama apparently) and his obvious Italian Roman Catholic background – and everyone knows Italians only recently(and barely) became integrated under the category of whiteness in America along with the Irish. Not to mention that he’s from the ‘amoral’ and ‘decadent’ region of the northeast and has been relatively socially liberal, until he announced his bid for presidency that is. All that might not matter if Giuliani invokes 9/11, the Pearl Harbor of our generation which spurred his nationwide name-recognition in the first place. And no matter how much New Yorkers remember what an utter bully and fucking joke Giuliani had become before the tragedy – an adulterous bulldog who encouraged police brutality and the racial profiling of anyone with the barest hint of an accent or a tan – all that the flag-waving mallgoers in the midwest and south remember is that he was “America’s mayor” and provided some vague semblence of leadership during a crisis. Who cares if that is all becoming unravelled with ever-increasing reports of how unprepared New York was for any kind of disaster pre-9/11 and how Giuliani and others straight up lied about air quality and have been lamely mum about advocating for first responder funds?

As unsure as people are about an Italian, Catholic, thrice married, social liberal being president, we have to remember that Americans don’t vote on issues and a familiar name and pithy slogan will lull us into trusting complicity. Hilary Clinton is a woman, polarizing, and frustratingly wishy-washy about her politics, but she is a kind of a legacy with her history as an unusually active former first lady(as opposed to vapid Stepford wife Laura Bush). And Obama’s woeful lack of foreign policy experience is being exposed with every debate, and…uh…he’s black. This country has come a ways but, as a person of color myself I must say: let’s get real. But maybe I’m underestimating my countrymen.

Regardless, if Rove puts his miserable little mind to helping Giuliani … be afraid, be very afraid. We’ve seen how Repubs are clever at turning a phrase, generating hysteria and xenophobia, and basically setting the terms of any political debate to put Democrats constantly on the defensive. Our only chance is for Clinton – Bill, that is – to pull some strings and reassemble his political dream team of James Carville and Donna Brazile to get someone and I mean ANYone else in that office! After all if the Dems can’t win this election of 8 years of abysmal leadership and general fuckery then they might as well close up shop and find new work doing something useful for a change. Like making documentaries.

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With friends like these, Ms. Spears doesn’t need enemies.

August 9, 2007 at 5:57 pm (pop culture, snark)

Ok, I’ve certainly indulged in my share of Britney bashing glee over the past two years. Who hasn’t? There’s nothing better than watching an overhyped commercial product take a  swandive into scandalous oblivion. For one, I personally blame her and her handlers for making the sexualization of pre-tweens mainstream and acceptable. And 60% of her music is crap (with the other 40% being bubblegum goodness). This we all know.

But post-hair shaving, car-attacking, bad weave having, photo-shoot drama queen 3847-bs13t.jpg Britney is actually kind of sad.  Now US Weekly comes out with a story and photos from a dancer who hooked up with Britney in a hot tub after a video shoot.   I agree that her behavior and dress as of late have been tramp-tacular but at least a little criticism needs to be directed at the vultures around Britney that are literally circling her, waiting for every little fuck-up so that they can sell their stories to gossipmongers and make a name for themselves. What kind of un-gentlemanly douchebag is this guy to hook up with someone and blab about it to the press the next day?  Who hasn’t at that age had an ill-advised hook up with someone that they met at a party or bar or at work (and probably in a hot tub as well)?

The only thing that Britney is guilty of is being incredibly stupid by believing that anything that she does is private at her level of fame.  On a woman to woman level I’m wondering why her parents or friends aren’t helping her out. I know if I was going hogwild on the front pages of InTouch every week, my parents would snatch me back to Texas so fast my head would spin- even though I’m 27 years old and that’s not to mention my friends who’d be calling me saying “Why are you acting like a vapid skank? Get it together!”

Ellen Pompeo gave an interview in a magazine blasting the media for speculating about her weight and concentrating on “Young girls who are famous for nothing but being rich and famous”. Which is funny because I feel that way about Ellen Pompeo considering that she sucks on Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t know anyone who watches the show that likes her. But she’s right.  There are plenty of young actresses that conduct themselves with dignity – Keira Knightly, Rosario Dawson, Natalie Portman, even teenyboppers like Amanda Bynes aren’t ho-ing it up in every bar and club in L.A. and N.Y. More about them, less about trash, and in the meantime can someone give this girl a break and a hand?

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Please leave comments :)

August 9, 2007 at 5:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Thank you for visiting my blog and if I’ve entertained you even a little bit I’d love for you to leave a comment, even a snarky one (see the Halloween post comment). Arigato gozaimas!

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Best TV show you’ve never heard of – “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares”

August 8, 2007 at 8:31 pm (pop culture)

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Happy happy joy joy for BBC – America! I’ve had a bit of a crush on celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey since the first season of “Hell’s Kitchen”, there’s just something about cranky British men that I dig. He has a rugged Daniel Craig-ish vibe about him and he can cook – together these are the two most important qualities I look for in a man. I discovered “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares” while flipping around one Sunday during a marathon airing of the show leading up to the next season. Now, they are making an American version this show called simply “Kitchen Nightmares”, but it can’t possibly be as entertaining as the BBC original.

The set up is that Ramsey goes to failing restaurants all over the UK and revamps their menu and business practices within a week. Hilarity ensues when Ramsey starts in on the often clueless and inexperienced chefs and owners blasting them for their stupid financial decisions or pretentious menus. Of course, there is always a bit of resistance on the restaurant to change, even though they were the ones to request the help. Ramsey can seem abrasive and harsh but its more like tough love to rouse the workers into doing something drastic. His food philosophy is solid – use local, simple and fresh ingredients and don’t overwhelm your customers with elaborate presentations and garnishes or too many flavors. One newbie chef was pairing sausage with apricot mashed potatoes! Another owner was buying her food from a local grocery store instead of buying wholesale from a local farm, costing her twice the amount.

I’ve been a waitress or barista on and off for about 8 or 9 years and anyone who’s ever worked in the food business will immediately recognize the signs of a dying restaurant. I think the statistic is that 90% of new restaurants fail within the first year. Those aren’t great odds. It makes you wonder why anyone would want to start such a risky business venture in the first place. In most of the episodes its clear that the owners have a real passion for food, but no head for details, which is where Ramsey comes in.

The thing is that even though the chefs and owners get defensive and angry at Ramsey it’s in this particulary British way where they either repress it or manage to sound polite while they are cursing back at him. I wonder what’s going to happen when he comes to New York and tries to bully some of the chefs we have in our local establishments. He may be tall and imposing in the UK but in Brooklyn he is  liable to get stabbed getting up in the face of a surly line cook.

In general, you can’t go wrong watching just about any food show on TV – “No Reservations”, “Top Chef”, or “Next Food Network Star”. My second favorite show, “No Reservations” follows deliciously sinewy chef Anthony Bourdain as he jet sets around the globe sampling local cuisine from Iceland to Vietnam. Sometimes this includes eating rotten fermented shark meat or slurping down the still-beating heart of a snake which of course is supposed to make you more virile and “strong”. He is the Hunter S. Thompson/Lou Reed of traveling chefs but funnier and more sober, sometimes. Bourdain wrote the bestselling Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour, two compulsively readable books which offer a testosterone soaked glimpses into the life of chefs and line cooks. I used to buy extra copies of Kitchen Confidential and hand them out to waiters and chefs I worked with, everybody loved it.

It’ll be interesting to see how Ramsey fares outside of “Hell’s Kitchen” with his Americanized TV show. He’s already being sued by one of the first restaurant owners who claims that tales of his chef’s incompetence was exaggerated for dramatic purposes. Perhaps this remake will prove to be a more risky venture than the rest of Ramsay’s three star restaurants constantly opening around the world.

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“On the Lot’s” nutty judges

August 8, 2007 at 5:54 pm (pop culture)

Admittedly, I haven’t been watching every episode of Fox’s “On the Lot”, but the six or so times I have tuned in I’ve been pretty impressed by the short films the directors churn out every week. My pick to win is Will, the adorable balding wee man, who consistently delivers fun and well-made stories. However, considering this country’s movie-going habits (can anyone explain how I Now Pronounce Chuck & Larry is still in the top ten?) the immature but slick Jason will probably walk home with the grand prize. Either way, while one may not be my cup of tea, both men are talented and deserve a chance to pursue their dream.

gm.jpg I wish I could say the same thing for the show’s loopy ass judges Carrie Fisher and Garry Marshall. The first time I watched the show I remember being utterly repulsed by Marshall’s repeated references to the attractiveness of the female directors and the host, Adrianna Costa.
Granted, each show Costa makes a point to dress in an overly formal evening gown that fisher_carrie.jpgprovides full visual access to the “girls” in all their glory. Every time I change the channel I have to remember that she isn’t a “Deal or no Deal” model but actually is the host, although for all the insight she provides into the show’s proceedings she may as well be just there holding an empty suitcase. Nonetheless, Marshall’s comments were lecherous and his obvious distaste for the female directors who ventured into gross out humor was predicated by his outdated suggestion that they weren’t dealing with “women’s issues” or making use of their “female voice”. As if women can only talk about bearing children or crying over a man in their films. If I made a film about my period and played it in graphic detail for laughs, then arguably that would be a “woman’s issue” made with my “female voice” (indeed, my female part itself) , yet I don’t think he’d be amused. Not only that, but when was the last time Garry Marshall directed a good movie –Georgia Rule anyone? People keep bringing up Pretty Woman, which was 17 frakkin years ago. He mostly directs sappy chick flicks like Beaches (which I LOVE) and Raising Helen (which I HATE) and last time I checked, he was a man. By his gender role theory he should be tackling Michael Bay material.

As for Carrie Fisher, normally a fabulously funny and generally awesome gal, comes off like a combination of Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Incoherently rambling the same 4 or 5 phrases about everyone’s work and often just not getting where the director is going with tone or theme. Occasionally, the gears will start working and she’ll pop off a couple of amazingly clever zingers – but overall it’s a pretty dismal performance from a woman who is often PAID to be a script doctor and punch up flat dialogue.

Therefore, it falls to the guest judges to provide constructive criticism and assessments of the directors’ works. Last night a surprisingly serious F. Gary Gray had incisive but friendly critiques of the flaws and highlights of each film. Gary Ross and D.J. Caruso also stand out in my mind as good judges.

On the Lot is a fabulous idea for a series and I hope it sticks around for a while so that aspiring filmmakers get a shot at the big time, but the show has to have a serious sit-down with Garry and Carrie and get them to start making sense!

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Foxes do it: Evolutionary reasons for sluttiness

July 30, 2007 at 8:29 pm (Uncategorized)

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As a feminist I get so tired of hearing the same old biological, overdetermined, psuedo-evolutionary scientific reasons for why females of the species are faithful nuturers and men must stick their junk in every warm hole within reasonable proximity. Even though several studies on mammals and all other species have found an astonishing number of exceptions to this “rule”, within human discourse this convenient excuse is thrown around and not questioned when applied to males general lack of sexual self control. And here’s yet another study from Yahoo! science news about female foxes who sleep around in order to increase the genetic viability of their offspring. Indeed, it makes sense for several members of the animal kingdom of both sexes to make as much nookie as possible for this same reason. Unless one is talking about penguins or other animals where extreme devotion to a single partner IS required to propagate the species, it would seem as if  female sexual passivity isn’t as overwhelmingly represented in mother nature as we once thought. So there!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20070727/sc_livescience/friskyfoxesnotsofaithful;_ylt=Aur.Q5iAlIaaGZVvN47_Bot4hMgF

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Film legend Ingmar Bergman passes away

July 30, 2007 at 7:02 pm (news, pop culture)

The brilliant Swedish director who gave us the indelible image of a shrouded grim reaper playing chess with a forlorn knight, has quietly met his own fate at the age 89. Ingmar Bergman, the winner of four Oscars and director of over 50 films, reportedly passed away in his sleep of natural causes. Although I hear the iconic Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries are often cited as fan favorites, I have always been particularly moved by Through A Glass Darkly, and The Virgin Spring. I have yet to see his later works such as Persona and Fanny and Alexander, but now they shoot to the top of my Netflix. First Vonnegut and now Bergman…the world can’t afford to lose any more great artists.

For an in depth obituary on Bergman http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070730/people_nm/sweden_bergman_dc_5

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My 2007 New York Asian Film Festival Reviews

July 9, 2007 at 3:17 pm (pop culture)

You can also check out this review and many of my other reviews at www.cinemattraction.com

The New York Asian Film Festival is back with all the vengeance of a 10-story mutant lizard rampaging Tokyo. This year’s featured films ranged from the serious (existential nightmares and futuristic prisons) to the silly (killer hair extentions and penis guns). At the IFC Center, lucky viewers won prize giveaways of hentai DVDs, books and signed posters. NYAFF premiered new films and re-releases from recognized talents such as Takashi Miike, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Shinya Tsukamoto and Park Chan-wook, as well as newcomers trying to make a name for themselves in an international market.

zebraman_family1.jpgZebraman
Takashi Miike/Japan 2004

If it weren’t for the NYAFF, I might have never gotten to chance to use the adjectives delightful, touching, or family-friendly to describe a film by extreme director Takashi Miike. Zebraman is one of two Miike festival entries (the other is Big Bang Love, Juvenile A). Miike’s excursions into mainstream family films proves he is not only insanely prolific but incredibly versatile. Yakuza regular Sho Aikawa is Shin’ichi Ichikawa, an unpopular teacher who can’t get respect from his students or his dispondent family. Ichikawa escapes his daily troubles via his fanboy obsession with Zebraman, a superhero from a canceled TV show. At night, he sews a makeshift Zebraman costume and practices the character’s signature moves in the mirror. When a paralyzed transfer student shares the same obsession, Ichikawa finds a reason to finally put on the costume and fight crime – just in time to thwart an invasion by gooey green aliens.

Zebraman manages to be melodramatic, funny and sentimental while maintaining an edginess and addressing themes consistent with most of Miike’s other work. Ichikawa’s family is plagued with the same problems as the dysfunctional clan in the ultra-controversial Visitor Q, including adultery, teenage prostitution and school bullying. Although here, those issues are only briefly alluded to with all the depth of an afterschool special. Instead of exploring difference through criminal outsiders or Chinese immigrants, Zebraman uses a disabled child as a catalyst for unifying Ichikawa’s family and ultimately bringing all of Japan together behind a new hero.

Aikawa gives an endearing performance as the hero who is realistically baffled by the sudden acquisition of his powers and the overall absurdity of the situation. Special effects are charmingly low-tech with visual and editing effects mimicing the cheesy superhero TV shows of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Zebraman may be one of Miike’s lesser works, but it is a diverting film that is more accessible than his recent esoteric pieces.

Nightmare Detective
Shinya Tsukamoto/Japan 2006

Director Shinya Tsukamoto burst onto the scene with the surreal postmodern cyborg fantasy Tetsuo, the Iron Man in 1989. Nightmare Detective is reportedly his most mainstream and biggest budget film to date, yet Tskuamoto appears to have not compromised on the subject matter or his trademark disturbing imagery. The titular detective (Ryuhei Matsuda) possesses the reluctant ability to enter into other people’s dreams. His talent is shared by the mysterious “0” (Tsukamoto himself), who connects with suicidal people over the phone then murders them the same night through their nightmares. Intense police detective Keiko Kirishima (popstar Hitomi in her acting debut) is the first to recognize that the gruesome deaths aren’t suicides and enlists the nightmare detective’s help in tracking down “0”.

Nightmare Detective is a cerebral slasher film equally concerned with grand guignol death scenes as it is with exploring the existentialist aspects of living in postmodern Japan. Everyone in this film is latently suicidal, lonely and damaged to the point of being broken. “O” is decidedly more ambitious than the typical serial killer. He has an apocalyptic wish to destroy the world and kill everyone in it. Tsukamoto as “O” is memorably creepy and one wonders if he shares the bleak worldview espoused by his character, since his direction captures a gloomy, industrial urban Japan devoid of color or joy. Androgynous star Matsuda is compelling to watch in his various stages of anguish but Hitomi’s performance unfortunately wavers between comatose and ridiculously overwrought. The constant bombardment of images and jerky POV camera make the final confrontation slightly confusing. However, Nightmare Detective’s frightening visuals and depressing assessment of modern life stay with the viewer long after the film ends, and is a respectable addition to Tsukamoto’s body of work.

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Kiyoshi Kurosawa/Japan 2006

In his fifth collaboration with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, actor Koji Yakusho portrays a world-weary cop once again in Retribution. Police Det. Noboru Yoshioka (Yakusho) must investigate the murder of an unidentified woman in a red dress, whose body was found drowned in a puddle of saltwater at an abandoned construction site. Yoshioka keeps finding clues that point back to him and that’s only the beginning of his problems. Other murders with similar M.O.s occur causing his young partner to grow increasingly suspicious, the ghost of the woman in red is haunting him, and his mysterious girlfriend disappears for days at a time. Yoshioka is immediately established as a morally ambiguous character who regularly roughs up suspects and drinks too much. Through revelations in the case Yoshioka confronts transgressions in his own past, which in turn reveals clues about a possible motive for the crimes.

Kurosawa is known for taking mainstream genres and innovating them with his uniquely philosophical viewpoint. In Cure and Pulse he was able to transform typical a crime thriller and a horror film into meditations on alienation in modern life. However, Retribution has one too many horror clichés, throwing in everything from the avenging girl ghost with spooky black hair to the tainted land/burial ground imagery with some traditional jump scares thrown in for good measure. Judging from his last stinker, Loft, Kurosawa increasingly confuses profundity with turgid pacing and overly contrived plots. The retribution meted out to the guilty parties (and there are hundreds of them) is certainly disproportionate to the “crime” which, actually, is never fully explained. And, although the ending is presented as a twist, it is fairly obvious from early in the film how this aspect of Yoshioka’s troubled life will turn out. Retribution has frightening moments and is surprisingly funny in parts, but ultimately it feels like scenes that have been cut and pasted from Kurosawa’s older and better work. Despite the fact that Yakusho has played similar parts in similar films by the same director, it is only his somber performance that feels fresh in this film.

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Bush thumbs his nose at us, spares “scooter” Libby jail term

July 6, 2007 at 3:08 pm (news)

libby.jpgWhat is happening to our checks and balances? First Bush gets his VP’s crony out of the clink , then Cheney pretty much refuses to comply with an executive order on the handling of national security secrets.

<——— the smirky face of a guy (Libby) who knows his friends in high places will always bail him out

The Washington Post is doing a fabulous series on the Dick Cheney shadow presidency, exploring to what extent the VP has created new powers for himself, abused his position in office, and expanded the definition of torture to strain the Geneva conventions. It is hair-raising stuff but he isn’t exactly being discreet about throwing his weight around. So where is the outrage? Presidents have been impeached for less. Seriously.

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