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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is This Reality?: "Wendy and Lucy"

By Luke

Wendy and Lucy is a "small" movie. It's small in size (80 minutes with credits) and it's small on story - there's just Wendy (a girl), Lucy (her dog), and a handful of other nameless characters who occasionally appear. Wendy is "passing through" rural Oregon and headed to Alaska, and the movie documents a rough couple of days along the way. But there is no backstory or explanation for the journey, the story is too "small" for that.

What we get instead is an apathetic heroine who doesn't seem desperate so much as indifferent. When a security guard pontificates that in society, "everything's fixed" against people, Wendy replies, "that's why I'm going to Alaska," and that is as close as we get to her intentions. She phones her sister's husband, tells him simply, "I'm in Oregon," (her roots are in Indiana), which he casually accepts. Her sister comes onto the phone, says shrilly, "We can't give you anything, we're strapped," when Wendy adds that her car has broken down, the sister replies skeptically, "What can we do?" This sounds more dramatic than it is, from the way they are speaking, they might as well be discussing the weather. A moment later, Wendy's sister has already become disinterested and gotten off the phone, and Wendy tells the husband, "It sounds like you're busy, I'll talk to you later," which he accepts and they hang up.

Movies "small" in budget tend to be big on "reality," using their relatively low-tech circumstances to their advantage when creating gritty, "natural" films. But "Wendy and Lucy" feels comatose, somehow less dramatic than real life. It isn't helped by the amateur actors playing some of the supporting roles, all of whom deliver their lines with blase non-energy.

Finally, close to the end of the movie, there is a scary moment that causes Wendy to have a meltdown. The moment is shocking because we are jolted into feeling emotion again...and maybe that has been the movie's intention all along. For the first time, Wendy seems to grasp the reality of her situation, which "brings her back to earth." But, it is too late for the audience to be invested in her hardships. The movie feels like watching the aftermath of a car crash from your bedroom window...you recognize the drama, but are personally removed from the outcome.All of which leads to one conclusion. It's a struggle for me to say it because of how cliche it sounds, and because it alludes to the misconception that all movies have to make you "feel" all kinds of things...the more the better. But in this case, the conclusion holds true: Wendy and Lucy is small on heart.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Neil Young with Wilco: Live at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts (12-13-08)

By Rob

NOTE: My setlist for Neil Young conflicts with that of SugarMountain.org -- the popular source for Neil Young setlists. I'm confident in my setlist. For instance, I am positive Young performed Old Man directly before Heart of Gold, whereas SugarMountain.org has Old Man following Heart of Gold. Disparities like that put faith in my setlist being the more accurate of the two. Here is the setlist, according to SugarMountain.org

A shot of Neil Young at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA (12/13/08)

On December 13th, James (fellow contributor to TWOTF) and I saw Neil Young live for our first time, and Wilco for my second time. Our tickets were for general admission on the floor, and we had an excellent line-of-sight. We caught the last two or so songs from Everest, the opener. Their stuff seemed nice, albeit slightly underwhelming. Then came Wilco... I saw Wilco for my first and only other time 4 or so years ago when they played in gymnasium at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy at Saturday's show in Worcester, MA

I didn't know what to expect going into yesterday's show. Neil Young has gone by the same set list for many of his recent tour dates, with the exception of three or so songs each night. Don't get me wrong, it is a spectacular setlist. It's just that both Neil Young and Wilco have done a lot of touring, and Neil Young has been playing some of the same songs for over 30 years, let alone a single tour. It was hard not to wonder whether these acts would phone it in to some extent. What happened, in short, was this: Wilco seemingly phoned it in on a few songs (see below), while Neil Young played his set like it was a going away party for the elite portion of the songbook.

The following is Wilco's setlist from last night:

* - This is an great rendition. Why would I pay $90 to hear the studio version? There has to be something special about it. In this case, there was something very special and worthwhile about this song.

1. Via Chicago*
2. Impossible Germany
3. You Are My Face
4. Spiders (Kidsmoke)*
5. Hummingbird
6. Forget the Flowers
7. Jesus, Etc.
8. Hate It Here*
9. Walken*
10. I'm The Man Who Loves You*

Nels Cline put on a great show, as is custom to a Univeristy High School (Los Angeles, California) alumnus. Any song that I've indicated to have been a strong, live rendition was made as such in large part to, if not entirely by, Nels Cline.

It took close to 40 minutes (OK, maybe it was closer to 35 minutes) to break down Wilco's equipment and set up for Neil Young. The stage looked like a stop on Antique Roadshow. One amp appeared to be at least 20 years old. I'll never forget the artist at the back of the stage who, for most of the set, had a spotlight on him while he painted. I had read that a man painted on stage during NY sets, but I hadn't thought about the logistical aspects of that. I don't want to make it sound like Kanye West at Bonaroo -- the wait for NY wasn't neither unusual nor painful ...But watching two roadies carry the painters equipment on stage doesn't help the clock move any faster.

Luckily we were surrounded by a group of characters, and the wait was actually enjoyable for us. For those who didn't have the best 35-minute wait, NY made it worth the wait...

The following is Neil Young's setlist from last night:

1. Love And Only Love*
2. Hey Hey, My My*
3. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere*
4. Powderfinger*
5. Spirit Road
6. Cortez The Killer*
...Fantastic guitar solo and back-up vocals
7. Cinnamon Girl
8. Oh, Lonesome Me
....Introduced the harmonica for the first time in set
9. Mother Earth
....Played on organ w. harmonica (solo)
10. The Needle And The Damage Done*
....Acoustic (solo)
11. Light A Candle
12. "Cough Up The Bucks"
13. Fuel Line*
14. "Hit The Road And Go To Town"(?)
....I don't recall which song this was. I know it was a new one. A lyric I remembered: "no fear of failure for a crazy fool." If anyone has the complete lyrics for this song, I'd greatly appreciate it. (Post in the comment section!)
15. Old Man*
....Popular sing-a-long
16. Heart Of Gold*
....Popular sing-a-long
17. Get Back To The Country*
18. When Worlds Collide
19. Just Singing A Song*
....A great guitar solo -- fantastic jam
21. Cowgirl In The Sand*
....Possibly the best guitar solo of the night
22. Rockin' In The Free World*
ENCORE: A Day In The Life

Saturday, December 13, 2008

In Opposition of the Chinatown "Bust"

By Luke




Charles Lindbergh once said, "I'll always pick the side of the argument with a pun in the title." And he was right.










Above: Charles Lindbergh. Not to be mistaken for Tony, who has the same goggles.

Obsession in "Che"

By Luke

For better or worse, Che isn't interested in either glorifying or demonizing Che Guevara (which some might classify as giving him a pass). It makes no effort to get inside Che's thoughts or motivations. For the most part, he doesn't even seem human. Even though we see his first several interactions with his future wife, there is no hint of romance or even the consideration that Che sees her as anything other than a "comrade." Che is an object of singular focus and, coincidentally, so is Che.

Benecio Del Toro at a premiere of Che: Part 1 (aka The Argentine; Che: El Argentino)
There isn't much narrative arc to Che, some critics have called it "boring" or "monotonous." There isn't much variation either, just a lot of training sequences and ambushes in the jungle (with one B&W sequence of Che in New York City mercifully showing up from time to time in Part One). There are emotions, but only a few: frightened locals, angry government regimes, and, mostly, the soldiers who are either heroic or cowards. At one point while being interviewed in New York, Che tells the interviewer that the most important quality for a revolutionary to have is "love," and the word hits you hard because you realize that's exactly what this movie has been missing.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Che's personal trait that fascinates director Steven Soderbergh (below) is the same trait which guides the movie: unwavering, detail-oriented obsession, and if you wanted something else...well, too bad. Soderbergh (who serves as his own cinematographer) has shot a beautiful movie which revels in the monotonous, slowly ticking off the days even when new developments are few and far between. All of this gives Benecio del Toro plenty of time to scowl, pace, bark orders, and train, always train, in preparation for revolution. Part One focuses on the Cuban revolution, and more than two hours later, just as the first signs of victory appear, it ends. Part Two doesn't resume until eight years later when Che has arrived in Bolivia, and then that part concentrates on the (very similar) attempt to bring about revolution there. Like Che himself, the movie lives for the revolution, and isn't interested in the extraneous...or the consequences (the splendors or ills of victory). This movie is about the journey, a journey in which one has to, in Che's words, "live like you've already died." The film's MO in one sentence might be, "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Che
is not for all tastes, and it makes little effort to convert the skeptics. If you criticize movies for "being too slow" or "not being about anything," this is not for you. But, if you are going to see this movie, see it in the theaters. See both parts at once (and see it during the roadshow, so you only have to pay one admission). This movie demands nothing less than your full attention, and the spell will be broken on DVD.
Personally, I found the experience worth it, it's a great showcase for Soderbergh and del Toro's respective talents and the roadshow environment (the two parts played together, with an intermission in between) is rare and exciting. But it's likely to elicit different reactions from every audience member, depending on who you are, you'll consider that a weakness or a strength.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Drama Done Right: Doubt and Milk

By Luke

NO SPOILERS

Part of a continuing series of previously neglected thoughts on movies that are out or about to come out... America, it's your birthday.

Late December can be a time when theaters drown in prestigious, starry-eyed bloat. The running times lengthen and the stories get more serious (Holocaust! Terminally ill! Neglected genius!) but nothing is really gained as far as we, the viewers, are concerned. Movies are manufactured with getting Oscars in mind and the results on screen are pretty, but empty (like Rob's dream girl). Based on the reviews it's been getting, "The Reader" seems to be an early 2008 example of this phenomenon. Color me uninterested.

But really, this has been a long way of saying Doubt and Milk are both immensely satisfying Hollywood dramas, driven by ideas and images, not just big name stars or "safe" story formulas. This is Oscarbait at it's finest, which is to say it's not really Oscarbait at all.
In Milk, Sean Penn (seen right) gives the performance of the year (a premature statement considering there are probably thousands of movies I haven't seen this year, but award-hyperbole is as common this time of year as eggnog). I was very skeptical going into Milk because nothing raises my suspicions like "biopics," and only when the New York Film Critics named Milk Best Picture did I decide it was worth my time. One of the most tiring elements of biopics is the syndrome of "stars-getting-serious," which involves a movie star dressing down, doing drugs, singing songs, and getting lots of close-ups. It's an immense relief that Penn doesn't act in this movie so much as live in it, just like Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose, he is surrounded by a huge world of a movie, and he manages to stand out through sheer character-wattage (and therefore there are no super close-up reaction shots or break-down-crying-alone scenes or anything else of that ilk).

This is not a biopic. We don't start at Milk's birth and follow him through his misunderstood childhood and early life, etc. etc. etc. We don't cut back and forth all over his life or waste time introducing characters to perform psychiatric analysis (so, unlike biopics, no one ever says "You're not like everybody else, you're special," or "Gosh, you could be great some day!"). This is MILK, the man, the symbol, the movement, this is a Greek tragedy. Early on Harvey Milk explains his love of opera to a skeptic, saying "Listen, can't you hear all the emotion?" and opera becomes a bit of a motif throughout the movie (most notably at the end).

Gus van Sant (left) and Sean Penn (right) on the set of Milk
After exercises in minimalism (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days, Paranoid Park), Milk is Gus van Sant's opera: full of splendid color, smart performances, and most importantly, brilliant scenes that keep the story speeding at a perfect pace. Like the man himself, Milk gets a lot accomplished in a reasonably short period of time (128 minutes is nothing for most biopics) and the credit lies with both screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who, improbably, has earned his full-screen credit in the trailer) and van Sant who has left the Hollywood formula days of Finding Forrester and Good Will Hunting (sure, it's a decent movie, but unspectacular) behind and planted his name firmly on the A-List (or my A-List anyway). I went in expecting to be underwhelmed, expecting to be led along all the predictable plot points, to be told explicitly why I should should care. I came out enthralled and thirsting for more.

Doubt isn't the epic that Milk is, but it's not trying to be. Its source material isn't a man's life, but a Broadway play which unfolds entirely on the campus of a Catholic school and church. I can't remember the last Hollywood movie to be at once this contained and this satisfying, the best comparison I can think of is Chop Shop, which also utilizes only one location and crafts an engaging narrative without much really "happening." Like the title suggests, Doubt is a movie about human uncertainty, and the fact that the main characters are nuns in a faith steeped in rules and tradition makes their inertia even greater.

It is left to the cast to bring the drama to life, and Merryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (seen below) do just that. I was pretty much alone last year when I thought Hoffman gave one of the year's best performances in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, my guess is his comparably brilliant work here in another small, adult drama will also go ignored.
Let's hope he doesn't trade these roles in entirely for showier stuff like Charlie Wilson's War. I'd read disparaging reviews of Streep, mainly comparing her with the play's original actress on Broadway. I can't speak to that, but her role is certainly the hardest to pull off--it must be broad, but not parody. In my opinion, she just about nails it, and considering the Actress races are always less crowded than Actor, she's probably deserving of yet another Oscar nomination. Finally, Adams is solid as the innocent caught between the two titans, even if she sticks around just long enough to introduce the audience to the conflict before becoming useless and practically disappearing.

Most of the rest of the cast is kids, and if the youths can't keep up with their thespian elders...well, picking at weak spots seems needless with a movie this satisfying. It's even more time efficient than Milk (just about 100 minutes) and if it lacks the overt MESSAGE we can typically count on finding in "Oscar dramas," well, that's because with "doubt" and in Doubt, nothing is that simple.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Unfortunate Case of "Benjamin Button"

By Luke

Spoilers within (no ending ruined or anything...just reveals from the first hour or so)...

The talent attached was too tantalizing. Arguably Hollywood's best director (David Fincher), biggest movie star (Brad Pitt), best actress (Cate Blanchett), and most reliable screenwriter (Eric Roth) making a movie based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, all wrapped in a huge budget (over $150 million) spent on state of the art CGI effects.

For exactly 1 act, it works.

The first act of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button might be the most "magical" Hollywood filmmaking this year, with great performances, beautiful cinematography, and breathtaking scenes. Benjamin's world is slowly, painstakingly constructed with all of the attention to detail found in Fincher's past movies like Se7en and Zodiac. The unconventional premise of a child being born with the body of an old man and physically aging backwards could have led to narrative-slowing scenes of exposition, but Fincher and Roth don't get bogged down in the details, letting the on-screen events speak for themselves.

All the movie's best characters appear in the first third...characters brought marvelously to life - like the ship captain who fancies himself as an artist or the wife of the British spy who attempted to swim across the English Channel or the old man who has been struck by lightening 7 times. By the end of the movie, these characters have all disappeared, or been fed on-the-nose monologues explicitly stating what their characters represent. But there's something "magical" (no other word conveys the feeling as well) about these people when they are allowed to be unhinged...to just "be" and Benjamin, like the audience, is content to explore them and their eccentricities.


I can pinpoint the exact moment when the movie takes a severe turn for the worse. It probably comes about 50 minutes in, and Daisy is all grown up. She is out with Benjamin alone, for the first time they are both adults. They clearly love each other, but he has been at sea and she's been in New York. Finally, they're together.



She seduces him, eventually being straight-forward and telling him she wants to sleep with him. He demurs, but we don't know why. Benjamin's voice over is a guiding light throughout the movie, but it is surprisingly absent here. He says "no," the scene is over, the audience is expected to move on, but the first false note has been sounded. Him saying "no" feels like nothing more than a plot device to keep them apart. What follows is even more dismaying. Suddenly, Benjamin's voice over is like a crutch, briskly traversing long periods of time, shown in fast montage. The movie cuts more to Daisy in the present, introducing a needless subplot between her and her daughter. WHY do movies continue to be constructed around the person telling a story on their deathbed? Does anyone not react adversely to that cliche at this point?

But faster than you can ponder this conundrum, we continue to
blur through Benjamin's history, with none of the precise timing found in the first third. Fincher and Roth seem incapable of creating a convincing romance, so they are content to just "tell" the audience what is happening instead of allowing the scenes to develop and "show." The last straw is when Benjamin reaches his "40's" and "30's" (in reverse) and Pitt's jaw-dropping good looks become a distraction. The audience was laughing (not in a good way) at how gorgeous he is.

By the end, the magic of the first third has completely worn off, causing one of the most frustrating movie experiences I've ever had. The talent attached was too tantalizing, but the groupings weren't quite right...and Button falls short of expectations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

IN DEFENSE OF THE CHINATOWN BUS

written by Tony

a conclusive analysis for travelers and seekers of true wisdom everywhere. originally published on the bwog.

Charles Lindbergh once said, "If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes." Today, we have essentially two options of bus to travel from New York to Boston/Philly/DC: the Fung-Wah Bus, classically known as "The Chinatown Bus"; and a new, flashier generation of MegaBuses, BoltBuses, and other Power Rangers-influenced vehicle names. Pragmatically, stylistically, and sentimentally, the choice is clear. The Chinatown Bus is better.

First, purchasing a Chinatown Bus ticket beats the process and costs of purchasing tickets from any other bus company. To buy a Chinatown Bus ticket, you exchange a straight 15 bucks, several feet from the actual bus itself. Sometimes, mere minutes from departure time. Occasionally, seconds. The Power Ranger buses universally demand that you buy online, requiring additional Internet and service fees, locating your credit card, printing shit, memorizing reservation numbers. In a word, the Power Ranger buses expect you to plan ahead. They flaunt the possibility of $1.00 tickets, but you have to know your exact time and place at least a month ahead of the fact, and even longer before for holiday departures, to reserve these tickets. If you don't know your precise schedule this far in advance, The Power Rangers can shoot up to $25.00. And we are college students with unpredictable schedules. One of my Wednesday classes was canceled this week. Then, a professor moved the due date of an assignment forward to Wednesday afternoon. Then, my parents moved to Canada. And won't tell me why. The Chinatown Bus respects the fluctuation of life, which is why it is always and forever fifteen bucks.

The Chinatown Bus is not really that dangerous. I've taken it to and from Boston somewhere upward of twenty times in my whole life, without even the slightest problem. But don't take my word for it: check out the Wikipedia page. It lists only six notable safety issues in the bus' history to take account of, and the last one sounds like it was totally that dump trucks fault. This number is reasonable, given the tremendous number of buses are driven. People exaggerate the minor mishaps they've encountered. And even though that's pretty legitimate because I like to exaggerate too, given the statistical likelihoods of these safety problems, you'll have a comparable experience with safety on the Power Ranger buses.

While the Power Ranger buses boast about having the Internet (most often used to spend another 25 minutes reserving your return bus ticket), the Chinatown Bus amenities are actually far superior and more unique. Right next to the Chinatown Bus ticket counter rests a hidden gem - the famed hole-in-the-wall hot dog stand Jumbo Hot Dogs, reviewed as one of the best and cheapest insider hot dog joints in the city. Perfect before a four-hour trip. On the trip to Boston, The Chinatown Bus reliably stops at the biggest McDonald's rest area in Connecticut. Always incredibly well timed to a ninety-minute REM nap cycle. And most importantly, people on the Chinatown Bus are intriguing and animated. You'll find people of all sizes, shapes, colors, and ages. Sometimes, people snore loudly. Sometimes, people talk loudly about the snoring. Often, the people are kind of weird. But they make you think.

Ultimately, we need to be reminded of why we are emotionally attached to The Chinatown Bus. I believe lyrics in Bishop Allen's song "The Chinatown Bus" aptly reflect some of this sentiment:

"I remember Shanghai, how I wasn't sure just what was safe to eat.

The chickens pecked and wandered at the barefoot of the children hawking figurines of workers smiling.

What's the Chinese word for cheese?"

More than any other bus today, The Chinatown Bus revives the childhood sense of adventure and curiosity. As Lindbergh feared, transportation -- and our lives -- have become overwhelmingly no-nonsense, slick, and ordered. And though there are certainly merits in that, life is far more interesting when it's a little chaotic, messy, and mysterious.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

XXL's 10 Freshmen: Hip-Hop's Class of '09

James dropping by with a short post. Everybody should check out this month's issue of XXL. It's all about this year's ten breakout rappers (Wale, B.o.B., Charles Hamilton, Asher Roth, Cory Gunz, Blu, Mickey Factz, Ace Hood, Kid Cudi, & Curren$y). It's a great introduction for a whole slew of new young rappers that are worth checking out. I've been a Wale supporter for well over a year now and still can't wait for his debut album on Mark Ronson's Allido Records in Spring 2009. Asher Roth's mixtape with DJ Drama is very impressive. As a young white guy, he's getting lots of comparisons to Eminem (they sound a bit alike) but they're very different lyrically. Blu, Mickey Factz, Kid Cudi, Hamilton, and B.o.B. are all doing some cool shit too. Check out Johnson and Johnson (the collaboration between Blu & Mainframe). All of them have great mixtapes out that are worth searching for. Here are links to a few of them:

The Mixtape About Nothing by Wale
http://elitaste.com/blog/2008/12/03/ladies-and-gentlementhe-mixtape-about-nothing/

100 Miles and Running by Wale
http://elitaste.com/blog/2008/11/11/wales-100-miles-and-running-mixtape-at-61000-downloads/

B.o.B.'s Mixtapes
http://www.myspace.com/bobatl

The Greenhouse Effect by Asher Roth (with DJ Cannon & DJ Drama)
http://www.asherrothmusic.com/

Charles Hamilton's put out 8 mixtapes in the past two months!

A Kid Named Cudi by Kid Cudi
http://www.10deep.com/KIDCUDIMIXTAPE/

The future of hip hop is here!!

-- James

Monday, December 8, 2008

Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival

By Rob

Robby Roadsteamer is a former WBCN dj who has achieved legendary status in the Boston music scene over the past 8 or so years. Chris Coxen, who is also Boston based, has what I consider to be one of the best character-based comedy routines in the country.

On December 2nd, Robby Roadsteamer and Chris Coxen (both of whom are very nice, in addition to being very talented) performed at UMass-Lowell in Lowell, MA. They put on a really fun show!

All that being said, if you haven't seen Robby or Chris, there's no better time than December 17th when they'll be performing at what has the makings of a very special event. Here's a description of the "Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival" found on chriscoxen.com:

Folks - there's a great comedy/music show happening in December. Here's the press release:

Greater Boston (Cambridge, Allston, Somerville, Brighton) is producing some of the best Alternative comedy acts this country has. Unfortunately in a Boston comedy scene often times focused more on traditional standup comedians a lot of these acts tend to get overlooked. For one night at The Paradise on Wednesday, December 17th, we hope to change that and give an underground scene it's due on one of the biggest stages......

"The Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival"
Sponsored By WFNX Radio
Doors open at 7pm... 8pm start 18+ $15

December 17th
The Paradise
Boston Massachusetts
967 Commonwealth Ave.

Shane Mauss

The Walsh Brothers

Robby Roadsteamer

Chris Coxen

Anderson Comedy

Mehran


Bethany Van Delft


Mc'd By Shane Webb

And a musical performance by The Campaign For Realtime

For more information please e-mail at
robbyroadsteamer@aol.com

This is a unique kind of show, with a unique kind of talent. If you like a). comedy and live in the Boston area, b). pretend to like comedy and live in the Boston area, or c). like comedy and pretend to live in the Boston area (creep), then you'll want to be there. I've seen The Walsh Brothers, Chris Coxen and Robby Roadsteamer and I'd quickly shell out $15 to see them again.

Here's a funny video (found on roadsteamer.com) promoting the show:



Check out the show if you can!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

How I know your retarded

The most obnoxious, stupidest faction of people in the world is the one that writes "you're" as "your" online.  These are two completely different words that happen to sound similar like "write" and "right" or "no" and "know."  Every time I see "Your awesome!" on Facebook (which is unfortunately very regularly because everyone knows I'm awesome), 1% of me dies.  Well, I'm operating at 13% right now and I beg you to stop this practice.  Realize that substituting "your" for "you're" means you are and forever will be an idiot.  Thanks.

-The Management

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rookie Celtics Look Stellar in D-League Debut

By Rob

No, this isn't a sports blog. I haven't always posted about sports and it's not my intention to keep strictly to sports. But with the recent performances by rookies Bill Walker (SF) and J.R. Giddens (SG)... I just had to spread the good word.

On Friday, Bill Walker (47th overall pick in the 2008 draft; traded from the Wizards to the Celtics for cash) and J.R. Giddens (Celtics 1st round draft pick in 2008; 30th pick overall) made their debut for the Utah Flash; a Celtics D-League affiliate.

It's hard to say who outperformed who... 6'5'' shooting guard J.R. Giddens hit the game-winning shot in overtime, and 6'6'' small forward Bill Walker, who played alongside Michael Beasley at Kansas State, had 5 steals and went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.

Bill Walker (SF) played 41:03 minutes and, despite foul trouble (4 PF), had a tremendous stat line:
23 PTS (9-19 FGM-A; 5-9 3PM-A; 0-0 FTM-A), 8 REB (1 OFF, 7 DEF), 4 AST, 3 TO, 5 STL, and 0 BLK.

J. Giddens (SG) played 45:21 minutes and also put up solid numbers:
19 PTS (8-18 FGM-A; 1-4 3PM-A; 2-5 FTM-A), 12 REB (4 OFF, 8 DEF), 1 AST, 4 TO, 1 STL, 2 BLK, and 2 PF.

I know a lot of people consider the D-League a joke, and I wouldn't completely disagree. But after producing assist wiz Ramon Sessions, I think they've made a huge leap in proving to be a viable source of talent. If the D-League turns out to be the equivalent to the MLB's farm system, then NBA executives will look like geniuses. If not, what do they have to lose? I love the idea of bringing the NBA -- in some form -- to rural areas that would otherwise be uninterested in professional basketball.

The point I was trying to get at is this: don't discount Walker and Giddens, who could act as quality role players for an NBA team in the near future. And if you're one of the many who are quick to dismiss the legitimacy of the D-Leaguers... give it some more time.

Here's something to keep you entertainment while you wait:

An introduction to Bill Walker (interview footage mixed in with great in-game footage)



Now that you've been acquainted, here's Bill Walker's nasty slam dunk in an NBA pre-season game against the 76ers. I thought Theo Ratliff was a shot blocker... If anyone knows where I can buy the poster, please let me know using the comment section.



You may want to click on the videos so you watch them on YouTube in "high quality"

Boston Celtics: Playing Defense Like They Never Beat L.A.

By Rob


Opposing Team Stats are a solid indicator of how strong a team is performing defensively. The Boston Celtics were the best defense in the NBA last year. Anyone who considers themself to be a fan of the NBA knows this, because it was one of the best defensive seasons in NBA history.


How are the Celtics faring defensively this year? Have they lost a step? At least from a statistical standpoint, it'd be difficult to argue otherwise.

Opposing Team FG%
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 40.8%
2. Cleveland Cavaliers - 42.1%
3. Dallas Mavericks - 42.1%
4. Houston Rockets - 42.8%
5. Los Angeles Lakers 42.9%
6. Orlando Magic 42.9%

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team FG%
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 41.9%
2. Houston Rockets - 43.3%
3. Detroit Pistons - 43.7%
4. Dallas Mavericks - 44.3%
5. San Antonio Spurs - 44.4%

Opposing Team 3PT%
1. Dallas Mavericks - 29.0%
2. Houston Rockets - 30.2%
3. Orlando Magic - 30.5%
4. Milwaukee Bucks - 30.8%
5. Denver Nuggets - 32.0%
6. Los Angeles Lakers - 32.0%
....BOSTON CELTICS rank 16th (35.6%)

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team 3PT%
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 31.6%
2. Detroit Pistons - 33.2%
3. San Antonio - 34.2%
  • If the Celtics finished the 2007-2008 season with 35.6% opposing team 3PT%, they would have tied for 8th best in the NBA. Not too shabby.

Opposing Team Rebounds (Offensive/Defensive; Total)

1. Portland Trail Blazers - 9.3/27.1; 36.4
2. Cleveland Cavaliers - 11.2/26.1; 37.4
3. Utah Jazz - 11.2/26.4; 37.6
4. New Orleans Hornets - 9.3/28.7; 38.0
5. Milwaukee Bucks - 9.3/30.2; 39.5
6. Phoenix Suns - 11.9/27.7; 39.7
7. BOSTON CELTICS - 10.7/29.2; 39.9

2007-2008 Season
: Opposing Team Rebounds

1. Utah Jazz - 10.3/27.5 - 37.8
2. BOSTON CELTICS - 11.0/27.9 - 38.9
3. Detroit Pistons - 10.6/28.6 - 39.1

Opposing Team Turnovers

1. Los Angeles Lakers - 16.6
2. Miami Heat - 16.5
3. BOSTON CELTICS - 15.6
4. Utah Jazz - 15.6
5. Denver Nuggets - 15.6

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team Turnovers

1. Golden State Warriors - 16.2
2. Denver Nuggets - 15.6
3. Utah Jazz - 15.4
4. BOSTON CELTICS - 15.3
5. Indiana Pacers - 15.0

Opposing Team Points Per Game
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 90.1
2. Houston Rockets - 90.2
3. Charlotte Bobcats - 92.4
4. Cleveland Cavaliers - 92.7
5. San Antonio Spurs - 93.0
6. New Orleans Hornets - 93.0

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team Points Per Game
1. Detroit Pistons - 90.1
2. BOSTON CELTICS - 90.3
3. San Antonio Spurs - 90.6
4. Houston Rockets - 92.0
5. New Orleans Hornets - 95.6
6. Dallas Mavericks - 95.9

Monday, November 24, 2008

NBA Power Rankings

By Rob

Last Updated: November 24, 2008

I don’t want to put too much weight on how teams have played the first 12 or so games of the season, so know I’m not taking the statistics I cite too seriously. Power Rankings generally lack consistency. As I’ll say again, Power Rankings aren’t about the W-L column. Teams lose games by 5 or less points, and that L isn’t the same as one suffered in a 20-point blowout.

TOP TIER

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers

I feel almost as uncomfortable putting the Cavs in my Top 3 as I do leaving San Antonio out of my Top 10. The NBA is, from top-to-bottom, the strongest it has been in years, making the #3 spot a really tough call; especially following two no-brainers like the Celtics and Lakers. But after an impressive 8-game win streak, I'm feeling a little bit more confident about my decision. Let's get one thing straight: I don’t think they could beat the Celtics in a 7-game series. I do, however, think there’s a chance of Cleveland landing the #2 seed in the East, and that they are good enough to secure the 50+ wins necessary to do so.

  1. Phoenix Suns

Eight Suns' players are averaging 20+ minutes per game; all of whom are providing excellent contributions. They'll need their aging stars to be kept around 30 minutes per game if the team wants to be in good shape for a long playoff run. Steve Nash and Shaq are providing tremendously given their respective ages and Grant Hill is doing OK to start, but I think Matt Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw are going to win them a lot of games. Plus they have this kid, Amare, who is probably the most impressive offensive player west of Ohio.

  1. Detroit Pistons
  2. Utah Jazz

It pains me to put Utah at #6 and I’m sure they’ll make me regret it. They are the best passing team thus far into the season (24.1 assists per game; 6.8 assist differential) despite being without Deron Williams for 10 of their 12 games. Aside from Carlos Boozer (who, by the way, is opening up the season in MVP-form) the Jazz haven’t been a very good scoring team. I’m excited to see how their scoring improves when D-Williams returns.

SECOND TIER

  1. Houston Rockets

Don’t fool yourself: the only Big Three in the NBA is in Boston. But if there is another (and it’s far too early to tell) then it lives in Houston. Ron Artest has shown flashes of brilliance, Yao has been Yao, and Tracy has shown flashes of... well, Tracy. It's tough to overlook the injuries - albeit minor, in some cases - already sustained by Houston's Big Three, and they can't be an elite team until they have a stretch of healthy performances from all 3 players.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

When they play at their highest level… I cry a little bit. LaMarcus Aldridge showed last year that he’s very capable of scoring big in the paint. Brandon Roy is playing on a level with Danny Granger and Joe Johnson that can only be looked down on by Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Greg Oden is the tenacious defender. So what if he can’t shoot? He’ll average 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks on 55% FG and 65% FT. Mayo,

  1. New Orleans Hornets
THIRD TIER

  1. Denver Nuggets

The Billups-Iverson trade is still rocking my world. Who won in that deal? It’s too early to tell. It’s clear that Denver has looked like one of top 5 most dangerous teams since. It’s making me wonder if Allen Iverson is a good fit for any team looking to contend.

  1. Orlando Magic
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Dallas Mavericks
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. San Antonio Spurs

If the season ended today, the Spurs would be the #8 seed in the Western Conference. They were 1-4 with Tony Parker, and have been 5-2 without. Was Tony Parkers’ 27.4 points-per-game weighing them down? Of course not! My point is that the Spurs are getting it done without Parker and Ginoboli. Manu has said that he expects to play tonight against Memphis. As of November 7th, Tony Parker’s recuperation time is estimated to last 4 weeks. Say Parker returns for December 9th at Dallas… the Spurs will have played 18 games. If they have a winning record when Parker returns, you could be looking at a Spurs team capable of winning the Southwest division and landing a #3 seed in the playoffs.

My guess is you’re thinking, “So what? The Spurs are 12 games in and at 6-6 are only back 2 games in the division.” I generally can’t find any report on the Spurs that shows my same optimistic outlook, so I feel somewhat compelled to give some reason. The fact is this: when Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are all playing, and are as healthy as possible… the Spurs are the only other team in the same stratosphere as the Celtics and Lakers. They may even be better than that.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers
  2. Miami Heat
FOURTH TIER

  1. Sacramento Kings
  2. Chicago Bulls
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. New York Knicks
  5. Golden State Warriors

FIFTH TIER

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Unlike most Power Rankings, I’m not giving up on Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, Baron Davis, and Marcus Camby just yet.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Remember: these are Power Rankings, not Win Projections. A team that’s 0-10 can be better than a team that’s 4-6. It’s too early in the season for a team’s poor start to be so strongly indicative of a team’s final record.

Some people just don't understand Power Rankings...

Fox Sports (#28) said: “Yes, they're playing everyone close, but an eight-game losing streak is an eight-game losing streak. That matches Minny's longest skid last year.” Dumb

ESPN.com (#30) said: “Don't want to alarm a fan base still coping with KG winning a title in his first season away from 'Sota . . . but the previous team to lose eight straight after starting 1-0 was the 2003-04 Magic, who went from 1-0 to (gulp) 1-19.” I bet the Suns should be worried too. One time in NBA history, a team opened up 8-3, lost two straight games, and finished the season under .500! No one likes 'Sota, ESPN -- use one of the many good reasons not to.

The only one who seems to get it is NBA.com (#28): “The Wolves had three tough losses this week. They were right there in the fourth quarter of each, but lost at Golden State in overtime, to the Blazers by five and at Denver by six. Seven of their eight losses have come by six points or less. That's how you move up from No. 30 without winning.”

SIXTH TIER

  1. Charlotte Bobcats
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Washington Wizards

Two All-Star players (Butler and Jamison), one win... What a shame.

  1. Memphis Grizzles

Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are strong scorers. No team with Marc Gasol as their big man can be taken seriously, though.

ROCK BOTTOM

  1. New Jersey Nets
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Talk about an exciting season… Sure, Oklahoma will likely finish with the worst record in the NBA. I’d still pay $35 (plus service charge) to see Kevin Durant play from the balcony. There's a reason to see almost every team.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Oscars '08: The Trouble Begins

By Luke

This much we (I) know. Slumdog Millionaire is garbage. Today, prominent Hollywood blogger Jeffrey Wells wrote that he gets the feeling Millionaire is the current favorite for the Best Picture Oscar (he meant in a very gut feeling, not-saying-this-is-the-way-it-will-turn-out kind of way). But the fact that it is crap, and the fact that I have been reasonably happy with the last two winners (No Country and The Departed) leads me to believe something else will win. However, NO upcoming movies are exciting me.

I'll already think 2008 was a banner year even if the last month doesn't produce any classics. Reprise, Mister Lonely, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Be Kind, Rewind, Chop Shop, A Christmas Tale, Flight of the Red Balloon, and Speed Racer are all movies that in my world are exceptionally worthy "Best Picture" recipients. If anything, it is these movies' high quality that makes the actual Oscar seem important...it has to be something at least reasonably representative of the strong 2008.

The Dark Knight continues to get mentioned as a possible Best Picture nominee. I wasn't as blown away with it as a lot of people, but it's definitely a worthy choice. It's epic enough that it isn't "just a comic book movie," and it pulls off its "epicness" more respectfully than even some past Best Picture winners.

But what else lies on the horizon?
-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: The full gist of Wells' post was the advanced word he's gotten on Button is "meh," which makes him think it's no longer the favorite. Obviously, that is way-in-advance word and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, even among people who like it, comparisons to Forest Gump and exclamations about how much they cried seem to dot their praises. I'm worried Fincher, Eric Roth, and Co. overdid it in their effort to make a crowd pleaser and laid on the schmaltz a little too thick. I think everybody involved (Fincher, Roth, Pitt, Blanchett, etc.) are individually great, and that makes Button exciting to think about, but which of those people is going to put the breaks on if things were getting too Gumpy? Fincher doesn't seem to care too much about story, and Roth obviously wrote Gump, so we know he can go there (compare Gump to The Insider or The Good Shepherd, great restrained stories). I'm keeping my expectations low, but this could still turn out to be a masterpiece.

-Milk
like the "seen: I bet Penn's really good. But this just looks-it-before" biopic. Meh. (see Penn below)


-Frost/Nixon: This is definitely a "seen-it-before." Ron Howard won't drop the ball, the performances will be good, but the chances of this movie surprising or exciting me in any way are 0. And yes, I can be certain of that without seeing it.

-Revolutionary Road: All along, this has seemed like a "more-than-they-can-chew" project for Mendes and Co., I feel like there are probably too many great things in that huge novel and the movie will end up just struggling to connect all the dots. But like Button, I'm cautiously optimistic just because of the amount of talent involved.

-Australia: I loved Moulin Rouge! This don't look like no Moulin Rouge!, unfortunately. It looks more like Baz's other two movies, which I've never had the slightest desire to see.

-Gran Torino: No. Just no. I don't see Eastwood surprising anyone anymore. This will be just OK.

-The Reader: "The Reader"? Not even TNT would approve that title. Oh wait, Stephen Daldry, Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes? Sounds stuffy.

-The Wrestler: By all accounts it's great, but Arnofsky has never done it for me. That said, what's it competing against so far? I'm ready to embrace this movie if it's half as good as people say.

-Doubt: Another one I'm counting on at this point. A playwright adapting his own hit play with a great cast sounds dependable to me.




Che
: My most anticipated of any of these, but it's huge length means the Academy would never go near it even if it was getting unanimous praise.








So what does this mean for us? Doubt, The Wrestler, Button, and Revolutionary Road seem like the four movies that could turn out great AND end up being nominated for Best Picture. Throw The Dark Knight in there and I'll definitely be happy. More realistically, two out of those four end up being good enough to deserve it and hopefully they're nominated and I have horses to root for.

Just please no Slumdog Millionaire.

Greg Oden (Part One)

By Rob



I. Love. Greg. Oden.

Consider this part one of a two part post on Oden. (I'm keeping this short because Portland is playing right now and I don't want to miss him swat another shot)

Greg Oden’s first three full games have been excellent...

Averages: 65.2 FG%, 72.7 FT%, 15.3 PTS, 9.6 REB, 3 BLK, 1 STL, 1 AST, 2.3 TO, 4.6 PF

Stat Totals: 15-23 FG, 16-22 FT, 29 REB, 3 AST, 7 TO, 3 STL, 9 BLK, 14 PF, 46 PTS

As I post, his stat line reads:
17:27 minutes, 3-7 FG, 5-6 FT, 10 reb, 3 blk, 11 pt

5-6 FT makes me giggle a little. Man... He's going to be a very, very good player.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jon Brion/Punch-Drunk Love

By James

No movie in my DVD collection owes as great a percentage of its success (in my opinion) to its score as Punch-Drunk Love. I'm always a sucker for Jon Brion's minimalist ditties, they have a way of keeping any story upbeat and afloat. Because Brion frequently doesn't use conventional "instruments" or crowd his score with more than one or two sounds at a time, he is able to blur the line between the diegetic and the nondiegetic. Heavy, "traditional" scores can distance me from a story, they reinforce the feeling "this is a movie." But Brion's scores have a feeling of spontaneity and awe, as if he's uncertain of of the sounds he's making even as they are coming out. While most scores feel structured and crafted to elicit a certain feeling, Brion's piece together scattered elements and then almost reluctantly declare, "This is music." Not coincidentally, movies like Punch-Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dwell on the intimate, piecing together disparate moments and concluding, "This is life."


Punch-Drunk Love is a movie I was pretty sure I didn't like the first time I saw it, but it's grown to be one of my most frequently watched movies. I guess that means I like it, at least a little. My one hard and fast rule for all my years of movie watching has been not to dwell on whether I like individual "elements" of a movie: score, cinematography, etc. are all irrelevant if you're not wondering what'll happen next (i.e. engaged in the story). And yet, Punch-Drunk Love has such a brilliant score, and cinematography, and staging, that the story's obvious (too obvious?) holes drown in the exquisiteness. I'm never engaged in Punch-Drunk Love's story, but I'm always overwhelmed with feeling, the movie seems to be an experiment in what happens when story "doesn't matter" (relatively, or "conventionally"). The fact that Punch-Drunk Love succeeds for me at this feat is a testament to the overwhelming charm of the score, there are new pleasures and ideas to be uncovered in Brion's scatter every time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Burn After Reading

By Luke

SPOILERS AHEAD...

Most of the events that transpire in Burn After Reading are the result of a blackmail attempt involving a CD-R that basically contains Osborne Cox's (John Malkovich) whole life on it, from his financial records to his memoir. And the irony is, the disc is worth nothing.

Burn After Reading won't be popular with everyone, probably because if you copied all the good attributes from all the characters onto one CD, there'd still be a lot of empty space left. It's not that they're "bad" people, they're just unfulfilled. Cox has buried in his problems in booze, but everyone else is taking a stab at self-improvement. Cox's wife (Tilda Swinton) is planning for divorce, Harry (George Clooney) is engaged in several affairs, and most significantly, Linda (Francis McDormand) has simultaneously entered the online dating world and outlined several plastic surgery procedures that will significantly improve her appearance.

Their environment is loaded with allusions to sex, and for all their sleeping with one another, no one's particularly satisfied in that department. The gym where Linda works is called "Hardbodies" and she pines for a "Hollywood" body, while pop culture blatantly taunts regular folks' chances for sexual fulfillment: the popular date movie is called "Coming Up Daisy" (get it?) and features two movie stars with beaming, perfect smiles on the poster; Harry's wife has a tryst with Dermot Mulroney in a dressing room as the TV shows an impeccably cheerful chef vigorously mixing a salad. Even "Cox" (another Coens joke) isn't immune from this sexualized atmosphere, follows along half-heartedly with a workout TV show starring three seriously toned bodybuilders.

Unfortunately, Harry's situation is more representative of the characters' sex lives: he hasn't "discharged his weapon" in twenty years and has resorted to frequent jogging and building a sex chair intended to pleasure his lovers as his methods for release. Still, characters swap in and out of bed with each other, as if they think their next lover will be "the one." The Coens make it pretty obvious what they think of this approach: Linda delivers multiple ludicrous speeches about the merits of "staying positive," which drew some of the biggest laughs.

Ultimately, the CIA is the only organization capable of providing any perspective on the worth of these people's lives, and they do by completely dismissing their importance despite multiple fatalities. You can't help but agree with the decision about these people's worthlessness, but the movie's achievement is you still enjoyed watching them.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The New Kings of Nonfiction

By James

I'm a sucker for the Best American series that Houghton Mifflin puts out each year so I was interested in the recent collection of essays called The New Kings of Nonfiction, which was edited by This American Life host Ira Glass. Although I think Glass can be very pretentious and annoying (and I skipped through his introduction to the book), he put together a good collection of essays, although "New" does not really fit the title since many of the entries are ten to twenty years old.

Here are links to some of the highlights:

Jonathan Lebed's Extracurricular Activities by Michael Lewis (The New York Times Magazine - February 25, 2001)

Toxic Dreams: A California Town Finds Meaning in an Acid Pit by Jack Hitt (Harper's Magazine - July 1995)

Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg by Malcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker - January 11, 1999)

Power Steer by Michael Pollan (The New York Times Magazine - March 31, 2002)

Tales of the Tyrant by Mark Bowden (The Atlantic - May 2002)

Losing the War by Lee Sandlin (The Chicago Reader - May 1997)

I am too lazy to describe each of them so just give them a read.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Video entry for a Nesquik contest

From Luke & Rob

A new video from the fellas at Tres Gatos! Don't bother watching it on this page as the quality is poor. Click on the video or copy-and-paste the link I've provided below. Once on the YouTube page, click "view in high quality."



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-6pUWJa0Fk

Variety recently never said, and I quote: "Let's face it... Tres Gatos is a dynamic enterprise with enough promise to suggest a climb atop Hollywood. For the time being, TG stand as precocious disciples of comedy, but soon will surely have disciples of their own. You must look out for TG, as they are no doubt a force to be reckon with!" It was nice to not get a blurb, even if it was overloaded with buzz words and some run-on's. Thanks for nothing Variety!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Excerpts from interviews with Carmen Electra and George Lucas

By Rob

I thought the following story from Carmen Electra was pretty funny... really crazy, of course, but funny. I read it in an interview with moviefone.com.

Are you [and Disaster Movie co-star Kim Kardashian] able to walk around in public without being hassled? Do you ever have experiences with people coming too close to your space?

Electra: I had a weird experience when I was working at MTV. We were shooting an opening of a new restaurant or something. And we were in a different city. I flew in, and I was all by myself because it was one of my first jobs. And I didn't have anyone with me at all. I flew in, and the driver picked me up and took me to the hotel. And there was a guy in the lobby with a clipboard. He said he was from MTV and sort of had the rundown of my schedule and took me up to my room and was in my room with me. I was hanging out with this guy for the entire day. And finally the phone rings and I said, "Answer it," because I was getting ready. And the people from MTV freaked out because they didn't know who he was. It turns out he was a stalker, so they arrested him.

I also found an interview with Star Wars creator, George Lucas, who was promoting Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Again, moviefone.com gets props for a funny interview.


1. How did you come up with the idea of doing 'Clone Wars'?
When I was doing 'Revenge of the Sith,' I thought, "Gee, it's too bad that I'm starting 'Episode III' by going right into the end of the Clone Wars." So we came up with the idea of doing a little animated series for Cartoon Network.

Can you really say, "Gee, it's too bad [I didn't have this featured in the movie]" when
1) You've written, directed and produced the movie
and 2) The movie you're making has a budget of 115-million.

I mean, why didn't he write a script that featured more of the Clone Wars? He clearly makes time for everything else he'd like to see (see Jar Jar Binks) so why not the Clone Wars? I liked Revenge of the Sith and disliked Attack of the Clones. Couldn't he have worked more of it into Attack of the Clones?

2. You did two of those in 2003. Why did you decide to do yet another series ?
I started in animation in college, and then I moved to live action, but I have produced a lot of animated films and I really always wanted to get back to it. I was so enamored with the idea of doing the animated 'Clone Wars' and doing something that really wasn't focused on Anakin's problems of going to the Dark Side. So I decided that when I finished the features, I would go back and make the best animated TV series that has ever been done.

The best animated TV series that has ever been done? I get that he's promoting his movie and stuff, but that's just ridiculous. He doesn't have to be that extreme.

3. Wow, the best? Isn't that a tall order?
Well, that's the fun part! We helped evolve CG animation and we've been involved with it for a long time. I love anime, I love graphic art, I love Japanese influences. This is my chance to really have some fun and, you know, do it the best. It's not quite Pixar quality, but definitely of a quality that nobody's ever seen before.

Not quite Pixar? Is he completely full of shit? It's nowhere near Pixar. It's not quite Space Chimps. It looks like junk. It actually looks like a Clone Wars video game from the early 2000s.

I work at a movie theater, so I watched a couple minutes of The Clone Wars during my break. I'm a big Star Wars fan, but I know well enough not expect anything from this movie. I wouldn't pay to see it and even though I can see movies for free (as a theater employee) it'd be a waste of time to watch it in it's entirety. As for the parts I saw, the audio didn't really sync up with characters' lips! I think that's Animation 101.

The interview goes on and Lucas says a few more pompous things. Check it out.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where's My DVD!? -- TV Shows Missing in Action on DVD

By James

As a big fan of TV, I think that the best aspect of the DVD revolution over the past ten years has been the increased access to the complete series of TV shows from all eras. On VHS, most TV series received one or two Best-of video compilations, allowing me as a kid to see certain classic episodes of old shows. Now nearly every TV show is on DVD, including many shows that arguably have no fan base (Cathouse: The Complete Series, anyone?) while many classics are still unavailable. The following is a small list of many shows I love that are out of print or unavailable along with several shows I've never seen but would love to catch this time around on DVD.

Get a Life (1990-1992)


This sitcom, starring and created by Chris Elliott, aired on Fox for two seasons before being canceled after a meager 35 episodes. Despite its short run, it became a cult hit and seen as one of the most innovative and absurd sitcoms of all time. (The show revolved around Chris, an early thirties slacker paperboy who still lives with his parents.) In what other sitcom does the main character die in 12 episodes? The show had a notable writing staff including Charlie Kaufman and Bob Odenkirk.

In 2000 and 2002, Rhino Video released Best-of DVDs for the show that only included 8 episodes. The DVDs are currently out of print. Elliott claims that the DVD has been finished but its being held up by legal issues (possibly regarding the show's theme song, "Stand" by R.E.M.) but I say hooey. Let's get this thing out so I can finally see the rest of it. I've only seen the best of DVDs and need more!!

The State (1993-1995)


For a sketch comedy show that has spun off so many great films and shows in the past ten years (Reno 911!, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten), MTV is still yet to release the series, which ran for 26 episodes over three seasons, onto DVD. The DVD release has been postponed and pushed back multiple times. The cast recorded commentaries and bonus features have been finished. Until the DVD release, you can check out the first season streaming for free on MTV.com

The Tom Green Show (1999-2000)


I want a complete series DVD of all the MTV episodes, including the specials (Monica Lewinsky Special and the Peabody Award nominated Cancer Special). Tom Green is hilarious and that's that.

The Larry Sanders Show -- Seasons Two through Six


Sony Pictures released the first season of the HBO classic in 2002 and rereleased it to coincide with the release of last year's excellent DVD, "Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show" which compiled 23 of the series' best episodes. I've thoroughly enjoyed these two releases but I want whats beyond "Not Just the Best" -- the whole series. The show had so many great episodes throughout its run and its about time it gets a release. Until then, the show is easy to find on YouTube and in decent quality.

Upright Citizens Brigade - Season Three DVD


Comedy Central released season one on DVD in 2003 and season two in 2007. I'm not waiting another four years. I call upon them to release season three along with a Complete Series set (much like the excellent one they put together for Strangers with Candy).

The Adventures of Pete and Pete - Season Three DVD


Much like UCB, the first two seasons of this show are available on DVD but we still need the third and final season.

Now here are two series that although I never saw have always intrigued me.

Fallen Angels (1993 to 1995)

Fallen Angels was a neo-noir Showtime series that ran for two seasons (15 episodes) . Here's a quote from the show's Wikipedia entry: "The television program was produced using top-notch directors, well-known hard-boiled fiction writers, experienced screenplay writers, inventive cinematographers (who recreated the film noir images), and actors. The art direction gave the series the ambiance and historical look required of a show devoted to noir set in Los Angeles."

Episodes were directed by actors like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, & Kiefer Sutherland as well as notable directors like Steven Soderbergh, Alfonso CuarĂ³n, Peter Bogdanovich, & John Dahl. Cineamtographer Emmanuel Lubezki did camera-work on two episodes. Everything about this screams "Why haven't I seen it yet?"

China Beach (1988-1991)

The show revolved around the Vietnam War and was a critically lauded show that suffered poor ratings. I don't know much about it, but have always heard good things.