Archive for March 2004

 
 

Pitchfork Prediction

…so called because I’m sure someone will want to break out the pitchforks after tonight’s show.

We will now see sweep across the internet a call for reforms of the American Idol voting process. Remember the outcry when Ruben landed in the bottom 3 last year? (That one time.) Or when Nikki beat out Tamyra to make it to the final three? Or even when Joshua Gracin or Carmen Rasmusen made it through any week last season?

All we heard were repeated calls for a new voting system for AI.

I think after tonight’s show, that will be the topic of the hour for the rest of the week until the next episode. I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong, but that it will happen. As a purely academic exercise, I’d love to see how voting patterns would be affected if they didn’t give us a bottom three each week, and just told us who got the least number of votes. I bet we’d have more great singers getting voted out early that way.

I’ll do a full show recap tomorrow morning. I just wanted to get that prediction out there before it comes true in internet time.

Update: It’s already happening this morning. I turned on the radio and they DJs were just starting to discuss last night’s AI. The first thing out of their mouths was, “They need to start charging for the votes, so people don’t call in so much.” Here we go again. . .

My promise to you

No April Fool’s gags here at Various and Sundry tomorrow. I hate them. They’re usually painfully juvenile at best, and destructive at worst. I’m not going to subject anyone to that. Each year on April 1, I vow to not even bother with the internet because it gets so bad. (And then go back on that pledge five minutes into the day.) To my mind, it’s a good gag if it’s funny and unbelievable. Too many people take delight in trying to fool others.

Not here.

Group of 10 Performances

Motown Night was, well, underwhelming. Did you see how fast they were trying to rush through it to finish in an hour? After the opening packages to introduce the background band and the judges, they sped through everything else, save the Coca Cola moment near the end. At least this meant we didn’t get the campaign commercials for the contestants, each selling us on how great their families are, how much they love children, and how they want to share their gifts of music with the world.

In general, the band was too loud and overpowering for too many of the performers, but that’s not an excuse for the singers. Some still need to learn to speak up when they sing.

Camile Velasco, for example, was singing to herself on stage. It was her best performance so far, but that’s not saying much. She had moments where I actually liked her, too, like when she’d finally come out of her shell a little to belt something out. Otherwise, it was just “a’ight.” Still, better than last week. In the end, though, she’s just cannon fodder.

John Stevens is cannon fodder, too. Just sad last night. He had three or four moments when he hit a note and I thought he was back on track and it was going to be really cool. But it wasn’t. He’s lost up there. I think nerves are getting to him, too.

He’s also the first contestant this season who didn’t have the audience booing the judges when they rightfully criticized him. That’s not good. When you’ve lost a group of people who are so defensive that they’d probably boo a judge for throwing a singing serial killer in jail, you’re in trouble.

Jasmine Trias had the best performance of the night, I thought. She was energetic. She didn’t sing to herself. She showed a strong voice. Wonderful stuff, overshadowed perhaps by the sheer volume of the backup band.

Diana DeGarmo is the one I know I’ll have the unpopular opinion about, but here it goes: I hated it last night. Anyone could have sung that song to get the audience up on their feet. Her hair and makeup were awful. Her voice is too high pitched for the song. She clapped on her microphone and begged the crowd to “c’mon,” two things which annoy me. And she didn’t belt out the power notes the way she should have. It seemed blah to me, and hopefully the people at home will notice that more than the hyper-excited audience.

Amy Adams should have added more country to “Dancing In The Street.” One of the judges said she stuck too close to the original, and I agree. She had a little twang in one or two spots, but it wasn’t enough and it turned into one of those “safe” performances. This week, she added the head bob to her performance, that uncanny knack that I think only women possess, to move her head independently of her neck and shoulders.

George Huff was all right, but not as spectacular as he has been in the past. Didn’t Rickey Smith or Ruben Studdard use the towel prop last year? Huff should stay away from songs that switch to the high notes that quickly, though. He can’t hit them. Speaking of which:

Jon Peter Lewis can’t hit the high notes, and it hurt him last night. Bad song choice. Still, it was his best performance on AI3 thus far. He was just good enough to not inspire enough votes. I think he might be in the bottom 3 tonight.

Fantasia Barrino was good, but Motown is a natural fit for her voice. Didn’t like when she turned her back to the audience, though.

Jennifer Hudson was particularly good last night. I really liked the over-the-top performance. On a night when so many people played it safe or flat out stunk, she was entertaining and had a great voice for a great song.

La Toya London was great, even with a dead cat on top of her head. (I liked it.) I think she’s sung that song at weddings before, though. This is her fourth performance on AI3, and she’s been nothing but spectacular with every one of them. This is her competition to lose, but she hasn’t made a misstep yet.

My personal bottom three: John Stevens, Diana DeGarmo, Camile Velasco. Who do I think America might put in the bottom three? Camile, John, and somebody slightly more surprising, like Jon Peter Lewis.

I think you might seen John go this week. Yes, that would mean we’re stuck with Camile for another week, but it would still be a mercy killing.

Build your own monorail

Perhaps you don’t have a big enough backyard in which to build your own monorail. But this guy does. He needs more leg room for it, though.

Kill Bill on DVD

Today’s earlier post on upcoming April DVDs inspired a comment from Nick about a future special edition DVD of both KILL BILL 1 and 2.

I did a quick search and found a possible answer to this direct from Quentin Tarantino’s mouth. Looks like he wants to follow the LORD OF THE RINGS model on this: Release the original movies, then come out with a special edition with all new special material, and perhaps a new film piece.

DVDs for April

Here’s a quick look at some of the highlights for the busy busy month of April:

Next week includes FREAKS AND GEEKS, THE PINK PANTHER boxed set, THE POLICE ACADEMY boxed set, and MATRIX REVOLUTIONS.

The week after includes the final season of BABYLON 5, and KILL BILL.

April 20th brings MASTER AND COMMANDER, the second season of THE OFFICE, and the unrated version of WILD THINGS along with its sequel.

Finally, April 27th gives to us BIG FISH, LOVE ACTUALLY, a POPEYE cartoon collection, and TIMELINE.

Whew. I need to play the lottery now.

New releases, 30 Mar 2004

April is looking to be an excellent DVD month after a mostly depressed March. Sadly, this week is still March.

All upcoming DVD listings can be found at DVDJournal.com. In the meantime, here are my lowlights and highlights:

Barbra Streisand: The Concert: Live at the MGM Grand

No way.

Brother Bear (2003)

I’d sooner buy a Barbra Streisand DVD. This movie is so awful, it’s somniferous. It’s OK. I’ll wait while you go look that word up on Dictionary.com

I almost walked out of the movie, and I’ve NEVER come close to doing that in the past. It’s dull. It’s cliche. It’s boring. It lacks anything resembling entertainment.

The Final Countdown (widescreen) (1980)

This is one of those movies that certain DVD sites have been drooling in anticipation for for years now. I’ve never seen it and know nothing about it, but I mark it here as another DVD milestone release. ;-)

Homicide: Life on the Street: Season Four (6-disc set)

OK, so it’s not all bad this week. This is a must buy for me. Greatest cop show that I’ve ever watched. I’m in the middle of the third season now. There are some melodramatic moments, true, but it’s otherwise as sharp as they come, even if some of the plot lines seem a little dated today. They were radical (relatively speaking) back then.

JEM: The Complete First & Second Seasons (4-disc set)

This DVD set is truly outrageous.

Mr. Bean: The Animated Series: Vols. 3-4 (2-disc set)

I like Rowan Atkinson and Mr. Bean and all, but no. I’ve heard good things about the animated series, but I don’t need to bother with it.

Panic Room: Special Edition (3-disc set) (2002)

Loved the movie, even with the little diabetic b.s. they included in it. But the original Superbit release looks and sounds great. Until I read some rave reviews of the bonus discs, I’m not going to bother buying the movie again.

Ripley’s Game (2002)

The critics have done nothing but rave about this movie, which never saw a North American release. It stars John Malkovich.

I’ll be back later with a look ahead to April…

Clueless Handout Beggars

I normally save any political discussions for Saturdays, but I can’t help myself on this one.

I know I shouldn’t be stunned by insane stuff like this, but I am.

To sum up: People protested for the “rights” of illegal immigrants to have their college education paid for by the government (that they no doubt pay no taxes to) by storming the lawn and house of Karl Rove. They didn’t gain entry into the house, but they pounded on it, pressed signs to the windows, and did all other kinds of unmannerly crap that goes beyond the pale of political protest.

There’s so many things wrong with this that it makes my head spin. We should start with all of the protestors being arrested for trespassing and getting tossed in jail for a night.

We’ve now gotten to the point in this country that it almost seems silly to have ANY sort of immigration laws. We can’t enforce a single one of them without being labelled “racist.”

It’s amazing.

Furthermore from the article:

“Immigrant activists say that 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high school each year and that many students can afford college only at the reduced, in-state rates given to legal residents. “

So the next time your local high school has to cut your precious music program from its curriculum and you wonder where all the money is going, I want you to think of that stat. It’s not the only reason, but it’s certainly an extra drain on the system.

Comings and Goings

Jerry Orbach leaves LAW AND ORDER.

William Shatner may sign up for THE PRACTICE spin-off.

What a weird week this is already.

Shaolin Soccer

And here it is, your movie trailer of the week.

When I first saw the teaser for it last year, I was underwhelmed. This one, though, I like a lot. Be sure to stick around for the final gag. I laughed out loud.

Miramax is finally releasing this on April 2nd to certain cities. With any luck, it’ll prove popular enough to spread out beyond the urban confines. Otherwise, I’ll look forward to a DVD release this summer, I suppose.

American Sign Language is racist?

Well, of course it is, silly. It’s got “American” right in the name there!

I honestly don’t know what to think of this. I’d like to think that the deaf have some sort of hard core lobbying group read to cry out “discrimination against the deaf,” but all the deaf people I’ve ever met or read about seem too nice for that kind of thing.

In any case, here’s the story and the headline: Limp wrists and slant eyes must go as political correctness demands new signs for the deaf

I’ve always wanted to learn sign language. It’s a pretty cool system. I have a deaf cousin myself, and she gave both my sister and I a couple of basic Learn To Sign books when we were kid. I can still do the alphabet and a few words here and there, but not enough to hold a conversation. I doubt learning the sign for “turtle” from Big Bird would ever get me anywhere in life.

Another possible Iraq/Al-Qaida link

In light of the one-sided coverage of Richard Clarke’s book this week, we here at Various and Sundry continue today to find the other side of the argument fairly compelling and completely overlooked.

The media — which, as we all know, is completely non-partisan — continues to selectively look at Clarke’s book. It would seem they missed the part of the book that indicates a possible link between Iraq and al-Qaida. The short story: Osama was bankrolling a chemical plant in Sudan that made chemicals only used in Iraq’s weapons programs.

We need more disinterested third parties

Thank goodness for the almighty U.N., right? Those nice centrist peace lovers. Those disinterested third parties. Those arbiters of everything good in the world.

Except for the minor issue of UN embezzlement of the Oil-For-Food program in Iraq for seven years. Oh, yeah, the UN was on Saddam Hussein’s payroll. As was France and Russia, but we already knew that.

Even more disturbing is the $10.1 billion that the General Accounting Office estimates Saddam Hussein was able to salt away “in illegal revenues related to the Oil-for-Food program.” By GAO estimates, recently revised upward, Saddam acquired $4.4 billion via kickbacks on relief contracts and illicit surcharges on oil contracts; plus $5.7 billion via oil smuggling. All this took place under cover of repeated Oil-for-Food “good housekeeping” seals of approval.

An investigation has been launched, in part, on the son of the Secretary General. This makes any Halliburton question look minor by comparison, doesn’t it?

Still waiting for The Daily Show’s take on this one, but I’m a couple of episodes behind. We’ll see what the TiVo has for me this weekend.

Wham! The Musical

No, I’m not kidding.

Language

While I’m sure I’m guilty from time to time of a few of the constructs mentioned on this site, I am happy to see I’m not alone. Plastic.com has a story about overused phrases in the English languages. Just reading the responses after the message was enough to make me scream. I have to agree with just about all of them, too.

From using “like” as punctuation to “same difference,” there’s a host of great phrases we should all do our best to banish.