AI Guys – Round 2

It’s week two of eliminations for the guys, which means Ryan is trying to look all butch this week. Instead of the Ladies Man ensemble, he’s wearing pinstriped black pants and a tight black t-shirt that says, “King Scene” across the front. (All Google searches on that term lead to LORD OF THE RINGS sites. I’ll trust someone reading this knows what kind of indie band it is that Seacrest is pimping here. Please drop a hint in the comments below.)

I expect to see softer colors and a sports jacket tomorrow night.

Onto the ten contestants for this evening:

Mario Vazquez will make the Top Twelve if there’s any justice in this world. Tonight’s performance of “I Love Music” fit his style, had a lot of bounce to it, and showed us that this week’s group wasn’t going to be about playing it safe with dreary ballads.

Just like old times on AMERICAN IDOL, though, the music mix is badly off. The background singers and band are up too loud, or the contestant’s microphone isn’t loud enough. It persists through the first half of the show. It’s all cleaned up, though, for the recap of the performances at the end of the show.

Anwar Robinson repeated last week’s performance of “Moon River” with this week’s “What’s Going On.” He starts off slow and perhaps a touch shaky. And with a minute to go, he turns it on, stretching every note out and screaming like there’s no tomorrow. It’s an engaging performance, but the early shakes are not forgotten. And, quite honestly, it’s the same performance as last week, except without the stool.

While I think he deserves to go through to next week, I want to see something different from him before I continue my support.

Joseph Murena is smooth and clean. I liked his voice just as much this week as I did last. He’s mature. He’s clean cut. He doesn’t stand a chance on this show, but I like him. He’s the brown-haired Clay, in a way, although he has to be careful not to come off too Boy Bandish. Singing “Let’s Stay Together,” he keeps from going karaoke and injects himself into the song. I liked it, but it’s not the strongest performance of the night. It’s good and solid, but not spectacular.

Simon compares the performance to a “Portuguese nightclub” act, which furthers the giddiness between him and Ryan. Those two were like high school sweethearts for the entire show. Ryan had a tough time composing himself on a couple of occasions. The giggles almost got him. I love live television.

David Brown is possibly the first crash and burn of the season.

That’s the same exact sentence I wrote last week. Oddly enough, he’s the weakest performance again this week. Paula is right when she says he left the sparkle behind. He sounded pitchy, the low notes were a lost cause, and those riffs and warbles and runs were annoying attempts to cover up for his faults. This is two bad weeks in a row, and my easy pick for Most Deserving to be Voted Off this week.

Constantine Maroulis does better this week than last, with “Hard to Handle.” However, I was left speechless at the end of it. I didn’t know what to think. Honestly, my notepad is blank on this spot. I’m not sure what I saw. It seemed too laid back in spots, like he was careful to enunciate the words carefully and that took the energy out of the song. But, then, he’d spice it up with his own little guttural screams and flailing movements, and I’d see life returning to the song.

He seems to be the nice guy rocker, but Bo Bice is proving to be the better rocker. More on his later. I think Constantine is safe, but I think he’s in trouble in the long run.

Scott Savol is not someone I can support anymore. I’m done with him. Bad song choice again this week. (“Never Too Much?”) The judges loved him. I didn’t. Horrible song that he mostly talked through. His choreography was too on the nose, with every lyric acted out literally by his arm. His eyes never opened up. He picks horrible songs. And the dancing is underwhelming.

I’m ready to vote him off now. He’s used up all his chances for me. There’s a great voice there somewhere, but he doesn’t want to use it.

Travis Tucker crashes and burns with a Jamaican accented “All Night Long.” It’s not a terribly challenging song, as the judges point out, but he spent too much time and effort on the extreme choreography. He ran out of breath to sing. There’s one every year to fall for that. This was a classic example of why you shouldn’t sing and dance on this show. Not too many people can handle it.

Travis is a nice guy with a winning smile and a good voice. But I don’t think he’s good enough.

Aside: Whenever the camera cuts to the girls cheering the guys on, it’s almost always Amanda Avila and Lindsey Cardinale. They sat in the right spots, I guess.

Back to the singers:

Nikko Smith does a great job with Barry White’s “Let’s Get It On.” (Sorry – it’s Marvin Gaye. Thanks, Wes.) Very impressive. He hits one bad note on the word “bush,” but it’s easily forgiven. So is his pre-taped interview bit where he talked about wanting to spread the joy of music around the world. UGH

Simon Cowell says he looks like Bobby Brown, which is true. The lack of a hat helped that along. I thought he looked like ESPN SportsCenter’s Stuart Scott in certain shots, too. Must be the suit jacket. He definitely looked older and more mature with that hat and more formal clothing on.

Anthony Federov did a great job with Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is.” This is where he starts to really pour on the Clay Aiken. Ryan asked him about this tonight, and he said it was nice to be compared to someone that successful, but that he wants to be his own man. He is. Clay could have held those notes much longer. Still, he’s very good, but he does have one minor problem that Jennifer Hudson had last year: When holding a note, he starts quivering his jaw.

Also, his voice tends to recede a bit whenever the background singers join in. He needs to overpower them with his own instrument, and not hold back to join in the harmony.

Bo Bice wraps things up with a sterling performance of the Allman Brothers’ “Tied to the Whipping Post,” a delightful piece of S&M imagery for the family show that is AMERICAN IDOL. ;-)

He rocks out where Constantine went more poppy. Simon compares it to LaToya London’s “All By Myself,” but I’m not quite sure it goes that far. It is impressive, though. Does it belong on the short list of best single song performances of all time on the series? That list is getting longer now that we’re into the fourth season. Those career-defining songs don’t happen all that often, and need to shed new light on a singer. I’m not entirely sure this is it for Bo, but right now I think he’s clearly winning the Battle of the Rockers on AI.

To wrap it all up: I’d kick off David and Scott this week. I think it’s more likely that David and Travis will be the two to go this week, but I know better than to predict these things anymore.

My overall ranking for the night, from best to worst:

Bo, Anthony, Nikko, Mario, Joe, Constantine, Anwar, Scott, Travis, David.

Remember that this is all relatively speaking, and that the spacing isn’t all even. I think the top three, for example, were exceptional and it’s probably only my familiarity and enjoyment of Foreigner’s song that put Anthony just a hair above Nikko. David is deep in the cellar for me, but I still hold out hope for Travis. I put Scott above Travis, because I’ll give him mercy points for my not liking the song to begin with.

Tomorrow night: Ladies!

Tarantino directs ‘CSI’

CBS News | Quentin Tarantino Tackles ‘CSI’ | February 25, 2005�14:00:02

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” is going to get the Quentin Tarantino touch. The “Kill Bill” and “Pulp Fiction” director, who occasionally drops in on television, will direct the hourlong season finale of the CBS crime drama, the network said.

This is what I like about Tarantino. He’s a big enough geek that he isn’t ashamed to go from Big Time Movie Director to TV guest star (ALIAS) or director (CSI now). Pretty cool.

Posted in TV

Response to Killing Linux

I linked to John Dvorak’s theory on how Microsoft could kill Linux last week. This week, someone has issued a point-by-point response to it. It’s more fascinating reading, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Riposte to John C. Dvorak On “How to Kill Linux” Circulates Net-wide (LinuxWorld)

But this is, I must admit, a new take on the old story. It seems so simple! Just create a proprietary MS Linux, sit back and watch me die. It’s such a simple strategy, I wonder why they haven’t done it already. You don’t suppose there might be a flaw in this scheme do you? (BTW, guys, you’re not very thorough. You haven’t even finished killing OS/2 yet.)

Oscars 2005, Part 3 of 3

Jumping ahead a bit, a nearly orgasmic Selma Hayek introduces the next song. It’s Spanish. She’s Mexican. We’re all happy. Oh, and she calls Che Guevara one of the great idealists of the 20th century. I resist the temptation to shout Adolph Hitler’s name back at her. This continued adoration of Guevara continues to be maddening to me.

Even more mad, though, is the writer of the song. He’s replaced with Antonio Banderas, who is passable as a singer. The writer clearly should have been and wanted to be performing the song, but was likely passed up because he wasn’t a big Hollywood name. On the bright side, at least Beyonce didn’t sing this one, also.

The guy who gave the acceptance speech for Documentary Short should be given his own sit-com. He was hilarious.

FINDING NEVERLAND wins for Best Score, the closest it will ever come to an award in Hollywood. The composer and his wife look like they’re straight out of central casting for the movie version of SPROCKETS.

Was that Louis Gossett Jr. sleeping during the Herscholl Award presentation?

Best song goes to the Che song, which I knew would happen about two minutes in advance. The writer gets up, sings a verse, and proves that he should have been the one up there singing it. Antonio Banderas smiles on the outside, but no doubt cringes on the inside for being so upstaged.

I love that guy sitting down by the animators in the white Scarface tuxedo. He must be Spanish. He cheers hard.

Sean Penn then famously doesn’t get the Jude Law joke.

Hilary Swank wins for Best Actress and it has to be the funniest laugh out loud moment of the year. The voiceover as she walks onstage proudly proclaims to us that she’s the first actress nominated for playing a boxer. Wow, getting kinda specific there, don’tcha think? Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Was Johnny Depp the first actor nominated for playing a pirate? Was Russell Crowe the first actor nominated for playing a mathematician?

Swank then whores herself out to everyone around her, thanking her husband, publicists, lawyers, agents, studio bosses, florist, gardener, car mechanic, and barista. Some people don’t know when to shut up. She should have stopped after Clint, but then shouted out her publicist’s name over the music after that. UGH

Yay, Charlie Kaufman! Great acceptance speech, too.

Wow, lots empty seats upstairs…

Jamie Foxx wins for best actor and pisses off Johnny Depp in the process. Clearly, Depp wanted to be the first Actor to accept the award while wearing a purple suit. Foxx beats him to it.

Foxx also gets a standing ovation well above and beyond what he deserves. Cute story about his grandmother, though.

Dustin Hoffman and Babs Streisand show up to make fools of themselves and give Clint Eastwood his second running Oscar. A fine time was had by all.

Hey, we didn’t get any clips this year from the five nominated films. And the show ended 15 minutes early. Good job!

Admit it, you miss the interpretive dance number, don’t you?

Only one person thanked Harvey Weinstein all night. Feels like the end of an era, doesn’t it?

Like many people, I’m not sure the stage/aisle awards presentations were bright ideas, but I’m happy with the overall pace of the show. It ended before midnight, eastern time. I’m still hoping for Steve Martin’s return as host next year. Chris Rock didn’t exactly fail, but wasn’t funny enough. The “Man On The Street” video would be funny on Leno’s show, but as an Oscars bit? Eh. I did like his PWC accountants, though. Still, he was vastly more entertaining than Whoopi, but behind Crystal and Martin.

Oscars 2005, Part 2

I’m happy Cate Blanchett won for AVIATOR.

The film editor women who won for AVIATOR leaned over to kiss or hug Martin Scorsese. She gave him quite a face full of her chest in the process. Not a pleasant sight for us at home. Maybe Marty enjoyed it?

Counting Crows perform a pop song guaranteed not to win. I like the guitarist who wears what looks like an “I LOVE SCARLETT” t-shirt for the appearance.

Adam Sandler at the Oscars? There are no standards anymore. That lame bit with Chris Rock? Yeah, it’s over.

Here’s a random thought: The Oscars are pretty much #2 in the ratings every year after the SuperBowl, aren’t they? So why don’t we get great new commercials during the Oscars? Is it too soon after The Big Game?

BEFORE SUNSET is nominated for Adapted Screenplay, because it’s based on characters used in a previous movie. They used to call that a “sequel.” Weird.

Glad SIDEWAYS won, though.

The Visual Effects team of SPIDER-MAN 2 thanks everyone involved, including Steve Ditko. No, they didn’t. But, then, they didn’t mention Stan Lee, either. All’s fair.

Al Pacino is a great actor of our time giving a lifetime achievement Oscar to one of our great directors, Sidney Lumet. Give Pacino a script and he can become another person. Give him a teleprompter and he looks like a druggie stuck at a third grade reading level. Why can’t actors smoothly read a teleprompter, or learn their bit ahead of time?

Lumet gave a better speech than Pacino. Sad.

Here’s a song from PHANTOM. Beyonce is back. The green eye shadow is replaced with black. Her neck strains under the weight of the jewels around it.

Jeremy Irons is out in the crowd to give out an award, buying time for the crew to reset the stage after the song. As they do so clumsily, Irons makes a great ad lib, and proves to Chris Rock that he can be a great comedic actor.

I only wish Bill Plympton had won for his animated short. He’s the only Oscar nominee I think I’ve ever talked to in my life. A Canadian who came prepared knowing what he wanted to say won. And he gushed it all out in perfect time.

More to come. . .

Oscars 2005, Part 1

This will take many many parts over the next few hours and days. Be patient, grasshoppers.

We start with an opening film montage, in which Michael Moore is called a “hero,” and already things are off to a rollicking start. I’m surprised Che Guevara wasn’t included in that “hero” segment, too, but we’ll get to that later.

Rock starts off with an opening monologue that reminds me a bit of Steve Martin, who would always be my choice for host of the show. Martin has a knack for cutting on Hollywood in general without being mean. He has that self-deprecating humor down pat. He’s not picking fights. And he’s naturally funny. Sadly, Rock couldn’t not sound mean, and at least one presenter without a sense of humor would later call him on it. Ah, Sean Penn…

Chris Rock was also, at times, almost unintelligible. I had to strain to make out what he was saying through the shouting. And while I appreciate all the jabs at various people — including Cuba Gooding Jr. for that Boat movie — some of it felt a little awkward to do at the Academy Awards. He was no Steve Martin.

Then there’s the political aspect of it. Rock launched into a three minute stand up comedy routine about the Bush administration. It started off OK, as it was actually linked to the movies. Then it veered off and never came back. The Michael Moore line was funny because it related back to the movies. The Bush part of the routine was just a “Hey, liberal Hollywood, please love me” bit. Completely out of place.

Onto some awards:

Putting all the nominees on stage reminded me of AMERICAN IDOL. It’s just plain cruel. How would you like to stand up in front of the world and be seen to lose? If you’re sitting at your seat, at least the camera whips right off you and you can hide in your chair for a while, and accept the lame “I’m sorry”s of your fellow movie makers seated round you. On stage? You’re toast.

Renee Zellwegger took forever to talk to the microphone, mostly because it’s impossible to move her legs above the knees in that dress. It was awkward.

Robin Williams protests his “censoring” by showing up with a piece of tape over his mouth, and then uses all the same jokes, anyway, but not in song form. It’s a bunch of tired lame jokes, anyway. Hasn’t he done the Elmer Fudd “Stella” joke before? Robin Williams is tired. Time to go away.

He introduces the nominess for “Best Animated Film” as being “the cream of this year’s crop,” but leads off with SHARK TALE. So much for the cream. Thankfully, THE INCREDIBLES won. They should have had this category when THE IRON GIANT came out, so Brad Bird could have won then. Sadly, the Academy probably would have given it to whatever cookie cutter Disney movie also came out that year.

I’m sick of Dustin Hoffman already. He is to the Oscars what Ellen Degeneres was to the Grammys — the “go to guy” for crowd reaction shots.

Beyonce singing in French? Impressive. One of the kids in that boys choir is a local, so we cheer them on, even if they were barely audible in the piece.

Scarlett Johansen (I know that spelling is off somehow) was chosen as the Tech Geek’s Dream Girl this year. She stands in the balcony to introduce the segment with a left arm that won’t stop waving as she talks. I thought she came down with Parkinson’s for a brief moment…

Pierce Brosnan is introduced with the Bond theme music. I guess the Academy doesn’t keep up with the latest news from the Broccoli family, eh?

To be continued. . .

Grammys 2005 wrap-up

Due to a complete lack of time and interest, I’ve given up on the idea of recapping the rest of the Grammys this year. There are bigger fish to fry now, anway.

So if there is, by any chance, any leftover Grammy things you wanted to discuss. Feel free to do so here. I won’t hold it against you for not caring anymore.

A local Idol

You learn something new every day. Turns out that Constantine grew up and graduated one town over from me. Heck, I might have even filled his prescriptions when I worked at the CVS in town. Go fig.

North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

Could former borough resident and high school singing heartthrob Constantine Maroulis reach idol status? Maroulis, a graduate of Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, is one of 20 remaining contestants on the popular television show “American Idol,” which boasts ratings through the roof and a loyal audience. A new idol will be crowned in May.

DVD Podcast, 01 March 2005

Listen directly to this week’s podcast here — 5 MB, and just under 11 minutes. I ran through some Oscar nominations to stave off my own boredom with this week’s DVDs, and ended up running very long. That happens despite the way I raced through them and barely took a breath. Life’s a funny thing, ain’t it?

Subscribe to the XML/RSS feed with your favorite PodCatcher.

Various links referenced in this week’s show:

TV Show release list Oscar nominations SCTV release specs Reboot Season 3 re-release cancelled The Chris Rock/Jamie Foxx thing

More on the ‘Enterprise’ protests

Television Article |

Carrying signs reading “It’s Not Just a Show, It’s a Responsibility” and “18 Years of Loyalty and This Is the Thanks I Get?,” more than 100 people massed at the gates of Paramount, where “Enterprise” is produced, to show support for a franchise that has perhaps the most loyal fan base in the world.

No, really, it IS just a show. And 18 years of loyalty bought you one great show, one perhaps decent show, one pile of middling mess, and a last desperate gasp for air.

On the bright side, nobody showed up in costume.

Posted in TV

The Grammarian

I lost the source for this link, but it’s too good to ignore.

Eleanor Gould was the “Grammarian” for the New Yorker for many decades. She recently died. The New Yorker honored her thusly, in part:

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town

“My list of pet language peeves,” she once told The Key Reporter, the Phi Beta Kappa newsletter, “would certainly include writers’ use of indirection (i.e., slipping new information into a narrative as if the reader already knew it); confusion between restrictive and non-restrictive phrases and clauses (‘that’ goes with restrictive clauses, and, ordinarily, ‘which’ with nonrestrictive); careless repetition; and singular subjects with plural verbs and vice versa.” She was a fiend for problems of sequence and logic. In her presence, modifiers dared not dangle. She could find a solecism in a Stop sign. Once in a great while, Miss Gould would lose her editorial patience–“No grammar! No sense!” was one exclamation of distress; “Have we completely lost our mind?” she once wrote in the margins of a Talk of the Town galley when the section still used the editorial “we”–but she did not take offense when her suggestions were overruled by another editor or the writer. Miss Gould once found what she believed were four grammatical errors in a three-word sentence. And yet the sentence, by Lawrence Weschler (and, alas, no longer remembered), was published as written.

Making money on podcasts?

It’s probably a very bad sign that the article doesn’t even begin to explain how the new start-up company, Odeo, plans to make money in podcasting until the bottom of the first page. Even then, the idea is nebulous.

For a start-up, visions of profit in podcasting | CNET

The company plans to make money by selling audio content and advertising and, eventually, software for producing and editing podcasts.

Doesn’t tell you a whole lot, does it?

More details on page two:

Odeo plans to base its business on the premise that the explosion of digital audio content has created the need for a central place to find relevant material and that there will also be a need for a market to buy and sell “premium” content in much the style of the eBay online marketplace. Odeo, noting that advertising is already an accepted component of conventional radio, also plans to embed automatically generated audio ads within the downloadable files. And because the files are specifically chosen by the consumer, the company is also hoping that consumers and advertisers might find one another as readily as through the keyword Web search advertisements that are at the heart of Google’s and Yahoo’s businesses.

I’m sure lots of people will be keeping an eye on this one. The odd silence in podcasting for me, right now, is the lack of discussion of the ASCAP licensing scheme for podcasting music. It was a BIG BIG deal for a day, and then never mentioned again. Weird.