Monday, July 21, 2008

periodical perusing: interview, may 2008

I am a little behind on my magazine reading, and as most of you know, I'm rather fond of too many periodicals for my own good. I've finally finished the May 2008 issue of Interview. I was eager to read it for three reasons: Interview is one of my favorite magazines because it's consistently brilliant, Maggie Gyllenhall (who may be my current favorite actress) graces the cover, and it's the first issue after Ingrid Sischy's sudden departure (she was the editor in chief for eighteen years). It didn't disappoint.

The issue began with a fantastic angry letter. I can't quite explain my fascination with angry letters to magazines, but this letter may be the best, most delusional ever written.

  • Less Sex, Please
  • Do not ever send me another issue of your magazine. I hate it. It is so inappropriate. The pictures in the “Dream a Little Dream (of Me)” [fashion story] in your March 2008 issue are totally inappropriate. You've got a sexually inappropriate female spread out on a sofa looking at a kids, a female smoking by a kid eating, and a female spaced-out with a cocktail in her hand vacuuming next to a kid. Who's the sicko who dreamed up these weird photos? I'd love to talk to the pedophile. How dare you insult the readers. This is the worst magazine I've ever seen that is supposed to be for the general public! - Gail Stevenson, Oshkosh, WI
Sweet, Gail, why do you subscribe to a magazine you consider so vile?

I am a huge fan of Interview's music coverage. I've discovered so many lovely, non-mainstream artists through the magazine. May's issue featured the hilariously brilliant subheadline about the rock band, The Virgins: "a rock band that's easy to like and hard to google." The headline ensured the band's name would remain at the forefront of my mind.

This issue's increased amount of art coverage was fantastic. My favorite piece was the interview with photographer Yasmine Chatila. I was as captivated with her work as her words:
  • Spending time with strangers has brought me closer to humanity. When I walk in the street I no longer feel surrounded by anonymous drones. I see people with their insecurities and their vulnerabilities. It has inspired a feeling of being connected to others.”
The photography throughout the issue was especially strong, but Sebastian Kim's photographs of young women in "The New Crop" had more frame-worthy photographs than my house can handle.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Berens' interview with author Sebastian Horsley. They both live in London, and I smiled widely when Jessica told him, "There's a left-wing terminally jaded intelligentsia of urban America who might like you." I quickly added his book to my "to read" list. When the interview ended with Sebastian saying "Without language--without these so-called ideas--that aren't even our own, we're just a howling emptiness," I moved his book nearer the top of my "to read" list.

There are simple changes to format in this issue as well. Although it maintains it's bulky size, the font size is now smaller. Somehow it makes me feel more literary to read interviews in this smaller font. It seems Ingrid Sischy has two replacements: Fabien Baron and Glenn O'Brien, who share the title of editorial directors. Interview prizes its emphasis on collaboration, and I think it's fitting to have two editorial directors. I clearly need to continue playing catch-up so I am ready for the September 2008 issue, which will debut the magazine's brand-new format and design.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

recap: project runway, season five is here

Even keeping notes while watching this episode, it's hard to keep track of, and get to know, sixteen designers. My early favorites quickly emerged when they were smart enough to have their design philosophy sound bite ready. Jennifer describes her designs as "Holly Golightly goes to a Salvador Dali exhibit." Kelli said, "if Vivienne Westwood and Betsey Johnson had a baby that would be me." Quirkiness and wit are always a dynamite combination. I also instantly liked Kenley for her loud, yet tasteful, designs that mix prints and plaids. It's not easy to mix prints and look chic. Early on, it seems we've got a forceful contingent of female designers this season.

Now that we've hardly gotten to know the designers, it's time for their first challenge. Austin Scarlett is back as a guest judge, which I think is genius. Who can be more fair than a prior contestant? The producers have brought back the grocery store challenge, which was the very first challenge season one. Austin won it with his corn dress that was beautiful, then it dried out overnight, and became a still beautiful, yet completely different dress. I should have seen this challenge coming. It seems every interview I've read with Heidi Klum lately she mentions the grocery store challenge as one of her favorites. I was curious if it would be easier or harder the second time around. I imagine most of these designers saw the original challenge, so many then-original ideas should be off limits.

Once the contestants start working, I develop an immediate dislike for Blayne. He is trying way too hard to become famous and adds the faux-suffix "licious" to everything. Unless he's a paid pawn of Robin Antin, which would be amusing, he needs a new word. Not to give Christian more credit, but Blayne is a "hot, tranny mess" and anti-fierce.

The work room featured the usual hi jinks as many designers had to change their ideas. With so many designers, there wasn't a lot of focus on any of them.

The Runway show (slideshow of dresses is here):
  • Emily - she described her dress as forward, yet wearable. It is interesting, and I want to like it, but it's not wearable.
  • Jerell - I'm still not sure how to describe this garment. It's intriguing, but I'm not sure if it's pretty or ugly. I have no idea where one would actually wear it, yet it's not really costumey either.
  • Leanne - her dress looked like a bad combination of Candy Land and a naughty nurse outfit from Halloween.
  • Korto - She used a yellow paper tablecloth to make a kimono-like maxi dress, and she used kale and sliced grape tomatoes as faux brooches. I found it hideous; the judges loved it.
  • Jennifer - her use of paper towels was impressive, and I sort of like the cut and style of the dress, but it's boring. I wish she would have used something to make it less white, even if it meant red lipstick marks all over the dress. It reminded me of the simple, plain muslin white dress that Southern designer did the first challenge season two.
  • Daniel - He ironed blue plastic cups to make a gorgeous dress. I was blown away by his technique, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it fit the model. The color was beautiful too.
  • Terri braided mop heads to form a hideous faux-crochet top that looked like whipped cream at first glance. She paired it with a skirt that seemed to be simply red plastic wrapped around the model in a shapeless rectangle.
  • Suede perfectly executed overkill. While his simple silhouette of a black checkered tablecloth was hardly innovative, it started off as pretty. With the blue accent on the bust line, hem and slit, it was a fresh twist. When he added the blue squares randomly all over the dress, he went way too far and the dress became irredeemable. I realize he panicked when he saw others using his same tablecloth fabric, but pretty and not so innovative is still better than ugly.
  • Stella made what I thought was garbage bag couture. It seemed to drape the model's body and have a remarkable amount of movement. Rami might have been proud someone is here to drape this season. The judges hated it.
  • Joe made a top out of tomato oven mitts that was very retro housewife fantasy costumey. The skirt of spinach, tomato and plain pasta was lovely, but it didn't work as an outfit.
  • Kenley - I'm still not sure how she used those materials to make the dress, but I think it's gorgeous, and I would never guess it was from the grocery store challenge. The judges liked it less impressive than Korto's yellow mess for some reason.
  • Jerry thought making a raincoat out of a clear, plastic shower curtain was visionary. It was boring and ugly, which is never a good combination.
  • Wesley used various forms of bright yellow plastic to make a yellow, plastic dress. At least it was shorter than Korto's and sleeveless. I hope this challenge doesn't mean yellow is in.
  • Blayne created something I can't even begin to describe. He even wrote "girlicious" on his model's thigh, which was tacky. The entire display was jaw-droppingly, almost intentionally bad. Have we found the second coming of Jesse Camp?
  • Kelli used vacuum cleaner bags to display her printmaking abilities. The skirt was gorgeous. I was less wild about the burned coffee filters as a brassiere. Still, the skirt was amazing. She also made her own hook and eyes out of spiral notebook spirals. Wow.
  • Keith made a black checked tablecloth halter mini dress Jessica Simpson might actually wear, and I intend that as a compliment. It's Oscar de la Renta light.
The judging provided some delectably quotable quips. Michael Kors referred to Jerry's "spring showers" outfit as a freaky, bridal nurse outfit and a handy wipe gone wrong. Heidi was floored when Jerry said it was meant to be worn out on the town, "a night out on the town?" "After she left the hospital!" quipped Kors. Heidi replied, "the [yellow rubber] gloves are a bit hospital plumber." Finally, Nina decided "it's what you would wear killing someone." Now we know Nina watches Dexter, but can't plug a Showtime show on Bravo.

I agree with Austin that Korto gets points for being the only designer to use "alive, fresh grocery product," but I did not find it the least bit chic. Nor do I agree with Nina that "she has good taste." It was all so yellow, with a lettuce and tomato relish on top. It brings to mind too much mustard at a hamburger condiment bar. The judges and I also disagreed on Stella. I will admit, on closer inspection, her dress wasn't as chic as I initially found it. I don't agree with them, however, that "it doesn't make me curious." She had the guts to drape thin garbage bags over breasts. Sexy in garbage bags is impressive.

As dull as Jerry's clear raincoat was, I would have kept him and sent Blayne home. From the judge's eyes, which were shielded from his "girlicious" work room antics, they at least saw innovation, even if it wasn't pretty. With Jerry, they got neither, and the person arguably with the most impressive resume was sent home first.

I think this season shows a lot of promise.

recap: so you think you can dance - the top 10 perform

The night began with the news the blogosphere has been waiting for: Jessica's mysterious injury is broken ribs! No wonder she had to drop out. How much more endearing is her positivity knowing she's been dancing with broken ribs for weeks? She also announced she will be on tour.

Lil' C was the guest judge this week. I don't recall seeing him guest judge, but he was the best guest judge I've seen this season. I'm curious to know more about his non-crumping background. He provided valuable constructive criticism rather than merely espousing his opinions as several judges have done this season.

Courtney and Joshua danced a hip-hop routine first. Courtney said she's never popped before, which I find quite hard to believe since she dances for the Knicks. I had to pop my hips as a j.v. football cheerleader. It was a Frankenstein-themed routine, and I liked it. They both exhibited beautiful showpersonship. I enjoyed the performance, if not always the dancing. Joshua especially contributed little bits of flair (i.e. mouthing the words), but it's hard to say whether it was choreographed or improvised. Dave Scott loves to choreograph details.

Chelsie was the first dancer to perform her solo. She solos better than any Latin dancer ever has on the show. She uses so much of the stage, and she doesn't look as thought she's lacking a partner. Last year Anya and Pacha struggled with their solos, and mostly performed hip action. She has really grown on me the past few weeks.

I was quite excited to see another new genre, country, this week. I like this trend of new styles, and it certainly helps distract from the lack of Shane Sparks and Wade Robson. Kherington and Mark danced a two step. Until this week, I was a little unclear who Mark and Chelsie were. I could have figured out by the process of elimination, but neither one was memorable, in a good or bad way. Mark was simply not macho enough to pull off a country number. He tried; he grabbed his belt buckle when he had a spare hand, but it was far from natural. The tricks were amazing, but the dance, the heart of the country two step, was blase at best. Kherington seems to be getting worse each week, and I've been a fan of hers.

Gev's solo was ridiculously cool. As nomadreaderboy said, "I think he messed up a few times, and I don't even care." He is absolutely amazing at what he does, and impressive in other genres as well.

Comfort and Twitch are paired together for a waltz. My first thought was the producers are making sure she earns her way back on the show. Twitch was convincing, although the judges disagreed. I thought he showed an impressive amount of grace, although next to the awkward-looking Comfort, he had a distinct advantage. Comfort is out of her league. She lacks the power and passion for this competition. She is good at what she does, but her love of hip-hop and its innovation does not transfer to a love of dance itself.

On a side note, I love that Fox is promoting Bones constantly. I think next season will be superb. Tonight's ad was hilarious. Booth says to Bones, "dating two guys at once just isn't right. That's way they invented dueling." It's hard to do comedy and grisly bodies, but Bones does.

Courtney still strikes me as too much of a cheerleader. She is a great dancer, but she's a cheerleader/dancer for me. Her spread eagle looks like she needs pom-poms. Her solo is passionate, but she plays to the audience like she would a half-time crowd.

Will and Katee are partners this week, and I love it. They are the two best dancers. Katee has had ridiculous luck with partners this season. Joshua is stellar, and Will is pretty much a lock to win the show. I'm eager to see her get another new partner next week. They started with Tyce D'Orio Broadway number. It was Broadway. It was okay; they danced it impeccably. The routine was far too stereotypically jazz hands for my taste, and I think it wasted the talents of these two dancers. I hoped for a Mia Michaels routine for them next.

Mark's solo was brilliantly choreographed. The movements fit the music, and they would not have worked with a different song. He surprised me and impressed me.

Gev and Chelsie's contemporary routine was beautiful. They danced to an Otis Redding song as soul mates. It was emotional, but I do think a beautiful song helped them. The song alone can bring tears to my eyes, so a good dance to it will seem that much better. Chelsie was amazing, and if I didn't know she was a ballroom dancer, I would have guessed her to be a contemporary dancer. Lil' C's commentary continued to be fantastic.

Courtney and Joshua danced a rumba, and it was hot. Courtney was amazing, gorgeous, and stunning. She really shines in dances that don't involved her contemporary background because she can't possibly seem cheerleader-like when she dances ballroom. As Lil' C said, "I might need my asthma pump." His advice to Joshua was, "you're a man, but you can still use your hips." I'm still impressed by his practical ballroom expertise.

Katee's solo was divine. She dances with such precision and emotion. Her body holds the perfect balance of tension between controlled movements and freedom.

Kherington and Mark had the daunting task of dancing a Tyce choreographed Broadway routine without a storyline to a song featured in Center Stage with a brilliant dance routine. Not surprisingly, they didn't live up to it. I found myself thinking of Center Stage while I watched them dance. It was okay, but it was forgettable.

Will danced his solo with his usual strength and passion. It wasn't innovative like his tribal-inspired solo last week, but he's also probably not facing elimination anytime soon now that the voting is done for individuals. It was good, but it didn't take my breath away or give me goosebumps. To be fair, I don't hold any of the other dancers to those standards, but Will is that good. He's in a different league than most of this year's contestants.

I was happy to see Comfort and Twitch get to dance hip-hop. That being said, I was underwhelmed, although my expectations were probably too high. Perhaps Comfort is not a dancer who does choreography well; she's a freestyler. Perhaps Dave Scott is not as good at choreographing as he is at dancing, or rather, he does his own choreography better than other can do it. Regardless, it was underwhelming. The best moment might have been when Mary said "buck".

Kherington's solo was great. I loved the song choice, upbeat Rihanna, for her contemporary style. I think she's growing as a dancer; she's incorporating new styles into her own.

Katee and Will gave the performance of the season with Desmond Richardson's pas de deux. It was absolutely transcendent. I got chills, and it brought tears falling down my cheeks. I cannot imagine any other couple being able to pull off that choreography. Perhaps Courtney and Joshua could have, but I doubt it would have been as good.

Joshua's solo blew me away. He gave the best male solo of the night; he out danced Will, Gev and Twitch.

Chelsie and Gev ended the night with a jive. My non-ballroom-expert eyes thought Gev rocked far more than the judges gave him credit for.

The top ten impressed me tonight. Elimination will be tough, but my money is on Comfort and Mark going home.

emmy announcement semi- live blog (and my early predictions)

8:30 a.m. I realize the Emmys are September 21, the same evening as the Indigo Girls concert I just got my tickets for.

8:40 a.m. Damages is nominated! Dexter too! Squealing ensues, and I realize I cannot possibly type fast enough to actually live blog this event. I resort to typing snippets of notes, and now I'm reconstructing them.

I'm also distracted by Kristin Chenoweth and Neil Patrick Harris standing next to each other. I was under the impression she was freakishly short, and I always imagined him to be quite normal sized, yet she's holding her own height-wise next to him. (According to imdb she is 4'11" and He's 5'11 3/4". Seriously, she had to be standing on a box.)

The six nominees for outstanding drama series are: Boston Legal (as I said yesterday, they always have one great episode a season, which is all that matters in Emmyland, and legal dramas lend themselves to this format brilliantly), Damages (hooray! it is absolutely the best, most riveting show on television), Dexter (brilliant television, even if the writers can't write a believable female role), House (I'm seriously baffled; it doesn't belong with this crowd. My only guess is medical dramas are also historically capable of pulling one good episode together.), Lost (I'm sticking to my theory from yesterday: it's a thank you for making a wildly popular show good again), and Mad Men (it was a given). I want to have a few words with the Emmy voters who actually think House is a better show than The Wire (or The Tudors for that matter.) My heart is with Damages, but my money is on Mad Men.

Outstanding lead actress in a drama: Sally Field (sure, she cries a lot on Brothers & Sisters), Glenn Close (her performance on Damages is pure brilliance), Mariska Hargitay (she's my perennial favorite, and the writers at SVU have been quite savvy the past few seasons writing episodes that appear specifically geared to getting Hargitay and Meloni nominated for Emmys. Seriously, it's a running joke with nomadreadboy "Ooh, it's time for the "win Mariska another Emmy episode!"), Kyra Segwick (I'm a huge fan of her and The Closer, and she gave her best, most nuanced performance in season three. Still, Glenn Close should take this category), and Holly Hunter (Is a great performance more or less impressive on a bad tv show?). My heart and my money are with Glenn Close.

Outstanding lead actor in a drama: James Spader (no big surprise here, he won last year, and I'm sure he gave at least one emotionally riveting legal speech last season), Gabriel Byrne (I'm ecstatic to see him nominated for In Treatment - the format was revolutionary), Bryan Cranston (his performance is brilliant on Breaking Bad, and I'm glad to see the show get some attention, as it shares a network with the biggest critical darling, Mad Men), Michael C. Hall (the dark horse candidate, perhaps, but his layered performance of a serial killer is as mesmerizing as the show itself), and Jon Hamm (I've finally stopped referring to him as Jennifer Westfeldt's man, and his performance is riveting on Mad Men. I imagine he'll follow his Golden Globe win with an Emmy. If only he could use new found clout to get Notes from the Underbelly back on the air.) I'm hoping for Michael C. Hall to win for Dexter, but I imagine it will be Jon Hamm.

Outstanding supporting actor: William Shatner (again, I'm sure he gave at least one great, impassioned legal speech), Ted Danson (his performance on Damages was absolutely masterful), Zeljko Ivanek (two Damages nominees? Then they can't both win!), Michael Emerson, and John Slattery (who is good, but his performance isn't memorable enough for him me not to still think of him first as the creepy politician from Sex and the City). Ted Danson should win, but I imagine Slattery will.

Outstanding supporting actress: Candice Bergen (really? With her face looking like it did in Sex and the City? How can she move it enough to actually act?), Rachel Griffith (I love Rachel Griffith, and I have ever since Me Myself I, which is the most brilliant celebration of single life I've ever seen. She is good on this show, and I'm sure she had many tear-filled scenes to choose from, and tear-filled scenes win supporting actress Emmys.), Chandra Wilson (I always realized her performance was amazing, but the more I read and hear about her real-life demeanor and shyness make me realize even more how amazing she is), Sandra Oh (I love Sandra Oh, and I love her performance on Grey's), and Dianne Wiest. This category is absolutely stacked, as it usually is, because good supporting roles are easier to find for women than good leading roles. It's not a coincidence the lead actress nominees are mostly on cable shows, and the supporting actress nominees are mostly on broadcast shows. I imagine Chandra Wilson will win this year, but this category is wide open, with the exception of Candice Bergen, impassioned legal speech aside. Also, Rose Byrne was shafted, but I expect a nomination for her next year, perhaps as lead actress.

Outstanding Reality Competition Program: American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway, The Amazing Race. The nominees in this category were no surprise, but Kristin Chenoweth endeared herself to the millions (okay, thousands) watching this telecast, when she opened the category's announcement of The Amazing Race by saying "we should do that next year," to Neil. No one besides The Amazing Race has ever won this award. American Idol is coming off of its weakest season, and I don't think it has a chance, despite being the most watched show in the country. Project Runway might win this year, however, with one of its strongest seasons yet. Ultimately, I think the ubiquitous product placement on both Runway and Top Chef will turn off voters and keep The Amazing Race's record going.

Outstanding Host for a Reality Program: Tom Bergeron (seriously?), Ryan Seacrest (were they afraid to have only two nominees in the category, or do voters want to see what date he'll bring to the telecast?), Howie Mandel (I confess, on the infrequent occasion I start watching Deal or No Deal, I have a hard time turning off the episode; the man is good at his job), Heidi Klum (hooray!), and Jeff Probst (no big shock here, he's the originator, but it was shocking to learn Kristin Chenoweth once went on a date with him). I'm most surprised Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race was left off this list, especially considering Tom Bergeron was nominated. Do the voters think The Amazing Race has had too much Emmy love? Also, somewhere Tyra is pissed!

Outstanding Comedy series: 30 Rock (hooray! It's the funniest show on tv!), Curb Your Enthusiasm (as I said yesterday, it's the voters' love affair with Larry David), Entourage, The Office (it is the other funny show on tv), and Two and a Half Men (seriously? I actually watched an episode of this recently, and it's even less funny than I thought possible.) How in the world was Weeds left off this list? It's a fight between 30 Rock and the The Office for this one, and everyone knows I think it should go to 30 Rock.

Outstanding actor in a comedy: Alec Baldwin(I realize I overuse this phrase, but his performance on 30 Rock is brilliant. Did you see the scene he played every member of Tracy's family in therapy? That scene alone should merit a lifetime best actor in a comedy award!), Tony Shaloub (I have no opinion on Monk, as I've never seen it), Lee Pace (Kristin Chenoweth and I both squealed when his name was announced, but I'm so glad to see him get attention for his unique role), Steve Carrell (it's a given, and he deserves it), and Charlie Sheen (I'm seriously baffled.) Alec Baldwin should win, but Steve Carrell might eke it out. If Charlie Sheen wins, Denise Richards and I will be throwing things at the television.

Outstanding actress in a comedy: Tina Fey (I love Tina Fey, but I agree with her: she's a better writer than actress. She's had her kudos, and she's nominated because there is a serious lack of funny women on television.), Christina Applegate (I adore her on Samantha Who?, where she essentially plays two different roles, and she makes them both funny and believable, which is no small feat.), America Ferrera (she is the funniest part of this mediocre program, and I've already mentioned the lack of funny women, and lack of funny shows period, to be fair, on tv), Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (I repeat, there are not enough funny women on tv. I like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, but her show is also not funny. Awkward does not equal funny.), and Mary Louise Parker (I was ready to riot if her name didn't come up with this crowd. Her role on Weeds is comedy and drama, and she pulls both of effortlessly.) My heart and my money are torn between Christina Applegate and Mary Louise Parker.

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy: Jeremy Piven (sure), Kevin Dillon (nice), Neil Patrick Harris (the only funny thing on his program, and I imagine, the reason anyone watches it), Rainn Wilson (sure) and Jon Cryer (I'm still unclear how he's a supporting actor, but the show still sucks). Neil Patrick Harris should, and I imagine, will win.

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy: Kristin Chenoweth (I adore her performance on Pushing Daisies, and if the episode submitted was the one she revealed her past as a competitive jockey, she should win), Jean Smart (she always makes me laugh on Samantha Who?. She makes me laugh so hard I usually have to hit the pause button to collect myself.), Amy Poehler (for SNL, and I imagine, specifically, her humorous and enjoyable portrayal of Hillary Clinton), Holland Taylor (I love Holland Taylor, but even she is not funny on a show as dreadful as Two and a Half Men. Please note I did find her funny on Saved by the Bell: The College Years.), and Vanessa Williams (I know her performance is supposed to be over the top, but her performance is exactly why I don't really like the show: everyone except America Ferrera and Eric Mabius take their characters way too seriously). Jean Smart will probably win this one, but I'd be happy if either she or Kristin Chenoweth do.

To round up the less notable categories:
  • In the Outstanding art direction for a variety or nonfiction program, Hell's Kitchen is nominated alongside the usual award shows.
  • The outstanding children's program nominations do not include Jack's Big Music Show, which is clearly silly and a travesty.
  • So You Think You Can Dance got three nominations for choreography: Mandy Moore's "Table" routine, which was one my favorite routines last season, Wade Robson's "Hummingbird and Flower" and Shane Sparks' "Transformers". May I mention again how much I miss Wade and Shane this season? Perhaps the reason we think there aren't as many good dancers is due, at least in part, to the lower level of choreography without these two around. I'm surprised to see Mia Michaels not nominated for her "Heaven" routine, but I'm pleased to see Julianne Hough get nominated for something. She's the lone visionary choreographer on Dancing with the Stars (although Edyta rarely gets a capable celebrity to work with).
  • The outstanding costume for a series category is ridiculously stacked this year: Mad Men, Ugly Betty, The Tudors, Pushing Daisies and Desperate Housewives (which shouldn't have a chance against the other four.)
  • Clearly I'm not the only one who adores 30 Rock, as it nabs four of the five nominations for guest actor in a comedy: Rip Torn, Will Arnett, Steve Buscemi & Tim Conway (plus Shelley Berman on Curb Your Enthusiasm). It might be #102 in ratings, but it's still the destination for guest stars. 30 Rock also nabbed three of the six nominations for guest actress in a comedy: Carrie Fisher, Edie Falco and Elaine Stritch. Also, it's the only comedy with more than one nomination in the writing category.
  • Cynthia Nixon should win the Emmy for guest actress in a drama for SVU.
  • Phyllicia Rashad should win for A Raisin in the Sun.
  • I sincerely hope Sarah Silverman wins an Emmy for "I'm F***ing Matt Damon", even it's a little bittersweet since she and Jimmy Kimmel broke up.
  • I'm excited to see Tina Fey (for SNL) nominated alongside Jon Stewart (for the Oscars) and Stephen Colbert for individual performance in a variety or music program.
  • The nominations for best clips are hilariously amazing: the Oscars tribute package, Idol's David Cook goes home package, "I'm f***ing Matt Damon," "I'm f***ing Ben Affleck," and something from Dancing with the Stars.
  • HBO has all five nominations for outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or movie: three for John Adams and two for Recount.
  • George Carlin is nominated for his variety special, and he has a chance of winning.
  • Despite 30 Rock's two nominations for best comedy writing, Pushing Daisies should win for "Pie-lette". I like the series less as it went on, but the pilot was amazing. It would have been a great miniseries.

Kristin and Neil were lovely presenters. They actually made the nominations interesting to watch. Sadly, they might end up stealing the show from the Emmys themselves. Here's hoping the actual ceremony can live up to its nominations and nominations presenters this year.

Now we're left with three months to speculate on who will win. My first experiment in live blogging lasted for two hours. I'm simply not concise.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

emmy wishes and predictions

It's the eve of Emmy announcements. This year we've already been treated to the top ten lists, which makes predicting the actual nominees that much easier. Here are my predictions for the best series categories, including my cynicism when I imagine I will disagree with Emmy voters.

I wish for Best drama:
Mad Men (it's hip)
Dexter (amazing)
The Wire (it's due)
Damages (it's best show on tv, but I'm still hesitant because the Emmy process involves a single episode, and one cannot appreciate the sheer brilliance of the final three episodes without the first ten)
The Tudors

I predict for Best drama:
Mad Men (it's hip)
House (I'm cynical)
Boston Legal (it always manages one good episode to submit)
Lost (as a reward for getting good again)
The Tudors

I wish for Best comedy:
30 Rock (funniest show on tv)
Weeds (one of the five best shows on tv)
The Office
Pushing Daisies (I'm still unclear why this show is a comedy, but it's original and entertaining)
Flight of the Conchords (I'm not actually a fan, but it's original)

I predict for Best comedy:
30 Rock
The Office (it's what other people think is the funniest show on tv)
Two and a Half Men (I'm cynical)
Weeds (I'm hopeful)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (Emmy voters' Larry David lovefest)

dame helen mirren

My esteem for Helen Mirren is not exactly a secret. Still, I always find myself being met with questioning stares when it arises in conversation. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one enamored with so many of Helen Mirren's amazing talents and qualities.

It's nice to add another mutual appreciation the Fug girls and I share: good and bad fashion, young adult novels and television shows, and Helen Mirren.

book review: practical magic by alice hoffman

A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly published their 1000th issue, which features numerous 100 new classics lists. I, of course, have set out to read their 100 New Classic Books. (Yes, I'm still working through their memoir list too). First, or rather #100, on the list is America (The Book). While I adore this Daily Show tome, it's not the kind of book one either sits down to read or carries around on the bus all day. Instead, I'm reading one chapter a night before bed. I moved on to #99, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

I've read a few Alice Hoffman books, most notably her brilliant Skylight Confessions. I vaguely remember seeing the movie adaptation of Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock years ago. The vagueness of my memory makes me inclined to believe it wasn't terribly notable. The book is magical, pun intended. Hoffman plays with magic as a realistic story element better than any non-Latin writer I've read. The story of the Owens family is intriguing and unique. As I read it, I was instantly transported. I wished I had the time to sit beside a fire on an autumn evening with this book and a few glasses of red wine. It's a lovely story because of the characters. I didn't write down any sentences to recall for later; it's not an immensely quotable book. Instead it's intelligence lies in the heart of the story and the characters.

My one regret is not devoting larger chunks of time to reading Practical Magic. The book is not broken down into chapters, and it offers few breaks in the story. I think I lost a little bit of the magic each time I put it down. Still, it's a Hoffman classic, and it's definitely worth reading.

After finishing another beautifully written Hoffman novel, each quite different and unique, I've added her to my illustrious "Read Every Word" list. I've waited this long to add her only because of the size of her canon. Adding a first-time novelist to the list is an action filled with hopeful anticipation of a good follow-up. Adding Hoffman's extensive library is almost daunting, but I'm most curious to continue to see the vastness of her imagination. Her novels may share some themes, but each story (as far as I've read) is its own unique being.

Rating: 2 stars (liked it)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

book review: the divorce party by laura dave

I was quite excited to read Laura Dave's newest book, The Divorce Party. Everywhere I turned, reviewers were loving it, and I thought her first book, London is the Best City in America, was rather genius, and my favorite book I've read this year.

The Divorce Party is excellent, but it's not quite as good as London is the Best City in America. It's not fair to compare the two, but Dave's signature storytelling ways are present. She manages to tell the story of three couples and their love during one day. Dave is a gifted storyteller. She manages to tell the back story little by little so it enhances the present narrative. With so much background, it could easily overtake the present events. Instead, the past and present come together beautifully. The Divorce Party is told through the perspective of two women. Maggie, who is engaged to Nate, and Nate's mother, Gwyn, who meets Maggie for the first time the day of her divorce party. It's a smart novel that manages to be both tragic and hopeful. It's a lovely portrait of one family, and Dave uses their stories to brilliantly depict so many visions of love over the course of a lifetime.

Laura Dave is one of the finest writers I've read, and I think it's unfortunate she's stuck with the moniker of a "smart chick lit writer". Although her books deal with love and relationships, the stories are about life. Don't most novels deal with love and relationships? Why must Dave be banished to the "romance" section of the library? I dare say, if she were a man, she would simply a literary fiction writer. Read her books; they're beautifully written novels with amazing characters.

Rating: 5 stars (life-changingly good)

movie review: wanted

Hot on the heels of my lukewarm response to The Garden of Last Days, I saw Wanted. I adore Angelina Jolie, and I appreciate the interviews of her leading up to Wanted. After her mother's death, she knew she needed to work, but she didn't want to do a serious movie. She wanted to have fun and kick some ass. I'm a firm believer in balancing the serious in life with the fun. Fun movies may not be brilliant, but they're certainly useful and entertaining.

Wanted immediately grabbed me. It started like a reimagining of Office Space. I love cubicle drones gone crazy. James McAvoy was stellar. It was my first time seeing him act, and I cannot wait for more. About an hour into the movie, I leaned over to nomadreaderboy and asked for a home theater system. It seemed to be the kind of escapist movie fare I could watch over and over again, but it needs a big screen.

Unfortunately, suddenly Wanted tried to be deeper than it needs to be. It begins to take itself too seriously. The ideas and themes it tries to deal with are fascinating and complicated, which is why it seems silly to quickly introduce them and deal with them in a matter of scenes.

In the end, I love most of the movie. The story execution wasn't there, and I have an aversion to rats, which feature far too prominently in too many scenes for my taste. Wanted is a movie worth seeing once. I don't know if I'll see it again, and if I do, I'll know when to stop it before it starts taking itself to seriously and too literally. It could have been a great movie, if the filmmakers made up their minds about what kind of movie they wanted to make. Instead it's a hodgepodge of ideas with brilliant actors and amazing special effects.

Rating: 2 stars (liked it)

book review: the garden of last days by andre dubus iii

The Garden of Last Days: A NovelI finished the new novel by Andre Dubus III over a week ago, and I've spent many of those days trying to figure out exactly how I feel about it. I was ridiculously eager to read it after seeing so many glowing reviews, most notably Stephen King devoting an entire column for his monthly Entertainment Weekly gig to the book. Also, everyone whose opinion on books I trust, most notably nomadreaderboy, adored House of Sand and Fog, which sits on my seemingly insurmountable "Books I Want to Read List." The premise of The Garden of Last Days grabbed me immediately. It's a story of the days leading up to September 11th, and it takes place mostly in the strip club some the hijackers frequented. I find the tension between the hijackers religious beliefs and hatred of the U.S. and their frequenting of tawdry strip clubs fascinating.

It's an ambitious subject, and I enjoyed the cast of characters Dubus employed to tell the story. Ultimately, I didn't buy his insight into all of the characters. The story has multiple narrators: a hijacker, a stripper, her 3-year-old daughter, a security guard, a strip club patron (and his wife and mother), and the stripper's landlord/baby-sitter. It's a long novel; it's well over 500 pages. For such a long novel, not much happens. The action takes a long time to unfold because the reader sees the events happen through so many sets of eyes. The novel began as a short story, and I think it would be better as one. The idea of the book is better than the book itself. A great short story can capture a seemingly insurmountable amount of activity poetically. Dubus let the book become bigger than the idea. What should be an intelligent, in depth look at a fascinating subject is ultimately tame and a little dull. It's not a bad book, but it didn't grab me. I thought of abandoning the book, but I did care enough about some of the characters to finish it. After a week of pondering, which certainly is a testament to the depth of the idea of the book, I'm still not sure if I'm glad I read it. I'm not sure if I would recommend it to others. I still seem stuck on the length; it's bloated.

In the end, I enjoyed it enough to recommend it because I want someone else I know to talk about it with. The book isn't as good as the idea behind the book, but that idea is brilliant enough to make it worthwhile. I still want to read the short story version.

Rating: 3 stars (liked it)