This series didn’t last long. I finished Chuck while I put together an entire Ikea showroom and a few days later I had DIRECTV. It’s taking me a while to get used to their menu and everything. It would have been easier to start with Comcast again, but I just couldn’t do it. DIRECTV is my first satellite TV service. I actually helped lug three cinder blocks up four flights of stairs to help weigh down the dish. The installer called me a machine. Anyway. Reception with DIRECTV is good, there are a bunch of channels, and I’ve got a big DVR to handle them all. It moves slow, though, so for a guy like me who loves a good flip-to (a backup channel while on the off-chance I’m watching live TV, sports mostly) it’s not that effective. Anyway, no cable, no problem is no more.
Archive for January, 2010
Movie theater previews are at the top of the list. A ten out of ten. Trailers on a DVD are all the way, the other way. They’re just a roadblock. Every low-budget movie that would normally, and rightfully, fall through the cracks, gets its two minutes of pub (publicity) on your latest rental. Press the DVD Menu button and it’ll say “Function Not Permitted.” It won’t let you skip it all and go straight to the movie. Not permitted? It’s my DVD player and I rented the DVD, right? But these guys, they make you go the long way around and skip each preview chapter by chapter which can be pretty nerving. I don’t know if there’s anything you can really do about it. This frustration is not the reason I hardly rent movies, but I don’t need this stress. I’m a theater man, I always have been. I saw a RedBox tonight, though and, well, here we are.
On a side note, the movie I rented was 50 Dead Men Walking, a story loosely based in fact about a mole in the IRA in Belfast. I love other cultures and I’ve watched plenty of BBC America, but the dialogue in this movie, the Belfast dialect, really comes at you quick. With some embarrassment I hit the subtitle button. All that came out was Spanish.
This very second I’m watching 6o Minutes. A while back I noticed they introduced this British girl to the show and now I guess she’s a regular. I’m watching her piece while I wait for the Shaun White story (the Olympian) and in the meantime, she (her name is Lara Logan) introduced her piece about a group of Green Beret soldiers in Afghanistan. These guys are sporting beards and sunglasses. Pretty trendy, but since these guys are awesome, it’s awesome.
Well, I was going to be writing this about how Lara Logan isn’t a great reporter. The story she did in this episode felt incomplete and she was a distraction from the story and not much of a facilitator of it. But, that all became kind of irrelevant when without any warning at all they showed a dead body and then another and then one of the Green Berets after he was shot. It just seemed incongruous with what I felt the rest of the piece was and it shocked me back to attention. These images were reminiscent, from what I remember from history class, of the first of the graphic scenes and news stories that shocked Americans during the Vietnam war. While I wanted to take a shot at the reporter, I was caught up in the report.
At the end of the piece, a soldier narrated a scene that played on the screen. The soldier himself saw a truck approaching from the distance and fired a couple of warning shots to ward it off. The truck kept coming, however, and in the back, two young boys had been hit by the ricochet from the soldiers warning volleys. Just like the earlier images of the dead bodies, the cameraman pulled no punches. The bottom line was that there were two young boys fighting to stay alive in Afghanistan after being wounded by an American soldier. When you consider what power the 1st Amendment holds to allow a story like this to be broadcast, it seems a great disservice to poke fun at its author.
I’m a huge fan of the big event. This morning I watched the men’s final of the Australian Open and this marks the start of a big year for big events. I love watching Grand Slam tennis. This one kicked off with another Roger Federer final. The Super Bowl is in a week. Then, less than a week after that we’ve got the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This will get a lot of Entertainthing blog time and by the end I hope to make everyone a fan of the Olympics. There is no place like the Olympics for competition, culture, and pride in all of sports. Then, March Madness…well, look this year has all the standards, but this is an Olympic year. And a World Cup year. Hosted by an African nation for the very first time, this World Cup should be amazing. But that’s like saying, this bowl of ice cream is good. Every bowl of ice cream is good and every World Cup is amazing. It’s the only other place where competition, culture, and pride are so evident. So, even though we’ve got almost no shot now of seeing Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight to decide the Best-Ever-Champion-Of-Lightweight-Boxing, we’ve got one of the best years ever ahead of us. And then only four more years till it all happens again.
So, I’m between cable companies right now. I moved out of my old apartment and into my new house. There is so much to do I don’t know if I’m coming or going and without cable I’ve lost touch with solid ground. Well, I’m a little behind on my shows anyway. Perfect timing though and my big brother came through and moved me up the ladder to borrow Chuck Season 2 on DVD. TV on DVD is absolutely the best. It’s like short chapters in a novel. That’s why the Da Vinci Code was such a phenomenon. It’s a good book, but boy those short chapters keep you motoring.
Chuck Season 1 was good. Chuck Season 2 is awesome. It’s one of those shows that’s easy to overlook because it’s light and fun and not always realistic. But for all pretense, CSI’s not all that realistic either. Just like Scrubs, Chuck is a great mix of comedy and heart, but then it’s got action, too. The characters become more developed and this makes it an ensemble in Season 2. I don’t need to give anything away to say it’s got a great Ross and Rachel element that keeps you hooked, too. I’ve been sitting here putting together Ikea furniture at a snail’s pace and letting the boxes pile up around me while I pound through this show. That’s one thing American TV definitely has on the British. If you’ve got a good show, boy, you really get a lot more of it here in America. Twenty-two episodes, baby. Most people could build a house in that time. I’m just trying to by till the cable guy gets here. I never knew killing time could be so good.
The NBC lineup took a break for the holidays and all of the shows came back on January 14th. The Office went off the air on December 10th and then they waited an extra week to come back on the 21st unlike everybody else. They really made us wait. And then. Then. They come back with a clip show? Now, this clip show was relevant. It had funny moments. But it featured Toby, who is really good in small doses, but it had no Stanley. Worse than that, where was Jim? They made us wait six weeks and then they come back with a No-Jim Clip Show!
No one’s ever going to call me a patient man, but really, I don’t know who wouldn’t be annoyed by this. Clip shows are a midseason thing, not a, “Hey, we’re back,” kind of thing. Oh, and by the way, the next episode is February 4th. Good for them.
I almost don’t want to mention it, but after February 11th they’re going off the air again till March. This time with good reason. THE OLYMPICS! I. Can. Not. Wait. For the Olympics.
I’ve never been a big Golden Globes watcher. I think it’s got something to do with how they mix in the TV and the movies. And maybe how they’ve got awards for best comedy movie and best dramatic movie. There should be one best picture every year. I just love the class of the Academy Awards, even though somebody should remind them that a comedy can be a best picture and so can a cartoon and they shouldn’t need a ridiculous ten nominees to recognize that.
Ricky Gervais hosted this year’s awards so I couldn’t stay away. And they were good. Not great, but good. Gervais was really funny. He’s so confident up there, drinking beer, pitching his shows and books and tours unabashadedly. The guy is just too good for someone else’s show. He needs and deserves his own forum. And, wow. Christina Aguilera looked unreal. She dressed to the nines. The last of the best for me was Mickey Rourke. During a break for commercial he was talking to Mike Tyson. Mickey Rourke one of the only guys in Hollywood who you’d believe Tyson would want to talk to himself and just the star trying to look cool next to the champ. Rourke was so funny, too, when he named Sandra Bullock as Best Actress and looked so pissed. He actually looks at the envelope a second time to make sure he didn’t miss something. She was really great in the Blind Side, though. It’s the kind of performance that sometimes falls through the crack at the Academy Awards, glad it got recognized here. And a good speech from Sandra. They tried to cut her off, too though.
Then, talk about the most annoying person ever. Chloe Sevigny complained that someone ripped her dress while she’s accepting her Golden Globe. That’s an actress that’s got her priorities straight. “Oh man, my Vera Wang! If I didn’t win this award this never would have happened. Thanks a lot Hollywood Foreign Press.” The speeches weren’t that exciting, other than Christoph Waltz who deservedly, so deservedly, won for Inglorious Basterds. It doesn’t help that they cut everybody off as right from the gun. And why?! So we can get to local news. So Warner Saunders can depress me about school closures and car accidents? I hate the cutoff. Why give them a fucking award if you don’t want to hear them thank you for it?!!! And I don’t think I like Jason Reitman. Up in the Air was good, but how does he stand up there and say he expected only Tarantino of the five nominees in his category to win other than himself. I’d feel pretty crappy if I was a Mark Boal who wrote The Hurt Locker or Nancy Meyers, or the District 9 crew (but not as much if I wrote District 9). Then he looks like such a sourpuss when James Cameron wins Best Director. Maybe someone should have him write his last into IMDB and see what pops up. Probably a much better director.
All in all, I’m not a convert, they didn’t do it this year. But it was good to see TV shows I really like get recognized, like Glee winning for Best Television Series (Comedy or Musical). The Golden Globes are something you watch and if you’ve got to do something else while you watch them, no problem. It’s not like I had a Golden Globe party with sticks and a pool. No sir. I have an Oscar Party.
Lady Gaga is great. I don’t mean to say Gaga Reflex like gag reflex, but to say that she is totally uninhibited. What she wants to do she does, like a reflex. She’ll dress on the edge, sing taboo, and sound new, which would all be hard things for most of us to do, but she just throws it out there and she’s so talented and timely that it all works. An artist ahead of her time, and driving fashions in many mediums. I’m jealous.
If not jealous, I’m at least envious of the way that she can express herself so completely and it just seems to work. As I get older and learn more about myself I realize that when we’re at our most honest, our most individual, we’re at our best and always, somehow, still relatable. No matter how we try to be unique, there are so many commonalities among people that you never have to fear for being alone. If you’re an artist and you’re creating something new or a philosopher trying to articulate a thought, or anyone at all expressing themself, you can have confidence that people will understand you. Society gets in the way so much of the time, but propriety aside, there’s not much anymore that I couldn’t say on some level, “I know what you mean.”
I get so involved in what I watch on TV that commercials for me aren’t an aside, aren’t separate, but they’re part of my entertainment. So I actually expect to be entertained by my commercials. They don’t have to be funny, they don’t have to be emotional, they don’t have to be inspiring, but they better be something.
Even though I didn’t see them yet today, I love the Emmerson inspired and inspiring Levi commercials, Dow’s the Human Element campaign is like watching a National Geographic magazine on TV, some Bud Light commercials are funny, Coke has some great ads, so does Mastercard. Local ads never stand a chance, like a Menards spot or local news preview. And today, Subway didn’t really perform and neither did Cisco.
Subway signed Phelpsy (Michael Phelps) recently and I’m all about it. I love Phelps and I love the Olympics. I love the Olympics. The worst thing in entertainment though is when you underuse somebody. You’ve got the most successful Olympian and best swimmer of all time with Michael Phelps and instead of having him do anything cool, you make a computer animation of him swimming out of his local pool and out into the street (still swimming, actually swimming through concrete) and then swimming through wheat fields on his way north to Vancouver. For the Winter Olympics. I guess Subway thinks they started an ice swimming event up there in British Columbia, or that we’re stupid enough to just see Phelps and think, “Yay, Michael Phelps is going to that Olympics again.”
I’m going to interject here because I’m writing this live. I hate almost all car commercials equally, but I especially dislike the Denis Leary Ford Truck commercials. He’s soooooooo cooooool, the way he’s sarcastic at me about some truck. Congratulations.
So Cisco. I usually like the Cisco commercials where the rich American students play games with the Chinese students over satelite. Today, Ellen Page joined the class. It felt a lot like when you throw a really famous guest star on a TV show even though it doesn’t make any sense. I’m going to paraphrase here (this commercial doesn’t deserve to be quoted directly).
Teacher: Kids, this is Ellen Page.
Class: Hi, Ellen Page! We’re going on a field trip to China.
Ellen Page: Hi kids. So you’re going to China, huh. Ha. China. I think there’s something sarcastic I could say here, but…well, anyhoo. I used to go to a farm. For my field trips.
Class: No, we go with the TV to China!
Ellen Page: Ciscoooo.
Ellen Page should go to China. I don’t think they want her.
So, you know when you’re a kid and someone makes fun of you and you’re just supposed to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” It’s definitely the best strategy. I hardly ever hold to it, but that’s the right stategy. The only times I’m really ever able to follow that advice is when someone’s really bad at making fun of you. If someone tries to get me by saying something stupid like, “Nice shoelaces. Where’d you get those? The store?” They’re really making fun of themselves. I just look at someone else and point my thumb at this guy and now he’s the one being made fun of. The other time you screw up making fun of somebody is if you try to pick on someone for something they’re really good at. “Nice gold medal. Ha, I bet you were lifting weights Saturday night while I was drinking beer.”
This all points to a modern, corporate, playground name-calling. Verizon vs. AT&T. Verizon has been airing a bunch of commercials where they have maps popping up all over the place, in front of the TV that the commercial people are watching (which actually annoys me as a viewer, I’m annoyed for the people in the commercial that are trying to watch the football game but some stupid guy’s map is in the way). They’re saying that the iPhone doesn’t have as much coverage as Verizon. Which is what Verizon’s always saying. “We’ve got the guy with the jumpsuit and the glasses. You can hear us everywhere. You can hear us now.” Whatever. The iPhone’s awesome, I’m not ashamed to say I want one (always stuck in a contract) and you shouldn’t be either. They’re great. But Verizon is trying to take them down a peg.
That’s fine. It’s natural for the little guy to fight for his space. What I don’t get is why AT&T is fighting back. All they need to do is nudge T-Mobile, point their thumb at Verizon, and say, “Check out Verizon over here.” Then they’d all laugh together. But AT&T decided to fight back. Nobody cared about Verizon’s ads until AT&T responded. We probably would have forgot all about it, but now we’ve got Fat Luke Wilson whizzing postcards all across a map bigger than the one they used at the end of Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego. Man, he got heavy. He doesn’t look that fat from far away, but up close, he head is just a circle. His jaw line used to stand out as much as Owen Wilson’s nose. Now he’s just bloated looking. Fat Wilson has nothing to do with the message of the commercial, but it’s a lot harder to respect what the guy’s saying when you know he put on forty pounds of milkshakes and stepped down from movies to commercials. They just shouldn’t have said anything at all and kept on selling millions of iPhones.