Monday, February 28, 2005

Movies, Football - And Anne Archer besides!

You may not yet have seen "Man of the House," which came
out this week, though you probably are familiar with it's prequel
from last year, which was about a college cheerleader who was rejected by the University of Texas.
Now, thankfully, we have a document of some of who made the cut.

I promise that joke (gotta follow the link to get it) is funnier than anything in the movie, even if
you're a Republican.

So what does a Tommy Lee Jones-meets-five-giggly/bouncy/murder-witnessing-Texas-cheerleaders
movie have to offer? Not surprisingly, you get lots of long,
gratuitous leers at a very scantily-clad Austin. Threadgills, Buffalo
Billiards and Mangia Pizza are all pushed up, mashed together and
presented beneath plunging necklines. And there are plenty of slow,
lingering aerial shots of UT's campus, it's form dripping in
lucious see-through sunlight, it's perky architecture poking
through the foliage. Not 10 minutes ever pass without a shot of the
clocktower throbbing upward.
And there's also hot chicks with big tits.

In short, a little something for everyone – except, I guess, for
Republicans (it’s my favorite drum, dammit, and I’m
gon’ bang it).

Actually, the whole affair is about as awful as you’d expect and
might already be gone from your local Cineplex and little missed.
Still, beforehand, I thought it had a chance. Afterall, look at
who’s in it: Tommy Lee Jones as his usually reliable Grim Cop (a
Texas Ranger, no less); Cedric the Entertainer enlisted for comic
relief; and five rightfully unknown actresses charged with nothing more
stressful than looking, preening and bouncing like bimbos. If you need
the plot, here ya go: Tommy’s smileless, all-business cop is
charged with protecting the five girls, who together witnessed a murder
(during official cheerleading duties, no less), and so he goes
undercover as an assistant cheerleading coach.

Put like that, how did it miss?

I thought it was also a hopeful sign that the movie got a real
school – a real big school, in fact – to fully commit to
playing host. Afterall, very nearly every ‘campus’ movie
or TV show ever filmed was set on “California University”
or “Texas State” or “Faber College” or some
such place. Not this one – the movie is, if nothing else, a 90
minute infomercial for Austin nightclubs and UT fan apparel. The UT
band gets two scenes, every key sequence is filmed at a campus landmark
and – for you authenticity geeks – during a UT football
game against Arkansas (in Darryl Royal stadium), the UT running back
gets hit for a loss. They didn’t miss much.

Except, sadly, for jokes. Using generous standards, I counted a
total of four jokes in the whole movie. Two were witless but grimly
determined set pieces that finally drag an ok-I-smiled-for-a-second
grin out of you (example: Tommy gets the cheerleaders to wear more
clothes (“jogbras ARE clothes!” one protests) by installing
a huge air conditioner (refrigerator idea: funny; less skin: not
funny)). But two jokes were shockingly efficient,
here-comes-the-pitch-and-a-long-high-drive-to-deep-center hits. Both,
not surprisingly, were rifs on the movie’s central joke (Tommy
Lee Jones? A cheerleading coach?).

In one, Tommy is pulled, unprepared, in front of a UT pep rally, where
he akwardly addresses a few hundred fans. Holding a candle and clearly
bewildered, he mumbles into the mic that the candle represents, "err,
the spirit of every Longhorn fan that can, err, never be extinguished."

And the candle promptly goes out.

In the second, he tries to awkwardly ask out a hot professor played by
Anne Archer. He has already turned her down once, too concerned with
blowing his cover or (worse!) endangering the cheerleaders, but now his
achin’ heart has reconsidered and he says, well, I wanted to ask
you out before but “it’s just so hard to find time in my
schedule as a, err, assistant cheerleading coach.”

Yip, Anne Archer, probably one of the top three dignified and serious
actresses in Hollywood, right here in the middle of the swirl. She
plays a literature professor (natch) connected to the plot by the
jiggliest of the girls, who is taking – and failing (natch) - one
of her classes. Or something.

Anne Archer, Tommy Lee Jones and the licensing fee for full access to
the UT campus; I think my instinct was right - somebody wanted to make
a movie here. I wonder what happened?

Well, one clue can be found in the bizarre appearances of current
harmless-funny-black-guy Cedric the Entertainer. Heavily touted in the
trailers, Cedric makes two – or is it three? – bafflingly
small appearances, all of which reek of a desperate, 11th-hour rewrite.

At a guess, I'd say the producers - unhappy with the
Jones-Archer-UT product - decided to pay Cedric for one day of work and
to bolt whatever footage they got out of him onto the movie, regardless
of how bad it matched. Not surprisingly, they ended up with a 2-foot
fin on the back of a Civic. If you pay attention (not that I would
suggest it), you'll notice that if Cedric's tiny appearances - all shot on the same studio set – were eliminated
from the movie, it wouldn’t require a single line to be changed
elsewhere in the movie. Another clue: though Cedric’s cameos
appear at the beginning, middle and end of the movie, he wears the same
outfit in all three and Tommy wears the same thing in two of them.

And then there’s the plot – who shot who, and why and how
it gets sorted out. It’s tedious, sort of obvious but more just
irrelevant. I mean, crooked cops, mob money, kidnapped kids, whatever-
bring back the boobs! To the film’s credit, they avoided the
most obvious possible cliché: the Big Showdown (Tommy-vs-Bad Guy)
does NOT occur in the fourth quarter of The Big Game.

Of course, that would have demanded summoning a realistic vision of UT
beating OU and I guess Spielberg was busy that week.

OK, enough shots at UT’s football program, boob jokes and
pseudo-erotic descriptions of overrated Texas cities. Maybe I should
have quit with the Fahrenheit 911 joke.

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table."

bang bang bang!,

ps - first-ever use if "natch." yes? no? I'm torn. Wonkette kills
with it but then... she's SUPPOSED to sound like a chick.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Football - Arbitrary Brand Loyalty, Part I

Originally uploaded by pjmatt05.

If you find a more Exuberantly Cheesy token of Arbitrary Brand Loyalty, buy it.

I'll be wearing this one.

(special thanks to Darin 'Deke' Slayton, USC Grad and fearless 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60 pilot, for bringing me back the hat, DY-rect from the USC bookstore)

TV - Arbitrary Brand Loyalty, Part Dog

When it comes to rooting without reason, second only to college football must be the The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, aired annually about this time on USA. And lots of people agree, cuz USA just renewed the contract 'til 2016.

It just so happens that I own Oscar,Oscarball, an Australian Shepard and, by coincidence, the Best Looking Dog In (depending on your scope of inquiry), Anchorage, Alaska or All The World.
And as anybody knows, the Australian Shepard is the sworn mortal enemy of the hated, filthy, no-good show-off Border Collies.
Oh, we hate Border Collies. HATE 'EM! Why, it's like comparing a sorority girl at USC to a sorority girl at UCLA, or a frat party at the University of Texas to a frat party at the University of Oklahoma, a Georgia tailgater to a Florida tailgater or an ethics-in-sports lecture at Florida State to an ethics-in-sports lecture at Miami.
It's night and day, with one clearly the prime, finished product of Evolution's Grand Plan, the other just a sorry, wore-out excuse of a miserable creature not worthy to polish the third set of scuffed shoes in the "25-cent" bin at the other's garage sale in hell!
Piss on border collies, is all.
And of course, what Mt. Washington is to weather, Westminster is to dog shows. Which, to my eyes (not to mention Oscar's) is just one more chance for a steely-eyed Aussie to stomp the bleeding guts out of a no-good, show-off Border Collie.

That, and watch about 200 breeds of dogs be fawned over by the strangest collection of televised people this side of the CMAs.

First, my favorite Westminster viewing story comes from 2001, when I went to New Hampshire for a medical class. Also attending was a friend of mine from PJ school, Will Willis, who was always the hardest partying guy in the room, but at that time was deep in maritial difficulties, which only bumped his want-to to whole new level. He was in New Hampshire to commit as much self-abuse as possible, and you were with him or you were against him.

So, half drunk on a Tuesday, he called my room - I'd guess I was fifth or sixth down his list of possible recruits - and demanded I drag my lightweight, cherry-ass out into the New Hampshire night to drink, chase tail and, maybe, a little arson.
No, I said 10 or so times.
What the F else have you got to do? he demanded in the kind of voice that absolutely was not interested in a reply. And of course, I had nothing to do, which was exactly what I wanted but not at all what Will wanted to hear. I was also flipping channels throughout Will's pitch and had stopped on Westminster during this bit so I said, in what i thought was an off-handed, hysterically ironic way: "The dog show's on. I want to see who wins."
And for the first time in the 3 years I'd known Willis, he was speechless.
"The DAWG SHOW!?!?!" And I knew I'd screwed up. Right then, in those 2 seconds, I knew I would literally never hear the end of snide dog show comments from Willis, not this week, not next, not 4 years later.
And I was right. You give Willis a drum, he ain't likely to ever stop beatin' it. God Bless ol' Will, one of the few sumbitches left what truly don't give half-a-damn.

But, of course, Border Collies and Aussies (and the rest of the world's cool dogs - bulldogs, rottis, labs of every hue, etc) never make it out of their Semifinal, "best in Group," into the prestigious finals, or "best in show."
(And yes, Best In Show is, by far, the funniest pseudo-documentry this side of Spinal Tap (though some of Jerry Falwell's efforts on Vince Foster were hilarious, too). We don't have to discuss it here)
The Finals are always a collection of hysterically gay poodles, barely ambulatory poofballs, dreary footstool-sized creatures and one or two tall, akward breeds that look like the just want a private place to pee. You can root for the occasional Basset Hound that breaks through to this level, but it will invariably lose to some annoying near-cat.
Still, Westminster is fantastic TV, if only because the announcing team is always so exasperated at how great the dogs are. I've seen 4 consecutive years of it, and in each year the announcers declare the Finals to be, by far, the best selection of dogs in memory, with the EXPLICIT caveat that such wonderful quality hasn't been present in previous years.
They're like Olympic gymnastic announcers in an Olympics boycotted by everybody except the US.
And it's their show, their world, their dogs, so i'm fine with it.

So Tuesday (Feb 15) is the second and final night, featuring Best In Show (at the end, obviously) but much more importantly, earlier in the night, the Best In Group for Herding dogs.
Good-v-Evil. Hate-v-Love. Us-V-Them. Mine-V-Yours.

I'll sell you the whole seat, but you'll ONLY NEED THE EDGE!!!!!

Football - Cajun recruits

Apparently, when it comes to recruits with a cajun flavor, LSU can't be stopped. As our Texas readership can confirm, LSU also grabbed Ryan Perriloux, a copiously talented quarterback who for the last year had seemed pledged to Texas. Why Perriloux changed his mind would be an interesting story, though its always dangerous to care too much about recruits in general, particularly considering that of all the schools in all the land, LSU looks like one where Perriloux is most redundunt.
Jamarcus Russell (shockingly out of date page) was the part-time starter and occassional crunch-time finisher at QB for LSU last year as a freshman. He beat Oregon State pretty much by himself to open the season. I saw him play probably 3 times, splitting time with Marcus Randall, and he looked like both the most dominant player on the field in terms of speed, arm, size and all that and also the least sure what to do. I remember thinking that if he could get a handle on his job, LSU might be unbeatable. When he was on, like in the OSU comeback, he was The Deal, untackleable, fast and agile, and great with his arm.
His stats nearly equal LSU's starter, with equal TDs and fewer INTs.
He was Vince Young plus an arm, or everything Perriloux is supposed to be. And he should go into the season next year as the starter as a sophomore.

So why would Perriloux want to step into a three-year wait, when, if he'd gone to Texas (and Young bails after next year), he would have had a look at starting the '07 opener?

Or, put another way, who has more chance to get broken - Jamarcus Randall, a drop back passer with LSU's line, or Vince Young on any of the countless tuck-and-run missions Greg Davis is certain to send him on? Hell, Perriloux might have brought the Horns out in September next year.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

TV - Dunzo

(UPDATE: continuing coverage the far-less-satisfying Season 2)

They've got more bounce in California than all y'all combined, as the song likes to say and on that note let’s recognize the season-long, weekly grand slam of a show that gave us that song and so much more, MTV's 'Laguna Beach.'
For that small segment of the population not born perfectly gorgeous, perfectly confident and perfectly rich - for we unfortunate few - there are endless reasons to hate the Laguna kids - all of which end up being the exact reasons we finally like them so much.
They are gorgeous, naive and vain, rich and unappreciative. But of course, they don't know all that - they just know that, over the course of a one preposterously pretty senior year, Stephen chose Kristin over LC, and ohmahgawd, is that interesting.
And ohmahgawd, it is.
We’ll talk about the decidedly unwild and all-the-more-intriguing-for-it adventures of LC, Lo, Stephen, the dreaded Krisitn and E!’s 2008 Sexiest Man Alive, Talan, in a moment. First, to fully appreciate the watershed event that Laguna Beach has been, let’s put it in context.
It’s been a dreadful year for ‘reality’ TV. MTV's the Real World - the flagship of MTV and reality shows in general - is in Philly, grinding its way through the worst season since at least Chicago with a hopelessly chaste, disproptionately gay and obviously bored cast. And unlike Chi-town, the kids don't even have Tanya doing yoga in spandex. Throw in the insurgent-like welcome that the Philly locals have given the cast (really – who throws barstools?) and this season may be to the Real World what the 'They Did It' moment was to Moonlighting.
And all the others that smack of reality – the Surreal Life, a Bachelor who's in his 40s and looks like Rick Flair, the mechanical Apprentice and it's unwatchable rip-offs, the usual, grueling network offerings (Survivor, Great Race, etc) – are as bad as they've ever been. Family Bonds on HBO is actually pretty entertaining, but the entire 2-deep chart has a Long Island accent - only so much of that you can take. And I don’t even want to discuss Growing Up Gotti.
With Lost and Desperate Housewives at the walls, the Reality era is closing fast, which, though a net-plus for civilization, is a major bummer for those of us who can’t get enough of the dating habits of good looking, not-famous people.
Yet from the advancing shadow steps Laguna Beach, a reality show about actual reality – a document of the social lives of a loose dozen high school friends at the magnificently priviliged Laguna Beach High School. The camera doesn’t bounce, pop songs aren’t basted over tape of teeth being brushed, they don’t even scream “Whore” at each other at 3am. Surely this isn’t a reality show? Surely not on MTV?
And yet, outside of Adriana getting capped on the Sopranos, it’s been at least two years since I saw a single episode of any show as hypnotic as “What goes to Cabo, Stays in Cabo,” where Kristin catapulted herself into the all-time Reality Slut first-tier and Stephen, a VERY-not-used-to-being-humiliated-by-chicks kind of guy, dragged her into a corner and screamed at her for being a slut for, like, five minutes. And then got bleary-eyed drunk and hooked up with LC.
But that entire event led to the season’s strongest high-concept moment in the next episode, “The Best Part of Breaking Up…,” where the Stephen-LC-Kristin triangle apexes. In the final segment, the producers brilliantly intercut LC and friends watching a post-break-up reunion on Fox’s “OC” with real-life clips of Stephen and Kristin doing the same thing. A TV show mocking the TV-ness of the TV show it’s based on – marshall mcluen call your office.
And let’s not entirely discount the midget who wanted to fight Trey, the fashion designer wanna-be, in the parking lot after the Blink 182 concert (“Whachu got on this, homey? Wassup? Wassup?”). You read that right.
And then the tiny moments, like when Stephen tried to teach the utterly-unathletic Kristin to surf (I refuse to consider the notion it might just have been a ploy by the show’s producers to get Kristin to be pouty in a bikini. Again). She managed to paddle the board a few yards off-shore and whine the whole time, and then told him, “the waves are pretty bad, but I got a little bit of one” and he says, “oh that one where you got totally barreled?”
I just about fell over.
From the opener, LC is our narrator, though not much of one. Mostly she's a bored senior with a long-standing crush on lifelong-friend Stephen. LC is also, by any reasonable measure, a four-star knockout. Whaddya like? Big, soft eyes? check. Long blonde hair? check. 20 percent of body weight in her tits? The list goes on.
LC is also, by most measures, relatively sane. She doesn't brood or demand much from friends or boyfriends or anybody else. She shops, she talks on the phone, she aches for Stephen.
The very last thing Laguna Beach would ever bring up is school (in the full season, I'm almost positive they never show the actual campus), but I'd be surprised if LC didn't carry a 3.5, certainly a 3.0.
And it is LC that Stephen, the wispy, sad-eyed born-to-slay dreamer, trades in for Kristin. And you've seen Kristin before - she's 90-percent of the chicks behind the floating black bar on the Girls Gone Wild ads.
She's stupid - or at least has honed acting stupid into a science - slutty, whiny, dismissive and never smiles unless it's to make STEE-vaaaaannnn do something for her.
Kristin is everything you'd never want in a girlfriend - but she’s a five-star knockout to LC's mere four and that apparently is enough for Stephen.
Of course, we’re free to read more into it – like if Stephen, bored and disinterested in his world, were to take a shot at the relatively good-hearted LC, he'd find himself with far more than he bargained for. And that’s not his deal.
On the other hand, once he gets to college, Stephen will miss Kristin for about 32 seconds.
No fool, big Steve.
And that’s the genius of Laguna Beach – the kids are so hopelessly shallow and blank, we can paint anything we want onto them. And Stephen is the blankest slate of all, with no discernable interests other than surfing, talking on his phone and enjoying the first few trickles of what promises to be a lifelong flood of women through his bed. He could be a 4.0 student body president, a hopeless weed head or anything in between – until the final two episodes, where graduation appears to hit him harder than most, he’s virtually transparent.
Around that basic triangle, Laguna Beach rotates.
And let’s not forget Lo, LC’s best friend, and I would bet by season’s end most people’s favorite character. Again the show never reveals resume bullets, but Lo MUST be the smartest of the bunch – she’s going to the best school of the bunch (UC Santa Barbara) and though highly endowed with ditzyness, doesn’t seem as perpetually confused as the other girls. Her trashcan-lid sunglasses are always hysterical and somewhere midseason she endures what has to be the worst date captured on film since Broadway Danny Rose.
There’s also the properly ignored Kristina, whose father is Robert Schuler, the Sunday morning glass-palace TV preacher and Morgan, the fat virgin. Well, fat Mormon and therefore, alledgedly, virgin by choice.
A quick Morgan tangent: on the day she gets her letter from BYU (the only place she applied), she takes Kristina to the beach so they can open it together, and Morgan makes a big deal about how important it is to her to go to college with people who share her values and she REALLY REALLY hopes she got in! Ok, fine. The whole time she’s holding the decisive letter in her hand and finally she opens it and reads it aloud and – oh no! – she gets turned down. And cries (duh). Only… it was just a letter, which means she HAD to know she was about to have a new common experience with her boyfriend. It’s the Cardinal rule of high school: big envelope, yes; little envelope, no.
How could she not know that - of course, she got rejected by BYU, so she may not think as well as she, say, eats.
And, watching a rerun, it was clear to me Kristina – who patiently listened to the morals rant - knew the whole time.
But all these charater sketches are just the lyrics - we haven’t discussed the music. The music is the rich, glowing sunlight of southern california, the spotless cars, the white-walled boutiques, the impossibly green forests that surround and consume the layer-cake houses.
And the all-contraction cell phone calls: 'sup? chillin'. rad'. n'way. Dunno. f'sure. ‘m’over it. late'. Click.
It’s hypnotic.
Everyone looks great here, and who wouldn't if you were 17? Who wouldn't talk like this, with that rapid, bouncy cadence that floats from word to word without ever finding its way through a sentence (and, dude, seriously, shut up, listen, i was all - it's just like- wierd. whatever). That accent - as distinctive as any southern drawl - that picks up, plays with and dismisses everything in its way.
The whole show is on film, which captures the So Cal sunshine with a vibrancy video never can. The music – including the incredibly catch “More Bounce IN California” and the theme song, “Rain come Down” are poppy and simple and used to perfect effect by the producers.
A gem of a show.
And here’s the big news – there’s going to be a Season 2, where Kristin, now a senior, takes over.
I personally am about through with her (much like Stephen). I’m sure she’ll be thirty times brattier next year, and without LC to parry against and Stephen to chase, she has little purpose. But not to worry. Season 2 has a star in the making – and I mean, like, Barak Obama at the DNC convention star-in-the-making – in the almost unbelievable complete package, Talan.
Talan – and with a name like that, I shouldn’t even have to say this – is a stone cold bitch magnet. He’s taller, lankier, smiley-er and way dreamier than Stephen. Not to mention, he’s the quarterback (go ahead - google his name if you want – Laguna went 5-5 with him and was 1 game away from the CIF playoffs before he got hurt). As LC told us each week in the opening credits of this year’s show: “Talan is a surfer that’s hooked up with almost every girl in my class. Twice.”
No shit.
If he’s not the LeBron James of Reality TV, I’ll give up ranting.

Laguna Beach. Coming to a Sunday afternoon-marathon near you.

Ps – so tonight I caught Last Letters Home on HBO. Interviews of parents of dead soldiers, each reading the last letter they received from their kid, often delivered after their death. The father of the dead Captain, in Knoxville is, pound for pound, the most devastating 60 seconds of tape you’ll ever see.
Not to break the mood, but it’s another show not to miss.