Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hollyweed & Vine: Your Wednesday Morning Linkage

Since we have to wait another day to feast on the remains of the second set of 12 American Idol semi-finalists, how about some more linkage? Here's some of the highlights of my morning news-noshing:

The CW Greenlights 'Melrose Place' Pilot. I'm a closet fan of the new 90210 (did I really just say that out loud?) and will wait for this new hourlong trashy delight with bated breath. And the dude who directed An Inconvenient Truth is helming the pilot? What?

Studios Weigh Star Packages.
In a shining example of recession-minded, risk-averse Hollywood, the two hottest film packages being shopped around this week to studios are an Adam McKay directed comedy starring Will Ferrel and an action flick starring Matt Damon scripted by Bourne Ultimatum writer George Nolfi.

NY Post Drops Liz Smith. Even the 86-year old gossip stalwart can't escape the budget cuts at News Corp.

Could Porn Payout Help Octomom Keep Kids? Vivid Video has evidently offered Octomom $1 million and a year of health insurance to do one porno with them. My favorite line - ""We've had many single mothers work with us over the years, and their income from Vivid has been very important to them."

Americans Growing Kinder to Bud?'s Nate Silver crunches the numbers and predicts that the tide of popular opinion that is swinging toward the legalization of marijuana will reach the 60% mark between 2022-2023.

Andrew Sullivan thinks we should Grow Our Own, which I have no problem with.

And if we all grew our own legally , the police wouldn't find shit like 500 pounds of reefer on Fabolous' tour bus.

And now, let's pause and re-live the Pineapple Express skit from the Oscars. My bowl is packed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Taxing Weed, the Death of Defamer, and Oscar Night Blind Items

* Seriously, God bless my home state. A state assemblyman out of San Francisco is arguing that in these trying financial times-- oh, let's face it, the state is BROKE-- California should move toward legal, regulated production of its largest cash crop. And you know what that is, boys and girls. Marijuana!

The proposed measure would tax and regulate weed in the same manner as alcohol, meaning you'd have to be over 21 to toke (as opposed to 18, the current minimum age for a medicinal marijuana recommendation). It could mean an additional $1 billion in revenue for cash-strapped Cali.

From the L.A. Times: Taxing pot could become a political toking point

* Defamer has been part of my morning reading since it came into existence, so imagine my shock upon reading that it was being folded into Gawker and would live on only as "Gawker's Hollywood Column." The domains have already been moved, now re-directing to

Defamer: Defamer folds into Gawker; editors to pursue careers in bearded hip-hop

Change= sad

In their swan song week, Defamer did collect together some of Oscar night's best blind items from all the tabloids. Here are a few of my favorites. Feel free to make your own guesses.

"Which actor snorted cocaine in the bathroom during an Oscar after-party, while a slimmed-down stoner actor smoked pot outside with his pals?"

"It's too bad [the star] from above doesn't share the same dealer as this current C list television actress on a hit television drama who has B+ name recognition because they could maybe get a discount. People couldn't stop commenting on the track marks on her arms when one of her long sleeve tops rolled up her arm. When she discovered it was up she quickly put the sleeve back down and whispered something about medication. Uh huh."

Which Hollywood actress kept the Oscar ceremony seat warmer unusually busy with her frequent trips to the loo to 'powder her nose'? The poor man kept having to hop into her seat during every ad break."

"Which Oscar-nominated actress let loose a string of obscenities at one of the Academy Awards after parties? She looked gorgeous in her long gown, and simply glowed the entire evening. However, the party was crowded, and a famous actor accidentally stepped on the train of her gown. She let out a little shriek, and the man sheepishly apologized and moved his foot. Instead of reacting graciously to the error, our normally well-behaved actress tugged her train towards her and swore loudly enough for several people to hear."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pot Committed's 2009 Academy Awards Live Blog

Last year, at Academy Awards time, Pauly and I were holed up in a hotel room in Copenhagen, Denmark on a misty Scandinavian night. The Oscars were supposed to come on around 1 a.m. our time, but for some reason, Danish television wasn't carrying it live, so we had to settle for staying up all night watching alpine skiing. I'm fairly positive that it was the first Oscars I missed since I knew there was an Oscars.

This year, we're off the road, settled in the Slums of Beverly Hills and I'm about to start cooking up a pot of chicken and andouille jambalaya to enjoy while ogling at the parade of designer gowns during the red carpet pre-show festivities. And for dessert, some of Southern California's finest medicinal brownies are chilling in the fridge.

So, why not live blog the whole shebang? That's what I'll be attempting to do throughout the day and evening, or at least until the pot brownies render me completely incapable of coherent thought. David Denby may pooh-pooh snark, but I'm all about it today. Snark was practically invented for shit like the Oscars.

***Live Updates***

12:50 pm - Ingredients for jambalaya are bought. Time to start chopping up veggies for the mirepoix, which boyfriend will no doubt find offensive.

1:33 pm - The 'poix is chopped. Onto slicing up chicken and andouille. Current cooking music= John Coltrane.

2:05 pm - While my veggies are caramelizing to a golden brown, let's remind ourselves of this year's nominees. Here's the major categories:

Best motion picture of the year

*"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
*"The Reader"
*"Slumdog Millionaire"

Performance by an actor in a leading role

* Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor"
* Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon"
* Sean Penn in "Milk"
* Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
* Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler"

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

* Josh Brolin in "Milk"
* Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder"
* Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt"
* Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight"
* Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road"

Performance by an actress in a leading role

* Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married"
* Angelina Jolie in "Changeling"
* Melissa Leo in "Frozen River"
* Meryl Streep in "Doubt"
* Kate Winslet in "The Reader"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

* Amy Adams in "Doubt"
* Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
* Viola Davis in "Doubt"
* Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
* Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler"

Achievement in directing

* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" David Fincher
* "Frost/Nixon" Ron Howard
* "Milk" Gus Van Sant
* "The Reader" Stephen Daldry
* "Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle

Adapted screenplay

* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Screenplay by Eric Roth
Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
* "Doubt" Written by John Patrick Shanley
* "Frost/Nixon" Screenplay by Peter Morgan
* "The Reader" Screenplay by David Hare
* "Slumdog Millionaire" Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Original screenplay

* "Frozen River" Written by Courtney Hunt
* "Happy-Go-Lucky" Written by Mike Leigh
* "In Bruges" Written by Martin McDonagh
* "Milk" Written by Dustin Lance Black
* "WALL-E" Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

3:02 pm - Jambalaya is simmering. Kitchen is clean. Here's a quick tutorial on how I made it.

2 cups onions, 1/2 cup each of celery, green pepper and red pepper.

Caramelize veggies in pot with oil for 20 mins until golden brown.

Consume pot brownie, if desired.

Add 1 lb. andouille and cook 10 mins. Add 1 pound cubed chicken coated in creole seasoning. Cook another 10 mins.

Add 2 cups chopped tomatoes, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 3 bay leaves and some fresh thyme

Add 2 cups of rice. Stir it around and get it happy.

Finally, add 2 quarts chicken stock. Bring it to a boil, then leave it on low heat to cook down.

Stay tuned to see how it turns out.

3:10 pm - Miley Cyrus gets interviewed by Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet. Her dress totally sucks. Pauly thinks it's right out of a debutante ball in Charleston, South Carolina. "Who's Africa Bambaata in the background there?" he adds. "She's gotta be like, the Pope of Africa with that hat."

3:21 pm - We still can't bear to turn the sound on the TV and are watching it muted with Medeski, Martin & Wood on in the b.g. Giuliana Rancic painfully interviewing song and dance man Hugh Jackman.

3:23 pm - First sighting of Slumdog Millionaire kids on red carpet. Dev Patel is like the pimp daddy of Mumbai right about now.

3:31 pm - WTF is Jennifer Grey doing at the Oscars? And that gay kid from High School musical and his beard girlfriend?

3:45 pm - Awwww look at all the cute little Indian children! Seacrest tries to talk to the littlest one, who does not speak a word of English. He switches over to the little girl. "Oh, this one speaks good English!" he says. Nice, Seacrest.

3:54 pm - First effects of pot brownie being felt. Yowwwwwza!

3:56 pm - Jambalaya is off the heat, green onions and flat-leaf parsley have been stirred in. Will be ready for consumption just in time for 4:20.

3:57 pm - "What are they on? #1"- Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle. He's going for the loosened-tie look on the red carpet. "Danny's a Brit, he's probably drinking" says Pauly. "Yeah, listen to that slurred speech."

3:59 pm - Oh. my. God. You can't get gayer than that spray-tanned creature standing next to Giuliana Rancic.

Pauly: I think I could walk up to that guy and light my bong.

OMG with the instant replay fashion analysis. "Freeze it right there! LOOK AT THAT NECKLINE!"

4:03 pm - Amy Adams: awesome dress, flawless hair and makeup, but what is that wreath around her neck?

4:10 pm - Seth Rogen arrives on the red carpet. You know he's high.

4:11 pm - "OMG I'm freaking out! Sarah Jessica Parker can do NO WRONG!" screams the fashion fag. Well, yeah, if you think 10 yards of beige tulle is perfectly acceptable.

4:13 pm - What are they on? #2 - Amanda Seyfried. "She's high on Scientology."

4:16 pm - Sign I've been out of Hollywood for too long - I have no idea who these Twilight actor kids are. The British dude is hot though.

4:18 pm - SJP attempts to introduce her husband to Ryan Seacrest as she steps up for an interview. "Oh I've heard of Matthew" says Seacrest. Epic fail. He asks what color her dress is. "Barely Mint" she coos. Still looks beige to me. Broderick has blond highlights in his hair. Total sign of a mid-life crisis. Carrie Bradshaw is totally on valium.

4:20 pm - Seth Rogen steps up for an interview. Seacrest asks him how he's losing the weight for The Green Hornet. "I vomit a lot" says Rogen. Seth Rogen @ 4:20 = awesome coincidence.

4:23 pm - I could eat this jambalaya forever. Pauly thinks it needs bacon and cheese.

4:26 pm - What are they on? #3 - Pauly said, "Marissa Tomei is on pills. Most likely some sort of Vicodin family of substances. You could see it in her glassy eyes. She looked pissed at Seacrest... 'I'm smooth and don't feel a thing. But you're a fuckin' retarded American Idol flunky. I can't believe you brought up the Vinny fuckin' movie you pillow biter."

4:30 pm - Mickey Rourke tells Seacrest that he'd rather have two more years with his dead chihuahua, Loki, than an Oscar. Rourke is also wearing a photo of said deceased canine around his neck.

4:33 pm - "Freeze it right there!" Giuliana and queer boy use the Glamastrator Replay System to analyze Anne Hathaway's gown, which does happen to be stunnnnnning.

4:35 pm - Wow. At least two of my former employers are on the red carpet, including the Big Man.

4:37 pm - Evan Rachel Wood looks like a lovely 21 year old girl should on the red carpet after ditching Marilyn Manson and the accompanying goth styling. But will TMZ catch her tonguing Mickey Rourke at the after party?

4:39 pm - "OMG ITS BRANGELINA" screeches Giuliana Rancic. "WE HAVE THE FIRST SHOT OF BRANGELINA" she reports breathlessly, as Angie exits her limo, dressed in a black strapless gown, and waves at the crowd.

4:42 pm - Commercial break. Here's a look at the finished jambalaya.

4:44 pm - So I guess everyone ignored the whole "recession-chic" thing.

4:45 pm - Eating the second half of the brownie. Prepared for blast-off around the time they're presenting best documentary feature.

4:52 pm - Kate Winslet. Love her, love the periwinkle-pewter color on the dress, love the hair. She's dressed like someone who knows she's going to win.

4:58 pm - Seacrest gets two sentences out of Brad Pitt, which is one more than he got at the Golden Globes.

4:59 pm - Robert Downey Jr. gives Seacrest a long chat. Totally forgot he got nominated for Tropic Thunder, which shockingly enough, I have not caught yet on a transcontinental flight. Clean living looks good on him. I used to know his wife way back in my D-days. She's a badass and a damn smart woman.

5:00 pm - Switching from E! to the official pre-show on ABC. Which is good, because I was long past my Giuliana Rancic limit.

5:03 pm - OMG Tim Gunn! Tim Gunn > J. Alexander

5:04 pm - Matthew Broderick looks sedated. And like he wants to cry. SJP again attempts to introduce him to the interviewer, who clearly knows who he is. Want to smack her.

5:05 pm - "Richard Nixon could not be here tonight, but we have Frank Langella." Yeah, BECAUSE HE'S DEAD.

5:09 pm - Tim Gunn fawns over "icon of style" Valentino, who is spray-tanned within an inch of his life.

5:10 pm - Mickey Rourke again mourns his fucking dead fucking chihuahua. In addition to the dead dog necklace, he points out a dead dog photo on his lapel.

5:13 pm - Again, with the High School Musical kids? WTF?

5:16 pm - Behold, the OSCAR DOOMSDAY CLOCK has flashed onscreen. 14:05 to go and WHERE IS BRANGELINA?

5:17 pm - "Your Armani Prive gown is simply staggering" says Tim Gunn to Anne Hathaway.

5:19 pm - OK, I've finally decided that the Miley Cyrus dress looks like a wedding cake with glitter.

5:20 pm - Tim Gunn schtick going south fast, as he proclaims that the Price Waterhouse Coopers accountant guys with the ballots "really make it work." Wah, wah wahhhhh....

5:23 pm - What are they on? #4 - Jack Black. "Pills, weed, and probably Viagra."

5:25 pm - Marisa Tomei shows off her lavender Versace gown to Tim Gunn as photos of her Oscar gowns past flash in a corner of the screen. "It only arrived this morning" she says. Pauly says it looks like a MC Escher painting. I agree. It's covered in these fanned-out "staircases" of fabric. Or maybe I'm just... wow, this brownie is awesome.

5:30 pm - Here we go...

5:31 pm - with your host HUGH JACKMAN!! That was kind of awkward.

5:32 pm - OMG Hugh Jackman musical theatre. "I didn't know Hugh Jackman was gay" says Pauly.

5:38 pm - Am I just soooo wasted like Katie Holmes in The Ice Storm or were the freaky gay dancers and the "I Haven't Seen the Reader" segment not fucking genius? And kudos to Anne Hathaway for chanelling her inner New Jersey high school musical theatre star and singing with a spray-tanned Australian in front of like a billion people.

5:40 pm - Why are Meryl Streep and her daughter wearing matching dresses?

5:46 pm - "What's that on Goldie Hawn's lips?" / "Those are her lips." Over/under on lifetime cc's of collagen?

5:47 pm - Penelope Cruz wins best supporting actress. "Has anybody ever fainted here?" She thanks Woody and Almodovar but Almodovar gets the applause. She is stunning in a 60-year old vintage gown and really quite poised in the moment. She breaks into Spanish at the end.

"Now all the maids know she won!" screeched Pauly in a fit of giggles.

If brownie level was a 6 before it's an 8 now.

5:52 pm - Tom Collichio is doing Diet Coke commercials. I'm so depressed.

5:53 pm - What's Steve Martin doing with Sarah Palin?

5:56 pm - Sarah Palin has pretty nice cleavage for a grandmother.

5:57 pm - Dustin Lance Black wins best screenplay for Milk. Yay, one for the gays! Let them get married! Also, for a guy whose day job is as a writer/producer on Big Love, his stock just went wayyy up in this town.

6:01 pm - The favorite wins - Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire. Just discovered that Pauly made online Oscar bets. He was getting 7-1 on the field and lost in this category.

6:03 pm - Jennifer Aniston walks onstage. Pauly makes cougar noises. Then cat noises. He's trying to tempt her and Angelina into a cat fight.

6:05 pm - "Kids movies are so trippy these days. I'd like to see The Carolina Kung Fun Pandas on some good molly," said Pauly.

6:10pm - "Domo Arrigato Mr. Roboto?" said the Japanese animation Oscar winner.

6:16 pm - SJP and New Bond Daniel Craig present Art Direction award. SJP's dress is actually way nicer-looking under TV lights than on red carpet. Wow, people. I am high. I have to get it together.

OK Benjamin Button wins for art direction, avoiding a total shutout. That's a "phew" for Paramount, sorta.

6:21 pm - Big hats for Keira Knightley win Costume Design Oscar for The Dutchess. I thought Fergie was the dutchess.

6:23 pm - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wins for Best Makeup. Pauly unexpectedly leaps from his seat and runs around the room. "Clutch!" he screams.

6:25 pm - "Oh my God, is that the girl from Mean Girls?" Amanda Seyfried and the hot British dude from Twilight present an ode to cinema romance together. Pauly thinks she's a Scientologist but can't explain why. A Coldplay song runs behind the clip reel. I still don't know what all this Twilight shit is and feel quite unhip. And old.

6:30 pm - OCT-O-MOM! OCT-O-MOM! Viva la National Distraction!

6:34 pm - Ben Stiller aping Joaquin Phoenix even makes Ron Howard peal with laughter. Pauly chants for his bet on Benjamin Button in the cinematography category, but Slumdog Millionaire notches another win.

"You look like you work in a Hasidic meth lab"= best line of the Oscars so far.

6:39 pm - Jessica Biel talks about the kinetiscope and has fabric inexpblicably hanging from the front of her dress.

6:44 pm - Pausing while we SCREAM at the Pineapple Express skit, especially the gay parts. Hate to say I love Judd Apatow shit. Props to victim Januz Kiminski.

New favorite line of Oscar telecast: "Who is a better actor, Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama?" / "Dude, that's Robert Downey, Jr."

6:47 pm - Spielzugland. I'm going to say that over and over again. Spielzugland. Then Spielzugland wins for Best Live Action Short. Pauly pumps his fist having bet on the Germans to win.

6:52 pm - Hugh Jackman is tap dancing. Is this real life? Is this going to be forever?

The level of musical theatre schtick is so thick here that Showcase calls. "There is red shit hanging from Beyonce's vag" he laments.

There are chorus boys in top hats. There is a medley with nods to Dreamgirls, West Side Story, Chicago, and Mamma Mia. It's really all too much for me in this state. I'm flashing back to 1997. It's so vivid it's shocking. The character shoes. The red bouttoniers. The kick lines. I am 20 years old and in New York City and in a rehearsal room at 890 Broadway. I am 18 years old and in a dance studio in Evanston, Illinois on a freezing winter morning. I am 21 years old and in the audience high on ditch weed while Showcase sings a solo in our college musical.

Where am I? Is this real life? Is this going to be forever?

7:03 pm - Here come the old supporting actor winners...but we know Heath is gonna win.

7:09 pm - Heath wins. It's sad and the camera pans to celebs crying. Ledger's family gives props to Chris Nolan and his agent, CAA's Steve Alexander. Go Death Star. Sis Kate acknowledges his daughter, "beautiful Matilda."

7:14 pm - Bill Maher presents Best Documentary Film and plugs his own in the process. Shill that shit! The Oscar goes to Man on Wire.

7:17 pm "Nhem Em!" chants Pauly, rooting for his horse on Best Documentary Short Subject. The Oscar goes to Smile Pinki. Booooo.

7:22 pm - Denise Richards is on Dancing with the Stars? It's astounding how this woman continues to find more last grasps at fame.

7:24 pm -A tribute to action films? Really? With the state of action films today?

7:28 pm - While I was in the kitchen starting a grilled cheese, Benjamin Button won for visual effects and The Dark Knight won for sound editing. Because that's what you do during categories like visual effects and sound editing. Apologies to visual effects and sound editors.

7:35 pm - Indian dude wins for sound mixing for Slumdog Millionaire and is completely overwhelmed. Slumdog picks up another when Chris Dickens wins for Best Editing right after that.

7:43 pm - Neuvo-Nutty Professor Eddie Murphy presents Humanitarian Oscar to Jerry Lewis, who is one of those people whom I thought was dead up until this moment. The grilled cheese was perfectly grilled and buttery.

7:48 pm - "This is the lull in the event where they give out the second-rate Oscars so they can give the big stars time to go outside and smoke a cigarette, go to the bathroom and snort a line, or hang out with Seth Rogan and Merly Streep and smoke a doobie," - Pauly said.

7:51 pm - It's true. Most stars do go and take a piss during one of these categories. This Henry Mancini thingamagic is prime star pissing time.

7:55 pm - Ship it to India, it's Slumdog Millionaire's A.R. Rahman for Best Score.

8:00 pm - "And the Indian-flavored themed song and dance number... I don't recall those parts from Batman."

8:02pm - That Jai Ho song wins from Slumdog Millionaire. Showcase texts: "Get me the stage rights to Slumdog ASAP!!!! It's gonna be FUCKIN HUUUUUUUUGE!!

8:06 pm - @ScheckTwit writes on Twitter: all of this slumdog love is so that hollywood can film cheap in India, and so that indians start going to the movies. pokerstars is rigged

8:07 pm - Departures wins Best Foreign Language Film. "Haki haki I'll be back!" declares its director. Tranlation= Hollywood sez: "Japan, we want your money!"

8:12 pm - Applause surges for Michael Crichton, Harold Pinter, Roy Scheider, Isaac Hayes, Stan Winston, Anthony Minghelladuring Queen Latifah's dead people montage. Cheers for Sydney Pollack and Paul Newman.

8:16 pm - Only Director, Actor, Actress and Picture left to give away.

8:19 pm - "Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon." I bet she likes the way that sounds.
She wears an odd blue and black dress and presents Best Director. Danny Boyle wins, naturally.

8:27pm - Shirley MacLaine gets Anne Hathaway all verklempt. French chick who won last year introduces Kate Winslet with a fawning tribute. Halle Berry attempts to relate to Melissa Leo via their common thread of being nominated for indie films (?) Oh God, Sophia Loren looks like a hot mess paying tribute to Meryl Streep in the beige version of Molly Ringwald's prom dress from Pretty in Pink! And Nicole Kidman is ever the ice princess in a gleaming silver gown adorned in crystals and feathers as she fetes nominee Angelina Jolie.

8:32 pm - And the Oscar goes to...the heavily favored Kate Winslet. Thankfully, she does not lose her shit like she did on the Golden Globes. Winslet gives a classy, prepared speech her voice shaking with emotion. She gives props to her agent Hylda Queally, husband Sam Mendes and the late great Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack.

8:38 pm - Good Botox on Michael Douglas. The sunshine in his Bermudan tax shelter home is working wonders. He introduces Best Actor nominee Frank Langella, followed by Robert DeNiro doing the same for Sean Penn (paparazzi joke= check). Adrien Brody practically chokes up over Richard Jenkins (whom I agree, does deserve to get recognized. The man kicks ass in every film he's in). Anthony Hopkins looks tan and fresh off the South Beach diet paying tribute to Brad Pitt, and Ben Kingsley, immaculately sharp in his black tuxedo and white silk tie intros Mickey Rourke.

8:42 pm - And the Oscar goes to...Sean Penn! NOT Mickey Rourke. Pauly pumps fist, having won a 4-1 bet.

"You Commie homo-loving sons of guns!" exclaimed Penn as he took the podium.

What can I say. Hollywood loves the gays. Hollywood wants the gays to marry. This could be good for that.

Penn also gave props to the resurgent Mickey Rourke before leaving the stage.

8:47 pm - Jackman brings out Spielberg. Best Picture, finally.

8:52 pm - There's an actual drumroll as Steven Spielberg reads off Slumdog Millionaire as this year's Best Picture winner. All the little Indian kids get to go onstage and look adorable and pathetic. On the other side of the world, Mumbai explodes with celebration much like it did at the end of the film itself.

Hollywood sez: "India, please invest in our films."

8:55 pm -Telecast runs over by 25 minutes. Hugh Jackman bids us goodnight. The Indians celebrate. And the brownie has all but worn off. Well, maybe not worn off, but I'm certainly on the way down.

Thanks for tuning in. I'm going to pass out in front of the Barbara Walters special now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

American Idol Wednesdays: Grace and Gokey Lead Top 36 Opening Session

The first 12 lambs of the 36 remaining in the American Idol Season 8 flock were led to the slaughter in front of 25 million or so viewers last night with a two-hour performance show. While I went for a bowl of pork and white bean soup, Pauly elected to injest an entire double-strength cannabis brownie for dinner, and by the time show opener Jackie Tohn took the stage, he had offered his own personal "thumbs up/thumbs down" rating services in between fits of laughter induced by his discovery, only 15 minutes prior, of

If there is one cardinal rule when it comes to song choice on American Idol that the judges have tried to ram down contestants' throats over the last seven seasons it's this: Girls, don't do Whitney. Guys, don't do Michael. It never works out for anyone. Put more broadly-- don't attempt the big iconic songs when you know your voice just can't handle it. This piece of advice was roundly ignored by this crop of contestants and most of them flamed out spectacularly as they tried on tunes too big for their karaoke-quality voices. However, two singers rose to the top of this field and did so by proving that not only could they handle the big songs, but they could slaythem.

Jackie Tohn - "A Little Less Conversation"

I was totally disappointed in Jackie's schtick-laden, hammy performance when I was expecting some Janis Joplin-meets-Susan Tedeschi soul singing. And what the fuck was going on with that outfit? The corset looked like it was nicked from the wardrobe department of a college production of Grease, and who in their right mind decides that, yeah, shiny black lycra leggings and high-top sneakers will look totally sexy.As for the judges, Randy and Kara thought she really worked the stage and showed us who she is as an artist (seriously?). Paula mumbled something incoherent about falling in love with her, and Simon bluntly went where the others wouldn't, declaring that she blew a good opportunity "by doing something silly rather than doing something good."

"Needs to show more cleavage" said Pauly, but he gave her the thumbs-up anyway. "She could play a lounge at Mandalay Bay. "

Ricky Braddy - "A Song for You"

This guy must have completely slipped by me, because I couldn't remember this North Carolina chicken shack waiter at all from Hollywood Week. Braddy went for a sleepy ballad that showed off his voice but didn't necessarily showcase him as a well-defined artist. Upon hearing the falsetto runs at the end, Pauly gave it a definitive thumbs-down. Sure it was a solid vocal, but will I remember it in 15 minutes, let alone tomorrow? (Answer: no, not really) Kara, Paula and Randy jizzed all over it, proclaming his performance "effortless" and "brilliant" but Simon criticized his lack of star quality (ding ding ding!).

"You're a nice, shy guy with a very good voice." But not a pop star. Next!

Alexis Grace - "Never Loved a Man"

Well, now. Here we go. Everyone's favorite Mormon mom decided to sing Aretha's blues and man did she ever. Grace exectued the song's vocal acrobatics and scat sections with ease and exuded soulful confidence onstage. Even Pauly gave her the thumbs up. While I think she's a shoo-in to advance to the Top 12, I'm less sure about this whole "dirtied up" look she's trying on for the show. I mean, the pink streak in the hair, the red lips, the black slipdress, the costumey long knotted pearls? It all seems a bit misplaced on this delicate little blonde girl with porcelain skin and I'm not sure what message she's trying to send with it.

Brent Keith - "Hick Town"

Hello Mr. Hardworking Struggling Midwesterner trying to make good and earn some money for his family. I bet you have a lot of friends back home that are going to be dialing those phones for you. However, I couldn't hear the actual redneck lyrics to this redneck song, as Pauly spent the duration of Keith's performance singing his own improvised set of redneck-themed lyrics, which detailed his Daddy's trip to county lockup for cooking meth in his trailer.

"I don't think you're going to have any impact with that song whatsoever,"was Simon Cowell's apt assessment of the performance. Our boy went too safe here and it's just not going to cut it when it comes to standing out in this crowd.

Stevie Wright - "You Belong with Me"

Dead in the water from the off-key intro, this will unfortunately mark the end for 17-year old Stevie in the music industry and I'm pretty sure she knew it about halfway through her performance. She had good intentions with selecting a contemporary song by someone her age (Taylor Swift), but her choice not only exposed just how weak her voice was compared to her peers, but showed us no sign whatsoever of the Stevie that nailed "At Last" to the wall back at her initial audition.

"Stevie it was terrible... you looked nervous, out of your depth... there is zero chance of you making it through to the next round after that" said Simon. Ouch. You really can't do much worse than bomb in front of 25 million people during the audition of your life.

Anoop Desai - "Angel of Mine"

Pauly gave Anoop-Dawg's performance a reluctant thumbs up. "Just because I loved him in Slumdog Millionaire." Anoop turned in what was in my opinion, the best male vocal of the night, but my god what a boring-ass song choice! This round is all about standing out from the crowd and picking a mediocre Monica song was the wrong move, especially for a guy who does have the chops to tackle something huge. Based on the vocal, I hope he goes through, but I think the redneck robodialers that are behind guys like Michael Sarver are going to give him a run for his money when it comes to getting votes. Even if he does miss the cut this week, he's a strong contender for the wild card round.

Casey Carlson - "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic"

Pauly gave Carly bonus points for picking the Police, "But too bad it sounds like she's fuckin' singing at a fuckin' high school dance, like when the nerd is about to hook up with the hot chick."

This was total cruise ship karaoke crapola for me. I mean, this was one of the most epically bad song choices ever made by a contestant on American Idol when you really think about it. Alas, the judges had such high hopes for Casey because "she's such a package artist" (read: a really hot girl who can sing), but she pretty much dug her own grave on this one. This drivel was barely good enough for the retirees sipping their margaritas on the Sapphire Princess' Lanai deck. The cutesy faces, the winking... it was just utterly tragic. Score one for the talented ugly people-- the other bikini girl is toast!

Michael Sarver - "I Don't Wanna Be"

Pauly: "I guess this guy could play a fraternity party."

Michael Sarver's Gavin deGraw cover was nothing better than a standard bar band treatment of the song. Sorry oil rig guy. I know you wanted Idol to be your bailout, but after that forgettable performance you're really going to have to hope that the entire state of Oklahoma dialed their ass off for you last night. Remember, kids. It's not just enough to sing it well anymore. That might have worked in Season 2 or 3, but now you're expected to "put your stamp on the song" and he did nothing of the sort here. However... if there's one guy not named Danny Gokey in this group that is going to get the sympathy vote for being a nice guy down on his luck, it's Sarver.

Anne Marie Boskovich - "Natural Woman"

Boskovich went for the song that Kelly Clarkson broke out with back in Season 1 but in this performance, she sounded like she was straining the entire time. Once again, it's just a simple case of a contestant picking a song too big for her voice. Instead of providing her with a breakout moment, on her, the song just didn't fit and she came off like a good wedding singer rather than a future pop superstar. Props for attempting to stand out, but overestimating the strength of her own voice sealed Boskovich's exit from the Idol stage.

(It's also worth noting that at this point, Pauly gave up and decided to watch Apolcalypse Now in the other room. )

Stephen Fowler "Rock With You"

Fowler got in one good high note (though he cracked on it) but everything else about this performance was ordinary and forgettable. I don't see America giving him a third chance after the second chance in Hollywood when he forgot his lyrics at the piano. This was a bad arrangement, an awful song choice...and he blew it. He blew it spectacularly. Damn these two-hour episodes are long. Next!

Tatiana Del Toro - "Saving All My Love for You"

Even doing Whitney, whom you're NOT SUPPOSED TO DO, Tatiana almost got there with the vocal. Almost. But let's get real here. Tatiana is bat shit crazy. She's not going to the Top 12. She's here because she's nuts and got a lot of attention. The vocal was OK, but the whole "desperate to be famous" thing that Simon aptly recognized (um, remember kids, she did bring her demo tape to the initial audition)just mucks up the whole package and makes it impossible for me to see here as a legitimate artist. Who is this girl? Do we really want to watch her fly the freak flag high and proud again? Didn't think so.

Danny Gokey - "Hero"

I believe that Danny Gokey could have showed up last night and taken a shit onstage and he would have been voted through. I mean, the guy's 28 and his wife is dead...he's going to make the Top 12 because America loves a good sob story. This was a safe, even predictable choice for Danny to take on in the first round. The bridge and a strong finish on this one (along with the show-closing slot) coupled with his sympathetic background will probably be more than enough to send him through to the next round. Don't get me wrong-- I didn't think he sucked or anything. It was just safe, and it's really the failure of his peers that ensured his spot in the Top 12.

My predictions as to who will advance:
Danny Gokey, Alexis Grace, and I think it's a tossup between Michael Sarver and Anoop-Dawg.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Unexpected Domesticity

Each day starts nearly the same. I wake up in my own bed. Most of the time Pauly is already awake and writing at the dining room table. I make coffee. I drink the coffee while checking my email. I either go to the gym or at least seriously consider it. I finish off my freelance work in the morning. I do the breakfast dishes and make myself lunch. I eat the lunch and watch the news. I spend my afternoon in the depths of the screenplay I've been trying to write for three years now. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes it's silent. Sometimes the TV plays a movie at a low volume to provide a little white noise. I stop working and start dinner around 6 or 6:30. I try to cook something healthy enough for me and satisfying enough for Pauly. He emerges from the cocoon of his office when I yell that the food is ready. Then we sit together at the dining table and devour our meals. I do the dishes and clean up the kitchen right afterward. Evenings are for TV, movies, trying to beat level 5 on the iGoogle Pac-Man app, and reading. Pauly gets his daily dose of online poker at this time of night. These days I may only fire up a few SNGs a week or play the odd hour of triple draw or Badugi on PokerStars.

In the absence of sitting around airports and living in hotels, I've become downright domestic. Like Mad Men's Betty Draper, I happily cook for my man every night...except without the pearls and high heels. Ilook for recipes. I make grocery lists. And in light of the failing economy I've discontinued the services of the two illegal Mexican immigrants who used to clean my apartment in favor of doing it myself (my, those Swiffer Wet Jets sure make doing the floors easy!)

Here's the really weird thing, though... I sort of enjoy it. Me, who used to let dirty plates pile up for weeks until the Mexicans would come in and make the kitchen sanitary and livable again. Me, who used to eat take-out three meals a day. Me, who cringes at the mere mention of a wedding registry yet now finds herself coveting new cookware.

I've caught a few episodes of the Gordon Ramsay show The F-Word on BBC America over the past week or so and in it he does a somewhat controversial segment aimed at getting women back in the kitchen-- not in the sense of getting them out of the workplace and back in the kitchen like it's Leave it to Beaver or something, but getting women who never learned to cook for whatever reason, or women who had bad cooking experiences back behind a stove in order to conquer that fear. On the show they presented the statistic that in 1963 the typical American woman spent, on average, 13 hours a week in the kitchen preparing meals. These days that number has dropped to 5.9-- still plenty of time to prepare a week's worth of food-- but only a shocking 11% actually plan the meals ahead of time. Figure in the fact that eating home-cooked food is far healthier and all the people who never cook for themselves and wow, no wonder the whole country is overweight and unhealthy. But I digress.

Women, men-- no one should be afraid of the kitchen. Seriously, anyone can learn to cook. I was 22 years old before I knew how to pan-fry a chicken breast. When I was in college, I set my toaster oven on fire trying to make grilled cheese. But after watching a few episodes of Emeril Live on the Food Network and learning some simple techniques from my mother, I was cooking food that most of the time, was damn near restaurant quality. During my years as a D-girl, though, I hardly ever had the energy or motivation to cook just for myself. I'd pull out the stops on special occasions and holidays, but my typical weeknight grub was a box of take-out sushi.

With Pauly living here now and our efforts to eat more healthily than the piles of grease we typically injest on the road, I've caught the culinary bug again. I like cooking. For me, there's nothing more zen than chopping ingredients and pulling together the whole mise-en-poise. I made my own chicken stock a few days ago and made a velvety poached whole chicken in the process. Yummmo. The only difficulty I find is in concocting something we'll both enjoy. We both like bold, spicy flavors but he bristles at the presence of any vegetables whatsoever. And when it comes to foodstuffs like beans, lentils, polenta, quinoa, and almost any type of seafood-- they too shall never pass his lips.

Rain woke me up this morning. Slamming against the window that runs nearly the length of our bedroom. I put the heat on and made coffee. Pauly came home from the diner and sat down in the living room to pack a bowl. He'd slipped off to Nick's before I woke up so he could eat the greasy breakfasts he so enjoys without making me feel bad about looking at plates of delicious food I shouldn't eat. We talked about politics and the end of the world before he slipped off into his office to write and I sat up a little straighter and started pecking at the keys.

Six hours before I start dinner. I think it's a turkey chili night.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

American Idol: Exit the Ringer, Enter the Freaks

Choose me! Love me!

It appears that the jig is up for Season 8 ringer Joanna Pacitti. Within hours of last night's episode in which the Top 36 contestants were revealed, FOX issued a press release stating that it had "been determined that Joanna Pacitti is ineligible to continue in the competition" and that Felicia Barton would be taking her place. Though the network had been extremely upfront about Pacitti's past as a recording artist on A&M/Geffen, they were far more reticent about the her friendship with 19 Entertainment executive Roger Widynowski, who serves as VP of Music and TV Publicity. Once this information was leaked, FOX was forced to disqualify her "to avoid any appearance of impropriety."

Pacitti's rough road in the entertainment industry just got a whole lot worse. While I still believe that she doesn't belong in the competition, this poor girl was just dragged through the ringer of auditioning (or being planted to "audition") for Idol after being dropped by her label, mucking through Hollywood Week (where she seemed to forget more lyrics than she remembered) accepted into the Top 36, and then given the immediate boot once the media had caught on to too much of the story. Ringer or not, Pacitti is a talented girl whom at every turn throughout her 12 years in the business, be it on a Broadway stage or a label marketing meeting, has been told she isn't good enough. I really don't know how many more career blows one person can handle.

Joanna Pacitti may be out, but Nick Mitchell is in... as his alter ego Norman Gentle. Though Simon Cowell clearly disagreed with what has to be some sort of ratings ploy designed to create this year's Sanjaya Malakar, the others officially got behind a guy dressed up in khaki shorts, a lame shirt, a terry-cloth headband and your high school physics teacher's eyeglasses. While I was entertained by Norman's on-his-knees versions of "I am Telling You I'm Not Going" and "Georgia on my Mind," and appreciate Mitchell's audacity in terms of getting his shtick in front of 30 million pairs of eyes, I think his antics will fall embarrassingly flat when we get down to the performance shows. This is still a singing competition, after all.

One thing is for sure-- those freaks over at Vote for the Worst have got to be jizzing in their pants this morning with Norman Gentle, psycho crazypants Tatiana del Toro (above), and weepy emo fag Nathaniel Marshall (o rly, ur druggie momz in jail?) all advancing.

Here's who made it to the Top 36 and will perform in groups of 12 over the next three weeks:

Chicks: Alexis Grace, Allison Iraheta, Ann Marie Boskovich, Arianna Afsar, Casey Carlson, Felicia Barton, Jackie Tohn, Jasmine Murray, Jeanine Vailes, Jessie Langseth, Kendall Beard, Kristen McNamara, Lil Rounds, Megan Corkrey, Mishavonna Henson, Stevie Wright, Tatiana Del Toro and Taylor Vaifanua.

Dudes: Adam Lambert, Alexander Wagner-Trugman, Anoop Desai, Brent Keith, Danny Gokey, Jorge Nunez, Ju'Not Joyner, Kai Kalama, Kris Allen, Matt Breitzke, Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver, Nathaniel Marshall, Nick Mitchell, Ricky Braddy, Scott Macintyre, Stephen Fowler and Von Smith

Among the girls I'm a fan of Jackie Tohn, Megan Corkery and Stevie Wright. With the boys I'm rooting for Anoop-Dogg, Danny Gokey, and the oil rig roughneck guy.

Performances start next week. Who will tank? Who will become an instant iTunes sensation? And what will Ryan Seacrest wear-- the tight graphic T-shirt with a blazer or... the tight graphic T-shirt with the blazer? I'll be waiting with bated breath.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

American Idol: Where's the Music, Man?

"Norman Gentle" moments before receiving his golden ticket

Idol was so bad this week I didn't even want to recap it.

The only thing I remotely enjoyed about last week's duo of episodes was watching "Bikini Girl" Katrina Darrell finally get the heave-ho. Because if she got one more nanosecond of camera time I was going to have to launch into one of my rants about skanks like her being atrocious role models for the millions of teenage girls that tune in every week-- showing young women that the best way to get noticed is to parade around practically naked, force a (probably gay) man to make out with you on-camera, and blow off your detractors with bullshit rationalizations like "girls are haters" and "they're just jealous."

Life on the pole isn't that bad, Katrina. You can still make some good money for a few years before gravity takes hold and you'll be relegated to the afternoon shift. Just don't get into meth.

I'm really disappointed to say it since I'm obviously a fan of the show, but the truth is, Idol has been bad so far this season. Really bad. A once and future stripper with a mediocre voice, a contestant who has already had an album chart on Billboard and the presence of comedian Nick Mitchell and his bespectacled alter ego "Norman Gentle" in Hollywood Week have been the major stories so far. Not the talent. And when they do get around to, you know, actually showcasing some voices, it's been less about how the contestants are singing and more about their tragedy-laced backgrounds.

I just want to hear some music, dammit. Is that really too much to ask for between all the product placements?

So who got the boot this week as half of our 150 Hollywood hopefuls were sent packing? After auditioning with a searing rendition of "Barracuda," Emily Wynne-Hughes went 0 for 2 in Tinseltown, botching a No Doubt song and blanking on her lyrics during her group performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Jessica Furney arrived at the Kodak Theatre looking much as she did at her audition in Kansas and barely got a lick of airtime before being cut in the first round, despite turning out one of the best initial auditions of the whole bunch. Told ya she'd need the glamazon makeover to survive despite her Kelly Clarkson-esque vocal chops. And poor little orphan Rose Flack was cut after forgetting her lyrics during the group number. Oh well, see you on Phish tour, Rose!

This week, the 75 remaining Idols are whittled down to the Top 36 which will advance to the performance shows. That list has been leaked all over the internet, and of course, contains more than a few surprises.

Until then...

Monday, February 02, 2009

February Truckin'

The new issue of Truckin' is out and it's a good one, guys. This month features the inimitable Johnny Hughes, a hilarious debut from Aussie ex-pat poker pro Jonny Vincent, Betty Underground brings the sexy back and my beloved has penned not one, but two pieces for you all to enjoy. (One of them is about pancakes, a stack of which I would love to devour right about now, especially those of the chocolate chip variety, but I digress) Check it out, spread the word, and if you like what you read, drop the writers a line.

Truckin' - January 2008, Vol. 8, Issue 2

1. Kitchen Table by Paul McGuire
That's cool. You're a chick. And chicks are supposed to like sappy shit like Coldplay. I need something that I can play air guitar to. Not 'insert and remove tampons from my ass' kinda music... More

2. A Proper Bow-Tie by Betty Underground
I lay out the pieces of his tuxedo, he finishes the primping process. Gathering the necessary toiletries strewn across the bathroom floor one by one, as he needs them. The hair dryer goes off. I run my fingers through his dried, loose, locks and secure them in the back in a short ponytail while he tones, moisturizes and brushes. In that order... More

3. Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Joe Ely, and the Cotton Club by Johnny Hughes
Elvis bragged about his sexual conquests, using language you didn't hear around women. He said he'd been a truck driver six months earlier. Now he could have a new woman in each town. He told a story about being caught having sex in his back seat. An angry husband grabbed his wife by the ankles and pulled her out from under Elvis. I doubted that... More

4. First Impressions: Buenos Aires by Jonny Vincent
I tell him I'm from the Future, from the 21st century where people are used to paying for goods and services with this futuristic method of payment called credit cards. I apologise yet again and claim full responsibility for my own lack of research into his quaint and backwards and medieval system. I tell him I have no gold, no jewels, no currency and nothing to barter in exchange for the consumed food except these futuristic and useless credit cards... More

5. Pancakes by Paul McGuire
I just have to tell people the pancakes story and it perfectly explained Sabine. I sat through her bizarre routine every day for a year as she slipped into a trance and maniacally prepared her pancakes. She cared more about the pancakes than her own art. More than herself. Heck, more than me... More