Friday, July 30, 2010

Project Runway

Project Runway is back (oddly enough, without much fanfare from Lifetime.) The luminous, stern, and impish Heidi Klum is back. The dapper, unflappable Tim Gunn is back. The often delightfully acerbic (and sometimes downright, deliciously catty) Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are back as well (along with a parade of celebrities filling the fourth judges' chair for reasons that continue to elude me.)

And there are another 17 aspiring designers jockeying to win a place showing their collections at New York's fashion week have joined the party.

After a couple of decidedly lackluster seasons, Runway has a ways to go to capture the manic, creatively charged energy of the earlier seasons. None of the designers stood out as particularly interesting at first blush but it takes the producers and editors a few weeks to shape storylines and character arcs so that may change.

The erstwhile companion show, Models of the Runway, has been mercifully put out of its misery (it was a lackluster business that was less than interesting) and Runway runs for 90 minutes now (first run on Thursday nights.)

I still don't care about fashion (I have closet full of jeans, sneakers, and super-hero t-shirts) but I like to see creative people being creative...hopefully that feeling, which the earlier seasons offered up in spades, will come back this season. As Mr. Gunn will say, often, "make it work".

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summertime Jams #9: I Love L.A.

Randy Newman cruising the highways and bi-ways of the grand sprawl of Los Angeles (I haven't lived there in years but I really loved growing up in the eclectic glory of L.A. :-)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summertime Jams #8: Our Lips Are Sealed

The Go-Go's...exuberant, wonderful, rockin', full of pure pop deliciousness with Jane's pixie charm and Belinda chubby-cheeked and cute as a button...bringing the summertime jam love with the ever delightful "Our Lips Are Sealed":

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green Lantern

Entertainment Weekly, showcasing the Hollywood elements of next week's San Diego Comic-Con (nope, not going...already sold out...too many people (with no parking and overpriced concessions)...too much Hollywood hype and hoopla...many less annoying things to do here in our fair city) with Ryan Reynolds all ringed up and ready to use his might as Green Lantern in the upcoming movie.

First impression is that it's okay (the mask is kinda funky but it's hard to make a mask like that work on real people however cool they might look in the comics)...I'll have to see it more fully...and in action...before I give my full fanboy pontification on it :-)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Corn Flakes with John Lennon

Music is part of me…it breathes through me…it walks with me even when I don’t consciously notice it. I don’t make music (you would not want to hear me sing :-) but it is a part of me just the same. It is, of course, the music itself…Bach or the Beatles, Coltrane or Miles or Emmylou, the Duke, the Queen, the Godfather, the King, Citizen Bob or P.E. or whomever…that informs, delights, and satisfies my soul.

That said, there are three people whose love of music helped inspire my own love of same. Two I never met, one I love more than anyone else on this planet.

The first was my mother…humming along with Johnny Mathis or the Beach Boys or Motown or whoever caught her ear and her fancy…surrounded herself with music as far back as I can remember…and, in turn, that music surrounded and comforted and thrilled me.

The second was Casey Kasem, whose warmth, sentimental dedications, fascinating trivia, and mellifluous voice kept me fine company on many a weekend hour as he counted down the American Top 40 (and I, dutifully and happily, copied the list down and kept careful track of the movement of the biggest hits of 70’s and 80’s.

And the third was Robert Hilburn, the chief rock critic of the Los Angeles Times. I read his reviews and essays and interviews with rapture and I came to find our tastes to be so similar that I sometimes bought records just because he raved about them…he never let me down. I even sent him a couple of embarrassing (now not then) fanboy letters, all of which he graciously replied to with handwritten postcards that are still among the childhood treasures I have stored in box in my mother’s house.

Hilburn’s engaging memoir, Corn Flakes with John Lennon, is a fascinating...sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always interesting... journey through his journey through rock and roll and all of the amazing people…Elvis, Bono (who wrote the affectionate introduction), Janis, Stevie, Bruce, Michael, John and Yoko, so many others…he knew, interviewed, admired, and loved.

It’s beautifully written (the man has always had an uncanny way with words, deftly riding the line between hardnosed critic and unabashed fan and drawing us into the experience in a way that made us feel like we were his pals and he was letting us into the worlds of his heroes) and wonderfully charming and thoroughly involving.

It’s a grand ride.

Thanks again, Bob.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Summertime Jams #6: Pull Shapes

Some summertime jammin' girl group grooviness...The Pipettes with the unstoppably infectious "Pull Shapes" (there's a cool retro video that cannot be embedded from YouTube...see it here)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Sellout

Don't call it a comeback (unless you're talking about the lush, soaring, defiant closing track by that name)...the irrepressible Ms. Macy Gray never really went anywhere (even if it has been 3 years since she dropped her last disc)...but this disc feels like a return to form just the same. Gray has never managed to catch the magic of her wonderful break though, On How Life Is, but that doesn't mean she hasn't put out some compelling music in the years since that great debut disc.

The Sellout isn't quite in the same league as Life but, that said, it is fierce, funny, engaging, and rock solid from beginning to end. There is a positive vibe throughout...even when she's decrying wayward lovers or haters who don't understand her...and it definitely keeps your head nodding and your feet tapping.

From the joyful sunshine of "Beauty in the World" (see below) to the sexy, irresistable thump of "Kissed It"...from the clever word play of the infectious title track to the aching blues of the grand "Still Hurts"...from the acoustic mid-tempo lilt of the plaintive "Let You Win"...from the in-the-pocket funk of "Stalker" to Macy's magnificent rasp of a voice is in fine form and the grooves around her are uniformly tight and engaging (the groove...including a great breakdown in the middle...of the sassy girl group romp "That Man" is so cool I just had to smile all the way through.)

Gray and Brown (Macy and Bobby) come together for a downright golden old school R&B duet on "Real Love" (Bobby Brown's voice blends right nicely with Ms. Gray's.)

Bottom line is that The Sellout is a winner that will be spending a lot of time booming out of my stereo this summer (and for a long time after that.)

2010 Emmy Nominations

Glee is the belle of the 2010 Emmy ball with 19 nominations. Acting nods went to lead actor Matthew Morrison (as the dedicated glee club teacher Will Schuester...see above), lead actress Lea Michele (as the talented but sometimes annoying Rachel Berry), supporting actor Chris Colfer (as the stylish and proud gay character Kurt), and supporting actress the inimitable Jane Lynch (as they relentless force of nature that is Coach Sue Sylvester...see also above.)

They also scored in the guest actor categories with nods to the wondrous Kristin Chenoweth (as the hard-living April Rhodes), Neil Patrick Harris (as Will's disillusioned rival Bryan Ryan), and Mike O'Malley (for his evocative appearances as Kurt's conflicted but unflaggingly supportive blue collar dad.)

The show picked up nominations as Best Comedy series (it's more of a comedy-drama but there's no category for that), writing, directing, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Mad Men scooped up 17 nominations, Conan O'Brien was nominated and Jay Leno was not, and Lost was given some love as it went out the door.

Modern Family and Nurse Jackie picked up nods for Best Comedy Series (though Nurse Jackie isn't really a comedy...but I guess they didn't know what to do with it...and voter inertia led to nominations for The Office and 30 Rock, both of which had uneven seasons, over perhaps more deserving nominees...and fellow NBC Thursday night compatriots... sterling sophomore Parks & Recreation and perky newcomer Community.)

None of it really matters...nobody remembers who wins these things...but it gives the Hollywood folks yet another reason to dress up and pat themselves on the back so it's all good I guess.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Deadliest Catch

There is, as we all know, precious little that's real in "reality" television. Well unless one thinks that there is something real about the drunken/promiscuous antics on The Real World or Jersey Shore...unless one thinks that the legion of vapid ciphers/fame whores who preen through their staged and yet still remarkably empty-headed lives on "super-new" episodes of the dozens (well it seems that way anyhow) of E! shows really merit attention...or unless one thinks that putting the word "real" in the titles of the apparently endless iterations of the Real Housewives franchise lends any kind of merit to the titular characters (some of whom are not married...and none of whom actually seem to run homes, you know like real "Real housewives" do...)

Obviously there is some voyeuristic charge to watching these shows...they wouldn't be multiplying like rabbits if people weren't watching them...but they seem more sad and desperate than entertaining to me. Still and all, "reality" shoes have become the backbone of the summer TV season during recent years.

Even some of the better ones (I'm excluding competition shows like American Idol or Hell's Kitchen from this discussion...they are more in the talent show/game show genre than in the reality TV world)...the ones which follow people doing real jobs (Ice Road Truckers or Ace of Cakes for example) are often blatantly staged and heavily edited with an eye towards crafting "story lines" and creating "characters". I get that, it's television and even cool jobs are boring for long stretches of time and so wouldn't hold viewers' attention.

But, that said, there has always been an engaging, sometimes harrowing, realness to the exploits of the hardworking, hard-living crab fishermen who risk life and limb in the frigid, roiling Bering Sea to pull in their shares of million dollar hauls of crab. There are characters and storylines and the presence of cameras does, as a matter of course, distort the "reality"...but nevertheless Discovery's Deadliest Catch is often as compelling as TV..."reality" or not...gets.

Especially this season as the tragic story of one of the series' most interesting and likable people, the salty and complex Captain Phil Harris (see above, far left), plays out. Knowing the end of Captain Phil's "storyline" adds to...rather than detracts from...the poignancy of his appearances (and those of his sons...and crewmates...Josh and Jake.) Phil's story is part of a rich mosaic of stories of the Captains and crews of the crab fishing boats as they battle the weather, fatigue, and sometimes frustratingly elusive crab.

Deadliest Catch continues to be one of the most eminently watchable and utterly fascinating shows on the tube...and in this dreary television season when even usually reliable summer fare like Top Chef is laboring through a thus far disappointing run, that's a small wonder to be treasured.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Summertime Jams #5: Tell Me You Love Me

What would summer be without a silky smooth R&B jam to sway to...while in the arms of somebody you're totally into...on a balmy July night? Not much. Ladies and gentlemen, the fierce and beautiful Ms. Leela James with the undeniably soulful "Tell Me You Love Me" from her new CD My Soul. Yeah, you're welcome :-)

Friday, July 02, 2010

Wonder Woman

DC Comics' amazing Amazon, Wonder Woman, gets a new modern look...well, if by "modern" you mean the Eighties (tights and a jacket with rolled-up sleeves? Really?) But hey at least Diana isn't fighting monsters and criminals in a bathing suit anymore...