Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Juno Situation

Juno at first seemed to me like one of those "either/or"-either you love it or you don't-especially after the film's multiple Oscar nominations divided folks into two camps,one pro-Juno and the other hating it with the fury of a thousand hot suns. The backlash grew even stronger after screenwriter Diablo Cody snagged a Best Original Screenplay award for her debut script.

I really wanted to like this movie;it has such a wonderful cast with Ellen Page,Michael Cera,Jason Bateman,J.K. Simmons,Allison Janney and Jennifer Garner(who I don't blame for Elektra being such a clunker). Not to mention that I do enjoy stories with quirky female leads who can crack wise and sprout off pop culture riffs as easily as chewing gum. So,I decided to give Juno a fair chance and kept my mind open as I watched the film.

What I ultimately took away from Juno was a sense that the actors gave more emotional input into the plot and the characterization than the screenplay provided for them. The director did a good job of setting the tone and the pace of the plot but the strength of Juno lies within it's cast,especially Ellen Page. Juno Macguff is pretty damn hard to warm up and yet not that hard to figure out;she uses her wit and seemingly above it all attitude to cover up her emotional insecurities that stem from her mother's abandonment of her.

Juno's dad and stepmother are reluctantly supportive of her unexpected pregnancy and do seem to care about her,even if they appear to be rather laid back about it. Both parents do display some fierce protectiveness at times(such as stepmom Bren telling off a judgmental ultrasound tech)and offset the anxious natures of expectant adoptive parents Mark and Vanessa,who seem just as overwhelmed by Juno as her own family is:

While all of them are overwhelmed,I kept feeling very underwhelmed by the whole movie. Perhaps it was due to the hype or the mass hatred that rose my expectations but the thought that ran thru my head during most of this film was "I've seen this situation done better on Gilmore Girls."

Comparing Juno to Gilmore Girls is fair,both have strong snappy talking gals who were attracted to weak guys and had to deal with being pregnant at sixteen. I even watched the GG Season three episode,"Dear Richard and Emily" on DVD,that has Lorelai's backstory in flashback and it holds a lot more realistic water than certain scenes in Juno to me.

Here's a side by side look(so to speak)that may illustrate my point better:




Since Juno and Gilmore Girls both have excellent actors,the lack of nuance in Juno is solely in the writing and I do have to say that I've been reading Diablo Cody's semi regular EW essays in the back of the magazine and have been less than impressed.

I didn't want to judge the movie based on that and yet,another line from Gilmore Girls haunts me;it's during an argument between Rory and Lorelai where Rory says to her"You can't just say a normal sentence,right? Like,you can't just say "Hey,let's talk",that would be too boring for you." That pretty much applies to most of the dialogue in Juno.

Some of the better scenes in the movie are nonverbal,such as when Juno and Vanessa run into each other at the mall and their eyes express all their hopes and dreams for the baby or when Juno breaks down and cries by the side of the road after a visit gone wrong with Mark and Vanessa.

To wrap this up,my ultimate impression of Juno is that it's a good movie,just not a great one. In many ways,it was promoted as the chick version of Napoleon Dynamite(a damn annoying movie)and at least it wasn't as cartoony in it's humor or depiction of offbeat teens.

Two small complaints before I go-while I can take the "honest to blog" line and the "Thundercats are GO!",I can not buy Juno's dad saying "You look a little morose,honey." While it's part of a very nice scene between Juno and her father,the use of the word morose just breaks the reality of it for me. Morose is not a word that any one of any background just drops into conversation and expects to be taken seriously.

Also,all of those Moldy Peaches tunes on the soundtrack made me want to scream "Silenco,old man!" I find it hard to believe that a sixteen year old girl who is into Dario Argento films and Iggy Pop would have this meandering treacle play as the background music to her life. Then again,my taste in music and on screen sass are rather old school:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Attack of the cutesy robots on film

The big talk around the summer movie campfire this weekend is all about Wall-E,Pixar's new computer animated film about the last robot on Earth who finds a friend in the form of a research probe that's lost its way(pretty meta there,if you think about it).

While Wall-E's been getting rave reviews so far(and will no doubt haul in a tidy little sum at the box office)and is probably a good film,let's not forget that this whole genre of "robots being as human as us,in a nice way" is not a radical new concept here.

Remember Short Circuit,folks? That quirky little comedy from the '80s that had Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy trying to protect Johnny Number 5,a robot meant for military use,from the clutches of the government? That movie did so well,it even had a sequel(without Guttenberg and Sheedy,of course). People just couldn't get enough of that goofy hunk of junk and the robot was a fun character,too.

Most of the best scenes from Short Circuit were the fish out of water adapting all too well by example into the human world(the mold for such hijinks being set by E.T.)like Ally Sheedy booging down in her living room,thanks to Saturday Night Fever being on TV and Johnny No.5 being a quick learner:

Short Circuit received some praise and a few jeers from critics but audiences took to it well enough. You could argue that that having the theme song sung by El Debarge was a help or a hindrance there:

There are plenty of examples of the cutesy robot film going haywire but some of the
clunkers are rather interesting failures. It's hard to find a copy of Heartbeeps these days but I'm sure that someone will try to revive it on DVD at some point.

Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters play a couple of outdated robo-servants who fall in love and run off together to create their own little family out of spare parts. As is the case in these movies,the humans in charge won't allow that and attempt to hunt them down,with the aid of a robot crime enforcer. The movie was deemed a major flop but there's a bit of a cult film following for it:

I haven't seen this movie in years and in thinking about it now,I'm wondering"What ever happened to Ann Magnuson?" She was so cool as the ad agency gal who is assigned to work up a PR campaign for John Malkovich's robot double in Making Mr. Right,I totally wanted to be her.

Making Mr. Right is a bit more adult in it's subject matter but done charmingly well and it's a truly sweet romantic comedy,with an unusual happy ending to say the least. Folks credit Malkovich with innovative performances for flicks like Being John Malkovich and In The Line of Fire(to name a few)but the seeds for those future great roles were planted in movies like this:

The cutest robots of all time made only one official movie together but they sat thru more than their share of godawful ones. Hands down,Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot of Mystery Science Theater 3000(I liked Gypsy,too) gave many film critics a run for their money and matched their human counterparts for great movie mockery moments.

So,Wall-E may make a big splash on his first big weekend at the multiplex,he has a lot to live up to and is in good company. To close this out,let's look at Tom Servo and Crow at the movies:





Thursday, June 26, 2008

The two left standing in Hell's Kitchen,Design Star does some ghost busting and where to find some George Carlin tributes on TV

Christina made a good start during the Final Three challenge on Hell's Kitchen this week. The chefs had a meal specially prepared for them and their family members by Ramsey and were supposed to recreate the dish by taste.

Corey aced the sweet taste in the sauce but alas,she used the wrong meat(bison-it was venison). Petrozza came up short again(he forgot to make a puree),so Christina won yet again and got a sightseeing tour with her folks,plus lunch with Ramsey as a reward.

The hard part was yet to come,as each chef would have to take over the kitchen during dinner service to show Ramsey their leadership skills. To get them ready, he gave each of them a little prep talk:

As is usual for this part of the competition,the sous chefs added some bits of sabotage to test the quality control standards of the competitors.

Christina was the only one to catch on to the mistake given to her(wrong herb in the mashed potatoes) while Corey and Petrozza missed out on theirs(wrong sauce for the meat,Corey,missing ingredient in the risotto,Petrozza). Petrozza also had extra trouble as Christina went thru a bad patch on the fish station:

Despite the hectic nature of the service,things did go well and each of the three had to name someone for elimination. Petrozza picked Christina(mainly due to the problems she had on the fish station)and so did Corey(wow,what a shocker...NOT). Christina chose Corey for her weak leadership skills(Corey did a lousy job running the kitchen)and Ramsey agreed with her.

So,it's Petrozza and Christina going head to head in the finale next week,nice! Who would've thought Hen in a Pumpkin Guy and Newbie Girl would make it this far? It should be quite a showdown,since several former team mates will come back to help the finalists and two of them are Matt and Jen-oh,boy!:

The challenge on Design Star this week was for teams of two to redecorate four living rooms in a historic mansion that was supposed to be haunted,making the designs modern and using items that each person selected from a "yard sale" in the room in a creative way.

Some folks did better than others in incorporating their yard sale piece-Stephanie's pink flamingo stand up became three different items in the room while D. Paul's bow and arrow was a last minute sculpture(he got overwhelmed with a crown molding project).

D. Paul was sent home but Tracee really deserved to leave;she caused nothing but trouble(again!) and didn't even try to do anything with her piece of carnival glass compote dish. :

Kelsey had a great week on The Next Food Network Star as she not only won the opening challenge,which was a demonstration video,but aced the Iron Chef style main challenge which was to make two fish dishes for the local Coast Guard to taste. One of the dishes had to use an unusual item in it,with such choices as cola,white chocolate,fruit flavored cereal and grape jelly.

Kelsey chose white chocolate and she's starting to learn how to tone down her overly excitable personality,which pleased the judges greatly. Lisa also improved herself by letting down her guard after a mishap in the kitchen-good going,Cordy! In the end,Nipa was sent packing due to her giggle fit during her prep video and her abhorrence of seafood that lead to a pair of lackluster plates:


Afraid I'll have to talk about Shear Genius next week since I skipped the season opener to watch another genius at work,the late George Carlin on HBO. Last night,HBO2 showed several of Carlin's early specials for the network and will continue tonight with the rest of his more recent shows. The main HBO channel will broadcast Carlin's final special,"It's Bad For Ya" this Friday night.

For those of you who don't have HBO,don't despair;NBC will be honoring his memory by rebroadcasting Saturday Night Live's 1975 premiere episode that Carlin hosted. He mostly performed about three monologues,which should be fun to revisit,and it's a nice bit of pop culture history to introduce the younger generations to:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two for one deal in the Best Song category: high note or a sour one?

Last week,a new ruling was announced regarding the Best Song category for the Academy Awards;while a film can submit as many of the songs as they want from their soundtrack(that fit the standard requirements),only two will be chosen as the official nominees.

Seems that I'm not the only one who has complained about certain songs being shut out of the competition here and while I applaud the academy for making a fair change in the rules,the question remains as to if this will improve the quality and/or coolness of the songs chosen. Also,is it too little,too late?

Think of all the songs that could've benefited from this ruling sooner, like Borat's anthem to Kazakhstan, my beloved Snakes on a Plane theme or even another toe tapping tune from South Park: Bigger,Longer and Uncut.

Even with a two song limit,some movie songs may still get the short end of the stick. Take the Best Songs up for the Oscar in 1983;two of were from Flashdance(including the winner,Oh,What a Feeling) and two of them were from Yentl. The only song in between those was "Over You" from Tender Mercies-who even remembers that damn movie,let alone that song?! Okay,I did see that movie but come on,clearly Olivia Newton-John's "Twist of Fate" from Two of a Kind was robbed there.

Sure,it didn't really have a chance against the Flashdance juggernaut and yes,the movie in question stunk to high heaven but that's never stopped anyone in this category before,has it? Take a listen and then tell me this song shouldn't have been performed on Oscar night back then:

All we can do here is just hope that this limit will be of some use and good to future contenders for the prize on Oscar night. Maybe this might even let in some of the more offbeat offerings from small films with a cult following(and I'm not talking about art house darlings either)and/or some genre flicks that are not big blockbuster items.

It's way too late for a film like Phantom of the Paradise(which had it's score and songs written by Paul Williams)to get it's Academy Award due but perhaps something like Repo:The Genetic Opera will be given a real fighting chance to be heard come nomination time.

To wrap this up,here are a few of my favorite might-have-been Best Song nominees of all time:






Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hot books for summer reading this July & August in the city of the mind

Summer reading is one past time that doesn't require making elaborate plans for,except for putting together a list and finding the time for it,and while there's all this talk about "stay-cations"(which I've been taking for years!),books have always been one of the more steadfast forms of entertainment around.

Another steady summertime pleasure is music and as I put this summer book preview together,I like to think of it as a literary mix tape. So,take a look and a listen to some of the hits that will be popping up on the charts and perhaps making their way into your hearts(or mind,at least)while you try to beat the heat:


Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader takes place in Salem,Mass,where many folks go to as a vacation spot but others live their whole lives there. Towner Whitney left Salem many years ago,to escape her family's legacy of psychic ability and long kept secrets but the mysterious disappearance of two local women draws her home and forces her to deal with the past.

Author Brunonia Barry incorporates a good deal of local history and lore about Salem,witches and the making of lace into her tale of a woman's journey of self discovery and coming to terms with what the past and the present hold for her future. Sounds like an enchanting read to me(July):

Another journey is about to be completed this summer with the final installment of the Twilight series,Breaking Dawn,due to arrive this August. However,this may not be the last fans of the books will hear about Bella,Edward and Jacob-Stephenie Meyer is planning to start a new series told from Edward's p.o.v. and with the film version due to hit theaters this winter, I think that we've only just begun to savor the true pleasures of Twilight:


If you're looking for a new twist in crime fiction with a British flair,Martina Cole is your woman for the job. Her reign as one of the bestselling crime writers in the UK is now extending to the States with Close,the first of her books to hit our shores.

Close follows the lives of Patrick Brodie,an up and coming crime boss, and Lily Diamond,the girl who becomes his wife and mainstay of his growing family. If Martin Scorsese had been born in London instead of New York,this is the type of tale he might have wound up putting on the silver screen(July):

Coming to save the day from evil-doers is Who Can Save Us Now?,a collection of offbeat and original stories about superheroes,villains and a few sidekicks along the way who are trying to figure out how to bring truth,justice and peace to their own lives.

Editors Owen King and John McNally have gathered together a league of talented writers(along with contributing a story themselves)such as Will Clarke,J. Robert Lennon,Stephanie Harrell and Jennifer Weiner,to bring these comic book style creations to life with brilliant illustrations by Chris Burnham. This is the ideal book to read while you wait to watch the latest superhero movie reboot at the multiplex this summer(July):


The heroine of Kim Green's Live A Little seems to be in dire straits indeed as Raquel Rose is given a diagnosis of terminal breast cancer which makes everyone in her life more attentive to her. However,when Raquel finds out that she's not sick after all,she finds it hard to give up the extra attention and local celebrity that she's been getting lately.

This story has the makings of a quirky dark comedy and if you or someone you know needs to lighten up a little,this should hit the spot(August).

Linda Robertson gives the readers of her brassy new memoir,What Rhymes With Bastard?,some theme music to go along with her tales of moving to San Francisco to marry a very bad boyfriend,form a cabaret band and achieve the title of Miss Accordion San Francisco 2004.

The musical stylings of Linda and her fellow musicians are a interesting blend of whimsy and weirdness,with a dash of Phoebe Buffay in a rich stew of Judy Tenuta seasoned with the salty goodness of Sarah Silverman. If you can handle this spicy slice of life, make your end of summer dinner reservations now,folks!(August)


Elin Hilderbrand has a couple of beach books ready to go this season;this July her newest hardcover,A Summer Affair,has famed glassblower and mother of four Sheila Crispin Cook getting overwhelmed by her extra duties as co-chair of the Nantucket Children's Summer Gala. Sheila was able to get the gig due to her past history as the former high school sweetheart of rock singer Max West,who is performing at the gala.

But that's not all of romantic tension that Sheila has to deal with-she's also seeing Lockhart Dixon,the director of the event,and trying to juggle some other platonic relationships as well to keep things running smooth. Summer by the seashore is supposed to be calming but the chaos that erupts should be rather entertaining.

Currently out in paperback is Barefoot,that has three women seeking refuge from their troubles on the Nantucket shore. Two of them are sisters-Brenda,who just lost her college teaching position after her affair with a student is exposed,and Vicki,who has discovered that she may not live long enough to see her young sons grow up.

Joined by their friend Melanie(who has left her cheating husband and is now pregnant after many years of trying)and aided by Josh,a local boy home for the summer,this little group somehow forms an impromptu family that searches for more than a quick fix solution to their struggles. Any reading groups that are still looking for a couple of good reads to select should look no further,this is one stop shopping at it's best.


A topical mix of fact and fiction come together in The 19th Wife which goes between the past and present day to tell this tale of polygamy and murder mystery. David Ebershoff begins with the journal of Ann Eliza Young,the title wife of Brigham Young who broke away from the family and openly spoke out against the Mormon Church.

Ann's story connects with an unsolved murder in a modern day polygamist family with another outcast,Jordan Scott,seeking to find out who killed his father by going back to the home that banished him for the truth. I fondly recall reading Ebershoff's first novel,The Danish Girl,years ago and marveling at his talents. I hope that I am fully prepared to be dazzled yet again(August).

In Undiscovered Country,Lin Enger takes a page or two from Hamlet and sets this novel in northern Minnesota where the so-called suicidal hunting death of Jesse Matson's father has all the earmarks of a more sinister plot afoot.

As his father's ghost and his beautiful yet moody girlfriend Christine both compete for his attention and focus,Jesse has to come to grips with the truth and the hard cold consequences of what has happened and what should or shouldn't be done about it.
When it comes to coming of age stories,the classics never go out of style and they make for great jumping points for others to follow(July).

Our last but not least family themed offering was written by an aunt and niece but sadly one of them is no longer with us. Mary Ann Shaffer started writing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society several years ago and when her health troubles threaten to halt her progress,asked Annie Barrows to help her complete the book.

The novel is told thru letters,as researcher Juliet Ashton becomes interested in the dealings of a hastily formed book club of natives of the island of Guernsey who needed an excuse to meet while under German occupation during World War II. As Juliet discovers more about the lives and loves of the Guernsey folk,she soon decides to pay the island a visit and meet up with one particular person who has caught her eye and possibly her heart. This book is a labor of love that many will delight in(late July/early August).

Whew,that's quite a few books to go thru there,isn't it? I just hope that one of the many choice selections I've put forth will add greatly to your relaxation time in the next couple of months and that whatever and where ever your vacation is,you enjoy it to the fullest:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bow your head for the passing of George Carlin

Very sad news for the world of comedy today,the cleverly caustic and controversial comedian George Carlin has died. He was 71 years old and the apparent cause is a heart attack. My most sincere condolences to his family and friends are no doubt part of the many being sent their way by all those who were touched by his greatness.

I can still remember when we first got HBO on our TV and one of the first comedy specials that we all watched together as a family was one of Carlin's. My dad loved his specials and for years,it was always must-see TV whenever a new Carlin special was announced. Carlin's down to earth cynicism laced with verbal wit was a huge influence on how I not only thought about comedy but about many of the big issues in life as well.

While Carlin made his presence known on TV and in films,it was his work as a stand up comedian that he'll be best remembered for.

His career on stage was one which grew and evolved over the years,mixing sharp social commentary with bits of linguistic analysis and some good old fashioned bathroom humor. Yes, he said a number of things for shock value but the whole point of that was to point out the silliness of being shocked by such things in the first place.

George set the tone for other comedians who wanted to make people think as they laughed at his routines,giving audiences a spoonful of sarcasm sugar to make the mental medicine go down.

He wasn't a guy who sprouted off on his soapbox(he'd be most likely to knock one out from underneath someone)but he wasn't shy about saying what he felt and not giving a damn if it ruffled a few feathers. There are not many people who can do that as an art form and elevate the medium they're working in at the same time,another good reason to mourn his passing.

So,fare thee well,Carlin. I hope you meet up with my dad out there where the Big Electron glows. The two of you will have plenty to talk about,trust me. As my tribute to the man and his comic genius,here are some of my favorite moments of George Carlin doing his stuff:








Friday, June 20, 2008

Getting Smart about TV based movies

The reviews are mixed so far for the new Get Smart movie(but much better than the ones for The Love Guru;bad sign when the NYT calls your flick"anti-funny"!)and if I was heading out to the theaters this weekend,Get Smart would be worth my while,I think.

Carell's low key everyman style of humor suits this material and it's not hard to picture him following in the footsteps of Don Adams,the originator of the character Maxwell Smart. I grew up watching the reruns of Get Smart and really enjoyed it(also find Anne Hathaway to be a great modern version of Agent 99)and this film adaptation seems to have the same good time groove that the show did,which is hard to replicate on film.

Take for example the Brady Bunch Movie(and it's follow-up,A Very Brady Sequel);the squeaky clean image and dated 1970s references that the series is composed of wouldn't even be tolerable by Disney Channel standards if played straight. Instead,the film makers were clever enough to use an Addams Family approach by keeping the Bradys as they were and having them face the modern world as clueless fish out of water.

They also allowed some of the unexplored darker elements of the characters to be spoofed on like Greg and Marcia's unspoken attraction to each other which wouldn't be totally wrong since they're not blood relations and Jan's middle child blues. My favorite parts of the first Brady movie are the Jan scenes,as her obsession to outshine Marcia grows into a frenzy:



Speaking of the Addams Family,in my opinion the sequel really outshone the first film. Joan Cusack sparkles as the gold digging Black Widow who fits more into the family fold than she realizes and the highlights of the film are Wednesday and Puggsley at summer camp. Especially Wednesday,Christina Ricci gives the ultimate Goth Girl performance of her life here.

From her vetting of various nannies to her fiery triumph over her enemies during a Thanksgiving Day pagent,Ricci lives up to the original macabre mocking tone set not only by the TV show but by the original Charles Addams cartoon itself:




While many of the television based film genre offerings have been reel horror shows,some of the better ones owned their success to being extensions of the origin show(which is not always a guarantee of quality or viewing worth)and animated shows with adult themes and humor such as The Simpsons and South Park are models for others to follow.

As much of a Beavis and Butthead fan that I am,I did have my doubts about the big screen version. It seemed to be way too late for such a movie to cash in on the following that the show had gathered but happily for me and many others,it totally ruled:


Best of luck to Get Smart and to the audiences who go to see it. Goodness knows,with all the high prices on just about everything these days,it would be a real treat to actually get your money's worth for some weekend entertainment. Even a roller coaster ride can deliver the goods and so should Hollywood:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Top Chef Reunion,Hell's Kitchen gets a real mother of a luncheon and Design Star's first (real) challenge

So,to wrap up this season of Top Chef,we had our reunion special that was complete with montages,viewer questions and former enemies making nice(Lisa and Dale for starters).

The only one not able to attend in person was Richard,due to his wife about to give birth at any moment. He did make an appearance via satellite and spoke about his "choking" comments during the Finale(I still think he was brave to do that). As a lovely parting gift,the Bravo producers presented him with a special TC onesie for his soon to be born daughter-awww! Richard jokingly asked,"Is there one available in my size?" Funny,but not as funny as his confirmation that Dale's nipples are sexy(weird montage bit).

Speaking of weird,Andrew is now immortalized in Top Chef gear as his infamous comment,"I have a culinary boner" will now be on an official TC t-shirt. I still prefer Season one's Dave's shirt"I'm not your bitch,bitch!" as a memorable line,especially since it can be used for any occasion and not just for food moments. Then again,that's just how I roll(in my own mind,of course).

The big deal about these reunions is finding out who is the winner of the Fan Favorite award(the FF gets ten grand,nice!)and another TC first,the winner of the Fan Favorite was Stephanie,the official S4 champ! Stephanie was asked if she wanted to be thought of as the first woman to win the show or as another great chef. She preferred the latter(which is why she rocks). Congrats again,Stephanie!

Next week,I'll be tuning back to Bravo as Season 2 of Shear Genius starts up. Looks like it will be quite a hair raising session:

On Hell's Kitchen,Ramsey told the Final Foursome that they had to make eighty portions of a lunch menu item of their own creation to serve a mystery group of finicky eaters-a real "mother" of a challenge. Jen was hoping for celebrities to show up like Beyonce and Fifty Cent(wrong network,hon)but instead she and the others had to feed a bunch of expectant mothers.

Jen wound up in last place,for her spicy grouper fish and Corey trailed not too far behind her(mainly due to her not having all of her plates ready on time and keeping some of the ladies waiting). It was very close for first place but Christina managed to beat Petrozza for the win. That miffed Jen and Corey to no end,especially since the prize was a shopping spree in Beverly Hills:

What killed me was Jen's insistence that she could've chosen better clothes(Jen,from one big girl to another,you know damn well that nothing in that store Christina and Ramsey went to would've fit you,okay? Call the waiter for your reality check,please!)and Corey's backhanded sneering at Christina's purchases.

Jen's bad attitude got worse during dinner service,as Corey needed her to cook some eggs for her aps but Jen insisted on taking care of one risotto instead. Christina jumped in to help but only until Ramsey took notice did Jen make those eggs. Petrozza was called out for his sloppy ways but his food was so good that Ramsey had to give him props for it:

In the end,Jen was sent home(finally!)since everyone else was determined to put her up for elimination and she did screw up yet again on service. Christina might've been called up due to burning Ramsey's hand by leaving hot pot handles out for him but Corey insisted on going up instead. If I were Christina and Petrozza,I'd be watching out for Corey;she's a real two-face:

Hey,that "build your house" challenge on Designstar? Turns out it was all a joke-very funny,HGTV! Instead,the contestants were taken to the place they were actually going to stay in and given the traditional"design the rooms of your new home" beginning challenge.

A lot of good and bad work was done,particularly in one of the bedrooms where a cool four poster bed set was created. The living room/sun room design had quite a bit of struggle from Tracee,who tried to boss everyone around and then quickly threw her team mates under the bus the first chance she got. Looks like she's going to be the big trouble maker this season:


THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR: This week,the chefs had to make their own product and sell it to prominent food buyers and surprise guest Martha Stewart. Watching Martha Stewart eat a Sloppy Joe with a fork was damn funny and as much as Lisa and Kelsey adore Martha,I'm so not impressed with her. Wonder if Martha was that delicate with her dining habits in prison?

Anyway,Jeffrey wound up going home,for his less than soulful seasoning salt. He seemed like a nice enough guy,just a little too laid back for TV:

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: Another season of Gordon Ramsey's restaurant makeover show will be back this fall and I can hardly wait to see more of those sparks and swears fly:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Some Recommended Reading For Glen Beck

This video clip from CNN has been making the rounds online this morning and I felt the need to put my two cents in on the subject. This is an interview with author Ted Bell for his new YA novel,Nick of Time,being conducted by Glenn Beck who sees this book as a shining beacon of "manly" reading for boys:

While I have not read Mr. Bell's book,I am sure that it is a entertaining read based on it's own merits and that there was no need to praise it by downgrading other books for boys and young men out there in the current marketplace. I am not the most well read in this particular field but I do know(based on my past experience as a bookseller for several years)that there are more books for girls being marketed since girls buy more(according to the statistics)but there are plenty of good books for the fellas as well.

Also,if Glen Beck is seeking some "old fashioned" books for his son,he should do a little more checking at his local bookstore and/or library. The Hardy Boys are still in print(both updated modern versions and old school),along with Encyclopedia Brown,Treasure Island and Captain Blood(which Ted Bell mentioned in the interview).

One YA author for boys that I recall recommending quite a bit to parents and assigned by many teachers for book reports was Gary Paulsen,best known for Hatchet which won the Newberry Honor award in 1987.

Two other Paulsen titles have been given Newberry honors(Dogsong,The Winter Room)and he's still going strong. If you are looking for a good "boys surviving in the wilderness" type of story,Paulsen is your man. He's also written a good number of historical fiction for young people including the renowned Nightjohn and Soldier's Heart.

In fact,there are a number of great historical fiction titles with male leads out there such as My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier,Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls,, Bud,Not Buddy and The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.

And let's not forget such contemporary YA authors with a male point of view like Jerry Spinelli,Louis Sacher, Scott O'Dell and S.E. Hinton. These writers also have strong female protagonists in their books,too but perhaps since Mr. Beck has three daughters as well a son,he wouldn't mind getting books that all of his kids can enjoy reading.

Something that thrilled Glen Beck to no end about Nick of Time is rather puzzling to me;at one point in the story,the little sister of the leading character is being held prisoner by an evil Nazi doctor and says to him" Just wait until my big brother gets here!" or something like that. Mr. Beck was pleased as punch to see a story where a little girl is waiting to be rescued by a boy(which is something that luckily occurs whenever a girl is in trouble in real life...NOT!!).

What does it matter who does the rescuing? In the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events,the Baudelaire siblings take turns in saving each other(plus friends met along the way)from bad guys and gals and many times,they all work together(even infant sister Sunny) to save the day. Isn't that a good ideal to promote to young people?

One good thing about this literary tempest in a teacup(or is a coffee mug more masculine?)is that at least Mr. Beck has some interest in his son's reading. As we ladies all know,a man who loves reading is hard to resist:




Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Top Ten Things I learned from The Other Boleyn Girl

The film adaptation of Philippa Gregory's best selling novel,The Other Boleyn Girl, made it's debut on DVD last week and I took a look at it over the weekend.

For those unfamiliar with this movie,it's the tale of Anne Boleyn(Natalie Portman)and her doomed relationship with Henry the VIII(Eric Bana)but with a new twist;seems that Anne had a younger sister named Mary(Scarlet Johannson)who caught the king's eye first and was not only his mistress for a brief time but the mother of his illegitimate children as well.

The Boleyn family(goaded by their uncle,the Duke of Norfolk)was more than ready to pimp out the girls all in the name of gaining a more prominent position but Anne's ambition caused rifts between her family,her sister and the entire country as she
wheedled her way onto the throne as Queen. Mary,despite the viciousness and petty
jealousies she received from Anne over the years,tried to help her sister when the tide turned violently against her but to no avail.

The number of strong female performances in this film could easily fill up several Best Actress categories,from Ana Torrent as Catherine of Aragon,to Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Elizabeth Boleyn to the gals playing the Boleyn girls themselves. Eric Bana also did well here as Henry,portraying him in his younger years as a man lead by his appetites and being pushed to the breaking point by the lure of Anne's denials.

Since the source material is based on historical fiction(which was well researched by the author),only the nit pickiest of history buffs could find much fault in the details. While certain small plot points were not as fully developed as they were in the novel(such as Mary's marriage and the death of her first husband),the main focus and draw of the story is the rivalry of Anne and Mary for the love of Henry.

The Other Boleyn Girl on film is just as entertaining as it was on page,and reading the book either before or after watching the movie will only increase your pleasure in drinking in this timeless tale of love,betrayal and the dangers of taking your whims way too far. It's also quite a learning experience as my Top Ten list of OBG
lessons will show:

10) A good way to intrigue a man's interest is by letting him know what things you both share in common,like horse riding techniques for example:

9) An invitation to Court is not something that is asked of you;it is a summons.

8) The King's bedchamber is for more than just sleeping:

7) If a king asks you to point out who in the room is a great man,you would be wise to look in his direction for the answer:

6) Love is of no value without power or position.

5) The ladies of the French court can teach you how to get what you want from men;not by stamping your feet but by letting them think they are in charge.

4) By demanding that a king ditch his queen and ship off his baby momma to the country right after giving birth to a son,you'd better be prepared to give him more than hope:

3) You can't always count on family loyalty.

2) Lofty ambitions combined with desperate attempts to reach and keep them can literally cost you your head.

1) Being sisters and therefore born to be rivals is truly a matter of opinion: