Such a Dirty Old Man
Being a latecomer to HBO/BBC's Extras, I've been catching up on the older episodes, including this one with Patrick Stewart. The man has got range!
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2. Combine the First Two Films. Since the original Star Wars ("A New Hope") billed itself as "Episode IV," the prequels had to be three films. But they didn't have to be these three. In fact, I think most Star Wars fans expected the first of the three films to introduce Anakin, the second to cover the Clone Wars, and the third to bring Anakin over fully to the Dark Side.
Had Lucas stuck with that order, a huge number of the narrative problems and omissions in the prequel trilogy would have fallen away. First, Lucas himself has admitted that he had to pad out Phantom Menace to get to a full-length film. Making an Episode I that covered Phantom Menace's storyline in 45 minutes before jumping ahead 10 years to pick up the Attack of the Clones storyline would have immediately removed or drastically shortened a lot of the filler and the redundant plotlines - the Gungans (Jar Jar even would not have been so bad with five minutes of screen time), the storyline where Anakin accidentally destroys the Death Star-lite, the fun but overlong pod race, the repetitive fight scenes at Padme's palace. As a corollary, instead of being off in a star fighter Anakin should have been present for the final battle with Darth Maul. That would have presented several opportunities - have him witness the death of his first mentor, intensifying his emotional scars. Have him play some role, through a not-entirely-intentional use of the Dark Side of the Force (perhaps even a Force-choke on Darth Maul that isn't noticed by Obi-Wan) that saves Obi-Wan and lets him kill Darth Maul, thus (1) establishing Anakin's unusual precocity without the need for a midichlorian blood sample and (2) serving as a sort of original sin in his relationship with Obi-Wan. Personally, I would also have laid out near the beginning the death of Sifo Dyas, whose critical role in ordering the clone army is never explained onscreen.
Military and Aerospace Electronics reports that the Air Force is working to outfit the B-2 stealth bomber with a "30,000-pound bunker-busting 'super bomb.'" The bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), is designed to destroy deeply buried and reinforced bunkers of the type North Korea and Iran have relied upon for their nuclear weapons programs.
You can read more about the MOP at globalsecurity.org, but most significant is its ability to penetrate more than 200 feet of earth and reinforced concrete. That is a significant improvement over the GBU-28, which is a 5,000-pound laser-guided bomb that was initially used to destroy Iraqi underground facilities in the first Gulf War. And while some experts have questioned how effective bunker-busters will be against hardened targets in Iran and elsewhere, John Pike told me last year that he believed the military had deliberately fostered such doubts in an attempt "to lull the mullahs into a false sense of security." He said the GBU-28 would cut through such facilities "like a hot knife through butter," which makes one wonder just what a bomb six-times heavier could do.
Tretton also stated that demand for the PS3 means that consumers will be willing to pay over the odds at launch.
“I think the consumers that get their hands on a PlayStation 3 clearly see the value and not only want to buy one for $599, in some instances they’re willing to pay ridiculous prices on eBay,” he said.
He was asked what it was like to be on center court at the end of a Grand Slam semi in which he was sent packing in straight sets in just 1 hour, 23 minutes.
"It was frustrating. It was miserable. It sucked. It was terrible," Roddick said. "Besides that, it was fine."
Roddick was asked to explain the match starting from the point where the score was 4-4 in the first set.
"I got broken. Then I got broken three more times. Then I got broken two more times in the third set. Then it was over 26 minutes later. Is that what you saw, too?" he said.
Questions turned to Jimmy Connors, the former great who is now coaching Roddick and who the player had earlier said helped to boost his game and his confidence to the point where he believed he was ready to challenge nine-time Grand Slam winner Federer.
Reporter: "What did Jimmy say to you straight after the game?"
Roddick: "He gave me a beer."
What was Connors advice coming into the match?
"There was a lot of strategy talk," Roddick said. But, "It's not so much like, `If you're down 6-4, 6-0, 2-0 ...' We didn't really talk about that. Oops."
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has declared that the strategy for Xbox 360 is "working perfectly", questioning Sony and Nintendo's next-gen console offerings.
As reported by Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury News, Gates observed that the original Xbox was "20 per cent better" than its rivals.
However, he continued, "It didn't matter. We were a year late, didn't have the best games. We had this bigger box. We did have online. We didn't switch positions on that."
But as for the strategy for Xbox 360, "It's working perfectly. We wanted to be the guy with the small box that costs less. We wanted to have the most games. We wanted to play to our software strength, and tools and online.
"We wanted to swap positions with Sony. We wanted to not be a year late, not be a big box, not be a more expensive box. How are we doing on that?"
Official hardware statistics reveal that despite the addition of new hardware to the market, Sony's PlayStation 2 was still the biggest selling home system, clocking up 1.4 million units for December, and 37.1 million to date in the US.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 added another 1.1 million units in December to a total of 4.5 million units since launch, while Nintendo's Wii sold 604,200 units for the month - with year end sales at 1.1 million.
Although Sony recently announced it had shipped one million PS3 units to North America, NPD data reveals the new console has only sold 687,000 of those, with 490,700 units sold in December.
Salaam aleikum, Paul Hewitt.
Your Georgia Tech Black Jackets defeated the ultimate white devil, Mike Krshewissdiyssky and his evil forces of oppression, in the subhuman form of Duke Blue Devils.
For years slave master coach KKK has built his fortune and fame on the back of the original human. In turn, slave master coach KKK has tried to give the credit to the white players that have reaped the benefits of the Negro teamates around them. Jay Bilas, Bobby Hurley, Christian Laetner...etc, have all been products of their Negro teamates. Held in esteem and on high as they paraded themselves mounted atop the Negro throes beneath them.
How times have changed in Durham. Now, slave master coach KKK doesn't have the great numbers of talented Negro soldiers to fight his battles as in the past. Now his white players are exposed for what they are. Greg Paulus and Mcwhatever his name is are shown to be little more than above average players.
White devils on ice. Whirling dervishes on skates. White athletes propelled and assisted by physics to speeds they can not reach on land. The ice. The last refuge and hiding place of the white athlete.
One group of Philly fans loaded up a pickup truck with imported snow in order to fire snowballs at Giants fans before yesterday's game. Even more hysterically sociopathic, the Birds supporters brought buckets to take the snow with them in order to hunt down New York fans in the parking lot.
Fun fact: My favorite movie of all time is the Sum of All Fears. I know: Ben Affleck crappiness matched up with Tom Clancy retardery. But here's the kicker: Baltimore gets blown the fuck up by a nuclear bomb. I own the DVD and it's the only part I've watched since buying it. Still the greatest purchase I ever made.
Daniel A. DeMatteo, vice chairman and COO of GameStop, late last week said PS3s are available at "hundreds of the company's 3,700 outlets," according to the New York Times. The Wii, on the other hand, is still hard to come by.
"We got some [Wiis] in yesterday in really limited supply, and they virtually disappeared," DeMatteo said, according to the NYT.
The $250 Wii and $499/$599 PlayStation 3 were very difficult to purchase after their November launches, as gamers lined up outside stores at times days in advance to buy the systems. DeMatteo says this is the first time that PS3 stock has remained unsold in his stores.
Over the weekend, GameSpot editors visited a local EB Games, which is owned by GameStop, and found PS3s available for purchase. As for the Wii, one clerk told GameSpot, "We got some in earlier this week and they were gone in five minutes."
Amber Tamblyn stars as Wendy, a smart girl who is a sort of lynchpin for a group of friends who have known each other since kindergarten. The six of them decided to skip the world of Friday night parties and hook-ups and spin the bottle so that they wouldn’t get side-tracked.
So every Saturday night, they get together as a group and have sex.
Being from Philadelphia, this is all we can hope for--all we live for. We can never win the Big One. But if we can ruin the Giants' and Cowboys' seasons . . . that's our measure for success. That's our SuperBowl.
"The fans saved my life, I truly believe that," Piper explains. "There was this pay-per-view called Cyber Sunday and the fans voted between myself, Dusty Rhodes, and Sgt. Slaughter, some pretty good company there, and it was for who was going to be Ric Flair's partner going for the tag team titles. Kindly, the fans voted me in, we won the titles, then we're over in Europe and something goes wrong with my legs…they're not working. They fly me back to the States, put me on the slab, cut open my back and they discover I have cancer. Lymphoma. But there's a really happy ending to it. First off, they picked the wrong guy to bully; I'm going to kick its butt. Also, they caught it at its very early stage. They put me on the rotisserie every day now, I'm going to be on radiation for the next 4-5 weeks, and they think they can clear it up. I'm going to be walking down that hall again, Jon.
"If the fans didn't vote me in, I wouldn't have went to Europe, I wouldn't have had a reason to have my back checked, and from what has been explained to me, in two to three years, this would have been all throughout my body and I would've had to go out that day. But you know what, the fans have been taking care of me all my life. What can I even say to them for that? It's pretty special for me."
It's hard to be one of the Reporters Who Cover Television this time of year. While the rest of the population gets to attend holiday parties and amuse themselves with witty conversation about the regrettably low standard of morality among that segment of the population younger than they are, the poor RWCT usually can be found backed into a corner by a mob of partygoers angrily demanding to know why their favorite TV show was canceled while "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" is still on the air even though no one is watching, why reality programming continues to be perpetrated upon them, why TRWCT are so mean to that nice Katie Couric and, finally, to give details of their own idea for the next sure-fire gimongous TV hit.
Generally, at the first party a Reporter Who Covers Television has enough distracting factoids in his arsenal to come back pretty chirpily to this onslaught, if the eggnog is of high enough octane. But by the second party -- third, max -- his knotted and combined locks begin to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine, as Hamlet's dad used to say. . . .
Did you know, for instance, that "Studio 60," in addition to having an unusually upscale audience, as NBC likes to remind us, also is the year's No. 1-ranked show on Nielsen's Timeshifted Primetime TV Program list?
"Studio 60" enjoys an 11 percent increase in viewership when you add in all the households watching the show up to seven days after its Monday 10 p.m. broadcast. That's the largest percent increase of any program on prime-time television, Nielsen says.
This suggests that (a) NBC should try to strongarm Nielsen into using so-called "live + 7" numbers -- how many people record a show on VCR or DVR and watch it up to seven days after its broadcast -- in its weekly ratings reports so as to goose "Studio 60's" ratings and (b) maybe NBC should find a better time slot for "Studio 60." . . .
The Top-10 timeshifted programs are mostly serialized -- "Heroes," "Gilmore Girls," etc. -- but include the CW's reality series "America's Next Top Model." That makes sense since this fall it aired in the same time slot as ABC reality hit "Dancing With the Stars."
"American Idol," meanwhile, had the most product placements on broadcast TV this year with -- you want to be sitting down -- 4,086 occurrences in calendar 2006, which in the case of "Idol," really means between January and May.
"Idol" is the Mount Everest of product placement. Nothing else touches it. The No. 2 show on the 2006 Product Placement Top 10 is "The Amazing Race" with a mere 2,790 occurrences, followed closely by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" with 2,701.
We're guessing about 3,346 "Idol" product placement occurrences come in the form of those three insidious red Coca-Cola cups prominently placed in front of judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson. Every time the camera cuts to Paula sitting at the judges' desk drinking "whatever" out of that Coke cup, it counts as one "occurrence," a nice Nielsen spokeswoman explained to The TV Column.
The rest of the occurrences on "Idol" are probably Cingular cellphones, from which we're urged to text-message in our vote for that week's best performance.
Not coincidentally, Coca-Cola is the most product-placed product of 2006, with -- will you look at that -- 3,346 occurrences. Cingular Wireless also is in the Top 10, but with a mere 532 occurrences. That's behind the Chicago Bears football team's 600 occurrences -- thanks to the ABC sitcom "According to Jim."
Here' s a fun fact you can wow them with at the next office party: All of 2006's Top-10 Product Placement Programs are reality series. Except for one scripted show, at No. 8.
Can you guess what it is?
[Pause] "King of Queens."
Mark C. Taylor of Williams College is among the most nimble of nimble minds perched on the cutting edge of whatever, just possibly, might be the next big thing. His many books over the years on religion, philosophy, economics, architecture, and whatever have in common a neophiliac’s conventional delight in debunking what he takes to be conventional wisdoms. He was a friend of the late Jacques Derrida. (Earlier this year, The Onion ran the headline “Jacques Derrida ‘Dies.’ ”) Taylor is most noted for his conjoining of postmodernist a-theology with the “death of God” and a deconstructionist employment of the hermeneutics of suspicion. Older readers will no doubt remember the death of God. Taylor’s newest book is "After God."
In any event, Mr. Taylor’s op-ed (requires subscription) in the New York Times raises the alarm about the growing number of college students who “seem to be practicing traditional forms of religion.” These “fundamentalist” and “chauvinistic” students, we are told, do not take kindly to having their faith criticized. Even “distinguished scholars” are burdened by a new regime of “religious correctness” and some are “even subjected to death threats.” Mr. Taylor does not say whether he personally has been treated to the frisson of a death threat, but an administrator did once ask him to apologize to a student who complained that Taylor had offensively attacked his religion in class. Mr. Taylor writes, “I refused.” There are no doubt those who will admire his courage in the defense of professorial bad manners.
Of course, he does not see it that way. Mr. Taylor writes, “For years, I have begun my classes by telling students that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed.” Imagine that. A man who embraces as his life’s work instilling confusion and uncertainty in undergraduates. Challenging work, that.
At the house of my friend Harry Pearson, who started the high-end video magazine The Perfect Vision, I watched movies on what must be close to the ultimate home-theatre system, a setup priced at two hundred thousand dollars. I thought that a glimpse of the best now available might be a way of anticipating the affordable future. It was also tremendous fun. Harry’s system uses a digital projector suspended from the ceiling, which fed a movie screen nine feet across the diagonal. Various electronic components decoded or upgraded the digital information or sent the sound to multiple speakers positioned around the room. The player was one of the new HD DVD sets made by Toshiba, and the experience of watching what it produced on that screen was like putting on a stronger pair of glasses for the first time: everything was brighter, crisper, more sharply defined—newer somehow, as if it had been freshly created, even though one of the movies we watched was a half century old. (Digital transfers are made by scanning a film negative or a print; technicians then digitally enhance the images.) With amazement, we watched a DVD of John Ford’s 1956 masterpiece, “The Searchers,” which is widely considered to be one of the most successful transfers of an old movie. The southwestern sky above Monument Valley was a brilliant azure; the desert was not a mass of orange-brown glop but grains of sand and pieces of rock; and, inside the pioneers’ cabin, details normally hidden in shadow, like drying corn hanging from the ceiling, were clearly visible. And so it was with a recent film. When Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” opened two years ago, I referred to the Hit Pit—the gym where much of the action takes place—as “sweat-stained” and a “relic.” But the high-definition transfer of the film, bringing shapes and textures out of the murk, revealed a gym that was old and shabby but also tidy and scrubbed clean.
Yet, though the detail was extraordinary, the image was different from a film image, and strange in some ways. In film, the illusion of three-dimensionality is produced by the laws of perspective, by the manipulation of focus, and by the subtleties of lighting: we are led into depth by gradations of color or, in black-and-white movies, by shades of gray. A digital transfer compacts color and increases contrast, so, in the early attempts—say, from a decade ago—the actors looked almost like cutouts against a flat background, their flesh tones waxy and doll-like. The images didn’t breathe the way the original film images did—the faces seemed to have lost their pores. But high-definition digital produces a more nuanced gradation of color and a more definite molding of the face—you see planes and hollows. To my eyes, both in digital transfers and in movies that were shot digitally, flesh still looks a little synthetic, but it looks better than before, and no doubt it will look even better in a few years. (“You want pores, we’ll give you pores,” a digital technician in Los Angeles told me.) The image was steady, too, in a way that a film image is not. A film, after all, gets pulled into place in a projector by pins entering and then withdrawing from sprocket holes; the image onscreen can jiggle a bit. On Harry’s system I noticed an evenness, steadiness, and hard focus into the far reaches of the screen, and also the absence of earlier digital artifacts, like a black edge around shapes or a flaring of solid whites.
All in all, high definition is a big improvement over standard digital imagery, though in truth I admire it without loving it. To arrive at a film print ready for exhibition, the image has to go through at least four generations—from negative to positive, and then back and forth again—and, by the end, the multiple printing produces some minor softening and darkening of color. I like the way color blends on film: the image is painterly and atmospheric; more poetic, perhaps, than a digital image; lyrical rather than analytic. I may have seen more of the Hit Pit in the high-definition transfer, but expressive metaphor had yielded to workaday reality. I was happier with my earlier sense of the gym as a place of defeat redeemed by Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. And I think that Eastwood, having directed almost thirty films, may have intended “Million Dollar Baby” to look the way it looks on film.
No exhibition method is innocent of aesthetic qualities. Platform agnosticism may flourish among kids, but platform neutrality doesn’t exist. Fifty years ago, the length of a pop single was influenced by what would fit on a forty-five-r.p.m. seven-inch disk. The length and the episodic structure of the Victorian novel—Dickens’s novels, especially—were at least partly created by writers and editors working on deadline for monthly periodicals. Television, for a variety of commercial and spatial reasons, developed the single-set or two-set sitcom. Format always affects form, and the exhibition space changes what’s exhibited.
I looked at “Brokeback Mountain” on a portable DVD player with a seven-inch screen and headphones—the kind of rig people use on airplanes and in jury waiting rooms. The focus was precise, the color bright. And, through the headphones, I heard such extraordinary details as the flip-flip-flip of the rain on the tent when Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are up in the mountains. Yet there was something wrong. I was not in the mountains. The grandeur of the terrain is not something the men are necessarily conscious of, but the massiveness of the mountain range, the startling clarity of the air, the violence of the weather enlarge the experience of feelings they have no words for and can’t control. If you watch the movie on a small screen, you’re not living within this great breathing, palpable place. The small screen takes the emotion out of the landscape.
Dude, have seen the cock on Darwin Walker? Good fucking Lord. You could hang Saddam Hussein with that thing and have enough left over to dock a battleship . . .
Granted, by the time Nacho Libre arrived in theaters, I’d long since become sick of anything associated with Jared Hess’ directorial debut, Napoleon Dynamite (cubicle monkeys and frat boys had ruined all that was quirky and fun about the film by exhausting each and every catchphrase ad fucking nauseum and basically Lindsay Lohaned a cute, somewhat endearing indie film), and School of Rock had already sapped what little entertainment value Jack Black had remaining from his arsenal of fat-boy witticisms. Still, I’d naïvely held out some hope that the combination of Black and Hess could somehow rekindle their respective magic. Unfortunately, Nacho Libre was the ultimate comedic disappointment: Not only had Hess’ whimsy been exorcised by the big budget, but the film didn’t even work as mainstream gross-out, dick-and-fart fare. It was lame sketch comedy run amok, based on the flimsy premise that Jack Black’s flabby torso was intrinsically hilarious, especially in combination with a bad accent.