Monthly Archives: December 2008

Nellie McKay’s Okay

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Best of 2008: Music

Freddie Hubbard Passes


Jazz legend Freddie Hubbard passed away yesterday at 70. He will be missed.

You Say Potatoe…

Best of 2008: Television


Yep, it’s that time of year again, time for everyone and their mother to pick what they thought was the best of the past year. I’m no different, so yes, I’m going to make you suffer through my thoughts. This time, it’s television.

For me the top ten TV series of 2008 were:

“Pushing Daisies” – While canceled, and unlikely to return as anything but reruns or DVD, this was a bright spot for me on the TV schedule. It was thoughtful, innovative and brilliant, and that’s not even going into the unique cinematic or storytelling techniques it used.

“Eli Stone” – Another unique show and cancellation victim. ABC canned both of them after giving them a second chance this season. I guess ABC has not only a bone to pick with fantasy, but also television that makes you think.

“True Blood” – Unique marketing set this HBO series apart from any other vampire series before it even hit the air with the “BloodCopy” viral marketing ploy. This TV adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series is the surprise hit of the year.

“Dexter” – In its third season this Showtime series about a serial killer who hunts other serial killers continues to amaze. Even when it’s weak, it is better than 90% of everything else out ther on the tube.

“ER” – This old favorite, now in its supposedly final season, has bounced back and become its best season in years with guest stars galore and maintaining its balance of believable characters and intense situations. I don’t want it to go.

“The Wire” – And I didn’t want this one to go either, but what’s done is done. I came late to the party here and caught up on DVD, but I have to say that “The Wire” is probably one of the best series that has beeen made for television, period.
“Parking Wars” – This reality series from A&E follows the employees of the dreaded Philadelphia Parking Authority around during their workday. It’s the only reality show of its type that even comes close to the entertainment value of “Cops.”

The bottom five of my top ten are rounded out by Cartoon Network’s “Brave and the Bold” and “Venture Bros.,” the BBC’s fourth season of “Doctor Who,” the still refreshing “Chuck,” and FX’s much-missed and unfortunately canceled “Dirt.”

In the honorable mentions and etcetera department would be “Smallville” and “South Park” as most improved series, and BET’s “Black Panther” and the CW’s “Reaper” as the most looked forward to series in 2009.

On the bad side, boos and hisses for “Heroes” and Everybody Hates Chris” for dying a slow death in 2008, and the worst show I’ve seen this year would, of course, be the American version of “Kath and Kim.”

When It Says Ore-Ida…

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno ~ All the hype about taking the “porno” out of the title and the advertising and even the movie listings aside, this is actually a rather sweet film from Kevin Smith – or at least as sweet as Kevin Smith gets. It seems that as much as making the critically panned but well-intentioned Jersey Girl and visiting familiar turf in Clerks 2 with a eye towards fun rather than gloom, has mellowed Smith – it also seems that the presence of Seth Rogen has invigorated him. Formerly Smith stayed within his own bounds and used the same entourage of folks in his films, but Rogen (and Elizabeth Banks as well) has brought the new blood and the new vision needed to make this Smith effort that much more entertaining. Craig Robinson and Superman Returns‘ Brandon Routh, as well as Smith alumni Jeff Anderson are priceless. A great film (for fans of Smith), and hopefully the start of a new partnership.

French Fry Telepathy

That Time of Year Again

The last few weeks of the year are here and it’s time for Hollywood to roll out their finest stuff in hopes the Academy will take notice and bestow an Oscar on these films. There are a lot of them out there.

Doubt is getting a lot of hype. Milk and Gran Torino promise career performances from Sean Penn and Clint Eastwood respectively. The much talked about reverse-aging epic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is out there as well. There’s also Will Smith in Seven Pounds, Tom Cruise in Valkyrie, the animated Waltz with Bashir from Ari Folman and Revolutionary Road from Sam Mendes.

Like I said, there are a lot of them, and this is the way it’s been at the end of the year for the last couple decades. The studios want their Oscar hopefuls in the Academy’s faces right before nomination time, and for the most part, this simple ploy usually works. Mark my words, most of the above flicks will make up the majority of the noms this year.

This is bullshit in my opinion. Time of year shouldn’t matter. A good movie, an Oscar-worthy movie, is Oscar-worthy no matter what time of year it is released. If these studios had any reall balls they would release all of these in January. If a flick is really that good, the Academy will remember it come December. And if not, if the Academy is that dim-witted and memory-handicapped, why are they allowed to vote?

Bolt

Bolt ~ More computer animation from Disney, this time doing its level animated best to take advantage of the Miley Cyrus phenomenon while it lasts.

The premise of Bolt is that of a dog actor who doesn’t know he’s acting in a TV show about a super-powered dog. It’s sort of Truman Show gone to the dogs, if you can forgive the pun. Bolt gets out of the studio, and learns the hard way that he doesn’t really have super powers. Cyrus is his mistress and he’s set loose across the country searching for her.

John Travolta in an unsteady step backwards plays the title role. He plays Bolt with his Vinnie Barbarino voice from “Welcome Back, Kotter” back in the 1970s. It’s almost like take Vinnie, add a touch of Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction, add some fleas and shake briskly. I tried to get it out of my head, but failed. Weirdly, at some points, the voice works. On the opposite end of the Travolta stuff, the voice work of Susie Essman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Mark Walton make the flick that much better.

Sadly however, for me, in the long run, the movie fails. It never matches up in the reality scenes to the pure adventure thrill of the faked scenes from the Bolt TV series. Why didn’t they just make a movie about the TV Bolt character? A bit clichéd, but exciting and nail-biting, but for me, it would have been a better movie.