Mike and Juliet: The most surreal hour of the morning

Mike Juliet

I know I’m going to get some shit for this, but I like The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. For one thing, the hosts are so obviously disinterested, and probably drunk — and not in an annoying way like Kathie Lee. Speaking of which, has anyone seen the dragged-out trainwreck that has been the fourth (or is it fifth?) hour of The Today Show since Kathie Lee joined the cast? Dear god! It’s like she takes a handful of quaaludes every morning before she goes on! I’m very confused by her continued employment.

Anyway, the point is that the only competition for my attention during the Mike and Juliet hour is the aforementioned disaster of a Today Show hour and, of course, Regis and Kelly. I don’t think I have to explain how I feel about Regis and Kelly. Shudder.

So that leaves me with the underdogs, and I always like the underdog, especially when they’re as desperate and sad as Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy. They kind of seem like castoffs from a satirical screenplay by Terry Gilliam or David Lynch, strangely consumed by their own artificiality. Despite this thick facade, you can tell that at least some intelligence lurks behind those dead eyes, screaming to get out, and that’s something I don’t usually see from those Today Show hos (except Hoda, she’s cool).

There’s a cool review of the show from when it first came out in the New York Times (link here). The best line: “This is a kind of marvelous city duo — and a nice breakthrough for morning shows. No giggly hot mom like Kelly Ripa; no model of rectitude and self-sacrifice like Ms. Vieira. And no good old Reege. Or good young Matt. Instead they’re a little sleazy, Mike and Juliet. And a little lonely.

Ah, sleazy and lonely. Just the way I like people.

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Since when are TV seasons so short?

It seems like only yesterday that shows like 30 Rock and The Office started their most recent season, and now they’re over! What the hell?!

I used to expect a good twenty episodes from a TV drama or comedy season, and it can’t be more than a few years since that was the standard. Then I started to see 12-episode seasons all over the place, and I was willing to live with that, but now it’s down to frickin’ 8 or 9 if you’re lucky!

Is this because of the surge in popularity of TV on DVD? I figure there’s motivation to keep the running time down, the same way musicians had to adapt to the new one-sided format and limited capacity of CDs as opposed to vinyl. And with TV shows often making the bulk of their money in the long term from DVD sales, it would make sense if they took that into account.

Or is it because the networks are cutting budgets left and right? Game shows and reality shows are considered to be so much more cost-effective (despite cries of protest from detractors like me who fucking hate game and reality shows) that a lot of networks are cutting scripted shows that they don’t consider to be profitable enough. Even worse, the shows that survive are kept on such a short leash, creatively and otherwise, that there’s no room to take any risks. The network execs are so nervous about upsetting or boring the “viewer” that they claim to understand so well (using retarded tools like Nielsen ratings, which are about as reliable and accurate as an E-meter) that they end up ruining shows by not letting them breathe. If the networks would take a chance and buy, say, 25 or 30 episode seasons, imagine what the shows could do with all that time! Lost could have resolved its crazy plot in one or two seasons, as opposed to making us wait for months between seasons (and even between halves of a single season!). A show like Twin Peaks would have time to gain a following and really dig into its complicated storyline without the alienating effect of a five or six month hiatus in between plot twists. 24okay, I guess they already have 24 episodes, as they must. Good for them for not settling.

Anyway, that’s my complaint for the day.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

When I originally heard them folks in Hollywood were adding a fourth film to the beloved Indiana Jones trilogy, I couldn’t help but think this was a somewhat awful idea. It irks me when tired movie makers dig up and reuse an idea that is already solid in movie history and holds an important place in people’s hearts. It’s just plain risky to take a complete, socially accepted story and tear it open, add more dramatic happenings, and come to an altogether new conclusion, all while attempting to preserve the integrity of the original concept. The whole idea reeks of a creative deficiency and a terrible, dollar sign-eyed greed among those who serve us our motion picture entertainment. Even more problematic are the uncomfortably cute self-referential pokes and bits of humor that inevitably soak any project of this kind. But then again, are the original three Indiana Jones films not full of such moments, where the titular character slips through escapade after escapade with rakish-yet-professorial ease, all while the audience celebrates the naturally accepted humor of a man who despises snakes or cringes at being called “Junior?” As a fan of the series I can naysay all I want with an authority fed by an “I was there” dedication, but in the end I knew I’d be doomed by the power of curiosity. And so days before the film’s release, I had myself a nostalgia-tinged, box wine-fueled movie marathon in preparation for this momentous occasion.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a bad movie. The problem with a continuation that puts too much focus on the celebration of itself is that rather than existing as a distinctly respectable and whole artistic piece, it becomes a masturbatory revisiting that creates a strange rift between the fictional world of the film and the real world where we have a collective idea of the character of Indiana Jones. The action sequences in Crystal Skull are not boring or lacking in badassity – we’ve got our speeding vehicles, gnarly explosions, and squirmy creature infestations – but they’re weighed down by constant pokes of the “it’s funny because he’s older now” variety. Thusly, the film fails to create a satisfying end story for the man and hero Indiana Jones, or to contemplate how a character of his sort would move into old age and infuse this transition with life lessons. This movie is entertaining purely for its snazzy actions sequences but does not add to the overall myth, legend, or story.

But hey, how dare I expect artistic achievement from a series of great action movies from the 1980s? It’s far too lofty a hope, and an arguably inappropriate one given the nature of the originals, to search for cinematic greatness beyond kicking ass and wooing the ladies. But even the storyline in Crystal Skull is problematic. It begins in the right place by taking us to 1958 where we get to have fun with old-timey cars, cute pigtailed high school girls, and the doo-wop thrill of a packed malt shop of this era. Young heartthrob Shia LaBeouf dons an awesome poufy haircut and rides atop a slick motorcycle to dreamworthy effect, but the “long-lost son” thing only really holds for one good campus chase scene, one which sadly does not employ the use of a sidecar. From that point on the father/son relationship is murky and underdeveloped, attributes that later extend to Karen Allen’s character whose sudden yet predictable appearance brings nothing but cheap jokes and incentive for feminists everywhere to shudder in their seats.

Cate Blanchett vindicates the cast somewhat with her expertly portrayed Soviet she-spy, but her opportunity to shine is weighed down by the story’s unfortunate Twilight Zone plot twist. The supernatural element could be called appropriate since we know these films to thoroughly explore the myths and beliefs of ancient cultures, and the previous installments did in fact discover living proof of certain religious tales. However, the Crystal Skull doesn’t successfully convince the audience to get behind this new eerie undertaking in Indiana’s life, and so as he and his travel companions shake hands with the X-Files, I was left confused, angry, and tired (yes, I went to the midnight show). In conclusion, I’m no longer eight years old and so may be ill equipped to enjoy modern Spielberg/Lucas experiments.

Oops, I got through this whole spiel without one mention of Harrison Ford. Despite all, he’s super cool, and looks remarkably good for a 95 year old man.

David Ford

In a time not lacking in sensitive guitarists who would love to spill their weepy hearts all over us, David Ford succeeds in making his musings unique with his charming demeanor and stunning performance techniques. The singer-songwriter categorization may not thrill every music fan, but last night at the Bowery Ballroom Ford quickly put doubt to rest with his short yet captivating set. What makes this fellow stand apart from the rest began this evening with the simple shoosh of a maraca, shaken carefully for the length of one or two measures and then looped back to create a consistent backbeat. He continued on in this manner with an alarming number of sounds and instruments added to a whole that was eventually reminiscent of an entire backing band. This sort of self-accompaniment is not only captivating for the unique oddity it carries, but also in that the singling out of each part gives the audience a glance into the creative process of the artist, and in doing so teaches them a thing or two about making music. I mean, sure, a big band making a big sound can be incredibly pleasing to the ear, but how often can the average music fan truly understand the process behind this whole that’s so actively commanding their attention?

David Ford’s collected sound is aided in a grand way by his impressive vocal range. He began the set opener “Go To Hell” by singing a few verses softly over the backing parts he’d generated. As the song progressed he added “oohs” and “aahs” to the looping tracks to give his creation the delightful effect of harmony, and he eventually reached a crescendo of many David’s from hum to cathartic scream. A similarly fine moment came when he used the same construction techniques to perform the song “State of the Union,” the end of which had him standing on his chair wailing and pounding out piano chords with his foot, sounds that all the while were being looped mind you. This brings up another point of emphasis — I’ve not in my day seen such a device as the one he was using in the stead of a normal, boring ‘ol piano. This dude packed a rigged up mini player piano with an effects board jammed into the top part somehow, so that he was able to alternately play soft piano numbers and accordingly rockin’ blasts for the looped numbers. What an eclectic young man.

Ford’s engaging performance style is a talent that would entertain a variety of listeners. At the times when he puts the fancy machinery aside and simply sings a guitary love song, he may lose a bit of his “Wow, who is that guy?” charm, but there is nary a moment that does not come infused with a clear passion for his words and his sounds. Lyrically Ford shares in the common struggle to heal the painful parts of love and to understand this crazy world we live in, and he rests comfortably there in a place we’ve all been before. The mushy moments last night were broken up nicely by between-song banter wherein he interacted with the audience with wit and ease. You see folks, he’s British. Lines like “Thank you very much indeed” and “A fine evening to you!” are sure to please any audience on this side of the Atlantic, even if all present can’t immediately pinpoint the root of such charm. Take this bit I overheard from the teenyboppers next to me when David invited a pal on stage and referred to him as “My dear friend and countryman.”

“Countryman? What does that mean?”
“They’re both British”
“Oh.”

For more fun with looping, read of the vocal constrictions of Petra Haden

Barbara Walters says Rosie O’Donnell ‘couldn’t ride the bus’?

During her “shocking” interview on the Oprah show, Barbara Walters said of Rosie O’Donnell, “She had always driven the bus and she could not just ride the bus.”

Huh? Barbara may be a legend of television, but apparently she doesn’t watch a lot of it, or she would already be aware of a little Rosie O’Donnell classic, a made-for-TV film (‘movie’ doesn’t do it justice) known as Riding the Bus with My Sister.

RidingTheBusMovie

Can’t ride the bus indeed!

P.S. I highly recommend this movie to everyone who wants to see Rosie O’Donnell flailing around pretending to be retarded. I like to call it “The Rosie O’Donnell Story” and pretend she’s playing it completely straight.