Monthly Archives

February 2011

Behind the Scenes at the Oscars 2011

I have a friend who went to the Oscars and as usual, she called me after the Governors Ball. She shared the following anecdotes, things you didn’t get to see on TV. She also took these pictures. (For my reaction to the show, click here.)

Didn’t I tell you the show would be horrible? [I said yes.] You were bored at home? I was there.

I loved the bit from the opening film montage where the hosts were in True Grit and I liked the auto-tune medley making fun of Twilight but that was it. I couldn’t deal with anything else. I will say I thought when Anne [Hathaway] came out at the beginning and said, “All of you are real!” that was a genuine moment. She’s been working her ass off, rehearsing last night until 11 p.m. with only cardboard placeholders in the audience. So I thought she was really excited to look out and see actual celebrities sitting there.

Mirren with husband Taylor Hackford

Russell Brand was addicted to bananas; he couldn’t stop eating them backstage. He must have eaten four. And Helen Mirren was eating one, too. Right before they went onstage to present the foreign film award, she handed her half-eaten banana to someone and said something like, “It would be funny if I went out there eating a banana, wouldn’t it?” I laughed so hard. She looked at me and said, “Right?”

And Brand was joking with some stagehands and pretended to make really weird demands like, “I need this restroom, some candles, a spoon”—and some other things I can’t remember— “and I need them NOW!” No cameras were on him but he was really funny. I thought, This is why he’s famous.

Governors Ball

I talked to Hailee Steinfeld and found out she’s a quarter Filipino. Who knew?

The Govenors Ball was fun. All-you-can-eat sushi! Jeff Bridges and Christopher Nolan stayed until the very end. Jake Gyllenhaal and Scarlett Johansson left almost right away.

Anne arrived very late, around 10:30. She looked really happy.

 

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Oscars 2011 Reaction: Nerdies for Best & Worst Moments

Watching the Oscars is akin to how people describe childbirth to me—it’s painful but after some time passes you forget about the pain and want to do it again. I don’t think I’ve really enjoyed an Academy Awards show since Billy Crystal hosted but every year I get excited about it. Tonight’s show, though, was one of the most awful in recent memory, something I wouldn’t have expected with James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts.

I like these two actors on film and both are multi-talented so I’m still scratching my head as to why the show was so dull. Hathaway makes me laugh when she hosts Saturday Night Live (have you seen her Katie Holmes impression?) and was winning when she dueted with Hugh Jackman in the musical number that opened the Oscars two years ago. And Franco—I find him funny even when he isn’t trying to be. But their opening dialogue tonight was devoid of laughs (you know the show’s in trouble when Franco’s grandma was funnier than the hosts with her line, “I just saw Marky Mark!”) and it was painful to watch Hathaway pushing through it while Franco looked like he couldn’t be bothered. I suspect he’s a collector of experiments, agreeing to do this so he could pull off stunts like tweeting live video of himself during the show from backstage and even as he went onstage (you can see him recording these clips on his phone in the photo above).

The actors’ inability to entertain was emphasized when Billy Crystal came out to do a short monologue about past Oscar hosts, seguing into clips of Bob Hope, the person who has hosted the most times (18). Both Crystal and Hope, in comedic bits from over 50 years ago, were funnier than Hathaway and Franco. (Heck, former host Hugh Jackman sitting in the audience was funnier.) I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer hoping Crystal would take over for the rest of the ceremony. That would’ve been the biggest and most welcome surprise of the evening.

But enough about the hosts. Let’s move on to the show. You’ve probably heard the winners in the major categories were The King’s Speech for best picture, Colin Firth for actor, Natalie Portman for actress, Christian Bale for supporting actor, Melissa Leo for supporting actress, Tom Hooper for director, Aaron Sorkin for adapted screenplay, and David Seidler for original screenplay (for the full list of winners, click here). I will now award my own Nerdies for the highlights of the show.

Most princely speech: David Seidler. The man who wrote eloquent speeches for the cinematic King George VI in The King’s Speech gave a beautiful one himself, easily the best of the night. The 73-year-old Seidler started with “My father always said to me I’d be a late bloomer.” He noted that he’s the oldest winner in his category then said, “I hope that record will be broken quickly and often.” He concluded with “I accept this on behalf of all the stutterers of the world. We have a voice, we have been heard, thanks to you, the Academy.” Future winners should study his model: classy, witty and no wasted words.

Best mind-reader: Cate Blanchett. While watching the nominees for best makeup, I thought The Wolfman‘s clips looked particularly gross. When they ended, Blanchett said, “That’s gross.” She cannot be more awesome.

Most non-shocking “upset”: Tom Hooper’s. I was on Twitter when the director category was announced and a lot of folks seemed upset or shocked by his win. Why? First of all, Hooper won the DGA award, a pretty strong indicator he’d win the Oscar. Secondly, he made me care about a king who lived over 60 years ago in a foreign country while David Fincher couldn’t make me give a damn about people living today and events that are still unfolding (the Winklevoss twins are appealing their settlement). And I use Facebook!

Dance number I’d most like to have seen: Colin Firth’s. The year’s best actor said “I’m afraid I have to warn you that I’m experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves.” Warn us? How about make it a promise for next year’s show?

Romantic comedy I’d most like to see: one starring Firth and Sandra Bullock. While presenter Jeff Bridges’ scripted tributes to the five best actress nominees were cringe-inducing, Bullock managed to make her praise of the five best actor nominees funny and off the cuff. She was especially charming with Firth, making me think, “Why hasn’t anyone paired these two in a movie?”

Most mis-understood moment: Christian Bale regarding his wife’s name. While the Internet is speculating and chastising the actor for seemingly forgetting her name when he thanked her, I don’t think this is the case, based on the fact he never mentions her name or his daughter’s in public (though the media has identified his wife). If you scroll back through all the acceptance speeches and interviews he’s done this season, you’ll find this to be true. His sister, whom I used to know through work, told me he’s fiercely private when it comes to his family.

Best live-action Muppet: Luke Matheny. With his mop of hair and bouncy energy, the live-action-short winner was so infectious I was hoping he’d launch into a musical number with Kermit and friends.

Dish most people would probably want to eat: the Randy Newman chicken. Having been nominated 273 times (OK, it’s actually 20), the singer/songwriter, who won his second Oscar this year for best original song from Toy Story 3, joked there’s now a dish named after him at the annual nominees’ luncheon. Since he seems to get nominated every other year, we should all have what he’s having.

What did you think of the show and the hosts? Most/least favorite moments? Click here to read behind-the-scenes anecdotes from a friend of mine who attended the ceremony.

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Movie Challenge: Best Picture Hybrids

There’s been a lot of ink leading up to the Oscars this Sunday and last week I realized I was bored with the nominees being discussed the same way over and over again: Who will win? Who might be an upset? Who should win but probably won’t? Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

When I saw yet another article this morning dissecting the 10 best picture nominees, I thought, “What if I mixed the titles together and made up a whole new batch of movies?”

Here’s what I produced:

  1. The Grits Are All Right—A woman’s quest to find a better recipe for her favorite Southern dish after her mother-in-law said her cooking was “just okay.”
  2. The Fighter’s Bone—After mistakenly believing that abstaining from sex for 48 hours before a fight would help him, a boxer loses the championship title when his body reacts to a hot ring girl during round three.
  3. The King’s Inception—How Colonel Tom Parker met Elvis Presley and helped create a rock ‘n’ roll icon.
  4. The Social Hours—A reclusive accountant goes on a murderous rampage after being forced to socialize at one too many office birthday parties for co-workers he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to buy gifts for.
  5. Black Kids—A happily married white couple gets a shock when the wife gives birth to twins significantly darker in skin tone. After many tears, they reconcile when she convinces him it was due to all the self-tanner she used during pregnancy.
  6. True Swan Story—Based on the 2008 incident in which a man was terrorized for three days by an angry swan in Central Park after it got fed up with him repeatedly throwing Taco Bell wrappers in the lake.
  7. 127 Toys—The disturbing discovery in J. Edgar Hoover’s closet after his death.

Which one of these would you see? Feel like producing your own? The titles you can play with are: Black Swan, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, Inception, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, Winter’s Bone, True Grit, The Fighter, and The Kids Are All Right.

Leave your hybrid titles with fake plots in the comments and, if we get enough “nominees,” we’ll vote for one to win the best picture Acanerdy Award!

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Movie Review: UNKNOWN

Back in 1987, I reviewed for my school paper the movie Suspect, starring Cher, Dennis Quaid, and Liam Neeson in one of his first American features. I remember writing that even though Neeson was mostly silent as a deaf-mute homeless man, his towering presence commanded the screen and announced him as an actor to watch.

Almost a quarter century later (dang, I’m old), that presence is more potent than ever in movies like Unknown, in which he plays a man up against impossible odds. His character, Dr. Martin Harris, in Berlin for a bio-tech conference, gets in a car accident and regains consciousness only to find that everyone he knows, including his wife (an oddly robotic January Jones), denies knowing him. To add insult to his head injury, another man (Aidan Quinn) has already taken over his life, with all the knowledge and credentials to prove he is Dr. Harris. What the funk?

Left without any I.D. (apparently he can’t even check into a seedy motel without it), the original Harris races around the city searching for answers while eluding men who want him dead. His only ally is the cab driver (Diane Kruger) who saved his life during the accident but has reasons for staying under the radar.

The movie is helped along by Neeson, the intriguing mystery, and some decent action scenes, including a white-knuckling car chase. The Berlin locale is nice, too, though I wish the filmmakers had showcased it more. How cool would it have been to have a climactic scene happen at the Brandenburg Gate? Or, a la Frank Fry clinging to the Statue of Liberty in Hitchcock’s Saboteur, have someone dangling from the Victory Column in Tiergarten? As it is, we get just a couple brief glimpses of Berlin’s iconic landmarks and the rest could have happened in any European city. The denouement takes place at the well-known Hotel Adlon but it looks like many other upscale hotels.

Kruger is better employed as the scrappy Gina, a different kind of role for the actress who usually plays icy, elegant women. Gina is streetwise and proves herself a valuable sidekick to Harris. It is a bit hard, though, to buy a woman looking like a hip fashion model as a cab driver/waitress.

But that’s the least unbelievable thing in the movie. After an interesting setup, the resolution includes a too-convenient coincidence and actions that don’t make sense (Jones’s character does something incredibly stupid). Some plot points aren’t even addressed, leaving me almost as confused as Harris. It’s not possible to go into details without revealing spoilers so I’ll just say that in the end, the answers to many questions remain unknown.

Nerd verdict: Intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying Unknown

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Tell Me a Story about…Bananas

This past weekend, I was thinking about doing another edition of “tell me a story…” (see sample past posts here and here) in which I give you a random word and you tell me whatever anecdote or thoughts that word triggers for you. I do it occasionally when I’m sitting around with friends and the stories that emerge never fail to be interesting.

Serendipitously, while I was on Twitter today, regular PCNerdherders Poncho and Christine asked me if I’d consider playing the game again so I thought, Yes, let’s. I hollered to the hubster to give me a random word and since he was eating breakfast, he said, “Banana!” A story about banana it is.

When I was a kid living in Saigon, my family would visit my paternal grandparents every weekend. I enjoyed these visits because Grandpa always had Lifesavers candy for me and my siblings. We didn’t even have to share; he’d give us each our own roll. In Vietnam, this American candy was rare so it was a very special treat for us.

One day, my mother decided mid-week to take us for a visit. Grandpa didn’t have a phone (most people didn’t back then) so we showed up unannounced. He was dismayed that he didn’t have any candy on hand for us kids despite my mother saying he shouldn’t worry about it, that we’d gotten plenty from him in the past and could certainly do without for once. But Grandpa was determined to give us treats. He put on his hat, announced he would walk to the market (most people walked everywhere then, too), and asked us to wait for him.

He came home much later, smiling triumphantly, his neck sunburned where the hat didn’t cover it. He said, “I couldn’t find Lifesavers but I have something else that’s delicious” and held up a bunch of bananas. My grandfather loved bananas, something inherited by my dad but not necessarily us kids. I could hear my brother and sister groaning and will admit I was disappointed, too.

But then I looked at him, having just returned from a long walk on a hot day, that big smile breaking up his lined face. So I said, “I’ll have one.” Grandpa gave me a banana longer than my arm (I was a small child) but I was determined to eat that whole thing and made yummy noises to show how much I was enjoying it. And then I asked for a second one. Since no one else was having any, I ended up ingesting four to show Grandpa how much we appreciated his treat.

Afterward, I had a belly ache on the way home but I think it was worth it to let my grandfather know his trip to the market wasn’t wasted. And surprise—I learned to love bananas!

OK, your turn. Tell me your story!

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Book Review: Erin Kelly’s THE POISON TREE

The cover of Erin Kelly’s The Poison Tree is stunning, with its web of black branches against a blood red background. It conveys a sense of ominousness, daring me to peek inside and unravel its mysteries. Turns out Tree shelters deep, dark secrets all right but unfortunately I didn’t care much for the characters harboring them.

The story moves back and forth between the present—when Karen picks up her former lover Rex from prison after he’s served ten years for a double murder—and 1997, when the killings took place. We see Rex readjusting to life on the outside with Karen and their little girl while we gradually learn why he went inside in the first place. And Karen apparently has a giant secret that is harder to keep after Rex’s release.

I was a little surprised by one plot twist but not so much by the big final one because it was the only possible explanation for a series of mysterious incidents. And once that secret was revealed, there was only one way it could have been dealt with so the ending was not as shocking as the author perhaps intended.

Kelly paints vivid pictures of the London setting, both in the present and the past, but I found the three lead characters inaccessible. The three friends engaged in a hedonistic lifestyle in their youth so it’s no wonder they encountered such troubles. Biba is an irresponsible, self-serving party girl enabled by her brother, Rex. He indulges her out of guilt for perceived wrongs he committed during their wretched childhood, but at some point people need to grow up and stop using their past as an excuse for destructive behavior.

As for Karen, it’s understandable why she might be drawn to Rex and Biba—they’re exotic to her goody-two-shoes sensibilities—but after she’s repeatedly taken advantage of and treated like a doormat by Biba, I couldn’t fathom why she continued to put up with it. I lost my patience and sympathy for her after a while because people who choose to drink from the poisoned cup have to deal with the consequences.

Nerd verdict: Not-so-potent Poison

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Ten Unexpectedly Romantic Movies

Today is Valentine’s Day, whether you like it or not. Since you’ve probably been bombarded by sentimental consumerism for a couple months, I thought I’d put together a list of movies that are romantic in much subtler ways. None of these titles can be found in the romance category; their plots are much bigger than boy and girl meet cute and bicker until they realize they’re meant for each other. But while something else is going on, while some of these characters are enmeshed in life-or-death struggles, love happens anyway and that’s my favorite kind: the unexpected romance that can’t be denied.

So, instead of the latest rom-com dreck from Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl, why not watch or review one of these instead?

**Might be spoilery if you haven’t seen these movies**

  1. The Terminator. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a freaked-out waitress being chased by a cyborg from the future who wants to kill her, falls for the soldier sent to protect her. In the midst of all the craziness, she and Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) make love in a hotel room, a good thing for the future resistance but bittersweet for them and viewers.
  2. Casino Royale. After a deadly fight in a stairwell, James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes back to his hotel room and finds Vespa (Eva Green) sitting fully clothed and shivering in the shower, in shock from the events she witnessed. He gets into the shower with her, tux and all, turns up the hot water, puts his arm around her and her fingers in his mouth when she said she couldn’t wash the blood off them. (I, um, need a moment after writing that paragraph.)
  3. Out of Sight. The beginning scene in the trunk of the car, when U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) is locked in with newly-escaped-from-prison Jack Foley (George Clooney), isn’t hot enough for you? How about the scene when they meet in a bar that’s cross-cut with them slowly undressing and getting it on?
  4. District 9. This might be a sci-fi film about aliens and genetic engineering, but for me it’s about an everyman, Wikus (Sharlto Copley), trying to survive a nightmare and get back to his wife, Tania (Vanessa Haywood), whom he calls an angel. The final scene when she receives a scrap-metal flower she can’t bear to throw away, followed by the glimpse of a grotesque prawn delicately making such a flower, just breaks my heart.
  5. Witness. While Detective John Book is undercover in Amish country to protect a young boy who witnessed a murder, he’s drawn to the boy’s mother, Rachel (Kelly McGillis). Their dance in the barn to Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” is sweet enough, but their walk towards each other at dusk, with Rachel throwing down her bonnet before they kiss feverishly, is swoon-worthy.
  6. Notorious. Yeah, yeah, it’s about the daughter of a Nazi spy sent undercover to gather intelligence on one of her father’s old friends, but it contains that kiss between Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) and her handler, Devlin (Cary Grant). The classic scene of them talking while kissing for over two minutes, bypassing a Production Code regulation at the time banning onscreen kisses lasting over three seconds, makes it notoriously sexy.
  7. House of Flying Daggers. Police deputy Jin (Takeshi Kineshiro) pretends to be a wandering rogue and breaks Mei (Zhang Ziyi) out of jail, hoping she’d lead him back to the lair of the Flying Daggers so he can kill the leader of the rebel group. Despite warnings from his colleague, Jin develops feelings for Mei along the way. When she discovers his true identity and is ordered to kill him, Mei takes him out to a field and ends up rolling around in it with him instead. It’s a hot stolen moment before they have to get back on their horses and flee from people who want them dead.
  8. The Empire Strikes Back. The Empire is on their tail and the Millenium Falcon is experiencing some mechanical troubles but while Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is trying to fix something, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) comes along and “helps” by kissing her after massaging her sore hands. Later on, when she finally tells him she loves him before he gets encased in carbonite, Solo says, “I know,” a perfect rejoinder that’s much more romantic than anything else he could’ve said.
  9. Superman. Supes (Christopher Reeve) shows Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) his bird’s eye view of Metropolis by taking her on an evening aerial tour while John Williams’s score of “Can You Read My Mind?” soars. For a while, that scene ruined me for first dates. I wanted to be flown through the skies and how could mortals live up to that? Good thing no one was offering me any kind of dates at the time and I was able to avoid massive disappointment. (I later became a news reporter but no one ever gave me an interview that good.)
  10. Wall*E. The title character is a robot cleaning up a waste-laden Earth in the future. The object of his affection is EVE, a robot who searches for signs of life. The two are machines that don’t talk, but somehow their love affair is one of the most poignant in recent years. If you didn’t feel a lump in your throat during the scene near the end when it looks like the damaged-then-repaired WALL*E has lost all memory of EVE, you might not be human.

What movies have you found unexpectedly romantic?

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Book Review: Sophie Littlefield’s AFTERTIME

Before I get to the review, I want to mention I don’t normally read dystopian fiction, horror, or romance novels and I definitely don’t do zombies. I can handle aliens and Godzilla but zombies give me the creeps.

So what possessed me to read Aftertime (Luna, Feb. 22), which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, is overrun with flesh-eating zombies, and contains, ah, really steamy scenes? The fact it was written by Sophie Littlefield, who can get me to read anything.

The story (first of a trilogy) begins with Cass waking up in a field with no memories of the past two months. Last she remembers, she was seized by zombies—called Beaters—while she was picking dandelions in a field with her three-year-old daughter, Ruthie. Missing strips of flesh on her body indicate she’d been attacked and zombiefied but for unknown reasons, her body healed itself and she became human again. Now, nothing will stop her as she travels through Beaters-infested terrain to reclaim her daughter, meeting a man named Smoke along the way who turns out to be as seductive and dangerous as his name.

Littlefield excels at keeping the momentum going and she knows how to inject a huge beating heart into any story, even one in which humanity is barely alive. Yes, the zombies are revolting. When they’re feasting on flesh, I almost vomited like a character does in the book. Violent, disturbing things happen but at the center of it all is a woman trying to redeem herself for past mistakes, to finally do the right thing for the right reason: her love for her child. She’s not superhuman; her arduous quest is fueled by maternal instinct but sometimes that’s the most powerful thing of all.

Smoke is more elusive as a character. He’s a little too perfect for me—studly, aces on a motorcycle, trusts Cass instantly though there’s reason to think she might be carrying zombie cooties, he’s strong but tender, etc. Then again, I’m glad Cass has such a man accompanying her. An out-of-shape sissy who hurts himself riding a motorbike and cries for mama when he sees zombies would have been no good. And Smoke doesn’t get to rescue Cass in the end. She leaves him behind on her final task and saves her own damn self.

Littlefield has a way of turning mundane things from Before into wistful memories in Aftertime, making me appreciate what I have here and now. In one scene, Cass closes her eyes and daydreams about vacuuming, moving her arms in the motion of a chore that no longer exists in a world where everyone and everything is dirty. She imagines turning on the faucet at a sink and feeling cold water rush over her arms. All of a sudden I wanted to wash my hands and do some vacuuming—a task I have no love for—just because I can. By the time Cass spots defiant dandelions that refuse to die among the ruins, I was convinced they’re the most beautiful flowers on earth.

Nerd verdict: Engrossing Aftertime

Buy Aftertime from Amazon| B&N| Indie Bookstores

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Book Review: Brad Parks’s EYES OF THE INNOCENT

Though Brad Parks had Shamus and Nero awards thrown at his Faces—his debut novel, Faces of the Gone, that is— there’s no sign of the sophomore slump in his follow-up, Eyes of the Innocent, which is even better than its predecessor.

Newark Eagle-Examiner investigative reporter Carter Ross is back, assigned to write a routine piece about the dangers of space heaters. He soon discovers the story behind a recent house fire that killed two children had nothing to do with heaters, but something much more destructive and prevalent. His investigation turns deadly when he and his interns uncover corruption that leads to City Hall.

The topic at the center of Eyes—the subprime mortgage crisis—is a resonant, timely one. In the last few years, I’ve watched hardworking friends lose their homes after being encouraged by lenders to buy more than their budgets allowed. Seeing their homeowners’ pride turn into panic is heart-rending and Parks captured that sense of despair. Sometimes the villain doesn’t carry a gun or have tattoos. He/she could be the person in the suit who preys on your dreams.

The novel isn’t all bleak. Parks inserts notes of levity into the proceedings, sometimes with just a line: “She’s so tough she can slam a revolving door.” His characters are colorful and never lacking for quips. Ross’s editor Tina still wants him to be her sperm donor/baby daddy and his intern Tommy still disparages Ross’s WASP-y fashion sense. And don’t underestimate new intern Sweet Thang aka Lauren, whose hot body Ross tries hard not to ogle. She may seem too fluffy for the newsroom at first but later proves she’s made of sterner stuff.

Nerd verdict: Sharp, witty Eyes

Buy Eyes of the Innocent from Amazon| B&N| Indie Bookstores

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TV Review: THE CHICAGO CODE

Though Shawn Ryan’s The Chicago Code (FOX, Mondays, 9 p.m.) isn’t the most innovative cop show ever, its style and content make it immensely watchable. Jennifer Beals stars as Teresa Colvin, the Chicago Police Department’s first female superintendent. She assembles a secret task force to take down corrupt alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo), who put her in charge because he thought she’d play nice. Having no official backing or funding, she has only two team members, her ex-partner Detective Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) and his new partner, Caleb Evers (Friday Night Lights‘ Matt Lauria).

The show carries a few Ryan trademarks: snappy dialogue, whiplash-fast pacing, and excellent acting. If you saw The Shield‘s pilot, you probably weren’t surprised (I was expecting it) when ***mild spoiler alert!!*** a seemingly integral part of the task force was fatally shot.

***end spoiler***

Not sure if I like the voiceovers from multiple characters’ POV and don’t know if it’s necessary. (Don’t love it on Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives, either, but at least they stick to only one narrator.) The show has enough going for it, though, that I’m willing to put up with the narration if it doesn’t get too distracting.

Beals, who has become more beautiful and a better actress over time, exudes a breezy confidence as Colvin, wearing her power lightly but never letting us or her underlings forget who’s boss. That isn’t as easy to do as it sounds. I remember when Mariska Hargitay started out on Law & Order: SVU as Detective Benson. She was trying so hard to act tough, it was painful to watch. She eventually relaxed into the role, doing something Beals seems to have figured out from the get-go: If you’re in control, you just are and don’t have to prove it.

Clarke is hard-nosed without being a jerk and you wouldn’t know he’s Australian from his Chicago accent (though I don’t know how authentic it is). Lauria is appealing as the baby-faced cop whom Wysocki underestimates at first. Lindo covers his sleaziness with smooth indignation, making him a formidable opponent and someone I’ll enjoy watching Colvin’s team take down.

Nerd verdict: Code crackles

Did you watch this? What did you think?

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Thoughts on Super Bowl Ads & Post-Game GLEE

Since I’m not a football fan, I reversed my viewing habit of DVR’d shows and only watched the commercials (after Christina Aguilera’s horribly overwrought and mangled version of the anthem, that is). I thought the funniest ones were this Doritos one where the guy was able to bring a dead fish, dead plant and finally Grandpa back to life by sprinkling Doritos crumbs on them…

…and the Bridgestone one where the poor office worker thought he’d hit “reply all” to an e-mail and raced around retrieving everyone’s computer or smart device before they could read it. Love how he went about the whole thing with a ninja cry.

The best homage to a classic Coke ad was the House spot with the kid trying to give the mean doctor a churro, a la the boy giving Mean Joe Green a Coke in the 1980 Super Bowl commercial. But instead of softening up Dr. House, the kid gets a cane thrown at him. The spot perfectly captures how Dr. Crankypants won’t soften for anyone.

The ads for Groupon, on the other hand, were flat-out wrong. The Timothy Hutton pitch was bad enough, switching to him enjoying fish curry when we thought he was spotlighting the troubles in Tibet, but the one that aired later was even worse. It began with Elizabeth Hurley talking earnestly about saving the rainforests, then suddenly shown in a bathrobe saying, “But deforestation isn’t all bad,” and segueing into how you can save money on Brazilian waxes with Groupon. Eww. I don’t want to know about Hurley’s, ah, jungle down there. I love irreverent humor but these spots just didn’t work for me.

After the SB, I tuned in to the Glee “event,” though with all the teasers hyping it during the game, I felt I’d seen almost the entire episode. By the time it was over, I found it underwhelming, partly due to the following reasons:

  • Mr. Shue told Rachel and Puck to wow the football team with a performance to entice them to join glee club and what did they sing? Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” Really? That song is nice and all but they thought a country ballad was the best way to impress a bunch of macho dudes? Puck making menacing faces at the guys while singing “Can’t stop looking at the door/Wishing you’d come sweeping in/The way you did before” was so ridiculous, it made me laugh.
  • The Warblers singing Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” was also odd. They’re a bunch of high school students—how many bills do they have? The best numbers are the ones where the kids connect emotionally or the songs arise out of something they’re going through. When they crowed “We’re ready for regionals!” after finishing this song, I thought, “Yeah, ready to get your butt kicked if you don’t come up with something better.”
  • The centerpiece “Thriller” routine was shot with so many closeups and quick cuts that we couldn’t see the big picture, which is the point of doing that number—the choreography. The camera should’ve pulled back. From what I could see, it looked rather messy, with dancers all over the place instead of in sync with each other.

I did like Katie Couric interviewing Sue for being a giant loser, beating out such contenders as the economy, Mel Gibson, Dina Lohan and her dog, Sparky, “who is apparently also a loser.” Couric’s delivery was perfectly deadpan, and clued-in to the humor of her having the loser gig. Sue: “I thought this was the most fascinating people.” “That’s Barbara Walters,” Couric replies, with only a bit of edge in her voice.

Which ad(s) did you like the best? Worst? What did you think of Glee?

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