Wednesday, January 30, 2008

the great american collection of short stories

....turns out I'm writing one, and it's due the first week in March.

Sorry to all those who were thinking this post would be about Flannery O'Connor. I've got my own writing to freak out about, lest I compare myself to the master herself.

Never fear. Hiatuses can be broken for my two cents about this year's oscars.

Monday, January 21, 2008

my guilty pleasure hath a name: American Gladiators

To my knowledge, the recently exhumed incarnation of "American Gladiators" has received some pretty crappy reviews. Those crappy reviews, however, don't keep me away from the show.... a show that (when I first heard the news of its resurrection) I couldn't wait to start.


Flashback to the early 1990s camp-a-thon "American Gladiators", where steroid-pumped failed actors with stage names like "Nitro" and "Thunder" kicked the shit out of everyday-American peons who thought that nerf jousting looked easier than it actually was. This show was very much a staple of my childhood primetime television lineup.

Now, with a re-jigged set and reality show makeover (instead of everyday peons fighting for a new car and a lot of cash, these new contestants fight for a position as Gladiator (stage name to be determined) and a lot of cash), "American Gladiators" is reaping the benefits of the WGA strike wasteland of non-scripted television. Hosted by Hulk Hogan (yes!) and Laila Ali (who?), this show is also reining in the viewers who loved WWF in the 1980s and 1990s on sheer Hulk love alone. I don't feel there's much to explain about my guilty pleasure drive to watch the show, just the fact that it's vapid entertainment that I can cheer along to the TV with. I usually can't stomach any form of reality show (except for my beloved "Top Chef", the 4th season of which is starting soon), but "Gladiators" kind of skirts that issue by reigniting the original cheez-fest with a late 2000s gloss and burying the whole prize-winning aspect beneath the timed tests of strength and agility.

Instead of swathed in comic book red-white-and-blue spandex, the new gladiators squeeze themselves into silver and black, and (thankfully) look less freakish than those in the early 1990s. Not all gladiators are the exception, though, including overactors "Wolf" (the picture at left should say it all) and "Toa" (right), who is trying much too hard to channel an Aztec warlord or something. The silvery loincloth he wears probably isn't helping. Bodybuilding women have never been an appealing set to me, so thankfully these gladiator girls are less muscle-pumped and a little more feminine, while still exuding the sexy allure of being able to kick your ass. Gladiator Hottie Award goes to "Crush" (left), whereas Gladiator Tranny Award goes to "Fury", with "Hellga" (both right, and needfully smaller-sized) being a runner-up. *shudder*

My favorite renovation of the show? ASSAULT, where the contestant attempts to dodge a tennis ball pitching machine wielded by a gladiator in hopes of hitting a bullseye above said gladiator's head. When the target is hit, the gladiator gets launched into a pool. How awesome is that?

In related news, I hope the writers' strike doesn't go on forever.

[Side note: Does anyone remember the episode of "Family Matters" where Urkel and Carl were contestants on "American Gladiators"? Filmed at the height of Gladiator popularity, that episode very well may have been the most effective cross-programmatic advertising for the sitcom-viewing set I have ever seen.]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

judging a movie by its inanely crappy title

Pardon my recent vacations. I've missed you all too.

Now onto more pressing concerns:

Can someone in Hollywood PLEASE stop greenlighting movies with shitty titles? Exhibit 1: Definitely, Maybe. Horrible premise, problematic casting, and an excruciatingly terribly title. Would you go to a movie called "Definitely, Maybe" on the title alone? What the hell are you supposed to know about a movie called that? Think even more baseline: would you bother picking up a book called "Definitely, Maybe"? A magazine? A free newspaper? Even if just for the crossword puzzle?

Let's not even get into the problems that this title runs into in the correct-English department. Is it too much to ask to have appropriately syntactic titles as well?

The movie looks to be a grotesque redemptive feel-good have-faith-in-families love story where no one ends up angry and characters who should end up hating others likely don't. Ryan Reynolds (who?) plays a single dad to young Oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin. Wait a minute.... did this character have his daughter when he was 12? Ryan Reynolds looks about old enough to still get carded in bars. And he's sort of cross-eyed. Meanwhile, Breslin gets to play the precocious and too-smart-for-her-age little girl who has a better barometer for her father's well-being than he does. Reality check: are there any movies or TV shows anymore that don't have pre-teens who have a better handle on life than their elders?