Thursday, July 31, 2008

seminar bingo: you've no idea what's going on

From PhD Comics:




ew: 24 smartest tv/movie characters


Entertainment Weekly has created a list the 24 smartest tv/movie characters. There are the obvious (Temperance Brennan from Bones, Dr. House from House, and Will Hunting from, well, you know) but some interesting choices include Adrian Monk (Monk), Doc Emmett Brown (Back to the Future, the ultimate absent-minded professor), and Jamal Wallace (Finding Forrester, such an underrated film).


My favorite on the list: Leonard and Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. I would never be friends with Sheldon in real life -- he's kind of mean -- but conversations with him would be amazing (like his problem with teleportation, for example).

Sadly the gallery lacks many female characters. I think there's 4-5 out of 24. And Gabrielle from High School Musical is one of those. Hmm... what about sensical characters? There's book smarts and then there's street smarts. Intelligence does not necessarily mean Doogie Howser. It could mean Leela from Futurama or Liz Lemon from 30 Rock.

I want to like the list (simply for existing), but I think EW is using a very limiting definition of "intelligent." Who is missing from this list? Would it be cheating if I were to put a real person on the list, like Julia Robert's title role from Erin Brokovich?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

battlestar at comic-con

(image is from this year's panel)

Although I cannot embed the video, you can watch the Battlestar Galactica cast and creators (Jamie Bamber, Michael Trucco, Katee Sackoff, Tricia Helfer, James Callis, Ron D. Moore, and David Eick, and guest attendee Tahmoh Penikett) discuss the awesomest awesome that ever awesomed at this year's Comic-Con here. A few thoughts about the panel...

Kevin Smith: I don't think Bamber was very impressed with moderator Kevin Smith's vulgar humor. And, I have to admit, I wasn't either. He takes sarcasm to almost a rude level, and at times I thought he crossed the line. At one point, he "joked" that a fan's question was boring. And for someone who claims to watch BSG religiously, I was unimpressed with his (lack of) knowledge about the show. He doesn't remember titles of episodes? I could name them. Because BSG actually is my religion. BUT, to Smith's credit, he does point out that Princess Leia is not a good female role model because "she had guns at one point" but then goes to a slave in a gold bikini. So there's that.


Rant: Like artists discussing their work, actors are really bad at communicating their thoughts about characters. In all honesty, I don't care what makes Katee Sackoff giggle. I would much rather hear Moore or Eick analyze Starbuck's character development (which is why I listen to the episode commentaries). Also, I felt like Sackoff couldn't distinguish herself from Starbuck. Smith mentions that Starbuck is a new strong female character, since, as Bamber intelligently notes, BSG is a gender-blind show. But Sackoff blushes and says she tries to be a good person... then she explains that women should take Starbuck's good qualities and not the bad ones... but she takes the term "role model" personally. I don't know. Do people care what Sackoff does in real life?


I could listen to James Callis all day: He's a writer's dream. He cares about the character he plays, and he really evaluates and forces himself to understand his character's motivations. He brings up the question, "If you're a nymphomaniac, does that make you any less spiritual?" And in Baltar's case, no, he can still be both. He also explains that the axis of how he played Baltar was his guilt -- which he later changed to shame -- and the room grew quiet because everyone was thinking of the deeper implications of the show. He has such fantastic answers, whereas, not to harp on her but, Sackoff just talks about how much she likes guns.


Some more Callis love: The cast was able to discuss their favorite (re: "most badass") scenes from the show. I found the answers to actually be uninspired (again, actors should have writers create material for them), but Callis had the best answer. Trucco agrees with Smith that Galactica entering New Caprica's atmosphere was amazing. Bamber said his was the pullback at the end of season three that ends on earth (good for Bamber for recognizing the narrative and technical importance of that shot). Sackoff and Helfer say it's when they got to shoot guns, which is really upsetting because Moore and Eick gave their two female characters so much fraktastic material, and all they can talk about is holding props? Thank the gods for James Callis.
"One of my favorite bits in the show is when Adama and Tigh are together, I think it's this season, and it's a very serious conversation about food is running out, people are committing suicide, and Adama says, 'Are the people on this particular ship still eating paper?' And Tigh goes, 'No.' And Adama says, 'Why?' And Tigh says, 'Paper shortage.' (crowd laughs) And then they both laugh, and... it just blew me away. The reality, the tragedy, the humor, the humanity. I thought it was fantastic."
James Callis, I think you're fantastic. I think Bamber is honestly in awe of the show and he understands why audiences have gravitated to the show and what it means for the sci-fi genre on a larger scale, but I think Callis is a real fan, both as an actor and as a thinker. (By the way, Moore picked one of my favorite moments: At the end of season two when Baltar's head lays on the desk and the words ONE YEAR LATER appears on the screen. It was bold storytelling, and the fact that we had 40 minutes, really just a tease, of life on New Caprica was beyond mind-blowing.)


Biggest surprise: Trucco is really funny. "They call me Steve."

nbc at comic-con


Zachary Levi and Josh Gomez (Chuck) interview Greg Grunberg and Tim Kring (Heroes). Funnier than any of the panels I've seen.

Chuck panel, as moderated by E! Online's Kristin Dos Santos. She does an extremely good job, by the way, and I'm convinced that Zachary Levi should be my friend. Kristin lets it slip that there's a same-sex kiss between two characters, presumably Chuck and Casey. That's right, Adam Baldwin is on the panel (he gets some Firefly love from the fans) and he talks about his soft lips, which counters the masculinity pills he's apparently been popping. Ellie and Captain Awesome are also present. They're a good group, probably because they're a relatively new show and aren't sick of each other, but each actor brings the funny. The best fan question: If your character had to die, how would you want them to die?

The Office panel, as moderated by Rainn Wilson. Surprisingly unfunny. They seemed kind of tired, but it's nice to know that B.J. Novak isn't a "d-bag" like his alter-ego, Ryan.

Lessons from Greg Grunberg. Why is he so funny? "Greg is my wife's hero."

Truth be told, as jealous as I am of those who went to Comic-Con, I'm more jealous of seeing other fans dress up and geek out than the actual panels. I've been skipping forward through the panels; hearing actors talk about themselves isn't interesting, and writers are so selfless (shy?) that they don't want to talk about how great their shows are or they want to pass off the credit to the actors, which in some instances may be true, but come on. How much do we really learn from the panels about the characters or the writing process or the production? Not a whole lot. People just want trailers and to be starstruck. But the pictures on some film blogs have been the most jealousy-inducing aspect. I've never dressed up for anything fan-related, and I don't really think I'm the type, but there's a wonderful excitement in that kind of escapism. Fan conventions are inherently fun for the fans. Perhaps next year.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

episodes: weeds, secret diary of a call girl


Weeds: First of all, I miss the opening theme song. I understand that the "little boxes" are no longer relevant, but now there's nothing. No song. No hook or catch. Just clever images that somehow incorporates pot into it. And wow. This season is ridiculous, and not in a good way. More like a writers-went-with-their-first-drafts kind of way. I like that Silas has started a relationship with an older woman (played by Julie Bowen), but I don't like that her character was not given a reason for being with a seventeen-year-old boy. All we know about her is that she works at a cheese shop and has a ten-year-old son. And, although I don't like gratuitous female nudity, I don't think the proper response is for equal gratuitous male nudity. Hunter Parrish has a beautiful body, but did I need to see his butt as he went to third base with his new friend? Even though the actor is twenty-one, his character is underage and it makes me feel gross. (And we'll get to jaw-droppingly disgusting in a moment...)

I enjoyed Albert Brooks's cranky gambling grandfather, and although I thought his exit was unrealistic, I do think he had to leave. But why is the entire gang back? Celia's integration into her new life was a complete waste (not to mention implausible and uninspired), and why is Doug still around? He's a fantastic character to have around (it's hilarious that a brief encounter with a Mexican refugee has turned him into a coyote), but the reason for him being there was ridiculously lame. And why does Nancy allow men to use her for sex? And why is sexuality her only weapon? Flashbacks of her and Judah made her seem like a good person at one point, but she's a terrible mess of a person. And on to the most disgusting thing I've ever seen on TV... and I've seen a lot of TV... Nancy's son, Shane, is masturbating to pictures of his naked mother. Umm, what? And why are the naked pictures done by a professional photographer? If I didn't enjoy Justin Kirk so much, I would've given up on this show a long time ago.

P.S. Hunter Parrish is set to star as Melchior in Spring Awakening in September. It's a crazy good show (the music/synopsis, anyway), and I'm surprised to learn that Parrish can sing. Kind of hot.


Secret Diary of a Call Girl: The show is now 85% sex, 15% character development. If only we can scale it back to 60-40, I'd be happy. The character Ben is growing on me, but it's really irritating that Hannah's character only grows when she's around him. I understand that the show requires her to discuss her career (like a diary), but aren't these confessions/acknowledgements also about her? If the episode's storylines are metaphors, they're not very strong ones. One of her clients is into S&M; she's not. What does that mean for her? It just tells us, the viewers, that she's not a fetishistic prostitute. She's classy. And I don't quite understand how Ben can engage in a couples session with Hannah and strangers and not feel weird about it, especially since he's getting married to Vanessa (who, as far as I know, we've never seen). The 85-15 setup isn't working for me, but Hannah's character is slowly starting to grow, so I'll stick around for a bit longer. And I still don't think Billie Piper is very attractive.

representing my people

From PhDcomics.com (click to enlarge):



Monday, July 28, 2008

he would have asked for a bush baby

An explanation of this art piece

Stanley Kubrick would have turned 80 two days ago, so I have compiled some essays from his textual website. All of the essays are worth reading, but something in each of them caught my eye. And I apologize that most of them are for 2001, but it's the greatest movie ever made and deserves any and all discussions about it.


2001 and the Motif of the Voyage by Claudia Zimny -- quite an extensive look at the fascination of voyages, linking back to Odysseus and Theseus, but also HAL's obsession with the mission.

The Case for HAL's Sanity by Clay Waldrop -- talks about the chess game, conversations concerning the failing AE-35 unit, and the threat of disconnection.

Comments on 2001 by Margaret Stackhouse -- presented in outline format, Kubrick said of Stackhouse's observations that they "are perhaps the most intelligent that I've read anywhere, and I am, of course, including all the reviews and the articles that have appeared on the film and the many hundreds of letters that I have received." Stackhouse discusses the monolith, HAL, and themes of 2001.

2001 and the Culture of Youth, a Newsgroup discussion -- this is the essay I would like to have written. (But for fun, here are the directions for the Zero Gravity toilet.)

Another Odyssey: Design and Meaning in 2001 by Mark Martel -- the most interesting part is about the mythos of the Cylop's eye and how it relates to HAL and A Clockwork Orange.


A Clockwork Orange and the Aestheticization of Violence by Alexander Cohen -- very interesting.

Kubrick, King, and the Ultimate Scare Tactic by Michael Dare -- in discussing The Shining, Dare notes that Kubrick does not go for cheap rushes of adrenaline. It doesn't matter the audience doesn't scream when Jack throws his ax into the bathroom door; what's scary is that Jack has an ax and is trying to kill his family. Also, it includes multiple-viewing observations at the bottom (did Jack kill the twin girls?).

The Shining and Transcendence, a conversation between Tim Fulmer and Rod Munday -- interesting ties to Buddhism and the Minotaur. They also conclude that intelligence saves lives, which is amusing but very true.

And just for fun, Brian Aldiss's "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long", the story that inspired the vision of A.I..

But if there's anything you read here, read Kubrick's Words and Movies. His aesthetic intelligence will astound you.


This image is from idealist.blinkr.net, and it asks, "Would you want an alarm clock with Jack saying "Here's Johnny" and Shelly Duvall screaming?" Because yes, yes I would.

tv roundup


Project Runway, Episode 2. Wow, these designers are really boring. For this environmentally-friendly challenge, the models were asked to pick up the fabric, and I really don't understand why a) the models got materials that were either an unflattering color or an impossible fabric or b) why multiple models got the same horrible brown satin fabric. Look at the picture; there are three caramel brown satin cocktail dresses. They all look similar, and they all look horrible. Wouldn't models understand what colors and fabrics look good on them? The winner of this challenge was Suede (bottom, middle), and no one who talks in third person or have the name Suede should ever win. Anything. Not even radio call-in contests. My favorites were Jennifer's (top, far right), whose dress flowed so beautifully on the runway, and Kenley's (second row, second from the right), whose silhouette and collar were so beautiful on this model. One last note: WTF? The judges liked Stella Trashbags's trashy dress (bottom, second from the left).


Because so many people have raved about season one of Mad Men, I decided to give it a chance and watched the season two premiere. I'm obviously at a disadvantage because I haven't seen any previous episodes, and I originally thought Mr. Draper was having an affair (with someone who, turns out, is his wife) and I still have no clue who knocked up Peggy. Although I love the costumes and set decor and overall look of the show, I don't know how long I can stick with a program where women are only sexual objects. All of the men have a "mister" before their names, but women are referred to by their first names. The women are all secretaries and mousey or whiney (where are the political protestors?), and the men all smoke and appear misogynistic (minus Mr. Draper, who is apparently the star character). But is Mr. Draper really a lovable character if everyone else lacks attractive qualities? But it did seem like Mr. Draper is battling some demons, so perhaps there was an affair or scandal, but it happened in the first season. I love period pieces, but some of the acting was awkward and the script didn't really impress me. The women just really annoyed me (oh, arrogant feminism), and I don't know how often I'll want to watch this. Plus, I don't know why it's called Mad Men.


My crush on Simon Pegg is growing. He was on The Soup the other night promoting the DVD release of Spaced (which is now taking up three spots on my Netflix list), and even though he was on for just a few moments, I got really excited. A little too excited. (Some imdb.com trivia for you: he auditioned for Rowan Atkinson's Rufus role in Love Actually, and the godfather of Chris Martin's Apple. Bizarre.) Just wanted to share. I heart Simon Pegg.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

saturdays with ted: j.j. abrams and rives


J.J. Abrams, best known as the creator of Felicity, Alias, and Lost, discusses "mystery boxes," a concept that has fueled his innovative creativity throughout his career. Although Abrams seems a bit out of place at Ted, once he starts talking about magic and his belief in the possibilities of imagination, he reminds you why dreams are just as important as science. His talk is quite infectious, mostly because he talks like an excited ten-year-old fanboy, and he reveals a shocking secret about a scene from Mission Impossibe III (which involves sensory deception), and he talks about my favorite scene from Jaws (which, by the way, does not involve sharks). He discusses his art, his love for his line of work, and most importantly, the significance of human imagination. "A blank page is like a mystery box." Indeed, Mr. Abrams, indeed. (January 2008, 18:02)




Rives, who interestingly writes children's pop-up books, is a master storyteller, creating lyrical poetry with words. In the first video, he talks about strange occurrences at 4am. It's quite funny, but only because ridiculous conspiracy theories (and aren't they all ridiculous?) amuse me. (July 2007, 9:16) The second video is closer to his Def Jam Poetry (watch Dirty Talk or Kite), and he performs a truly wonderful poem called "If I Controlled the Internet." He has some pretty good ideas, and his delivery reminds me of George Carlin's "Modern Man" sketch (possibly the most brilliant execution of language), and I wouldn't mind if Rives had control of the internet for a few days. (December 2006, 4:15)

Friday, July 25, 2008

review: the dark knight


I'm in agreement with everyone who claims The Dark Knight to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I disagree with the imdb.com voters who made The Dark Knight bigger than The Godfather (which is bigger than Jesus). The special effects were amazing, the locations were well chosen/created, and the acting was top-notch for all of the actors. But enough about the generics; here're the reasons that I think The Dark Knight is brilliant:

1. There were a lot of allegorical thematic metaphors throughout the film, and I think that this film is one of (director, writer) Christopher Nolan's best scripts. Much better than The Prestige, which didn't hold any surprises or character depth to me. Take the film's title, for instance. The Dark Knight certainly refers to Batman, a knight who comes out only at night. But it also refers to Bruce Wayne, the masked vigilante who must hide his true self in the shadows. More interestingly, it also refers to Harvey Dent, Gotham's district attorney savior who battles inner morality conflicts. As Bruce Wayne and Lt. Gordon mention, he is the real hero, a hero with a face. So it's inspired writing to have the face of a hero literally burned off and scarred. His two-face represents his newfound ambivalence of fate (not caring who lives or who dies) that matches the two sides of his coin, but it also represents the good and bad sides of being a hero. Of taking justice into his hands. Which brings me to...

2. The Harvey-Bruce/Two Face-Batman dichotomies. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent storyline far surpasses Bruce Wayne's. It's remarkable to think that Batman really wasn't at the center of this film. The two bad guys are, and he's actually the third wheel. So Harvey and Bruce should be enemies because of Rachel Dawes, but they believe in each other's roles in society -- Harvey believes in the idea of Batman, and Bruce believes that the people of Gotham need a hero they can trust and visualize. Harvey is the one Gotham needed, and Batman is the one Gotham doesn't deserve. Even though I found the ending monologue to be a bit trite and unnecessary (normally these speeches come at the beginning of films), I did like the blatant metaphor of Batman turning Two-Face's face back to the good side after his death. It's an obvious visual text for the audience to see, but more than that, it shows that Batman still believes in the idea of Harvey Dent, which means he'll never fully accept himself as the man he wants to be. He only accepts his role as the guy who will be whatever Gotham needs him to be, the good guy or the bad guy.


3. I really loved the development of Harvey's character. I think Eckhart is vastly overlooked in most of his films (he was fantastic in Conversations with Other Women). I like that chance was not a game to Two-Face, that he was pessimistic about fate, that he found the world to be cruel and unforgiving. Compare Eckhart to Tommy Lee Jones's portrayal in Batman Forever, a film that was so over-the-top bad it's amazing that people liked it when it came out. Eckhart's Two-Face doesn't have a maniacal laugh. He never turned his face in "now I'm good, now I'm bad, no, now I'm good" kind of way. He was broken-hearted and burned, and he was never evil. I don't think anyone in any audience said, "What a great bad guy." No, we empathized with him. We understood and followed him. Lt. Gordon had rats on his team and when Two-Face went to punish them, we wanted them punished too. Also, Two-Face represents the evil version of a hero, something that Batman could easily become, especially in The Dark Knight. Had Two-Face not arrived, Batman certainly would have sulked and packed up his suit for good. He could have been bitter, but without the goodness of Harvey Dent, he knew he had a role to play. It would have been so easy for Nolan to make Two-Face a bad guy, and he didn't. Harvey Dent has wonderful character development, and he serves as the foundation for the film. Batman revolves around him. The Joker revolves him. Gotham and Lt. Gordon revolves around him.

P.S. There was a memorial service for Harvey Dent, but not Two-Face. Does this mean Two-Face is still alive? I hope not. I want Nolan's Batman franchise to continue reinventing the way we understand superhero movies, and I don't like the idea of rehashing or reusing old bad guys. Like what was the point of the Scarecrow cameo? Using old villains, even in a cameo spot, is like a remake. Plus, I think Harvey Dent's storyline was wonderfully executed and there's nothing more to say about him.


4. Ah, yes, the Joker. First of all, I don't talk about Ledger's death. It hit me harder than I was expecting, which is ridiculous considering I didn't know him. I just knew of his work, and now I can only think of being deprived of his future characters. So I don't talk about it. It's unbearably sad. Second, do I think Ledger deserves an Oscar for this performance? I most certainly do. And not some posthumous Oscar. An honestly deserved Oscar. I loved his crooked shoulder line, his lop-sided walk, the tongue flipping, the yellow teeth, how his eyes rolled when he spoke, the makeup smeared on his fingers (an inspired close-up that I think most people missed). The bacterial soap scene was funny (not to mention the dress and wig), but it was also layered. Why does such an amoral character need to wash himself clean of his evil-doing? I particularly loved the scene where his detonator didn't go off. See, villains are human! Things don't always go the way they plan. But he's so demented that he keeps pushing the detonator until it goes off. That scene didn't need to be in the movie, but it showed us more of the Joker that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.


5. I like that the Joker's madness was logical. I hate crazy villains who are evil for the sake of being evil. Because they're misanthropes. Because school bullies picked on them when they were little. Because they're ugly. (Let's face it, villains are ugly; it's how we know they're evil.) I loved that he believed the worst in people and that he pitted two boats to kill one another, and neither of them did. He was truly shocked when there weren't any "fireworks." His distraught face was separated from his body, and he couldn't believe that the humans didn't kill each other. And this social experiment actually surprised me. I did think that one of the ships was going to blow up, but I didn't know which one. I was excited when neither blew up the other. I also love the dialogue between the Joker and Batman. Joker explains that as long as Batman exists, he will exist. There is also a yin and a yang, juxtaposition and binaries. He is a counter to Batman, so it doesn't matter that we never find out why he has that wicked scar (I love that we never know) and it doesn't matter about his origins of evil. The Joker purely exists to show that evil is always out there fighting good.

6. The script was really, really great (minus the closing voiceover). It showed the hero having his doubts (always important, because being good is a struggle, a la Thomas Hobbes). It showed Lucius Fox, a trusted friend, questioning our hero's limits. It had the development and, in a way, origin story of Harvey Two-Face Dent. It showed Rachel Dawes as not a woman in distress. She was intelligent and strong without being overly sexual. (Can you imagine Katie Holmes back in the role with Aaron Eckhart again? It would be a total sequel to Thank You For Smoking. Even the characters would be similar.) This Rachel Dawes never needed help (except when she was thrown out of the penthouse), and, she held her own. This is unprecedented in a superhero movie. And no, I didn't particularly care for Pepper Potts. She had a smart tongue, but she didn't really do anything. And don't get me started on the ridiculousness of Mary Jane in Spiderman.

And that is why I think The Dark Knight is brilliant.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

banksy unmasked?


I refuse to believe that one of my heroes, Banksy, has been unmasked. His paradoxical parodying of commercial culture has intrigued me for years (although he lost some esteem when the Jolie-Pitt team bought some of his works), and, although I think it is more likely that there are multiple Banksys, I refuse to believe that this artist is a tangible being. He's an idea. You can't unmask an idea. Shame on any reporters who seek out his identity. That's just anti-art.

[Side note: When I was in London last summer, I was unnerved by a man on the streets who was selling Banksy pieces. They were canvased photographic duplications, and it irritated me that a) Banksy would not receive any profit from them and that asshole would, and b) Banksy's work isn't meant to be sold. At a market, I looked at photographs of his public art, but I didn't buy any. They lacked the aura of the originals. His art was denied purpose in reproduction. Perhaps Banksy was planning on ironic commercial success, or at least chuckled maniacally when it happened, but I will have no part of that.]

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

film news: late july 2008


Cinematical has posted a new Cinematical 7: actors who should play siblings. I used to confuse Frances O'Connor with Embeth Davidtz (in Mansfield Park I couldn't tell them apart), but lately I think the former has more similarities with Mary-Louise Parker, namely the eyes and nose. While I tend to agree with its author, Jeff Anderson -- Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts would make fantastic sisters -- I just can't see Christian Bale and Samantha Morton being related. I do agree that there are celebs who look alike (Brad Pitt and Benecio del Toro) but wouldn't necessarily have good sibling chemistry and that mannerisms should count as much as looks (Jack Nicholson and Christian Slater could be a father-son duo). Anderson's bit at the end about the "Dermots" is hilarious and I will have to adopt that term into my vernacular.

I found the trailer for the BSG-prequel Caprica over at Film Junk, but I've embedded it below. Truth be told, I'm a little disappointed in it. How many times does Eric Stoltz talk about creating a clone of a dead daughter? Umm, too many. This idea has been covered before, most notably in Spielberg's A.I., so I wanted to see more about character relations (apparently the cast is going to be as big as BSG's, which is certainly a plus) and plot. I don't mind being grounded and out of space battle, and I'm looking forward to finding out about the creation and evolution of the Cylons. But I just wish there was more to the trailer. There wasn't even a good teaser to bring me back wanting more. I'm not sure Caprica will bring in viewers other than previous BSG fans...


I saw The Dark Knight on Tuesday afternoon (with a surprisingly well-behaved theater), but I won't have my review (re: interpretation, analysis) of it until Thursday. But if you're looking for some reviews and you're not entirely exhausted by all the reviews floating around in cyberspace, you can head over to Row Three because everyone over there reviewed it. And the reviews are all condensed to one page! How convenient.

So here's my most recent WTF? moment: Fergie (aka Black Eyed Peas chick, aka strangest looking woman with the hottest boyfriend, aka peed her pants on stage, aka why is she famous again?) has joined Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Kate Hudson for The Nine. (Yeah, I don't know about Kate Hudson either.) Other than these last two additions, the film sounded amazing. It's a film adaptation of the musical inspired by Fellini's 8 1/2 (Otto e Mezzo). But now the cast is just getting silly. Daniel Day-Lewis is enough of a draw, as is Marion Cotillard (so beautiful, so talented) who won Best Actress last year. So why all of the additional big names? Why can't they hire theatre actors? People who don't need to be taught how to sing.


Last but certainly not least, there're talks of making a Top Gun sequel. I have odd mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, a sequel could be refreshing since it's been 22 years since the first one and Maverick is such an iconic character that it could be turned into a franchise. But on the other hand, I'm sick of remakes and sequels, and do we really need another franchise? I think summer superheroes have that covered. Oh, and I think the sequel would taint the homosexual goodness of the original.

mcsweeneys.net: dan liebert, a verbal cartoonist


Dan Liebert is a verbal cartoonist over at McSweeney's.net. The paradox is brilliant. His blog updates randomly, but below are some samples of his work:
EVOLUTION?
The sumptuous pattern of a peacock's tail, the bronze-green armor of a pineapple, the sensuous curves of an orchid ... No! These are not the work of blind evolution but of an intelligent gay designer.
LANGUAGE LIMITS US.
An egg timer can time anything—it's my calling it an egg timer that limits it. For instance, it can be a foreplay timer to let me know when foreplay is over.
STUDENT DAYS.
I remember my student days, when a foam mattress on the floor was my bed, and bricks and boards were my shelves, and my school books were just empty cereal boxes made to look like school books.
ROACHES.
Roaches haven't changed at all in 60 million years—except for this one: I just put tiny velour underpants on him.
WINKY.
In grade school the boys all called me "Winky" because I was stubborn and tough and didn't let anything stand in my way, just like Maria Winkelmann, the 18th-century feminist astronomer.
GAIA.
I believe the earth is a living creature named "Gaia," which is part of a vain, silly galaxy called "Debbie," who's always binging and purging to look good for her boyfriend, the hunky galaxy "Dustin."

Monday, July 21, 2008

i love 'em, but i really hate 'em

These are the TV characters that I love on their shows, in the context of their shows, within the genre of their shows. But in real life, I think I would punch them in the face.

1. Anyone from the cast of Friends


They're a good-looking bunch and, when combined, they're pretty funny. But the laugh-track helps. And I'm not sure that every situation is all that humorous. I could count on my fingers the number of times they were serious! And after season four, they became caricatures of themselves and I don't think I would be able to stand more than five minutes with any of them. Think about it. Who is more annoying? The ditzy chick who says weird things? The obsessive and bossy clean-freak? The idiot actor who says thinks like "it's a moo point"? The squeaky pubescent bore-osaurus? The one-line suddenly-not-gay guy? Or the chick without a real personality? Hmm...

2. Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica


I love Gaius. He is so well-written, and I back him on every decision he's made. He's all about survival, and I get that. There is no shame in wanting to live. If I were in any of his situations, I would do what he did. I'd let D'Anna into my bed... so she wouldn't kill me. I'd try to hang myself once back on the fleet... so they wouldn't kill me. In fact, at the very beginning, he could've switched his lottery number with the old lady's, but he didn't. I would have. He's such a fantastic bad guy because he represents the truth about human nature, and it's much darker than any of us are willing to admit. We all want to be noble... but this isn't Sparta. When all is said and done, we'd rather live. But... I wouldn't be his friends in real life because he stammers, even though he knows full well what he's saying, and he talks to himself. Oh, and he thinks he's the Chosen One. My Frakkin' Weird radar would be going off every second with him.

3. Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace from Battlestar Galactica


I love Kara, I do. She's a strong female character, but she messes up. On purpose. She's arrogant and crass and doesn't care about hurting other people. She's outspoken and rude. These are all reasons why I love her character, what makes her human and real to me. But she's too real, and in real life, I wouldn't be able to justify her actions or get inside her head. Also, I'm kind of sick of her pouty lips-pursed face. Maybe if she laughed more, I'd be her friend... but what's funny about the apocalypse?

4. Pam Beesly from The Office


I heart Jam (Jim + Pam). The kiss from Season 2 could have been between me and Jim, for all my heart knows. It stopped beating for about seven seconds. And as cute as they are, and as adorable and sweet and almost frumpy as she is, Pam is just too soft. She doesn't have a backbone, and that is one of the reason I love her. She's the underdog. You want her to dump Roy, attend an art school, and have little prank-pulling babies with Jim. But she doesn't. It's not fear so much but low self-esteem. Until Season 3, she really doesn't believe she deserves better than a secretary job and a man that doesn't appreciate her. But I need friends who can stand on their own two feet, fight their own fights, and have opinions.

5. Josh Lyman from The West Wing


Oh, Josh. His little walk and how he looks around when he's talking to someone is cute. His banter with Donna is precious, and his one-shoulder-slung backpack is darling. But he's pompous and way too oblivious about anything personal. Take his relationship with Mary-Louise Parker's character, for instance. He dated her because she was in politics. I could never have a serious personal conversation with him (and Donna points that out on a regular basis), and I would want to strangle him every time he told me I was wrong even though I would be saying the same thing he was. And, come to think of it, his walk would annoy me.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

saturdays with ted: stephen petranek, blaise aguera y arcas, and a.j. jacobs


Blaise Aguera y Arcas takes you through a mind-blowing photosynthesis demo. Can you imagine having Dickens's entire Bleak House as a single text? What about overlapping images from Google that recreate Notre Dame as a 3D model? This is virtual reality; you can see Paris without ever having been there. He is challenging "the limits of screen real estate" and takes you on a microscopic pixelated journey through the future of computer imagery. You can check out the Photosynth demo here. (March 2007, 7:42)


From Ted.com:
Stephen Petranek was the editor-in-chief of Discover magazine when he became fascinated by the dangers that face the human race. He has become an eloquent advocate for making policy decisions based on an unflinching look at our worst fears. Although his apocalyptic predictions may seem dire and inevitable, he argues precisely the opposite, and presents plausible goals that will defuse most of these catastrophes. Just in case that isn't enough, he makes the case for humankind adopting a forward-looking policy of space exploration and colonization to get us out of here alive. For the first time in history, he argues, humans can control many of the threats to survival both on and off the planet.
Stephen Petranek looks at ten ways the world could end: depression, aliens (oh, I wish), eco-collapse, particle accelerator mishap (creating little black holes and then expecting them to evaporate, what?), biotech mishap, pole reversal, solar flare, epidemic, rogue black hole (10 million dead stars in the Milky Way?!?), and asteroids. (My vote hopes for a black hole. Wouldn't that be interesting?) If you don't want to watch all 29 minutes, you can skip to labeled sections of the talk. But I do recommend watching the whole thing because his candid look at our world's inevitable demise is often humorous. (February 2002, 29:54)


A.J. Jacobs combines journalism and performance art. He takes on humanist experiments, like being entirely honest for a month or reading the entire encyclopedia (which he catalogued in his book The Know-It All, offering snippets and insights into the words he learned). His latest experiment is living biblically, which involves living by 700+ laws of the Bible, from the mundane and obvious ("I can go a year without killing someone") to the quotidian vices (like gossiping or lying). He even took the law "be fruitful and multiple" law seriously by impregnating his wife, who later gave birth to twins. He came to one conclusion, among others, that suggests that if one changes their behavior, they can change their cognitive functions. If you act like a better person, you will become a better person. (It's the Hamlet dilemma -- is man defined by his thoughts or his actions? More and more evidence seems to point towards actions...) And he's starting a movement of Reverent Agnosticism. How interesting. You can read about some of the rules here. (December 2005, 17:40)

Friday, July 18, 2008

brother from another mother


Here's a bit of interesting information. Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were both born on February 12, 1809. (I know. Your mind is blowing right now.) It's interesting because, typically, when people think of the 19th century, they don't really think about the Civil War or the emancipation or manifest destiny or the Whig Party. They think of Queen Victoria, extravagant fashions, literature, electricity. In one corner you have England and the Enlightenment, and in the other corner you have, well, Robert E. Lee. Realizing that these two men shared a lifetime is bizarre because of where America was during the Victorian age. We weren't exactly an advanced bunch. The overlap of these influential lives just never occurred to me, even though Darwin dealt with issues of slavery in his research. Give me some time, and I'm sure my mind will stop exploding... eventually...

episode: project runway, ep. 1


The first episode of reality shows are always hard to judge because you're basically judging people on stereotypes and intentional editing. The editors only have so much time they can allot to each designer and, in that small amount of time, they develop and create characters for the designer. There's always the rocker character ("Stella Trashbags" is this season's), and there's always a juxtaposing sensitive character. In past seasons, this binary has mostly been between males, so it's interesting to see these two conflicting personalities in women. And because the designers have not been able to showcase their individuality, I can only judge this episode on the designs for the supermarket challenge (above, click on it to enlarge) and the sound bites. And as a friend told me, "I haven't picked out who I like yet. Hatorade first, love second."


It's pretty much unanimous that everyone hates CitrusTan. ("I'm obsessed with tanning. If anyone wants to talk about tanning...") He even named his design (bottom row, fourth from the right) -- "Girlicious" no less. He'll be gone soon enough. And half of the other designers used table clothes and fabric for their outfits, which is cheating. So anyone who lacked the inspiration doesn't get a second glance from me. Also, Carrie Bradshaw (who is actually a male but wore a ridiculously large flower in his breast pocket) was creative with the plastic cups, and I appreciated that he melted the plastic in order to sculpt it, but that cocktail dress silhouette (bottom row, fourth from the left) was completely boring and it didn't fit his model in the bust. I know there are some people who wanted him to win, but he was not nearly as bold or innovate as Kelli Martin (no cute nickname because I actually like her), who made a dress out of coffee filters and vacuum cleaner bags (see very top). I'm glad she won. But Norman Bates was kicked off, and I think everyone viewer could foresee that because Bravo is guilty of blatant foreshadowing. Norman Bates, who created a raincoat/serial killer outfit (bottom, third from the right) out of a shower curtain, mentioned how embarrassing it would be to be auf'd in the first episode and not have the opportunity to develop a style on the show. And everyone knows what that means -- he's out!

And after watching previews for the upcoming season, I think everyone is excited for the challenge where Tim Gunn says, "This looks like a pterodactyl from a gay Jurassic Park." Oh, Tim.

These images were provided by Blogging Project Runway.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

dr. horrible's sing-along blog: act II


Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act II
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act II
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act II

Prepare to be amazed. Whereas Act I was mostly set-up, Act II gives us more jokes, more character development, and more singing! Although I must admit, I don't care for Penny's repeating melody because it makes her feel like a weak character, but I know that the creative team is aiming for sweet and not weak. The opening song is killer (and NPH's voice is ridiculously hot), and it wasn't until the second time around that I noticed NPH is serving soup at the soup kitchen. He has a maniacal mustache. Ha! Did you know he has a PhD in horribleness?

Some non-singing hightlights:
"What a crazy random happenstance!" -- Dr. Horrible
"Sometimes there's a third even deeper level and that one is the same as the top surface level... like a pie." -- Dr. Horrible
"I meant Gandhi." -- Dr. Horrible
"You look horribly familiar." -- Capt. Hammer
"I'm going to take little Penny back to my place, show her the command center, the hammer cycle..." -- Capt. Hammer
"These [fists] are not the hammer." (comes back) "The hammer is my penis." -- Capt. Hammer
My favorite moment, of course, is the intercut of NPH wriggling his fingers during the last song. Those dance intercuts crack me up. I love that A) this is about the evil guy and not the hero, especially during this trend of superhero movies and that B) he keeps a blog about his evil-doing, and city officials and Captain Hammer watch the video blog and know about his future evil-doing. Dr. Horrible's ego is genius!

So, kids, remember to watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act II!

emmy nominations 2008


Finally, the official 2008 Emmy ballot has arrived. Some thoughts...

* Two and a Half Men for Best Comedy? Seriously? And why did the potential list have so much more potential? Where's New Adventures of Old Christine? And I thought Curb Your Enthusiasm went off the air years ago. How can it be nominated?

* The Best Lead Actor in a Drama category has newcomers Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment, Jon Hamm (Mad Men), and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), but my vote still goes for Michael C. Hall's Dexter. He makes loving a serial murder so easy! But how in the world is Charlie Sheen nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy? He's the new John Travolta. Completely creepy and has overstayed his welcome. And, speaking of creepy, Michael Emerson better win Best Supporting Actor in a Drama. I seem to get crushes on creepy characters... like Leoben Conoy.

* Amy Pohler is nominated for SNL in the Supporting Actress for a Comedy? That seems like cheating, simply because SNL is a variety show. Pohler gets to play multiple characters, whereas other actresses must work with one character. I love her to death (and am super excited about her possibly joining The Office spin-off), but I want Kristin Chenowith to win for Pushing Daisies, and since Pohler left SNL, her chances of winning are increased. Also, I would love to see Will Arnett and Carrie Fisher win for Guest Actors for 30 Rock. In fact, 30 Rock should also win for Outstanding Cast. And where is Tracey Morgan's name on this list?

* Recount should win for anything it's nominated for. Namely, Kevin Spacey should win Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, and Denis Leary's performance trumps any of the multiple John Adams actors. He was fantastic! It should also win Outstanding Television Movie, Best Casting, Outstanding Directing, and, of course, Danny Strong's script should win for Best Writing.

* I'm still confused as to why the Extras finale counts as a miniseries or movie, but I would love to see Ashley Jensen take home the prize for Supporting Actress. Although, Laura Dern as Katherine Harris in Recount was also a great caricature... Also, Kathy Griffin should win another emmy for My Life on the D-List. Her standup his hit-or-miss (depends if you like celebrity gossip), but her casual everyday interactions with people are some of the funniest moments I've ever seen. She is whip-smart and always has a clever anecdote.

* Jon Stewart should win it all. Forget Best Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (which is where SNL belongs). He should win Best Actress, Best Actor (he did play a convincing Guantanamo Elmo), and Guest Actor.

* Project Runway should win Best Reality Series. Like those other options even exist...

* And if Battlestar doesn't win for Cinematography, I will... be upset.

* Why are the Writing categories all the way down at the bottom of the list? After stunt coordination, sound mixing, and hairstyling? At least Diablo Cody put screenwriters back on the map, but come on, these shows wouldn't exist without the writers and we'd all be stuck with mind-numbingly bad reality programs. Writers should be just as important as the actors... so maybe if the writers punched up their speeches and made them shorter (why do writers insist on being long-winded and wordy?), then people will start to pay attention. They should take notes from Hugh Laurie. He should win just so he can give more speeches.

And if anyone's interested, E! Online wrote a statistical surprises breakdown of the list, calling Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lily the "Ellen Pompeos of Lost" (having never been nominated) and noting that 30 has a record 17 nominations for a comedy series.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

tv show anticipation


Project Runway premieres tonight on Bravo (its last season for the network), and I'm incredibly excited. I was a PR latecomer but am now proud to board any reality show train that brings "fierce" into my catch phrase vernacular. Plus, and I think everyone would agree with me, Tim Gunn is the coolest person ever. Bravo really understands how to produce a reality show well, and the hour-long show spends as much time on developing personalities as it does on developing designs. All of the characters are interesting and unique (the snowflake paradox -- how can everyone be unique? -- doesn't work with such a small group, so they actually are unique), and I always have an opinion on each of the characters. (You can read little snippets about the fifth season designers here). I enjoy watching them process their designs, which is one area where most other shows fail. I like to see how they conceive of their designs. I'm a bit worried about the show being half-ass this season because I think Bravo feels screwed over (when really the show was screwed over by Bravo), but we'll see. And I recommend people check out BloggingProjectRunway, a good blog for opinions about the show.

All this premiere excitement (including this Friday's Monk and Psyche has me thinking about the upcoming fall and spring shows. I'm looking forward to...


Fringe: J.J. Abrams's fourth TV series (following Felicity, Alias, and Lost, all of which I love), and imdb.com says it is "a television drama centered around a female FBI agent who is forced to work with an institutionalized scientist in order to rationalize a brewing storm of unexplained phenomena." Oh, and it stars Pacey Witter, who stole my heart a few years ago. It premieres September 9.

Virtuality: From the Hollywood Reporter:
[Virtuality] is set aboard the Phaeton, Earth's first starship. It revolves around its crew of 12 astronauts on a 10-year journey to explore a distant solar system. To help them endure the long trip and keep their minds occupied, NASA has equipped the ship with advanced virtual-reality modules, allowing the crew members to assume adventurous identities and go to any place they want. The plan works flawlessly until a mysterious "bug" is found in the system.
"It's very much about what's fantasy and what's reality; what we do to escape our lives and what actually institutes our lives; are these things very different," [Universal] president Katherine Pope said.
Ron D. Moore's new show stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (from the cancelled show Amsterdam). He was underused on that show, even as the main character, which explains why it was cancelled so I hope his Virtuality character is more interesting. Also, as much as I love BSG, I'm curious to see if Moore can create another decent show and prove that BSG isn't just a lucky fluke. Nevermind that he has Star Trek on his resume. And Fox Entertainment's Kevin Reilly says that it has a unique point view and is excited about the premise, which makes me believe (hope) that it goes beyond the two-line plot delivery. You can get details about the show here.

Caprica: No brainer. BSG-extended.


The Dollhouse: Two words. Joss. Whedon. That's really all you really need to know. What's not to love? Themes of cloning, identity, human nature, purpose, and another kickass Whedon heroine? He knows strong female leads better than anyone, and everything he touches is gold. It premieres sometime in the spring, and it is the show I'm looking the most forward to.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

dr. horrible's sing-along blog: act I now available


It's here! It's here! It's here!
It's here! It's here! It's here!
And it's so good!

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act I
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act I
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act I

The teaser is truly inspired, and you can tell they had fun writing it. ("It's not about making money. It's about taking money. Destroying the status quo because the status... is not quo. The world is a mess and I just... need to... rule it.") It's a four-minute monologue without cuts. I like that Dr. Horrible wants to use the freeze ray (stops time) on a crush, and Neil Patrick Harris's faces at the camera are brilliant. I also enjoyed the laundromat scene because Dr. Horrible sings with his hands curled up in the sleeve -- Dr. Horrible is human! -- and the intercut of a shoulder shimmy during the song was particularly cute. Nathan Fillion sings like he talks, but I wasn't really expecting much from him. He's on key, at least. And he's pretty. I do wish there were more songs... but it's still an amazing thirteen-minute opening act! And I'm super excited about Act II, which premieres July 17th!

So, kids, remember to watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act I!

episodes: random TV selection


Design Star: Finally, Tracee is gone. Now to her credit, she did a fantastic deal with countertops... having a company come out and measure then cut the granite (laminate?) all within hours. But why couldn't she buy the backsplash tile for the kitchen in under an hour? No, she had to shop for seven hours on their busiest day, and they didn't even have time to put up the tile she had bought. She went to seven places to buy... accessories? How she lasted this long, I'll never know. Well, I do know. The producers wanted to keep her on as the antagonist. So now who's left... Trish, Matt, and Jen (see picture above). I think that Matt is the most informative and the most creative, and Trish is a little perky and she's an older version of a sorority girl. I like Jen's personality the best, but I don't remember any of her designs that well. Next week, the remaining three contestants are designing rooms for their families, which seems like a lame challenge that should have been earlier.


America's Best Dance Crew: Holy crap, Fanny Pak had an 80s Prom theme. In the history of this show (which has only been one and a half seasons, but still), their dance routine was the best execution of story-telling. The stereotypical "rocker chick" is jealous of the prom queen and so she poisons the punch, and the dancers go into a fast-forward epileptic dance craze. It was so awesome. Not to mention the white boy badonkadonk bump. Also this week, I liked A.S.I.I.D. for the first time, although I really wish they would stop mentioning the deaf dancer because it only emphasizes his disability when I think he has proved himself -- every single week -- that his disability does not make him disabled.


Secret Life of an American Teenager: I stumbled upon this accidentally (I was hoping for Whose Line Is It Anyway?), and boy am I glad I watched it. I can now officially say that I have seen the worst television show ever made. There's just so much to dislike. The Christian overtones are ridiculously blatant -- the nerdy kid's mother died when he was five, the popular boy lives in a foster home, the really hot cheerleader is a big Christian who gets a promise ring in the first episode. I don't know where this high school exists, but it does not belong to an American teenager. This one boy (I don't even care enough to look up his name) is having issues about withheld sex from his promise-ringed-hottie girlfriend. Her father says that all boys want one thing, and the boy responds, "Aren't we all Christians here? I'm just asking for forgiveness!" Who wrote this? And while we're talking about dialogue, the nerdy kid -- the one we're supposed to be rooting for -- is fourteen going on thirty going on six. He is not a consistent character at all. He's in tune with the world and wise beyond his years, but only sometimes. He even has a conversation with himself about how "time goes slower when you're a kid" but now it's moving faster for him, "so maybe I'm maturing." And then he calls a girl -- the lead pregnant girl -- and says he loves her.
Nerdy boy: I love you. (awkward pause) No need to reciprocate.
Girl: We only had one date. (contemplative pause) Okay, I love you too.
WTF?!? And the acting is exceptionally horrible. I tend to blame bad acting on the director and the editing, but here, it really is the inexperienced actors. (Even Molly Ringwald has forgotten how to act. But did she really ever know how...?) The only decent interaction -- between ANY characters -- is between the nerdy kid and the school counselor, who is probably only twenty-two in real life. They have actual conversations that I can picture friends having, which leaves me with the question, why does nerdy kid speak normally around his counselor and not his own friends? And why is the counselor so casual and sarcastic to his students? He'd be fired. Officially. Worst. Show. Ever.

By the way... I'm really excited about Hector Elizondo joining the cast of Monk as the title character's new therapist. His looks are priceless.

Monday, July 14, 2008

hell is other people


TheMovieBlog.com wrote a piece called How Do You Handle Rude People in a Movie Theatre?. I have to admit, I'm a bit in love with the writer, John. For the most part, I always agree with what he says, and after reading his list of things that annoy him at the movies, I have come to the conclusion that I have been afraid to admit to myself for so long.

If I go to the movies, I should expect to be annoyed by other people.
L'enfer, c'est les autres, after all.

I think that people should be aware of their surroundings and, more importantly, of how they affect other people around them. I think that people should view movie-going as an experience rather than just a thing to do on a Friday night. I think that people should care about film as an art form and be respectful (and quiet!) as they watch a movie that someone put a lot of time and effort into creating. I think people should be extra quiet while watching Indie flicks. I think people should not eat or drink during the movies (which I think is the largest contributor to American obesity besides fast food, but that's another post). And I think people can and should be able to miss a phone call. Movies are two hours; what can people not wait to talk about?

But despite these hopes... these ambitious and foolish dreams... I also think that people are inherently selfish and rude creatures. I think people are capable of being better, but I think people are too lazy to want to grow as individuals. People want selfish benefits, not the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

So... I'm just going to assume that people will act unacceptably in the movie theater and I'll just have to, well, accept it. Which means -- attention studio execs -- I will not be going to the movies as often. And certainly not on the weekends.

mcsweeneys.net: who are you? zoology joe?


Sarah Smallwood wrote a particularly inventive piece called A Subtextual Reading of Your High School French Textbook. The chapters get funnier and more ridiculous as they go on.
CHAPTER 2
Where Do You Live?

M. Troucher: Nous habitons à la capitale.
Like all French people, we live in Paris.

Mme. Troucher: Je l'aime Paris! La ville d'amour!
I obviously wear my heart on my age-inappropriate cap sleeve.

Marie: Le ville de la culture et les chefs de cuisine!
Mom, does Dad ever hurt you? Smile if the answer's yes.

Jean-Paul: Je l'aime le Tour Eiffel! C'est magnifique!
Why can we see the Eiffel Tower from, like, every window?

Tutu: J'aime les touristes'je mange leur croissants!
I'm a poodle? I don't feel like a poodle. I bet I'm really a German Shepherd.
Jason Kellet wrote a gut-busting revision of scenes from 300 in his 300: The Definitive, Historically Accurate Cut. It's funny regardless of Spartan knowledge, but it's so much funnier if you're familiar with their history. Ephilates: "Who are you —Zoology Joe? Just try to kill the damn things, will you?"

From Adrian Chen's I Spy... In Hell:
BEAST: I spy with my little eye, something ... red.
FALSE PROPHET: The lake of fire!
BEAST: No.
FALSE PROPHET: The fire in your hair?
BEAST: No.
FALSE PROPHET: The fire burning your eyeballs?
BEAST: No.
FALSE PROPHET: The fire burning my eyeballs?
BEAST: No.
FALSE PROPHET: Jeez, I give up.
BEAST: It's fire.
FALSE PROPHET: Like fire in general?
BEAST: Yeah. Just ... all the fire, everywhere.
FALSE PROPHET: Oh. Good one.
Matt Marinovich wrote My Life, Rewritten as a Chinese Takeout Menu and Slipped, Unwanted, Under My Door. I'll have a large side order of Crispy Fear of Death to go with my Four Seasons chef's special. Also, water; no lemon.