Saturday, October 22, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck

(5 stars out of 5) ESSENTIAL

The George Clooney-directed Good Night, and Good Luck accomplishes what many films based on political material fail to do - it presents an intelligent and provoking story without politicizing itself and subsequently polarizing its audience. And the result is the best film of 2005 to date.

A period piece, and a semi-biographic drama, Good Night takes place in the early 1950's, in the midst of the anti-Communist campaign led by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. The straightforward, warm, and yet brilliant cast comprises most of the CBS news production team covering the trials and events, led by news anchor Edward Murrow (David Strathairn) and his producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney).

Utilizing black and white film, 50's nostalgia, a jazz soundtrack, and a meticulously detailed newsroom set, Clooney takes us back to the time of the trials and inquiries. Frequently using archival footage not only to provide the audience with context, but also to illustrate the group of journalists reacting to McCarthy as the events take place and the stakes rise, we witness Good Night unfold as the newsmen and women begin their idealistic attempts to present the facts and question the possible violation of constitutional rights.

Without a doubt, the standout performance of the film belongs to David Strathairn in his turn as CBS anchor Edward Murrow. Delivering lines as a top-notch, consummately professional journalist, Straithairn conveys his landmark editorial statements with conviction and confidence. Even though he delicately transmits a slight trepidation when the studio lights dim and and broadcast feeds end - accurately mirroring the nervous anticipation of the crew members who are fully aware of the possible public repercussions in their questioning of McCarthy - Straithairn still gallantly shuns the pressue coming from his media bosses and government figures in an effort to galvanize his friends and co-workers to finish the job.

We watch Murrow become a leader and a reluctant hero figure, as he quietly makes an ethical stand on behalf of his entire production team. Murrow and Friendly's risks lead to the initial voicing of dissent in the American public, allowing the rest of the country to question McCarthy's unforgiving, presumptuous, and brash tactics for the first time, if not condemn it. Strathairn's performance is superb, and he is assured an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Clooney's character serves more of a supporting role, essentially setting up Murrow as a friend and colleague throughout the film's entirety. Perhaps more important was Clooney's role in getting the film made at all, as he was instrumental in bringing part-time entertainment financier and full-time billionaire Mark Cuban into the fold. Cuban serves as an executive producer, and bankrolled some of the project.

Normally, politically charged films fail miserably to intelligently question the issues they hope to address. Good Night, and Good Luck is a rare exception, as it delivers a thoughtful and outright patriotic message resulting from a turbulent time in our nation's political history. As liberal as Clooney's political views and statements may be, he is still a smart filmmaker, realizing that a story well-told is better than an attack well-planned.

Michael Moore, are you watching?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Casting for HBO series The Wire calls FJDelgado, intense negotiations begin

I sent an e-mail recently to the people doing casting for The Wire, which is a highly-acclaimed police drama shot on-location in Baltimore on HBO. I got a voicemail from a lady named Sareva asking me to call back. Seeing as I've always wanted to be an extra on a good TV show, I did just that.

Before making the call, I told myself that I have to mean business if I want to ensure my place in the Pantheon of Hollywood Greatness (this will happen precisely when hell freezes over and the Philadelphia Eagles win a Super Bowl).

The Wire's HBO Site

I dialed the number provided in the message, and was told the location in Baltimore where they will be shooting. I was very polite and cordial, making sure to say "yes" and "I understand" to all the questions. I think I was able to emphatically, yet gently convey that I won't be pushed around.

It turns out that the casting company involved in getting idiots like me as extras did casting for Syriana (upcoming Soderbergh, Clooney produced CIA film starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Chris Cooper and hottie Amanda Peet), Invasion (new Nicole Kidman flick set in Baltimore which is currently filming), the hilarious Wedding Crashers, and The Wire.

My call time (whatever that means, if I even remember correctly) is 6:30 am. It's a brutal time for me, but I'll have to make a sacrifice for a trivial event which could be a lot of fun. (Latinos are creatures of the night, we are not known for our go-get-em attitude as the sun rises, much preferring siestas, multiple lunch breaks, and frequent holidays - this is nothing new, as our night-time exploits have been a tradition carried over the Atlantic Ocean from the Mother Country centuries ago).

I gave my vital info, and was informed not to wear red, white, yellow, or orange, or neon colors (well what the hell am I supposed to wear?! Excuse me while I go visit the Gothic Dress Boutique). They also took great interest in my car, explicitly saying they want any color but white (wonderful, two of my family's cars are stark white).

I'll be borrowing my brother's silver Jetta, fully expecting the car to be showcased in my stead. Even if I don't get a second of screentime as a pedestrian tying his shoes before a liquor store holdup, then maybe the Delgado Jetta will live on in cable TV History.

I'll share the experience, however underwhelming, after I get back.

Best Orioles news in two years: Mazzone to the O's

Leo Mazzone has accepted a contract, in principle, to become the next pitching coach of the Baltimore Orioles.

ESSENTIAL READING: an outstanding essay written by former Baltimore Colt Bill Curry (Johnny Unitas' center) about what a talent Mazzone is, and how Baltimore is a great sports town.

Atlanta has asked for a prospect in return, but this is a non-issue, as the Orioles can wait until Nov. 15 (when Mazzone's contract expires) to formally sign him. Confirming rumors and inside information that he would come to Baltimore to help his best friend, manager Sam Perlozzo, this move is the best signing since the acquisition of Miguel Tejada in free agency in December 2003.

The New York Yankees desperately wanted Mazzone as their pitching coach, and were in negotiations with him as well. Apparently, they were never a serious contender.

Under Mazzone, the Atlanta Braves have had the number one or number two league ERA, excepting two seasons, in every year since 1992. They finished first in league ERA last year. The Mike Flanagan-led front office has gotten off to a blazing start, as free agent pitchers have expressed a desire to work with Mazzone, leading to the possible signings of A.J. Burnett or Kevin Millwood.

In other words, the Orioles will have the best pitching coach in all of baseball.

Look for young, talented pitchers like Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard to really improve next season.

Hopefully this is the start of the most drastically successful winter since before the 1996 season.

Official Orioles Mazzone news release

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah 10/19 @ The 8x10 Club in Baltimore, MD

I just got back from the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah concert at the 8 x 10 Club in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. It was a fucking fantastic show.

I met up with my friend Dan K in Federal Hill, and we took down a few beers at a bar next door to the Funk Box before going inside. The 8 x 10 is actually quite small for a venue, despite having a railing/upstairs floor above the stage. I would guess that it only holds about 200 people, and it was filled to capacity.

We checked out the set from upstairs, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah delivered a fine performance. We had only heard a few of their songs on the internet in the form of MP3's, all of which were played. Those songs included "Over and Over Again," "Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood," and "In This Home on Ice." Also highlighting the show were "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" and the evening's best song, the unreleased "Satan Said Dance."

For those unfamiliar with Clap Your Hands' sound, they're a guitar and keyboard driven band with 5 members. A lot of their songs sound like a great mix of the Velvet Underground, some early R.E.M., hints of New Order, and the Talking Heads. Their lead singer, Alec Ounsworth, really sounds like a young David Byrne, as he works in some Byrne-esque vocal inflections to sing sometimes mumbled and scattered lyrics.

The band consists of Ounsworth, Lee Sargent, Robbie Guertin, Tyler Sargent, and Sean Greenhalgh, with their live setup of drums, bass, guitar, and two keyboards. Some songs would feature both keyboards playing at the same time, but most of the songs would find the same two members taking turns playing an additional guitar while the other played the keys (Ounsworth plays guitar and sings on all songs).

The band glided through their main set, playing about 8 songs and delighting the enthusiastic audience. After thundering applause, CYHSY came back out for two more encores, with a solid 2-song first encore. The second curtain call was somewhat unexpected, and I was surprised to distinctly recognize the first few chords. Then came the familiar lyrics, "there is a town in north Ontario / with dream comfort memory to spare," and Dan and I realized that they were busting out a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless," a great tune featured on the Band's Last Waltz. It was a great way to end the night, watching one of the hottest independent bands in the country close out in style.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Smokin' Italian Hottie, Erin Andrews and the ESPN Hotties

I really have to mention the fairly gorgeous Giada de Laurentiis from the Food Network. Hands down the best hottie chef in the history of television, the fact she's Italian and makes good food is even better. She sort of looks like a prettier, more-endowed, and more voluptuous Natalie Portman. However, she's 35, so makeup and botox could be playing cruel jokes on my eyes. The best thing about her show, though, is the production and music. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills, but I swear that the film and music they use is exactly like the film and soundtracks only seen/ heard in high-end pornos. Needless to say, it makes for slightly uncomfortable, wonderfully bizarre viewing.


Also, there have been a few notable ESPN reporter hotties catching my eye recently (mostly because the network usually doesn't have any), filling the void left behind by the beautiful Melissa Stark. The top 3 prospects would have to be Erin Andrews (bonus points: went to Florida - regardless of your football allegiances, the girls at UF are bangin - and was on the dance team there), Rachel Nichols (it has been pointed out that she never blinks during her segments), and giving a fellow Latina the benefit of the doubt, Colleen Dominguez.

By the way, side note on Erin Andrews: During a recent broadcast of the Atlanta Braves/ Houston Astros Divisional Series, Andrews was doing a sideline report. This was the game that broke the record for longest playoff game in history, going 18 innings. She mentioned that Braves 3rd baseman Chipper Jones gave her a look (read: flirtatous) and made fun of her because she missed her flight to Atlanta on account of the absurd extra innings. ESPN then cut to Jones, who is notorious for nailing what must be hundreds of women and siring a highly numerous amount of illegitimate offspring.

Chances he's already banged Erin Andrews: 85%.

Erin Andrews
Rachel Nichols

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Rock Band Name Game

Below is a small sampling of confounding and phonetically-ambigious rock band names, in addition to more "creative" monnikers. Chances are you have heard them recently, or will hear them in the future.


the Shins (all over the Garden State soundtrack)
the Thrills
the Stills
the Kills
the Killers
(they have roughly 12 singles from their only record playing on radio and MTV everywhere)
the Distillers
the Willows
(those of "Feel Good, Inc." and "Clint Eastwood" fame, brainchild of Blur's Damon Albarn)

the Rakes
(a recent much-hyped side project)
the Strokes (they fucking rock or they fucking suck depending on your point of view)

All of these bands have a few things in common, as every single one was either started up within the past 5 years or experienced their first taste of success in that time. All of them are also grouped in the "indie rock" category, whatever that means.

And let's not forget the two most confusing and ambigious band names of all time:

The Band


the Fucking Champs
- This is an awesome name. However, it's unfortunate that, even if these guys were fucking champs, and even if they were the second coming of the Beatles, they still wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of experiencing large-scale success. (By the way, Snowball in Hell would be a pretty cool band name)

Anal Cunt
- When posed with the question of good bands no one has heard yet, Ryan Adams recently mentioned this band in a magazine interview, and he said that they are quite good. We can't be sure if he was joking, but then again, no one really said that rockers were particularly savvy.

Here are some classic excerpts from the
Wikipedia entry for the band:

"Anal Cunt is a Grindcore band from the United States. Their song titles consist almost entirely (barring the Picnic of Love album, as well as covers of The A-Team and "Hungry Hungry Hippos" themes) of generally offensive material.

The band has often been criticized for its popularity being based solely on their controversial song titles and lyrics rather than any musical ability, and is often quoted when a debate is being made against the grindcore genre of music. One ongoing dispute is how much Anal Cunt actually believes in what they say on their albums.

Some examples of their less controversial song titles are "Hitler Was A Sensitive Man", "I Hope You Get Deported", and "Connor Clapton Committed Suicide Because His Father Sucks" (the original title for "Your Kid Committed Suicide Because You Suck"). One recurring song title is "X is gay", with X being variable. Some well-known examples are: "Technology is Gay", "The Internet is Gay", "Windchimes are Gay", and "The Word 'Homophobic' is Gay".

The sound of a typical Anal Cunt song is loud distorted guitars usually using only open strings, drums struck endlessly accompanied by loud (often unintelligible) screaming."


Shirley Temple's Pussy
- This was one of the original names used by the band which came to be known as the Stone Temple Pilots. Luckily for them, STP weren't as dumb as the dudes in Anal Cunt, and a change to a name which was memorable, but still confusing, resulted in platinum records, millions of dollars and extravagant drug abuse.

Mookie Blaylock
- The original name for Pearl Jam (who people loved to compare Stone Temple Pilots with). Instead of sticking with the name inspired by the basketball player Mookie Blaylock, Destiny of the 90's again blessed a band with a name change, leading to even more platinum records, 17 drummer changes, and boring, unnecessary political commentary.


And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
- This is a cool name because of the image it creates in one's head, which can range from morbid to comical depending on your mood. This name wanders into both Unfortunate and Confusing categories, if you subscribe to the theory that a band's name should be pronounced in no more than 2 seconds.

the Aquabats
- This is another really cool name, mostly because it's goofy as hell. These guys also dress up in matching comic book-themed uniforms, playing some sort of ska/ punk brand music. Their music pretty much sucks, but the name doesn't.