Friday, December 30, 2005

The First Annual Hot 50 List

Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke Posted by Picasa

Every year, my girlfriend and I do separate lists of the 100 sexiest women of the year. Every year since 2001, we've been trading lists, and this year, I decided to chop off the bottom 50 and post my list on my blog. Since this blog is mostly my opinions on pop culture, here's yet another useless, lame list on my site. I'm considering this list the first one for this blog, so I'm not going to mention the previous years or show the changes in rank from last year. Clean slate for the public version, I guess. I will just add a note about the criteria for the list; first, it's a pop culture list, so it changes a lot from year to year depending on visibility, etc. And, of course, a woman has to be 17 in order to qualify.

1. Jessica Simpson
2. Christina Aguilera
3. Anneliese Van Der Pol
4. Anne Hathaway
5. Brooke Hogan
6. Katie Price
7. Michelle Marsh
8. Monica Bellucci
9. Dita Von Teese
10. Gwen Stefani
11. Mariah Carey
12. Liv Tyler
13. Heather Graham
14. Jenny McCarthy
15. Ashlee Simpson
16. Stormy Daniels
17. Bai Ling
18. Gisele Bundchen
19. Aria Giovanni
20. Giorgia Palmas
21. Eva Green
22. Lucy Pinder
23. Leelee Sobieski
24. Scarlett Johansson
25. Charlize Theron
26. Susan Sarandon
27. Asia Argento
28. Lil’ Kim
29. Uma Thurman
30. Brittany Murphy
31. JoAnna Garcia
32. Sheri Moon Zombie
33. Misty Mundae
34. Kate Winslet
35. Katie Morgan
36. Rosario Dawson
37. Leann Rimes
38. Xenia Seeberg
39. Victoria Silvstedt
40. Jennifer Garner
41. Carla Gugino
42. Michelle Rodriguez
43. Paz Vega
44. Britney Spears
45. Sonia Aquino
46. Leilani Dowding
47. Tweet
48. Abi Titmuss
49. Kathleen Edwards
50. Ciara

Of course, this is the kind of list one can't post without inviting a lot of criticism; feel free to editorialize.

Vincent Schiavelli 1948-2005

No Throwdown once again this week; the news is slow, and what little there is tends to be highly irritating, so I'm just throwing in the whole thing this week. The only piece of news I remotely gave a shit about, however, was the death this week of Vincent Schiavelli (lung cancer at the age of 57). I loved seeing him in movies, and I'm sorry I won't be seeing him any more. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ashlee Simpson: Still Needs Work

Not 20 minutes ago, I finally caught the video for Ashlee Simpson's new single, "L.O.V.E." Ouch. It was every bit as crappy and lame as I knew it was going to be. What is it with the people who handle her? It's like they've never once made any move to make her look interesting or special in any way. Instead, they've just gone with this faux-Avril thing that makes her look like an idiot (it makes Avril look like an idiot, too, but that's something I care much less about).

The problem is not necessarily with the music itself, but with how the music is presented. Unlike a lot of young popsters, Ashlee writes her own lyrics, which is kinda commendable. But, like a high school senior writing in her diary on her first trip to Paris, those lyrics are pretentious as hell. I'm fine with that, and even though John Shanks is a fucking factory who can apparently only produce a song one way, her music is at least guitar-oriented pop, which you don't hear often enough (during the boy band craze, I was worried I was never going to hear a guitar in pop music again). But they've taken this tack with Ashlee that they need to present her as one of the new breed of Avril/Good Charlotte/Simple Plan fake punk shit, like we're supposed to be intimidated by her fierceness or something. And then they choose "Pieces of Me" as her first single. Which is, frankly, a wimpy song.

They've never handled her videos well. "Shadow" at least works as a concept, but "La La," a dirty song about fucking, is somehow turned into a video about hard partying in the suburbs. Only it isn't hard partying--it's playing video games, watching skatefucks, and hanging out in convenience store parking lots. The hardest thing that happens in that video is when Ashlee jumps up and down on a laundry machine. Ooh, look out! With the new album, the defensively-titled I Am Me, we have "Boyfriend" and "L.O.V.E.," both of which feature more of her special brand of suburban hanging out. Can't these kids think of anything to do?

They never released the harder, better stuff on her album as singles; songs like "Love Me for Me" or "Autobiography." She's really good at the Pat Benatar-style kiss-off. "Boyfriend" is the hardest song on her new album; she's getting wimpier and more "confessional" and apologetic. And to be fair, if I were in an industry that's about phony manufactured feelings and ephemeral emotions and suddenly crucified for not being "real" (and aren't we all a little sick of that idiotic "be real" buzz-phrase yet?), I'd be defensive, too. But I'd probably write better music about it. It's me, I get pissy.

In her next video, I want to see Ashlee and her idiot friends destroy that suburban house with sledgehammers and blowtorches. I want to see two people dueling with chainsaws on the roof while some idiot on drugs drives one of those omnipresent white mini-van mom-mobiles through the garage door. And I want it to end with the house burning to the ground. Don't tell me Ashlee Simpson's tough, and then think I'm going to care if she crashes some rich kid's pool party. Unless she smashes someone's face through a window, I don't care.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Honestly, I'm Titaniced out. Really, I don't need to ever learn anymore ever about the Titanic. There was a definitive documentary around 1994, and it was definitively dramatized already... in Roy Ward Baker's A Night to Remember (1958), a film based on the definitive book about the Titanic, by Walter Lord. And yes, the James Cameron movie was nice, too. So, really, let's just leave it at that, shall we? This Cameron documentary is, I don't know, kinda neat, but with this much focus, I have to wonder why this story has gone from being tragic and historically interesting to IMPORTANT. Some of the technology on display here is interesting, as well as the too-brief mention of species of fish living in the ship that aren't found anywhere else. And to his credit, Cameron shows a little humility when he surfaces on 11 September 2001 only to be told about the World Trade Center attacks, and wonders if maybe his interest in Titanic is kind of trivial. It's about a **1/2 star movie, though.

KING KONG (2005)
The original King Kong is one of my all-time favorites. This film has surpassed it in every way. This surprisingly emotional, relentless, challenging adventure is the kind of film that everybody always says Spielberg used to make well, but he never made one as good as this. The genius of the film is that Kong himself is played as a giant gorilla, never as a monster. He has real feelings, recognizable behaviors, and that nervous, unpredictable edge that all wild animals have around them. The only real stumbling block is the lead actors themselves; Adrien Brody is never more than serviceable, and Naomi Watts doesn't have the passion or ability to make Ann Darrow everything she should be. Jack Black finds the perfect balance between irony and genuine as opportunist Carl Denham, playing him as a slightly less monomaniacal version of Orson Welles (somebody needs to take Black and make the great Orson Welles biopic, NOW). Andy Serkis does the motion-captured performance as King Kong, as he did Gollum in Jackson's Lord of the Rings. For the second time, Serkis raises the special effects to the level of performance, with depth and gravity; the Academy really needs to rethink its ruling on what is a special effect and what is acting. The film would be mere spectacle without its emotional core; I really cared about what happened and how it would all end up. The fact that everyone knows how "beauty killed the beast" only makes the inevitability of the end all the more tragic. An amazing movie that is not only Peter Jackson's greatest accomplishment (and here I never thought anything would surpass Lord of the Rings), but one of cinema's greatest masterworks. **** stars.

(2005)I've never thought much of C.S. Lewis's magical world of Narnia. Even as a child, it seemed underwritten and boring, and the religious allegories were so thin that it seemed condescending. At the risk of upsetting Lewis's admirers, I first say that I do love The Screwtape Letters and An Introduction to Paradise Lost. And then, I say that this film is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as Lewis should have written it. There is some depth added to the story and characters of the children, there is real emotion in Aslan's struggle, and genuine hatred in the actions of the White Witch. The world is populated with creatures both wonderful and mundane, and the idea that four children can just walk in and become kings and queens really reaches the child inside of me. This is the fantasy movie I've been waiting for my whole life, with a variety of creatures, a magical adventure, an excellent battle scene, and those talking animals I'm always such a sucker for (Ray Winstone is great as the voice of Mr. Beaver). The story is taken seriously, but not in a pretentious way (or overly pretentious way), just enough so that there is more reality in there than Lewis took the time to build. Tilda Swinton is marvelously scary (and strangely, terribly beautiful) as the Witch, and James McAvoy makes a very warm Tumnus. The actors playing the children are passable (the ones playing Edmund and Lucy have to carry the harder scenes, and Lucy is every inch as adorable as she should be), though the older ones struggle a bit to find their characters. Still, it's not perfect, I have to say. The computer animation is scattershot, Michael Madsen isn't very good as the voice of the lead wolf, and it feels as though this entire magical land is in a soundstage. It's supposed to be epic, but it's on a small scale and it's only driven by a very few characters. Narnia itself doesn't have an impact. It really does feel like it's all inside a closet. So, I enjoyed the hell out of it (don't think about the plot too much) for what it was, which is a *** star movie.