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Archive for June, 2008

Seen Your Video: Daft Punk – “Da Funk”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 21, 2008

“Yo, that’s a good song…”

Just some thoughts:

  • That is a good song. Perhaps being reactionary or revisionist or some such but much as I love Discovery, it’s the singles from Homework that still kick my ass without fail whenever they come on. And “Da Funk” is just one of the grimiest, ruffest, baddest slices of squelchy 4/4 bliss I’ve ever heard. Say what you will about the big beat era, but this thing has gotten better and better every year since its release.
  • I didn’t even realize how many of Spike Jonze’s classic videos use their soundtracking song as diagetic sound–as a gymnast’s routine tape in the Chemical Brothers’ “Elektrobank,” as the Torrance Dance Community Troupe’s jam of choice in Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” and as the song pumping on dogman Charles’ stereo in this one. I can’t think of another video director that pulled this off so successfully in one video, let alone in three.
  • Ever since I learned on the commentary of the Spike Jonze DVD (a must-have for any music video fan of any degree, of course) that they had to turn all the labels away from the camera in the grocery store scene (licensing issues of sorts I believe), that’s all I can focus on when I watch it. Check it, it’s almost a little creepy.
  • Is it weird how much I can still relate to the Dogman in this? I know the feeling of being paranoid about getting mocked by snotty kids on the street. I know what it’s like to so want to seem useful to someone that I’d be disappointed when the random survey lady on the street no longer wanted to avail herself of my services. And I definitely still wouldn’t have gotten on the bus with my childhood neighbor for dinner if I had to give up my radio.
  • How disturbing is that shot in the Grocery Store when Dogman Charles makes a corny joke to still-confused neighbor Beatrice and tilts back his head to laugh, and you see all his weird teeth and shit? Up until that point he’s just a loveable sadsack, then you realize, “Wait a minute, this creature is an abomination of nature!” I mean, if you saw the Mushroom dude from Star Wars in your local bodega, you probably wouldn’t stop to consider how lonely and homesick the guy was before you broke out the tranquilizer gun, would you?.
  • I wonder why no one ever talks about the Dogman-makes-good sequel video to “Da Funk,” “Fresh.” In this one, our hero finds himself a success as an actor on the West Coast, still has trouble finding real connection with people, but at least gets himself a happy ending of sorts. Not as poignant as “Da Funk” I suppose, but certainly better than all those boring anime vids they made for the Discovery singles.
  • Despite how great the song is, how great the video is, and how brilliantly they work together–how the hell did Jonze and the Dafters possibly decide that this was the path to go with this video? I mean, now the two aren’t even slightly disassociable, but who hears a fucking monster jam like “Da Funk” and thinks to themselves, “Hm, I see a fish-out-of-water wandering out a big city on his own. Possibly in the form of an anthropomorphized dog.” This song isn’t exactly “The Boxer,” you know.
  • Say a prayer for that dog. drummer Tony Maxwell, the man behind the dogman in “Da Funk” and “Fresh,” who will never be able to believably drop that line as a hook at parties and such. I mean, in terms of iconic video status, it’s not quite the jungle chick from “Hungry Like the Wolf,” but I’d certainly want to drop that shit all the time if I had a credit like that on my resume. And yet Tony Maxwell is still probably better known as being the drummer for that dog. than actually being That Dog. Sucks.
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Posted in Seen Your Video | 1 Comment »

Schadenfreude: The Love Guru and Katy Perry

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 20, 2008

Revenge is a dish best ordered over the internet

A few days ago, I issued Pop Culture an ultimatum of sorts–It was me or The Love Guru, time to decide. So far, I appear to be fairly safe in my ground, as The Love Guru has but a 22 on composite review website MetaCritic. “Adam Sandler can breathe a sigh of relief,” says TV Guide. “Thanks to this crude, bafflingly unfunny comedy from fellow SNL alum Mike Myers, Sandler can rest assured that his “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” won’t go down as the worst movie of 2008.” The New York Post is a little more clever about it, quipping “The Love Guru is even funnier than ‘Wayne’s World’ or ‘Austin Powers.’ Not.” And providing the drama is The New York Times, who says “The Love Guru is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again. ” It doesn’t necessarily guarantee poor box office, but at least I dunno if there’s been any movies in the much-dreaded below-25 regions of Metacritic scoring that have been outright hits.

More impressive, however, is how the critics have come to look askance on Ms. Katy Perry. I was nigh on positive that Perry, she of “I Kissed a Girl” fame (#2 song in the country, don’t you know) would court general acclaim from clueless types as the latest in the Lily Allen-Amy Winehouse lineage of quirky, world-weary, buzzworthy young female types, embracing her refreshing frankness and clever wordplay. Apparently not, as the album has a cumulative 51 so far on Metacritic (which by album standards might even be worse than The Love Guru’s 22–the only albums currently with lower scores are Ashanti’s The Declaration, Def Leppard’s Songs from the Sparkle Lounge and Foxy Brown’s Brooklyn Don Diva, and 20 points if you’ve even heard of one of those before). Even the generally level-headed and objective All Music Guide has taken Katherine to task, saying of her One of the Boys that “The problem is not with Katy’s gender-bending, it’s that her heart isn’t in it; she’s just using it to get her places, so she sinks to crass, craven depths that turn One of the Boys into a grotesque emblem of all the wretched excesses of this decade.” You’ll recall I said things not all that dissimilar but a week or so ago, but it’s refreshing to see others fail to fall for her attention-courting act as well.

Once again, it’s not to say that from the album’s critical reaction is a kiss of death for its commercial fortunes, and I’m sure Perry’s returns will be brisk at first, as will The Love Guru‘s. But point is, it’s important that our culture’s first line of defense not go gently against these juggernauts of evil, and here’s hoping that the rest of the country follows suit shortly enough. Hey, Obama won the primary and “American Boy” finally made the top 40, so things are looking bright all over for our country. A #3 or lower debut for The Love Guru and a sub-gold status for Katy Perry don’t seem all that unreasonable to ask for.

Posted in Schadenfreude | 3 Comments »

Take Five: 100 Years, 100 Less Mind-Numbing Lists

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 19, 2008

Sing the sorrow

So AFI had their yearly 100 Years, 100 _____s presentations on TV last night, for those of us too depressed by the NBA finals to watch the whole thing. Except this year, it wasn’t 100 ___s, it was 10 different sets of 10 ____s–in one breath, Animation, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Sports, Western, Gangster, Mystery, Romantic Comedy, Courtroom Drama and Epic. Among these lists, there were a couple choices that haven’t appeared on AFI lists too much (The Usual Suspects, Harold and Maude, the original Scarface), a couple surprising orderings (City Lights as the #1 Romantic Comedy of all time? Kramer Vs. Kramer considerable as a courtroom drama, let alone the third best ever?), and a whole, whole lotta nothin’. Pretty much what you’ve come to expect from these AFI shows.

When the first AFI list came out over a decade ago, I don’t know if there had been a previously published list of any sort of authority of the 100 Best American Movies ever made, but it was certainly the first that ever showed up on my radar. When I first seriously got into movies back in the 7th grade, I made all sorts of checklists of flicks to see, but the only one I ever actually checked off all the way through was that first AFI Top 100–even though it meant sitting through Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Dances With Wolves, and nearly all of Birth of a Nation, among others. Even then I probably knew the list was mostly playing it safe, relying too much on crowd-pleasers and giving the short shift to just about any movie from the lasat two decades of the century. But when I catalogue in my head the most acclaimed movies of all-time, that’s still the list I most commonly refer back to.

But of course, AFI couldn’t leave well enough alone, so they started doing other lists. 100 Years, 100 Stars (Best Actors/Actresses), 100 Years, 100 Laughs (Best Comedies) and 100 Years, 100 Thrills (Most Suspenseful Movies) all followed, and were still considerably fun to watch–I even remember giving my family hell making sure we taped the Laughs one and all watched it together, my top priority even though I think I graduated middle school that week or something. But then they started to really get unexciting–100 Years, 100 Heroes and Villains (Top 50 of each), 100 Years, 100 Songs (“Fight the Power” was the only one I cared about) and most lamely, 100 Years, 100 Cheers (The most inspiring movies). The lists started to overlap more and more with one another, like they were only drawing from a pool of 500 movies or so to begin with (which, in reality, isn’t even too far off).

This new batch, unsurprisingly, is the worst yet. At least with 100 of something, you get a little depth, and there’s always a small chance of getting something legitimately unexpected. But the top ten Mysteries of all-time? You’re probably not going to get Out of the Past and Sneakers, you’re just going to get The Maltese Falcon and a whole bunch of Hitchcock. We’ve seen all these movies before, and what’s more, we’ve heard about all of ’em at least once (and probably two or three times) on these shows already. So let’s start thinking outside the box a little, get some new blood in there, huh? Here’s some ideas:

  1. 100 Years, 100 Underappreciations. The AFI guys’ll probably think of a better title, but these seems pretty obvious to me–just have another Top 100 vote on a group of 500 movies, none of which were eligible for the original or new AFI Top 100 Movies lists. You probably won’t get anything particularly revelatory, but you’ll automatically get a relatively new pool of movies, and maybe unearth a couple relatively forgotten gems in the process.
  2. 100 Years, 100 Indies. Don’t have to be too stringent on the terms here–everything from Russ Meyer to Quentin Tarantino can count. But the AFI is notoriously unfriendly to the small movie, generally prefering big emotion and big Oscar wins instead. There’s only so many of these I can watch before the across-the-board absence of Richard Linklater, Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson becomes too egregious to tolerate.
  3. 100 Years, 100 Explosions: OK, they already had the thriller one, so maybe an action movie one would be a little redundant. It’s a risk I’m willing to take, though, given the obvious dirth of Sly, Arnie, Bruce, Charlie, Jackie, Steven, Jason and Jean-Claude on all of these lists to date. Knowing the AFI, they’d find a way to stuff it with lame “classic” Westerns, claim that JFK counts as an action movie, and stick Chinatown in the top five. Still, how else are you gonna get The Fast and the Furious on an AFI list?
  4. 100 Years, 100 Flops: I guess I don’t know if the AFI is allowed to acknowledge the fact that sub-par movies exist, but if they’re feeling cynical one of these years, it’d be extremely refreshing to see Leonard Maltin and Steven Spielberg on these things talking about just how much Hudson Hawk and Leonard Part VI fucking blew. It’d be a little hard to come up with a list of nominations, I suppose–especially if you tried to make sure at least half the movies didn’t have Eddie Murphy in them– but there’s enough consensus shit out there to make it happen. Plus, would it kill these guys to show a little sense of humor every now and then?
  5. 100 Years, 100 Imports. All right, so I know what you’re going to say: “This is the American Film Institute, you fuckin’ commie.” Right you are, comrade, but I don’t think it’d be such a bad idea to take one out of every dozen years or so to acknowledge that there are in fact movies made in other parts of the world. Plus, would you be able to resist watching Jessica Alba talk about how much the work of Abbas Kiarostami has meant to her, or how much Penny Marshall borrowed from the work of Leni Riefenstahl for A League of Their Own?

Got other, superior, better-named ideas? Lemme hear ’em.

Posted in Take Five | 3 Comments »

Clap Clap ClapClapClap/Eugoogly: Celtics vs. Lakers, ’08

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 18, 2008

zmmhmrmrmszmmmmsshhhh

All I wanted was a series. I mean, I had some other things I kind of wanted to see. I wanted to see Ray Allen, possibly my favorite player on either team, redeem himself after a terrible Cleveland series and a shaky Detroit series. I wanted to see some legend-worthy performances from Kobe Bryant, easily the most fascinating player on either team, to prove he was worthy of the adulation poured upon him up to that point in the season. I wanted to see a couple close games, a couple grind-’em out wins, and a couple embarrassing blowouts. I wanted to see quality, game-changing minutes for Brian Scalabrine and D.J. M’Benga. Some of those things ended up happening, and some of them didn’t. But really, all I wanted was something exciting, something significant, something to live up to the history that’s been shoved down my throat for the last three weeks, and to a lesser extent, the whole season. All I wanted was a series.

And really, I didn’t care too much who ended up on top. Chuck Klosterman, and likely many other fans of the dynasty teams in the 80s, has often suggested that to not have a rooting interest in the Celtics / Lakers rivalry is roughly equivalent to not having a soul, and maybe he has a point. But coming into this fresh, I legitimately liked both of these teams about equally. The heart, the hustle and the high basketball IQ (I know, I hate this phrase too, but it does start with the letter ‘H’) of the Celtics, and the thrilling, fluent, purple-in-dress-and-style zip of the Lakers–to have to choose between the two would be like having to choose between Blur and Oasis for me. It’s all basketball–it’s all love, baby. And I just wanted to see it play out as brilliantly as possible.

Now I just feel cheated. I mean, I don’t begrudge the Celtics their win, or their spectacular performance–these are all such high-character, likeable (by NBA standards, anyways) guys, and they so genuinely care not only about winning, but about each other, and even about their coach. And really, you can’t say that the Lakers deserve much more than they got for what they put in to this series–they showed some heart in that seemingly impossible Game Two comeback that they very nearly pulled off, but after that, they seemed lazy, selfish and discombobulated. By just about any standards, the Celtics turned out to be the superior team in this series, and that’s perfectly cool with me.

But it just didn’t feel special to me. It was a messy, sloppy series, almost completely bereft of the kind of magic I would have expected from such a dynastic rivalry. At only two points in the series was there the kind of beauty I expected to be stretched over six or seven games–that Paul Pierce third-quarter comeback with the two straight three pointers after the injury that looked like it could end the series before it even began (of course, if I knew that just about every Celtic was going to do the “oh noes I’m injured BUT HERE I COME BACK STANDING OVATION YAHHHH!!” thing before the series was over, that might not even have counted), and in the fourth quarter tonight, where the Celtic energy was so electric that even Eddie House and Tony Allen were throwing down backwards-slam alley-oops.

The rest? Well, there were mostly times when it felt like it should have been more exciting than it was. When Kobe took over with his 36 in G3, it didn’t feel like the league’s best player playing on an untouchable level, it just felt like a good shooter having a better game than he should have been forced to have. When the C’s came back with the biggest comeback in finals history in G4, it didn’t feel shocking and inspiring, it just felt confusing and kind of surreal. I guess maybe I should have expected it–when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable wall, of course things are going to get flustered–but this finals just wasn’t that much fun to watch. It’s hard to explain, but I get the general feeling that for people who weren’t die hard Lakers or Celtics fans, there was a feeling of malaise over this series for them too. It’s bizarre.

Then again, maybe this is all just a lesson in how history gets spun. I already knew that the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 80s was blown ridiculously out of proportion on an objective level, even by the players themselves–in reality, the Sixers faced the Lakers in the finals as many times as the C’s did (three), and the C’s beat the Rockets (twice) more times than they did the Lakers (once). And while everyone remembers the classic moments from the two teams’ three series together–Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis in ’84, Magic’s baby skyhook in ’87, so on–maybe most of the other games in those series were actually extremely underwhelming too, games where Bird and Magic went a combined 13-42, where Kareem got into foul trouble early and Parish disappeared on offense, games where Byron Scott and Danny Ainge were hoisting up nothing shots like Sasha Vujacic and Sam Cassell. Maybe the whole thing never felt as exciting and fateful at the time as it did twenty years in retrospect. And maybe twenty years from now, all we’ll remember from this series is Paul Pierce and the Comeback Game. Maybe that’s just how sports works.

Most interesting to me is what this means for the future, especially for the Lakers. It seems like years ago now, but at the beginning of this series, it looked like not only were the Lakers going to take this one in a walk, but that it would be the start of a Laker run of championships that could last another four or five years. What’s more, people were starting to elevate Kobe from being the best player in the game to being one of the all-time greats, even invoking MJ’s rarified name in potential comparisons. Now, just a couple weeks later, the Lakers seem like an outclassed, second-tier basketball team, and Kobe seems like he’s basically undone all the progress he’s made since the ’04 Laker meltdown. Of course, a lot of this isn’t actually true, or is at least somewhat exaggerated, and with the (hopeful) return of Andrew Bynum next year, they’ll probably be able to elevate their frontcourt to be able to better hang with bigger, more physical teams next year. But for Kobe and Phil Jackson at least, it’s going to be an interesting, and significantly undewhelming summer.

The hardest thing about this for me, when all is said and done, is that the NBA season is finally over. All throughout the season, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have chosen this time to get into the sport, as it seemed like every day brought with it new excitement, new drama, new possibilities. The blockbuster trades, the epic Western Conference race, the turnaround seasons–it was very nearly socially dehabilitating how much I fell in love with pro basketball this year. Now, I know summer is supposed to be the time of baseball, and I’m definitely thrilled for the rest of the season, but I just don’t know if it can match the excitement, the unbelievable urgency the NBA presented with this season. I pray it can, though, because it’s going to be a long five months of reading trade rumors and rookie speculations otherwise.

In the meantime, congrats to the Celtics. You guys deserved it, certainly, and I just hope that now you have the deceny to get old real quick and let some other dudes in the East get a shot at it next year.

Posted in Clap Clap ClapClapClap, Eugoogly | 1 Comment »

100 Years, 66 Villains: #12 – #7

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 16, 2008

“I Was Going To Do It Tonight Anyway” Edition

#12.


Professor Edward Alcott, Loser

Played By: Greg Kinnear

M.O.: I’ve spent far too much time contemplating and writing about just how awful a movie Loser is, but I suppose I do have to give it credit for presenting one of the all-time great schmuck characters in movie history. Kinnear’s character has a direct precedent in Fred MacMurray’s character in The Apartment (the movie is, more or less, a remake of Billy Wilder’s classic Best Picture winner), but as unlikeable as MacMurray was in that movie, he never seemed to rejoice in causing Shirley MacLaine misery the way Professor Alcott seems to revel in abusing Mena Suvari this movie. He spends 75% of his scenes with Dora (the college student he’s having an unsanctioned affair with, played by Suvari) insulting and mocking her, and spends the other 25% commanding her to perform various tasks (the part where he reprimands her for not bringing him his tea in the correct manner probably being the most egregious example). He hangs her out to dry when she OD’s for fear of ruining his good (?) name, and apologizes by lying to his parents about her being his assistant after inviting her to spend Thanksgiving. The best moment, though, has to be when Dora’s asking Alcott some questions about Paul (Jason Biggs) to find out whether or not he’s in love with her, and an annoyed Alcott snaps back, “Hon? I’m reading!

Classic Villain Quote: “If I wanted all this teenage angst, I’d watch reruns of My So-Called Life!” (In response to Dora’s laments about getting kicked out of school and possibly being homeless)

#11.



O’Bannion, Darla and Clint, Dazed and Confused

Played By: Ben Affleck, Parker Posey and Nicky Katt

M.O.: Hard for me to separate these three characters in my mind, since each so perfectly represents their respective particular brand of High School bullying to utter perfection. O’Bannion (Affleck) is the dumbass who seems to delight in physically tormenting kids three or four years younger than him since mentally, they’re already way out of his league. Darla (Posey) is the Queen Bitch that rules over her clique with an iron fist, indoctrinating the weak-spirited Freshman girls into a world of caustic bititerness and needless self-absue. And Clint (Katt) is perhaps worst of all, the tough guy who is willing to take any sort of provocation, however unintended, as a call to flex his near-fascist bodily strength and punch-first mentality. Given that 1976 was also the same year that John Travolta and Nancy Allen poured pig’s blood on Sissy Spacek in Carrie because she was, uh, too quiet I guess, I suppose my generation had it relatively easy by comparison.

Partners-in-Villainy: These are only a handful of the remarkable number of baddies to be found in this movie. There’s also Don and Simone (Sasha Jenson and Joey Lauren Adams), there’s watered-down equivalents to O’Bannion and Darla, there’s Coach Conrad (Terry Moss) who wants protagonist Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) to sell his soul for the team, and there’s Pink’s sycophantic friend Benny (Cole Hauser) who persuades him to do so. There’s even that father who cancels he and his wife’s weekend trip when they discover son Kevin (Shawn Andrews) has a party planned. For a movie that makes me happier to watch than just about any other in existence, it’s amazing that it survived with even half the good vibes that it did.

#10.


Tracy Flick, Election

Played By: Reese Witherspoon

M.O.: I don’t care who you were in High School, Tracy Flick had to get under your skin at least a little bit. No high school type is as despised from all corners–the jocks, the stoners, the nerds, whomever–as the Humorless Overachiever, and no HO has ever impressed her will on a movie quite like Tracy. It’s not even the deliberately underhanded stuff that she does–how she tries to railroad her potential competitors out of the race, even sabotaging their campaigns and letting others take the fall for it–that really creeps. It’s the personalized “PICK FLICK” cupcakes. It’s the countless campaign maxims (“You know, Coca-Cola is the world’s number one soft drink, but they spend more money than anybody on advertising. I guess that’s how come they stay number one”). And it’s the genuine belief that somehow a High School election is actually a path to legitimate authority, something really worth winning. Principals don’t cause students to have to sit through mind-numbing assemblies, students cause students to have to sit through mind-numbing assemblies.

Sympathetic Reading: I almost had to disqualify Tracy from this list because as villainous as the movie clearly makes her, they also do a commendable job of showing how Tracy’s parents shaped her to be this way, and how despite her many superficial victories, she’s generally a very lonely and unhappy person. Still, if I was Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), I probably would’ve thrown my drink at her limo at the end of the movie too.

#9.


Troy, Reality Bites

Played By: Ethan Hakwe

M.O.: I promise this is going to be the first and last time I do this on this countdown, but because I can’t spend any more mental energy contemplating just how much I hate this character, because I’ve already said just about all I can possibly say on this movie in general, and because I don’t want Ethan Hawke to start taking it personally just in case we ever have the chance to hang out someday, I’m just going to quote my previous breakdown of Troy’s most larcenous scene here:

The best (or at least, most memorable) scene in Reality Bites is when Troy is waiting up for Laine (Winona Ryder) after her Frampton makeout with Michael (Ben Stiller), and she demands to know why he’s suddenly acting so jealous. He gets up from his seat, walks over to her, puts his hand on her cheek, and says with total brown-eyed sincerity: “I am really in love with you.” And for a second, Laine just melts–her eyes drop, her lips quiver, and her previously indignant and pissed-off attitude instantly vanishes. With that one line, you can tell that Troy is, at the absolute most, two moves away from the boudoir. But then his straight face cracks into a smile, and he bursts the bubble: “Is that what you want to hear? Is it? Well…don’t flatter yourself.” It’s a greater act of cruelty from one human being to another than anything I saw in Schindler’s List (well, arguably anyway), especially because from her one-second reaction, it was clear that in fact that was exactly what Laine wanted to hear. But rather than save both of them a lot of time and effort by sinking the pink right then and there, Troy opts for the more immediately self-satisfying taunt approach instead. Like I said, Troy is not a nice guy.

I mean, do you really need any more?

Not Without Precedent: As the twin cinematic paragons of Generation X, Reality Bites and Singles will forever be associated with one another, and rightly so. Therefore it should be no surprise that the Troy type should receive a sort of trial run with Singles‘ Andy (James LeGros), the ex-boyfriend of Linda (Kyra Sedgewick) with an elitist, world-be-damned attitude and a goofy ponytail. If he had been in the movie for more than a couple of scenes, there’s no doubt he would’ve been featured prominently on this list.

#8.


Regina George, Mean Girls

Played By: Rachel McAdams

M.O.: To put it simply, no movie has ever made me feel more grateful to have a penis than Mean Girls. Say what you will about guy-on-guy bullying–and I got a bit of it in my day, if maybe not as much as I probably should have–it may be painful, it may be humiliating, but at least it’s almost always straightforward. After all, there are only so many ways that getting punched in the face, getting your bookbag stolen or getting called a “faggot” can be interpreted–unless they’re particularly clever, bullies rarely make the effort to disguise their cruel intentions. On the other hand, the world of female teendom, as promised in Mean Girls, is one of unreletnting subtle psychological torture, filled with lies, mind games and betrayal. And leading it all is Regina George.

Regina terrifies me in the way that only a hott, evil High School girl can. It’s not just the three/four-way phone attacks, the domineering of her friends’ social lives, the long brags about the ways in which she ditches her uncool ex-friends. It’s the fact that–and the movie did a brilliant job of articulating this–despite all this, you still really want the Regina Georges of the world to like you. You might protest to hate them, you might even genuinely feel animosity towards them, but with one word of kindness, you’d be putty in their hands. It’s the kind of power that no one should ever have, much less someone in the mentally formative and emotionally fraught years of high school, but power that Regina harnesses and abuses like no other villainess in teen film history.

And that Rachel McAdams always seemed like such a nice girl.

Small-Screen Equivalent: Maybe a bit of a stretch–and definitely a little of a creepy thought–but did you ever wonder what Angelica Pickles would be like once her body, fashion sense and wallet started to develop?

#7.


Steff, Pretty in Pink

Played By: James Spader

M.O.: Oh, Steff. Of all the people on this list–and certainly of all those closest to the top–Steff is both the most monomaniacal and ultimately purposeless in his villainy. He serves but one purpose in the entire movie–to persuade friend Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) not to date Andie (Molly Ringwald), and then once the two do start dating, to persuade Blaine to break up with her. Whether Blaine serves any other purpose in life–if he goes to classes, if he has other friends, if he has any interest in his girlfriend Benny (Kate Vernon) beyond having a partner to make fun of Andie with–is totally unclear. But at every turn in the movie, there he is, telling Blaine what trash Andie is, threatening to friend-dump him if he doesn’t break up with her. And evidently, Blaine is equally co-dependent in this relationship, since he actually listens to STeff’s advice/threats, despite his displaying absolutely zero of the qualities towards Blaine that would be conventionally interpreted as friendship. Such a douche is Steff that he even prompts Duckie (Jon Cryer)–a “lover, not a fighter” if there ever was one–to both initiate and hold his own in a hallway scuffle.

Impressive Resume: William Zabka and James Spader are that perfect example of that classic paradigm: When two people occupy the same pop cultural space (in this case, that of the smug, preppy, blonde teen asshole), one will inevitably go on to a long and successful career elsewhere while the other languishes in relatively obscure PC relicdom. Maybe if Zabka went on to star in indie sensation flicks and win an Emmy or two, we’d be looking back on Spadey’s roles in Endless Love, Less Than Zero, Wall Street and Mannequin instead and cackling at what could have been.

Posted in 100 Years 66 Villains | 4 Comments »

For the Love of God: A Belly-Flop for The Love Guru

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 16, 2008

Hope we at least get a “More Than Words” revival out of it

The first time I saw the Love Guru trailer was in the previews for Iron Man a few weeks ago. It was a Friday afternoon, and the theater was full of the crowd you’d expect for such a movie at such a time–males between the ages of 16 and 28, and ones likely without the most discerning of taste. It might not have been the target audience for The Love Guru, whose arrival I had dreaded since the posters first appeared in the New York subways, but it was close enough that I figured there would be at least a couple moments that the audience would inevitably find much funnier than I would. Yet as the predictably cringeworthy trailer unfolded, a miracle occured–no one laughed. There wasn’t a single moment that made even most of the crowd chortle, and I could probably count the times I heard laughter emit from any corner on one hand. I don’t know if I had significantly underestimated the crowd in attendance, or if the Love Guru preview really was just THAT BAD, but at that moment, I had faith in the mediating powers of pop culture.

Encouraging though this was, the media blitz of Love Guru still has me a little worried. Us pop watchers learn to put up with a lot of crap in our travails–such is the nature of the beast, and you’d be quickly driven to madness if you expected every summer jam to be an “Umbrella,” every breakout TV show to be a LOST, every Denzel Washingotn and Russell Crowe showdown to be a Virtuosity. But I believe it equally important that from time to time, we draw a line in the sand when it comes to certain things–movies, songs, TV shows, whatever–that if we truly believe in the essential goodness of pop culture, we have to say that such things can not be a success, lest the system lose our faith. Admittedly, it’s a one-sided agreement, and when it backfires, it can really hurt–when “Laffy Taffy” and “You’re Beautiful” went to #1 within a month of each other back in 2006, it almost made me foresake the charts altogether-but more times than not, the system rewards your faith, and in your mind, at least, you feel you played your part in not letting pop culture run about completely unchecked.

Needless to say, The Love Guru is a potential boundary-crosser for me, and I’m not entirely positive that the general public will be able to shrug it off. From the trailers, it seems like the movie’s humor is grounded in four things–Borat-style East-West culture clashes (Myers takes his elephant on a plane, where it is bigger than the other animals on the plane!), PG-13 rated crude humor (the term “smuggling a schnauzer” is used at least once), Hockey (particularly that successful, vibrant franchise the Toronto Maple Leafs), and Myers’ comedic mugging (would the trailer even be a minute long if you took out all the shots of Myers reacting to his own jokes?) This is all fair enough, and not terribly threatening–Myers is no longer a recognizable and beloved enough figure to sell the movie strictly on his own personality (including his Canadian LOL love of hockey), the crude humor seems too low-scale (i.e., no pie fornication or elborate penis drawings) to be particularly effective, and Myers can’t keep a straight face long enough to possibly sell the Baron-Cohen-type stuff.

What does worry me, somewhat, are the movie’s backup plans–the sort of insurance policies that, to Myers and his co-conspirators’ credit, they were smart enough to take out lest the movie’s central comedic conceits not deliver on the level expected. There’s Meagan Good and Jessica Alba–arguable as two of the 25 hottest actresses on the planet–as the female leads, and in a movie about sex, the fact that the PG-13 rating means no shot at nudity might not even be enough of a deterrent for some. Then there’s Stephen Colbert as the off-kilter color man announcer–a role seemingly obligatory in comedy since Fred Willard in Best in Show, and one which carries a certain inherent comedic credibility. Then there’s Justin Timberlake, the biggest pop star in the country, playing against type as…uh, some goofy French guy, I guess, which I’m sure will be a hilarious contrast with the JT we know and love. And finally, there’s that ultimate comedic slam-dunk guarantee–midget humor, courtesy of the Laurence Olivier of midget humor, Verne Troyer.

Will they be enough to propel The Love Guru into the comedy blockbuster promised land? It’s hard for me to tell, largely because all the successes Myers has had so far in film have been so unpredictable. I mean, Wayne’s World might’ve worked as an SNL sketch, but given their limited content (two guys in a basement making lists on public access?) and the small percentage of such sketches that spun off into successful movies (though I guess Hollywood wouldn’t find that out until a few years later), it’s remarkable the two flicks worked nearly as well as they did. And Austin Powers? Who could have possibly guessed that a parody of old James Bond movies, the Swinging 60s and British culture (and teeth) in general with a confusing title, enigmatic previews and a still largely commercially unproven leading man would have been anything but a disaster? Even Shrek, the first mainstream cartoon flick to be completely post-modern, could’ve easily been a Ratatouille style commercial underwhelmer.

But then again, take away these three movies, and the sequels they spawned, and what exactly has Mike Myers done of note in the last 15 years? I mean, So I Married an Axe Murderer was pretty OK, but it hardly put up record numbers at the box office. Besides that, you’ve got, what, Cat in the Hat? A View From the Top? 54? Myers is completely feast or famine with his box office success–he has no minor hits or small parts in even modest box office successes, and only seems to have success in these easily franchiseable characters, which end up grossing in the hundred-millions. Myers seems to have enough pattern recognition to sense this, and it’s obvious that with The Love Guru, Myers hopes to introduce a fourth definitive franchise character to his repertoire.

I’d like to dismiss the chance, to say that it’s both too late and too lame for Myers–aside from his voice, he’s been out of the spotlight for a long time, and I’d think teen and pre-pubescent males would have newer, fresher comedic heroes by now. But keeping the shocking success of Austin Powers in mind–which somehow also turned out to be a great movie, the first one at least–I don’t know if I can be totally confident that this won’t turn out similarly (minus the ‘turning out to be a great movie’ part, anyway, since I’m fairly positive that isn’t on the horizon). But I am drawing that line in the sand. Now I guess I just gotta have faith.

Posted in For the Love of God | 2 Comments »

Your Cover’s Blown: She & Him – “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 15, 2008

Emily Deschanel to work “Love Machine” cover into Season Four premiere of Bones

One of the things I’ll probably miss about my brief period interning at Sirius was the free CDs–extra promos discarded by the higher-ups and rewarded to us second-class workers as thanks for the many CDs we barcoded, filed, fetched and ripped over the course of our days. Not because of the money it saved me–I probably spend less than $100 a year on new music these days, sadly–but just because it gave me the opportunity to hear a bunch of things in passing that I never would’ve had the initiative to search out on my own. I’d long been intrigued by the idea of Zooey Deschanel (She of Almost Famous and Elf, adorable for her big eyes and supposed indie cred) and M. Ward (Him behind 2006’s excellent Post-War, and its frequently MTVU-rotated single, “Chinese Translation“) collaborating on some sort of country-folk outfit, but neglected to actually search it out until a promo copy of their Volume One fell in my lap at Sirius.

By and large, I feel about it the way I’ve felt about recently acclaimed efforts from Neko Case and Jenny Lewis–generally nice stuff, some spots a little brighter than others, but generally not the sort of thing I’d be likely to often return to. But Zooey and M. were smart enough to include a couple of covers to hook the pop listeners like me, and while I’m not sure if they’re actually superior than the other songs included or if they just speak a language that I can better understand, they’re by far my favorite things on the disc. Best of all is their working of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ already oft-covered “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me“–and I mean oft, as Wikipedia lists covers as having been done by, among others, Cher, Percy Sledge, The Zombies, The Supremes, The Small Faces, even Bobby McFerrin and Cyndi Lauper (and some dudes from Liverpool might’ve covered it on one of their early albums too, I think). The book has, for all intents and purposes, been written on “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.”

Yet something really strikes me about the She & Him version, which I think goes back to a discussion I had with a friend of mine a few months ago. She (my friend, not Deschanel) put the original song on a mix in a road trip we were taking, and related a story about how she recorded a version of the song with a couple of her amateur musician friends for an assignment in a music production class of some sort at NYU. At first I was surprised at the choice–I wouldn’t even say that “Hold” is my favorite Smokey song, though with competition like “Tracks of My Tears,” “More Love” and “Mickey’s Monkey,” that’s hardly an insult–but as I thought about it, it started to make perfect sense, and I even got really jealous that I hadn’t been around to record it with her.

I guess it’s just that “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” seems more imminently coverable than any other Miracles song, or really just about any other song from the Motown era–more like a vocal standard than a top 40 hit.  There’s no question that Smokey and company do the song’s most definitive version, but it’s a song that’s so simple and basic that it should be almost as impossible to fuck up as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Take the first line–“I don’t like you / but I love you.” It seems straightforward almost to the point of being facile, yet it kind of says it all, doesn’t it? It’s an uncommon thing to say in a love song, but it feels instantly familiar and logical. Same with the chorus, which is just a repetition of the title phrase and “I love you, and all I want you to do is hold me, hold me, hold me.” No figurative language, no wasted phrases, nothing but basic, instantly relateable feeling. Who could miss with that?

And the She & Him version of this song takes this idea to the logical conclusion, stripping the instrumentation of the song down to match the simplicity of the lyrics. As was typical of the Motown sound of the time, the original “Hold” is produced with a lush, if not necessarily ornate, full-band sound, but She & Him break it down to just what their name suggests–little more than the voices of Ward and Deschanel, with only spare, echo-laden production and minimal guitar to accompany them. But perhaps even more importance than its emphasis on the song’s simplicity is how much more palpable it makes the song’s feeling of intimacy. Already fairly honest and practical while still being incredibly romantic, the original song was definitely not a passion of a new love sort of song, it was a song that implied deep connection over a long, occasionally infuriating relationship. The hushed echo of Zooey and M’s intertwined vocals creates a brilliant aural approximation of this tried-but-true intimacy, and just feels extremely tender.

More than anything, it reminds me of Cat Power/Chan Marshall’s Diablo Cody-approved cover of Phil Phillips’ similarly standardish “Sea of Love”–another bare-bones cover of a classic love song that feels even deeper and closer thanks to the version’s sparse, almost haunting sound. Marshall has proven herself one of the most reliably brilliant and versatile song interpreters of recent years, and it’d thrill me to see She & Him take this promising start down that path as well. As long as I can continue to get their CDs for free, anyway.

Posted in Your Cover's Blown | 1 Comment »

That Guy Salute: The Helicopter “Get Out” Guy in T2

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 12, 2008

Classic action movies are always mostly going to be about the big action sequence–the twenty-minute chase, the climactic one-on-fight, the extended shootout, you know the deal. But often in these movies, it’s not the big set pieces that stick in your head as much as the miscellaneous, almost tossed-off moments of levity or seemingly meaningless wanton destruction (or both). They’re the moments that maybe don’t even really stand out until the fourth or fifth time you see them, or not until it pops into your head randomly months after you last saw it, at which point you realize that they might be the best part of the whole movie.

T2 has classic action sequences to spare. Most movies of its sort would be lucky to have one unforgettable extended, multi-layered, hugely suspenseful and technologically innovative set piece, and T2 has at least three, the last of which lasts about a half-hour. If you wanted to call it the best action movie ever made, I probably wouldn’t disagree. But my favorite part of the movie comes right at the cusp of that amazing climactic action sequence, where Sarah, John and the Terminator have escaped from the police siege of SkyNet in a SWAT van. The T-1000, late on the scene in his trademark cop gear and motorbike, emerges from the smoke of the recently exploded SkyNet office, and jumps his bike off the 20-somethingth floor and onto a police helicopter, in which he punches a hole (with his head, of course) and slinks his way through. To the present helicopter pilot, he delivers simple instructions:

“Get out.

And it’s the sheer compliance of the helicopter pilot that kills me. The T-100 kills a lot of people over the course of T2–John’s foster parents, some cops holding Sarah, a couple random bystanders who might slow him down a couple of milliseconds by continuing to breathe, and probably about a dozen people over the course of the movie. But he doesn’t even waste the energy to kill the helicopter pilot in this scene. Instead, he scares him into (presumably) killing himself, scaring him so unbelievably shitless that he’s more than happy to take the maybe 20-story jump–he nods in agreement, and rushes his way out the helicopter without even removing his headphones–rather than to continue chilling in the copter with the T-100. And you know, if some dude jumped a motorcycle onto your helicopter, headbutts it in, and then morph-slithered his way through the hole, you’d probably take your chances with gravity and concrete as well.

Oh yeah, and the actor who plays the helicopter guy? Well, they didn’t bring in just any jobber for such a delicate role. They farmed it out to stuntman/actor/second unit director triple-threat Charles A. Tamburro. Check out this resume–Rocky III, Scarface, Die Hard, True Lies, Se7en, Heat, even 2 Fast 2 Furious. Don’t know exactly how big the role he plays in these movies is, but now whenever I watch one of these movies, I’m gonna have to keep an eye out for this guy–he could end up being a bigger action movie That Guy than Ernie Hudson.

Posted in That Guy Salute | Leave a Comment »

I Sez: Sad That We Need Pete Wentz to Bring Back Videos to MTV

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 12, 2008

He VJs like you, only sweeter

If you had told me ten years ago that simply playing music videos on a Friday night would be an act in such stark contrast to the rest of their schedule that they’d actually take out commercials to advertise it, I probably would’ve put on Stabbing Westward’s “Why?” and cried in my room for about a month. In fact, I remember back in the day that Friday night was the one time of the week that generally wasn’t reserved for music videos, as it would generally be the time when MTV trotted out their more esoteric programming–The Head and Aeon Flux, Rockumentary Remix, stuff involving Jenny McCarthy, and so on. And that was fair enough, since that was the one time of the week outside of school hours where I wasn’t necessarily glued to the TV.

Back in 2008, Friday night is still the one time I try to make a point of not staying home and watching TV (though I love catching those House reruns on USA), and now it’s all us video lovers have left. Of course, there are plenty of other channels I have on which to find music videos now–besides VH1 and BET, there’s MTV2, VH1 Classic, FUSE, a couple of country channels if I get really desperate, and of course, a little site called YouTube. But all that said, call me sentimental, because there’s still something more special to me about catching a vid on MTV–more than any of those other channels, an appearance on MTV just means something. FUSE and MTV2, neutered though the latter has been over the last ten years, still take chances on a couple buzz artists every now and then, and being featured on VH1 might be a greater sign of irrelevancy than relevancy. But an appearance on MTV, compromises and all, still registers to me as a certain level of Making It. And as both an avid Pop Watcher and a true video fan, that’s important to me. So if this is the biggest concession MTV is willing to make to the video crowd at the moment, fine, I guess I’ll take it.

But what embassador do they choose to re-extend this olive branch to the general public? Pete Fucking Wentz. FOB’s bassist / lyricist / creative director / pinup has been handed the reigns to FNMTV, along with someone named James Montgomery, apparently. Sadly, it sort of makes sense–no popular band, and no real pop artist of any genre except for maybe Justin Timberlake–has consistently put the effort into making Event Videos the way Fall Out Boy has. They make videos with plots, gimmicks, even some pre, mid and post-song dialogue, the sort of stuff you’d see all the time back when Puff Daddy was peeling off 15-minute videos like they were three-cent stamps, but which no one really puts the effort into making anymore. The videos aren’t particulary good, necessarily–they always have the idea right, but they never seem to put enough thought or effort into the execution–but at least their heart is in the right place. And at the epicenter of all their videos is Wentz, the focal point and mouthpiece for a band that doesn’t seem to mind abdicating responsibility for mostly everything to their heartthrob.

But is this guy going to shoot the program in the foot before it ever gets off the ground? Yeah, the guy’s probably going to appeal to the girls too old for Miley Cyrus but not old enough for, uh, My Chemcial Romance, but at least according to the show’s press release, this seems to be a show more for the 18-34 demographic, or at least for the thinking 13-18 demo–like MTV’s very own Adult Swim. And despite being in a band that probably grew their fanbase out of thinking teen males, there aren’t many people who have less in common with that viewerbase than Wentz. I mean, what does your average awkward, uncool high school dude have in common with a fashionable, CRIBS-approved millionaire that makes a point to appear as shirtless as possible in all his videos and throws it into one of the Simpson sisters on a nightly basis? What’s more, the guy kinda seems like a jerk–preening, calculating, and with a terrible sense of irony (I often cite his referring to the Bon Jovi and Journey he oh-so-cleverly plays during his DJ sets as “the worst shit” as the prime example of his tooliness). Who wants that?

It’s sad that it took this guy to finally get videos back in prime time on MTV. But if he does manage to break through to the target demographic–or gets pre-pubescent girls interested in the Event Video again–I just might be willing to wipe the slate clean. Hey, Infinity on High was pretty decent, wasn’t it?

Posted in I Sez | 1 Comment »

Vs. / Clap Clap ClapClapClap: The Real Winners of the Boston-L.A. Finals (So Far)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 11, 2008

Do other cities ever get jealous that Boston gets all the cool rivalries?

So despite their win in Game 3 tonight, the Lakers are still down 2-1 in the NBA finals, with two more to go in L.A. before they (in a best-case scenario) have the unenviable task of having to steal a game or possibly two from Boston back in the Not-Garden. But who is really winning the series so far, in all the areas that actually count? Let’s take a look.

1. Best Pre-Game Introductions: I’ve become so enamored with the Boston pre-game introduction traditions in the games I’ve seen of theirs so far this playoffs that now I actually make sure to turn on the games in time to see them. You’ve got the Requiem for a Dream theme, Paul Pierce bellowing “LET ME HEEEAR ITTTT!!!!,” Ray Allen’s mimed jump shot, maybe the only good single off the last 50 Cent album, and of course that earth-shaking KG scream. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s communal. L.A.’s, which I saw for the first time tonight, just had some weirdly uninvigorating Boston/L.A. rivalry montage set to Jay-Z’s “Heart of the City” (which says “West Coast” about as much as Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” would) and a bunch of uncomfortable-looking teammates that seem like they actually prefer the ambivalence of away crowds.

Advantage: Boston

2. Least Embarrassing Legend Interview: To add even more historical weight to the series, the pre-game shows have taken to interviewing legendary players from both teams to gain their wisdom and insight. Before G3, Lakers great Jerry West made some points about the importance of the Lakers’ going to the hoop that seemed competent enough, if not particularly revelatory. Before G2, though, the Bill Russell interview continued the unwatchability of his series of discussions with Kevin Garnett, where he was just a little too far gone to make for an interview that doesn’t make you shudder with the thought of talking to some of your older, less coherent relatives. And the way Jon Barry kept over-cackling at each of his jokes just made things that much more uncomfortable.

Advantage: Lakers

3. Best Celebrity Crowd: L.A. had a bunch of definite a-list celebs–Steven Spielberg, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson of course–to belie the point that this was Cali, baby! and that you shouldn’t be able to buy a hotdog without running into an Oscar winner. But as Bill Simmons (surprise) writes in his most recent ESPN column, what’s always so remarkable about C’s games is how many of the city’s local sports icons–baseball, football, soccer (maybe) alike–come out to support each others’ games, and in Game Two especially, it felt like half the Sox’s lineup was somewhere in the Not-Garden. Now I suppose the Angels and Dodgers technically had a game tonight while the Lakers were playing, but honestly, could you picture Joe Saunders and Juan Pierre giving a crap?

Advantage: Boston

4. Best Non-Celeb Crowd: There’s no question that Boston’s is the more excited, more supportive, more appreciative crowd–when they’re turned up to full blast, like in the second half of G1, it feels like there’s no way the C’s could ever lose. That said, if this category was about “crowd I’d least like to meet in a dark alley,” L.A. would take it in a walk–when they chanted “BOS-TON SUCKS!!” for the first time tonight, it nearly gave me chills, it was so legitimately vitriolic. Watch your back no the way home tonight, P.J. Brown.

Advantage: Celtics

5. Most Heartwarming Comeback: I don’t know why I became so invested in the ups and downs of Ray Allen in the first couple rounds of the playoffs, but more than anything in the conference finals, I was pulling for Ray-Ray to snap out of his funk and prove that he’s not at the end of his usefulness. He has, and then some, becoming arguably Boston’s most consistent offensive performer in the series thusfar, and positively keeping them competitive in G3. For L.A., the closest thing is the triumphant return of Trevor Ariza after a season of injuries, scoring four points in sixteen minutes and prompting approximately 500,000 questions along the lines of “Wait…Trevor Ariza plays for the Lakers now?”

Advantage: Celtics

6. Best Overachieving Back-Up Point Guard Performance: Maybe it’s just his general style, or an over-buying into the Laker myth, but Jordan Farmar doesn’t seem to know how to do anything the non-Showtime way. Of the 11 shots he’s taken so far in this series, I don’t remember a single one that wasn’t either a three-pointer or a swooping, on-the-run reverse layup. He even gave P.J. Brown a piece of his mind after receiving a little rough stuff, despite being about five feet shorter. Meanwhile, Sam Cassell seems to take his being inserted into a game “for offense” (and if you’re a C’s fan, you must die a little at the sound of that) to mean that he and he alone is responsbile for reviving the team, and that he should do so while wasting as few dribbles, passes and seconds as possible. He actually seemed to take his blocked air-ball in game two as a sign that maybe he should work more as a distributor, but tonight he was back in fourth gear, hoisting four shots in as many possessions. Farmar gets the edge for actually hitting a couple of those key threes in G2 and an important charge-draw in G3, whereas even when Cassell actually makes a shot now, you still have to groan a little.

Advantage: Lakers

7. Best Breakout Bench Performance: Smarting though I am over the lack of love Doc Rivers has shown for Glen “Big Baby” Davis this series, it was pretty inspiring to see back-up forward Leon Powe eke a superstar-level performance out of 14 minutes and change of playing time (good thing they had planned that Powe bio for halftime of G2, instead of 3, in which he played six minutes, scored one point and had his shot blocked twice). Still, his performance was no match for that of Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic in G3, who actually managed to score in double figures when it seemed like everyone on the court except Kobe and Ray was playing in 120 degree heat, including a three-pointer within the last few minutes that more or less sealed the quarter’s momentum for the Lakers. Can’t wait to see the video for this one.

Advantage: Lakers

8. Worst Refuting of Season’s Progress in Game 3. Now that Mark Jackson has officially dubbed Paul Pierce to be on Larry Bird’s all-around level, and everyone seems to have finally agreed that it is he, and not Ray or KG, that is Boston’s best offensive weapon, it seems only appropriate that he go for six points on 2-14 shooting and pick up five fouls in the process. And now that Kobe won an MVP largely for his newfound leadership, learning to share the ball and trust his teammates, what better time would there to be for him to go for 36 on his own, only hand out one dime, and seem to be snapping at his teammates at any possible opportunity? Still, 36 points is 36 points, and lord knows L.A. was getting that from a “confused” Lamar Odom and an apparently Kwame Brown-possessed Pau Gasol.

Advantage: Lakers

9. Least Embarrassing “What Is That You Do Here, Exactly?” Performer: One of my favorite subplots that no one is paying attention to in this series is the battle between Goofy Laker Back-Up Big Ronny Turiaf’s point tally and his personal foul tally–currently, points are outscoring fouls in a nine-eight squeaker. And what’s more, he seems prouder of his foul total. Look at him next time he gets a whistle–he’s positively beaming, raising his hand for all to know that it was he, and not some other braided seven-foot Frenchman, that hacked KG on a post-up. The closest the C’s have is Kendrick Perkins, who fans must no doubt be waiting to breakout like he did against the Pistons in G4 of the Conference Finals and rip a double-double on a thusfar sub-par L.A. front court, but has yet to get double anything, and in fact only scored one point in G1. Still, he’s Tim Duncan next to Turiaf this series.

Advantage: Celtics

10. Best “Don’t Ever Underestimate the Heart of a Champion” Moment: Well, I had to get what so far is undoubtedly the classic (or at least, the ESPN Classic) moment of the series, when Paul Pierce went down in the third quarter of G1 in what looked to be a possibly series-ending injury, only to come back by the end of the quarter to hit two consecutive threes and jump-start a Boston victory, drawing comparisons to Willis Reed* and inspiring some snarky t-shirts from unmoved laker fans. L.A. has nothing to match it as of yet, but really the only thing that would match it at this point would be if after an injury to Gasol in G5, Andrew Bynum came careening out of the stands, ripped off his suit and his cast, and finished the game as the Lakers’ center. And it seems unlikely that Phil Jackson would allow for such dramatics under his watch.

Advantage: Celtics

11. Best Post-Game Interview Moment: Tie between Phil Jackson referring to G2 hero “Leon Pow” and Kobe saying “shit” on live national TV. The only way I could see the Celtics being at all interesting in a post-game would be if Doc Rivers actually went for the grope at Michelle Tafoya’s ass during her interview.

Advantage: Lakers

Nonetheless, with three games down…

Total Advantage: Celtics

*You know that in that famous Game 7 Willis Reed comeback, he only scored like, four points? I was talking with IITS compatriot Andrew Weber about how different the history would read on that if the Knicks had lost that game–“Knicks blow key game, no thanks to selfish performance by badly injured star…

Posted in Clap Clap ClapClapClap, Vs. | Leave a Comment »