White Collar: “Bottlenecked”

C: In this week’s episode of White Collar, Neal encounters a thief he looks on as an “opponent” by the name of Matthew Keller.  At first it seems like a friendly rivalry, but we soon discover that Keller is ruthless and something of a thug in spite of his finesse.  Peter calls him Bizarro Caffrey, and it’s accurate; while Neal charms everyone he meets, Keller rubs you the wrong way instantly.  But he’s a good opponent for all that – unlike Neal, he’s never been caught.

M: I thought they set this up well, too.  In the last episode Neal had a chess board in his apartment, but we never got any info on who the game was with, just that he didn’t want Peter to know about it.  In this one we find that he’s been getting mysterious postcards with chess moves.  Playing chess via postcard with a mysterious adversary is almost always great.  It’s an intellectual game, marks a battle of wits and personally it usually makes me think of early James Bond films, which is good. Continue reading

State of the (Oscar) Race: Best Actress, Accumulated Oscars, and Meryl Streep

E: As February rolls to a close, I’d love to introduce you to My Movie Going Friend, with whom I’ve shared my Oscar obsession since our college days.  He’s the one who’ll go with me to movies I can’t drag my siblings to (most recently Crazy Heart and A Single Man -next week, The Last Station) and will debate with me the fine points of Academy rules and campaign nuances.  He’s much more thorough than I am – he’ll see a movie just for the Best Make-up nomination.  He’s seriously hard-core.  And he has graciously assented to guest blog with me on the Oscar race.  Some thoughts, leading up to the March 7th telecast (eek!  so much yet to see!):

E: Why did they go and have the BAFTAs during the Olympics?  All I’ve been doing for nearly two weeks is watching the Olympics, and I totally missed it.  I’m pissed.  It’s usually a wonderful show – snappy,  entertaining, suitably glamorous and ceremonious without being stodgy.  I like the winners, though and would love to think it was a trend rather than just partisanship.  Of course Firth and Mulligan are British, so you have to wonder, but generally BAFTA rewards the same people who win Oscars no matter what their nationality, so I feel almost guilty suspecting them.

MMGF: Oh, no kidding, right? (And now I finally have BBC America for the first time ever, and probably could have watched. Sheesh.)  Winners were good, although I’d have preferred Streep win, to give her a little momentum.  Feels more and more like Bullock’s trophy every day.  Oh well.

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Lost Review: Lighthouse

M: Tonight we got something that we NEVER got when they were doing character-driven flashback episodes in the first three seasons of the show….  a Jack-centric episode!  Ok, so that’s a lie, back in the first three years we got so many Jack episodes that I, like everyone else, got sick of Jack.  Well, the Jack of the last season and a half, is back to being the guy that we want to learn about.  Jack has gone back to being interesting, and tonight we find that Jack is once again very important.  More on that after the jump. Continue reading

ETV: Project Runway and Models of the Runway – A Little Bit of Fashion

E: I have been looking forward to this all week!  A giggling gaggle of little girls descends on Parsons School of Design – to borrow a phrase from a favorite author, a veritable girl grenade.  The very idea warms the cockles of my little heart.  O.M.G.  I could not love it more.

The designers have to create outfits for young girls, (ages 5 to 9, I think). They get a day and something like fifty dollars.  Then – SURPRISE! – they get an extra day and 100 dollars to make a corresponding looking (but definitely not just a larger version) for their models.  The looks should be, shall, in the same family.  Getting the grown up assignment after the child challenge knocked many of the designers for a loop; how do you translate childish whimsy into grown up sophistication?  It’s a great twist, and made for a great runway show, though.  Not only was it adorable to see the models sashay down the runway holding those little hands, it took care of the whole nervous flowergirl trap.  (Which is to say, this way everyone made it down the runway.)  This really lived up to my expectations. Winner and losers after the cut:

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ETV: Grey’s Anatomy – The Time Warp

E: Now, this is a fun idea.  Let’s visit our favorite characters and see what they used to be like, back in the day.  Which is to say, back before they were slick and intimidating.   Chief Webber’s tale probably has the most resonance for the hospital and the show, but Bailey always and forever serves as the heart and moral center of Seattle Grace.  We’ve already established that her fierceness is layered on top of old insecurities, so it’s exciting that they’re going to slice all that open and look beneath.

And, is it just me or was that the best opening narrative ever?  For the first time I can remember, the v.o. isn’t merely a break in the fourth wall, talking out to the audience; it’s the Chief talking about his alcoholism at rehab.  The subject of the day? Surgery as adrenaline addiction.  Can you survive it?  Does it make you a better person?  Or will you sacrifice everything for that high?

Three cases, seen in flash back. Pivotal cases in the lives of three surgeons, as explained during Derek’s newly (re)instituted lecture series.  Bailey, Callie and the Chief, (who will not be given his job back, but a provisional job as an Attending, which he initially turns down) will benefit their colleagues by detailing the patients who made them doctors.  Chief Webber will give a lecture, though, about learning from your coworkers.  He just walks right in and speaks, because he is The Chief.  Callie, on the other hand, vomits in horror at the thought of public speaking.  And Bailey checks her look in a mirror, where Dr. Warren catches her, of course.  He grins and tells her she looks good.  She chases him away, gruff but clearly charmed.  Oh my goodness.  That was so adorable I can’t stand it.

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Olympics Review: What Do We Think So Far?

E: Hurrah, Home Gold!  I honestly didn’t know who to root for between Hannah Kearney and Jenn Heil, so I’m thrilled for Alexandre Bilodeau, even though I could do without all the chatter about his brother Frederick. Quick, let’s get a shot of the handicapped kid in the stands! Do we really have a Pavlovian response to like someone more if they have a hard luck story?  I don’t know, sometimes it seems so calculating on the part of the press that it makes me really uncomfortable.

M: First of all, I’m American, so I knew who to root for there.

E: 😛

M: If it’s Canadians against just about anyone else, sure, but not against an American.

E: Normally I’d agree, but the whole home gold thing had me kind of emotional on their behalf.

M: Secondly, your eldest niece has a friend named Hannah Kearney, so how could I not root for her!  As for the schlock with the stories meant to pull on your heart strings, like the handicapped brother, or the shots of Apolo Ohno’s (or do we legally have to call him Apolo Anton Ohno?) dad with a mention every time of him raising Apolo Anton Ohno by himself, and driving something like 500 miles each way, up hill in the snow, just so he could practice.  Stop already.

E: And don’t even get me started on Chris Collinsworth. Leave Lindsay Jacobellis alone, dude!  He is so smarmy.  Go back to football, please, and stay away from the human interest stories.  Honestly, I think it’d all be better without most of the so called human interest drek.  I’m happy for Maelle Ricker, with home gold #2, but I’m so, so sorry for Jacobellis.  No redemption for her, and lots of commentators happy to remind her of it!  I wanted to smack the local reporter who showed film of LJ flailing wildly, trying to land a jump, and suggested that she was “making the same mistake” she’d made four years ago.  Growl.  Four years ago she fell trying to do a celebratory trick on the last hill.  Yesterday she lost her balance in a crowd; in no way were the two failures anything alike.

On the other hand, I am really impressed that Shen and Zhao won pairs skating gold at the ripe old ages of 31 and 36.  In a field where many champions hang up their skates to go to college (I’m talking to you, Sarah Hughes), it’s truly an extraordinary achievement.  Just think of them skating together for 18 years!  I’m not sure how much of that would matter if they weren’t amazing, though.  And hurrah to the end of Russian dominance in pair skating!   It hasn’t always felt deserved (hello, Sale and Pelletier) so it’s nice to see someone else top the podium for the first time in my life.

C: I’m not sure the Chinese are any better – their Olympic Machine is so terrifying.  I mean, these people whose skill we admire are so good because they had what we’d call their basic human rights violated as children.  Yet you can’t argue the fact that S&Z put on a remarkable performance. And they skated to “Who Wants to Live Forever” from the Queen Symphony! That gets serious coolness points.

E: I wonder if it’s a clever joke about their relatively extreme age?

M: As you know, I am not an avid follower of pairs figure skating, except maybe when Will Ferrell is involved, but I was astonished to find out that the Russians had won the past 12 golds.  That’s insane, like John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams level insane.  One question did come to mind, though.  Obviously, for most of those golds the competitors were representing the Soviet Union, not Russia.  Do we know if they were all actually Russian, and not from any of the other republics which are now separate countries?  Because, I mean, if the pair that won at Lake Placid in 1980 was Ukrainian, and the pair in 1992 at Albertville was Lithuanian, and so on, well, it becomes a little less impressive.  Not unimpressive, mind you, but a little tainted.

E: No clue.  The training system was centralized, I believe, but I’m sure the athletes came from all over.  I think it was more about the system’s capacity for producing champions, more than some sort of genetic superiority.  I get your point, but I don’t see that as tainting – it’s not as if there’s a genetic definition of an American, after all, or something less American about, say, an Alaskan versus a Virginian (or an American with immigrant parents).  Not that we conquered the independent country of Alaska the way the Soviets took over Lithuania, but still, taking skaters from different ethnic groups doesn’t make the Soviet system less dominant.  Not for me, anyway.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Nordic Combined (and was thrilled to see Johnny Spillane break the 86 year medal drought), but wow, snowboard cross might just be my favorite new sport.

M: I fell in love with snowboard cross during the Turin (or in IOC-land, Torino) games, and still think it may be the best addition to the Olympic slate, winter or summer, in my lifetime.

E: Me too, and yes.  It actually seems much less bloodthirsty than short track speedskating, but maybe that’s just because of all the padding.  How many times did we need to see J.R. Celski’s actual blood spurt across the ice, seriously – although that does make me extra happy he won a medal. So I guess I do like some backstory.  Maybe what I prefer is that the backstory have to do with the sport.  I’m cool with the speculation about Lindsey Vonn’s injury, for example (which, woohoo, Lindsey!).

M: The women’s downhill was an awesome train wreck, with some spectacular runs, but more spectacular crashes (often ending with women sliding hundreds of yards before coming to a halt, at times very violently).

E: The best part of that being that no one got hurt badly, so you don’t have to feel guilty about “enjoying” the crashes.

M: Lindsey Vonn using mens skis giving her a huge advantage is really odd, as I would think that at the world cup/Olympic level there wouldn’t be that big a difference between mens and womens skis, but apparently there is, as they said that during the season other women tried to follow her lead but changed back because “they couldn’t handle” the mens skis.  Very odd to me.

E: Indeed.  I don’t even know what to say about that.

C: I’m just done with the skiing.  Show the skating, already!  I wish they didn’t assume we weren’t interested in anyone but the Americans and the likely top three.

E: Well, I’m happy for Shani Davis, but I don’t know if that’s the kind of skating you mean.  And sorry, I can’t help loving the Half-Pipe.  Not to sound too much like a 14 year old boy, but Shaun White’s run was sick.  The air that he got on his straight run!  The level of control!  It’s amazing.  I don’t know if you watched this late (I doubt it) but after his competitors failed to beat his first run, he spent a few minutes on the top of the hill celebrating and deciding if he was going to even bother to make a second run.  He and his coaches were miked, and what I’d like to know is this – why did they not cut away after the first time the coach swore on live tv?  Will NBC get fined for the f-bomb the coach dropped after that?  This is yet another reason why these people ought to be allowed some privacy  – so they can curse from joy if they want to!  White did make an amazing run afterward, though, and scored a 48.4 – almost a perfect 50.  Wow.

M: Shaun White is ridiculous, and on a whole other level than everyone else. As entertaining as the snowboarding stuff is, though, it’s really weird to see Olympic athletes competing in jeans.

E: Were they actually jeans?  That seems so impractical.  I figured they were snow pants designed to look like denim.

I’m excited and more than a bit scared about tonight’s Men’s Long Program.  I can’t help it – I will be so disappointed if Evgeni Plushenko wins.  I’m a big fan of Evan Lysacek, first of all, and I want him to win, but I’m sorry to say I care most about Plushy losing.  I just don’t like his skating, and I hate that his jumps are achieve a machine-like perfection, and I hate that he came back out of retirement just a few months ago, and might be spoiling the chances of so many fantastic skaters.  He likes to play the villain; I’d just rather he went away.  Again.

C: Agreed.  And this time around, I don’t feel he’s dominating the competition in the same way – his short program was technically great, I’m sure, but very flaily and not at all suited to his music choice.

E: Yes!  I hated that – it bore no relation to the music at all!

C: As Dick Button pointed out when Bob Costas interviewed him right after Plushenko’s run, he’s just not a great dancer – the technique is there but not the zest (like Takahashi showed) or the artistry (as Lysacek eminently displayed).

E: Also on the downside – it makes me so sad when people make major mistakes at the Olympics.  Ideally, you’d want everyone to do their best, and be scored fairly, and the best athlete wins.  But when you see Jeremy Abbott and Patrick Chen and Brian Joubert, all of whom are fantastic (and have a musicality that Plushy can’t approach) fall, well, it hurts.

So, who’s up for a family trip to Vancouver?

C: I’m in!  Can we ride with Ellie, Awesome, and Morgan?

TV Review: Past Life – Dead Man Talking

E: I managed to catch the second episode of Fox’s newest supernatural buddy drama.  My dear brother referred to this midseason replacement show as Past Life Whisperer, and his witticism is not without merit.  There’s a decent bit of similarity between the shows, except Ghost Whisperer has some humor and boobies, and Past Life has a bunch of folks with graduate degrees and an alcoholic ex-cop.  Which is to say, Past Life would like you to think that it is Serious Science, except of course it’s not at all.  So if you can look at it like a more supernatural Numb3rs, and that’s your thing, and you don’t miss the humor, you might do okay.

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