Friday, December 22, 2006

My top songs of the year

1. TV on the Radio - "Wolf Like Me." This song and the album it's on, Return to Cookie Mountain is making best of the year lists everywhere, and for good reason. The album is pretty eclectic, there's some great rocking tracks like this one, some acappella, some jazzy stuff...these guys are real musicians and it shows. I could listen to this song all day long.

2. The Killers - "When You Were Young." I've listened to the rest of Sam's Town, and honestly I wasn't all that enthralled, but I really love this song. I really have no idea what it means but it's catchy.

3. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Cheated Hearts." I recently learned that Karen O is half Korean and the band played a show in Korea this past summer. This article is a pretty interesting read. It's nice to know that Koreans (or at least half-Koreans) are making their mark in the indie music world too.

4. The Flaming Lips - "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song." There are already too many "yeahs" in this post. But this song is so peppy and quirky and I love it.

5. Band of Horses - "The Funeral." I only recently discovered this band, and given that they've drawn comparisons to the Shins and Built to Spill (both of whom I really like), it was only natural for me to like them too. They've got that sort of dreamy, layered quality to their music and I'm really digging it.

Honorable mentions to Thom Yorke - "Harrowdown Hill", Built to Spill - "Going Against Your Mind", Silversun Pickups - "Lazy Eye", Beck - "Cellphone's Dead", Grizzly Bear - "Knife", The Hold Steady - "Chips Ahoy!", We Are Scientists - "This Scene is Dead", and yes, Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy".

The year in review: 2006

Some of my favorite entertainment-pop culture-media things from 2006:

1. The TVGuide Talk weekly podcast. I've mentioned this before, but it's just awesome. I listen to it on Monday mornings and it definitely helps get my week going. The crew is just hilariously funny and sometimes I'd rather listen to them talk about TV than actually watch TV!

2. Degrassi the Next Generation, Instant Star, South of Nowhere, Beyond the Break, i.e. everything on the N. Apparently I will never be growing out of the teen TV shows because the N just keeps churning out more and more of them, all pretty much equally addictive and likeable. The network is pretty under the radar because it's night-time only, and I know a lot of people don't get it in their cable packages, but it's really seriously awesome. They re-run great campy teen classics like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Fresh Prince, and Dawson's Creek, and have late night reruns of My So-Called Life and some other gems.

3. Project Runway and Top Chef. Bravo really knows how to do their competitive reality shows. Plus they always have a lot of great content on their websites to supplement the show, like blogs and video interviews and deleted scenes. Also, gotta plug Blogging Project Runway, one of the best fan blogs of anything out there.

4. The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty. The fashion world is really being deconstructed lately, what with PR and Top Model and now these. The Devil Wears Prada took a perfectly horrible book and turned it into a perfectly amazing movie. And Ugly Betty is definitely the feel-good hit of the season.

5. Lonelygirl15. I know I sort of dismissed this back in September when it was revealed that it really was a hoax after all, but now it's December and I'm still watching it. The story's gotten a little ridiculous and some videos are still stupid but what's great about it is that the videos are short and sweet and come out nearly every day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Golden Globe nominations

Considering I've only seen maybe 5 movies in theaters this year, I'm not really qualified to say anything about the movie categories. I was pretty flummoxed to see that Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood each got double nominations against themselves though (Best Actor and Best Director respectively). They really couldn't find someone else to nominate? Glad to see that Little Miss Sunshine and The Devil Wears Prada were recognized though, especially Emily Blunt, who was fantastic.

Onto the TV categories. I have to say that I'm really surprised that Heroes and Big Love were nominated for Best Drama Series. I enjoy Heroes quite a bit, and I just recently watched the first season of Big Love, which really is pretty entertaining, but where is Battlestar Galactica? Glad to see Entourage, the Office, and Ugly Betty in the Best Comedy category, but Scrubs got snubbed yet again. And is it totally off base for me to say that I think How I Met Your Mother should be there? It's definitely better than Desperate Housewives.

Not much to say about the Best Actor or Best Actress in a Drama categories, though I would have liked to see some BSG actors and Kyle Chandler from Friday Night Lights there. And um, Evangeline Lilly for Lost? Really? She's not a bad actress or anything, but I don't think she's a standout AT ALL. (I also really hate Ellen Pompeo, she's the main reason I cannot watch Grey's Anatomy but then again because I don't watch the show so maybe I shouldn't be one to talk.) The Best Actor in a Comedy got it pretty much all right, and I don't have much to say about the best actress category, the only show I watch there is Ugly Betty.

Does anyone know why the supporting actor categories lump all series and miniseries together? It really limits the number of people recognized. I still think the Logans from 24 need to be given SOMETHING stat!

Lastly I'm really pulling for Gillian Anderson to win for Bleak House. Helen Mirren has two nods in that category also but Bleak House was really just phenomenal.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Top Chef caters a party

Wow. So the reaction to this episode is the most mixed I've ever seen. The boards at TWOP, comments on the blogs at TVGuide and on Bravo, everyone's all over the place. People who hate Mia, people who felt sorry for her, people who thought Cliff was an ass, people who thought he was justified, people who thought Elia should go home, people who thought Mia should go home, people who thought Michael should have gone home, people who thought it was lame of Mia to quit, people who thought it was gracious...are we really all watching the same show?

So what did I think? The Black team's decision to only do four dishes and to do most of the cooking on the spot was just bizarre. I remember Elia saying something like "200 people, 2 hours, 800 hors d'oeuvres, that's perfect" and I was thinking, are you kidding? That's one of each per person. Not everyone's going to like all of them, and some people will want seconds or even thirds. I understood that Elia wanted to go for quality over quantity, but for a cocktail party that's just all wrong.

So obviously the Orange team was going to win, even if their dishes weren't as high-quality. What I didn't like was Marcel's little proclamation that he didn't need leadership. Obviously a stupid attempt to try to get the win instead of Sam, which really just made him seem petty. I love that Ilan was all like, "that's just how Marcel talks." Some people seem to dislike Ilan because of some nasty comments he's made about Marcel, but I don't know, Marcel's annoying. I mean, I really don't think he's as much a villain as the show is editing him to be, but he's definitely got an arrogance and attitude about him.

Now, onto the Orange Team. I thought Cliff was being an ass. Obviously it's all about the edit, but I didn't see Mia bitching and moaning all that much, and I fail to see how that was the biggest factor in the team's loss. She was justifiably angry that food wasn't coming out of the kitchen fast enough because she was out there with the party guests who were asking for food. Cliff, I thought you were cool, but I'm not so sure.

As for Mia's decision to go home? I'm not really bothered by it. Usually I'm not a fan of reality show contestants who quit, but she wasn't doing it because she couldn't handle the competition or whatnot, she was doing it because she didn't want Elia to leave. Elia's young and talented and definitely has a chance to win this entire thing. That said, all of Mia's rambling about being homeless and selling drugs as a kid and all did sort of scream "martyr" but I'm not about to knock her for it. And Tom Colicchio did say in his blog for this week that they were ready to send Elia home, so it's not like she did it for nothing.

So there are 7 chefs left. Betty and Michael aren't going to make it much further (although I have to admit that I have this irrational love of Michael and was super glad that he did well in the Quickfire this week). That leaves Sam, Cliff, Ilan, Elia, and Marcel to fight it out for the title. It's weird, this season I'd been complaining about the fact that we weren't seeing as much good food, but there really are five strong, viable candidates for the win. I definitely didn't see that last season, nor on many other competitive reality shows. I can't really say at this point who I'm rooting for but I think the rest of the season's going to be really good and we're going to start seeing some great food.

Oh, and I have to mention that I LOVE Ted Allen!

Monday, December 11, 2006

relieved with the finales of Top Model and the Amazing Race

It's no secret that I love reality TV, and especially competitive
reality. But when it comes down to the final two or three competitors, I
like to have someone to root for, or even a few people that I wouldn't
mind winning. But when there's just one contestant that I DON'T want to
win and the rest I could care less's kind of not as fun.

That was the case with the latest seasons of America's Next Top Model
and the Amazing Race, both which had their finales this past week.
Thankfully, the people I didn't want to win didn't, but the finales left
me with a feeling of relief rather than one of happiness or

On Top Model, I just didn't want Melrose to win. In a lot of ways she
was a much better model than Caridee, but her personality was just
unbearable. Whether that has to do with how she was edited doesn't
really matter. I don't think that personality is as really a big a
factor in the real world of modeling, but the Top Model winner gets a
CoverGirl contract, and CoverGirl is very much a fresh-face-nice-girl
thing, and knowing Melrose's behavior on the show, I definitely would
not have have bought her doing ads for them. Caridee's a bit more
inconsistent and a little crazy, but at least she's not fake. This
show's getting a bit tiring in general, I'm thinking that I probably
won't watch next season.

As for the Amazing Race, I just didn't want Rob and Kimberly to win. I
know that the race is really stressful and may bring out the worst in
people, but they've just appeared so dysfunctional that I really did not
want to see them be rewarded. I kind of felt like if they won, they'd
take that as proof that they really should get married. I mean,
it seems like they're going to do it anyway, but I really don't think
they needed to be encouraged. So that left Alabama and the models.
Alabama caught some good luck with their first flight but then messed up
their last, which pretty much doomed them, especially since the last leg
in NYC involved a two mile walk in the rain. So I'm glad it was the
boys. They've been the most consistently good performers and they've
remained pretty likeable. I totally cracked up when they finished the
fashion challenge first. I still don't know which one is James and which
one is Tyler though...

Words I've learned from Top Chef Season 2

Who knew that watching this show would expand my vocabulary?

Etymology: Swedish gravlax or Norwegian gravlaks, from grav pit, hole, grave + Swedish lax, Norwegian laks salmon
: salmon usually cured with salt, pepper, dill, and aquavit

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French lardun piece of fat pork, from lard
: a strip (as of salt pork) with which meat is larded

Etymology: Middle English, from of off + fall
1 : the waste or by-product of a process: as a : trimmings of a hide b : the by-products of milling used especially for stock feeds c : the viscera and trimmings of a butchered animal removed in dressing : VARIETY MEAT

molecular gastronomy
: the application or study of scientific principles and practices in cooking and food preparation

: a thick sauce produced by a reduction of vinegar or wine, sugar and, usually, fruit

Etymology: American French & French; American French, from French, from Middle French bignet, from buyne bump, bruise
2 : a light square doughnut usually sprinkled with powdered sugar

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Top Chef at the Beach

Who would have guessed that cooking breakfast at the beach would thrown so many of these chefs for a loop? Everything got shook up this episode: Marcel winning immunity; Frank in the top three for the Quickfire then eliminated; Sam and Cliff in the bottom three; an all-female top three in the elimination; Elia with her second consecutive elimination win. Mike skates by again with help from Betty, of all people, and Ilan stays safely in the middle. And it's all because of eggs!

First, the Quickfire. I thought that Frank, Elia, and Betty had the right idea by going for the fish. The challenge was to make an entree and most of the dishes just ended up looking like salads, and not entree salads. I was a bit perplexed by Marcel's dish. Maybe it tasted great and I know that presentation does count for something, but I just can't stand the trios. And I agree with Ilan that watermelon "steak" is pushing it. It's watermelon.

The elimination challenge was one of the best in awhile. For the first time in awhile, it really made me hungry and wanting to eat the food! I love hot breakfast food, even though I rarely have time for it. The fire pit thing was kind scary, and I can totally understand how some of the chefs messed up their eggs. Eggs are hard enough to cook perfectly on a stove, never mind a huge ass fire pit. But you know, these are professional chefs. They should know enough to adjust, or at least I think they should have. Anyway, I have no disagreement with the judges this week. I kind of cringed at Elia's initial description of her dish too but then I realized that it was a basically an open-faced McGriddle with waffle instead of pancake, which I had the same reaction to at first too. But they're good. Mia's dish looked yummy as well, although I think what I was most impressed about was how calm she remained throughout the whole challenge. Marcel's attempted surfer-speak cracked me up, and I thought it was hilarious that the chefs dove into the ocean afterward.

I really was a little afraid for a minute there that Cliff or Sam were going to be eliminated. I do think that they'd both gotten a little cocky though, so hopefully this week's performance will push them to really step it up even more. I think Frank was the right choice to go. He definitely got the most flustered over the challenge, and well, he might have put out some good stuff in the past but honestly he's just always going to be the Mushroom Fantasy man to me...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gilmore Girls out, Friday Night Lights in!

So last night I got home from work late and by the time I had dinner and showered it was already 9, so I figured I would have time to watch one show before going to bed. Usually on Tuesdays it's Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, but as there was no new VM last night, you figure I would have watched GG, right?

But no, a funny thing happened. I decided to watch Friday Night Lights instead! I think it's the end of an era. No matter how I complained and complained about the show, Gilmore Girls was still always one of the first shows on my list to watch every week, because for me it was kind of like an old friend. But that's over now, Gilmore Girls, you're being pushed out of your spot. Friday Night Lights, you're in!

Last night's episode was one of the best yet. Somehow Buddy Garrity almost redeemed himself in his scenes with Lyla, who I actually felt a bit sorry for. I found it interesting that she said that she had been "unfaithful," it's so unlike a teenager to use that terminology, but maybe it's a Southern thing, or maybe it's just an indication that she really did feel a marriage-scale commitment to Jason. Tyra and Jason getting drunk while the rest of Dillon is at the football game seemed kind of like a contrivance, but it worked. I loved Jason imitating Riggins and Tyra imitating Lyla. I'm not sure if they really were friends before, but I like their dynamic. Hopefully they won't hook up though, that might be a little too typical. I liked finding out a bit more about Smash and his family, and I really like his sister and find myself hoping she continues to get screentime even though she's pretty peripheral right now.

And then of course, there's Matt Saracen, bringing the funny and the heartbreak all rolled into one. And how funny was Landry this episode? The Member's Only jacket, feigning offense at the mention of his fifth-grade girlfriend, "don't blame the couture," this guy is the perfect sidekick. I'm glad that Landry gave him that advice after the date about forgetting the macho jock thing. I really hope Matt keeps hanging out with him and doesn't get too influenced by the other football players. The scene with Matt picking up Julie for their date was almost too awesome for words. Coach Taylor and his "Is that a Member's Only jacket? Why don't you hang up your Member's Only jacket and come sit down," then Julie walking out with the hair and the dress and the heels (which even I wanted to tell her was overkill and I'm nowhere near being a parent), then Coach asking if Matt wanted a beer, to which Matt says "No, thanks, I'm driving" and Coach goes "I'm joking" with absolutely no hint of a smile. And then at the movie theater with Matt saying that "his people" said the movie was good and then Julie getting a call from Landry and telling Matt "your people's calling" and then Matt singing to his grandma at home, and then the kiss at the end with Julie getting all flustered and running away? How amazing can this get???

Man I hope this show doesn't get cancelled.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shows I've been neglecting to write about...

I think that I generally find it easier to criticize rather than praise, so there have been a bunch of shows that I've really been enjoying this season but haven't been writing about. Here are a couple of them:

Friday Night Lights - Who would have guessed that my favorite new show of the season would be about football? I haven't even been tuning out during the game sequences like I predicted. Maybe it's because I care about the players? In any case, I've really been loving nearly everything about this show. It somehow has the ability to get me choked up pretty much every week because it's just so dang heartfelt! The cast is made up of mostly newcomers but they're doing an awesome job. Kyle Chandler is doing his best work as Coach Taylor and I love his intensity on the field versus his dynamic with his family. I love how they're handling Jason Street's rehab storyline, although Lyla pretty much annoys the heck out of me. I seem to like Tyra, even though I'm usually not a fan of the bad girl. Tim and Smash are alternately endearing and aggravating but always true to life. And um, I totally have a crush on Matt Saracen. I realize this is pretty pathetic since I'm so far done with high school but at least the actor who plays him is older than me. And because no high school show can ever survive without some good ships to root for, consider me officially on the Matt/Julie ship. Tami should be grateful that at least it's the nicest guy on the team (and probably the whole school, he's so damn adorable) who's going after her daughter. Let's hope he keeps hanging out with Landry (who's hilarious) instead of taking too much advice from his teammates.

How I Met Your Mother - This show has really stepped it up a notch this season. Every episode has so many moments of brilliance, it's incredible. I think the change has been that they've stopped focusing on Ted and his search for love. I like Ted, but his dreamy romantic pinings were getting super boring. Now that he and Robin are together and somewhat stable (for now) the writers seem to be able to stretch their creativity a lot more. Barney's been in top form, and Marshall's been allowed to shine a lot more also. And Robin's teen pop star past was just awesome. That song was stuck in my head for days.

Bones - I watched this only casually up until this season but lately I've been really loving it. It balances the seriousness of the crimes with the quirkiness of its characters extremely well, and I guess it's just the nerd in me that likes seeing extremely smart people doing what they're good at. I love the dynamic between Brennan and Booth, and Hodgins and Angela are super cute.

Ugly Betty - Definitely the feel-good show of the year. It's shamelessly campy and sappy and clever all the same time and I love it. The stab at TomKat (baby Chutney??) in last week's episode had me cracking up like no other. Every character is super funny but they've taken time to make them all sympathetic too (except maybe Walter, can we get rid of him?). I still don't really care too much about the whole Fay Summers thing but everything with Betty's family is wonderful, Amanda and Mark and Justin are hilarious, Daniel's really endearing, and even Wilhemina has her moments. And Christopher Gorham's Henry has been upgraded to recurring!

The Nine - I'd actually been enjoying this show quite a bit, but ABC has shelved it and it probably won't be returning to the schedule. It's kind of bummer because things had just started getting interesting. The last aired episode gave a lot more background info on the characters and I really want to see where things go. Oddly enough I'm not really as interested in what happened at the bank. But I can see why the show didn't gain a terribly big audience. Kind of a shame.