Wednesday, April 25, 2007

American Idol - Send Chris home, PLEASE

Once again I want Chris to go home. I really just can't stand watching him anymore. I think Lakisha is more likely to be in trouble though. I personally voted for Blake a couple of times. No, he hasn't been knocking it out of the park these past couple of weeks but I'm still really convinced of his musical talent, and I want him to get to Bon Jovi week!

Gilmore Girls - LL is back!

So remember last week how I was complaining about Rory easily getting everything she wants and it not being interesting? Well, thank goodness, she didn't get the New York Times fellowship! I mean, obviously it sucks because she gave up the Providence job to wait it out for this, but it's just refreshing to see that for once, she has to face some rejection. Welcome to the real world, Rory.

In fact, I thought that all of the graduation anxiety stuff in this episode was handled really well. Even Paris' dilemmas were realistic. I know, it's kind of preposterous that she would get into THAT many schools, but this is manic, uber-prepared Paris. And most people I know applied to a ton of grad schools, expecting that some of the decisions would be put out of their hands. But on the off chance that they do get into more than one of their top choices...the decision becomes pretty difficult. And I also know a lot of people who have had to weigh their relationships when making their decisions also. I have to say that it's extremely realistic for high-achieving kids like Paris and Rory to put their careers ahead of their relationships.

Although of course, since this is TV, we had Doyle not accepting Paris breaking up with him and saying that he would follow Paris anywhere (which is a little scary, honestly), leading to a neat resolution of their little subplot in this episode, but overall I really appreciated how realistically they portrayed this. And of course, it doesn't hurt that Paris is AWESOME! (On a side note, if there's an eighth season and Paris is not in it, which would only make sense, that will SUCK!)

It looks like it'll be Rory and Logan's turn to figure out their post-graduation plans next. You know, I used to be a huge Logan fan back when he first appeared on the show, but lately I've been finding that I enjoy episodes more when he's not in them. I definitely like Rory a lot more when he's not around. I was pretty relieved to see that we were getting a break from them this week.

The Luke and Lorelai stuff was good. Lorelai's a pretty ridiculous person in general,so the car buying stuff was really trying my nerves, but I did love when they started fighting and Lorelai started smiling, realizing that things were getting back to normal. And Luke going to all those extra lengths to "revive" Lorelai's old Jeep was a nice touch at the end. They are SO getting back together.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Second chances: Brothers & Sisters

I really didn't enjoy the first couple of episodes of this show. I found everything to be a bit pretentious and melodramatic and I just wasn't feeling the characters at all. But like I've mentioned before, I ALWAYS have this initial reaction to Greg Berlanti shows. It was exactly the same with both Everwood and Jack & Bobby. But for some reason or another, I start watching the show again and find myself really liking it.

Fittingly enough, the reason I started watching Brothers & Sisters again was because of an Everwood alum, Emily Van Camp, who I also initially hated. But she's a really great actress, and I was really curious to see how she was going to be. And lucky for me, has the entire season to date up on its website to watch for free. So one lazy weekend I planted myself on my bed with my laptop and just had myself a mini Brothers & Sisters marathon. It grew on me with every episode and now I'm kind of addicted to it.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, Brothers & Sisters is a family drama. The Walkers are an affluent California family with 5 adult children: Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), a wife, mother, and head of the family business; Kitty (Calista Flockhart), a political radio show host who has spent the past several years in New York but has moved back to California for a new job; Tommy (Balthazar Getty), who also works in the family business; Kevin (Matthew Rhys), a lawyer who's gay; and Justin (Dave Annable), a drug addict and vet who served in Afghanistan. Their mother is Nora (Sally Field), and their father, William, dies unexpectedly in the first episode. It's later revealed that he carried on an affair for twenty years with an actress named Holly (Patricia Wettig), and had a daughter, Rebecca (Emily Van Camp), with her.

And the story just kind of evolves from there. William's death leaves a ton of problems for the Walkers: dealing with the fact that he wasn't the man they all thought he was, cleaning up messes he left in the family company, meeting Holly and then Rebecca. And then there are everyone's personal and professional problems as well. Kitty was on a TV talk show for awhile, but now she's working for and dating Senator and presidential candidate Robert McCallister (which was also Bobby's name on Jack & Bobby!) played by Rob Lowe. Kevin's had a string of relationships, including one with an in-the-closet soap star played by Sex and the City hunk Jason Lewis, which he seems to invariably mess up. Justin's been dealing with his drug addiction and has been called back to Iraq. Nora's been trying to figure out her life as a widow and coming to terms with the fact that her husband lied to her for a huge chunk of their marriage. It's kind of heavy stuff, but all this is balanced out with good doses of comic scenes. This past week's episode had a round of charades that was just classic. (Mostly due to Kevin, who's just HILARIOUS.)

But, true to the title of the show, what's really great are the relationships between the siblings. The way they all talk and fight and tease eachother is incredibly endearing. I don't know what it's like to grow up in a big family, but the show kind of makes you wish that you did. Especially now that Rebecca's in the mix, and it's clear that she feels like she was deprived, in a way, of that childhood.

Oh, and Dave Annable (Justin) is now my new TV boyfriend. It's weird, he was Aaron on Reunion and while I remember thinking he was nice enough, on this show I'm seeing him in kind of a new light and he is HOT. And speaking of seeing people in completely new light, I want to end this review by giving some kudos to Sally Field. For years I disliked her for some unknown reason, but because of this show I'm now kind of a fan. She's a really great actress and I definitely have a newfound respect for her.

I believe the show has already been renewed for a second season, which I'm really happy about. Yay for Brothers & Sisters!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gilmore Girls - why do I still care?

It seems like it's been forever since the last episode of Gilmore Girls and truthfully I'm finding it hard to care, especially with rumors flying around that there will be a (shortened) eighth season. WHY??? This season is the perfect time to end things right and prevent the writers from having a chance to mess things up all over again.

Anyway, there was nothing really WRONG with last night's episode. I was trying to care about Rory and her job interview stuff because I can relate to that process, but was there really any doubt that it was going to go really well and that she was going to get the job? And I mean, in general, is there really any doubt that Rory's going to end up with an irritatingly perfect career? It's just not interesting. I did like the Logan and Lorelai stuff, but some spoilers I've read about upcoming events make me not really care too much about that either. As for Luke and Lorelai's apologies...I'm relieved that they're finally ramping this up, but part of me is still bitter that it had to come to this at all.

There were some good things. Paris was awesome, as usual. And surprisingly, I liked Taylor for maybe the first time ever. It was pretty great that his crazy idea ended up being fantastic. Also liked that they revealed the names of Lane and Zack's twins (Kwon and Steve, hopefully we'll get the story behind those), and Logan putting on his pants and shirt and socks just to go out to the kitchen to get water was pretty hilarious.

I know, I'm being a cranky customer. But really, this is nothing compared to the rage I'll be feeling if the show gets renewed for another season...

American Idol country week recap

I'm not a fan of country music in the least, so I hadn't really been looking forward to last night's American Idol. I mean, I'd heard of Martina McBride, sure, but before the show I couldn't name a single song by her. Anyway, the night really wasn't that bad. There were even a few surprises, starting off with Phil. That guy really is a vampire, because he totally rose from the dead of his last two performances and I was almost moved to vote for him. (I did try a couple of times but the lines were all busy and I didn't have enough patience to keep trying.) I'm not sure why neither I nor the judges realized before this that country is his thing. He's still not going to win this, but I was pleasantly surprised. Jordin stepped it up and she'll definitely be sticking around. Sanjaya sucked. Really a bizarre song choice. I have no idea if the judges' negative comments will help or hurt him, but once again I can't see him getting voted off this week. Lakisha had a bad week. Bizarre song choice here too. She might be in danger. Chris, just no. No, no, no, no, NO. Every other week he sort of starts to grow on me but then he keeps putting himself back on my shit list. Go home, Chris. GO HOME. Melinda finally looks and sounds YOUNG! Blake was sort of out of tune and was kind of drowned out by the band but I still like him and I'm sure he's safe.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Foodie reads

Ever since I moved into my own apartment after college, I've gotten kind of serious about cooking. I've baked with my mom for as long as I can remember, but cooking was solely my mom and grandma's domain. I started learning to cook for myself in college, but I didn't have easy access to groceries and claiming kitchen time when you have 5 roommates can be nearly impossible. So when I moved into my one-bedroom apartment where the refrigerator and kitchen were for my use alone...I got pretty excited. I'm always borrowing cookbooks from the library and looking up recipes online and I even subscribe to a cooking magazine (Everyday Food). And recently I've gotten onto this kick of reading books about food. Not cookbooks, but more like non-fiction books written about cooking and food by people who really like food, aka foodies.

I think it might have all started with Kitchen Confidential, the short-lived FOX comedy from a few seasons back. I really loved it so I went to go read the book it was based on, by Anthony Bourdain. That then led me to watching his Travel Channel Show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, which led to my general fandom of anything Bourdain (I was ecstatic when he showed up on Top Chef last season), which led me to a blog that he did a few guest blogs on, Michael Ruhlman's blog. Which led me to Michael Ruhlman's books.

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the CIA - This book is not new, it was published back in 1999, so it's a little silly that I'm reviewing it now, but it was just such an extremely interesting read. Ruhlman got the opportunity to "audit" many of the classes in their culinary program, from Skills Development up to working the line at the CIA's top restaurant, American Bounty, and describes everything in great journalistic detail. I visited the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Hyde Park, NY with my parents once a long time ago, but I wasn't as interested in cooking back then and truthfully I don't really remember what I saw or ate there. But now I have renewed interest and I'd definitely want to go visit it again someday. They also have these "culinary boot camp" 2-week courses for non-professionals that sound kind of awesome, although incredibly expensive.

I'm now reading his follow-up, The Soul of a Chef, which is broken up into three parts: the first follows a group of chefs taking the CMC (Certified Master Chef) exam, the second is about Michael Symon, a chef in Ruhlman's hometown of Cleveland, and the third is about Thomas Keller, whose restaurant the French Laundry, in Napa Valley, is said by many to be the best restaurant in the entire country. While reading The Making of a Chef made me want to cook, this book makes me want to eat. I haven't eaten at a lot of high-end restaurants but after reading Ruhlman's descriptions of the dishes they serve at these kinds of places...I now really want to! Also the French Laundry is now on my list of strangely specific places I want to visit in the world (already on the list: Prince Edward Island and Neuschwanstein Castle,among others).

Ruhlman also has a third book, The Reach of a Chef, which is next on my list. Bourdain also has a couple of other books I want to read, and then there's Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, a food critic, and Heat by Bill Buford, about an amateur cook working on the line at a Mario Batali restaurant...the list goes on and on.

Also, some of my favorite food-related websites:
The Girl Who Ate Everything - run by Robyn, who also takes pictures of everythig she eats
Simply Recipes - run by Elise, my favorite recipe site
Serious Eats - food related blog with news and recipes
Chowhound - if you need a restaurant recommendation, go here
101 Cookbooks, Delicious Days, The Wednesday Chef - see what other people are eating and cooking

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Friday Night Lights better get renewed

Some of my past and present unpopular opinions include:
1. I hate Grey's Anatomy.
2. I like Cally on Battlestar Galactica.
3. I've never thought Family Guy, the Simpsons, or South Park were particularly funny.
4. I don't like sketch comedy.

And now I can add to that list...

5. I was sort of disappointed in last night's Friday Night Lights season finale.

Don't get me wrong, it had a ton of really amazing moments, and seriously, I think the Panthers are like the only sports team that I've EVER rooted for, but somehow the episode just seemed weirdly anti-climactic to me. I didn't really like that they started off the game so badly and then ended up winning. It did allow for the Coach to give that really awesome locker room speech at half-time, but to me, it just seemed so contrived, especially because I knew, I KNEW, that they were going end up winning. And watching the last play for me for one of the rare instances where I was intensely aware that this was just a TV show and that this was just acting. It just wasn't impressive to me, because they WROTE it that way. I know I'm being ridiculous, but for some reason I just got taken out of it all.

I mean, now that I think about it, the game was really the only deflating part of the episode for me. Everything else was wonderful. I absolutely loved the scenes when the team first arrives at the stadium, especially when they see their names in the locker room. Pure joy! And although I'm not a fan of the unexpected pregnancy storylines, Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler really acted the hell out of those scenes. They are like my official model for the perfect marriage. Jason's showing signs that he'll make a really good coach someday, and it doesn't feel forced at all. I loved that they remembered to have his parents at the game...this was supposed to be his championship, and in the end, it kind of was. Of course, Landry brings the laughs, how funny was it that he ended up driving FIVE women to Dallas?? I know I always rag on Lyla, but the scene where she and Tyra finally had it out was perfect and a long time coming. Also, even though Matt and Julie are my favorite new couple this season, I'm glad that they haven't been in the forefront these past couple of episodes. Their scenes were minimal and perfect. And speaking of Matt...he's really grown up. I feel an almost maternal pride towards him (which is totally ridiculous because Zach Gilford is older than me). And man, I LOVE MAMA SMASH. She steals every scene she's in. Man, I'm still missing a ton of stuff, it's amazing how they pack so much into every episode without making it feel rushed or crowded.

But the game...the game was the centerpiece of the whole episode and it just didn't pack as much emotional wallup for me as the game in the pilot or in the Mud Bowl episode...

So the season ends on a sort of cliffhanger, in more ways than one. The show isn't definitely renewed for next season, although things are looking hopeful, and there was no real decision on whether the Taylors, all or some of them, would be staying in Dillon. But it's not one of those rip-your-hair out cliffhangers, and in the horrible case that the show doesn't get renewed, at least we got to experience this one almost transcendent season. I'll be first in line to buy the DVD set.

I haven't mentioned the music on this show before, but it's definitely an integral part of the show. Explosions in the Sky is the instrumental group (from Texas to boot) that provides the theme music and other bits of score throughout the series. (They also did the movie's soundtrack). I'm not sure it's music I'd really listen to on its own, especially now that I will forever associate their sound with the show, but it's good stuff.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

American Idol goes Latin

So...two posts in a row about the same show basically means I've been slacking and not posting on other shows. Sorry about that. But reality is so easy to sum up!

This week was boring. Surprisingly I liked Jennifer Lopez though...she was supportive and constructive and seemed really into it. Blake was my favorite. The diva trio, Melinda, Lakisha, and Jordin were all fine, but nothing really to write home about. Chris R. isn't irritating me as much as he used to, but the world does not need another Justin Timberlake! I gotta give kudos to Sanjaya for being the only to one to actually sing in Spanish on Latin night and no, he wasn't horrible, but his vocals were being drowned out by the music the entire time. What have I been saying all along? Weak voice! Oh, and the facial hair was beyond creepy.

The verdict? Haley and her short shorts need to go home NOW. Or Phil. Either one and I'll be happy...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Idol quick hits

I still feel like Blake really has the chops to make a career for himself in this business, but he really hasn't been blowing me away lately, maybe because he's being forced to sing all these songs in genres that don't really fit him? Sometimes I don't understand why he's here at all...he should be fronting some 311-ish band in a garage.

There's something about Phil that's a little creepy, which totally worked for him last week singing "Every Breath You Take," but he was still creepy this week, singing a love song so...not so good.

Melinda hits it out of the park yet again but she's still skewing old to me, and I really don't know what kind of album she'd put out or who'd go to her concerts...

Chris R. almost made me forget why I can't stand him. Almost.

Jordin was surprisingly good yet again. In some ways she's still the cutesy teen but she actually backs that up with talent and she's the most marketable of the bunch.

Gina's performance was...fine. Nothing really to talk about but it solid. She still gets a little screamy, but I guess that's just her style.

Sanjaya. What can be said about him? Putting aside his crazy hair and inexplicable crying girl fans, his vocals are just weak. I'd prefer to not have to watch him anymore, but there are still plenty of other people that need to go too, so I'm not outraged yet.

Like Haley. Simon was right on when he said that her performance was "pageanty". (Last week I said Haley's performance reminded me of Joey Potter on Dawson's Creek...I was referring specifically to when she sang "On My Own" for that ridiculous pageant during first season.) She's just a pretty girl who's not a half-bad singer...but that doesn't mean she belongs on American Idol.

I really want to like Lakisha because her vocals are amazing and her stage performance isn't bad either but for some reason she's still cold to me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Namesake

I read this book (by Jhumpa Lahiri) a couple of years ago and I absolutely loved it. For me, the true sign of a book that I really really love is when I wish I could write something like it, and that was exactly the case with this book. So when I heard that they were making a movie of it, and that Mira Nair (of Monsoon Wedding) was directing, I was super excited. Then I heard that Kal Penn was starring in it, and strangely enough, that made me even more excited. I know, I know, Kumar in a serious movie? But truthfully this could be a brilliant move for his career. He is probably the most recognizable South Asian actor in America today, and playing a role that's close to his's like Vince Chase doing Queens Boulevard! (Entourage reference for those who have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Anyway, Kal Penn is actually really good here. The film spans about 30 years, so he still gets to exercise his comic chops while playing Gogol as a disaffected teenager while showing us a little-seen dramatic side as an adult and in scenes with his family. But two Bollywood actors play Gogol's parents and they're the real stars of this movie. I'm not sure why ads are toting this as an "epic love story" because for me, both the book and the film are about the immigrant experience, and ultimately, family. There were quite a few Indian/South Asian families in the theater when I went to see it, and it was obvious that they were really feeling it, and really appreciating that there's a mainstream American movie about their experience. I heard one man in the row behind me say "That's what I went through!" during the scene where the newly married Gangulis settle into their apartment in the US. It made me think about my own parents and how it must have been for them, moving to a new and unfamiliar country thousands of miles from home, and raising children that are in some ways, strangers. It made me want to call my parents and tell them that I loved them. And of course, as a first generation American, I saw a lot of myself in Gogol and Sonia as well.

The movie followed the book very closely, so obviously I knew what was going to happen but the ending made me cry anyway, and I was still sniffling for a good 15 minutes after it was over. (And then I went home and re-read the book.) This isn't really a plot-driven movie, but I thought that things really did come full circle by the end. It takes place in both New York and India, and both are shot beautifully. (It also kind of made me want to go see the Taj Mahal.)

Go see this movie!

On a related note: It was recently announced that Kal Penn will be teaching two courses at the University of Pennsylvania next spring: "Images of Asian Americans in the Media" and "Contemporary American Teen Films." This is just...weird. I'm going to Penn for my master's degree and I don't really get what this means. Are these going to be regular, weekly courses? Or seminars? I was at Cornell for undergrad and we had a few actors as "professors-at-large" who gave lectures now and again but none of them taught actual courses. Although it would be funny if I like, saw Kal Penn around campus or something. And if I were an undergrad, a course about teen movies?? I would SO be there.