qporit -- Quick Previews of Random Interesting Things
Thursday, May 31, 2012
ZAGAT GOES FREE ON GOOGLE+
ZAGAT is to my stomach the most accurate guide to the quality of restaurants around the world (except perhaps in France where the Michelin Guide reigns).
I don't agree with all the ratings (for example, I've always enjoyed THE FIREBIRD in NY more than ZAGAT says I should). It does tend to rate differently in different cities. A rating of 24 for example in a small city seems to be slightly easier to get than it would be in a big city, but relative to other restaurants in that city, it's still a good guide. And, mostly, it is extremely accurate.
I like it enough that I bought an online subscription.
But I just got a notice today that ZAGAT is going free on GOOGLE+.
They are going to refund (pro-rated!?) subscription fees, but YOU HAVE TO ACT QUICKLY!
Here's their letter (my coloring!):
"Today we are excited to tell you about the launch of Google+ Local, a new, simpler way to discover and share great places and local businesses on Google. Zagat, who was acquired by Google back in September, is the fundamental cornerstone of this new Google+ Local initiative. This means that full Zagat ratings and reviews will now be accessible on Google to anyone who has a free Google+ account. You can also continue to access Zagat content on zagat.com without charge.
"As an active zagat.com annual premium member we would like to offer you a pro-rated refund for the remaining value of your subscription.
"Alternatively, you can select to receive the Zagat guide of your choice, with free shipping, from our online store. To make your selection please fill out our short form by June 30, 2012. If you do not do so by then you waive all rights to a refund. Should you select to receive a Zagat guide you must redeem the credit at our online store by July 31, 2012."
The Hatfields and McCoys on the History Channel has been compelling television, and it continues tonight with the third and final two hour episode.
The show is (mostly) well written, well acted and well art-directed. It gives a (mostly) gritty, realistic picture of two families -- on the West Virginia / Kentucky border in the years following the Civil war -- at odds over small issues that escalate into a murderous cycle of killings followed by more killings.
It presents a (mostly) convincing picture of the nature of the feud between the families.
The "(mostly)" stems from the fact that the show can not escape from its highly professional construction: William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield does not seem like a "devil" (he is Kevin Costner, after all, and neither the writing nor the acting allow him to be truly devilish); the settings and costumes suggest authenticity, but seem just a bit cleaner and nicer than the originals probably were; and, of course, the terrain is pretty, but it comes from another country entirely: the show was not filmed in the US.
Perhaps the weakest moment in the show is the cliff-hanger at the end of Episode 1, leading into the beginning of Episode 2. The story of the young Hatfield (Johnse Hatfield ), kidnapped and held overnight to be executed in the morning is dramatically implausible, unconvincing as history, and badly written.
At its best, this show does what the History Channel does best, revealing the stories and details and personalities and facts behind history's legends (in contrast to some "reality" shows that are not what the History Channel does best, but sometimes beef up its ratings). In fact, this show has had a record breaking audience for Basic Cable television, proving that doing what you do best often works!
As portrayed in this show... The Hatfields are more affluent and calculating; the McCoys are more impulsive. The feud began with bad blood after William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield (Costner) left (deserted)the Confederate Army to return home after he saw a lost cause, while Randolph "Ole Ran'l" McCoy (Bill Paxton) stayed and was later imprisoned by the Union Army. Then there were several confrontations where one or the other family took -- or tried to take -- advantage of the other, including the question of whether a pig was stolen. Then there was a Romeo and Juliet type romance between a young Hatfield man and a young McCoy woman. Then, with fevers running high, there were some killings, then more killing, then...
Many of the episodes in the historical record are dramatized seamlessly in the show. The final episode tonight is likely to be very very interesting, as it recounts the major and final conflicts in the feud.
Indeed, this 6 hour show again supports the thesis that important historical stories are more effectively dramatized on a serialized, multi-hour TV show, than in a compressed 2 hour theatrical film.
Kevin Costner ... 'Devil' Anse Hatfield
Bill Paxton ... Randall McCoy
Tom Berenger ... Jim Vance (Uncle)
Matt Barr ... Johnse Hatfield (Lover)
Lindsay Pulsipher ... Roseanna McCoy (Lover)
Ronan Vibert ... Perry Cline
Jena Malone ... Nancy McCoy (Marries Johnse)
Andrew Howard ... 'Bad' Frank Phillips (Posse leader)
Kentucky Derby winner I'LL HAVE ANOTHER takes the Preakness in an extremely exciting race, with a narrow win over BODEMEISTER.
Bodemeister was leading from the start into the stretch, with I'll Have Another in fourth position most of the way. In the stretch, as Bodemeister was pulling away from every other horse, I'll Have Another began to gain on him. As they closed in on the finish, I'll Have Another caught up to Bodemeister and then passed him just before the finish.
This means the Belmont, the third leg of the Triple Crown on June 9, 2012, will decide whether I'll Have Another becomes the first horse in over 3 decades to win the Triple Crown.(The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.)
PREAKNESS 2012 - COMPLETE ORDER OF FINISH
PREAKNESS TOP FINISHERS:
1- I'LL HAVE ANOTHER ridden by M. Gutierrez $8.40 $3.80 $2.80
2- BODEMEISTER ridden by M. Smith -- $3.20 $2.80
3- CREATIVE CAUSE ridden by J. Rosario -- -- $3.60
OTHER PREAKNESS FINISHERS:
4- Zetterholm 5- Teeth of the Dog 6- Optimizer 7- Cozzetti 8- Tiger Walk 9- Daddy Nose Best 10- Went the Day Well 11- Pretension
SNL -- MAY 19, 2012 -- MICK JAGGER WITH FOO FIGHTERS, ARCADE FIRE, AND JEFF BECK
The season finale of Saturday Night Live is a musical feast with Mick Jagger as host AND musical guest, joined by his musical friends Foo Fighters, Arcade Fire and Jeff Beck!(How are they going to have time to feature all these artists? Perhaps they'll ditch the commercials??? - lol... as if... yeah, right...)
SEE BELOW FOR
A RECAP AND FOR CLIPS
FROM HIGHLIGHTS OF TONIGHT'S SHOW
Here's a hilarious video from one of Mick's previous visits to SNL. (Note/warning! The SNL videos may not work in older or slower browsers.)
Even the promos are better than usual. It bodes well for a terrific show.
Just a little bit of background about the artists: Mick is just a bit older than most of the SNL audience.
MICK JAGGER, an Englishman, more properly known as Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger, once a student at the London School of Economics, once a "bad-boy" now properly knighted, born July 26, 1943 (68 yrs old), has been the lead singer of the Rolling Stones for roughly 50 years.
The Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger became famous (or notorious) for their songs, (including "I Can't Get No... Satisfaction" and "Sympathy For The Devil"), as well as for their sexual liaisons, and their drug use.
Here are links to some of the movies and music of Mick Jagger, Foo Fighters, Arcade Fire and Jeff Beck!
AND HERE IS THE RECAP OF TONIGHT'S SNL:
This was a pretty good SNL. After a soft open, it came alive whenever Mick Jagger was on, and finished well.
COLD OPEN: LAWRENCE WELK -- Jon Hamm plays a Lawrence Welk Italian romantic singer. The Manneken Pis & Kristen Wiig scene is sort of amusing, but not much heft in this sketch. Not one of the great giggly skits, or super opens.
MONOLOG – Mick Jagger is terrific in one of the best SNL monologues ever. His favorite band, he says in a FAQ he asks and answers himself, (other than the Foo Fighters, Arcade Fire, and the Rolling Stones) is… the FreeCreditReport.com band.
AD (real) -- A clever (real) ad for Google Chrome. There were a lot of good film ads on the show. But added to too many not-so-good (not film) ads, it was another night of commercials interrupted by sketches.
GAME SHOW: THE SECRET WORD – Somehow this tired concept seemed fresh and hilarious tonight. Jagger was a hoot as a flamingly fey action hero movie star.
KILT -- Are you BRAVE enough to wear one? Honestly, I’m not sure if this was a clever real commercial for Disney’s BRAVE, or a fake commercial, or a funny fake commercial that’s actually a real commercial. BRAVE is a real animated film, opening wide in June, set in the mythical, mystical Scottish Highlands.
INSURANCE CONFERENCE AFTERPARTY KARAOKE – Jagger plays Kevin, a sad shy soul who can’t get up and sing. Two guys sing Stones’ songs really badly, and two girls love it, while Kevin complains they’re not doing it right. And the girls leave with the guys, leaving him alone. He sings “Satisfaction” really badly to himself… and even when he sings it really badly, it’s terrific, terribly sad, about someone who really can’t get no satisfaction. A classic sketch. Jagger is very sharp, and might think about trading in his day job (or night job, more accurately) for a gig as a comedian and actor. I think he’s been seriously under-used as an actor in films.
LAZY SUNDAY – I never figured out what was going on here. I’ll have to see it again on a clip. Is this a real fake ad for SISTER ACT and Broadway? Or the opposite?
AL SHARPTON & POLITICS NATION – Not a very well constructed sketch, but it had its funny moments. Sharpton calls J P Morgan “gyp Morgan.” Jagger as a financial spokesman talks doubletalk. And Sharpton mispronounces and misunderstands everything. Remember Fractured French? Call this Fractured English.
JAGGER AND ANGEL FIRE – Sounds great. Jagger’s energy is contagious. I heard the words “the last time” many times, but I never quite understood what happened for the last time. Ah lyrics!
WEEKEND UPDATE – Not an especially funny episode. (FYI – Carlton Banks was a character played by Alfonso Ribeiro on Will Smith’s The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.) Stefan has never been funny and gets less funny each time. (But, to be fair, there was one good line – a “roaming dragger” is “a dog with short legs and a long penis”). Not a good choice for the last Update of the year.
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE AT AN OUTDOOR MUSIC FESTIVAL – This would have been a terrible sketch, but it was saved, first by the impression of Santana, and then by the role-reversal we’ve been waiting for: Mick Jagger impersonating Steve Tyler (instead of the other way around).
MICK JAGGER WITH FOO FIGHTERS – An even better sound than the first musical set, but the lyrics were repetitive, repetitive, repetitive, re…etc. Ah lyrics!
THE CALIFORNIANS – I like this sketch. It has no big point, but so many little digs at soaps & Californians that it’s still fun.
MICK JAGGER, JEFF BECK AND BLUES. – Sounds fantastic! Jeff Beck is amazing! The lyrics not so much. With the right words this could have been a world class event. I’ve got doubts about the wisdom of the words. Ah lyrics!
GRADUATING CLASS – The last show of the year; some cast members will not be returning. Kristen Wiig has been, for many years and many, many sketches, one of the biggest breakout, most versatile, funniest female (or other) cast members on SNL ever. She was saying goodbye to everyone. (Hopefully, she’ll be reincarnated as a host.)
I enjoyed the show, especially when Mick Jagger was on. I hope we'll see more of him in films! The GRADUATING CLASS sketch was rather touching and a worthy end to the season!
SLEEP NO MORE is a hypnotic, atmospheric, brilliant, amazing, immersive, interactive, theater/dance/movement/art-installation/mystery/adventure. It has been said to induce insomnia.
Based loosely on that Scottish play (the title comes from Act 2 Scene 2) plus a dash of Hitchcock, it takes place in a long abandoned, but newly, intricately restored hotel in Chelsea. You, entering this building through a dark corridor, divest yourself of coats and packages, take a playing card which is your entrance key, don a mask -- Eyes-Wide-Shut-like -- embark on an elevator from which you are dropped off on one of six or so dark floors nearly every inch of which contains something strange and interesting, left to examine the space on your own, find the cast of players (recognizable because they are maskless/barefaced), and experience whatever may happen.
What happens is breathtaking set-pieces of movement, fascinating spaces, mostly ominous music, a story that is hard (nay, impossible) to follow on a single visit, and surprises.
The movement/dance in the set-pieces, suggestive of singular moments from the sources, but almost wordless, are fantastic.
WILL FERRELL, one of the breakout stars from SNL, returns tonight as host, with musical guest, USHER:
This was a consistently funny, sometimes surreal, but rarely outrageous, SNL. Even the Weekend Update, which usually hovers between pretty good and uninteresting, was consistently funny; though to be honest I’m not sure what to make of Liam Neeson. The show was kind of top-loaded; it ended with amusing sketches, but no great finishing punch.
Almost every sketch was a mini-classic in its own way.
Here's a re-cap of the show: (See below for video clips!)
Cold open -- Biden and Barack on gay marriage, toy trains, and Biden’s "imaginary" friend, George (Bush, stuck in a closet these four years looking for a blue butterfly – “ ‘Mission Accomplished’ – That’s what I say when a problem isn’t solved, but I don’t want to talk about it any more."). Great OPEN.
Monolog – a Will Ferrell original Mother’s Day message for his mom!
A COLD MEDICINE(AD) -- Hilarious Will Ferrell sneezing. (“Just sneeze like a normal person!”)
LGBT DANCE – Will Ferrell’s classic – tho’ never very funny – old fuddy-duddy teachers talking and singing and playing piano. Nice sounding song with funny lyrics. Even if it’s not terribly funny, it was nice to see them again.
1994 ESPN CLASSIC WOMEN’S LONG DRIVE CHAMPIONSHIP SPONSORED BY MAXIPADS – Funny plugs for maxipads; sidekick who oscillates between honest assessments that deflate the anchor’s hype, and clueless idiocy. Meanwhile a TV on-site reporter is unprepared to report on theOJ driving in the Broncho story.
100TH SNL DIGITAL SHORT – A tribute to the SNL digital short, suckin’ their own dongs & all. (But no laser cats.)
USHER -- Seemed to be having fun! (but was that a little bit of fumbling with the props?) High energy entertaining!
WEEKEND UPDATE – Funny all the way through. Best line – to Time Magazine, on the picture of the older boy standing on a chair breast-feeding -- “You should have photo-shopped out the chair. (Illustration supplied.)In The Cage with Liam Neeson (& Nicholas Cage): Liam seemed less happy to be there than even the real Cage was when he showed up. Most guests seem to be playing along; Liam seemed to be steamed. It was perhaps a great absurdist rendition of an unhappy guest at an imbecilic interview. Cage’s next film: he plays a rogue marble that escaped from hell.
FUNKYTOWN DEBATE -- This surreal debate of candidates for the mayor of Funkytown was played with great restraint, perhaps catching the true spirit of the least useful debates, which still, despite everything, tell us something of the inner nature of the candidates...
BROADWAY SIZZLE -- A local live reality show in which singers come to an open mike. Will Ferrell keeps singing songs that he suddenly realizes, in the middle, should be sung by a girl, not a boy… durn it. An amusing sketch.
USHER – strikes quite a different tone here than in his first number.
HAPPY 25TH ANNIVERSARY -- Strange relatives and stranger strangers grab the mike at a couple’s 25th anniversary party. – (Note: The sketch is OK, but not the most inspired of the night. The show is losing steam. The last ten minutes should be the time for the truly inspired raunchy sketches.)
ALMOST PIZZA (AD) It looks like pizza. But it’s not pizza.
Note: Mick Jagger hosts the season finale.
I enjoyed the show. I'm looking forward to Jagger as host.
Eli Manning is the quarterback of the Superbowl winning New York Giants football team.
Singer Rihanna has been called the "Most Beautiful Woman in the World"
The show was a mid-level SNL. It was good humored. Eli was a good sport, and appeared in many sketches, but his flat delivery, which was the impetus for many of those sketches, tamped down most of the results to humorous, from what might have been hilarious.
Here's a brief summary of the show --
COLD OPEN - FOX & FRIENDS -- in a quick and efficient segment they effectively skewered the Fox Morning Show, an easy target to be sure. What would comedians do without Fox? But Fox never changes. (Ridicule, humiliation, and the like may once have been instruments of change -- not so much, anymore. In fact, some careers are built from it.)
OPENING MONOLOG -- Good humored but a bit stiff. “I finally feel like a real New Yorker. “ “I play for the NY Giants and all my games are in NJ”
AMAZON COMMERCIAL –Funny advertising parody. As the family brings in Mother’s Day gifts, the moms are all discovered reading Fifty Shades of Grey. They should get it on their Kindle.
EA SPORTS MOTION CAPTURE STUDIO – The studio is looking to film a signature Touchdown Celebration Move. Eli Manning can’t deliver anything but bland. This is the first of several humorous, but not terribly funny, parodies of Eli’s personality.
REAL KINDLE COMMERCIAL “Light my fire!” (Nice when they parody a commercial before the real commercial.)
TRIAL – Eli Manning gives murder testimony – zillions of messages to women to establish an alibi. But when it gets to revealing his search requests, he’d rather confess to the murder. Humorous.
LITTLE BROTHERS – Eli defends little brothers against their bullying big brothers. “Treat your younger brother with respect, Peyton.” (Note to the sports-clueless: Peyton Manning, Superbowl winning quarterback for the Denver Broncos, is Eli’s older brother.)
WXPD NEWS NY – The Old Reporter on site at Occupy Wall Street. The concept is better than the sketch. They’ve done versions of this sketch before. It’s not funny. Never was. And this version's even less funny than other times.
RIHANNA -- I like the look, but the sounds don't do it for me (baby).
WEEKEND UPDATE – OK jokes. Special appearances by the Tanning Mom (“You look like a baseball glove.") and Admiral General Almadeen, the Dictator (who brought along Martin Scorcese to provide a good review for THE DICTATOR under torture).
WHAT IS THIS? – THE WORLD’S EASIEST GAME SHOW -- This was the best sketch idea of the night, but the execution was a bit lame. Game Hostess is a pretty woman who introduces the 3 contestants and mentions she's been dating contestant #3 (Eli). Contestant #1 is shown a picture of a tree. Q – What is this? A – Tree. Contestant #2 is shown a picture of a house (or anything). Q – What is this? A – A house. Contestant #3 is Eli Manning. Q – So we’ve been going out for 4 months, what I want to know is What is this???
HELGA LATELY - Swedish gibberish. Simple gibberish with an occasional English word (usually about sex). Eli’s flat version of gibberish was actually the funniest.
RIHANNA – “Where have you been all my life?” -- Kind of a ridiculous song and a ridiculous dance, but silly enough to be fun.
DRAGWORLD -- Eli is the second runner up in the DRAG WORLD Pageant. Not winning, he storms off. Host: Where’s your dignity? Eli “I've disappointed my fan.”
TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES: Cheech & Chong’s 3rd member, Richard Armstrong.-- Excerpts from Cheech & Chong’s stoner movies with Eli as Richard Anderson, who bales out whenever the dope comes in.
All in all I enjoyed the show. The musical segments looked and sounded better than usual. Eli was a good sport and really did a lot of sketches, most of which poked fun at him.
ELLES is terrific. Juliette Binoche is amazing; this is one of her great performances. Anais Demoustier is lovable. Joanna Kulig is sexy and beguiling.
A journalist (Juliette Binoche) is writing a story for ELLES about college students who use prostitution as their day job (or night job) to pay for college and a better standard of living. Following the journalist for a few days while she researches the story and prepares for a dinner party, we experience an eclectic and wide ranging set of notions about sexuality. The two college students, the lovely Anais Demoustier, and the sultry and flirtatious Joanna Kulig, seem to enjoy their work, while the scenes we see of their lives seem much less idyllic.
Do we believe what they say? Do we believe our eyes? Or are our eyes and the beliefs we bring to the film too (negatively?) judgmental?
At the same time that we are wondering about ourselves, the journalist is wondering herself, contrasting her very bourgeois family life with the lives of her subjects, comparing their lives to the lives of her own children, and their johns with her husband and his friends.
Through the brilliant performances of Juliette Binoche, and the complete cast, we seem to get to know the characters and even their families, and their thoughts and emotions, even when they themselves seem not to understand them.
Most of the judgements/reviews of this movie that I've seen seem to be largely shaped by the (pre-existing?) attitudes of the reviewer as they come in to see the film (as is this review, perhaps), each one seeing a their own personal version of the film; but it seems to me the film is more exploratory and questioning than any single interpretation can capture. And it suggests a great complexity in sexual relationships. I suspect each viewer will bring to the film their own life and see it from that perspective. But I encourage everyone to see the film with as few preconceptions of sexuality and relationships as they possibly can.
Also listen to the film. It has one of the most brilliantly arranged musical commentary I've ever heard. It is a common (and sometimes accurate) cliche to say a film's location is a character; in this case, the music is a character -- akin to the chorus in classic Greek theater.