HEADLINE I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE: “Ayatollah’s Death Deepens U.S. Woes” (Washington Post). I remember the good old days, when it was good for America when an ayatollah died.
BOTH SLIM AND SHADY, ONCE AGAIN: The bar has been lowered every one of the last four years, but I think we can say it again now- 2003 was the least satisfying MTV Video Music Awards ever. I actually started out doing a Sports Guy-style diary, but after less than an hour realized that if the writers of the show couldn’t come up with any passable material, why should I?
The biggest disapointment was the non-starter performance of host Chris Rock, making a not-so-triumphant return to stand-up after essentially sitting it out since the ’99 VMAs and his subsequent “Bigger and Blacker” HBO special. Rock was supposedly assisted in the writing by comedian and Friars Club mainstay Jeffrey Ross, though the delightfully nasty wit that’s characteristic of both men was next to absent from the show. Rock in particular was much more “Down to Earth” than “Bring the Pain.”
Rock opened with a seven-minute monologue that fell almost totally flat, up until three zingers at the end (including a priceless Olsen Twins/R. Kelly joke) before he likened co-presenters LeBron James and Ashanti to “Kobe and his victim.” It was, unfortunately, all downhill from there.
There probably wasn’t a single musical performance the entire evening that I was looking forward to prior to the show, especially after Johnny Cash dropped out for health reasons, but the only one that came close to memorable was the four-way number featuring Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, and Missy Elliott that opened the show. And while I’m no big admirerer of any of the quartet, the song produced two memorable moments- a bizarre kiss between Madonna and Britney, and a camera pan to Mary J. Blige in the audience, who flashed a look of sheer horror after Christina appeared, from which the camera immediately panned away. That was funny.
Other than that, it was three hours of ho-hum- nearly all awards going to the same four “artists” (Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent and Beyonce), no Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (but lots of pointless, unfunny “Crank Yankers” cameos), and lots of white presenters making lame “fo shizzle my niizzle” jokes, although both Rock and Snoop Dogg neglected to make a “Mr. Deeds’ Nutz” joke when Snoop and Adam Sandler appeared together. There were also quite a lot of “technical difficulties”- the microphones seemed to miss half of what the winners said (not that that’s a bad thing), and a video package on honorees Duran Duran (?) failed to run when the sound on the “jumbotron” failed. The show ended, mercifully, with a dumb, 2-minute “medley,” by Metallica, of “rock songs through the years,” followed by some weak new song by the long-past-their-prime erstwhile rock gods. Really, James Hetfield these days doesn’t look that much younger than Johnny Cash.
Just an amateurish effort all around- if it weren’t for plenty of my fiance, Beyonce (“Crazy in Love” ran in every bumper, every commercial, and then she performed it), I’d have considered the evening a total waste.
And most eggregiously, the best music video of the year, “The Super Bowl is Gay,” was not mentioned a single time the entire evening.
UP-CHUCK: Bill O’Reilly disliked Al Franken’s book (or rather, the idea of it) so much that he and his bosses sued the author. But New York Press writer Mark Ames had an even more visceral reaction to Chuck Klosterman’s new book “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”- Ames hated it so much that he left the country.
Ames- now living in Moscow- penned a near-hysterical evisceration of Klosterman’s book in this week’s NYPress, referring to Klosterman’s relatively innocuous observations about pop culture and everyday life as “the metaphor for everything vile in my generation.” He goes on to alternately attack the author as a sellout and “toxic, disingenuous and stupid,” and disparages everything about Klosterman, from his looks (comparing his mouth to a “sphincter” and saying he looks like a sex offender) to his mental capabilities, comparing Klosterman to “Sean Penn’s retard character in ‘I Am Sam.'”
But Ames’ biggest problem is with the author’s musical tastes, as he thinks “Billy Joel is great,” and calls Steely Dan “more lyrically subversive than the Sex Pistols and Clash combined.” I agree with both statements- Ames clearly is one who has the stupid prejudice that punk rock is both a sacred cow and the only good music in the world, and is for some reason so contemptuous of Klosterman for disagreeing that he felt the need to up and move to Moscow.
Sure, a lot of the stuff Klosterman writes is sort of lame (except for the part where he points out that every woman born since 1968 is in love with John Cusack and his “Say Anything” character. That part’s right.) But why not just ignore him? Or stay and fight? Lord knows there’s lots of people in the media I can’t stand, but I haven’t felt the need to leave the country as a result.
I haven’t read Klosterman’s book, but after reading Ames’ slam of it, I’d sort of like to.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Haven’t we gone too far with this First Amendment business?” -Bill O’Reilly, on his show tonight.
DR. DEATH?: When I said the other day that Howard Dean’s candidacy is a “flash in the pan,” I admit I was being facetious. Clearly Dean has legitimate appeal, and he’s been able to galvanize in the way none of his opponents can the 15-20% of the population that, due to various combinations of Florida resentment, Iraq resentment, and “he’s a moron” resentment, think that George Bush is the devil.
But now there’s another controversy on the horizon: since Dean did a med-school rotation working at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vermont, the question has been raised of whether or not the good doctor ever performed an abortion. If the answer is yes (and he has said no thus far), it’s unlikely to hurt him with his base, but could cause him trouble with swing voters.
If it turns out to be true, expect “Abortionist Howard Dean” to take is place in the Republican attack-ad pantheon, along with “Liberal Paul Wellstone” and “Draft Dodger Bill Clinton.”
Oh well, it’s not like he experimented on cats when he was in med school, like Bill Frist did.
IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO TODAY…: I have a dream.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TOWEL: News Item: Holiday Inn Declares Towel Amnesty Day.
That’s the worst idea ever, Towelie.
FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Project Greenlight is entertainment for people who already think they know everything about film production yet neglect to consider the basic divisions of labor and on-the-job politics. Only an Entertainment Weekly subscriber thinks he knows how a movie set operates without a guide.” –Armond White, in New York Press, eviscerating “Project Greenlight” and its cinematic spawn.
DEATH OF A TROLL: You bastards!
9/11/’03: Rachel Lucas has an amazing post (found via Sheila), castigating the networks for their decision not to broadcast any “special” programming on the second anniversary of September 11. At first I thought they had a point, but after reading Rachel’s post I’m not so convinced. The best part:
Do I want to see footage of the planes hitting the buildings? Yes, I do, but I understand why others wouldn’t, especially the tens of thousands of people who loved or knew someone who died because those planes hit those buildings. For me, it’s not watching a loved one die all over again, it’s watching my world change. The moment that second plane comes into view, that moment of pure, undiluted shock when one could see that it was going to hit the second building – that moment changed me fundamentally.