Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Sen. Joe Biden just announced his candidacy for president. OMG! I’m so excited. Just yesterday I was in the middle of drying my hair when it hit me, Joe Biden has not yet formed an exploratory committee. What gives?

So, phew, my mind is at ease. Biden has officially entered the race. And now he can join the rest of the bottom feeders most likely to poll at about 2% with voters.

Because who isn’t running for president these days—besides Scooter Libby. I fully expect some PTA treasurer from Omaha to toss her hat in the ring any day now.

What with an outgoing president and a sitting VP who has no designs on the top spot if he has to be elected to it, we’ve got a feeding frenzy on our hands people. It’s like the Apple Store threw open its doors and yelled, “Free iPods! And not just the little Nanos! We mean the video ones!”

Joe Biden is not going to be the next president of the United States. Neither is Chris Dodd. Neither is that Huckabee dude from Arkansas, although his inspirational weight loss story might help him dethrone Jared as Subway spokesperson.

But they’re going to spend a lot of money and waste a lot of our time trying to convince us otherwise. And we’re going to let them.

I wonder about their motives. I wonder about their egos. I wonder about the thought process that goes on in anyone’s head where the outcome is, “I could be president.”

But I also wonder why the American public continues to tolerate an election cycle that everyone agrees is too long and too superficial and too polarizing. One that doesn’t produce the best candidates or anything even approaching an inspirational leader.

Say what you will about “American Idol,” but would that we had the equivalent of Simon Cowell in our political process. Someone to weed out the wannabes from the legitimate contenders before they ever get their 15 minutes on MSNBC. Someone to tell the tone-deaf, “Sorry. No. Next.”

* * *

Grammy update: There is a god. Absent from earlier reports that The Police would reunite for a performance at the Grammy Awards—that the trio will open the show. So I do not have to sit through Best Surround Sound Album. I kid you not. This is one of 108 actual categories. Did I mention that I hate the Grammys?

* * *

Now a message to my fellow Chicagoans: If we ever had hopes of shedding our Second City status, we have effectively eliminated all chances of such with the ridiculous Bears mania. We’ve got countdown clocks on local TV stations. (Did you know there are 4 days, 6 hours, 58 minutes until the Super Bowl? I do. Because Channel 2 keeps telling me so.) There are helmets on the lions outside the Art Institute. What would New York do? Act like they’ve been there before. Now let’s get back to focusing on more important issues. Like the fact that it’s cold. In January.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reunited. Will It Sound So Good?

Goddammit, now I have to watch the Grammys. I hate the Grammys. Too many categories--all that rap and country. Too much leather. Too much Tony Bennett.

And now I have to watch. Because The Police are going to perform.

Sure, I fell out of love with Sting a long time ago—around the time he started practicing yoga—but it’s still The Police. When I was in high school, I wasn’t allowed to go to Detroit to catch the “Synchronicity” tour (actually, I don’t think I was allowed to even ask if I could go to Detroit). And maybe the Grammys isn’t exactly the same thing. And maybe the band will completely and totally suck. I don’t care. I’m there.

I’m prepared to suffer through Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani, even 50 Cent or Toby freakin’ Keith as long as I get to hear Andy Summers pluck the opening chords to “Every Breath You Take.” Oh, I know that a reunion tour is likely to follow and I could spare myself the Grammy agony and buy a ticket to an actual Police concert, but I honestly can’t see myself plunking down $100 just to relive the year that I was 16.

Besides, I’m still not allowed to go to Detroit.

* * *

Stop me if you’ve heard this one already. Today’s Web edition of Entertainment Weekly ( wonders, “Will ‘Norbit’ hurt Eddie Murphy’s Oscar chances?” I’d just like to point out that I wondered that very same thing. Yesterday.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday Musings

PRINCE CHARLES WAS IN NEW YORK CITY over the weekend to, among other things, pick up an award for his environmental efforts. Critics on his side of the pond complained that if he were really so concerned with global warming, etc., he would have received the honor via videoconference. Yes, by all means, let’s pick on the one world leader who has actually committed to reducing his carbon footprint. Imagine, the heir to the British throne treated like a prisoner on his own isle, expected to travel only if he can reach his destination by foot, bike or, I guess, horse drawn carriage. Now, I’m all for saving the environment. I’ve seen “An Inconvenient Truth” and assessed my household’s carbon impact (smaller than average, thank you very much) but there’s such a thing as taking a cause too far.

* * *

Over at Entertainment Weekly’s web site, staffers are wondering whether anyone WILL ANYONE CARE ABOUT NEXT MONTH’S OSCAR CEREMONY given that all of the acting categories are pretty well sewn up. As if people watch for the awards. What matters most: how pretty the female nominees and presenters are and how fabulous their gowns are likely to be. But, to take EW seriously, if an upset is brewing, I would guess Eddie Murphy is fair game in the supporting actor category. Why? One word: “Norbit.” This latest Murphy flick is due out in a couple of weeks and if members of the Academy haven’t all handed in their votes by then, “Norbit,” in which Murphy makes like Martin Lawrence and takes on the role of an obese woman, just might give them a reason not to check his name.

* * *

OPRAH has announced Sidney Poitier’s memoir as the new pick for her book club. Because there aren’t enough struggling authors out there to choose from who’ve made writing their life’s work.

* * *

Over in Davos, Switzerland, at the WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM a gathering of world leaders is debating how to best deploy computers in the Third World. Oh, you forgot about Davos because Brad and Angelina aren’t attending this year. So, it would seem, did everyone else. Except the New York Times.

* * *

LINDSAY LOHAN IS OUT OF REHAB. Gosh, it seems like just last week she entered treatment. Oh wait, it was. I contrast this with Keith Urban, whose stay lasted close to three months. Wanna take bets on who lands back in the tabloids first?

* * *

THE AUDIENCE AWARD AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL went to the John Cusack vehicle “Grace Is Gone.” Harvey Weinstein ponied up $4 million to distribute the flick. True confession: I worked as an extra on a scene in this movie. From what I saw, I thought it was going straight to DVD. Guess that’s why I’m not a media mogul.

* * *

SKINNY MODELS ARE BACK IN THE NEWS. While not quite yet an endangered species, their days are numbered, at least in Spain. Kudos to the Spaniards, who are looking at implementing a ban not only on the ultra-light waifs, but on store mannequins smaller than a (U.S.) size 8. But the problem, people, is not the skinny models. And it’s not anorexia. The problem is the designers. Who create clothing intended to be worn by human hangers. The models are skinny because the clothes are skinny, not the other way around. Models don’t drive the fashion industry, designers do.

* * *

Just wondering how much it sucks to be THE “OTHER” DREAMGIRL? You know, the one who isn’t Beyonce or Jennifer Hudson. I ask because I saw her on last night’s telecast of the SAG Awards, where they threw her a bone and let her introduce clips from “Dreamgirls” in the Best Picture category. For the record, her name is Anika Noni Rose, which you’d think would be memorable but apparently isn’t.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Night of 1,000 Beyonces

While everyone else weighs in on who got robbed of an Oscar nomination (I believe Brad Pitt will survive the injury), let me just say that I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled that the following was snubbed for Best Actress: Beyonce Knowles.

I don’t get the appeal of this woman. Yes, she’s pretty. Yes she fits nicely into form-fitting bedazzled gowns. Yes, she can gyrate her booty like no other, save perhaps Shakira, but this does not a goddess, diva or talented singer make.

My beef with her dates back to the year Chris Rock hosted the Oscars. Some may remember it for Rock’s unfortunate pot shot at Jude Law, who Sean Penn then felt compelled to awkwardly defend. (No, this has slipped your memory?) I remember it as the Night of 1,000 Beyonce Performances.

For some inexplicable reason, Ms. Knowles was asked to perform all or most of the nominees for Best Song, none of which she actually sang in the films. This meant that Emmy Rossum, classically trained as a vocalist by the Metropolitan Opera, was forced to watch from her seat while Beyonce trilled what should have been Rossum’s star turn from “Phantom of the Opera.”

I’m not saying that Knowles getting shut out of Best Actress is some sort of karmic payback. She’ll still get to warble a tune or two from “Dreamgirls” on the upcoming Academy Awards telecast. Unless… Perhaps this year’s host, Ellen DeGeneres, will be inspired to ask her pal Melissa Etheridge to handle all of the singing chores at the Oscars. (Etheridge, let’s be honest, is decidedly non-bootylicious but is actually nominated for her song from “An Inconvenient Truth,” a toe-tapping flick if ever there was one.) Now that would be awesome. I think Emmy Rossum would agree.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back-slapping Festival of Self-love

The thing about getting an issue of Entertainment Weekly a month late, is that it shows how pop culture has the life span of a gnat. Why, way back in December, the big news was Rosie O’Donnell feuding with the Chinese, when we all know she has since moved on to Donald Trump and American Idol.

Which puts today’s announcement of Oscar nominees into perspective. Can anyone remember last year’s winner for say, Best Original Screenplay, other than the winner and his mother?
I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to paying an inordinate amount of attention to Hollywood’s annual back-slapping festival of self love. When you think about it, what are the Academy Awards besides the most glittering Employee of the Year ceremony ever.

But apart from giving those of us who are obsessed with pretty, shiny dresses a reason to live, the Oscars provide a fair number of families with a safe topic of conversation, unlike say, the war in Iraq or Hillary for President. So let me get the ball rolling. Do I have an opinion on the nominees? You betchya.

Best Picture: I can safely say that the two films I’ve actually seen in this category, “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Queen” will NOT win. One is too funny—and popular, and unlike high school, popularity does not count with the Academy—and the other is there just to stick it to “Dreamgirls.”

Best Actor: Please, please, please do NOT give this to Peter O’Toole just because he’s old. I bet only 12 people of the alleged billions who supposedly watch the Oscar telecast will have actually seen O’Toole’s performance, so who am I to say he doesn’t deserve it. But if he doesn’t, he’s already got one statuette for lifetime achievement. He doesn’t need another.

Best Actress: I appreciate that Meryl Streep is the greatest living American actress. But I’ve seen “The Devil Wears Prada” and I consider this role supporting at best. Helen Mirren, who was amazing in “The Queen,” should and will win. Here’s what I love about Mirren—she’s 60 years old and still has her original face, which has to be a singular achievement in Hollywood.

As for the rest, filler between those hideously entertaining Best Song performances. Feb. 25, mark your calendars. And if, on Feb. 27, you're still complaining that Jackie Earle Hailey got robbed, you need to get a life.

Update: It seems I spoke too soon in discounting the level of attention we would receive from Rep. Rahm Emmanuel’s office regarding our woeful mail service. Apparently congressmen have staffs who deal with these sorts of matters and Rahm’s peeps are working up an official complaint on our behalf. Now that’s government for the people.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Shoes, Drugs & Sexiest Man Alive

I recently had the displeasure of chatting with a Customer Service Drone representing my prescription drug plan. We were haggling over the cost of a particular prescription—why was I paying the non-generic co-pay ($25) for a generic drug ($10)? After he put me on hold and returned with some additional blah, blah, blah, Customer Service Drone noted that if I obtained the drugs via mail rather than from the local pharmacy, I would be charged even less than the generic price, thus saving hundreds of dollars a year that I could then spend on shoes!

Decisions, decisions.

I weighed my options for precisely one-thousandth of a nano-second and had to decline. Because I just received the Dec. 22 issue of Entertainment Weekly. This past Saturday. A full month late. This is a relatively uncommon occurrence, in that issues typically do not arrive at all.

I’m not saying that service out of the Ravenswood Post Office sucks any more than anywhere else in Chicago, where bags of mail, like drunken conventioneers, frequently turn up floating in Lake Michigan. I’m just saying that it sucks more than in whatever utopia Customer Service Drone and his employers call home.

I grew up in the sort of smallish town where the same mailman reliably served our subdivision year after year. We probably knew his name, although we weren’t particularly friendly with him because he had a habit of taking a short cut through the yard to our mailbox, trampling my father’s precious grass. A major faux pas. We knew better and always carved precise right angles from sidewalk to driveway to front door.

My sister still lives in such a place. Why, her mailman is practically part of the family. Or apparently mistook himself as such, which is the only explanation I can give for him asking her, when she was some months pregnant, whether it would be all right for him to put his hand on her stomach. (To which I, the hardened urbanite, would have replied, “What the f***!” but she probably just said, “Oh, now’s not a good time.”)

Clearly I’m looking for a happy medium between too much personal attention and having to wait an entire month for my live-saving drugs or to find out whether Matthew McConaughey is “Sexiest Man Alive? Or Serious Actor?” (I’m going to go out on a limb with “Neither.”)

Other neighbors in my building have raised the issue with our congressional representative, who happens to be Rahm Emmanuel, who I’m sure will look into the matter once he’s finished plotting the complete annihilation of the Republican Party.

As for me, I’m just keeping a tally of all my non-delivered magazines and the cost of replacing them at newsstand price. I plan to present a bill to the Post Office at the end of the year to recoup my losses. That should amount to enough to spring for a pair of shoes—or some non-generic drugs.

Friday, January 19, 2007

60 Is Not the New 40

Enough with this already.

Raquel Welch was all over the info-tainment airwaves yesterday, ostensibly because she has recently been named a spokesmodel for a large cosmetics conglomerate, but also because at age 66 she is still a hottie. This is what passes for news these days.

Anyhoo, Raquel is just the latest in a long line of celebrities and authors touting the agelessness of the American female. We can all stay forever 20 or forever 40, whichever the case may be—as long as we have a bank account that matches the size of our vanity.

I’m not sure how we got here, but after years of struggling for the right to vote, equality in the workplace, blah, blah, blah, the American woman’s greatest concern now boils down to the fact that she is not allowed to gain a single ounce of fat, grey hair or wrinkle as she passes from 25 to 65 to 95.

Welch readily admits that at 66 she doesn’t physically feel like a 25-year-old or even a 55-year-old. (Science has yet to discover a way to moisturize creaky bones.) But “everyone can have Botox or collagen,” she says.

Seriously? Everyone?

I appreciate that in the rarefied air of Hollywood and the upper income brackets, spending $3,000 a pop on an injection of botulism is a drop in the champagne bucket. But for the rest of us, that amount represents mortgage payments, daycare for our children, or food. Another economic chasm opens in America—the rich get tummy tucks, the poor get spare tires. Every woman is not able to keep up with the Welches or the Sharon Stones or the Heather Locklears, just to name a few of the celebrity female role models constantly thrust in our faces as “Over 40 and More Fabulous Than Ever!”

Most of us can’t afford not to age. But why do we even have to try?

No one is aching to get older. No one is, pardon the pun, dying to confront their own mortality. But why do we make the process so much more difficult, so much more painful—particularly for women—by insisting that we can stop the passage of time, or at the very least slow down its effects? Why do we hold a 65-year-old to the same exacting beauty standards as a 25-year-old—standards, by the way, that most 25-year-olds can’t even achieve?

I’m not promoting that women let themselves go to pot. I have nothing against staying fit and healthy and active; I am not interested in freeze-drying my current hair and clothing styles for the next four or five decades. (Memo to Queen Elizabeth: Wispy bangs. Give them a try.) That’s just maintenance. What I am opposed to: feeling like I have to compete against deep-pocketed women with fragile psyches who’ve been nipped, tucked, injected and chemically-peeled into decades-younger versions of themselves.
Not all women get caught in this trap. Some feel empowered and emboldened by the wisdom and experience that come with age. Some pride themselves on their intelligence and wit, not their brand of shoe or lipstick. Some feel good about themselves even on bad hair days. These women don’t watch “Access Hollywood.”

But a good many of us are stuck on the youth-obsessed merry-go-round, wasting precious time and energy on maintaining appearances.

I want off.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Two Thumbs Up

One of the best things about The New Yorker is film reviewer Anthony Lane who knows how to deliver the proverbial “thumbs down” with a verbal wit and style that I always read in a British accent.

His current target (in the Jan. 22 issue) is the Renee Zellweger vehicle “Miss Potter,” although it’s poor Ewan McGregor who suffers most the barbs from Lane’s pen. (IMHO, McGregor deserves a lifetime pass for slogging through all three “Star Wars” sequels—excuse me, prequels—when it was clear after the first that he would be acting without a script.)

In “Miss Potter,” McGregor has the role of publisher and suitor to the titular character. Lane wonders why the actor accepted the part in the first place, considering the following material: “We shall give them a bunny book to conjure with.”

Writes Lane: “Only one man on earth can speak those words with a straight face, and that is Hugh Hefner. Needless to say, McGregor takes emergency precautions, appearing throughout in a mustache the size of a yew hedge, and thus defying us to work out whether his face is straight or not.”

The job of a movie reviewer seems glamorous, but is frankly a thankless one. If you disagree, think for a moment about wasting precious hours of your life viewing “Jackass II” and then even more time writing about the dreadful experience, only to have readers skim through your sweat-stained prose looking for the final grade or number of stars.

Lane doesn’t churn out stars or grades, just smartly turned phrases and insightful comments that sparkle on the page.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Golden Globes

Every year, I ask myself why I waste my time watching these awards shows. I guess because they’re so damned fun. A recap of last night’s Golden Globes.

The Jack Nicholson-o-meter: 27 reaction shots of Nicholson in the audience.

Nicholson-in-waiting: Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt

Best impersonation of Houdini: George Clooney. Gorgeous George handed out the evening’s first award and then vanished.

Closest degree of separation from Kevin Bacon: Wife Kyra Sedgwick, Golden Globe winner for best TV actress, drama

Most likely to be named Celebrity of the Year by the American Bar Association: Again, Sedgwick, who was the only winner to name-check her lawyer

The She’s No Katie Couric Award goes to: Naomi Watts, who proved what a difficult feat it is to read off a teleprompter

Most Superfluous Presenter: Jennifer Lopez, not seen at the multiplex since 2005’s underwhelming “An Unfinished Life.” If we need a go-to Latina, let’s make it Salma Hayek, or better yet, America Ferrara.

Best Ad to Stay in School: Meryl Streep. A Vassar grad who also attended the Yale Drama School, Streep is never at a loss for words when improvising an acceptance speech and manages to come across as articulate, charming, witty and, surprisingly, funnier than Eddie Murphy.

The I-Don’t-Get-the-Appeal Award: (tie) Justin Timberlake, Beyonce

Worst Tressed: Vanessa Williams. Her do was one part spinster schoolmarm, one part poodle extensions. Runner-up: Hilary Swank for her giant floral hair clip. Ashley Judd called, she wants it back. Honorable mention: Patricia Arquette, who by day sports an adorable bob, by awards show night, hideous dye job and swept back bangs.

Best Impersonation of Vanessa Williams: Will Ferrell’s ‘fro.

Most in Need of Eyeglasses or Lasik Surgery: Renee Zellweger, who gets squintier by the year. Runner-up: Clint Eastwood, who paired a gold bow-tie (ugh) with a black tux and what my husband swears was a brown belt.

Zero Impact by a Best Picture Nominee: “Blood Diamonds.” Actresses were dripping in ice.

He’s British So He Must Be the Best Award: (tie) Jeremy Irons, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Morgan (screenwriter), the dude who produced “Elizabeth I” the miniseries.

She’s British So She Must Be the Best Award: (tie) Emily Blunt, Helen Mirren

Curious Cleavage Award: At the 2006 Oscars and now again at the Globes, Salma Hayek has chosen asymmetrical necklines that showcase one boob to greater advantage than the other. I believe the left is suing the right for equal over-exposure.

Dan Quayle Award: Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, I knew Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. You’re no Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. You can put on a gorgeous gown, but then must you open your Valley Girl mouths? (See: Meryl Streep for further instruction.) I won’t even discuss Angelina’s tattoos.

Head Big Enough to Fill Barry Bonds’ Helmet Award: Jamie Foxx. What an ego. We know you won an Oscar, we know you were in “Dreamgirls.” You’re still not Tom Hanks. Get over yourself.

Least in Need of Obedience School: Peter Morgan (screenwriter for “The Queen”). In the midst of a timely and eloquent acceptance speech about how public sentiment can change the course of political events, Morgan was given the “wrap it up” signal. Which he promptly did.

Best Supporting Eyebrows: Martin Scorsese

Best Reason to Doubt Tim Gunn: The “Project Runway” style guru placed Jennifer Love Hewitt on his best-dressed list. I think he was momentarily possessed by Kayne. Ick, the dress was Miss America dreadful.

Creepiest Male: (tie) Jeremy Irons, who is in serious need of some under-eye concealer and wore a shirt festooned with what appeared to be bloody bullet holes, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is ready for his mug shot.

Category Most in Need of a Recount: Best Television Comedy. Nothing against “Ugly Betty,” but no way it’s funnier than “The Office.” As evidence, I give you the clip submitted by “The Office” for voters’ consideration:
Michael (I paraphrase): Name a white man you trust and I’ll name a black man I trust more.
Karen: Jesus.
Michael: Apollo Creed.

Most Deserving of More Reaction Shots: Aaron Eckhart. Brad Pitt, you wish you had that jawline.

Most Deserving of Fewer Reaction Shots: Warren Beatty. Beatty looked utterly befuddled by every word of Tom Hanks’ Cecil B. DeMille Award tribute speech. Give the man some dignity and cut to Nicholson.

Biggest Hypocrites: Every actress who teared up during America Ferrara’s acceptance speech about how much her role means to “ugly” (aka, non-anorexic, botox-ed, spray tanned) women everywhere. Hey ladies, do you not understand that you’re the problem?

Best Use of the Word Anus in an Acceptance Speech: Sacha Baron Cohen

Let’s Pat Ourselves on the Back Award: Warren Beatty, calling film “America’s most influential export.” To quoth from “Grey’s Anatomy”: Seriously? I thought it was hope, freedom, democracy and the Big Mac.

Most in Need of Advice from Elizabeth Taylor: Reese Witherspoon. You want to make your ex jealous, you’re gonna have to do more than borrow a dress from Big Bird.

The Let’s Rethink This Entire Concept Award: Every freakin’ awards show out there. Why back-load the show with all the major awards, only to run short on time and rush the most important winners off the stage. The winner for Best Score gets to take a leisurely stroll through an endless list of thank-yous while Best Actress has to shout over the theme music to “Hurry Up Already.”