Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 Days of Christmas: 'Saved by the Bell'...

When I was a kid, I wanted nothing more than Zack Morris for Christmas. Sure, my mom got me the Zack Morris doll and the Saved by the Bell trading card set and board game and tee shirts and whatnot, but really that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted Zack himself to make an appearance under my tree. He was just the right amount of troubled (and trouble making) to keep me interested—see my pop culture memoir for details; in fact that book makes the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season!

But anyway, he was also the right amount of sweet and sensitive mixed in. He truly did have a heart of gold. Case in point: the season 4 two-part Christmas episode “Home For Christmas.”

In this hour-long Very Special Episode, Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) falls for a young girl who works with Kelly (Tiffani Amber Thiessen) at a men’s clothing store in the mall. The girl gets fired because her mean boss Mr. Moody thinks she stole a sport coat, and Zack finds her and her father living in their car in the parking lot. Turns out, he had lost his job, too, and they’re homeless. So Zack’s mom invites them to spend the holidays at their house, and Zack’s dad even helps to get the guy a job. Best Christmas present ever?

Monday, November 29, 2010

30 Days of Christmas: '30 Rock'...

While season 2 of 30 Rock created the annual “Ludachristmas” tradition, the parts of the episode that don’t feature such raunchy nuttiness are actually stronger. Liz (Tina Fey)’s family comes to visit, including her younger brother Mitch (Andy Richter) who, after a ski accident, is permanently stuck in one particular day in the late eighties. Jack (Alec Baldwin)’s mother (guest star Elaine Stritch) is also in town, and after seeing how attached he gets to the saccharine sweet Lemons, is determined to crack them and reveal their true hatred for each other. Family fun for everyone!

The following year managed to top their own tradition, however, with “Christmas Special,” an episode which not only features the usual and expected Christmas carol from Jenna (Jane Krakowski) but also even more crazy family antics when Jack hits his mother with a car and is "forced" to spend the holidays with her. He spends most of the episode trying to avoid her but later learns how his mother really afforded all of his holiday gifts as a kid, which manages to warm his heart while slightly creep the audience out. Liz, meanwhile, takes on a “Letters to Santa” charity program but then gets just a wee bit racist on it, assuming she was conned into buying two grown men presents. Well, it's the thought that counts, right??

Sunday, November 28, 2010

30 Days of Christmas: 'The Office'...

The Office is known for all kinds of party episodes—from the small, like St Patrick’s Day, to the made up, like the Dundie Awards—but they seem to do Christmas best. In season two, they started the tradition with “Christmas Party”, in which the gang takes part in a game of Secret Santa. It all should go fine…but Michael (Steve Carell) is involved, so obviously things get out of hand. Quite frankly, it is this episode that made My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture dread ever having to play this game again, yet still wish for a large enough group to get to play it, all at the same time!

First, Michael spends too much on the gift, and then he gets mad that the gift given to him is homemade and lame, so he turns Secret Santa into Dirty Santa or Yankee Swap or White Elephant or whatever that gift swapping game is called where you’re from. This episode also manages to have a very sweet moment between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), though, despite the craziness surrounding them.

The other must see Office holiday episode is “Moroccan Christmas” from season 5, in which the gang decides to hold an intervention for Meredith after she sets herself on fire. This episode also features Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) blackmailing Angela (Angela Kinsey) to get control of the party planning committee. It’s the little things that make one happy that mean the most, right?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

30 Days of Christmas: Starting with Sitcoms..

Continuing the sitcom theme, Will & Grace’s titular female (Debra Messing) may have been Jewish, but the show did Christmas episodes like none other, starting strongly with season 4’s “Jingle Balls”, in which Jack (Sean Hayes) gets hired to design the Barney’s holiday windows and then believes Santa does them when he draws a blank and Grace steps in. This episode also features the fabulously dry Parker Posey, who is pretty much the antithesis to holiday cheer of any kind.

It’s a toss-up between screening season 5’s “All About Christmas Eve” and season 8’s “A Little Christmas Queer” as the second choice episode for the day. “All About Christmas Eve” is strong for Will (Eric McCormack), Jack, and Karen (Megan Mullally)’s impromptu caroling for hotel employees, but “A Little Christmas Queer” has the laugh out-loud moments of little Jordy (Reed Alexander)’s cookie chugging when he learns his holiday pageant may not actually happen as planned.

Watching Karen go up against Will’s mom (guest star Blythe Danner) to figure out what’s in her signature drink and Will’s niece in regards to jewelry is pretty priceless, too. So on second though, just watch the hotel scenes of “All About Christmas Eve” (the story line with The Nutcracker is almost as boring as that play itself) and then switch on the latter. Just make sure you have a plate of fresh gingerbread cookies so you, too, can eat the feelings being around such a neurotic family may drum up from your own family events.

Friday, November 26, 2010

YOUR Holiday 2010 Wishlist...

Yesterday was a big, important holiday for Americans and blah blah blah. I just can't dig deep enough to get excited about it, though. Today is the real day of celebration, in my book. It is when stores from department to electronic to specialty boutiques slash their prices in the name of holiday gift-giving. Don't know what to get your mother/sister/brother/boyfriend/girlfriend/dog? Or still weighing what you want to ask Santa to bring you? Allow My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture to make a few suggestions...

"My hat is my stocking, mama. Please fill it with goodies."


"Dexter is Delicious", "Naked Heat"
- Can't get enough of your favorite television shows when the new episodes end? Or just prefer to get your entertainment the "old-fashioned" way? These books, one of which acted as the inspiration for the series and one of which is a companion to the on-air series, offer more from your favorite crime mystery characters. Sure, Dexter Morgan's world within the book is different from the one on Showtime, and Rick Castle and Kate Beckett don't actually pop up within his novel, but the tone is still the same.

Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy Box Set
- Larsson passed away before he could see the mainstream response to his three-novel saga of Lisbeth Sanders, who has been called one of the most unique characters in literary (and pop culture) recent history. Since his words are now being brought to the big screen, you should definitely check out how it all started. And in this edition, there is a bonus fourth book which tells Larsson's own story.

"Full Dark, No Stars"
- The newest in Stephen King's collection of short stories, but quite typical of his style and talent, as even though you could read a story, put the book down for a few days, and return to a new story later, you won't want to. Instead you will want to read the whole book from cover to cover to be sucked into the various worlds within the pages one after the other. He paints such vivid portraits of people and unsettling situations you will be awed once again but you will undoubtedly be inspired to write, too.

"My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture"
- Of course I think my book makes the perfect stocking stuffer for any TV fan and/or chick lit/dating memoir fan. It's a humorous and heartwarming tale of coming-of-age for a girl who was lost in the boob tube from an early age and therefore slightly skewed by the images I saw there. But it's a bit of a conflict of interest for me to talk up my own project, no? So check out what some others have to say and pick up a copy...or a dozen.


Community, Dexter season 4, Supernatural, The Good Wife, Life Unexpected
(for the TV marathoner)
- Okay, really, I don't know why you don't already have these DVD box sets. They've been on sale since the fall (well, with the exception of the last one), right before the new seasons of the shows started. But if you were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of shows that came out in such a short time span, use this shortened list to know the ones you absolutely can't miss. Here is a little something for everyone: smart, irreverent comedy; smart, stylistic drama; smart, mythological genre; and smart and sentimental families.

Lost: The Complete Collection, Golden Girls: The 25th Anniversary Edition
(for the true TV marathoner)
- These box sets contain days upon days of entertainment from every episode of their long-running, popular series, to lots of deleted scenes, commentaries, and special features. And what makes it even more special is the packaging! Sure, they may not fit into a traditional DVD holder but the unique boxes (for Lost, in the shape of the hatch and for Golden Girls in a wicker purse just like Sophia's) make for quite the collector's items.

Back to the Future 25th Anniversary Trilogy, The Goonies 25th Anniversary Edition
(for the film buffs)
- If you're anything like me, you already own these classic films from our childhood. But now that they have both hit their silver anniversaries, their respective studios went all out in releasing new versions to commemorate the momentous occasion. In both a Blu-Ray and regular DVD Collector's Edition version, the movie comes jam-packed with extras. Take a trip down memory lane this holiday season!

Toy Story trilogy
(for the family/big kid/anyone with a heart)
- It took a decade for the third chapter in the Andy's toys saga, but finally the gang's all here. And Walt Disney Video has taken it to the next level with this ten-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo box set. All three films, remastered and updated to fit today's technological specs, along with disc after disc of special features for each film. And the best part? The box itself looks like a toy wagon with which Woody and Buzz and all of their pals would have a blast!


"Man on the Moon Vol. II..." (Kid Cudi), "Pink Friday" (Nicki Minaj)
(for hip-hop fans)
- Taking the game one step farther, both artists are progressive and inspired and ones on whom to keep your eyes.

"Merry Christmas II You" (Mariah Carey)
(for holiday music fans)
- A few classics mixed with a few new gems; perfect to get you in the mood for mistletoe, snow, and hot cocoa!

"Glee: The Music, Volume 4"
(for soundtrack/pop fans)
- Includes the amazing rendition of "Teenage Dream" by guest star Darren Criss, as well as a handful of songs that span genres, including the hip-hop modern classic "Empire State of Mind," Britney Spears/Madonna's intoxicating "Me Against the Music", and Chris Colfer's heartbreaking "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

"Warriors of Rock" Guitar Hero Bundle
(for classic rock and video game lovers
- KISS frontman Gene Simmons has teamed up with the esteemed Guitar Hero to create their newest edition of their modern classic game featuring classic rock tracks. The software comes with ninety new songs, and the guitar itself is a sleeker, slimmer, shinier design.


"Michael Jackson: The Experience"
(for those wanting to keep the pop icon's legend alive)
- The Wii was originally designed to be an active, interactive video game console so that kids (and some adults) would get up off their butts and exercise while playing racing, sports, or war games. But with many of those games, the savvier players have figured out how to "cheat"-- how to still get a high score but without having to move around too much. Not with dance games, though! And previous dance games mix and match genres and original songs they licensed rights to with karaoke covers. The dance numbers, therefore, weren't authentic or even all that inspired. But now you-- and your kids-- can learn the actual moves that made Michael Jackson famous. While some may have studied his old videos off MTV or a crackling VHS, this provides crystal clear motion, as well as a step by step breakdown so even the most uncoordinated (i.e. me) can master them. Eventually.

Angry Birds Plush Toys
(for the tech geek but also the big kid...or the dog, if the case may be)
- Buying someone a 99 cent iPhone App is hardly even a stocking stuffer these days, but these soft, cuddly, but still "angry" 8" stuffed animals are great to show off the newest craze on one's desk, dorm bed, or for a rousing game of fetch or dodgeball with your dog. Yes, dodgeball. These are softer than Nerf so they won't hurt your pup, and he will have a blast finally be allowed to play the game with you rather than staring at you staring at your phone for hours on end each evening. Or maybe that's just in my household. Anyway, you pick your favorite character or buy a set of all of them. They're only available for pre-order right now, but you may want to scoop them up before they sell out!

Sony USB Voice Recorder
(for all my journalist friends)
- I hate transcribing. It is the bain of my existence as a journalist. I love doing interviews, and I love writing them up, but I hate having to listen to my voice over and over again while turning our audio recording into a text file. But now I don't have to. This recorder stores files in mp3 format and plugs into a computer's USB port, so I never have to transcribe again. I can just listen to the file once while copying quotes I know I want to use and save the file on my hard drive as a back-up!

iPhone Covers: Community, Dexter, Completely Customize Your Own
(for all my techie, but perhaps clumsy, friends)
- After dropping my iPhone on its edge and having the screen shatter and splinter, maybe a nice silicone buffer would have been a smart idea. And nowadays your phone case doesn't have to be black leather and boring: you can outfit your phone the way you outfit yourself. So tell your friends and co-workers a little more about who you are and what you like with a custom cover.

30 Days of Christmas: TV Edition!...

This time last year My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture underwent what many thought was an impossible feat. Always in the Christmas spirit-- even, or especially, in July-- I decided to watch one Christmas movie every day for the month leading up to and including Christmas Day. At first I thought it would be hard to find so many. Then I realized it was actually hard to narrow the list down, even doing Double Feature Fridays. And putting them into themed categories didn’t help so much either.

This year, though, I am sticking closer to my roots. For this year’s 30 Days of Christmas experiment, I will be setting out to watch an episode (or two) of holiday-themed television each day. And if you think this will be easier, take into consideration how many years some of these series have been on, each year doing a different holiday episode. It’s going to prove to be a Sophie’s Choice of sorts to select one over another! But so I set out to try…

(and all of these are ones you can—and should!—watch daily, too. You can find them all on DVD.)

Every year on Thanksgiving, My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture subjects my dinner guests to a marathon of all of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes. So it is only right that today, the day after we start in on the Friends Christmas episodes. Today’s viewing pleasure?

Season 7’s “The One With All The Candy” and “The One With The Holiday Armadillo.”

“The One With All The Candy” features Monica (Courteney Cox Arquette) on a mission to get to know her neighbors by baking little chocolate treats and leaving them in a basket at her door. Of course her plan backfires when no one actually learns her name, but it allows us to see Chandler (Matthew Perry)’s crazy bed head, and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) learns the phrase “mob mentality.” So all in all, it's a great piece of television history.

“The One With The Holiday Armadillo” is more the quintessential non-denominational holiday episode. In it Ross (David Schwimmer) has the best of intentions of teaching his son about Hanukkah but the kid just wants a visit from Santa. With no real holiday options left at the costume store, he comes up with a new alternative in a weird, scaly desert creature. Things get even wackier when Santa Claus and Superman show up.

And as a bonus? Season 6’s “The One With The Routine.” To be fair, this is a New Year’s episode, but it is worthy of screening over and over until the first of the year anyway for the Dick Clark mockery and spazzy dancing Monica. I’ve memorized the moves, have you??

Embedding Disabled. Click here for the video.

Weekly Examiner Round-Up...

Click on the titles to be taken to the accompanying Examiner articles.

Fox announces its crazy mid-season schedule

Get "blitzed" with Ted Mosby and Co this Thanksgiving

Mike & Molly try to blend their families for their first holiday as a couple

Only two to go before the mid-season finale of The Event; will we finally learn what the hell it's all about??

The craziest cross-over ever: Real Housewives meets Ghost Hunters

See if Josh Cooke's Better With You tag made it onto the end of the show

Cougar Town attempts to turn Thanksgiving into the next Valentine's Day

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Favorite Things '10 (What I'm Thankful For This Year)...

This year went by so fast. I feel like one of those old women cliches, but I'm going to say it anyway: I don't know where the time went!

This year definitely had its ups and downs, like any others, but it brought some new experiences and new elements all of which definitely worked towards making 2010 buttloads better (for lack of a more professional term) than 2009. Plus it certainly helps that Oprah's show is coming to an end so I can be the reigning "Favorite Things" list queen.

The way Darlene Hunt chose to have her protagonist react to her cancer diagnosis on The Big C. They say grief comes in multiple stages, and subtly and silently, we saw Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) go through each one this first season of the new dark comedy. Oddly, though, she didn't end up accepting; she ended up wanting to fight. But throughout the season, when some fans and former patients criticized her approach, I nodded along and smiled through my tears. Not telling people-- not wanting to make it about her and her illness but actually getting to live her live with no consequences and no regrets for once, well, that's the dream, isn't it? This show is therapeutic in so many ways. It makes you laugh, and yes, it makes you cry. If you've ever been affected by cancer-- or by any potentially fatal illness, really-- it gives you something to think about and something for which to hope.

Showtime and FX screeners. In my not-so-humble opinion, they have the best and most consistent programming across networks right now. One is also a premium channel which I don't normally get, while the other is just a channel so far away from the others I normally watch I often forget I have it at all. But thanks to the very lovely publicity teams who understand a writer's limitations (both of financial and time-constraint nature), they are the only networks to send out full seasons of their series to critics for review. Sure, sometimes episodes arrive after they've already aired, but when they're giving you so much quality programming for free, you have absolutely no reason to complain. About anything. Even the fact that *I* want to be Dexter Morgan's new partner in crime!

@FoodTruckLA on Twitter. Instead of having to follow a million and one local food trucks, I can just follow these guys, who reTweet all of the alerts from the most popular ones, including a few of my personal favorites: @getyourlardon @ButtermilkTruck and @grlldcheesetruk. I don't like to follow too many people, and in truth, even if I was willing to add dozens of individual trucks to my feed, I probably wouldn't see their updates until they'd already moved on to the next location. But following one, and setting up push alerts for one, isn't so bad. And because of it, I've found out those few rare occasions a truck is in the valley, and I've stopped by.

Cake Pops. On a similar note, I first found out about these last year, but I found them perfected through one of the aforementioned food trucks (@SweetEsBakeShop). Even more than cupcakes (if you can imagine THAT!), I love these little one-bite mouthfuls of fresh, moist cake dipped in a chocolate (sometimes candy, sometimes frosting) shell. The perfect snack, especially because they're so small and light you can eat a dozen and not even feel the slightest bit sick. Or maybe that's just iron stomached me.

Life Unexpected. The show spoke to me from the very first draft of the pilot script that I read. Its characters were all so flawed but in beautiful, very real ways. It made me laugh, made me cry, made me feel. And that is what the best television is all about. As the series went on, though, I got to know a good number of the people involved in creating it, and they are all such sweet, down-to-Earth, talented individuals it makes the viewing experience that much better because you genuinely want to see them succeed. They have a great passion for their project, but they also have great senses of humor, and those are rare things, let alone combination, in this industry!

Examiner merchant incentives. When I first joined the Examiner team, I thought it was unnecessary for them to boast that being a part of the community would mean "extras", like special coupons to retailers of my choosing. I signed up for notifications of only three, assuming I'd never use them, and wishing they instead put the energy toward paying us more than a penny per page view. But lately I have been finding them very helpful, especially considering it is time to buy holiday presents and holiday ornaments. It's not any less thoughtful if it was purchased via discount!

The TCAs. Or more specifically, the network publicists who allowed me to go this year. They were everything I dreamed of and more! But seriously, folks, day after day of sitting in a room with other writers, being plied with free food (and on occasion, free stuff) listening to creative talents from all over television discuss their projects was inspiring, in addition to being lucrative for my writing career.

Invisalign. I don't know how well this actually works or if it doesn't at all, but as someone who spent four years with braces, headgear, and a retainer, I am certainly excited about the less invasive, less intrusive, less visible option. Because as promised by my rude orthodontist all those years ago, my teeth have started shifting. In what I consider a very noticeable fashion. So I may have to invest in this in 2011.

Madison Chandler. It doesn't matter if I someday win the lottery, have a book on the Best Seller list, sell a television show...he will always be my #1 favorite thing!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spend Thanksgiving With Some Favorite TV Families...

Thanksgiving is all about comfort, and My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture is never more comfortable than when sitting in front of a television.

I never had a big or particularly close family, so sitting around the table for Thanksgiving didn't look that much different from a regular dinner except for the fact that I was allowed to only eat carbs but for one night. So in college I started "Friendsgiving", a tradition in which anyone who couldn't afford to fly home for the weekend would come to my apartment, bring a side dish, and have a non-traditional meal around my coffee table while watching all of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes and a special screening of Home Alone and another holiday movie to be announced later.

As the years have gone on and college friends have moved out of state or drifted apart in other ways, my Thanksgiving table looks a little bit different every year. As the years have gone on, even the faces with whom I choose to celebrate the holiday from my TV screen have changed slightly. Sure, I still start the day with almost ten seasons' worth of Friends celebrations from three kinds of potatoes and Underdog getting away to the one in the box and the one with the hot guest star (Brad Pitt). But I will be rounding it out with the following:

How I Met Your Mother - "Slapsgiving". While the first season of the show introduced us to a group of college friends (and Barney) who, years after graduating, had already gone their own separate ways for this holiday, this 2007 holiday piece brought them all back together again. Ted, Marshall, Lily, Barney, Robin (and Robin's older man-friend) carved turkey, ate cranberry sauce, and oh yeah, counted down to the next big slap. And if that wasn't enough, they ended up crowded around the piano, singing a song about the festive occasion!

Bewitched - "Samantha's Thanksgiving to Remember". Admittedly this one aired way before my time, but when I first saw it in rerun as a little girl, I was thrilled by the dual time travel nature of it. Then once I realized it was actually shot in the sixties, I was still excited by the fact that the characters within the show got to head back to the very first Thanksgiving with the pilgrims. This was before I realized just how awful those pilgrims were; I was still intrigued by the apparently Amish costumes. And the fact that once again it was Darren being accused of being a witch. Nothing like some high stakes for the family!

Gilmore Girls
- "A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving". This is the event the Gilmores have been training for all year: a day for them to eat! (and eat and eat! and eat and eat and eat!) And do that they must, when they are faced with three Thanksgivings in one day, including my personal favorite: a deep-fried meal with Sookie and Jackson. In fact, that is when I first learned of the tradition of deep-frying a turkey, and I'll admit it made me think twice about not wanting to cook a bird for my own meal. But what I really loved about this episode is that at the end, the couples who I always thought were perfect for each other got to share a holiday dinner together.

Mad About You
- "Giblets for Murray". When I was a kid I loved this show more than most would enjoy a sitcom for and about an adult couple. But I fell in love with the Buchman family dog, Murray, and this episode had him front and center, feasting on the Thanksgiving turkey from atop the kitchen island. I don't remember much about the rest of the episode, except for the fact that Paul and Jamie had to keep running out to the deli downstairs to pick up more individual items to appease random members of their family during the first holiday dinner they prepared for everyone. But to this day, I remember that image of Murray crystal clearly. And I smile every time I think of it.

Life Unexpected
- "Thanks Ungiven". Okay, technically this episode hasn't even aired yet, but how could you not want to sit around a table with the familial dysfunction (and ridiculous charm) of the Cassidys and Baziles? There are relationship secrets to come out, a visit from quite a few (though varying levels of) unwelcome guests, a number of kinds of potatoes, and Macy's parade trivia. Let's just hope they make it to the pie without reaching across the table and strangling each other with lies!

Woof Wednesday #81...

Madison is my little proofreader these days...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hottie Awards: Better With Age...

Sometimes My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture hates men. They just seem to age so much better than us women! At least the majority of the famous ones do. So now that there is a chill in the air, I have decided to heat things up with one new, last minute category for the 2010 Hottie Awards!

Admittedly this kind of all started because of Facebook. Stupid, detrimental, time-wasting Facebook. See, through that website, I have taken a second look at some of the guys I knew when I was younger. Some were guys I dated in high school; some were just friends. Most have grown into pretty good looking dudes, and I started to wonder why I wrote them off when I, too, was just a lanky, dorky teenager. Maybe I couldn't see their potential; maybe I just didn't want to wait around for them to grow into themselves (I know, I know; I'm such a bitch!). In either respect, it got me thinking about celebrities with whom I may have done the same thing. And what has come out of it?

The Top Ten 'Better With Age' Hotties!

10. Bug Hall. Okay, admittedly he probably shouldn't be on a list like this until we see what he looks like in another twenty or thirty years. But considering I knew him as a somewhat lanky pre-adolescent with freckles, a chin-ass, and crooked teeth, he has certainly grown up nicely. Playing a bad-ass with a gun on the coolest drama of the season probably doesn't hurt his image either!
9. Kerr Smith. He's serious and smoldering. I admit I don't know much about him in his younger years-- only that everyone on Dawson's Creek had stupid hair so I never paid him much attention. Also he just looked really skinny back then. But now? Go-od!
8. Brian Austin Green. I admit, even though he was the "dork" on Beverly Hills, 90210, he was always the one I found the cutest. And getting tatted up helped. Hell, I am even willing to look past the white trash wifebeaters and street walker trash he married. Aw, too far? Whatever, I still think he-- and his son-- deserve better!
7. Ashton Kutcher. I never found him attractive. I don't know if it was the gawkiness, the obnoxiousness, or the plaid/polyester wardrobe he donned in the sitcom that made him famous. I couldn't imagine what Demi Moore saw in him. Maybe it was part her doing, or at least her influence, but he stopped pranking people (at least on camera and in front of the nation); he lost the ridiculous trucker hat, and he began to pull a Clooney in sleek, grey suits. And then, albeit it slowly, I began to see it, too.

6. Eminem. A scrawny teenager, even by his own estimation, he had a high, somewhat nasal voice and a quick temper. But his wit was quicker, even back then, and when he channeled it into characters and narrative lyrics, he was his best. With age has come maturation, wisdom, and finely toned muscle on top of what used to be just bony arms. And thankfully, he has dumped the peroxide bottle down the drain instead of on top of his own head.

5. Chris O'Donnell. Maybe it's a testament to how one wears his hair, but I never really found this guy particularly attractive when he was trying his hand at little romantic comedies fifteen or so years ago. But these days, with his shaved head, and seeming to have put on a bit of muscly bulk, I am ta
king a second look! He has lost his boyish good looks and grown into a hot man.
4. Will Smith. He started out as a goofy guy with big ears and a mustache that kind of resembled fruit mold on his upper lip. He had a somewhat comical rap style and a sitcom demeanor, but he moved on into a sleek businessman, choosing scripts smartly and raising his kids to the best of his ability. And yes, he shaved that ridiculous fruit mold and more than grew into his ears.
3. Matt LeBlanc. Mark down this day, as it is surely one for the record books: I am now a fan of the salt-and-pepper. He was always cute on Friends, but for that one season when he was looking a little wide (not fat, just wide), but now that he has matured, he is much more distinguished. That old saying is true! Even when he's just in jeans and a comfy cashmere sweater... And it helps that his new role is a bit more serious, too, because taking a peek at the sweet and somewhat vulnerable Matty is a color he wears well, too.
2. Ben Affleck. He went through phases: from an eager kid to a slightly paunchy frat bro to a too-flashy typical Hollywood d-bag to an attempted action hero to a serious man, director, and dad. And of all of the looks, that is the one that works best, whether he is donning oversized headphones, a beard, and a Red Sox cap while watching his actors rehearse, or toting around one or both of his girls. It's nice to see a guy who partied too hard and made some mistakes could bounce back so smoothly.
1. Jensen Ackles. Oh come on, this should have been a given for you by now! He was cute as a "boy" with his big lips and floppy hair, but he is so much hotter now that he has crossed the thirty milestone, with no slowing down as the years go on. He has proven he can rock anything you put him in, whether it's a soccer jersey, leather, or a t-shirt with a teddy bear on it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Is It Summer 2011 Yet?...

My mother never let me see New Kids on the Block in concert in their heyday; I was only six or so during their big tour. But she did let me get tickets to the Backstreet Boys (and then *NSync, too) a few years later, and something always felt like it was missing. Well, missing no more! Come July 2011 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, a childhood dream will come true:

My own personal "get psyched" mix!

'Tangled': The Disney Movie I Needed As A Kid...

It shouldn't be a secret that when I was a kid, I was enamored with the Disney Princesses. Maybe more accurately, it was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I dressed as her one year for Halloween; I was probably five or six at the time, and it was a harsh fall in New York City in which my mother was worried about me wearing such a skimpy outfit walking around the streets at night, so she made me don a flesh-colored turtleneck underneath the shell bra. I put up with it.

I also put up with the fact that my birthday cake that year was supposed to be Ariel but the people at Carvel only heard "mermaid" and ended up sending a sexy fish-lady with no shell bra. Thankfully my mother noticed that before the other parents at the party did, and she managed to smear some of the green, scaly frosting on her chest to give the illusion of a bathing suit top.

Meanwhile my parents put up with my obsession to learn every word and every note from both the movie and the soundtrack, rewinding the cassette twenty times a day to nail each and every part of "A Part of Your World", fighting paper-thin walls and a tone-deaf kid. They put up with my incessant whining about how I wanted the old blue carpet of my earliest days back in my room to simulate water. And while they were at it, I wanted my walls painted blue, too, so it was like I was living in the ocean. Instead, they placated me with a movie poster, which hung on the wall across from my bed so each bedtime I could say good night to my first true love, Prince Eric.

My mother loved the magic of Disney as much as I did, though for very different reasons. She would marvel over the spectacle and talent behind the animation; she loved the creativity behind talking animals and the re-telling of Grimm's (and sometimes grim) fairy tales. She wasn't someone who read too deeply into these movies (or any, really); she preferred to just let them fulfill the entertainment angle. So it wasn't her seeding that I began to resent the image Disney set up when I was in my teenage years and realized that in each and every tale (even the ones that finally featured princesses of other ethnicities) had the princess being too naive or gullible or otherwise falling into a ridiculous spot of trouble and then relying on a prince to save her.

Well, not anymore.

Tangled opens this week, and though it features many of the traditional staples of a Disney animated film (such as the musical element, the Princess at the center of the story, the animal sidekicks, and both the big bad of an "evil" old lady/maternal figure as well as smaller time thugs who turn out to just be a bit misunderstood), it steps it up quite a few notches by allowing the Princess to be the one to have the adventure in order to learn her lessons, and then (gasp!) actually get to save the guy for a change.

Tangled is a re-telling of the classic story of Rapunzel, the girl with the golden locks, who has been locked away in a tower by an evil old woman who wants the healing power of her hair (transferred from a very special flower) all for herself. For those who don't know that background, the movie opens with it in storybook form, before diving into its own plot. Because in Tangled Rapunzel is on the eve of her eighteenth birthday and has never left the tower for even a day. She trusts her mother-- well, the evil old woman who she presumes to be her mother-- regarding the reasons as to why she never should. But she has a dream, and with the help from a petty thief (Flynn Rider) who finds her tower and means to hide away in it, she plans to make that dream a reality.

Though Rapunzel has been taught to fear the outside world, when she finds Flynn in her space, she doesn't simply slink into the shadows. Nor does she allow his smoldering charm to win her over. No, she's stronger-- and smarter-- than that based purely on instinct and something within her gut. She is a modern-day Princess: not afraid to take matters into her own hands and capable of using anything at her disposal to protect herself (her hair, and quite comically, a frying pan). She is the role model I needed but was not available for me at the time. Thankfully little girls today (and okay, yes, some of us adults who grew up with skewed images and beliefs) can fare better.

It is Rapunzel's idea to leave the tower, and she enlists the help of-- or forces, in a way-- Flynn to escort her. She wants to see the dancing lights in the sky, which she thinks are just big stars, and which only occur once a year, coincidentally on her birthday. Really they are paper lanterns that the King and Queen release, hoping their long-lost daughter will see them and return home. But it is a long and somewhat treacherous trek for Rapunzel and Flynn, especially since he has palace guards, his cohorts in crime, and one magnificent steed on his heels for stealing the royal crown. So while Flynn bumbles and trips his way around, Rapunzel casts her fears aside and storms ahead. And when times get really tough, she uses her magic hair to get them out of quite a jam.

The witty banter and the bad guys with ultimately good hearts (and dreams of their own) just seem like icing on this little cupcake of a Disney movie!

Tangled is not a perfect movie by any means. For those of us old enough to remember (and have idolized) earlier Disney Princesses, a few moments within this one feel directly ripped from a mid-nineties favorite (*cough, Beauty & the Beast). And the mere fact that it has taken so many years for a film of its kind to introduce the idea that girls can have adventures and be the brave ones, too, feels a bit dated; we should be so many more strides ahead by now that I shouldn't have to point it out, let alone be so excited by the fact that it's there.
But the movie does have all of the right elements to make it a modern classic nonetheless. It is heart-warming and endearing with a spattering of somewhat snarky humor to keep it light and pockets of action to hold the attention span of today's "pulled from all angles" youth.

It probably wouldn't be Disney if Rapunzel didn't eventually join the ranks of the "Happily Ever After" but there is even a nod to a sign of the times today with that. Key word being "eventually".

Therefore, what is especially intriguing is how it is no longer "love at first sight" between the characters. We turned that corner a few years ago when Enchanted openly mocked the notion, and the studio knows we can never go back. Whereas little girls of my generation most likely grew up with their parents still married and living under the same roof and therefore looking for a relationship that could be equated on screen, it's a different world today. It's more accepting, more free, and with such opposites as Rapunzel and Flynn, it is only natural that they would butt heads and find the other a nuisance at first. The fact that they have to begin to grapple with very real feelings that jeopardize the dreams they had for themselves raise the stakes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Best Thing To Happen To 'SNL' In A Long Time...

Ignore the fact that they seem to have forgotten about Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song" and this is a masterpiece:

Jay Pharoah, ladies and gentlemen!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

'Supernatural' Saturdays: "Clap Your Hands If You Believe" Tweetathon Round-Up...

- I will admit it: I never really watched #TheXFiles. But even I can see the brilliance in #Supernatural's temp titles. #FightTheFairies

- Seeing a couple out in a deserted woodsy area making out with creepy noises around them makes me think of S1's #Hookman. #FighttheFairies

- I mistakenly told someone that I heard #TheXFiles theme music in this promo scene. Turns out it was #OuterLimits. Told you I didn't know it!

- If Mitch Pileggi isn't in this episodes it is an extremely missed opportunity. #FightTheFairies

- #NoSoulSam snarking off at Fairy Lady kind of sounds like Castiel but without the fun. #FightTheFairies

- Is it just me or are Dean and Sam talking really fast in this opening scene? Maybe Ben Edlund understands the need to push thru exposition.

- That guest star just said "aboot". Way to hide your Canadian location, #Supernatural. #FightTheFairies

- You know what "fine" really stands for, right, Sam? #FightTheFairies

- If Dean really does turn into a Jiminy Cricket that could fit on one's shoulder...I call dibs!! #FightTheFairies

- Okay @nottheribbons, #NoSoulSam in the bar is totally endearing. You're right. #FightTheFairies It pains me a bit to say that.

- "How to get them"? Really, Sam? It's not like you can just walk into Target and pick them off a shelf. #FightTheFairies

- At least he isn't paying for it, right, Dean? #FightTheFairies

- Next on a very special Geraldo: Dean Winchester Gets An Anal Probe. #FightTheFairies!

- Why is Dean so surprised aliens exist? He went to hell and back. Nothing should surprise him in season six. #FightTheFairies

- Dean knows the #HowYouDoin! What if Dean went to a bar with Joey Tribbiani? Who do you think would pick up more women? #FightTheFairies

- Ooh creepy dude in the window!!! #FightTheFairies

- No, just hit him, Dean. It will make you feel better. It will make us ALL feel better. #FightTheFairies

- Wrong again, Sam; not everyone on the planet believes in UFOs. Right here. I'm someone who doesnt. But I do believe in Tink #FightTheFairies

- Moments like Dean getting hit in the face by a fairy are what make DVRs seem necessary. What did he call that sucker? #FightTheFairies

- Reason #127 why microwaves are the best invention ever. #FightTheFairies

- #NoSoulSam in this episode is like a gigantor Castiel. Discuss. #FightTheFairies

- Where is this batty lady getting her lore? This is a little bit of everything: silver, iron, salt, and uh, cream?... #FightTheFairies

- Aw, Dean and Sam are adorable playing tea party! #FightTheFairies

- I'm glad Dean just called out the Keeblers. Because I literally exclaimed that when I saw the workshop. Too bad there were no cookies tho...

- Aw, old man, "It wasn't like that?" It never is. But if #NoSoulSam knows you should know better then you're in serious trouble.

- Oh no, leprechauns, too!? Ben Edlund, you are KILLING me! #FightTheFairies

- The fake-out with the crop circles kind of just seems mean right about now. #FightTheFairies

- Is this just some overgrown fairy that's semi-stalking Dean? #FightTheFairies

- Oh Dean, you can't call a grown man a fairy!

- Dean is too pretty for jail. Even if that's just a holding cell usually reserved for drunks. #FightTheFairies

- I realize now that people who see my hashtag may think I'm advocating hate crimes and using a slur. Apologies. I am not, btw.

- Huh. Now that they point it out, this guy kind of DOES look like a leprechaun. Especially standing next to Sasquatch. #FightTheFairies

- Why can all of these creatures/beings see right thru Sam but Dean couldn't for so long? Emotion clouds judgment! Maybe #NoSoulSam IS better

- Oh here we go, just another being trying to cut a deal. #NoSoulSam can't feel, but can he still think? #FightTheFairies

- Salt. It has SO many household uses these days! #FightTheFairies

- The scene sharing beers on the Impala feels like as close to a Thanksgiving as these boys will ever get. Even has the deep family chat...

- Still, too bad there's no new #Supernatural next week. I'd love to see what #NoSoulSam would give thanks for...

Closing Remarks: Recently I sat down to begin watching Supernatural again from the beginning with a friend who never watched the show before. It has been a slow process, trying to coordinate time in both of our schedules to sit down for three or four hours at a time and watch a chunk of episodes, so we're still on season one. And one of the things to which my attention was greatly drawn in doing so was just how serious the episodes of the early years were. They were still trying to set their tone and reel their audience in, and they knew they were dealing with heavy material: life, death, demons. Season six thus far has been really great about getting us back into that mindset; it truly has gone back to the basics/the beginning in that way. However, since we are six seasons in now and have experienced lighter fare like "Changing Channels" and "The Real Ghostbusters", I for one can't help but wish for a break with one of those. And this week, Sera Gamble and Ben Edlund heard my wish and granted it...much like the fairies they mock are supposed to.

Oh, and another thing I want to briefly point out: my friend who is watching the show for the first time now is a big
X-Files fan. So big that every time the new lore of the new episode we turn on is apparent, she finds an episode of that former show to which to compare it. Due to Kim Manners and a lot of the X-Files-turned-Supernatural crew, the similarities started waaay before tonight's crop circle/opening title sequences tribute.

Anyway, one of the things my friend and I both agree on is that we love snarky Dean (Jensen Ackles). In the earlier seasons that was all we had to lighten the mood most of the time, but since then we have been given oh, so much more. Including Castiel (Misha Collins), who has become such a fan favorite that it seems unfortunately he is getting pushed aside because he was more endeared to the fans that the actual star of the show, Jared Padalecki. So in an attempt to add some humor to a really dark situation with Sam having no soul, he has turned into a Castiel clone. A gigantor Castiel clone with floppier hair. His inability to feel and therefore care about human emotion perfectly mimicked Castiel's inability to feel or read human emotion. If that was intentional or not will remain to be seen in future episodes, I guess. I, for one, certainly hope they do find a way to retrieve Sam's soul, though, because without it, it appears there isn't much of a need for Collins.

And I love me some Misha Collins!

Also, no Grandpa Samuel (Mitch Pileggi) in an episode with nods to The X-Files??? That just feels like a missed opportunity any way you slice it!

Other than that, though, I had a ton of fun watching this episode. I really do find some of the "lighter" ones to be the best of the series. "Hollywood Babylon", in all of its meta-goodness, is still an all-time favorite of mine. "Yellow Fever" and "Bad Day at Black Rock" follow closely behind, and wouldn't you know it? Once I got past all the wack-a-doo nature of fairies loving cream, the Keebler Elves looking workshop ones in the watch store, the leprechaun!, and the ridiculous need to count grains of salt...I felt like I needed to add this to the list!

Edlund is a genius. A somewhat twisted, but still inspiring, genius!

There isn't another new episode of Supernatural until December 3rd, so next week I won't have to worry about getting my energy up enough after a day of crazy bargain shopping in order to make coherent thoughts. And when the show returns it does so with Demon Meg Masters #2 (Rachel Miner). Even the return of Collins can't make that fully okay in my book. Strap in now, folks, this season is proving to be quite the bumpy ride!