Friday, March 09, 2007
Critical pans, public praise
The only major new movie opening this weekend is "300," and based on advance word and tracking, it's easily expected to top the weekend box office. According to The Hollywood Reporter, industry insiders are predicting it to gross about $50 million in its first three days, still a terrific sum.

And yet "300," like so many other movies that have topped the 2007 box office tallies, has picked up some ugly pans. (In fairness, it has earned a good deal of praise as well -- particularly for its look.)

So does anyone care about reviews? Brian Robbins -- who directed "Norbit" and co-produced "Wild Hogs" -- openly scoffs at them.

"Is the audience that stupid? Is America's taste that bad? I don't think so," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

What do you think? Have the movies been as bad as the critics say? Are they providing the entertainment people seek? Why do you go to the movies?
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
A really infuriating top 200 list
Sometime around 1980, I purchased a book called "Rock Critics' Choice: The 200 Greatest Albums of All Time." The book, compiled by British music writer Paul Gambaccini, surveyed three dozen rock critics and radio personalities of the era and had them pick a personal top 10, which was then assembled into the top 200.

For a 15-year-old Beatles freak expanding his horizons, the book was revelatory. It was from "200 Greatest Albums" I learned about Love's "Forever Changes," the Velvet Underground, "The Harder They Come" soundtrack, the Mothers of Invention and several others.

More important, I found out about Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Ed Ward and the other contentious cornerstones of pop music criticism, which has led me on my merry way down the sunny freeways, darkened alleys and dead ends of pop music.

I don't know if "200 Greatest Albums" was the first attempt at a comprehensive pop music album list, but I do know there have been countless others since. (Rolling Stone seems to do one every five years.) The most recent is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and National Association of Recording Merchandisers' "Definitive 200."

The "Definitive 200" is also one of the worst.

Sure, it hits the usual highlights. "Sgt. Pepper" is No. 1. "Pet Sounds" is in the top 10. "What's Going On" is in there somewhere.

But both as a "definitive" list and as a ranking of the top 200, the Rock Hall's selections are about as dopey as the Grammys' yearly irritation-fest. Santana's "Supernatural" at No. 13? Shania Twain at No. 21? 1976's "Sparkle" as Aretha Franklin's one entry? "Blonde on Blonde," Elvis Costello, the Kinks and the Velvet Underground nowhere to be found?

And, because the list appears to ignore singles artists completely, there's no Phil Spector, virtually no Motown or Stax/Volt and little classic country music. (You Patsy Cline fans can move along.)

If the "Definitive 200" is a marketing gimmick (which, of course, it is), it's a bad one -- everyone either owns these albums already or has decided they never will. (And if my own suggestions are too canonical, I won't squawk if you want to include the Roots, Tahiti 80 or the Detroit Cobras.)

Normally I would have fumed about this for about five minutes and forgotten it. But the "Definitive 200," thanks to the Rock Hall and its many sponsors, is getting a big push -- I've seen at least one wire story and received two list-related press releases since it came out.

So, if you're even considering browsing the "Definitive 200," do yourself a favor: glance, fume and leave. You're being shortchanged. For some real food for thought, check out Christgau's Web site and Marsh's "Rock Lists" books. Scout for old Rolling Stone Record Buyer's Guides. Look at the List of Bests compilations.

But don't bother with the "Definitive 200." And the record industry wonders why it's having such problems.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Sitcoms with (advertising) characters
A colleague, intrigued by the possibility of a sitcom starring the Geico cavemen, hopes that they aren't the only advertising characters who may get a shot at a TV show. He'd like to see a TV series starring the three guys who do the Holiday Inn ads.

Me? I still think something can be done with Terry Tate, Office Linebacker.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Remembering Belushi
John Belushi died 25 years ago today.

Thinking about him brings back more fond memories than I can list. There were the countless characters on "Saturday Night Live" (the Greek diner proprietor, the samurai, the "But nooooooooooooo" commentator on "Weekend Update"); the wild man of "Animal House"; his Joe Cocker from "National Lampoon's Lemmings"; the weird gyrations of "Joliet Jake" Blues on stage.

Belushi is generally thought of as a walking id, but he wasn't always a drunken guy yelling "Toga! Toga!" His performances in the SNL short "Don't Look Back in Anger," as a Mike Royko-like columnist in "Continental Divide" and playing against type as the strait-laced neighbor in the odd "Neighbors" showed a talented guy who could have had an even more interesting career than he was known for.

What are some of your memories of Belushi?
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