Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blast from the past

When I was an undergraduate, there were exactly three TV shows that I watched. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Babylon 5, and the Simpsons.

Yes, The Simpsons is that old.

The fact that the Simpsons outlasted not only Star Trek: TNG, but Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the reboot of the entire movie franchise still amazes me. Of course, it is a very different show than those heady days in the early 90's. You just can't repeat the same jokes for 21 years without having to change things up occasionally.

Or so I thought until last Sunday's episode. This was truly a blast from the past, an HD version of the early seasons. It opened with a pitch perfect filmstrip parody of the "city of the future" so beloved in the 50's and 60's. Cut to Mrs. Krabappel pining over the possibility of meeting single firemen. How long has it been since Mrs. K showed her man-hungry side? Ten, eleven years?

And the plot was a hearkening back to the days when The Simpsons tried to keep at least one foot grounded in reality. Here Bart is playing his parents against each, a standard trope at least as old as Leave it to Beaver. The syndicated loop for the Simpson's has been running from 1990-1994 lately, and this episode would have fit right in.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


The 82nd annual Academy Awards are almost upon us! This year I am staying out of the major categories: I'm rooting for best supporting actor and actress.

For Best Supporting Actor, Christophe Waltz is my unmatched favorite. The scene that opens Inglourious Basterds will probably go down as one of the tensest sequences ever captured on celluloid. Waltz's Col. Landa is erudite, multilingual, and pure evil of a kind that rarely get captured in film. His is evil grounded not in deep hate, but arising out of pure Machivallian calculation. Landa owes no loyalty to anyone but himself, and chooses his path of infamy purely because it serves his ends, and because he is good at it. Shudder.

For Best Supporting Actress, I'm rooting for Vera Farmiga. I first saw her in the short lived summer series "Roar". T.V. Fantasy had made a comeback in the 1990's: Hercules, Xena, and the Beastmaster all graced the small screen (for better or for worse). But the networks continued their Sci-Fi and Fantasy slump: every single show they came up was canceled in under a season. Syndication yes, networks no. Farmiga was 24 when the show aired, one year younger than me, and oh yeah, she made an impression. And of course this was also Heath Ledger's first show, but who cares about that? They made 13 episodes, only aired 8 that summer, and it was gone.

Her next series was UC: Undercover, with lead Oded Fehr who was riding high after his turn in "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns". It got canceled in under a year: only 12 episodes this time.

Her next series was Touching Evil. Farmiga always had a certain kind of strange about her, and finally they paired her with someone who matched that strange: Jeffrey Donovan. Those who've seen him in the more successful Burn Notice know what I mean. There's something not quite right about that guy. Anyway, the run this time: 12 epsiodes.

Three series I enjoyed (although I've never gone back to see if Roar was as fun as I remembered,) and three series down.

But she kept plugging away. That was the last series she was in, moving full time to movies. Starting in supporting roles, then working her way up to the leads. And finally, the big time: a major role opposite leading heartthrob George Clooney. An Oscar nomination to boot!

Now I don't think she'll win. Mo'Nique has the important movie vote locked. But I think it's just great that someone I never expected to make the big time worked hard, climbed the ladder, and now is getting a shot at the premier award in their craft.

Now as for Waltz: he's running at better than 97% chance to win right now at the bookies. I'd get a speech ready if I was him. Pick a language.