Sunday, June 27, 2004

TV: Jeopardy

Ken Jennings has won 18 straight games and over $600K. An impressive run, but it’s taking the fun out of the show. He’s usually so far ahead of his competitors that the Double Jeopardy round turns into a conversation between him and Alex Trebek. It’s like watching a version of THE ODD COUPLE with two Felixes.

TV: Oprah After The Show

This Oxygen show consists of footage of Oprah and her guests interacting after the taping has ended. It offers the occasional unguarded glimpse of celebrities, as on a recent episode featuring the cast of SHREK 2 before they jetted off to Cannes. Mike Myers said goodbye to his hostess, who responded:

“Are you going to France, too? Have some croissants in the morning for me! Bonjour!”

This exchange depressed me no end. These people are world-famous, for Christ’s sake. Where’s the juicy stuff? "This is the location of the Louis Vuitton testing facility, where the latest items will be made available to you gratis. Here’s the password to get you into the secret wing of the Louvre. And this is the number of a retired foreign ministry officer now living on the Rue McClanahan who will be happy to serve as bag man should you need to squelch any unsavory rumors about your personal life." That’s what I want to hear. And instead, Oprah spouts the same inane crap you’d expect from Brenda in Purchasing?

I know that celebrities share my two-step approach to donning slacks, and that they’re just people. But I don’t want them to prove it to me.

Movie: Extreme Measures (1996)

Considering how many medical thrillers turn up on best-seller lists, you’d think there would be more movies of that type. This underrated film written by Tony Gilroy is one of the only recent examples. Two memorable bits: a sequence involving a fly in a paralytic ward worthy of Hitchcock, and Hugh Grant’s plummy pronunciation of the phrase ‘metabolic meltdown.’

Movie: Rancho Notorious (1952)

If you have to make a movie about Marlene Dietrich, why cast Gwyneth Paltrow when Uma Thurman looks just like her?

Stage: Kiki & Herb

The New Yorker ran a rapturous profile of this duo a few years back, they just wrapped up a successful stint in London, and a Carnegie Hall debut is on tap for the fall. When they arrived in our neck of the woods for a brief run, Rosemarie and I made it a point to go on opening night. And left transformed.

Kiki Derain (actually the Obie-award winning Justin Bond) is a 66-year-old dipsomaniacal lounge singer. Herb (the great Kenny Mellman) is her blithering man-child accompanist. They met years ago in a Pennsylvania mental institution and the world hasn’t been the same since. The show starts out like a send-up of cabaret acts. Kiki, unable to edit herself even when she’s sober, walks us through her unbelievable life story. She punctuates her tales of Billie Holliday and Princess Grace with songs far from the usual repertoire. (PJ Harvey, anyone?) Gradually, things take a darker turn, as the failures and tragedies that Kiki glosses over erupt in the songs themselves. What was breathtakingly funny becomes moving and at times terrifying. It is never less than transfixing.

The performances are at a virtuoso level. Kiki’s rendition of ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’ turns the song into an auditory psychedelic roller-coaster. And these two know how to unleash the awesome power of the medley. ‘The Rainbow Connection’ from THE MUPPET MOVIE segues into the Hitler Youth anthem from CABARET; ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ effortlessly morphs into ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ And I haven’t even mentioned the wonders of their spoken word hit, ‘Whitey’s on the Moon.’

I have no idea what a revival meeting feels like; I was raised Catholic, and we gave up any sense of showmanship when we mothballed the Latin Mass. But by the time this show ended, I was ready to pledge my soul to Kiki.

Miscellaneous: Link

The Onion provides a roundup of celebrity blogs. No more wondering how Blair from THE FACTS OF LIFE is spending her days. Now you can know for sure.