Friday, February 26, 2010


Yesterday I finally got around to seeing The Last Station, and this much I know is true: If Helen Mirren hadn't recently -- and undeservedly, in my opinion -- won an Academy Award for impersonating Elizabeth II in The Queen, if it weren't for the unstoppable force of Oscar's nature to occasionally award actors and actresses whose time has come, regardless of the performance in question (I'm talking about you, Sandra Bullock -- and, possibly, you, too, Meryl Streep), and if we lived in a perfect world, Mirren, as Leo Tolstoy's histerical, histrionic and doting (when she's not pointing guns in his direction) wife Sofya, would be the one to beat on Oscar night.

And since we're talking should-bes, James McAvoy, once again un-nominated for his role in a multiply nominated film, should have taken Morgan Freeman's Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role slot. The best-acted Last Station scenes, besides the ones in which Mirren appears, are the ones in which McAvoy's Valentin Bulgakov, presented as a sort of indecisive cipher who would have been utterly extraneous were it not for McAvoy's precise characterization, is almost moved to tears by Tolstoy's words.

Bawling on cue is one thing (actors and actresses in daytime do it all the time), but when Bulgakov eyes water up without tears actually flowing from them, it's acting at its most nuanced and affecting.

My favorite scene, though, is the one that takes place near the end of the movie at the titular location. Sofya has come to see her estranged husband one last time but is cut off by her daughter Sasha (played by McAvoy's real-life wife, Anne-Marie Duff) and Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), the ostensible villain of the story to Mirren's flawed protagonist, though his intentions -- for Tolstoy's immortal words to be legally placed in the public domain after his death -- are not entirely self-serving.

Sofya's reaction is a rare case of blind rage being accompanied by the perfect cutting words. "And you are a stone-hearted bitch," she spits at her daughter. "I lost five children. Why couldn't one of them have been you?"

Even old Leo probably couldn't have said it better himself!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The American Idol judges always talk about how song choice is so important, and they're right. This is what I was thinking during lulls in the entertainment value of the performances from the girls side of the ninth season's Top 24.

Paige Miles I think this season might be kind of special, after all. I thought she was good, not great, but it's nice to see black girls this year reaching beyond the obvious (see Haeley Vaughn below). Free's "All Right Now"? Rock on!

Ashley Rodriguez Leona Lewis's "Happy." Poor thing. If you want to impress Simon, stay away from songs previously sung by his pet project, Leona Lewis. Also, for god's sake, don't forget to sing your ass off!

Janell Wheeler My Orlando, Florida, hometown girl! If you're going to mess with Heart, leave "Alone" alone, and she did. But "What About Love"? Why not something from Heart's golden age, like "Barracuda"? Or maybe not. I don't think her voice could tackle the twists and turns of "Barracuda." There's always "These Dreams." Nancy Wilson sang lead on that one, so at least Janell would have been spared the comparisons to Ann Wilson, whom Kara correctly tagged one of the greatest female rock singers ever.

Lilly Scott I like her on sight, but she always looks slightly bored and underwhelmed. The Beatles "Fixing A Hole"? ¡Que interesante! Thank God, looks are deceiving. I love her! Her voice isn't typical Idol fodder, but then neither are the voices of Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Were they Idol wannabes instead of platinum superstars, they probably wouldn't even make it to Hollywood. I do somewhat agree with Simon's complaint about her lack of star quality. That might have something to do with my first sentence here.

Katelyn Epperly More Beatles. And I like it. Two things: I like girls covering songs made famous by boys. And are we exiting the era of the big ballad singer? Song stylists -- the musical equivalent of character actresses -- are in.

Haeley Vaughn I cringed when Ryan Seacrest said "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," because I hate the song. But I like what Haeley's doing to it, even those strange bum notes at the end of each line. Look at her. This, folks, is star quality at work.

Lacey Brown I love Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" so much that any decent voice would do it justice for me. But I think at 24, Lacey is lacking the weary resignation to really make it soar. Cutesy and Stevie Nicks just don't go together, as Taylor Swift proved on Grammy night. For once, Kara is right on the mark, suggesting Sixpence None The Richer and The Sundays as being more suitable styles for Lacey's voice.

Michelle Delamor Oh, dear! Why is this 22-year-old girl made up to look 40? I feel a clichéd Idol moment coming on. This time looks are not deceiving. Michelle does a serviceable "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys, but haven't we seen and heard it all before?

Didi Benami "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson? What's that? Most people (like me) probably don't know the song or the singer, so there's nothing to compare her to. She's so Brooke White from a season or two ago. She's starting to grow on me as she progresses with the song, but can you imaging her winning?

Siobhan Magnus Another girl singing a guy's song, Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." This song has never been able to keep me awake, and sadly, neither is Siobhan's performance of it.

Crystal Bowersox Oh my God! She just totally dissed American Idol and admitted that she's only doing it for the money! In spite of her immediate unlikeability, I found her version of Alanis Morissette's "Hand In My Pocket," a song I don't like, to be actually kind of likeable. But I thought her harmonica playing was more impressive than her singing.

Katie Stevens Hahaha!!! I knew someone would criticize the 17-year-old for singing an Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse song ("Feeling Good"). I think Simon was right when he described the performance as "pageanty," but I can't believe that Kara just stole Randy Jackson's word ("pitchy"). Speaking of Randy, it's interesting that he would compare Katie to Jordin Sparks, another 17-year-old who blew the judges away three seasons ago with "I (Who Have Nothing)," which is actually two years older than "Feeling Good."


Today I begrudgingly spent the most depressing $500 of my entire life.

I gave my money (or perhaps more accurately, threw it away) to the fine folks at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? so that they could haul away all of the physical baggage that I've spent the last three and a half years hanging onto. Now there's a Public Storage in Brooklyn that will be $137 a month poorer.

But don't cry for them. They had a very good run.

Since I moved to Buenos Aires in September of 2006, I've been paying $137 a month to store a bunch of things I've spent 20 years accumulating. Today it all officially became "junk:" my furniture; framed posters; four wardrobe boxes of clothing; books; knick knacks; outdated electronics (including a virtually fossilized Palm Pilot!); every clip from my journalism career, dating back to high school (these were hardest to part with, but the thought of going through all of those stacks made my knees buckle), videos (speaking of fossilized) and so many things I'd completely forgotten I even had!

Yes, I did walk away with a small but valuable bounty: some cool winter clothes, a few summer items, two designer suits, a pair of shoes, three books and photos from seemingly every vacation, every long weekend, I've taken since 1991 and every party I've thrown since then, too. These things were worth hanging onto. No regrets there.

And truthfully speaking, I had no idea how things would turn out when I first rented the storage space. For all I knew, I would be back in New York after one year, and I'd resume my life here and continue accumulating "junk." Perhaps I had to reach the place where I arrived today to finally understand the ultimate value of possessions. Without this lesson, maybe the simple "travel light" message of Up In The Air, my favorite film of 2010, would not have resonated with me so much.

It was an expensive message (minimalism rules; you can't take anything with you, but while you're here, memories resonate a lot more than possessions), but when you think about it, $500 -- or roughly $6,254, if you factor in the cost of the storage space over 42 months -- isn't such a high price to pay for something that will last me the rest of my life.

And it doesn't take up an ounce of space.

Friday, February 19, 2010


God bless, Betty White. Although she was never my favorite Golden Girl -- in fact, she was my least favorite -- she had her charm, not to mention, mass (and massive) appeal. Unlike Bea Arthur (my favorite) and Rue McClanahan -- she was Emmy nominated each of the show's seven seasons for her role as the dim but occasionally witted Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls.

She hasn't stopped working since that show's cancellation. She's done movies, guest stints on TV shows (I particularly loved when she played herself on Ugly Betty and went conniving bitch to conniving bitch with Wilhelmina Slater), and even turned down the role of Helen Hunt's mom in As Good As It Gets that eventually went to two-time Oscar nominee Shirley Knight because animal-lover White objected to the movie's mistreatment of a dog in one particular scene.

But since her tribal jig in the woods in The Proposal (she was Ryan Reynolds's 90-year-old grandma), it seems White is everywhere. She just received a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award (presented to her by her The Proposal costar Sandra Bullock). She's been cast on a new TV Land original series. Her Super Bowl ad was one of the most talked about of the night. And there is a massive 400,000-member Facebook group petitioning to get White to host Saturday Night Live.

Why the sudden Betty White mania? I think part of it is because we're just happy she's still with us. But more importantly, the woman is just crazy funny, as anyone who saw her call Sarah Palin "one crazy bitch" on Craig Ferguson's late-night talk show during the 2008 Presidential campaign already knows.

I say get her on Saturday Night Live pronto. I can see it now: Betty White as Lady Gaga! The ratings would go through the roof.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I live for inexplicable phenomena and strange coincidences. Strange coincidence No. 2,881: Last Friday was my first night in Rio for Carnaval, and I went with my brother to a club called Le Boy. At the bar, we struck up a conversation with a guy from Melbourne, Australia, whom we had seen earlier in the evening at the restaurant where we'd had dinner with our group. Of course, I told him that I had been planning a three-month adventure in Australia, which, had everything gone according to my lack of a concrete plan, would have been underway as I write.

But alas, there I was, in Rio, at Le Boy.

This guy, by the way, is not the reason for this post

By the end of the night, I was tight with Andrew, 35, a guy who lives in Sydney, the city where I had planned on settling for the majority of my Australian adventure. But Andy isn't from Sydney. He's a Brit, who, pre-Syndey, lived for several years in London, my all-time favorite city which I visited several times a year from 1994 to 2004. In two weeks, I'll be on my way to London for the first time in five years.

It gets better. Andy is leaving Rio on Friday. His next destination: Buenos Aires!

Strange how things work out. So many cities in common, yet we won't be in any of them at the same time. At least we'll always have Rio. Three excellent days in Rio with Andy, a guy my own age with an iPod Touch music library that includes Dannii Minogue, Texas, Kelly Rowland, Sugababes and Sugarcubes, a guy who, as by brother put it, "has good energy" and can lie in bed with me singing along to "Hanging On Too Long" by Duffy.

But what irony! I spend nearly three and a half years in Buenos Aires looking for one decent guy. Just when BA and I decide to take a break so that I can see other people, a good guy arrives in town. Timing is everything, and this time, mine sucks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Poetic justic or... poetic justice?

Everybody's talking about how Sandra Bullock may become the first actress ever to win an Oscar (for The Blind Side) and a Razzie Award (for All About Steve) in the same year.

Frankly, I don't give a damn. I'm more concerned about the film that's tied for the most Razzie nominations.

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, the movie more or less responsible for nailing shut the coffin of my last relationship, like Land Of The Lost, a movie I don't even remember being in theaters, is up for seven Razzies, including Worst Picture of 2009. While I'm pretty certain that Transformers cannot possibly be one of the five worst films of 2009 (the Razzies, which honor cinematic underacheivers, must focus on the high-profile, or who would care?), I have no doubt that it's a pretty terrible movie.

It did, after all, break up my last relationship. I don't know which is scarier: that someone chose to see a movie, any movie, over seeing me, or that said movie was Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. For me, any time a bullet is dodged, it's a good thing. For him, I hope it was worth it.

The moral of the story: You may not be able to judge a book by the cover, but you can sure as hell tell a lot about a guy from the movies he wastes his money on. Up In The Air fans, to the front of the line!

Friday, February 5, 2010


I may be getting better, but I'm getting older, too.

Tonight I was rudely awakened to that sad fact. First, by a terribly unfunny -- and just plain terrible -- sitcom called Accidentally on Purpose. Jenna Elfman, an actress two years younger than me who doesn't look much older than she did the first time I saw her more than 10 years ago on the short-lived sitcom Townies, gets pregnant by a twentysomething guy. In one scene, her baby daddy, actually begins a sentence with "I don't know how they did it in your generation's day, but in my generation's day..."

No, he didn't!

Jenna's comeback: "This is my generation's day. It's not even noon in my generation's day." You go, girl!

In another bit, baby daddy gets into it with Jenna's boss/boyfriend, played by Grant Show, and calls him "grandpa." Grandpa! Did I mention that "grandpa" is Grant Show, who played Jake Hanson on the original Melrose Place and looks just as yummy now as he did then?

After Jenna Elfman made me feel ancient, Courteney Cox put the final nail in my coffin with her considerably funnier sitcom Cougar Town (above), which, like Accidentally on Purpose, premiered tonight on South America's Sony Channel. (Fascinating aside: The show is based in Sarasota, Florida, where I might be living today had I not been offered a post-university internship at People magazine, which I chose over the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.) The running joke is that Courteney Cox plays a divorced fortysomething woman who beds guys half her age. Did I mention that it's Courtney Cox? She may be five years older then me, but she doesn't look much different than she did when she was playing Monica on Friends.

Meanwhile, her teenage son doesn't look much younger than some of the guys I date. (At 24, Dan Byrd, the actor who plays him, is actually a year or two older than most of my recent flings.) And her husband is played by Brian Van Holt, who is my age but looks young enough to be dating one of the Gossip Girls.

When did I become old enough to be an age-related punchline. Courteney Cox so has the right idea. I think I need to go out and find consolation by treating myself to a 25 year old. Why should TV women of a certain age get to have all the fun tonight?


I can't seem to stop surprising myself. After nearly two years of declaring myself totally over New York City, I'm starting to feel a little bit homesick. Good thing, too, because I will be back in the Apple in exactly two weeks (after a side trip to Rio for Carnaval).

It started yesterday when I was looking at NYC rental apartments for my friend Jeff and me. Although I will be spending most of my time in New York with my friend Lori, Jeff, whom I met in Buenos Aires the week I moved here, is going to fly in from St. Louis my first weekend in town so that we can hang out together in our native country for the first time ever.

Looking at apartments in various neighborhoods made me feel a twinge of nostalgia for the old days. But even more surprising than that is that I found myself gravitating toward the pads in Hell's Kitchen, a neighborhood that I was loathe to go out in four years ago much less sleep there. (Sorry, Cara!) I hear it's NYC's new gay village. Maybe that has something to do with it.

That peaceful, easy homesick feeling returned today while I was watching an episode of Seinfeld. Though the NYC-based sitcom was filmed in L.A., it's humor was quintessentially New York, and as I watched (it was the episode where Poppy peed on Jerry's couch), I suddenly had a craving for a New York City slice.

Here in BA, the pizza is pretty hit and miss (mostly miss). I think it's because they use too little tomato sauce or none at all, making it, essentially, bread with a slab of melted mozzarella cheese on top. One of the first places I'm hitting when I get into NYC is St. Mark's Pizza in the East Village. It's been way too long.

Since Seinfeld, little things keep setting me off on my New York nostalgia trip. An email Lori sent me today about the death of Days of Our Lives matriarch Frances Reid (may she rest in peace) reminded me of all those weeknights spent in front of the TV watching a five-hour block of my daytime soaps (Young & The Restless, Days of Our Lives, All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital) on SoapNet. These days, the only one I keep track of is One Life to Live, which I watch on YouTube. It's not the same.

Now I'm hungry for cashews, a scrambled egg and cheese sandwich, grape juice, cranberry juice, which I don't think even exists in South America. I want all of the things I've been missing for three and a half years but hadn't realized just how much until today.

Will my rekindled romance with New York City last? Don't count on it. I'm sure once I've had my fill of all of the above Manhattan treats, I'll be more than ready to move on to my next stop: London!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


So long, porteño boys. It's been, well, interesting. But it's time to move on and, you know, see other people.

After nearly four years of dating almost exclusively Argentine (with a few European one-nighters as well as dalliances with several guys from other South American countries tossed into the mix for the sake of variety), the United States is making a comeback.

It's not that I ever swore off Mr. America, but it's been a long time since he's really turned my head. I don't believe I've even kissed a guy from the U.S., much less gone out with one, since June or July of 2006.

Suddenly, I find myself flirting with my fellow U.S. expatriates and assorted tourists and wondering what it would be like to go out with one of them. Matt, a tall, blond, relocated-to-New York Los Angelino (he lives right around the corner from my recently sold Manhattan pad) whom I met at Dudui two Saturday nights ago, was particularly yummy and kicked-off my newfound taste for home-grown flavors.

What a wonderful life it could be: Someone who speaks my language, linguistically and culturally. No more tired porteño questions (¿Te gusta Argentina?). No more tired histérico antics (now they want you, now they don't). No more tired twenty- and thirty-somethings still living at home. No more tired obsession with mom, MSN and roles in bed.

Worst-case scenario: I'm not quite done with porteños, but rather, I'm just prepping myself for a few months away from South America. (I'll be back in BA once the wanderlust is out of my system.) Best worst-case scenario: In the middle of Istanbul or London or even New York City, I finally meet the Argentine of my dreams?

Yes, Jeremy, keep dreaming!

Monday, February 1, 2010


So much for my predictive powers. Last night at the Grammys, I batted a perfect score: 0 for 4 -- too bad I ended up on the wrong side of the sweep. I was, however, right about one thing: Lady Gaga might be too strange for the Academy. She missed out on all of the major awards for which she was nominated, though I suppose a win for Best Dance Recording is better than nothing.

I love "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" enough to dance to it all night long. But Song of the Year? Isn't this award supposed to honor great achievements in songwriting? Yes, the video was hot, and the single rocked. But "If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it" is not exactly Shakespeare.

I'm not sure what Alfre Woodard (above) has to do with the Grammys. (Oh, yeah, like pretty much everyone under the sun, she can now call herself a Best Spoken Word Album nominee.) But I can't get enough of her. So how can I pass up the opportunity to run a fab photo of her?

Was it me, or did Pink, up against Adele, Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, look like she thought she actually had a chance? For once in the evening, the best woman won: Beyoncé for "Halo."

As usual, the performances were more interesting than the actual handing out of awards. Stevie Nicks, performing with Taylor Swift, showed us the difference between a pop star and a true artist and how it's actually possibly to be both. Taylor, you just haven't earned it yet, baby.

Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Usher and Smokey Robinson underscored the fact that Michael Jackson's greatest peace, love and understanding anthem was not "Heal the World," "Man in the Mirror" or "We Are the World," but "Earth Song," a massive international hit that inexplicably was never released as a single in the U.S.

Leon Russell is the man. Did you know that he wrote "Superstar," "This Masquerade" and "A Song for You"? He may look like the world's oldest hippie, but he sure knows how to pull the heartstrings.

But the night's real show stopper was Eminem, Lil Wayne, Drake (I think I love you!) and Travis Barker, who performed their single "Forever" (without a conspicuously absent Kanye West -- we couldn't have him possibly interrupting Taylor's big moment, could we?). This is the real definition of cool. Sexy is back. Again.

(For more of my Grammy reactions, go here.)

Lil Wayne, Eminem, Drake and Travis Barker "Forever"