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Monthly Archives: September 2006

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Reviewing the Reviewers

It’s been an interesting last five weeks witnessing the variety of guest reviewers fill in on Ebert & Roeper while Roger Ebert is out recovering from surgery. I’ve been watching this in some form ever since Gene Siskel and Ebert’s Sneak Previews days, but I have to admit the show lost a lot of since Siskel died. Richard Roeper has slowly grown on me, but he still stikes as someone who’ll grudgingly rave a film if the lead actress is a hottie. Seeing Roeper with these guest critcs really drives home the point that Ebert gives the show a gravity and credibility.

It could be a warning sign that E&R‘s first three guest critics all come from the entertainment biz: Jay Leno, Kevin Smith, and director John Ridley (who didn’t leave much of an impression with me). Leno surprised with his eloquence and fairness, and Smith was his usual affable self — but people working within Hollywood don’t have any business reviewing films. I tend to think they’re biased, favoring films if their colleagues are involved, even when they clearly aren’t. Hopefully this is a stunt and not the sign of some future trend.

It all sort of underlies the lack of real criticism existing in our current media landscape. Most of what we see and read is just fluff passing as news. Which brings me to the fourth guest critic, entertainment reporter Toni Senecal. The bubbly Ms. Senecal used the word “awesome” more than once and demanded a high-five from Roeper. In other words, she was horrible. It reminded me of the time Siskel and Ebert departed their first syndicated venture, At the Movies, to be replaced by the dreaded trio of Rex Reed, Dixie Whatley, and Ned Flanders-esque Bill Harris. Remember them? Like having a hearty steak dinner replaced with a bag of marshmallows, I tell ya!

Some form of deliverance arrived last weekend in the form of guest critc #5, Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune. Phillips came across as credible, interesting, witty and fair. So what if he wasn’t as telegenic as the others? His stint came as a relief — but let me point out that in five weeks, they’ve only had one bona fide film critic in the guest spot. Guess it really is true what Marge Simpson said: “Did you know there are over 600 critics on TV and Leonard Maltin is the best looking of them all?” And finding someone with the intelligence and charisma of a Roger Ebert must be a herculean task.

A Bachelor Padful of Space Age Pop

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Want some spiffy old music without trucking down to the Goodwill record rack? The answer can be found in PCL Linkdump’s entrée to dozens of Space Age Pop albums for download. Don’t know the legality of those links (most of the LPs are long out of print; a few might still be available on reissued CDs), so get them while you can.

If I could recommend just two of those albums, it might be Enoch Light’s fruggable arrangements of then-current pop hits on Discotheque and Discotheque, Vol. 2. That music reminds me of something that happened on old sitcoms (especially Gilligan’s Island). Whenever a character would tune into the radio, they’d have some generic “go-go” music on the soundtrack instead of a recognizable song. That’s what those two LPs sound like.