2006: Through the Looking Glass


In the words of Ok Go, here it goes again...

2006, is this what you had up your sleeves at the end of '05? You didn't seem to have a running theme - how Bollywood musical of you. Unpredictable? Always. Boring? Not so much. Is 2007 getting ready to roll out the punches and give us a similar ride?

In the past year I have written about getting older, the loss of a beloved job, the loss of a loved one, the lifespan of a script in Hollywood, the not-so-bleak side of unemployment, the finer side of new employment, red carpet rendezvouses, new friends made, staph infections defeated, namedropping, road tripping, and the near-orgasmic phenomenon that is Pinkberry.

Before you could say "Michael Richards anger management," it all came and went.

2006: That One Big Blur. Where the hell did it all go?

Madonna ruled the arenas (and a certain African orphanage). Al Gore scared us with some melting glaciers. Lance Bass came out. Will & Grace went in...to that TV Hall of Fame in the sky. Shampoo and moisturizers were banned from airplanes (What next? Snakes?) The Mark Foley scandal was the IM read around the world. Tom was booted from Paramount. Rummy was booted from the Pentagon. Google bought YouTube. Two major TV networks became one. Pretty in Pink turned 20. Pirates 2 was HUGE (still scratching my head on that one). Baby Suri was the paparazzi's Holy Grail. Mel Gibson got a mug shot. America voted for the wrong American Idol...again. Marissa Cooper died. Paris got a DUI. Laura came back to Luke. And the inevitable occurred: the Crocodile Hunter got killed by one of his documentary subjects, Rosie returned to daytime, the Democrats made a comeback, and Britney shed the baby weight along with that excess waste of a rapper-deadbeat (but sadly gained a Hilton).

Thus a toast to the highlights: the good, the bright, and the most excellent. If you haven't experienced this year's best, I urge you to log off MySpace, get out from under your rock and do so. God didn't invent Netflix, iTunes, and TiVo for nothing...

MOVIE PICKS OF '06
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^


1. Little Children > The captivating Kate Winslet and the swoon-inducing Patrick Wilson are Massachusetts suburbanites who get hot and heavy in Todd Field's follow-up to In the Bedroom. This haunting/disturbing/funny commentary on life behind picket fences and Pottery Barn curtains will stir up emotions never felt before from a film this year.

2. Friends With Money > Not only a brilliant slice of SoCal life, but a wonderfully acted comic drama about desperate housewives and husbands living in the land of the rich and unstimulated - West L.A. (now on DVD)

3. Little Miss Sunshine > Gut-wrenching. Painfully funny. Possibly the best ensemble in any film this year. Steve Carell gives up his drama virginity and emerges a victor. Paul Dano: a portrayal that turns teen angst into an artform. And finally: another reason to love Rick James's "Superfreak". On DVD December 19.


4. Children of Men > What is the sound of the only living baby on Earth crying in a London battlefield? Answer: one chilling effect that will never cease to haunt you. Alfonso Cuaron's devastatingly gorgeous portrait of a world gone mad in an all-too-near future was the first film this year that left me wanting more. Clive Owen stars as a reluctant hero who must protect the last pregnant woman on the planet, Julianne Moore plays a libertarian terrorist, and Michael Caine turns in a hippie-dippie perf that is both funny and tragic. Some of the most breathtaking one-take shots in recent memory.

5. The Prestige > Wolverine and Batman play dueling magicians in Christopher Nolan's time-jumping tale of deception and dead canaries in the 1890s. The twist is right in front of your eyes, and even if you do guess the ending (like moi), you're never disappointed.

6. Babel > Proudly produced by the very company I work for (no bias whatsoever), this cross-cultural collage grips you from the first scene and never lets go. Rinko Kikuchi steals the film as Chieko, a Japanese deaf-mute who painfully learns the rules of seduction while figuring in a global police investigation. Oh yeah, Brad Pitt's in it too.

7. Cars > Another pixel-perfect Pixar treasure whose characters have more depth and charm than all the human casts in most films released this year. Now on DVD.

8. The Devil Wears Prada > Awesome soundtrack. Gorgeous locales and wardrobes. And a divine performance from the flawless Meryl Streep. On DVD December 12.

9. American Dreamz > A much-needed satire to give us Americans a kick-in-the-ass wake-up call about the country in which we claim to be proud to live. Now on DVD.

10. The Departed > The performances outbang the gunshots in Scorsese's latest tale of cop-on-cop corruption and redemption, this time set in a vicious Beantown.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
11. Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson in Hard Candy > Don't let the little-girl looks fool you; Page delivers an unforgettable perfomance in one of the most intense jaw-droppers of the year. Wilson (hello again) plays an online predator who faces a certain snip-snip causing grown men everywhere to squirm in their seats. Now on DVD.

12. Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls > And you - and you - and you - You're gonna love her.

HOLY SHIT, IS THAT FELICITY? Keri Russell in the nifty Mission: Impossible III

HOLY DEJA VU: Superman Returns

WHY, HOLLYWOOD, WHY? Awards go to:
- The Revenge of the Nerds remake (thankfully scrapped by Fox Atomic)
- Owen Wilson in You, Me & Dupree
- Anything starring Jesse Metcalfe

BEST TRAILERS/TEASERS OF THE YEAR: Grind House, The Prestige, The Hitcher, Spiderman 3, Little Children, The Hills Have Eyes 2.


TV PICKS OF '06
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

1. The pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC) > The best opening ten minutes of a series premiere since Lost debuted over two years ago. Fast, funny, and fierce - it's the best commentary on the current state of American television. That said, Aaron Sorkin makes me want to become a better writer.

2. America Ferrera in Ugly Betty (ABC) > You just want to hug her.

3. The View (ABC) > Thank the daytime gods for bringing back La O'Donnell, who's surprisingly more articulate than ever. Their Hot Topics segments have never been funnier, never been more shocking, and never been more brutally honest.

4. Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi) > Criminally overlooked by the Emmys, the daring second season finale was everything network dramas wish they could be, and the two-hour third season premiere was just as pitch-perfect.

5. Veronica Mars (UPN/The CW) > Still sharp. Still ridiculously underrated. Kristen Bell shines as the now-collegiate detective who has a trio of mysteries to solve before May sweeps. Let us pray that The CW gives her three more eps for a full-season order.

6. The Book of Daniel (NBC) > Even if I hadn't worked on this one-of-a-kind, short-lived, darkly comedic drama, I'd still applaud it for its sharp writing and brilliant cast (Aidan Quinn and Susannah Thompson and Ellen Burstyn? C'mon!).


7. Heroes (NBC) > Who knew NBC would be responsible for giving us this intelligent epic drama, which is basically an indie-flavored X-Men? Standout perf: Masi Oka as Japanese nerd Hiro (if only the producers had replaced the "r" with a "k"). Cheers to the network for the full-season pick-up.

8. Heather Goldenhersh in The Class (CBS) > Kooky is an understatement. Heather's Lina Warbler is a scene-stealer. First, getting accidentally run over by the dork who likes her (on their first date), then dressing up as a wheelchair-bound Teddy Roosevelt for Halloween, Heather's punchline deliveries get me every time and makes her stand out in an ensemble that's mosty made of cardboard. Where the hell did she come from?

9. Dexter (Showtime) > Michael C. Hall sheds his Six Feet Under persona and shines as a serial killer we love to love. Don't worry. He's a serial killer who hunts down other serial killers. See? It's great.

10. "Bang," the November 5 episode of Desperate Housewives > Hand Laurie Metcalfe an Emmy now for her show-stealing turn as a woman scorned who holds half the cast hostage in a supermarket. And a nod as well for the fierce Felicity Huffman who, in one scene, stands up to the psycho suburbanite after getting her hands bloody.

THE NEW, HOTTER EIGHT IS ENOUGH: ABC's Brothers & Sisters.

SHOWING WRINKLES: FX's Nip/Tuck.

THERE IS A GOD: Fox cancels plans to air OJ Simpson's If I Did It.

WAIT A MINUTE... NBC renews Howie Mandel's contract.


MUSIC PICKS OF '06
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

1. Under the Influence of Giants > The Bee Gees + The Killers x Scissor Sisters = An awesome debut album.

2. Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics > You heard me rave about her delicious blend of soul, gospel, jazz, and early 90s hip-hop during the last half of the summer, so of course it's going on here. LIMEWIRE NOW: "Makes Me Wanna Pray," "The Right Man," "Oh Mother," and "Slow Down Baby." Oh hell, just get the whole damn thing.

3. "Stars Align" by Kaskade > Blare it in the car as you're driving through the city at night. Sink into the beats. Succumb to the hypnotic vocals. Fantasize about being in your own cool music video, surrounded by cocktail-swigging glitterati and unironic hipsters partying in a nocturnal wonderland.

4. "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)" by Rihanna AND "Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado with Timbaland > Undeniable Bootyshakers of the Year.


5. "Chocolate" by Snow Patrol > From their 2004 album, a marvelously melancholy single that resonated this year with the 25-30 set thanks to its addition to the soundtrack of Paul Haggis's The Last Kiss. ALSO WORTHY: "Chasing Cars."

6. Mylo's Destroy Rock and Roll > The sparkling debut album by the Scottish DJ with a flair for minimal 80s synth and moody electronica. Elton John's even a fan. LIMEWIRE NOW: "Otto's Journey" and "In My Arms"


7. Keane's Under the Iron Sea > Forget the Radiohead comparisons. These lads from the UK brilliantly succeeded with their sophomoric effort. LIMEWIRE NOW: "Atlantic," "Nothing In My Way," "Is It Any Wonder," and "Crystal Ball"

8. "Ceylon" by Madita > I still have no idea what this devastating UK import is about, but it covers all the H's: hypnotic, haunting, and hella good.

9. "Finally" by Fergie > I can't believe I'm placing this Black Eyed Pea beyotch on here, but she surprised me and critics alike with a decent solo album, especially with this terrific torch song that brings out a vulnerability we never knew she had.

10. "What Goes Around..." and the "Lovestoned" interlude by Justin Timberlake > From his overly produced and overly flashy FutureSex/LoveSounds, these two understated tracks stand out and come close to achieving the soulful greatness of 2002's Justified. Said interlude cleverly cribs from The Book of Coldplay, implementing a nifty guitar riff. HONORABLE MENTION: The album's title track is a nice electronic/near-New Wave homage to Prince.

BONUS:
11. "Trains to Brazil" by Guillemots AND "Hard to Beat" by Hard-FI > Two electrifying rock singles from the Brits. "Trains" is brassy, emotional and moving whereas "Beat" might as well be describing its own catchy rhythms and danceability in its own title.

HERE'S HOPING THE REST OF THE ALBUM'S BETTER: Gwen Stefani's "Wind It Up" (or, "Hollaback Girl, Part Deux")

DARN CATCHY POP SINGLE OF THE YEAR: JoJo's "Too Little Too Late"

DID WE REALLY NEED THEM Awards go to:
- Paris Hilton's "Stars Are Blind" (Ears. Bleeding.)
- Jessica Simpson's "I Belong to Me" (Make it stop!)
- Brooke Hogan's "About Us" (Pass the vomit bag.)

...And there we have it. Study it. Learn it. And perhaps you too can achieve a true state of pop nirvana.

For the last night of the year I plan to enjoy the great indoors with some good friends and some good booze. Who needs the noise and crowds?

Remember: A) Don't forget old acquaintances. B) It's okay to break resolutions. And C) most importantly, keep those gift receipts because those 30-day return policies can be a bitch.

2006 has left the building.

Hello '07.

H.P.M.

A Winter Wonder



Why is every one-hit wonder who appears on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float to promote a single that's already heavily rotated on Top 40 lamely called a "singing sensation"?

What's with America's obsession with dog shows?

Who is Sylar and where did he come from?

These were just a few questions that struck me while basting my 11-pound turkey on Thankgiving morning. Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera apparently drained their pool of adjectives to describe every singer who appeared in the rain-soaked holiday fest. NBC apparently loves showcasing purebreds and their proud owners. And I apparently believe that saving the cheerleader will indeed save the world (Go Peter Petrelli!).

The holiday was spent at my apartment, candying yams, preheating the oven, dusting the furniture, slowly turning into my mother. Dinner for five started around four, and three more guests showed up for dessert later in the evening. Three pies and one round of Trivial Pursuit later, the stuff-a-thon ended.



"It's Friday. And it's black."

The day after...The scene: South Coast Plaza, the largest mall in Southern California. The time: 1pm.

I was pleased to discover that my parking karma was still kickin' when Swaga and I found a space for my Focus within five minutes of entering the massive ocean of cars that was the South Coast parking lot.

Walking shoes laced up, we rendezvoused with Karim and dived into the retail mess. We hit the heavyweights first - Bloomie's, Saks, Coach - and realized our budgets could hardly skim off the prices of a scarf, let alone a leather keychain. My tolerance for the heavy foot traffic and runaway strollers wore thin when I nearly collided with an Asian woman who thought it would be wise to suddenly stop in the middle of a busy pathway and scan the crowd for her family...Or when two women blocked the escalator trying to decide, as if the fate of the world rested on their shoulders, whether they should go up or down...Or when a little boy decided to break free from his mother's peripheral vision and climb a store security scanner as if he were in a McDonald's Playspace.

The only damage brought to my wallet that day was a mere ten dollars carved out for three bottles of anti-bacterial hand soap from Bath & Body Works.

As the holidays draw near I find myself longing for some East Coast winter chills. However, with the way L.A. has been freezing up lately, it looks like I'll have to start bundling up earlier than expected. Angelenos are starting to turn blue, and it's not because of the ridiculous wait for the newly renovated Griffith Park Observatory.

When I do make it back to see the fam I'll enjoy the pre-Christmas frenzy that usually involves forcing my mother to listen to the mix CDs I burned for her and calling my father to let him know we'll be bringing pizza home for dinner - all while sitting in a frigid 2001 Daewoo Leganza that smells of Pepp-O-Mint Lifesavers and is parked in the packed lot of a Bronx or White Plains Target, where we will rush to purchase last-minute items for the cousins, nieces, and nephews. Then it's off to said pizza pick-up and home where we'll stay up 'til the wee hours - not to catch a glimpse of that red-suit-wearing fat man - but to watch DVDs of films my parents neglected to see at the megaplexes this year.

During this holiday visit I will also attempt to get in touch with those peers I haven't seen since the days when Britney wore underwear, Donald Rumsfeld was credible, and MySpace was a just glint in Tom's eye.

I recently heard through the IM grapevine that a high school friend of mine, now an assistant VP at a powerful corporation where his dad is an investor, recently got married to his Ivy League sweetheart, the daughter of a doctor from Long Island. The ceremony took place in Westchester. The news made the pages of The New York Times. The annoucement reeked of yuppie supercouple. At first I didn't know what to make of the news because A) I haven't given much thought to this high school acquaintance in quite some time and B) I have removed myself so far from those days and those individuals that I can't fathom what their lives must be like in 2006 compared to 1996.

But good for them. Everyone deserves their own brand of happiness.



I know several guys from my high school (don't forget: the all-boys prep factory) who have continued the jacket-and-tie tradition and gone off to work in the hallways of corporate institutions with words like Morgan, Ernst, and Associates in their names. While they fraternize among the Wall Street players and Brooks Brothers regulars I find myself frolicking with players of the sweatshirt-and-sandals kind. They wear their blazers with matching cufflinks for the office. I match mine with a pair of meticulously scuffed jeans. They sip wine at stiff black-tie fundraisers. I enjoy a vodka Red Bull and the beats of a celebrity DJ at a function celebrating the DVD release of a starlet's modest box-office hit.

It makes me wonder what I'll face when I RSVP to my 10-year reunion in a mere 16 months from now. The expected transformations have become somewhat cliched now - the jocks bloat and bald, the nerds bloom into babe magnets, and the rest fall somewhere in between modest success and boring contentment. I will go with an open mind, expect the unexpected, and of course, catch up with my posse and talk shit about others behind their backs.

Pass me an eggnog latte.

My Christmas wishlist is ready and available. Any takers?

Happy Non-Denominational Holiday,
H.P.M.

**COMING VERY SOON: The blog that will save your life - my Year-In-Review.