When in New York...



December 21, 2007:

If you were to catch me hopping onto the 6 train in the Bronx the other day, you would have thought I was smuggling under my arm a box containing a particular brand of sex toy. True, the words "fantasy" and "pleasure" were printed across its packaging. And true, the lettering was done in a sizzling font with a picture of a half-naked woman posing in the red background.

As many of you would love to believe otherwise, this was not an item I was packing to prepare myself for one helluva hedonistic time in downtown Manhattan. It was merely a part of my Christmas gift to Billy, a vibrating head massager imported from Hollywood. I thought the six-pronged tool could be useful on his clients during therapy sessions.



December 22, 2007:

"It's a little fucking crowded, sir. Have a happy holiday!"

- Woman maneuvering her way out of a packed subway at 23rd Street in response to an impatient man trying to squeeze in the same car: "Lady, what's taking you so long?"

2007: REWIND



One could say 2007 was the Year of the Rehab. Britney tried it, Lindsay lived it, and Amy Winehouse gloriously sang about it (and eventually lived it as well).

We lost Anna Nicole. Imus was booted. The Sopranos went out...with an onion ring. The Cohens traded in The OC for Berkeley. Paris was freed. Whoopi became the new Rosie. Zanessa became the new Brangelina. Senator Craig learned to never enter airport restrooms again. Barack Obama learned how to ride on the shoulders of a certain book-club-loving talk-show titan. Southern California burned down. The Writers Guild of America burned up. And while Jamie Lynn Spears got knocked up, Jodie Foster finally came out of the closet (or panic room - whatever pun you prefer).

One could also say 2007 felt a lot like 1997: The Spice Girls went on tour, the Backstreet Boys dropped a new album, and Mulder and Scully teamed up once again for a second X-Files movie (out next summer). 2007 was officially Britney's messiest year to date as well; what with her custody drama, the VMAs disaster, and poor choice in...well, everything (that music video was beyond horrendous), the Louisiana lolita still managed to pump out a number one single.

Personally, 2007 was a year of clarity. It was basically a time to focus on new possibilities and achievements rather than fall into the quicksand of negative thinking. Things became clearer, the light at the end of the tunnel a little brighter. Coming out of the clouds of a quarter-life crisis (few remain above my head), I was finally able to get a grip on some finances and face the Demons of Loans and Debts (I wish a happy holiday to those persistent collectors at Associated Credit Services - may they find peace while continuing to harass penniless college grads). I proudly became a board member of Hot in Hollywood (our annual benefit in August was more successful than the first). I was asked to join the roster of correspondents for its blogsite (we just hit over 300,000 unique daily visitors). I managed to land a couple of small writing gigs for the first time in my life (feels kinda tingly inside to receive a paycheck for your words). And I found myself becoming the go-to man for event planning (Hot Mix kicks off in February) and pop-culture commentary for various media.

In short, I've gone franchise.

But enough with the sentimental, look-what-I've-done crap. I know you want to scroll down and get to the goods, so let's get to it, shall we?

Curtains up...

FILM PICKS OF '07
(*Please note: These are the movies I've managed to screen at press time. Like many a critic, I am sure there are several other cinematic gems out there that have yet to squeeze eleven hard-earned dollars out of me.)



1. Atonement > Ian McEwan's novel comes to exhilirating life in a crisp adaptation from Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy are lovers prematurely torn apart as the result of a devastating lie, and the troubled years that follow are beautifully accented by Dario Marianelli's exquisite score, Seamus McGarvey's stunning cinematography and top-notch performances from its pedigree cast. It's difficult to choose just one scene from this spectacular epic in order to convey its greatness (there's a memorable one I like to call Library of Lust and the breathtaking beach shot at Dunkirk), but this one will have to do:



2. Charlie Wilson's War > There's a scene in Mike Nichols's biting political satire in which several characters come and go through doorways like clockwork, spouting out earfuls of dialogue per second (Aaron Sorkin, no one can write rapid polysyllabic diatribes like you), all of it culminating in a pitch-perfect punchline, making it the best staged play of the year. It just so happens to star two of the biggest names in Hollywood (I was nearly blinded by Julia's platinum hair...and Tom's bare ass) and feature a slick supporting turn by the imcomparable Phillip Seymour Hoffman.



3. Juno > Diablo Cody's sparkling script and Jason Reitman's sharp eye for the minutiae of bland suburban angst conspire to make this a must-see of '07. At times a shrewd commentary on the state of American teen sexuality, Juno also works as a brilliant dramedy about family. It stars spitfire Ellen Page as the preggers title character and features a perfectly cast troupe of actors: Jennifer Garner rocks the pearl necklace as an uptight, white-bread wife, Jason Bateman as her suffocating husband, Allison Janney as Juno's tough-lovin' stepmom, and the always charming Michael Cera, who may as well be this generation's Anthony Michael Hall (RUNNER UP: The hilarious and sweet Superbad).



4. Grindhouse > One of the quintessential moviegoing experiences: a genuine double-joyride from start to finish - and with awesome, retro faux-trailers to boot. Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror pays terrific homage to John Carpenter's cult classics of the 70s and early 80s while Tarantino's Death Proof is a more dialogue-heavy spin on the slasher genre - with one of the most thrilling car chases in the history of cinema.

5. Waitress > Keri Russell charms her way through Adrienne Shelly's little indie that could as a knocked-up piemaker who discovers one of the most rewarding surprises in life: a second chance at happiness.



6. The Bourne Ultimatum > Audiences proved that they want brains with their bangs when the final chapter of the high-octane trilogy opened in August and established itself as the thinking-person's action film (take that, Live Free or Die Hard!). Matt Damon speaks in only a third of the film, but his smoldering and vengeful glares brilliantly (and surprisingly) managed to carry the film through its thrilling cat-and-mouse sequences. Forget those rumbling robots; this was the best action flick from the summer of 2007.

7. Across the Universe > Julie Taymor's terrifically trippy and polarizing musical was more than just a sing-along for 15-year-old girls. It stood as a gorgeous tribute to the timeless pop songs of arguably the most timeless band in music history, the Beatles.

8. The Host > A monster movie brilliantly disguised as a touching drama about family and survival, this enormously successful Korean import also delivered one of the best non-Hollywood endings in recent memory.



9. Hairspray > Consider it the Grease of the new millennium. This sassy musical will forever flourish on DVD and cable TV for generations to come. Huge applause for Michelle Pfeiffer's delicious comeback and the beyond bubbly Nikki Blonsky, one of the great breakouts of 2007.

10. Once > A hallmark in cinematic love stories, Once is that delicate yet inevitably heartbreaking romance that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Southland Tales > Writer-director Richard Kelly took five years off after creating First Echo favorite Donnie Darko to focus on what would be an extremely ambitious follow-up: a dazzling, dizzy, Dickensian satire on the Apocalypse set in the perfectly inevitable choice setting for an Apocalypse - Los Angeles, California.

The Namesake > Before jumping over to House, Kal Penn showed off his dramatic chops in Mira Nair's beautiful continent-spanning story about rediscovering one's roots and establishing an appreciation for heritage.

Year of the Dog > Who knew Molly Shannon had it in her? Mike White's darling project is more than just a heartwarming tale about a lonely secretary and her beloved pet. It's a testament to the human condition and its capacity for love, grief and the desire to connect.

Trailer of the Year - Cloverfield > Without a doubt, the teaser and trailer for J.J. Abrams's January monster flick put all other previews to shame. Never in years has a trailer been so closely analyzed, so breathlessly jarring, and so eye-grabbingly good it leaves you wanting more:



The Kid Stays in the Picture - Shia LeBeouf in Transformers, Disturbia and next year's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The Oscar Curse Continues - Cuba Gooding Jr. in Daddy Day Camp.

Why We Continue to Love Amy Adams - Enchanted.

Why We Continue to Hate Brett Ratner - Rush Hour 3 and his planned Hugh Hefner biopic starring - get this - Tom Cruise.

Third Time's Not the Charm - Spider-Man 3, Rush Hour 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (See also: The Most Overused Word of the Year - "threequel").

You Had Me Until Those Last 20 Minutes - Danny Boyle's beautifully cast and terrifically tense Sunshine.

The New John Hughes - Judd Apatow (Superbad, Knocked Up).

We Forgive You For The Invasion - both Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in The Golden Compass.


TV PICKS OF '07



1. Pushing Daisies (ABC) > Part murder-mystery, part whimsical romantic-comedy, each episode of Bryan Fuller's one-of-a-kind dramedy - about a peculiar piemaker who can raise the dead - is pure joy from start to finish. And give three cheers for the two leads, the mesmerizing Lee Pace and the effervescent Anna Friel - the chemistry is magical.

2. Brothers & Sisters (ABC) > Last year I dubbed this ensembler the new, hotter Eight is Enough. Now hitting its stride in its second season (Sarah's divorce, Justin's post-Iraq addiction, MacAllister's cutthroat campaign), TV's most photogenic family from Pasadena is being put to the test...and we're loving every melodramatic minute of it.



3. Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) > Tranny mistresses. Priests with illegitimate sons. And one self-aware, scene-stealing bitch (the pitch-perfect Natalie Zea). DSM is another kind of family drama, a delicious twist on that once-extinct television genre, the glitzy nighttime soap. It's an awesome Dynasty cocktail mixed with some of the pretentiousness of The Hills and the neuroses of Arrested Development .

4. Damages (FX) > Glenn Close was just one of many actresses to get down and dirty with juicy roles for women on cable television this year (The Closer, Amazing Grace, etc), and she scored with this scorcher of a drama about lethal litigators and the lies they get away with.

5. The Riches (FX) > After viewing the pilot in March, I had already predicted an Emmy nomination for Minnie Driver's turn as a former drug addict and mother of three in a family of contemporary gypsies who assume the identities of a dead family in a cul-de-sac where nothing is what it seems. Cut to six months and several awards shows later, and we have another great show that has managed to turn the genre of "family drama" on its head.

6. Nip/Tuck (FX) > Normally when a show changes locations, it's a clear sign that the end is near. Not in this case. Moving McNamara and Troy to Los Angeles expanded not only its roster of crazy characters but its potential for sizzling storylines. Bradley Cooper chews up his scenes with such splendid assholery, you have to wonder where he gets his inspiration from. Lauren Hutton is regal as manipulative talent manager to Carly Summers, played by Daphne Zuniga, who never looked so good. Then throw in some desperate heroin addicts, flip-flop lesbians, Rosie's return, and schoolgirl seductresses with BGFs (just watch), and you have yourself Nip/Tuck's funniest, smartest and most shocking season yet.

7. Blake Lewis's rendition of "You Give Love a Bad Name" on American Idol (Fox) > Jon Bon Jovi didn't know what to think when the 25-year-old finalist dared to put a new spin on a heavy metal classic, and rightly so. We all went a little "Whaaa?" with understandable trepidation. However, with a little beatboxing here and a little coy crooning there, Lewis gave us one of the best live musical performances on television this year. And just for the record, his recently released album, Audio Day Dream: Pretty. Damn. Awesome.

8. The final moments of The Sopranos (HBO) > A pitch-perfect, polarizing ending to the most multi-layered morality play in TV history - simply because it wasn't perfect. Interpret those final seconds however you want, but you can't deny David Chase as a mastermind of the medium.



9. Desperate Housewives (ABC) > Dana Delany moved to Wisteria Lane and brought with her a welcome resurgence. We still don't know what her big secret is (did her daughter murder her first husband?), but we do know that the tornado episode from December 2 will go down as the series' most memorable yet.

10. Mad Men (AMC) > Television viewers got a different look at the 1960s in this provocative study on men who desperately try to sell the American Dream to a society on the verge of a counterculture movement. Watching the politics of advertising hasn't been this fun since Amanda Woodward strolled into D&D over 14 years ago.

Daytime TV Moment of the Year - The View became an estrogenic Crossfire when we all witnessed one of the best moments in daytime television history - "innocent, pure Christian Elisabeth" versus "big, fat, lesbian, loud Rosie." I watched it on TiVo and YouTube five times in one day. And here's the full ten-minute segment from quiet beginning to fiery end:



It's Not TV, It's MySpace TV - Quarterlife speaks to a blog-obsessed generation of Twixters and eventually (and wisely) gets picked up by NBC.

The Brilliant, British and Bisexual X-Files - Torchwood (BBC America)

If Jack Bauer Were A Soap Opera Character - General Hospital's Hostage Crisis (ABC) - This February sweeps stunt paid off and gave soap fans a 24-esque, time-jumping thriller of a storyline that left reverberations throughout the rest of the year.



Best Method of Torture - Sitting through a six-hour marathon of The Hills.


MUSIC PICKS OF '07



1. "Everything's Just Wonderful" by Lily Allen > Sarcastic, British faux-hipster lounge pop that's irresistible to the ears, this track from the pleasantly potty-mouthed Londoner is an anthem for all twentysomethings trying to make it in a world that's hard to settle in. RUNNER UP: Amy Winehouse's deliciously retro "Rehab" and "You Know I'm No Good."

2. "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová > From the melancholy soundtrack to the Irish indie Once, this achingly beautiful track swells up with such emotion, reminding us what a true love song really is.



3. "Grace Kelly" by Mika > The Freddie Mercury-esque vocals are a given, but match them up with a playful beat and colorful lyrics, and we have ourselves one of the best and most vibrant singles of the year.

4. "Touch Me" by the Broadway Cast of Spring Awakening > A joyous ode to young love and pure ecstasy that slowly builds up to a "climactic" finish, this is just one of the many spellbinding songs written by Duncan Sheik and performed in the hottest Tony-winning musical since Rent.

5. "The Way I Are" by Timbaland featuring Keri Hilson & D.O.E. > a.k.a. The Song Everyone Loved in 2007. Amusingly simple in lyric, this summer single from the superproducer's impressive debut album is a brilliant mash-up of hip-hop and techno (tech-hop?), winning over music fans in all camps.



6. Kanye West's Graduation > There was no competition when 50 Cent dropped his album on the same day as Kanye's back in September. Mr. West would obviously emerge as the victor and bring us another tour-de-frickin-force, wisely bridging the gap between genres (and demographics), and proving himself to be a true hip-hop pioneer (Hello? The man just received eight Grammy nominations).

7. The Shins' Wincing the Night Away > Chillout retro-rock perfect for that afternoon drive down Pacific Coast Highway.

8. "Makes Me Wonder" by Maroon 5 > The fabulous funk-rock single of the year. And just as ubiqutious as "This Love" four years ago.



9. "In the Dark" by Tiesto featuring Christian Burns > The former BBMakker teams up with the Master of Trance to pump out what appears to be another generic Eurodance track, but turns out as a surprisingly emotional dance single.

10. "Apologize" by Timbaland featuring One Republic > This time the tech-hop maestro teams up with the indie Southern California band to lend some of his trademark stuttering beats to a powerful and haunting ballad (and current #1 song in the country).

BONUS TRACKS:
11. "Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)" by Craig David > The smooth operator from the U.K. injects infectious energy into David Bowie's 80s classic.

12. Annie Lennox's Songs of Mass Destruction > The former Eurhythmic mesmerizes us with a fantastically cerebral pop album that hits the right amount of preachiness.

13. "Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z > Do you have to ask?

Britney, Circa 2000 - Ashley Tisdale's Headstrong.

Most Annoyingly Successful Singles of the Year - Soulja Boy's "Crank That" and Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls."

One to Watch in '08 - Leona Lewis. Her debut album, Spirit, drops March 18. Her first single, "Bleeding Love," is already leaking in from the U.K. and placing her as the next Whitney or Mariah (y'know, when they could sing).


WEB PICKS OF '07



1. Dramatic Prairie Dog > It's the funniest five seconds we've seen on YouTube all year, and we don't know why. Is it the music? Is it the little critter's hysterical expression? Who knows...but you know you couldn't help playing it over and over at work in between those tedious conference calls and staff meetings.



2. Leave Britney Alone! > And the web gods decreed, "From the depths of the viral pits of YouTube a mascara-eyed young man shall rise and take over the world with his powers of persuasion, and it will lead him to a reality TV development deal which will spark a new wave of the Apocalypse."

3. www.funnyordie.com > Will Ferrell brought us "The Landlord" starring the most potty-mouthed 2-year-old we ever met. Then, Eva Longoria teamed up with Eric Christian Olsen to make a faux sex tape. Now, you can catch James Franco and Mila Kunis channeling Heidi and Spencer in a dead-on spoof of The Hills...That banging you hear is one more nail being hammered into the sitcom coffin.

4. www.blackle.com > For those of you who wish to go green...go black, and use this search engine (from the Google guys) while saving energy - and the planet.

5. 2 Girls, 1 Cup: The Reactions > I hesitate to place this absolute vile piece of poo on this list ("The most disgusting video you'll ever see!"), but it became such a bizarre phenomenon within the past month. The bright side: you can enjoy and laugh at the countless number of recorded reactions which are now taking over the Net.


And there we have it. Pencils down. Let your mind reset and resume its normal wavelength. Go out and enjoy these gems, experience these tasty morsels 2007 had to offer. And let's hope we can squeeze just as much juice out of 2008.

Wishing you greatness in the new year,
H.P.M.

The Sounds of '08

I feel it is my duty to prep all of you for what is to come in 2008. Allow me to predict the next big singles of the new year that shall dominate the airwaves once the hectic holiday season dies down. Consider it a cheat sheet to use while you're burning off the eggnog and cookies at the gym come January. Brush up, kids:



1. "Feedback" by Janet Jackson > Hotness squared. Miss Jackson delivers on this promising, albeit overproduced, kickoff single from her tenth album, Discipline, in stores this spring. Smell that? Should be a definite comeback.



2. "Outta My Head" by Ashlee Simpson > Timbaland officially sells out and lays it down for Ashlee's first single off of her third studio album. 80s dance-punk has never sounded so contrived.



3. "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis > Her debut album hits stores in March (she's already huge in the UK), and she's been called the next Mariah or Whitney (y'know, when they could actually sing).



4. "Scream" by Timbaland featuring Nicole Scherzinger and Keri Hilson > Tim's fourth single from his impressive solo album will premiere its video on January 15.



5. "Livin' a Lie" by The Dream featuring Rihanna > My favorite of the crop - Rihanna guest stars on The Dream's latest album, Lovehate and blows us away with this irresistible and bouncin' duet.

6. "How Many Words" by Blake Lewis > B-Shorty gets in touch with his inner Erasure on this hypnotic track from the electric Audio Day Dream.

7. "Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield > You heard it on the finale of The Hills. Surely to follow her duet with Sean Kingston as the second single from her second U.S. release.

8. "Let's Dance" by Hi-Tack > David Bowie's 80s classic gets another makeover, this time as a straight-up dance track from the masters of house.

9. "B Boy Baby" by Mutya Buena featuring Amy Winehouse > 60s doo-wop meets girly R&B on this collaboration from the former Sugababe and everyone's favorite British trainwreck.

10. "4 Minutes to Save the World" by Madonna > Madge attempts to save her dignity while saving the world with this rumored-to-be first single from her next album. Timbaland (shocker) spreads himself thin and produces.

Pencils down. Radios ready. Tune in.

Coming soon...2007: REWIND, my annual year-end review...It's so big, you may need...um, well, it's just big. Look out.

They're Everywhere

This morning, while toweling off in the locker room at the 24-Hour Fitness on Pico Boulevard, I overheard two buddies exchanging pleasantries on a bench. Apparently the two men hadn't seen each other for some time.

Guy #1: What have you been up to?

Guy #2: Putting my life back together, y'know?

Guy #1: Really?

Guy #2: Yeah, I've discovered this new philosophy - Scientology. It really puts things in perspective. I've learned to let go of my anger.

Guy #1: Um, good for you.

Guy #2: It's a beautiful philopsophy. It's really opened my eyes and helped me get my life back on track. You should hear what they have to say.

Guy #1 (rushing to pack his duffel bag and get the hell out of there): Great.

Full of It



I am thankful for the tree that stands outside my Westwood apartment complex.

It's a reminder of the authentic autumns I left behind on the East Coast. Its orange leaves have fallen onto our driveway like rose petals carefully strewn across the pathway, welcoming us home every night and sending us off into the unknowns of every smog-tinged morning.

It gives me hope that Los Angeles is capable of a real autumn during which layers can be worn, actual foliage can be enjoyed, and pumpkin scones can be eaten during morning commutes.

My first Thanksgiving in Los Angeles had been a depressing one. During the November of 2002 I had been a barista at Starbucks. It was around the corner from my Spanish-tiled one-bedroom on 7th Avenue in Venice. It was the first time in my 22 years that I had woken up in an empty house, to no delicious smells coming from the kitchen, no turkey roasting in the oven. I had to go to work. Scarfing down a bowl of Cheerios, I had caught ten minutes of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC (my usual tradition up until then had involved a more lavish breakfast and sitting through the corny production in its entirety). Katie Couric and Matt Lauer's chatter and comments on the damp weather, no longer broadcast live for me, reminded me of what I had left behind. Had this been one of the first signs of homesickness?

The remainder of the day was spent brewing Venti decaf, non-fat, soy lattes for the mirthless few who walked in and drove through on their day off. However, the holiday wasn't as hopeless as it had started. I ended my day with a few college acquaintances in a Burbank apartment, sitting at a fold-out table, eating off of Dixie plates and enjoying our first post-collegiate Orphans Thanksgiving.

My second Thanksgiving in Los Angeles was an improvement. I dined with some co-workers and their respective friends in the Los Feliz home of a production assistant who had worked on That 70s Show. I brought my signature candied yam dish for all to share; unfortunately, Atkins was the diet du jour that year, and my potluck contribution barely made it to everyone's plate.

Thanksgiving 2004 saw me return to New York and to the homey goodness of my family's recipes. I realized how much I had missed our signature stuffing...and a good rainstorm. I welcomed the cold and damp weather as my parents and I trekked to my aunt's house for a sinful smorgasboard of sweets after dinner.

One year later, when I had worked for the wonderful Jack Kenny on The Book of Daniel, I temporarily lived in his beautiful home in the hills, looking after his Great Dane, the lovable, snuggable Razzie, and his two cats. It was my first time playing host for the holiday, and it was my most lavish one. Ten of us had gathered in the dining room, noshing on garlic mashed potatoes, rosemary-garnished hen and sauteed vegetables while Razzie slept in the corner, perhaps waiting for a rogue piece of turkey to land on the hardwood floor.

Last year had been the first time I held the dinner in my small townhouse apartment on Bedford. I became a half-Asian Emeril Lagasse and marinated a 10-pound turkey in a beer brine for 24 hours in my fridge. Dessert later followed during a screening of Mean Girls and an attempt to play a round of Trivial Pursuit.

T-Day 2007 was possibly my most fabulous one to date. The always welcoming Michael and Corey hosted their own dinner and invited the members of their L.A. family who chose to avoid the chaotic airports and clogged freeways. Bottles of wine waited for us on the candlelit table, our names written on leaf nametags. Pumpkintinis were served shortly before the turkey made its debut among the horseradish-garlic potatoes, noodle kugel, and string bean casserole on the serving table which was draped in golds and reds. Cups of whipped pumpkin butter were planted next to trays of salt and pepper and jugs of unsweetened iced tea and apple cider. In the background, the soft sounds of John Legend and Jason Mraz contributed to the casual-chic ambience. I found myself dining inside a Crate and Barrel catalog.



"This is how we rock Thanksgiving in the City of Angels," I noted during a teary-eyed toast from our host.

Within a half hour all twelve of us were in food comas, shifting in our seats, rubbing our stomachs, asking why do we do this to ourselves year after year. Yet we still sought after the apple and pecan pies, fulfilling our basic human need to get our dessert on.

The night ended shortly after eight, and I didn't know if my exhaustion was due to the overeating or the lack of sleep from earlier in the week (Tryptophan, my fellow Thanksgivers concluded, is just a myth). I drove home with the defroster on (it be chilly) and crashed on my couch while watching a TiVoed Pushing Daisies. I was in bed by ten, the alarm set for an early start on Black Friday. For those of you wondering, I did manage to finish half of my Christmas shopping the next morning. God bless Target and its express lanes; the checkout lines and parking lots weren't as painful as predicted. My helpful tip: read the ads beforehand to see what is exactly on sale, make the necessary adjustments on your list, and go alone (I was back home by 8am).

And so it begins, the hectic holiday season, a time when parties are planned, gifts are purchased, and schedules overflow with shit to do. I am mentally bracing myself as needed.

And through it all, I'll still have that tree standing outside my Westwood apartment, its orange leaves still reminding me of what I have left behind on the East Coast. But, at the same time, it will also remind me of what I have gained over the past several years during the past several holidays - a second family.

Happy Shopping (If I can brave Best Buy at 6am, anyone can).

H.P.M.


Southland Tales

It seems like I am the only person I know who had been heavily anticipating Richard Kelly's ambitious, apocalyptic follow-up to one of my favorite movies of all-time, Donnie Darko. This all-star epic has been so under-the-radar, I assume that a good number of you who read this are probably hearing about it now for the first time.

Blame the publicity nightmare of a reaction (the questionable casting!) that came out of Cannes...in 2006. Blame the writers strike; there's no sign of a press junket, and there are hardly any talk shows on which its stars can promote it. Blame the delay due to the constant retooling the young writer-director had to endure (remember, this was supposed to be in theaters over a year ago).

Whatever the obstacles, however many warning flags were raised to hail this as one cinematic hot mess, it's out now...and I frickin' loved it.

The nutshell: Dwayne Johnson plays a movie star with amnesia who teams up with a porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and an anxious cop (Seann William Scott) to expose a government conspiracy that eventually causes the end of the world during the 2008 presidential election. Oh, and then there's Justin Timberlake who plays a drugged-out and disfigured Iraq veteran (and Bible-quoting narrator), Mandy Moore at her bitchiest and Miranda Richardson who plays the duplicitous wife of a senator looking to get inside the Oval Office with the help of a corrupt corporation run by Wallace "Inconceivable" Shawn. Next, throw in some time-travel, a Kevin Smith cameo, and bizarro turns from Bai Ling, John Larroquette and Cheri Oteri (as a Marxist-like revolutionist), and you have yourself a satirical smorgasboard of dystopian delights accompanied by a hypnotic score from Moby.


The mind of Richard Kelly is an awe-inspiring thing. To create a world filled with out-there characters and a dozen storylines to track is one thing, but to pepper it all with unorthodox ideas and themes takes brass balls. To call this a Gen-Y-friendly version of Brazil would be trite and do a disservice to the insane amount of effort and imagination that went into what will surely be a cult classic (tsk-tsk to Beowulf for hogging all of the box office receipts this weekend). And I call it that because what is a movie that frustrates the mind with its chaotic acts and demands repeated viewings? I already await the director's cut on DVD since I noticed one its many random co-stars, Janeane Garafolo, was cut from the final print. The deleted scenes are just screaming to be watched someday (mind you, it now clocks in at a heavy 2 hours and 25 minutes). Watching this movie, I got the sense that there was a whole lot more we weren't getting, plenty of layers we barely scratched.

May I also suggest breezing through the graphic novel trilogy-prequel (the movie opens with Part IV). I was lucky enough to get my hands on the advance copies through a friend of the director's, and the film was still a giant pill to swallow. Granted, it's a pill some won't want to take.

www.southlandtales.com

Invasion of the 80s Remakes

They're here.



Apparently Hollywood has moved on from Japanese ghosts and torture porn.

The next subgenre du jour? 80s horror remakes. Or as I like to call it, The Neverending Rape of My Childhood Memories.

New Line is about sign the guy who did the Texas Chainsaw redo to direct the re-imagining of Friday the 13th (Jason's back, and Camp Crystal Lake is open for business again). MGM has lined up a new Poltergeist (sans Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams, but bet on that same crazy-scary clown doll). And the guys who wrote 2008's Prom Night (starring Brittany Snow) got chosen to pen the 21st-century version of The Stepfather starring Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), Sela Ward and Gossip Girl's Penn Badgely.

Why won't I be surprised if I see a new Scream hitting theaters in 2010?

I don't think my eyes can roll back far enough.

H.P.M.

Writing the Wrong

Today is Day 5. Right now hundreds of picketers are clogging up Pico Boulevard at Fox Studios near my old neighborhood, making it the biggest gathering during the strike so far.

The drama (or lack thereof) continues.



Okay, we get it. Y'all hope it doesn't last too long either:



'Tis an interesting yet frustrating time. As the days go by, the more dire this looks. As one who wishes to someday be a part of this very union, I can't help but imagine myself lining up with the rest of them had I randomly sold a pilot a year ago and become another one of those "promising, new" showrunners for network television. But that is not the case, and already I have friends and acquaintances whose jobs have been compromised by the whole mess. I sympathize with my industry brethren, especially those in the production arena, and wish them well. I realize I am fortunate to still be able to function in this cocoon of an office. I just hope the fallout doesn't reach us too soon.

I'd like to stay in my bubble as long as I can.

H.P.M.

Quarterlife



"A sad truth about my generation is that we were all geniuses in elementary school, but apparently the people who deal with us never got our transcripts because they don't seem to be aware of it."

So opens what promises to be a poignant new series coming soon - not to TV or cable - but to MySpace.

Premiering on November 11, quarterlife (that lowercased title just screams with irreverence and woe) follows the lives of several twentysomethings learning how to come to terms with a world that has no clear terms. Our cyber-savvy protaganist is Dylan, a vlogger who vents about those closest to her and stirs up drama among her circle of friends. Produced by the wonderteam of Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (poetic angstfest My So-Called Life), this new made-for-the-Web show features a refreshingly non-flashy cast (no CW model-actors here) and painfully real dialogue that manages to avoid being too whiny.

And who knows? With the current writers strike threatening to shut down all of network and cable television (no new Ugly Betty! Or Heroes!), this may just be a hit...and the future of scripted drama.



Quarterlife on MySpaceTV

Christmas Comes Early



Another red carpet to walk...Corey and I attended the Fred Claus premiere in Hollywood over the weekend.

Check it out.

Tennessee Invades L.A.



My first interview for Hot in Hollywood TV is now up and running for all to see.

Enjoy: http://www.hotinhollywood.tv/original/2007/10/tennessee-invad.html

And if you'd like to read the rest of my latest entries, the good folks over at HIH have given me my own page: http://www.hotinhollywood.tv/original/hiko_mitsuzuka/index.html

H.P.M.

L.A.: Likable Apocalypse

I couldn't have said it better myself...

From BLDGBLOG:

"I got back from Los Angeles last night and my head is still spinning. I'd move there again in a heartbeat.

There are three great cities in the United States: there's Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York – in that order. I love Boston; I even love Denver; I like Miami; I think Washington DC is habitable; but Los Angeles is Los Angeles. You can't compare it to Paris, or to London, or to Rome, or to Shanghai. You can interestingly contrast it to those cities, sure, and Los Angeles even comes out lacking; but Los Angeles is still Los Angeles.



No matter what you do in L.A., your behavior is appropriate for the city. Los Angeles has no assumed correct mode of use. You can have fake breasts and drive a Ford Mustang – or you can grow a beard, weigh 300 pounds, and read Christian science fiction novels. Either way, you're fine: that's just how it works. You can watch Cops all day or you can be a porn star or you can be a Caltech physicist. You can listen to Carcass – or you can listen to Pat Robertson. Or both.

That's how we dooz it.

L.A. is the Apocalypse: it's you and a bunch of parking lots. No one's going to save you; no one's looking out for you. It's the only city I know where that's the explicit premise of living there – that's the deal you make when you move to L.A. The city, ironically, is emotionally authentic. It says: no one loves you; you're the least important person in the room; get over it.

What matters is what you do there.



And maybe that means renting Hot Fuzz and eating too many pretzels; or maybe that means driving a Prius out to Malibu and surfing with Daryl Hannah as a means of protesting something; or maybe that means buying everything Fredric Jameson has ever written and even underlining significant passages as you visit the Westin Bonaventura. Maybe that just means getting into skateboarding, or into E!, or into Zen, Kabbalah, and Christian mysticism; or maybe you'll plunge yourself into gin-fueled all-night Frank Sinatra marathons – or you'll lift weights and check email every two minutes on your Blackberry and watch old Bruce Willis films.

Who cares?

Literally no one cares, is the answer. No one cares. You're alone in the world.
L.A. is explicit about that.

If you can't handle a huge landscape made entirely from concrete, interspersed with 24-hour drugstores stocked with medications you don't need, then don't move there.

It's you and a bunch of parking lots.

You'll see Al Pacino in a traffic jam, wearing a stocking cap; you'll see Cameron Diaz in the check-out line at Whole Foods, giggling through a mask of reptilian skin; you'll see Harry Shearer buying bulk shrimp.

The whole thing is ridiculous. It's the most ridiculous city in the world – but everyone who lives there knows that. No one thinks L.A. "works," or that it's well-designed, or that it's perfectly functional, or even that it makes sense to have put it there in the first place; they just think it's interesting. And they have fun there.

And the huge irony is that Southern California is where you can actually do what you want to do; you can just relax and be ridiculous. In L.A. you don't have to be embarrassed by yourself. You're not driven into a state of endless, vaguely militarized self-justification by your xenophobic neighbors.

You've got a surgically pinched, thin Michael Jackson nose? You've got a goatee and a trucker hat? You've got a million-dollar job and a Bentley? You've got to be at work at the local doughnut shop before 6am? Or maybe you've got 16 kids and an addiction to Yoo-Hoo – who cares?

It doesn't matter.

Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it's bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don't matter. You're free.



In Los Angeles you can be standing next to another human being but you may as well be standing next to a geological formation. Whatever that thing is, it doesn't care about you. And you don't care about it. Get over it. You're alone in the world. Do something interesting.

Do what you actually want to do – even if that means reading P.D. James or getting your nails done or re-oiling car parts in your backyard.

Because no one cares.

In L.A. you can grow Fabio hair and go to the Arclight and not be embarrassed by yourself. Every mode of living is appropriate for L.A. You can do what you want. And I don't just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversity and so we should celebrate it on that level and be done with it; I mean that Los Angeles is the confrontation with the void. It is the void. It's the confrontation with astronomy through near-constant sunlight and the inhuman radiative cancers that result. It's the confrontation with geology through plate tectonics and buried oil, methane, gravel, tar, and whatever other weird deposits of unknown ancient remains are sitting around down there in the dry and fractured subsurface. It's a confrontation with the oceanic; with anonymity; with desert time; with endless parking lots.

And it doesn't need humanizing. Who cares if you can't identify with Los Angeles? It doesn't need to be made human. It's better than that."

Return of the Boy Band

They're called NLT (stands for Not Like Them).

Names: Travis, JJ, V, and Kevin.

Where you saw them: on tour with the Pussycat Dolls.

Courtesy of Timbaland (does he ever quit?), the new single's called "She Said, I Said (Time We Let Go)".

The addiction has begun...



www.myspace.com/nlttug

The Extinction of Originality

What with the rampant remaking going on in Hollywood these days, I have decided to roll with the blasphemy and come up with a dream cast for a remake that should never be redone AT. ALL. I repeat: NEVER.

I was toying with the idea while knocking back some Barbera red at Briana and Shelby's wine-tasting party this weekend. We were rightfully bitching about the extinction of originality in this business to which we gradually sell pieces of our souls. Halloween is about to be followed by redos of Prom Night (out spring 2008) and Friday the 13th. The Heartbreak Kid will inspire updates of The Big Chill and - wait for it - The Karate Kid , starring - wait for it again - Will Smith's 9-year-old son, Jaden.

Vomit bags can be found in the seat pockets in front of you.

My remake that should never be made? The Breakfast Club. I could write a thesis on why a classic like this should never be tampered with. The time capsule it symbolizes. Its timeless message. Its three-dimensional characters and authentic dialgoue. Neither gross-out nor sex-crazed, it's that rare teen movie that stands the test of time; it continues to resonate with different generations. No wonder why it's been ranked as the number one high school movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly and voted as everyone's most favorite teen movie in various polls.

And you just know that if it were to come out today, it would be considered an indie.

However, while sipping fine chardonnay and enjoying each other's company on Saturday night, we couldn't help but wonder: What if...?

Presenting the cast of The Breakfast Club: The New Class...

Claire - 1985: Molly Ringwald, 2008: Emma Roberts


Brian - 1985: Anthony Michael Hall, 2008: Michael Cera


Allison - 1985: Ally Sheedy, 2008: Ellen Page


Andy - 1985: Emilio Estevez, 2008: Zac Efron


Bender - 1985: Judd Nelson, 2008: Omarion


Principal Vernon - 1985: Paul Gleason, 2008: Kevin Spacey


And if this were to happen, aside from gathering my fellow GenYers to stand with pitchforks outside the studio that greenlights this blasphemous piece of cinema, I would write a lengthy diatribe and send hundreds of copies to the execs who had the cajones to let this be. I would unleash a fury the blogosphere has never seen before.

The threat of Adventures in Babysitting with Raven Simone and a Goonies sequel was enough. Just please make it stop.

Please.

H.P.M.

Shocktober

The pants left no room to breathe.

With the slightest move I could feel the stitches preparing to give way. The tree trunks, also known as my legs, were ready to bust out of their polyester prison. Forget Zombie Prom King, I felt like the Hulk on the verge of a massive blow-up...

This weekend I hope to find my new look for Halloween 2007. I pray for the inspiration to create a memorable costume that could very well top last year's. Last weekend I made a premature purchase at the Spirit Halloween Store in Marina Del Rey, a shredded powder-blue tuxedo with a black corsage (makeup included): Zombie Prom King. I tried on the shirt and jacket knowing full well that the material was as cheap as a box of bargain-bin mac-and-cheese. The fabric, most likely hand-stitched in a Guatamalan sweatshop, was so flimsy and (possibly) flammable I'd have to hide from the tiniest of open flames to avoid becoming an actual cadaver. Since the store had no dressing rooms (how convenient), I attempted to slip on the pants over my jeans. No such luck, but I went ahead with the assessment that they were the right length and would be snug on the ass - but doable nonetheless.

We're at that time of year when I usually go on about the splatterfests I watch on TV to get myself ready for the sexyscary candyfest we all-consuming Americans call Halloween. This is also when I desperately search for the perfect costume, something original - none of that hot cop/hot fireman/hot cowboy bullshit. Last year's costume, Snakes on a Pilot, got raves from random people on the street as I walked down Santa Monica Boulevard during the annual West Hollywood Carnivale. Granted, it wasn't entirely "hot," just creative and relevant, a gimmick that fit in with the zeitgeist at the time.

But what now? I can already predict how many guys are going to don some drapes, grab a helmet and sword and pray for instant rock-hard abs as they walk the street shouting, "THIS. IS. SPARTA!"

No thanks. Muy obviouso. Plus, my ab roller's in the shop.

I've considered putting on a gold headdress, laying on the mascara, and stepping out as Generic Eqyptian Dude. It would be kind of retro, a throwback to the 70s, when people seemed to have had an obsession with all things hieroglyphic (Or was it just my family back in New York, where King Tut's tomb made its American debut at the Museum of Natural History and stirred up Mummy Mania?). My mom is a card-carrying member of the Tut Fan Club. Give her a piece of cow dung with imprints of an ankh or the face of Anubis, and she'll treasure it as if it were a real archaelogical find.

But back to the drawing board, or in this case, the crowded costume shops and novelty boutiques across greater Los Angeles. The clock is ticking; nearly three weeks until the big bash in Encino (See Saving the Date). Must. Get. Costume.

I have yet to understand the indifference some people have towards the holiday. On the surface, yes, it's all about collecting candy while parading around the neighborhood, a night for kiddies. However, as I've gotten older, I have realized it's more about the opportunity to live out a fantasy, a chance to step outside one's self and assume an entirely different and exciting new identity. It's a time when demure librarians can go goth, when shy techies can turn jock, and when homecoming queens can emulate Ugly Betty (but will usually opt for a Slutty Anything). It's that one time of the year when you have no obligation to be yourself. The fakers, for once, have their day.

I will now leave the floor open for costume suggestions. However, please refrain from recommending anything like a Freudian Slip (a nightgown covered with headshots of Sigmund) or The Devil Wears Prada (use your imagination there). The winning suggestion shall receive a nice, shiny can of Red Bull along with a copy of my latest mix CD, compiled especially for the party.

Happy Friday, y'all.

And yes, 80 more shopping days 'til Christmas.

H.P.M.

This Is The Way The World Ends



The apocalypse satire I've been waiting years for, Richard Kelly's long-awaited follow-up to Donnie Darko, opens November 9.

And here's your first look at stills from the soon-to-be-released trailer (Yes, that's Justin Timberlake and Cheri Oteri).