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In a nutshell:
"Ushering in the comedy of cruelty...Gene Hackman is a veteran...cold-blooded, infantile killer...working with smart-pop...nostalgic whitewash to reveal the exhilaration, anguish and...incredible game graphics...on pretty white panties... Congress reimbursed him for...trying to peek up a woman's skirt."
A PLANNER PREMATURELY BEDECKED IN TINSEL
With Turkey Day Still Two Weeks Away,
We'd Like to Stuff Your Stockings
This week's Planner would like to remind you that it's never too soon to start prepping for the holidays. That seems to be the message the mall versions of Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware seem to be floating out into the ether anyway. Why just a few days ago, on Nov. 6, we took a stroll through the Beverly Center and found ourselves assaulted by Christmas cheer. Stores throughout the mall were in various stages of Holiday Prep. A few stores even had Christmas songs piped in. While that was a pleasant respite from the jackhammer-subtle techno-crap of many of the finer boutiques, it did beg a question: Since when did it become OK to hype Xmas before the Thanksgiving doses of tryptophan wear off? Doesn't anyone remember Veterans' Day? It's this week, for Pete's sake!

BLACK ORCHID
Shallow Hal
(20th Century Fox): The Farrellys are growing up. In the past, the brother directors have been accused of ushering in the comedy of cruelty by taking aim on the Amish and bowlers with bad hairpieces in Kingpin, tiny dogs and Ben Stiller's crotch in There's Something About Mary and black dwarves in Me, Myself & Irene. Surprisingly, their latest is a sweet-natured fable of a lothario who falls in love with an overweight girl after being hypnotized by real-life self-help guru Tony Robbins into seeing only people's inner beauty. Like the other best American comedies of the year—Jerry Zucker's Rat Race, Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World and Stiller's Zoolander—the Farrellys refuse to condescend to their characters, no matter how fringe. In a role that proves he can carry a movie on his own, Jack Black (the singing half of rock comedy duo Tenacious D) turns Hal into more than a caricature—he hooks you from the very start. This guy could well turn into the comedy leading man John Belushi never quite got a chance to be. Directing with unexpected empathy, the brothers have assembled a rich supporting cast that includes sleazy best buddy Jason Alexander (in his bug-eyed George mode, with a patented Farrellys bad rug that looks stitched on his head) and the amazing Rene Kirby, a real-life spina bifida victim who doesn't let the fact that he walks on all fours bother him. Gwyneth Paltrow deserves kudos for being a good sport in a role that is not as easy as it looks, playing the inner soul of someone who knows she's not attractive with a poignant, bittersweet quality. It's a conceit that finally wears thin—pardon the expression—by the end, but the theme of not falling under the tyranny of outer appearance is especially relevant today. This movie could be the sleeper of the fall season, like Mary was a few summers back; it's a film that allows people to forget about the real world and its tribulations for 90-odd minutes. And who would have expected that kind of compassion from the auteurs of Dumb and Dumber? Roy Trakin

TRAKIN'S PICKS TO FLICK
Heist (Warner Bros.): Writer/director David Mamet really hasn't made a totally satisfying film since, well, House of Games, and this caper movie looks like a retread of Frank Oz's The Score, from earlier this year, with Robert De Niro as the older thief drawn back into action by Edward Norton. Still, the cast looks excellent, and who better to tell a tale of double-crossing and misdirection than the master himself? Gene Hackman is a veteran burglar whose fence (Danny DeVito) reneges on the money he's owed and whose wife (Mrs. Mamet, Rebecca Pidgeon) may be betraying him with the fence's young lieutenant (Sam Rockwell). Meanwhile, his partner (Delroy Lindo) and utility man (card shark and Mamet regular Ricky Jay) find themselves broke, betrayed, blackmailed and forced to commit DeVito's "One Last Big Job." The movie has all the right credentials, including the standard no-nonsense, multimedia website at www.heist-movie.com.

The American Astronaut (Artistic License Films): An offshoot of the camp S.F. multimedia cabaret/music outfit the Billy Nayer Show, the movie marks the feature debut of writer/director/star/soundtrack co-composer/song lyricist Cory McAbee, one-half of BNS Productions with partner Bobby Lurie. McAbee plays an interplanetary trader from Nevada who takes an intergalactic journey to provide the all-female population of Venus with a suitably eligible male, all the while being pursued by the cold-blooded, infantile killer, Professor Hess. The lo-fi, black & white production is a spoof of silent westerns and features a soundtrack by, naturally, the Billy Nayer Show. The Sundance entry looks like a combination of Rocky Horror Picture Show and Eraserhead. The soundtrack's available from BSG Records ([email protected]) and the evocative, DIY website is at www.americanastronaut.comR.T.

GUY WITH THE GOGGLES' NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
Green Bay at CHICAGO +2 1/2
Hell's bells. I cain't believe I'm below .500 for the season, so I guess I better pick me some sure shots like these here. Now, I still cain't believe the Bears have the best record in football—I jest don't buy it. That's why I'm pickin' the Packers to whack 'em.

Oakland at SEATTLE +5
Dang, these here Seahawks jest plain suck. When yer team has a better record with Trent Dilfer than with yer starting quarterback, somethin' jest ain't right. I need a sure shot, and any way you look at it, you gotta love them Raiders. Die, Al Davis, die! —Guy W.T. Goggles
(Year-to-date: 4-6)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we generally dislike." —Oscar Wilde

UNDER THE RADAR
Ken Stringfellow, Touched (
Manifesto): On his first solo outing, the Posies co-founder (and Big Star Mk. 2 member) forgoes the baroque pop of his band (not to mention the skewed pop of Big Star) in favor of an intimate approach focused on his disarmingly genuine vocals. Working with smart-pop pioneer Mitch Easter (good thinkin', Ken), the veteran artist crafts handmade rhythm tracks and adorns them sparingly—a weeping pedal steel on "Down Like Me," a churchy, Procol Harum-like organ on "This One's on You"—so that every detail carries musical and emotional weight. The album climaxes with a trio of understated beauties in "Fireflies" ("Surfs Up" meets Abbey Road), "The Lover's Hymn" (blue-eyed Philly soul) and poignant closer "Here's to the Future," a toast to hope and humanity. I'll drink to that. Bud Scoppa

KIDS SING THE DARNDEST THINGS
The Langley Schools Music Project: Innocence and Despair
(Bar/None): You may already have heard (perhaps on NPR) about this unique disc, which is generating breathless press and selling impressively for such an eccentric project. A combination of two albums recorded in Canadian school gyms in the ྂs, Langley features untrained schoolkids singing pop tunes by the likes of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, David Bowie, the Eagles, Goffin/King and even Klaatu. Thanks to the leadership of Hans Fenger, an itinerant hippie music teacher who cared more about kids enjoying music than about turning them into performers, it's a surprisingly deep experience. Why? Partly because it conjures the vulnerability of childhood so pungently, cutting through the nostalgic whitewash to reveal the exhilaration, anguish and yearning the kids understood in the songs. But also because there's something hugely liberating about the fact that these youngsters are so honestly immersed in the melodies. In other words, it's less about folk singing than about folks singing—and despite the wandering pitch, periodically flubbed lyrics and, sometimes, clueless musicianship, it stays with you. The track everyone's talking about is then 9-year-old Sheila Behman's take on "Desperado," which suggests a pre-teen Nico in its stunning poise and lack of affect. But there are other gems, notably an unsteady but terribly moving rendition of "The Long and Winding Road" by one Joy Jackson and ensemble rave-ups like "I'm Into Something Good," "Sweet Caroline" and "Help Me, Rhonda." If only I'd had a music teacher like that.
Simon Glickman

BREAKING UP IS SO VERY HARD TO DO
Various artists, Songs for the Dumped (Ivana's homemade CD compilation):
You can't buy this CD; the only way to get it is to suck up to our Co-Presidentor recreate it yourself. The inspiration came from Ivana's empathetic response to the news that one of her young musician charges (who shall remain nameless) had suffered his first breakup. The resulting song sequence functions as an instrument of both catharsis and education. Indeed, Ivana had already initiated the recipient of this compilation in the oeuvres of Gram Parsons, the Blue Nile and Jimmy Webb (whose "All I Know," performed by Art Garfunkel, is included), but in this context, the songs she's selected take on emotional as well as historic significance. As a secondary recipient of this treasure, it was gratifying to reconnect with Dusty Springfield's stunning performance on "No Easy Way Down" and the gorgeous string arrangement on Lloyd Cole's "There for Her," as well as to figure out that "Trouble," covered here by Kristen Hersh, was penned and recorded by Cat Stevens. But I also managed to uncover an intriguing (if unintended) thematic subtext in the inclusion of latter-day classics from Grant Lee Buffalo, the Jayhawks and Matthew Sweet. See, I've been working myself up to putting together a personal best-of-the-ྖs disc, and I'd earmarked these three songs as musts. That's the beauty of personal compilations like this one—they inevitably generate further personal compilations. I can't wait to get started. —B.S.

Songs for the Dumped
Black Box Recorder, "Facts of Life" (Jarvis Cocker remix)
Air, "All I Need"
Cousteau, "How Will I Know?"
Walker Brothers, "Make It Easy on Yourself"
Lloyd Cole, "There for Her"
Mercury Rev, "The Dark Is Rising"
Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"
Grant Lee Buffalo, "Truly, Truly"
Ryan Adams, "Somehow, Someday"
Jayhawks, "Blue"
Matthew Sweet, "You Don't Love Me"
Gram Parsons, "$1000 Wedding"
Kristen Hersh, "Trouble"
Roxy Music, "Oh Yeah"
Blue Nile, "Let's Go Out Tonight"
Art Garfunkel, "All I Know"
Todd Rundgren, "A Long Time, A Long Way to Go"

LP'Z PS2 GAME OF THA WEEK
Resident Evil 2:
Though he was a demon—& I'm not talkin about Ricky Leigh—tha legendary swordsman awoke one day to do justice. Alone, he defeated tha demon army & imprisoned its emperor, Mundus, saving tha human world from damnation. Now, 2,000 years later, in a large American metropolis, a man named Dante, a private investigator of tha supernatural, iz seeking revenge for tha death of his mother and brother. However, Dante comes face to face with his destiny, discovering that tha evil conspiracy goes back thousands of years and that tha evil Mundus has arisen a new. Tha world iz waiting, for Dante iz no ordinary man, and with his father's sword in hand, he must enter tha demon realm and avenge mankind. Resident Evil 2 has incredible game graphics and sound you won't believe. It haz a dark and gothic tone with an artistically crafted art style. Unsurpassed particle effects and light-sourcing set a new standard in video-game realism. This game introduces an all-new level of character control, allowing amazing depth of character movement. Enuff said.
Latin Prince

VICE-PRESIDENTIAL FACT OF THE WEEK
Daniel D. Tompkins, our seventh veep, was born in Scarsdale, NY, on June 21, 1774. He served two terms as vice president under James Monroe, our fifth president. Known popularly as the "farmer's boy," Tompkins was a Columbia College grad, a congressman and a New York supreme court justice. He also served four terms as New York governor. A supporter of public education, he also advocated prison reform and better treatment for Indians. Under his sponsorship, the legislature in 1817 passed an act abolishing slavery in New York by 1827. In 1824, Congress reimbursed him for personal losses in public service, a vindication of charges that as governor he had mismanaged state and federal funds during the War of 1812. He died in Staten Island, NY, on June 11, 1825. Best Anagram of his Name: I'm a splendid knot.

YOUR WEEKLY FORTUNE
Plus Lucky Numbers!
Our fortunes and lucky numbers are written on pretty white panties.
You will take a pleasant journey to a place far away.
14, 17, 23, 29, 42, 49.

A NEW YORK MINUTE
Where in the World Is the World? I know that I'm supposed to have some knowledge about the world of music, so I should know, but I have no idea, where in the world The World—the club where Alien Ant Farm is playing tonight—actually is. A quick poll in the office proves that no one else does either, with the exception of the person who said, "I think that it's new and near Times Square." I do, however love their version of "Smooth Criminal," so tracking down the club should be worth it. [Ed. note: Ticketmaster.com lists The World at 43rd & Broadway.] Saturday, in the "she's still around?" category, is Lisa Loeb, who's performing at Shine. Also on Saturday is Stereolab at Irving Plaza. While I think that they're stuck in an awkward (read: not very interesting) spot musically, I strongly suggest going just to see opener Rebecca Gates, formerly of the Spinanes, whose songs pack a punch even when it's just her and her guitar. Sunday there's Jim O'Rourke at Tonic. While I've never cared for his music (I much prefer his work as a producer), so many other people love him that there's probably something that I'm missing. Heidi Anne-Noel

CURIOUS NEWS STORY OF THE WEEK
Giving New Meaning to the Phrase "Beaver Shot": A Japanese gangster fired his gun and injured two policemen in Kobe after they caught him trying to peek up a woman's skirt. The 52-year-old "yakuza" gangster, a member of the huge Yamaguchi crime syndicate, was trying to look up the woman's skirt when a policeman noticed and tried to question him, domestic news agencies said. The mobster fired off shots, injuring the two officers before being subdued and arrested, the reports added. Japan's strict gun control laws make shootings rare but gunfights sometimes break out among rival mobsters. —J.D.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
Upcoming Birthdays
Nov. 9-15
9—Carl Sagan (would have been 67)
10—Richard Burton (would have been 76)
11—Kurt Vonnegut (79) & Jonathan Winters (76)
12—Neil Young (56)
14—Jawaharlal Nehru (would have been 112)
15—Georgia O'Keeffe (would have been 114) & Daniel Pinkwater (60)

Special Events
11—Veterans Day
12—Birth of Baha'u'llah
14—Children's Day (India)
15—Great American Smokeout

YOUR WEAKEND WEATHER
A Broken Clock Is Wrong All but Twice a Day: I said it wasn't going to rain in Los Angeles last weekend and then it did, but my weather predictions are still more reliable than the Guy With the Goggles' NFL picks, and nobody bets on the weather. If you could gamble on atmospheric conditions, the over/under for the high in NYC this weekend would be 55; the low will be in the mid-30s. Skies will be partly cloudy. Here in the city where it rains every few months, take sunshine and temps in the upper 60s +5. For the low, I'm taking the upper 50s, cuz partly cloudy skies should keep it a little warmer at night.
David Simutis, Senior Meteorology Correspondent (Year to date: 43-1)

FACTS OF LIFE SUMMARY FOR THE WEEK
A veil of secrecy descends upon the dormitory after Natalie discovers Blair sneaked a peak at her diary.

ANOTHER BILLIE BANGER? (UPDATE)
Are you free Wednesday afternoon? (11/12a)
BIEBER BY CHRISTMAS?
How's that for a tease, Bieber Nation? (11/12a)
NEAR TRUTHS: MEET
THE NEW BOSSES
Not the same as the old bosses (11/12a)
CMA CENTERPIECE
CARRIE UNDERWOOD
This sure feels like her moment. (11/12a)
WHO'S GETTING ZERVAS?
It's down to two bidders. (11/12a)
THE GRAMMY NOMINATOINS
They'll soon be here, and then we can start obsessing about who'll win.
U.K. SPECIAL
Forget Brexit--it's our yearly survey of doings in Blighty. And if you still can't forget Brexit, try drinking.
ZERVAS STATION
Who's going to land the hottest unsigned property in music?
WEED!
That's what Hollywood smells like. Seriously. 24/7.
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