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A great distillation of the grand old narrative tradition of Hawthorne with the pop-culture patina of Wolfe and Irving, overlaid with the postmodern surrealism of Gaddis, Pynchon and DeLillo, The Corrections is one of those zeitgeist books that hits the current human condition on
the head.
WILD-CARD WEAKEND PLANNER
So Many Choices, So Little Time
Talk about your action-packed 48 hours. This is the week one of the NFL Playoffs, with four games, including one—Jets at Oakland—in prime time Saturday. We're also in the middle of the basketball season, with a raft of televised NCAA and NBA games to check in on. But the time is severely limited, with all those potential Oscar-nominees to work your way through—in L.A., the favorite January pastime is scoring viewing copies of current flicks from Academy members so as not to have to leave the couch. All that, plus that CD of delectable Beatles covers and that book you just can't put down...

GUY WITH THE GOGGLES' NFL WILD-CARD PICKS
Tampa Bay + 3 over PHILADELPHIA
Boy howdy, these here games are tough to call. Last week's game between these two ain't no help at all. Now, whatcha got here is a team in the Eagles that cain't seem to win at home, and the Buccaneers cain't win when it's below 40 degrees. In my estimation, they're both losers—but you gotta pick the Bucs and the three 'n' a half.

New York Jets + 4 over OAKLAND
Slap my ass and call me silly, but I'm gonna take the Noo York Jets and the points. This here game is too close to call, but in hopes of Al Davis dyin' during the game, you gotta root fer the Jets. I figger the Raiders win, but the four 'n' a half is too much to pass on.

San Francisco + 3 over GREEN BAY
Dang it, these here games don't git easier to pick. Now, ever'body knows, Green Bay at home in cold weather is mighty hard to beat. Agin, this here game feels like a Packers win, but them danged ol' 49ers have got a pretty good runnin' game and ought to keep it close. I'll take the Niners and the points.

MIAMI 2 over Baltimore
Gosh dang almighty, I hate to pick either one of these lousy teams. Miami's jest mediocre, and Baltimore barely beat the stinkin' Vikings to git IN the playoffs. So jest in the interest of not havin' to listen to Shannon Sharpe mouth off on teevee fer the rest of the year, I'll take Miami and give the two 'n' a half. Anyway, ain't no team with a guy named Elvis gonna git too far.
—Guy W.T. Goggles
(Year-to-date: 10-12)

NOVEL OF THE MILLENNIUM (SO FAR)
The Corrections (Farrar Straus Giroux):
Fortysomething Midwesterner Jonathan Franzen set himself the task of writing the Great American Novel for a new century, and darn if he doesn't practically nail it. A great distillation of the grand old narrative tradition of Hawthorne with the pop-culture patina of Wolfe and Irving, overlaid with the postmodern surrealism of Gaddis, Pynchon and DeLillo, The Corrections is one of those zeitgeist books that hits the current human condition on the head.
          The Lamberts are a classic American Anglo-Saxon Protestant pre- and post-nuclear family living somewhere in the great Woody Guthrie breadbasket of this land in the aptly named fictional town of St. Jude, the saint of hopeless causes. Its great patriarch, the Schopenhauer-quoting Alfred, a solidly middle-class onetime railroad exec, is teetering between life and death, a proud man now shaking uncontrollably with Parkinson's and suffering from the dementia of Alzheimer's. Materfamilias Enid, who sees only the best in people, but the worst in her three children, is trying to get the entire brood together for one last Christmas in the old family home. The meddlesome but ultimately loving mother is the kind of person who accepts others' kindnesses while, as Franzen so cleverly reinterprets the cliche, "waiving the oral examination for gift horses." She counts her blessings, even if she does have three offspring bent on self-destruction, or, as they see it, taking the necessary "corrections" to make their lives better than those of their parents.
          Oldest son Gary is a successful businessman living in a ritzy Philadelphia suburb, browbeaten by his rich wife and ignored by at least two of his three kids. Middle child Chip is a Marxist pop-culture critic cum professor who loses his academic job when he's seduced by one of his students and is now reduced to participating in a post-boom Net scam to bilk wealthy Americans into investing in Lithuania. Denise is the youngest daughter, a critically acclaimed chef who divides her time between cooking the ultimate sauerkraut and having torrid sex with the wife of the owner of the restaurant where she works. There are all sorts of references both fictional and non-, a giddy satire of hot button issues from Wall Street, Microsoft and the death of the Internet economy to mood-altering medication, Scandinavian cruises, haute cuisine, video games and, oh yeah, talking turds. It's all about parents and children reversing their roles, the old world and the new, repression and hedonism, and, unh, eating all your vegetables, too. And, in the end, when all is said and done, the final moral is, there's no place like home—even if you do have to put up with your father giving himself an enema in his basement lab, where he's doing metallurgy experiments.
          Can't wait for the movie; Scott Rudin's got the rights. I'd love to see Wes Anderson direct, because this is the real Royal Tenenbaums. Waive your oral exam for gift horses—start reading The Corrections today. And check out the very informative www.jonathanfranzen.com for reviews, a bio and streaming audio of the author reading from his remarkable novel. Roy Trakin

NOW THAT'S WHAT WE CALL MUSIC
Soundtracks Become Eclectic: Martin Scorsese
may have been the first high-profile director to value rock and pop as integral aspects of his movies, but for the succeeding generation of filmmakers, the juxtaposition of visuals and contemporary music is second nature. In 2000, adventurous music lovers who had given up on mainstream radio found a viable alternative as they attended their local cineplexes and encountered the musical revelations that accompanied Stephen Frears' High Fidelity, Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys (which contained Dylan's Oscar-winning "Things Have Changed"), Wes Anderson's Rushmore, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous and the Coen Brothers' unlikely smash O Brother, Where Art Thou? Those tasty compilations strongly suggested that there was a market for this sort of offbeat fare.
          More recently, Anderson and Crowe have pushed the envelope with their quirky and evocative soundtracks to The Royal Tenenbaums (from Nico to the Ramones) and Vanilla Sky (from the Monkees to Sigur Ros), respectively. Indeed, we've reached the point when a soundtrack album from the likes of onetime rockcrit Crowe, young archivist Anderson or the always-edgy Quentin Tarantino is as much of an assurance of musical intrigue as a new album from Dylan or Neil Young would be.
          The next stage is now upon us, with the release this week of the soundtrack to Jessie Nelson's I Am Sam, V2's ambitious and delightful reexamination of 18 Beatles songs, masterminded by label A&R execs Kate Hyman and Jon Sidel. As I keep saying, in a perfect world, this remarkable album would be this year's left-field breakthrough a la O Brother. Who would've imagined that movie soundtracks would be the salvation of disenfranchised over-25s? These records aren't merely cinematic souvenirs, they absolutely have lives of their own. Bud Scoppa

TRAKIN'S PICKS TO FLICK
Orange County (MTV/Paramount):
This latest teen flick is a veritable hub of nepotism, starring Tom Hanks' son Colin Hanks and Jack Fisk and Sissy Spacek's daughter Schuyler Fisk in the romantic leads, and directed by Lawrence Kasdan's son Jake (Fresh Kills, Zero Effect). It co-stars the suddenly ubiquitous Tenacious D member Jack Black who has parlayed his underachieving couch potato persona into a flurry of film roles. The plot revolves around a high school guidance counselor mistakenly sending out the wrong transcripts to Stanford University under the name of overachieving graduate Shaun Brumder (Hanks), who must enlist the help of his bumbling brother Lance (Black) to right the error and get him into the school. The supporting case looks promising, featuring such excellent farceurs as Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin and Harold Ramis, with cameos by Chevy Chase, Kevin Kline, Garry Marshall and Ben Stiller. Penned by Chuck & Buck scribe Mike White, hopefully it's not just another teen movie, but initial reviews have been none too promising. The Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax CD features a new song by The Offspring, along with tracks by Social Distortion, Foo Fighters, Cake, Crazy Town, Bad Ronald, Brian Wilson, Lit, 12 Rods, Pete Yorn, Creeper Lagoon and Phantom Planet. There's also a special "limited edition bonus CD" including new artists Zebrahead, the Ataris, Riddlin' Kids and Ill Kidd. The website, www.orangecountymovie.com, rocks out, with information on cast, filmmakers, making the flick and Lance's five Tips of the Day, including such bromides as "Chicks dig guys who like art. Lots of Shakespeare's paintings have been made into movies. Go see one."
—R.T.

WHAT'S BOTHERING LIZ THIS WEEK
The following utterances were overheard outside the office of HITS Crossover Editor Liz Montalbano:
"Who the hell made this mess in the hallway? They're gonna clean it up, right?"
"I need two phones."
"These underwear are killing me."
"I fucking hate L.A.—the people here are weird. I want to go to New York.""It stinks in here. Why does this place always smell?"
"Is it that hard to remember to open my back door every morning? Ask them to get me a fucking key."

PS2 GAME OF THE WEEK
The Simpsons Road Rage: While waiting in anticipation for Rockstar's riot simulation game State of Emergency, there's nothing like a little driving game to pass the time. The Simpsons Road Rage (EA) is similar to Crazy Taxi in that the game consists of picking up passengers and taking them to a specific destination within a short amount of time. What makes the game worth playing repeatedly is that it takes place within Springfield and all of the characters in the game come right out of the best show in the history of television. Just like Crazy Taxi, the faster you get to destinations, the more money you earn. When you hit certain dollar amounts new characters and locations are unlocked. And with new dialogue recorded specifically for the game, it's hilarious. Road Rage should be all the rage.
David Simutis

A NEW YORK MINUTE
Some Sitcom Alternatives:
It's my first weekend back and I wish that there were better shows happening to let you know about. I'm not knocking who's playing, and I understand that bands don't want to be on the road in the dead of winter, but there are only so many sitcoms I can stand to watch in a week. On Friday, my pick is Hoobastank at Bowery Ballroom. They're getting quite a little press buzz building, so if you're at all interested, I'd recommend checking them out now before they start playing places like Roseland or Hammerstein. On Saturday, there's the always-entertaining Moldy Peaches at Bowery Ballroom. I love the Moldy Peaches, and their current CD is hilarious, but someone needs to tell those kids to take a break from playing NYC every other week. Sunday, check out Mission of Burma at Irving, with the ever-great-live Versus opening. Every since some Versus members have moved across the country, their shows here are few and far between, so better make sure to catch them live while you have the chance.
Heidi Anne-Noel

YOUR WEAKEND WEATHER
Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved:
If you're lucky enough to be living on the East Coast, where the seasons actually change with the shifting angle of the Earth, take a moment to recall the hottest day of last summer. Remember how you felt all sticky, even right after being in the shower? Okay, now look out your window. Which do you prefer? In NYC over the weekend, skies will be sunny on Saturday during the day before the clouds roll in—look for a rain/snow mix early in the week if you need further inspiration to enjoy the day. Temps will hit the low 40s Sat. and Sun., with lows in the low 30s Sat. and upper 20s Sunday. Yuck. If you're lucky enough to live in southern California, call someone on the East Coast and complain that your weekend weather will be sunny, with temps in the 70s/40s. Hell, it looks like that for the near future. Oh, well.
—David Simutis, Senior Meteorology Correspondent

A HOLLY, JOLLY
HITS LIST
A December to remember (12/6a)
REVENUE CHART:
MALONE IS MONEY
Yet another post about Post (12/6a)
TAYLOR LIGHTS HER "CHRISTMAS TREE"
With lots of shiny tinsel (12/6a)
THE HAPPY WARRIOR OF THE RECORD BUSINESS
What a great guy (12/6a)
GRAMMY CHEW: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE, ANYWAY?
Those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it. (12/6a)
EGGNOG!
Ours is mostly bourbon.
MISTLETOE!
Delicious in salads.
CHESTNUTS!
Ours are roasting, but it could be these slim-fit jeans.
WEED!
An entire Christmas tree made of it. Is what we want for Christmas.
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