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To all those jonesing for more “whacking” and less soap opera, shame on you. The final confrontation between James Gandolfini’s Tony and Edie Falco’s Carmela was more violent and emotionally raw than any mob hit could ever be.
A WEAKEND PLANNER WITH
NO VISIBLE PANTY LINE
Just Think, as You’re Reading This Crap, the Half-wits Who “Wrote” It Are Still Sleeping Off the HITS Christmas Party
Most weeks, the roomful of monkeys that bangs out the crapola below has nothing better to do than harangue anyone who might happen by this sorry site with their ill-considered (or unconsidered) opinions. (It could be worse, of course—we could be haranguing you in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, but we don’t wanna steal Bob Lefsetz’s gimmick.) This week, however, the monkeys were distracted by a much more significant issue: WHAT TO WEAR TO THE OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY. (Sorry, Bob, but the context called for it.) Consequently, you’ll see somewhat less verbiage than usual, although Roy Trakin can be counted on to endlessly bang out 250 words a minute, sometimes even arranging them in complete sentences. OK, Roy, you can stop now.  

WEAKEND POPCULT TOP 10
1. The Sopranos final episode (HBO):
  To all those jonesing for more “whacking” and less soap opera, shame on you. The final confrontation between James Gandolfini’s Tony and Edie Falco’s Carmela was more violent and emotionally raw than any mob hit could ever be. Where they go from here is anybody’s guess, but personally, I’d like to see Tony turn state’s evidence, get a new identity and head to Tucson, where he runs a lucrative ecstasy dealership, a la Sammy the Bull. It may be blasphemy to say it, but The Sopranos makes even The Godfather pale in comparison to its novelistic subtlety, depth and dark, dark humor. —RT

2. Live From Baghdad (HBO): This revealing made-for-TV movie, which premiered last weekend, is a behind-the-scenes look at how CNN’s Baghdad correspondents managed to pull of a dramatic coup—reporting from the scene as U.S. planes attacked the Iraqi capital in what proved to be the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War. How did CNN pull off this exclusive wall-to-wall coverage right under the noses of an oppressive regime? Watch the movie and find out. Starring Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham-Carter, supported by a solid and impressive cast. —LB

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way (Warner Bros.): Not quite Pet Sounds, which the L.A. Weekly compared it to, but this way-underrated effort is, along with System’s Toxicity, No Doubt’s Rock Steady and Beck’s Sea Change, one of the best El Lay albums of the year. Kudos to guitarist John Frusciante’s pop melodic sense and Anthony Kiedis’ gut-baring vocals, with extra points for “Venice Queen,” his tribute to the late, much lamented drug counselor Gloria Scott. —RT

4. Santa.com: Since the selection of holiday gifts usually takes on a more desperate cast by mid-month, allow me to direct you to a couple of online sources for goodies. For the snack connoisseur on your list, check out the goodies available from Vermont’s Shelburne Farms, including a delectable cheddar (the best I’ve ever tasted), ham, maple syrup, jam and honey—available individually or in handsome gift packages... Stun your music-snob pal with some groovy, obscure reissues from DustyGroove, like an early Jorge Ben disc, a Pulp Fusion comp or perhaps a 45 by Mickey & the Soul Generation... Your grumpy uncle will dig the black humor of the newly issued Alec Guinness DVD box set, featuring the deliciously dark Ealing Studios comedies Kind Hearts & Coronets and The Ladykillers, among other gems... The aspiring DJ/producer in your life will undoubtedly find hours of enjoyment in the MadPlayer, a Gameboy-sized digital music device for both storing song files and assembling tracks (it contains a library of copyright-free instrument samples)... For your favorite rocker grrrrrrrrrrl, how about a “WWJJD” (What Would Joan Jett Do?) T-shirt? You can pick one up a the “boobtique” at Bust.com—SG  

5. Spoon, Kill the Moonlight (Merge): Yes, I reviewed the new record by the veteran Austin indie-rockers last week, but since then I haven’t been able to get it out of my stereo—or my head. Surprised the hell outta me, cuz until I listened to the new album, I’d never heard Spoon before, dismissing them as just another ho-hum, flannel-shirted combo from Slackerville. I couldn’t’ve been more wrong—these guys have a remarkably sophisticated sense of time, tone and economy. It’s as if they’d uncovered the DNA of “Lady Madonna” and “Hey Bulldog” and cloned them. As I mentioned in the review, singer Brit Daniel sounds disarmingly like the young George Harrison at times, and the Beatles touches are pervasive. What I didn’t say is that the band uses pianos like Ben Folds, playing them like tuned drums. Especially irresistible are “The Way We Get By,” “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” “Something to Look Forward To” and “Stay Don’t Go,” in which the basic groove is maintained by a looped exhalation. So cool. —BS 

6. Rock Mount shirts: Colorado-based company that invented diamond snaps. These are as populist, as rural, as hip as any high-priced designer shirt out there. Wanna look like the heart of Saturday night, the fade of a roadside motel, the muse of Sam Shepard or a cowboy('s sweetheart)? Buffalo Chips in New York sells them, as do several stores in the City of Angels. Or you can go direct to their website: www.rockmount.com. —HG

7. OK Go, OK Go (Capitol): Though their PoMo single “Get Over It” was a smart-alecky delight, this band of pop-rocking youngsters proved to be a lot more sophisticated than they first appeared. Witness the Jellyfish-esque “What to Do,” with its rich harmonies and refrain of “mediocre people do exceptional things all the time.”
—HG  

8. Northern State, Dying in Stereo (Northern State Records): These Lon Guyland ’burban boho-hoppers are the Ivy League sisterhood answer to the Beastie Boys. With literary names like Hesta Prynn and references ranging from Kavalier & Clay and Chekhov (they rhyme “Chekhov wrote ‘The Seagull’” with “Snoopy is a beagle”) to Brand Nubian and Cynthia Plaster Caster, they’re Luscious Jackson with cool beats and a sassy ‘tude. Inspirational verse: “The country’s getting ugly and there’s more in store/But don’t blame me, I voted for Gore.” For more, check out www.northernstate.net. —RT

9. What the Hell Is Stugots? A surprising amount of conversation this week has been devoted to the name of Tony Soprano’s boat, the Stugots, as seen in the season finale of The Sopranos blasting Dean Martin records at that lawyer S.O.B. For all the conversation, however, many people (including yours truly) had absolutely no clue what the word means. After a quick bit of Internet research, it appears that “stugots” is the Italian-American contraction of the Italian “’sto cozzo” (“’sto” being a truncated form of “questo”), which means loosely “nuts” or “balls.” Literally, it means “this prick,” and some advise that a better phonetic spelling would be “shtugotsa,” while warning that it should be used in conversation only if you don’t mind the prospect of having your face rearranged. According to HITS’ resident Yonkers native Tim Carney: “Stugots, it’s like, ‘Hey, stugots—you stupid? You crazy? Fuckin’ stugots.’ It means ‘balls,’ like all you’ve got is balls, these balls, whatever. Even better is ‘mange ugots,’ which means ‘eat my balls.’ That’s the good one.” —JO

10. Year-End Lists: This is a great time of year for music- and movie-oriented  obsessive/compulsives, as one list after another gets printed and/or posted. You didn’t expect us to pass on the opportunity, now, did you? The No. 7 item above, is, in fact, a sample culled from the top 10 albums list of in-house indie-rock frontman Simon Glickman. You’ll be seeing much more of same starting next Wednesday, when we put up oodles of best-of-2002 lists from staffers, artists and industryites. It’ll sit right here on the site through Jan. 5, whether you go online or not. But won't it be comforting to know it's there? —BS

GUY WITH THE GOGGLES' NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
Holy Jack Daniel's. The office Christmas party wuz last night, and mah head hurts way too much from gittin’ all likkered up ta tell you folks who’s a-gonna win them dang ol’ games this here weekend. So thar.
—Guy W.T. Goggles

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
About Schmidt (New Line Cinema)
Premise: Loosely based on ’96 novel by Louis Begley, Oscar candidate Jack Nicholson plays a recently widowed retired insurance actuary who hits the road in a Winnebago to attend his daughter’s wedding in Denver to a waterbed salesman.
Stars: Nicholson, Hope Davis, Kathy Bates, Howard Hesseman, Dermot Mulroney, Len Cariou
Director: Alexander Payne in his follow-up to '99’s acclaimed Election.
Thumbs Up: Nicholson in a totally selfless turn, acting his age. Will it come down to he and Slim Shady for Oscar?
Thumbs Down: Downbeat and quirky, which didn’t exactly work for Payne’s Citizen Ruth.
Soundtrack: The New Line Records album includes the original Rolfe Kent score, a 16-minute interview with Kent and director Payne, and Nicholson sound bites.
Website: www.AboutSchmidtMovie.com comes complete with movie, cast and filmmaker info, a trailer, downloads and critic’s comments.

Maid in Manhattan (Columbia)
Premise: Jennifer Lopez does Pretty Woman as the title character mistaken for a wealthy matron by Ralph Fiennes’ politician.
Stars: Lopez, Fiennes, Nastasha Richardson
Director: Wayne Wang (Joy Luck Club, The Center of the World), with a screenplay by Breakfast Club’s John Hughes
Thumbs Up: A feel-good movie for the holiday season with the suddenly ubiquitous soon-to-be Mrs. Affleck.
Thumbs Down: Looks as broad as J.Lo’s bottom.
Soundtrack: The Epic Records/Sony Music Sdtrx. album includes Paul Simon, Pointer Sisters, Bread, Teena Marie, Diana Ross, Glenn Lewis, Norah Jones, Daniel Bedingfield, Eva Cassidy, Bread and score composer Alan Silvestri.
Website: www.sonypictures.com/movies/maidinmanhattan offers the usual, plus a place to vote for the real-life “Love Stories Finalist.”

The Hot Chick (Touchstone)
Premise: Rob Schneider is transformed from a girl into a guy though a magic spell.
Stars: Rob Schneider, Michael O’Keefe, Anna Faris, Andrew Keegan, Robert Davi, Melora Hardin, with a cameo by producer Adam Sandler
Director: The Animal co-writer Tom Brady makes his directorial bow, with a screenplay he co-penned with Schneider.
Thumbs Up: He’s big in France.
Thumbs Down: Some Like It Luke-Warm, but Schneider remains best in very small doses.
Soundtrack: The dance-heavy/punk Hollywood Records album includes tracks by No Secrets, Len, Butch Walker, Roxy Saint, Liquid Todd, Fu Manchu, Custom, Loudermilk, Hot Action Cop, Scapegoat Wax, Jene, Groove Armada and Zed.
Website: www.Areyouhot.com gives you the entire plot in one fell swoop and gives you a chance to play Mambuza’s Spell-Caster.

Talk to Her (Sony Pictures Classics)
Premise: Two men, one a writer, the other a health-care worker, who become friends after meeting in a medical clinic where both are in love with women in comas, one a famous bullfighter gored in the ring, the other a young ballerina.
Stars: Rosario Flores, Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Geraldine Chaplin
Director: Spanish director Pedro Aldmodovar, Best Foreign Language Oscar winner last year for All About My Mother, this year's L.A. Film Critics' pick for Best Director.
Thumbs Up: This is a world-class director with a stunning visual sense and a way of drawing some incredible performances from his actors.
Thumbs Down: Yeah, there are subtitles. Something wrong with that?
Soundtrack: The Milan soundtrack features score composed by Alberto Iglesias, as well as tracks featuring Vicente Amigo and El Pele, Caetano Veloso and Ellis Regina/Tom Jobim.
Website: www.sonyclassics.com/talktoher/ offers a trip to two to Spain and a visual synopsis.

Star Trek: Nemesis (Paramount)
Premise: Tenth film in the franchise, in which the Enterprise crew is diverted to the planet Romulus when the longtime Federation villains signal they are willing to begin peace negotiations. Right, and To Serve Man wasn’t a cookbook.
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Steven Culp, Jonathan Frakes, Whoopi Goldberg, Kate Mulgrew and Ron Pearlman
Director: Stuart Baird (U.S. Marshals) with a screenplay by John Logan (co-wrote Gladiator, Any Given Sunday, also Bats, The Time Machine).
Thumbs Up: Every Trekkie knows the even-numbered installments of the series are best.
Thumbs Down: Does anybody but committed Trekkies give a crap?
Soundtrack: The Varese Sarabande album includes original score from longtime Trek composer Jerry Goldsmith.
Website: www.nemesis.Startrek.com is, not surprisingly, state-of-the-art, with a sweepstakes, trailer, synopsis, daily news, etc.

Evelyn (MGM/UA)
Premise: Based on true story of Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan), a father who fought a prolonged legal battle with the Irish government and the Catholic Church that deprived him of his four children after his wife ran away and he lost his job.
Stars: Brosnan, Julianna Margulies, Alan Bates, John Lynch, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea
Director: Aussie Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies)
Thumbs Up: Brosnan goes out of character in a study that looks like a multi-hankie tearjerker.
Thumbs Down: You can almost feel your buttons being pushed.
Soundtrack: The Decca album includes original score by Stephen Endelman, Irish artists like Van Morrison (with first single, “Sitting on Top of the World”) and two songs sung by Brosnan himself.
Website: www.mgm.com/Evelyn/ offers story, cast & crew information, a family album of snapshots from the movie, a multimedia section of downloads and reviews.

Drumline (20th Century Fox)
Premise: A young street drummer from Harlem gets a scholarship to attend a Southern university, where he tries to fit in, while his unique talents lead the school’s marching band to triumph. Co-produced by Dallas Austin.
Stars: Nickelodeon star Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones, Zoe Saldana.
Director: Charles Stone III (made his feature debut with Paid in Full, but is best-known for the Budweiser “Whassup?” spots).
Thumbs Up: Positive message, feel-good story.
Thumbs Down: Cliches are cliches, regardless of color.
Soundtrack: Jive Records album features Cannon, NSYNC’s JC Chasez, Jermaine Dupri, Syleena Johnson, Joe, Jadakiss, Alicia Keys, Monica, Nappy Roots, Nivea, Petey Pablo, Trick Daddy.
Website: www.drumlinemovie.com is pretty kinetic, with film synopsis, trailer, gallery, cast & crew, downloads, soundtrack info and a sweepstakes.

The Guys (Focus Features)
Premise: Two-person movie based on the Anne Nelson play inspired by her true story as a writer who helped a fire chief write eulogies for firemen killed on Sept. 11.
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Anthony LaPaglia.
Director: Feature debut of Weaver’s husband Jim Simpson.
Thumbs Up: Torn from yesterday’s headlines.
Thumbs Down: Inspiring or just a little too real for holiday fare?
Soundtrack: None.
Website: No official film site, but the play site can be found at www.thebat.com/plays/theguys

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line) Dec. 18
Premise: The second novel of the classic J. R. R. Tolkien trilogy, where the journey gets darker and the set-pieces more elaborate.
Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lee, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving
Director: Peter Jackson goes for another Oscar nod.
Thumbs Up: Supposedly even better than the first.
Thumbs Down: Hate to say it, but the first bored the shit outta me.
Soundtrack: The Reprise album comes as an enhanced CD which includes Howard Shore’s score, songs by Isabel Bayrakdarian, Sheila Chandra, Ben Del Maestro, Elizabeth Fraser and Emiliana Torrini and multimedia computer files.
Website: www.lordoftherings.net offers the complete lowdown, including a way to send a holiday greeting, interview with Jackson, the story behind the series, audio/video galleries, downloads, a special section on the effects, merchandise, message boards, fan club membership and sponsors.

25th Hour (Touchstone) Dec. 19
Premise: The last 24 hours in the life of a guy about to go to prison for seven years for pushing heroin, as he parties with his two best friends, one a bonds trader, the other a high school English teacher, and his girlfriend.
Stars: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson
Director: Spike Lee
gets a major studio shot at regaining his commercial viability, with a screenplay by current Hollywood flavor-of-the-moment David Benioff, who adapted from his own novel.
Thumbs Up: With a cast like this, it’s gotta be at least interesting.
Thumbs Down: The advance word, for big-name talent like this, has been rather quiet.
Soundtrack: The Hollywood Records album includes the original score by jazz great Terence Blanchard.
Website: www.touchstonepictures.go.com is dark and somber, with synopsis, production notes, an hour-by-hour summary, trailer and more. Roy Trakin 

DENISE’S CHRISTMAS COCKTAIL
Ho! Ho! Ho! Shit! I can’t believe it’s Christmas already. I don’t know about anyone else, but sunny and 70 degrees just doesn’t seem like Christmas to me. I’m longing for the time when my life was filled with snow days, cold nights in front of a fireplace and, of course, someone to snuggle with. My Christmas cocktail is a tribute to all that I want for Christmas.

Sicilian Kiss
1 oz. Southern Comfort
1 oz. Di Saronno Amaretto
Shake with ice and strain into a shot glass

A few of those and I might forget that I’m not opening up any little blue boxes from Tiffany’s or any not-so-little boxers from Calvin Klein. There’s nothing fun about being single during the holidays, and I’m feeling a little guilty that I’m actually happy about my brother breaking up with his girlfriend—we can revel in our singleness together. Give me a break; it’s hard being the only single one in the family at Christmas—you get stuck sitting at the “kiddie” table and receiving those looks of pity from aunt Bertha. Since I’ve been relatively good this year (no recent one night stands, no major shopping sprees in the last few months and I haven’t yelled at any homeless people outside of the 7-Eleven) I feel that there’s still hope for me to have a grand Christmas. I believe in Santa; hell I believe in true love, and that’s a lot more far-fetched than a fat guy wearing a red velvet suit handing out presents, so I’m making my Christmas list for all of you to read and pass on to the old fat guy.

All I want for Christmas:
1.   To get LAID!!! Wow! Was that out loud?
2.   Snow, and lots of it.
3.   Anything in a blue box that says Tiffany’s or a tall, dark-haired, handsome man wearing blue boxers (or not wearing them).
4.   To be able to eat whatever I want and not gain an ounce.
5.   The spring BCBG line—translation for all of you guys: Those are clothes— expensive ones.
6.   A relatively inexpensive but chic apartment with hardwood floors that accepts dogs—needed by Feb.1.
7.   My column to be put in print. That’s a hint for all of you who are in charge—I won’t mention names.
8.   A book deal. I’ve got one started and it’s really funny. Plus, I have a great title.
9.   Something that resembles a normal dating relationship. I’m probably pushing it with that one.
10. Last but not least, for all of you to have a happy holiday and keep reading my column. I was going to ask for world peace, but I thought that keeping you guys happy would be a good start.

De’s pick for the best bar to celebrate the holidays: If you’re experiencing the holiday blues, then make a trip to Burbank and visit the Blue Room on San Fernando Rd. One step into this winter wonderland, along with one of their jet-fuel-like martinis, and you’ll quickly forget whatever was bringing you down. This joint takes holiday decorations to a new level. They’ve added to their already intoxicating ambiance of blue leather booths with oversized ornaments and lights galore. I first discovered the Blue Room on one lonely Christmas Eve outing with other Christmas orphans, and I had an absolute blast.

This place oozes with old-school Hollywood charm, and it’s not even in Hollywood. I made a return visit last night for a little “research” and was delighted to meet Lew, the very entertaining bartender and my new best friend because he fed me chocolate for dinner. He really knows the way to a girl’s heart. Do yourself a favor, go check out the dcor and visit Lew; he works Wednesday through Saturday nights. Tell him a cute, smart, witty blonde sent you; he’ll know who you’re talking about.

I want to wish everyone happiness during the holidays, and please be safe. Next week, for my final installment of 2002, I’m going to deal with New Year’s resolutions. Maybe, if you’re lucky, mine will be to stop whining about my lack of love life, but I can’t any promises. E-mail me and let me know what you want for Christmas. Until next week—hugs and kisses. DeniseBayles

Contributors: Kevin Badami, Denise Bayles, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman, Guy W.T. Goggles, Jon O'Hara and, of course, Roy Trakin

Editor: Bud Scoppa

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