Thank Gawd almighty—danged ol' NASCAR is back. Looky here, ah jest cain't care less if the cry-baby Canadians (ah hate that cross-eyed gal) or the danged ol' Commmies win the figger skatin' at the O-limp-ics.
Nothin' Like Three-Days Off to Get the Heart Pumping and the Credit Card Flashing
This week, rather than mourning the end of another football season, our inbred sports prognosticator, Guy W.T. Goggles, turns to his true passion, watching Southern dudes in hopped-up American veehickles with big ol' numbers painted on 'em zoom around oval tracks at 185 mph—yee-haw! Maybe the Daytonee 500 will be part of your three-day weekend, but if not, we've got several other options for you to consider, not the least of which is completing your 2001 moviegoing checklist, all the better to pontificate on the Oscar nominees. So read on, kiddies, once you hook up your laptops from your hotel rooms in Palm Springs, Santa Barbara or Union Square. And one more thing before we get started: When did the Australians take over showbiz? Good on ya.


It's the easiest thing in the world to rip the Academy for overlooking Oscar-worthy films and performances—and because it's so easy, that's exactly what we're gonna do.

Royally Screwed: As one who failed to be seduced by A Beautiful Mind, I found it frustrating (though not surprising) to see The Royal Tenenbaums, a more inventive hallucinatory tale, passed over, along with the sublime comedic performance of Gene Hackman in the (sorta) title role. With his third film, 31-year-old Wes Anderson is revealing himself as a life-affirming cynic in the grand style of Preston Sturges, and he's assembled an ensemble that rivals the sharpness of those in Sullivan's Travels or The Lady Eve. I'm certain Anderson will get his due in time, but he's already looking like the most gifted and original American filmmaker under 40 Having seen the nominated In the Bedroom and the bypassed The Deep End within days of each other, I wound up preferring the latter parental tragedy, and I found Tilda Swinton's un-nominated performance to be even more striking than Sissy Spacek's—although she and Tom Wilkinson were certainly compelling as the grieving couple Finally, while I'm not a huge fan of Moulin Rouge (probably shouldn't have watched it while prone on the couch), I find it mindboggling that this, the most directed film of the year, receives a nomination and Baz Luhrmann does not. Bud Scoppa

Hit & Mythos: I didn't really expect Steven Spielberg's A.I. to wow the Academy voters after its desultory reception by audiences, but to my mind, it deserved more than the one nod it did get for John Williams' moving score. It seems Spielberg fans found it way too dark, cynical and brooding, while Kubrick admirers were put off by what they viewed as a cloying, sentimental ending. Actually, the movie's structure was more 2001/A Clockwork Orange than E.T./Close Encounters, but it's probably even closer to Spielberg's Empire of the Sun in its depiction of an innocent child forced to confront and adapt to the harshness of the real world. Viewers were put off by Frances O'Connor's abandonment of the Haley Joel Osment cyberkid, but really, it's no more nor less than any parent must do in allowing their child the independence to leave the family home. It's remarkable to me that neither Osment nor Jude Law received supporting acting nods, and a true oversight that Spielberg was denied a directorial nomination. Like In the Bedroom, A.I. deals with the bittersweet anguish of parenting and the pain of knowing when to let go. While its cosmic scope may have frustrated viewers, the movie's mythology and images will haunt future generations of filmgoers long after this year's Oscar crop has been forgotten. Roy Trakin

Ghost of a Chance: Gotta agree with Scoppa on the Luhrmann oversight—or maybe that picture directed itself. Performance-wise, among the most deserving were Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansen and Steve Buscemi in Ghost World, which gets my vote as the year's most overlooked movie. The year's best movie, though, was Sexy Beast, and lead actor Ray Winstone was as great in it as Best Supporting nominee Ben Kingsley. —Lenny Beer

Daytonee Fahv-Hunnert:
Thank Gawd almighty—danged ol' NASCAR is back. Looky here, ah jest cain't care less if the cry-baby Canadians (ah hate that cross-eyed gal) or the danged ol' Commmies win the figger skatin' at them doggone 'Limpics. Ever'body knows the Lakers is gonna be NBA champs, and the NCAA tourney ain't fer another month. Now, the Daytonee Fahv-Hunnert kicks off the season on Sunday, an' here's mah perdictions: Dale Earnhardt is still dead, so mark mah words—the #3 car ain't gonna win it. You gotta figger the Rainbow Warrior, Jeff Gordon in the #24 DuPont Chevy, is the fave, but ah cain't pick that purdy boy. You gotta like Tony Stewart in the #20 Home Depot Pontiac, cuz he's crazy an' ever'body hates him. Michael Waltrip in the #15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy is the defendin' champ, an' he races for Dale Earnhart's ol' team, so he's gotta be a factor. An' of course, mah man Jr. in the #8 Budweiser Chevy will have the ghost of his pappy ridin' shotgun. Ah gotta figger these four guys is gonna be rat there. But if I gotta pick one, and I do, cuz these is perdictions, it's gotta be that Bud-swillin', dope-smokin' Jr. in the #8 machine with the magic engine. —Guy W.T. Goggles

Crossroads (MTV Films/Paramount): Just to make sure you don't confuse Britney Spears with the character she plays in her first feature-length starring role a la Mariah Carey in Glitter, understand it's Lucy, the seemingly chaste Georgia overachiever who sets out on a road trip with her two childhood friends, that loses her virginity, not Britney. The trio are chauffeured on their cross-country jaunt by hunky Anson Mount through a series of adventures that most assuredly does not include Britney swallowing a live mouse like Tom Green does in Road Trip. There's no soundtrack, but three songs from Spears' most recent album are featured, including the hit single, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." The movie was produced (ex-Jive exec Ann Carli), written (Shonda Rhimes) and directed (Mike D's wife Tamra Davis) by women, so maybe it's better than yer run-of-the-mill teensploitation flick, with Sex in the City's Kim Cattrall and Dan Aykroyd in the grown-up roles. The cross-promotion starts at the www.crossroadsmovie.com website, where you can cruise the open highway, read Lucy's "News from the Road" entries, enter interactive polls, listen to Britney tracks, ask the Wish Box any questions you want to answer.

John Q. (New Line Cinema):
With a blast at current medical insurance practices, this is an updated version of Paddy Chayefsky's The Hospital about a father (Denzel Washington) whose son needs a heart transplant that his HMO refuses to pay for. After hospital administrators James Wood and Anne Heche tell him to take his son home to die, Washington decides he's mad as hell and won't take it anymore, and proceeds to storm the hospital with a shotgun, threatening to shoot emergency-room hostages unless his son gets a new ticker. Washington then faces off against good cop negotiator Robert Duvall and bad cop police chief Ray Liotta, as the masses starts to turn the disgruntled John Q (as in Public) into a hero just like in Dog Day Afternoon. There's no easier target today than medical bureaucrats, and John's son Nick Cassavetes apparently directs with rabble-rousing gusto. The score's by Aaron Zigman, and the website, www.jamjohnq.com, gives you all the details about the story, cast and filmmakers, with downloads and a photo gallery. There are also a variety of links to real-life sites such as the National Foundation for Transplants, Donor Cards from Around the World, the National Kidney Foundation and the United Network of Organ Sharing.

Hart's War (Metro Goldwyn Mayer): This Bruce Willis starrer has the feel of an old-fashioned OW camp flick like Stalag 17 or The Great Escape or even Chicken Run, for that matter, with Colin Farrell (American Outlaws, Tigerland) as a young Army lieutenant forced to defend a black prisoner (Terrence Howard) accused of murdering a white soldier who had tormented him with racial epithets. Willis plays his commanding officer, who gets thrown for a loop when the Nazi camp commandant (no, not Colonel Klink, but Romanian actor Marcel Iures' stone-faced Visser, a former Yalie who likes to point out the connection between American racism and Deutscheland uber alles) decides to help defend the accused. Based on a novel by John Katzenbach (whose father was a WWII POW and later a U.S. Attorney General under LBJ), the story acknowledges the gray area in the moral boundaries between warring nations and doesn't hold back from putting the U.S. under the microscope for its own hypocrisy. One-time L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues director Gregory Hoblit's last film, the time-traveling Frequency, had some promising moments, so this may be more than just another chance for Willis to smirk his way through a role. The rather attenuated website at mgm.com/hartswar, includes links to sites created by and for POWs and their families, while the Decca Records soundtrack features the score by Oscar winner Rachel Portman.

Super Troopers (Fox Searchlight): This slapstick comedy about a hapless group of Vermont highway patrolmen, produced by the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, makes Police Academy look like Citizen Kane. The group, which was formed at my own alma mater, Colgate University, in 1989, have been promoting the movie themselves with a 37-day tour that has taken them to 24 colleges, with an impressive marketing campaign. The collective financed their last film, 96's indie comedy Puddle Cruiser, themselves, and publicized the movie in the same grass-roots way. Actor-director Jay Chandrasekhar and his four co-stars are the whole show, and the result is apparently more a series of skits and one-liners than a full-fledged film, but the goofy camaraderie could be worth a few stoned laughs. If you feel like supporting these self-starters instead of the usual Hollywood fare, by all means, go ahead. The website, www.supertroopersmovie.com, isn't much more elaborate than the movie, while the TVT Records soundtrack, features a bunch of highway to hell classics by the likes of .38 Special ("Trooper With An Attitude"), Nashville Pussy ("Shoot First and Run Like Hell"), Southern Culture on the Skids ("Cheap Motels"), Jack Grace ("Cannot One Night Stand It [Anymore]"), Steak ("Second to the Bottle") and Unband ("Geez Louise").

Kasey Chambers, Barricades & Brickwalls (Warner Bros.):
Songbird/tunesmith Kasey Chambers hails from Australia, but the sound of this sterling album is closer to Austin—it's all sweet twang and alt-country electricity, nodding to Hank, Patsy, Gram and some of their hippest contemporary interpreters. Chambers' photogenic face may add momentum to the long-awaited mainstreaming of so-called "y'alternative" music, as some critics have suggested. But whether she becomes a household name or not, this set belongs in your home. The plaintive ballad "Not Pretty Enough" is the one that really gets me, but there's a lot to love here. Check out the faithfully old-school gems "On a Bad Day" and "A Little Bit Lonesome," the bluesy, dobro-spiced "Runaway Train," Parsons' sprightly "Still Feeling Blue," the rocking "Crossfire" (with Oz band The Living End) and the haunting duet (with Paul Kelly) "I Still Pray." Down Under's coming up, big-time. Simon Glickman

Max Payne: The pictures describe the brutal murder of his wife and baby daughter, an intricate setup for the murder of his partner and a new drug called Valkyr that is plaguing the streets of New York. Im talking about Rockstar's newest hit, Max Payne. Currently available for Xbox, PS2 and PC, this first-person shooter game featuring a policeman/publisher protagonist is most impressive in terms of graphic-novel sequence passes and superb visuals. One aspect of the game that sets it apart is the John Woo-esque, Matrix-inspired feature that is bullet time. With the press of a button, time is slowed down for a few seconds, but Max's movement and aiming remain in real-time. The effect is impressive and quite a tactical advantage for playing the game.
Paul Karlsen

I know that there's probably some rule where I shouldn't keep suggesting the same act over and over, but this time I feel justified. Friday night head out to see Ted Leo at Loews Theatre in Journal Square. I'm recommending yet another Ted Leo show for a few reasons. 1) Ted Leo is, perhaps, one of the most under-appreciated rock stars out there today, 2) Calvin Johnson is also on the bill and his live shows are always entertaining and 3) Loews Theatre is in my 'hood—Jersey City. It's one of the first (if not thee first) show in the newly renovated theatre. Hooray for more shows Jersey style! On Saturday catch a free Luna show at the Brooklyn Museum of the Arts. I've never been there, but I'd imagine that seeing Luna perform at an arts museum is quite fitting. Sunday, more Jersey-style props go out for Rye Coalition, who will be at the Knitting Factory. For those of you who want to share in my Jersey pride, there are really nice sweatshirts on sale at Stackhouse that say "Jersey City" across the chest. Only two left! Heidi Anne-Noel

A Buck a Flick:
Someone finally did it. The major movie studios have long promised a destination where you can get virtually any movie on demand, but now they have a new threat to contend with. A new website, www.movie88.com, is now delivering streams of a huge array of Hollywood hits for one dollar per movie. Similar to an online version of Blockbuster, this Taiwanese site claims to be legal under their laws, and the U.S. copyright laws are difficult to enforce. The potential revenue losses prompt fears that Movie88 and other pirate sites will steal the audience that the upcoming proprietary video-on-demand services major studios are planning. The site does offer a free movie a day, and from what I've seen, the quality of the movie using Real Player was similar to a VHS tape. Let's just put it this way—you get what you pay for. Wonder whether piracy is more profitable than offshore betting. —P.K.

Pressured by the French Meteorologist:
New York, the greatest city in the world, doesn't have the greatest weather in the world. Because of its latitude and proximity to water, the city is prone to cold, cloudy days in late winter. Take this weekend, for instance: Cloudy, highs in the upper 40s, low in the upper 20s to mid-30s. Monday looks a little better, with more sun, but don't get too excited. Los Angeles, is sometimes the greatest city in the world, but it has the greatest weather—sometimes. Might be some showers Sunday morning, but the rest of the time should see high temps in the mid-60s and lows in the mid-40s. Now get out of the office early and watch some Olympic women's hockey.
David Simutis, Senior Ice Skating Judge

Blind leading the blind. (8/3a)
Dysfunctional AF (8/3a)
The year's biggest debut. (7/31a)
Star power. (8/1a)
The clock is ticking... (8/3a)
Taylor Swift Taylor Swift Taylor Swift. Taylor. Swift.
It's a conspiracy, because everyone does it.
Family is everything.
Unleash the giant spider!

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