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Flipping between the mad-dash primary season of the Democratic candidates and the new American Idol is ruefully instructive about this moment in our cultural history. Beauty, ability, that intangible "X" factor—processed through the filter of the experts—pretty much frame both contests. And both can produce unlikely frontrunners, sometimes physically awkward or socially eruptive, but capable of stirring a crowd.
A WEAKEND PLANNER SUPER BOWL
SPECIAL UNDERDOGGY STYLE
Here’s To the Losers of the World, from the Super Bowl Runner-Up to The Office’s Ricky Gervais to those eliminated from both American Idol and the Democratic Presidential Rac
I’ve been a fan of the underdog since four months before I was born, suffering with my Brooklyn Dodger loyalist mom when Bobby Thomson of the hated N.Y. Giants hit the shot heard 'round the world at the Polo Grounds in Oct. 1951. Through the years, I’ve championed lovable losers like Adlai Stevenson, Marv Throneberry, Woody Allen, the New York Dolls, the Ramones and Suicide as well as such lost causes as the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Islanders. America loves an underdog, but is also quick to turn: just witness how many have fallen off the Howard Dean bandwagon and are ready to anoint the next Dem front-runner—John Kerry for now—any of whom will undoubtedly be a huge underdog to George W. this fall. This Weakend Planner is dedicated to the long-shots of the world…may they continue to defy conventional wisdom.

POPCULT TOP 10
1. Carolina 23, Patriots 20: It’s underdog week, right, and heck, I’ve been picking against the Pats for 18 weeks now, so my number’s gotta come up sometime. Take Carolina and the points, because this game won’t be decided by more than a field goal. I worry about Bill Belichick… he always seems to come up with the right defensive game plan, and Jake Delhomme is a bit of an untested entity. But I think Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster can get a running game going for the Cats, and with parity the way it is in the NFL, it just seems like this is the year for a team from nowhere (like the Marlins last fall) to take the big prize. Oh, yeah. One other thing. I got 2 and 5 and 1 and 5 as my numbers in the office pool. Can it get any more pathetic than that? Here's hoping someone gets a safety. (Roy Trakin)

2. The Office’s Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes: Gotta love the Brits, the ultimate underdogs. Gervais’ comment about being English ("We ruled the world before you") was hilarious, as was his quick exit after the signal to cut short his acceptance speech. Like the Beatles during their famed press conference at Idlewild Airport as captured on the Maysles’ new DVD, The First U.S. Visit, Gervais managed to disarm the world’s most cynical group—the media—with witty self-deprecation. (RT)

3. The Shape of Things (Universal Home Video): Single-guy loser played by good-natured schlemiel Paul Rudd is remade into a cool guy by super-hot graduate art student Rachel Weisz, while his best friend’s girlfriend, Gretchen Mol, secretly pines for him. Director/writer Neil LaBute casts a typically acerbic eye on modern-day relationships, his misogyny here reaching its peak with a devastating finale that places the whole nature of art/materialism vs.romance/idealism in ironic, anti-thetical counterpoint. Kinda cloying at the start, but devastating in its implications, and whatever happened to Vanity Fair cover girl Mol, anyway? Seems like her role as hot blonde of the moment’s been totally co-opted by Charlize Theron. Extra points for using Elvis Costello songs to punctuate each scene. (RT)

4. Underdog radio: The sale of perennial PoMo tastemaker station WOXY hits close to home. I grew up, literally, listening to the station from my bedroom in Oxford, OH. WOXY first introduced me to something other than hair metal, back in the late-'80s, when I really needed it. They played the Sex Pistols and Run-DMC as well as John Hiatt and Husker Du. I stalked the Violent FemmesGordon Gano outside the station; harassed a DJ into spinning Jane’s Addiction’s "Stop" twice in a row when they first aired it; won call-in contests and listened for snow-related school closings. It was the first station to play one of my songs, and one of the only ones to do so, when I thought I could be a musician. Now I listen to it online; you should, too, at www.woxy.com. Here’s hoping somebody picks them up for a satellite channel or moves the entire staff and format to another city. (David Simutis)

5. The Thrills at the Troubadour: All Irish bands are scruffy longshots, and this Dublin quintet played the role to the hilt with an eager-to-please set before a club full of prove-it-to-me Hollywood tastemakers. While their love of SoCal pop has pundits comparing them to the Beach Boys, Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, live, the group’s earnestness recalls fellow sons of the Eire like the Undertones and, naturally, U2. That said, the sharp hooks of "Santa Cruz," "Big Sur" (with its "hey, hey, we’re the Monkees" refrain) and "One Horse Town" are dulled in the live din, but leader Conor Deasy valiantly tried to arouse the crowd with undeniable youthful charisma. By the finale, "Don’t Steal Our Sun," which came off like an anthem against illicit file-sharing (with "sun" sounding like "song"), the group finally got the hipster audience to its feet. (RT)

6. A Housekeeper (Lions Gate Home Entertainment): A fifty-something, bald record producer living in Paris (played by "France’s lovable curmudgeon," Jean-Pierre Bacri) whose wife leaves him for another man, hires a young novice to clean his cluttered apartment (Emilie Dequenne) and the two proceed to embark on a torrid affair. Directed by veteran Claude Berri (best known for his two-part historical epic, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring), the film amiably wanders as our hero gradually falls in love, despite himself, only to have the flighty ingenue turn to a younger man when he hesitates to commit. Firmly in the French "c’est la vie " tradition, it manages to leave us at once with an aching longing and hopeful of the human impulse to connect… even at our most isolated. (RT)

7. This Is Rebel Music: The Harvey Kubernik InnerViews (University of New Mexico Press): One of the unsung historians of west coast rock & roll, L.A. native Harvey Kubernik has been there, from hanging with the Stones and Spector at Hollywood recording sessions, to bringing in Tom Petty to MCA as an A&R exec. His championing of the influential spoken-word movement in the mid-'80s, belied the City of Angels’ reputation as being uninterested in things literary. His first published book features conversations with other outsiders, movers and shakers, including Allen Ginsberg, Chrissie Hynde, Ray Manzarek, Berry Gordy Jr., Andrew Loog Oldham, Jack Nitzsche, Keith Richards, Steven Van Zandt and Jim Keltner, several of which first appeared in HITS. (RT)

8. www.internationaljewishconspiracy.com: Dubbed "from the people who brought you banking," it covers such burning topics as ""Latke: Food, Yes—But Also a Weapon," "Dreidl: Game With No Rules?" and "Plots So Evil, You’ll Plotz." (RT)

9. Democratic Idol: Flipping between the mad-dash primary season of the Democratic candidates and the new American Idol is ruefully instructive about this moment in our cultural history. Beauty, ability, that intangible "X" factor—processed through the filter of the experts—pretty much frame both contests. And both can produce unlikely frontrunners, sometimes physically awkward or socially eruptive, but capable of stirring a crowd. But the most striking parallel is the capacity of so many aspirants for stunning self-delusion. Witness the mush-mouthed megalomaniac Isaac, who neither sang nor danced particularly well, but had the hard-charging presentational flair of Prince circa 1978. Rejected by the panel, he was positively incredulous—and answered Simon’s challenge to find five people on the Hawaiian beach (one admittedly tone-deaf) who thought him a star. Witness the irony-free announcement by a brown-nosing island belle (in a homemade "I heart Simon" T-shirt) that she would perform "‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ by Beyoncé." Witness the Chinese kid’s politely toneless rendition of "She Bangs." Is their blinkered belief that they’re on top of the heap despite all evidence to the contrary that much different from Joe Lieberman’s post-New Hampshire spin? The guy got 9% of the Granite State vote and tried to come off like a winner. Ultimately, despite Kerry’s lead, it’s hard to say for certain who’ll end up the nominee; more to the point, it’s unclear which qualities will win Dems’ hearts. Kerry has a great voice. Edwards is good-looking and has a positive message. Dean is powerful and alternative (and his scream, like the melismatic noodling of Idol vocalists, has its adherents). Clark has authority and attitude. They’ll have to fight it out on the big stage in the coming weeks, and we’ll soon see who hits the high notes of oratory and who sings the addled aria of entitlement. (Simon Glickman)

10. Trakin on MTV’s Newlyweds: Talk about your losers. First, our intrepid, balding poster manchild for midlife crisis gets stonewalled for asking Nick Lachey about seeing Jessica naked for the first time on his honeymoon, then he gets dissed for not picking up the lunch check. And he still hasn’t been paid by the Star for the story… If that’s not pathetic, what is? (Meshugge Knight)

YOUR WEAKEND QUESTION:
After being overwhelmed with responses to my questions, none of them providing answers, it occurred to me that perhaps I was being too out-there with things that are puzzling me. And since the question I ask most frequently is "Where are my pants?" I thought a Michael Jackson question would be in order. In Sept., 1996 Michael had a 30-foot-high laminated steel statue of himself made and erected in a park in Prague to launch his tour that year. Now, codpieces and ceramic sculptures of Lionel Richie’s head are small and easy to lose, but a 30-foot steel statue? Seriously, "Where is the Michael Jackson statue now?" Send comments, suggestions, answers and the Mydoom virus to [email protected]. (DS)

NEW YORK MINUTE
Should Justin Timberlake decide to spend his 23rd birthday Saturday (Jan. 31) in New York, he’ll have plenty of musical chairs from which to choose. The Where’s The Love legend could yuk it up at Madison Square Garden (2 Penn Plaza) with Chris Rock, who kicks off a two-night stand Friday (Jan. 30). Or, perhaps, given his Rolling Stone comments about his music being way better than NSYNC’s, J. Tim would like to crash back down to Earth by witnessing Daryl Hall–minus John Oates–playing B.B. King’s Blues Club (243 W. 42nd St.) Saturday. Since this Southern dish hails from Memphis, though, we could catch him with girlfriend Cameron Diaz taking in the Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt performance at Newark, N.J.’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center (1 Center St.) Saturday.

As for Sunday … well, it’s a perfect day to sleep in. Nothing’s shakin’ in the Big Apple. (Valerie Nome)

TABBY TIDBITS
It’s Ben vs. J. Lo week on newsstands as Us Weekly, In Touch, Star and People duke it out with the kaput couple on their covers.

Among the brilliant observations, "That woman (J. Lo) came with too much baggage. And I don’t mean luggage," Ben’s mother Chris has said according to In Touch. Countering, a J. Lo source tells the year-old gossip guzzler: "When it comes down to it, she fell in love with an extremely difficult and troubled guy."

Star, however is facing heat from Camp J. Lo for its exclusive interview. The Bronx bombshell said, "I am extremely broken-hearted. I put enormous effort into my relationship with Ben, but in the end, I realized I needed to put my personal and professional life back together. I need, most of all, to be left alone in order to do that."

While her peeps say the interview never happened, the newly glossified 'zine stands by its story "100%." (VN)

NOTABLE & QUOTABLE
Jessica Simpson
and hubby Nick Lachey kicked off the new season of MTV’s Newlyweds this week. Don’t worry about a little Lachey though. "I don’t think I am going to get pregnant," she says. "I am trying not to. But we might get a dog instead." (VN)

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
The Big Bounce (WB)
Premise
: Based on the Elmore Leonard novel set in Hawaii, a charming drifter gets involved with a beautiful woman, who tries to get him to scam her lover, a corrupt real estate tycoon.
Stars: Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, Scott Caan, Sara Foster, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Babe Neuwirth, Cahrlie Sheen, Harry Dean Stanton.
Director: Underrated cult director George Armitrage (Grosse Point Blank, Miami Blues)
Thumbs Up: Leonard and Armitage and a great cast… Is it the successor to the excellentGet Shorty, Out of Sight or Jackie Brown?
Thumbs Down: Not all Elmore Leonard adaptions translate to the big screen. This novel’s been remade before as the 1969 film of the same name which starred Ryan O’Neal in the Owen Wilson role along with Leigh Taylor Young and is pretty unmemorable.
Soundtrack: Varese Records soundtrack features score by veteran composer George S. Clinton.
Website: Thebigbounce.warnerbros.com features story information, photos and downloads.

The Perfect Score (MTV/Paramount Pictures)
Premise:
Seven high school seniors decide to break into the Princeton Testing Center, so they can steal the answers to their upcoming SAT tests and all get perfect scores.
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Erika Christensen, Chris Evans, (basketballer) Darius Miles, Leonardo Nam, Bryan Greenberg, Kyle Labine, Matthew Lillard, Bill Mackenzie.
Director: Brian Robbins (Varsity Blues, Hardball, Ready to Rumble, Good Burger).
Thumbs Up: Scarlet Johansson is in it, but is that enough?
Thumbs Down: A movie about cheating on the SATs? Are you kidding?
Soundtrack: None, odd for an MTV movie, but there is a Fefe Dobson video.
Website: www.perfectscoremovie.com includes story synopsis, multiple choice questions, a trailer, gallery, extra credittests, updates and how SAT scores relate to your horoscope.

You Got Served (Screen Gems/Sony)
Premise:
A hip-hop eomedy exploring the subculture of street dancing, focusing on a pair of friends who want to open their own dance/recording dstudio, but have to win a competition to prove they have the talent.
Stars: IMx’s Marques Houston, B2K’s Omarion, Raz-B, Lil Fizz and J-Boog, Steve Harvey.
Director: Christopher B. Stokes in feature debut, previously directed direct-to-video House Party 4.
Thumbs Up: The rap version of Fame crossed with Breakin’?
Thumbs Down: Expectations are as low as the budget—and B2K has since broken up.
Soundtrack: Epic Records album includes tracks by B2K with Lil’ Kim, Marques Houston, Rufus Black, M.O.P./Funkmaster Flex and Baby D.
Website: www.sonypictures.com/movies/yougotserved/ features a trailer, character bios, photo gallery, games, media, movie info, downloads, soundtrack information and a freestyle dance battle.

Osama (United Artists)
Premise:
Set in Afghanistan at the time of the Taliban takeover, a girl disguises herself as a boy so that she can escort her mother, who is not allowed to be on the streets unless accompanied by a man or boy, as she leaves the house and looks for work.
Stars: Marina Golbahari, Mohamad Nader Khajeh, Zobeydeh Sahar, Mohamad Aref Harat.
Director: Siddiq Barmak, who also wrote the film, in his feature debut.
Thumbs Up: Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Film. Film was financed through $25,000 supplied by government of Iran and $21,000 from Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalfaf. First movie from Afghanistan ever screened at Cannes.
Thumbs Down: The subject matter might be a little exotic for American tastes, but that’s not excuse.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.osamamovie.com gives you a plot synopsis, a photo gallery, information on the director and film, and a trailer.

YOUR WEAKEND WEATHER
Ah, Super Bowl weekend. A time to sit on the couch, eat, drink and watch TV. Of course, if you’re in Los Angeles, you can step outside to smoke since it’s going to be partly cloudy, with highs in the upper 60s and lows in the upper 40s all weekend. In New York, apparently there are snowstorms or something, but that would require both research and the desire to know. I can tell you that temps won’t rise above 30 this weekend, so maybe you should quit smoking and not go outside until, oh, about March. (DS)

Thanks to Roy Trakin, David Simutis, Simon Glickman, Valerie Nome and Meshugge Knight for housebreaking this underdog of a Weakend Planner.

PRIMARY WAVE CHECKS INTO
THE FOUR SEASONS
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UMG IPO SET FOR '22
And Q3 figures look good as well. (10/21a)
TOP 20: TAY'S FOLKLORIC RUN CONTINUES
A Swift return to #1. (10/21a)
REVENUE CHART: “LEMONADE” AND OCEAN SPRAY
The Rumours are true. (10/23a)
GRAMMY PREVIEW:
PHOEBE BRIDGERS
Could she be this year's left-field anointed one? (10/23a)
RAINMAKERS 2020
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMY OUTLIERS
Mulling possible surprises.
HALLOWEEN IN QUARANTINE
Why not wear a mask indoors?
ELECTION 2020
What drugs will help us get there?
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