Damn you, American Idol. Despite my best efforts and previous declarations that he simply didn't do it for me, I've developed a hopeless, involuntary crush on Keith Urban. Now every episode of Idol is like my own personal round of Dreamphone, except instead of mooning over Gary and his super '90s power turtleneck, I'm making googly-eyes at Keith, who's rocking my dad's T-shirt collection and my aunt's haircut.
Of course, as much as I'd like to pretend that the only reason I've been forced into developing a strange crush on Urban during this season of American Idol is because there are no attractive men left vying for our votes, I'd be lying. Unfortunately, I'm not that superficial: In spite of how obnoxious I find his impossibly feathery hair, with its clearly unnatural blonde streaks and a shape that frames his face like a pair of Ikea curtains, whenever I watch Idol, I'm undeniably drawn to him.
I understand that to some folks, especially fans of country music, Urban is a certifiable babe — but sorry, ladies and gents — I just never understood it. To me, Urban's always been a goofy cowboy, and one who seems to be allergic to putting his razor on a setting beyond "graze." Sure, he's a great country music artist, but so was Garth Brooks and you don't see me (or anyone) clamoring after him like a pack of crying teenagers (at least not after he dabbled as Chris Gaines, the Criss Angel of country music). There was that way in which every glance at Urban's Golden Road album cover brought up memories of Britney Spears' "I'm Not a Girl (Not Yet a Woman)" music video. And that floppy haircut fit for some kid named Skylar on my brother's fifth grade baseball team was like a giant warning to stay away from all blonde Australian men with guitars. Urban was a good singer/songwriter, but he wasn't putting stars in my eyes.
Then he joined American Idol, and once the tensions died down between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, we started noticing Urban do things like this:
But it's not just his facial expressiveness that gets me. Just how wonderful is he? Let me count the ways...
This man is passionate. He loves music so entirely that when a pretty voice is laid before him, there's nothing he can do to stop the outpouring of emotion from every piece of his incredibly expressive face. When one of the top contestants sings an emotional ballad, a quick cut to Urban will show him leaning toward the singer, lifting his head up, furrowing his brow with great interest, and leaning out as if to catch the wave of his or her beautiful voice.
He knows when we're laughing at him, and laughs right along with us. This was most evident on Beatles night when he realized the folly of his own repetive commentary (take note, Randy Jackson) and turned it into a joke on himself. Okay, so he's not exactly Jerry Lewis, but it's cute enough to merit a giggle.
His friendship with Nicki Minaj is the stuff dreams are made of. First, he shared his trail mix with her during auditions, like an older brother on a school bus. Then came the friendly banter. Then there were the times when Urban comforted Minaj by lending her a shoulder on which to mourn Curtis Finch, Jr.'s early elimination, and when he lent her his hand so she didn't fall on her way to the judges' table in impossibly high heels. It's enough to make this ol' heart of mine grow a few sizes.
He knows his s**t. For too long, we had judges who had their heads wrapped around pop music, but their interests in country music were fairly tenuous. But when Urban gets going, it's clear he's coming from a place of total, intimate understanding. He knows exactly how every facet of a country song needs to work. He knows who the real country idols are (not just the ones we surface country music listeners know). And he knows what Idol's country crooners need to do to make their voices stand out in a popular genre. Basically, he's a country music genius.
And to that point: He truly cares. It's clear that he genuinely wants these singers to succeed, and when they don't perform at the level he expects, he's not angry or dismissive like Jackson and, on occasion, Minaj. He's clearly saddened everytime one of the contestants misses his or her mark, and you can see in his sweetly pained face that he only wants the best for them, like scruffily handsome den mother.
With all that going on, how could anyone not fall totally and completely in televisual love with this man?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
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Love is a special sort of torture. And believe it or not, Community's trip to the nerdiest of all pursuits, The Inspector Spacetime convention, is the strongest foray into L-O-V-E in a long time.
Of course, it probably helps that Britta and Troy are sleeping together now, sending Troy and Abed into a relationship tailspin. Abed seems to be okay with the secret relationship at first, relishing in the fact that their refusal to tell him results in free morning donuts, but when Britta joins the duo as InspectorCon, the panic sets in. Part of that is due to the fact that Abed, in anticipation of Troy's probability of leaving him for Britta, contacts the world's greatest Inspector Spacetime fan, Toby (Matt Lucas of Little Britain and Bridesmaids fame). The problem is Toby is totally trying to steal Troy boyfran.
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Toby's evil plan involves magically appearing tickets to a sold-out panel and a false sob story about losing his Constable Reggie (Troy's counterpart to Abed's Inspector) to a woman, who he calls a total Minerva (the name of the only female Inspector is synonymous with b**ch because she sucks, not because they're sexist, of course). But it doesn't take long for Abed to realize that something's not right, and it helps that Toby calls Abed's friends "neurotypicals" and literally says that he and Abed are above them. Abed's BS meter goes off a little too late and Toby traps him in a wannabe TARDIS is hopes that Stockholm Syndrome's onset is only a few hours. But that's when the magic happens.
Abed knows Troy will find him, because that's who Troy is to him. When Britta finally does her job as the best girlfriend ever, cheering Troy up and telling him that his "crazy girlfriend" act is totally justified (and buying him that weird Inspector Spacetime toy that "light up and plays music or something!") before sending him off to get his Abed back, the heartwarming begins. Troy scares off Toby with his ability to actually make a fist (Toby only knows how to slap-fight), and Abed is reunited with his human counterpart, which he's realized is necessary as he and his somewhat alien disposition try to navigate regular human culture. What's great about this trio and the way they all learn to appreciate the way in which their relationships can support the other is that it's, in a sense, a wonderful picture that we can all comprehend, whether we've got an Abed or a Britta or both. Romantic relationships and those of extreme friendship require balance, compromise, and understanding, and here, under the light shining on a poster of Thoraxis, we found that timeless lesson.
Of course, it wasn't just something we learned from Troy, Abed, and Britta (wow, it's strange to write Troy and Abed without the "and" in the middle). Jeff and Annie do a little friendship soul-searching too, though their interaction this week will have the shippers going nuts. When Jeff decides to leave because their ski resort is shut down and he doesn't do nerd stuff like the InspectorCon, Annie heads up to their hotel room alone, where the room service attendant assumes she's Jeff's wife and the power of imagination goes to her head. Before we know it, she's got an elaborate back story for both of them (even something to explain their separate hotel rooms). The problem is that Jeff is downstairs being hit on by super Inspector fan Lauren (Battlestar Galactica alum Tricia Helfer), who thinks he's Nigel, the guy who plays Inspector super villain Thoraxis. The hotel staff loves Annie so much, they spill the beans on her "husband's" infidelity and she winds up throwing a drink in his face and scaring away his hot nerd lady. Season 3 Jeff would have stormed off immediately, never to return, but new Jeff (NEW JEFF!) sees the truth: Annie is a young woman desperately seeking her friend's attention that he so callously denied her when his "cool" plans fell through.
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He finds her, apologizes for ditching her and he even offers to buy her a drink: the dreaded, manhood diminishing appletini. Jeff begrudgingly orders it for his Zach-Efron-loving friend, which is the mark of true friendship. But there's enough hints of flirtation that those hoping Jeffannie will become a thing eventually just got some fuel for their fire.
Finally, Pierce and Shirley invite themselves along on the convention trip, even though the gang didn't invite them because they knew they wouldn't like it. They're immediately scooped up by a marketing team who knows they don't belong there and are ushered off to a hotel meeting room where they become the focus group for the American reboot of Inspector Spacetime. It's clear that this is an opportunity for Community to lament the tastes of mainstream America (the same tastes that kill their ratings despite being a smart, innovative comedy), as Pierce tells the market researchers that he wants simple, easy jokes and blondes with big breasts in his Inspector Spacetime. Shirley attempts to do the right thing and tell the marketers that the reason people like the original show is because it's smart and it doesn't talk down to its audience. Her words almost stick with the pencil pushers until Pierce has a genius idea: change Constable Reggie to a blonde with a Tennis racket! In the end, we find a CW/CBS-ified series starring Luke Perry and Jenni Garth as Abed's soul is slowly shattered into a million pieces. And while it's fun to get a little catharsis by making Pierce the face of whoever generates 15 million viewers for the Big Bang Theory while Community can barely crack 3 mill, it's the sad truth of the world of network television and no amount of on-point joking can change that.
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Still, "Conventions of Space and Time" is the sort of episode that makes you giddy NBC is letting this little show continue. Wrapped up in the silliness of an Inspector Spacetime convention is an episode that truly understands the delicacy of human relationships, both those with other humans and those with television shows that arrest them so heartily. If this is the beginning of the end, and there is no Season 5, at least Community is going out on a note that speaks so heartily to its adoring fans.
Grading on a Curve
A+: Britta (yes, actually)
“Do they even have to talk? They could just touch tentacles and download.” +20 (solid burn, girl)
“You are not being crazy, that dude is trying to steal your boyfriend.” -Britta being the best girlfriend ever +300
“I’ve told you before (breathy whisper) I don’t care about Inspector Spacetime.” +20
Britta is the best girlfriend. Mean it. +1000
Total: 1340 points
A: Jeff (Yes, Actually)
“Jeff why is everyone staring at you?” -Britta “Because they’ve never see a man who’s had sex before?” -Jeff -30
Jeff’s move to “practice his American accent” for an audition. A reluctant +20
“Is that my actual hair? And if it is, did it fall out naturally? Because if it did, tell me right now because I have to call science.” -Jeff +30
“If we were married, you would not find me flirting with some woman in a hotel bar.” -Jeff to Annie after their faux-marriage debacle +100
Buys Annie the appletini, potentially wounding manhood. +50
Jeff stands on stage as Thoraxis. +100 nerd points
Rips his shirt open while doing it. -15 for vanity
Total: 255 points
“Are you sure it’s okay Britta is here because she can just wait in the car.” -Troy -20 (but still hilarious)
“It’s Troy. It’s the first word in Troy and Abed! Toby and Abed in the Morning? That’s ridiculous! I am not psycho!” -Troy +60 for Troy and Abed in the Morning reference and the fact that rage Troy is the best kind of Troy
Troy simply knows that Abed is in the phone booth. +100
“I always say if you love someone, set them free, if they don’t come back, they were never yours to begin with.” -Britta “That makes no sense. What if they get hit by a car or fall down a well? Remind me to never put you down as my emergency contact.” -Troy +75
Abed knows that Troy and Britta are sneaking around on him but he lets them keep up the charade to get free donuts. +10
Abed is so trusting that he buys the Nigerian cry for help email, but it actually turns out to be real. +50 (because, aww)
“Cadbury Cream Eggs are sold all year round there.” is a selling point for Abed -50 (ew)
“If I could Winger you for a second?” -Abed (as he squints his eyes slightly and makes his voice just slightly more gravelly) +15
Abed’s distress noise sounds like R2D2 +10
Abed's realization that regular humans are super important to his strange lifestyle. +100
Total: 125 points
Annie’s alter ego is as a world famous police detective. +50
“Mmm, tastes of... fog.” -Annie drinking scotch +15
Annie has a Charlie St Cloud poster in her bedroom. -15
Annie’s attention to detail: she takes bites out of both dishes to make sure it looks like there’s been a couple hanging out in the room. +30 crazy points
Total: 80 points
Shirley’s ominous comment, in reference to the ruined Inspector Spacetime spin-off: “Just remember, Abed. I did my best.” +50
Total: 50 points
D: Pierce (Doing better, buddy!)
“See, it’s funny because it’s clear.” -Pierce, helping to ruin Inspector Spacetime for America -100
Pierce lays face-down when the entire room obeys Jeff’s “Bow before Thoraxis” command +20
Luke Perry and Jenni Garth are the bimbo leads of America’s Inspector Spacetime (Pierce’s fault) -1000
Total: -1080 points
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Vivian Zink/NBC]
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With each outing in his evolving filmmaking career actor-turned-director Ben Affleck has amped up the scope. Gone Baby Gone was a character drama woven into a hard-boiled mystery. The Town saw Affleck dabble in action pulling off bank heists many compared to the expertise of Heat. In Argo the director pulls off his most daring effort melding one part caper comedy and two parts edge-of-your-seat political thriller into an exhilarating theatrical experience.
At the height of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 anti-Shah militants stormed the U.S. embassy and captured 52 American hostages. Six managed to escape the raid finding refuge in the Canadian ambassador's home. Within hours the militants began a search for the missing Americans sifting through shredded paperwork for even the smallest bit of evidence. Under pressure by the ticking clock the CIA worked quickly to formulate a plan to covertly rescue the six embassy workers. Despite a lengthy list of possibilities only Tony Mendez (Affleck) had a plan just enticing enough to unsuspecting Iranian officials to work: the CIA would fake a Hollywood movie shoot.
There's nothing in Argo or Affleck's portrayal of Mendez that would tell you the technical operations officer has the imagination to conjure his master plan — Affleck perhaps to differentiate himself from the past plays his character with so much restraint he looks dead in the eyes — but when the Hollywood hijinks swing into full motion so does Argo. Mendez hooks up with Planet of the Apes makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to convince all of Hollywood that their sci-fi blockbuster "Argo " is readying for production. With enough promotional material concept art and press coverage Mendez and his team can convince the Iranian government they're a legit operation. A location scout in Tehran will be their method of extracting the bunkered down escapees.
Without an interesting lead to draw us in Affleck lets his eclectic ensemble do the heavy lifting. For the most part it works. Argo is basically two movies — Goodman and Arkin lead the Ocean's 11-esque half and Affleck takes the reigns when its time to get the six — another who's who of character actors including Tate Donovan Clea Duvall Scoot McNairy and Rory Cochrane — through the terrifying security of the Iranian airport. Arkin steals the show as a fast talking Hollywood type complete with year-winning catchphrase ("ArGo f**k yourself!) while McNairy adds a little more humanity to the spy mission when his character butts heads with Mendez. The split lessens the impact of each section but the tension in the escape is so high so taut that there's never a moment to check out.
Reality is on Affleck's side his camera floating through crowds of protestors and the streets of Tehran — a warscape where anything can happen. Each angle he chooses heightens the terror which starts to close in on the covert escape as they drift further and further from their homebase. Argo is a complete package with the '70s production design knowing when to play goofy (the fake movie's wild sci-fi designs) and when to remind us that problems took eight more steps to fix then they do today. Alexandre Desplat's score finds balance in haunting melodies and energetic pulses.
Part of Argo's charm is just how unreal the entire operation really was. To see the men and women involved go through with a plan they know could result in death. It's a suspenseful adventure and while there's not much in the way of character to cling to the visceral experience tends to be enough.
Woody Allen's new comedy Hollywood Ending will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 15, and the veteran American director will be attending the festivities for the first time. Other Allen films, such as Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters, have been shown at the festival but the usually press-shy Allen has never made an appearance.
"Over the last few years, they have invited me so many times that I now want to offer them something in return: I will therefore come personally to present my film Hollywood Ending, which I think will be perfect for the event," Allen said in a statement, Reuters reported. The film stars Allen, Tea Leoni, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, George Hamilton and Treat Williams.
The employees of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno got a nice surprise before Monday's taping: $1,000 for each year he/she worked on the show, Variety reported. Leno just wanted them all to know how much he appreciated them. That's mighty nice of him. The show will celebrate its 10th anniversary May 23 and NBC is airing a special one-hour special April 30 at 10 p.m.
Want to know even more about "Ginger" Spice, aka Geri Halliwell? Yeah, well, neither do we, but apparently someone does. Britain's Mirror reported she has signed a deal to write a second autobiography for $719,000, detailing her life after leaving the Spice Girls. Her first book If Only, talked about her childhood and her years with the girl pop band.
Robin Wright Penn has joined Robert Downey Jr. in the film The Singing Detective, with producer Mel Gibson also taking a small role. The film, a remake of the popular BBC television mini-series, centers on a invalid (Downey) whose sickly hallucinations have him creating an alternative reality where he is fighting Nazis in the 1940s.
Matt Damon going on stage. The handsome actor be performing in the London West End production of This Is Our Youth, along with fellow actors Casey Affleck (what? No Ben?) and Summer Phoenix. This threesome will be taking over from Anna Paquin, Hayden Christensen and Jake Gyllenhaal on April 22.
The CBS Survivor team want to use Thailand's Tartutao Islands for the next series, despite some resistance from environmentalists, who claim TV production may further disrupt the region's ecological system. Several environmental groups blame the 1999 film The Beach, which filmed on a Thai island, for causing extensive damage there. The Thai government, however, has told Reuters they are in the final stages of approving CBS' request.
Michael Nader, who played the suave Count Dimitri on ABC's All My Children for nearly 10 years, is suing ABC for breach of contract. The actor has been off the show since February 2001, when he claims in his suit he became ill and needed medical treatment. His suit alleges that ABC refused to allow him to come back to work and would not let him out of his contract. Nader was also sentenced to three years probation for possession of a controlled substance in May 2001.
Heavy mental rocker Ozzy Osbourne and President George Bush will dine together. Apparently, the president has become a big fan of the MTV reality show The Osbournes, which follows the lives of Osbourne and his family, and wants to meet the singer. Ah, to be a fly on the wall at that meeting.
In the latest on the air rage trial of R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, prosecutor David Bate is claiming Buck is lying about what happened to save face. Hmmm. Is there any other reason to lie? Buck has maintained his innocence, blaming a bad reaction from a sleeping pill and several glasses of red wine. He does not recall his alleged actions.
French-Canadian superstar Celine Dion has still got it. Her newest album New Day Has Come sold more than half a million copies its first week in the stores, shooting it to No. 1 on the charts. Well done, Celine.
Country singer Garth Brooks and R&B king Stevie Wonder will be honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame at their induction and awards ceremony June 13. Wonder will be receiving a lifetime achievement award, while Brooks will pick up the Hitmaker Award.
Remember Bob Newhart? The Kennedy Center hasn't forgotten the TV and film comedian; they've awarded him their fifth annual Mark Twain prize for American humor. Newhart told the Associated Press, "Mark Twain once said, 'It is strange the way the ignorant and inexperienced so often and so undeservedly succeed when the informed and the experienced fail,' which is certainly true in this case."
The irreverant Laugh-In hosts Dick Martin and the late Dan Rowan finally get their own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 80-year-old Martin accepted the honor Tuesday (Rowan died in 1987), and on hand were Laugh-In castmates Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, Gary Owens and Jo Anne Worley.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.