Nothing doing

Too many movies: Film writer Joe Baltake is giving The Sacramento Bee notice that he’s going on permanent hiatus from the critic biz as of the end of next month. The decision was not, as readers might imagine, the result of one too many Jennifer Lopez movies (in fact, Baltake always has been unusually kind to her in reviews). Instead, Baltake said, it was the result of an overwhelming desire to do … nothing.

No script? No consulting company? No book about life inside Team Scoopy? Nothing?

“That’s what’s so strange,” Baltake told Bites, fresh from reviewing Christmas with the Kranks, a film he suggested makes retiring from film criticism that much easier. “Whenever I tell somebody what my plans are—and I’ve been talking about this for a year now—the inevitable question is, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ And I say, ‘Nothing.’ I guess the work ethic is so pronounced in this country that the idea of doing nothing seems almost a crime, or a sin or some kind of blasphemy.”

Instead, Baltake looks forward to such non film-critic activities as regular exercise, reading, “lying on the sofa and staring at the ceiling, studying the cracks” and, best of all, not worrying about deadlines. “I’ve just been really tired,” he said, “and I don’t think going to the movies all the time is really healthy anyway. I mean, just think about it: sitting in the dark absorbing other people’s fantasies.”

The Bee’s film critic for the last 17 years, 59-year-old Baltake originally had planned on resigning four years ago, when he and his wife first moved back to the East Coast. But the Bee’s offer to let him telecommute proved too alluring. Now, he’s finally making good on his promise, though he’ll always remain a movie buff.

Hell, he may even catch the next J.Lo flick.

“I’m actually more supportive of her than most critics,” said Baltake, citing her appearances in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight and Bob Rafelson’s Blood and Wine. “It’s only in the last couple of years that she became this sort of tabloid joke, where she’s easy to poke fun at. I even think Gigli wasn’t a bad movie. I mean, I still defend that film.”

All of which makes Baltake’s viewpoint that much more irreplaceable. “It’s not a bad movie,” he insisted. “In spite of the bad press that surrounded it, I thought it was fairly decent. And I have seen a lot worse—I mean, a lot worse—than Gigli.

“But I won’t have to now!”

Howard’s next big thing: Leave it to Howard Kaloogian to bring us the latest trends in extreme politics. The leader of Sacramento’s Move America Forward, Kaloogian jumped on the recall bandstand at an early, critical moment, turning Ted Costa’s wet dream into a right-wing revolution. Once the recall was over, Kaloogian helped spearhead the movement to pull the Reagan docudrama off NBC. He then went on to proselytize against Fahrenheit 9/11—referring to Michael Moore as a “domestic enemy”—and pumped out some especially virulent anti-John Kerry ads.

So, what’s next for Kaloogian? He’s now out to “Get the UN Out of the USA,” a campaign that comes complete with a logo that shows the United States wearing a boot where Florida would be, kicking those ne’er-do-wells on out of here. Hey, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Maybe they redo elections: Need to get your husband committed, your stomach stapled or your life in order? Starting Over, NBC’s daytime makeover series, will be in Sacramento for a casting call from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday at the convention center. The show follows “everyday women” as they “reinvent” their lives by getting stuck together in a house and consorting with lifestyle coaches like Oprah protégé Iyanla Vanzant.

Casting associate Kai Bowe told Bites that, in order to be politically current, casting agents are especially on the lookout for a woman who’s mourning “the loss of someone in the services.” That should fit right in with current star Towanda coming to terms with her sister Toni Braxton’s fame, and “brassy redhead” Denise dealing with that clutter problem.