Wednesday, April 23, 2008

People Who Can Suck It: Jason Castro

Who Needs to Suck It: Jason Castro, current contestant on this season of American Idol.

Why He Needs to Suck It: This long-haired, dredlocked hippie freak is this season's pest that won't go away. With the vocal ability that could only impress 13 year old girls who have never heard music before or Helen Keller, he disgusts me every time I see his mug on the television. And not only has he pissed on the legacy of Judy Garland by massacring my beloved "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (which no one should ever, EVER cover) a couple of weeks ago, but just last night he whispered and warbled through Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Memory" (one of my favorites of his). I don't understand the appeal of this kid; he can't sing and every time I look at him I just think he needs a shower. Yuck. Hopefully, after last night's abysmal performance, America will wake up and kick this loser off the show.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Too Much Blue?

With Zac Efron, there's never "too much."

This is the background on my computer right now and while I was admiring it, I was completely struck by just how much blue is in this photo. Someone has been doing their homework and is willing to exploit those gorgeous blue peepers for all they're worth.

Tuesday's Film Quote: Gap-Toothed Bitches

A new series...hope you enjoy!

"Alyssa, I'm sorry I called you a gap-toothed bitch. It's not your fault you're so gap-toothed."

Miranda Edwards as Michigan Girl in Mean Girls

I Won! I Won!

William Wyler's 1940 film The Letter is one of my favorite movies and I especially love Bette Davis' immaculate performance in it. I've been trying for years to catch the earlier, 1929 version of The Letter, based on the same W. Somerset Maugham play, in which legendary Broadway actress Jeanne Eagels earned her only Oscar nomination before dying of a heroin overdose, but I haven't been able to catch it. I've heard so many great things about this performance from those lucky enough to have seen it (and that it even rivals Davis' interpretation) that I kept on getting more and more excited. Finally, I decided to just browse around on eBay to see if I could find a copy there. I tried three different auctions over the past two weeks and finally won a copy! I was so pumped I almost did a little dance. Now I can't wait for it to be shipped so I can watch it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

He Link She Link

I've never done one of these "link round-up" posts before, but I figure now is as good of time as any to start. Here's what I'm reading online:

New York Magazine has this great article about Gossip Girl and took the words out of my mouth about why the show is spectacular and a must-watch every week. They also have a fantastic Q&A with the one and only Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Inside Man) who's still complaining about Driving Miss Daisy winning the Best Picture Oscar in the same year Do the Right Thing came out. Gotta love him!

PopWatch Blog has discovered what is possibly the greatest thing ever found on YouTube: Cher, during a 70's TV special, playing every single part in West Side Story! You have to see it to believe it.

My New Plaid Pants rounds up The Boys of Summer for us to enjoy. My my, it's getting warm in here!

Speaking of summer, Life Sprinkes loooooooooves ice cream

The Superficial discusses the new children's book My Beautiful Mommy (about mommies who get plastic surgery) with their usual snark and wit.

StinkyLulu offers the latest Supporting Actress profile in preparation for 1953's Smackdown: Grace Kelly in Mogambo. I've personally never seen the film, but I've never really understood the appeal of Grace Kelly. Sure, she was pretty sexy in Rear Window, but from the films I've seen she's never showed a lot of acting talent. Even Marilyn Monroe did it a few times.

Tom O'Neil at Gold Derby has been receiving a ton of shit for his latest "review" of the 1927 film Sunrise, one of the most influential silent films of all time, in which he simply dismisses it as "schmaltzy" and "smothered in Cheez Whiz." This article wouldn't be so bad if O'Neil was some anonymous blogger like myself, but this guy is the leading critic for the L.A. fucking Times. He should offer more than just a dismissive paragraph about it's story and not mention at all its poetic visuals, which is the most important part of the movie. Christ, where's Roger Ebert when you need him? And any idiot that proclaims The Jazz Singer to be their pick as what should have won the Best Picture Oscar in 1927-28 over Sunrise, The Circus and The Crowd (which I would have gone for) is seriously a complete fucktard.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Angels in the Outfield Reimagined

Last night, my friends and I were watching The Lion King on an old-school Disney VHS tape. During the 20 minutes of previews, one that came on was for Angels in the Outfield. Now, I saw this movie once about 10 years ago and don't remember anything about it except the basics of the plot. I had completely forgotten that Danny Glover was the star (and so were a young Matthew McConaughey and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and was excited to see him because he is pretty much amazing. But, a random thought occurred to me while watching the trailer: How awesome would it have been to see Samuel L. Jackson in this film? Just imagine the classic line that could have came out of the movie:

"There are motherfucking angels in the motherfucking outfield!"

How badass would that have been? I think I can smell another remake of this coming!

Final Exams, Polls and Such

To my dear and devoted readers (all 7 of you):

As any college student can attest to, final exam week is one of the toughest of the year. Mine is upon me this upcoming week, so posting may be a bit light from yours truly. I know, I know, try to pull yourself together. We'll help each other through this. There will be a couple of things to hold you over until I do something MAJOR again. First of all, the acting nominees and winners have been announced for my 2007 Diva Cup Awards, so now I would like to hear from you. On the right hand side you'll see a poll for each of the acting awards. If you haven't done so already, please vote for your favorites in each category. And if you're afraid to vote because you've only seen 2 or 3 nominees, go ahead! I'd still like to hear your opinion. The final step in my awards, the Top 10 list, is currently being worked on, so I'll hopefully be able to post it by the end of the week.

I'm sure a couple of random posts will pop up during the week, but I don't see myself writing any huge Film Rants or anything.

So, if you're going through final exam stresses this week, feel free to vent in the comments. I'd love to hear what everyone is going through in preparing for this hell week.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Five Song Friday: Non-American Pop Music

It's simple. Every Friday, I pick five songs that I've been loving for the past week. They don't have to be new songs or even singles from the album...the only requirement is that they're amazing.

Glenn over at Stale Popcorn has been giving me lessons in "Non-American Pop Music" and I thought I'd share what I've learned.

Girls Aloud "Sexy! No No No"
If every member of the Pussycat Dolls had talent, they'd sound a lot like Girls Aloud. Their Greatest Hits CD is jam-packed full of amazing pop songs ("Biology" and "No Good Advice" are my favorites) and their latest CD Tangled Up is full of more. "Sexy! No No No" is off that CD and completely different from anything on the American radio.

Delta Goodrem "You Will Only Break My Heart"
Most of Delta's other songs sound like recent Celine Dion songs, but "You Will Only Break My Heart" is pop perfection.

The Veronicas "Untouched"
I love the bombastic, over-the-top violins in this song- such a nice touch.

Sugababes "Push the Button"
I'm not a huge fan of Sugababes (a little too subdued for my taste) but "Push the Button" is extremely catchy.

Kylie Minogue "All I See"
What Madonna is to America, Kylie is to the rest of the world. "All I See" is the first American single off her X album and I hope it becomes her first hit here since "Love at First Sight."

2007 Diva Cup Awards: Best Actress

Before I get started, let me just say that this was am incredibly hard choice to make in narrowing this down to 5 nominees. If you think Sophie had a hard choice to make, then you have no idea the mental anguish I went through in my elimination process. I don't understand why people keep saying that all the good female parts are gone because I consistently find Best Actress a hell of a lot more interesting than Best Actor (that could also be the actressexual in me). There were 8 genuinely strong, terrific performances that floated around my Top 5 for awhile and I literally had to toss a coin to decide between number 5 and 6.

And the nominees are...

Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose
At once, both an outstanding, once-in-a-lifetime performance and an extremely polarizing one which has no doubtedly caused friendships to fail and caused deeply committed actressexuals to divide into heavily debated and vilified camps. For me, Cotillard's performance is one of a true movie star, going for broke with the up and down nature of the role- something Crawford and Davis in the 40's no doubt would have done.
Key Scene: "Marcel! Oh Marcel!"

Jodie Foster as Erica Bain in The Brave One
From my original rant: "
[The Brave One] felt less like a vigilante film than one in which all of the security and complicity that Jodie Foster's Erica Bain has known before a brutal attack which killed her fiancee and left her in a coma has suddenly been erased. At first it is fear that replaces the security, but eventually it becomes an unleashing of one hell of a violent streak. She doesn't know where it comes from, but becomes a part of her all too quickly and easily (there is a great voice over that Erica gives while leaving one of the scenes of her crime in which she questions herself as to why she didn't just show them the gun so they would back off instead of shooting them straightaway). As this woman with a mission, Jodie Foster gives a career-best performance."
Key Scene: Discovering the drug smuggler Terrence Howard has been trying to convict for years in the elevator.

Nicole Kidman as Margot in Margot at the Wedding
Kidman's never been known as a "funny" lady (just go see Bewitched and The Stepford Wives for proof), but in Margot at the Wedding the most risk-taking (and possibly finest) actress of this decade finds the bitter and uncomfortable humor in her absolutely awful character.
Key Scene: The speaking engagement at the library

Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff in Juno
Page has the unenviable task of turning Cody's delicious dialogue into something that both sets Juno apart as a character and makes her a real human being. That she pulls it off without so much as breaking a sweat is further proof of the brilliance of this performance.
Key Scene: The abortion clinic

Tang Wei as Wong Chia Chi in Lust, Caution
This is a film debut?! Forgive me if I'm a bit stunned, because in Lust, Caution Wei absolutely shines with a kind of maturity most actresses in their 30's haven't yet achieved. I can't wait to see what she does next.
Key Scene: Easing into her "role" with Mrs. Yee

If Only There Were Six: Julie Christie, Away From Her
No, this is not revenge against all the Cotillard-bashers who instead championed Christie. You don't know how much I wanted to include this one. This is, as a matter of fact, the direct result of a coin toss which allowed a certain actress in and Christie out. That doesn't mean I don't like Christie's performance any less- in all of its subtleties, it's one of monumental impact.

Rest of the Top 10:
Carice van Houten, Black Book...Amy Adams, Enchanted...Nikki Blonsky, Hairspray...Keira Knightley, Atonement

Jodie Foster, The Brave One

Tang Wei, Lust, Caution

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Another Britney Comeback?

I haven't written about Britney in awhile, mostly because she hasn't done anything batshit crazy or extremely positive (except for her appearance on How I Met Your Mother) in the past few months (not that I'm complaining....I'm glad her life is quieting down). Over at The Superficial, they are reporting some good news from Britney's corner of the world. Britney has been spotted at the gym, at least once a day, for awhile now and is even in talks to be the new spokesperson for Bally Total Fitness. Also, she's been hitting the studio, tinkering around with the piano and coming up with new tunes. All I can say to this last bit of news is...YES! I can't wait for the follow-up to Blackout (my #2 album of 2007). And if she was majorly messed-up when she made that masterpiece, imagine what her cleaned-up will be!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2007 Diva Cup Awards: Best Actor

And the nominees are...

Casey Affleck as Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Have you ever sat down and watched a film (or a TV show or read a book), with a subject as far away from your normal life as possible, and then recognized yourself in one of the performances? If you have, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. I've only done it a few times (Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, Bree Van de Kamp on Desperate Housewives and Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye) but as soon as I finished watching The Assassination of Jesse James..., I immediately recognized a kindred spirit in Affleck's Robert Ford. What makes this performance even more remarkable is that in the first scene, with Affleck constantly muttering in that squeeky voice, you think it's going to be a looooong film, but after a minute or two, you start to understand what he is doing and it ultimately works.
Key Scene: Acting as Jesse's escort around town, picking up his gestures and the way he carries himself

Don Cheadle as Petey Greene in Talk to Me
Cheadle rises above biopic cliches, focusing more on Petey's relationships with Dewey and Vernell than on his drug problem. Add motormouth to Cheadle's already long list of talents.
Key Scene: The James Brown concert

Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood
A total badass from start to finish. Day-Lewis has proved before he can transform into practically anyone, and this time was no exception. A touch over the top, but it suits the over the top-ness of the film; a subtler performance wouldn't have fit here.
Key Scene: The baptism

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Dewey Hughes in Talk to Me
Some people consider this a supporting performance, but watch Talk to Me closely and you'll see that the film is just as concerned with Hughes and his drive to achieve fame as it is with Greene. The role, as written, seems to be nothing more than the "black man who conformed," but Ejiofor stands up for Hughes and makes us realize he's just as "black" as Greene.
Key Scene: Making it to The Tonight Show

Viggo Mortensen as Nikolai in Eastern Promises
Another badass, this time from Mortensen as a Russian mobster. The beauty of this performance is that in the context of one character, Mortensen is playing three roles (the hard-ass gangster, the romantic lead and, possibly, the good guy) and it's nearly impossible to figure Nikolai out.
Key Scene: Kissing both Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassell by the water

If Only There Were Six: Russell Crowe, 3:10 to Yuma
Crowe's finest performance, in my opinion. He's really more believable as the bad guy.

Rest of the Top 10:
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street...James McAvoy, Atonement...Josh Brolin, No Country For Old Men...Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Monday, April 14, 2008

Greatest Line Ever in an Academic Article

For my World History 1500-Present class, I was assigned to read Iris Chang's article "Exposing the Rape of Nanking." I had never heard of this before but apparently in 1937, Japan invaded China and when they reached Nanking, they massacred between 260,000 and 350,000 Chinese and almost 80,000 were raped by Japanese soldiers. I was, of course, horrified by this, but my day brightened a little when I read this line:

"So brutal were the Japanese in Nanking that even the Nazis in the city were shocked."

When you have a Nazi telling you that you're too brutal in your massacring, you know you have a
major problem. Furthermore, it also reminded me of Kathy Griffin's monologue about Whitney Houston's intervention, to which Courtney Love attended, where she says: "When Courtney Love is telling you you're hitting the pipe too hard...."

American Idol Recap: Top 8 Edition

Theme: Inspirational Music (ooh goody, my favorite)

Okay, I'm really, really lazy this week, and it's nearly Tuesday again, so I'll just put the performances in order of preference this week:

1. David Archuleta "Angels": No surprise here. Brilliant as always
2. Michael Johns "Dream On": Actually one of his better performances, although he did imitate Steven Tyler a little too much.
3. Kristy Lee Cook "Anyway": You know it's a weak week when Kristy Lee is in the Top 3, but there you have it. I don't know if it was because she sang a Martina McBride song, if it's my growing admiration for her after that incredibly smart "God Bless the U.S.A." performance or if this was actually a great performance, but I was actually enjoying myself.
4. Brooke White "You've Got a Friend": Same schtick as usual. She needs to get back to her "Let it Be" glory.
5. Carly Smithson "The Show Must Go On": Ditto. Will she every top "Come Together" and should I expect every performance to do that?
6. Syesha Mercado "I Believe": Decent, but she's no Fantasia.
7. David Cook "Innocent": All over the place and may be starting to get a little cocky.
8. Jason Castro "Somewhere Over the Rainbow": I never thought someone could butcher this song as much as Katherine McPhee did during season 5. I guess I was proven wrong. Judy just rolled over in her grave.

And let me just announce how pissed I am that Michael Johns (aka Sexy Australian) got voted off. I am not ready yet for him to leave. It didn't matter if most of his performances were shit...all he needed to do was speak with that Australian accent and I voted for him.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Praise the Lord and Pass the Desperate Housewives

Tonight marked the post-Writers Strike return of Desperate Housewives and boy am I glad to have Bree, Susan, Lynette and Gabrielle back in my life. It's especially gratifying to be excited for a show that actually has a script and doesn't involve aspiring singers, bitchy models, people being caught in lies by a lie detector or a former rapper and his classless potential mates.

With the return of Desperate Housewives, it also means the return of my dear Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Kamp-Hodge.

Oh my Marcia, why does no one else recognize your brilliance? Is it because your not as ridiculous as Teri Hatcher or as serious as Felicity Huffman? In my estimation, you should have at least 2 Emmy's by now.

The episode was definitely a strong return for the show, with Lynette finding religion, Bree striving to be perfect (as usual!), Susan discovering a secret love tryst and Gabrielle being vindictive and selfish (again, nothing new there, although her dialogue was to die for tonight). If the writers can keep the story lines as strong as they are now for the rest of the season, they'll definitely end on a high note.

2007 Diva Cup Awards: Best Director

And the nominees are...

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Anderson has massive balls taking an Upton Sinclair novel and ditching the last 2/3 of it to say what he wants to say. The great thing about this move: it works. Brilliantly.
Key Scene: The oil well fire

Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men
I wouldn't have guessed in a million years that the Coen Brothers could make a serious, grown-up thriller without their usual shenanigans, and do it better than any of their contemporaries.
Key Scene: The showdown between Anton and Llewelyn

David Fincher, Zodiac
Fincher takes his sweet time showing us everything needed to unravel the case...and it's definitely worth the wait. I've never been more completely engrossed in a 2 1/2 hour film.
Key Scene: The rainy night in the cellar

Sidney Lumet, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Who said that you had to go out quietly in old age? Sidney Lumet, at age 83, has made a thriller not only better than any of the young'n directors, but that also stands among the best in an already accomplished filmography.
Key Scene: The robbery gone wrong.

Joe Wright, Atonement
With Atonement, Wright has made, for the first time in a long, long while, a costume drama that doesn't jerk off in it's own beauty and a romance that actually feels romantic.
Key Scene: The library scene...I was impressed that Wright is more concerned with feeling, allowing the shots to go out of focus with the passion, than he is with the conventions of the British costume picture.

If Only There Were Six: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Utterly brilliant way of turning an uncinematic story into a completely cinematic film.

Rest of the Top 10:
Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford...Paul Greengrass, The Bourne Ultimatum...Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street...Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Sidney Lumet, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men

Friday, April 11, 2008

Five Song Friday: Awful Songs I Loved in Junior High (and Occasionally Listen to Now)

It's simple. Every Friday, I pick five songs that I've been loving for the past week. They don't have to be new songs or even singles from the album...the only requirement is that they're amazing.

1. Dream "He Loves U Not"
When this song came out, I thought Dream was going to be around forever. Who would have thought that their popularity would have lasted through one more song?

2. M2M "Everything You Do"
One of the first Disney Channel bands that I ever fell for. I doubt anyone else actuall remembers M2M, but they were awesome back in the day. They had this song and "Don't Say You Love Me" (which I actually owned as a single...that is so old school). In fact their entire album, "Shades of Purple" was the SHIT in 7th grade.

3. ATC "Around the World"
I used to annoy all of my friends in junior high by singing the "La la la la" part obnoxiously loud during band class.

4. A*Teens "Dancing Queen"
Before I loved ABBA, I loved this teenage copycat group. I think "obsessed" is actually a better way to describe it. Their entire first album was full of ABBA covers that were cool in 7th grade, but now just sound awful compared to the originals. I still love "Upside Down" though.

5. S Club 7 "Never Had a Dream Come True"
Does anyone else remember the S Club 7 sitcom on Fox Family on Saturday morning? It was one of the few shows I made sure to watch every week back in the day. After the show ended, and S Club 7 hadn't made it big in America, I kind of gave up on them. Then, in 8th grade, lo and behold, this song became their only American hit and I was in love again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Wanna Be Bad, Make That Look So Good

Does anyone else remember this song?

Ah, the early 2000's. Was there ever a better time for pop music?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rants on Leatherheads

Screwball comedy is an incredibly hard genre to master. The pace at which everything comes flying at you is so swift that it's hard to keep up sometimes. That's why a lot of the classics of the genre need multiple viewings to actually understand the joke. I was completely lost the first time I saw Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby, almost to the point that I hated it, but after the second time I saw it, I started understanding what Hawks was trying to accomplish. The jokes became funnier and the pacing made sense. Needless to say, it has become one of my favorite movies.

One of the problems with George Clooney's third directorial feature is that the jokes come too easily, nothing would be gained from a second viewing. That would be fine if Clooney was making an average romantic comedy for a Friday date the local cinema, but he's aiming for screwball and that bar is set a little higher. Leatherheads is almost there, but after awhile it just runs out of steam and runs out of the funny it has.

Don't get me wrong: Leatherheads definitely has a lot going for it. The first half, although it fails to reach the level of screwball perfection it's striving for, is really quite funny. After his average turn in Michael Clayton last year, I'm glad George Clooney is back doing comedy, because that really seems to be his forte. His natural charm here as Dodge Connelly, obviously the Cary Grant of the film, is working overtime here and definitely helps to move things along. John Krasinski is also game for his role as the Ralph Bellamy sad-sack who you know is going to be dumped in the end. Renee Zellweger, although technically not bad and even funny in some parts, really bothered the crap out of me, for an admittedly superficial reason. Was it just me, or was her lower lip outrageously swollen? Whatever it was, I couldn't get over it and she came on screen all I did was stare at her lip.

The second half of the film quickly loses whatever funny it had as it somehow turns into a Capracorn fable, and anyone knows that the only person who can pull off Capracorn is Frank Capra himself. And the inevitable match up between Clooney and Krasinski on the football field is just one bad 80's sports movie cliche after another. I also hated how they tried to build some sort of relationship between them, with Clooney's constant cross-cutting between himself and Krasinski on the field, when during the rest of the film we had no idea of the dynamics between them. Is Clooney jealous of Krasinski's fame, or does he just want to beat the all-American hero? We're never really told what his angle is and the script and Clooney as director never really help out.

While Leatherheads is definitely a fun way to pass 2 hours, don't expect it to be the lost screwball classic of the 30's.

My Rating: *** 1/2

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

2007 Diva Cup Awards: Best Supporting Actress

And the nominees are...

Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire in I'm Not There
She's not playing one of the Dylans, but Gainsbourg provides the most thoroughly satisfying performance in I'm Not There. In a film where you question the importance of half of the main characters, it's fantastic to see Gainsbourg let you know from the first scene why she belongs.
Key Scene: The party scene, when she realizes that Robbie "isn't there" anymore

Romola Garai as Briony Tallis in Atonement
Having to bridge the gap between the younger Briony and the older Briony is no easy task, but in Garai's hands, her Briony feels the most complete, the one we can really connect to in the story. She's a great combination of the heinousness of Briony #1 and the self-righteousness of Briony #3.
Key Scene: Her apology to Robbie and Cecilia

Jennifer Garner as Vanessa Loring in Juno
The "Who Knew?" award for 2007 goes to Jennifer Garner, for finally proving to me that she is an actress to be reckoned with. She doesn't get any of the great dialogue that Ellen Page does. Instead, she gives the uptight suburban mom a fresh new twist and her transformation into the mother role is surprisingly subtle.
Key Scene: Listening to Juno's belly in the mall

Amy Ryan as Martha Hanson in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and as Helene McCready in Gone Baby Gone
Playing two of the most vile women in recent memory, Ryan made a startling breakthrough to the big time. Give her credit for practically taunting the hideousness of these two characters in our faces instead of toning it down so we'd "sympathize" with her.
Key Scene: In BtDKYD, her constant emasculation of her ex-husband. In Gone Baby Gone, the final scene; have things really changed?

Tilda Swinton as Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton
As I said during StinkyLulu's 2007 Supporting Actress Smackdown: "Swinton could have copped out with this performance since it seems that the character was thrown in merely as an afterthought. Instead she nailed it, showing the vulnerable and twitchy side of a corporate ball-buster with those daring sweat stains, the bewitching rehearsal scenes and her horror at the lack of control in the final scene."
Key Scene: Any of the "rehearsal" scenes

If Only There Were Six: Michelle Pfeiffer, Hairspray
She's having the time of her life and it's about time someone perfected the eye-roll.

Rest of the Top 10:
Anna Kendrick, Rocket Science...Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding...Olympia Dukakis, Away From Her...Ashley Tisdale, High School Musical 2

Romola Garai, Atonement

Jennifer Garner, Juno

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Rants on Madonna's "4 Minutes" Music Video

I know I don't usually dabble in the music video artform, because I honestly know very little about them, but I just have to say something about The Madonna's video for her newest single "4 Minutes."

The Madonna is my favorite artist of all time, bar none. I've loved her music for years, even before I knew anything about her and her shifting celebrity. After years of worship, I've come to realize that anywhere she goes with her music and persona, I'm willing to follow. If she decides to become a Muslim and releases a recording of chants used during prayer, I'd put on a burka and love every minute of it.

So when The Madonna's latest single, "4 Minutes," came out a few weeks ago, I lunged on to the first horrible copy I could get online and immediately fell in love. Once again, The Madonna has transformed herself, this time into "the hot young thang singer with a killer hook in her corner" and is doing it 10 times better than any other artist on the radio. It doesn't hurt either that she has the best male pop singer of the decade (Justin Timberlake) and my favorite producer of the moment (Timbaland) in her court lending support. With a song this hot, all The Madonna needed was a killer video to seal the deal. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way.

I was really excited for the video, mostly because I had heard rumors that there was going to be a superhero theme and, in my mind, I immediately constructed the images of Justin Timberlake in a tight spandex outfit and The Madonna whipping him (don't ask, it's just what I imagined). With this in mind the first time I watched the video, I was, needless to say, sorely disappointed and ready to completely write it off. However, I decided to give it a couple of days, watch it again and see what I thought then before I actually sat down to write anything.

I wish I could say I loved it more, but I still have some major reservations with it. I love the central theme of the video- time is running out and it's coming quicker than we think- but I just wish it had been integrated better. The massive countdown clock is ingenious, but what the hell is up with the cheesy CGI "darkness" that The Madonna and JT are running away from? It looks like something that could have been made on any Apple computer by any amateur filmmaker.

Basically, the video amounts to a bunch of shots of The Madonna and JT sliding on cars, strutting in supermarkets and staring into mirrors. If you have dancers like these two, why don't you develop some kind of intricate choreography for them to do during the course of the whole video, not just for 15 seconds at the end. Don't get me wrong, those few seconds are amazing, but it just makes me wish this was more of it.

I don't know if this me being superficial, but I could not get over just how skanky JT looks in this video. But that's the kind of relationship we have; he goes from so sexy to where I just can't stand looking at him. If The Madonna was willing to put in the effort to look as good as ever, why couldn't JT? And just how many layers was he wearing in that video? He should have been saving the world shirtless for at least 2 minutes.

My Ratings:
"4 Minutes" Song: *****
"4 Minutes" Video: *** 1/2

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kidman and Dame Judi in Nine? Could This Cast Get Any Better?

You don't need me to tell you how excited I am for the rumors that Nicole Kidman and Dame Judi Dench are in talks to star in the film adaptation of the musical Nine. Two of my beloved divas together with Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Sophia Loren, directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago)...I think I just died and went to heaven. I really don't want to overhype this movie in my mind, because then I know I'll be sorely disappointed when it comes out next year, but right now I'm just so excited to see Kidman sing for the first time since Moulin Rouge! and relish in divalicious presence of Dame Judi (who can also sing very well, if you haven't seen before).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

2007 Diva Cup Awards: Best Supporting Actor

And the nominees are...

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men
Although not quite as much fun as Hannibal Lecter (to whom everyone compares him), Bardem's creation is just as creepy because he seems like someone you could possibly run into in a sleepy small town.
Key Scene: The coin toss and "Call it...friendo."

Paul Dano as Paul Sunday and Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood
I wasn't too terribly fond of Dano in his supposed "breakthrough" performance in Little Miss Sunshine, but after seeing him stand toe-to-toe with a larger than life Daniel Day-Lewis, I have a new found respect for him. His over-the-top shrieking like he was Malachai from Children of the Corn in the trailer really bothered me, but seeing it in the context of the film, Dano completely blew me away.
Key Scene: Chastising his father for selling to Plainview

Ben Foster as Charlie Prince in 3:10 to Yuma
Relentless in his journey to save the man he loves from an impending death sentence, Foster finds the delicate balance between a Christian-esque flaming stereotype and so subtle that his attraction to Crowe is seen as nothing more than a "friendship". Plus, you have to love the way he rocks that leather rockstar.
Key Scene: Waiting for Ben to come out of the hotel

James Marsden as Prince Edward in Enchanted and Corny Collins in Hairspray
Facing obscurity after his few years as a 90's pretty boy (and as the guy who always gets dumped), James Marsden unleashed untapped star quality and sang and danced his way into the hearts of Americans all over (well, at least mine). Even with such goofy characters, Marsden remains committed to the performance at all costs.
Key Scene: In Hairspray, "The Nicest Kids in Town". In Enchanted, slaying the "dragon"

Tom Wilkinson as Arthur Edens in Michael Clayton
Is he really insane, or he is the only sane person left in a world full of corruption and winning at all costs? Wilkinson teeters on the edge of going majorly over-the-top, but there's a reason for it: he's a mad prophet, preaching to no one who gives a damn what he has to say.
Key Scene: The opening monologue....some people hated it, but I was hooked from "I'm drenched in afterbirth."

If Only There Were Six: Heath Ledger, I'm Not There
Cate be damned, Heath had the most interesting part of I'm Not There, understanding this shallow cad and making him work in the grand scheme of things. Heath will surely be missed.

Rest of the Top 10:
Sam Rockwell, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford...Robert Downey, Jr., Zodiac...Ed Harris, Gone Baby Gone...Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men

James Marsden, Enchanted, Hairspray

Saturday, April 5, 2008

First Look at Zac Efron in Seventeen Again

I love that in the clip Zac Efron tries to prove that he has an actual "technique" when he acts. Riiiiiight. And I'm Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile.

This movie doesn't actually look half-bad, and it will be interesting to see if Zac can carry a movie without relying on singing and dancing. I would have loved to see more Leslie Mann in the clip, just to see if she will be as brilliant as she was in Knocked Up. One question though: Why isn't Zac Efron wearing more blue?

Random Top 10: Bette Davis Performances

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Bette Davis' birthday, and since she's probably my favorite actress ever (sorry Greta, Judy, Kate and Meryl), I thought I would honor her memory. Throughout her long career, which lasted from the early 30's to the late 80's, Bette was an original, to say the very least. She always chose unconventional projects for actresses in her hey-day to do, whether she played to bitch without an ounce of humanity or she ugly-upped long before it was considered proper for actresses to do it. In an era where actors were basically treated like cattle and forced to do any project the studio bosses saw fit, Bette fought back against her studio and had the balls to go work in England and jump out on her contract. She didn't do any work in England and eventually lost the lawsuit against Warner Bros. (Olivia de Havilland, of all people, actually fought the studio and won a couple of years later), but Bette really won because she started getting all kinds of good roles. I hope you join me in celebrating this pioneer of the film industry and enjoy my listing of her Top 10 performances.

10. Joyce Arden in It's Love I'm After (1937)

Bette rarely had the opportunity to show her comedic side, but when she did, as in this little-seen 1937 screwball, she absolutely shined. Playing a Shakespearian actress (and long-suffering girlfriend) next to the hammiest actor in Hollywood (Leslie Howard) playing the hammiest actor on Broadway, Bette had some of the greatest bitchiest scenes in her career.
Classic Bette Moment: Any of the early bickering scenes with Leslie Howard

9. Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage (1934)
The performance that made Bette a star. It may be a little stodgy next to later and greater Davis performances, but you can see why audiences in 1934, with her rough Cockney accent and no-holds barred vulgarness, fell under her spell.
Classic Bette Moment: "And after ya kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! WIPE MY MOUTH!"

8. Fanny Trellis in Mr. Skeffington (1944)

Bette was one of the first actresses to regularly ugly-up for a role in an era when it was glamour before anything and this performance in Mr. Skeffington is one of the best of them. The first half is a typical bitchy Bette performance, but the second half, where Fanny descends quickly into old age, is positively heartbreaking.
Classic Bette Moment: When Fanny first sees her new face.

7. Joyce Heath in Dangerous (1935)

Bette won her first Oscar for Dangerous, a little seen, run-of-the-mill Warner's melodrama, and even at the time many saw it as a refund Oscar for their egregious snub of Of Human Bondage the year before. But seeing it 70+ years later, one can see that it stands above as some of her best work (and definitely better than her second Oscar win for Jezebel three years later). The story of an alcoholic actress is nothing special, but Bette gets to bitch up a storm and have a ton of fun.
Classic Bette Moment: Reciting a Shakespearian monologue while intoxicated

6. Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes (1941)

A lot of bitchy characters appear on Bette's resume, but her Regina Giddens is the ultimate in souless bitchiness. It's her most awful character and a performance only Bette could have made work on screen.
Classic Bette Moment: Sitting there, scheming, while her husband (Herbert Marshall) calls for help from the stairs.

5. Judith Traherne in Dark Victory (1939)

Death has never looked so dignified and classy than when Bette tackled it head-on in the classic "three-hankie" film Dark Victory. Suffering from a fatal brain tumor, Bette's Judith undergoes a transformation from no-care socialite to a woman determined to get the most out of life- including falling in love- before she dies. Plus, she gets bonus points for the last couple of scenes in the film- I can't imagine there was a dry eye in theaters showing this in 1939.
Classic Bette Moment: The sudden off-hand comment when Bette claims it's getting darker...but it's a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky.

4. Charlotte Vale in Now, Voyager (1942)

In the exact opposite of Mr. Skeffington, Bette goes from ugly duckling to classy bitch in Now, Voyager. It's really empowering to see Bette emerge from underneath her domineering mother and become the woman she was always meant to be. I never really understood that celebrated last line ("Don't let's ask for the moon"? Oy vey) but Bette sells it and you somehow understand the pain she is going through, losing the man she loves.
Classic Bette Moment: "Go on! Make fun of me! You think it's fun making fun of me!"- that line is so stylized I can only hear Bette saying it- and the rest of her breakdown scene.

3. "Baby" Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Bette started the third act of her career, which you could label the "witch stage", with this 1962 thriller. While the backstage drama with co-star Joan Crawford is the stuff legends are made of, there's more of a performance here than you would expect from this type of B-movie. From her sadistic laugh when Joan Crawford discovers the rat to her unsuccessful flirting with the pianist (Victor Buono) and her line reading of "But ya ARE Blanche, ya ARE in that chair, everything proved that Bette was still at the top of her game and shouldn't be counted out just because she's lost her youth.
Classic Bette Moment: Believing she's still the child star she once was, Bette's Baby Jane relives her past through a rendition of "I've Written a Letter to Daddy"...and then has a horrific realization when she realizes she's not young anymore. I still get chills thinking about that scene.

2. Leslie Crosbie in The Letter (1940)

If Bette had done nothing but the opening scene, in which she shoots the man who allegedly tries to rape her with that venomous look in her eyes, I still would have shouted "Give this woman the Oscar!" It turns out that the rest of the film ain't too shabby either, with Bette giving her most melodramatic (in a good way, it suits the film very well) performance ever, keeping one step ahead of every twist and turn.
Classic Bette Moment: Her revelation at the's a goodie!

1. Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950)
Not only Bette's greatest performance, but also one of the top 5 performances in the history of film...and it's scary to think that this almost went to Claudette Colbert of all people. Bette is the only actress I can think of who could handle the bitchy bon mots, the diva fits, the melodramatic tendencies of Margo and that especially insightful monologue in the car about motherhood and combine them all into one precise and definable character. Before this, people were ready to write off Bette, claiming her career was over, but she once again showed them that she still had tricks up her sleeve.
Classic Bette Moment: Anything at the party scene, but, of course, "Fasten your's going to be a bumpy night" is the line the scene hinges on (and boy does Bette deliver on that one).