Friday, May 30, 2008

Film Screenings

I love this idea from StinkyLulu (who, in turn, got it from The Oscar Completist) that I decided to do it myself. Lord knows I watch enough movies, but I never seem to write about them. There are very few that I watch that I ever get the inclination to write a full-length "Rant" about, so I decided that starting a different blog and writing a little something about every film I see would be beneficial. That way, you get to see what I think about every film I see (instead of just seeing a letter grade) and I get to write more about the movies. It's a win-win! So, just click on any post in the box called "Dame James's Film Screenings" on the right and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday's Film Quote: Tomatoes

George Fields: ...I can't even set you up for a commercial. You played a tomato for 30 seconds- they went a half day over schedule because you wouldn't sit down.
Michael Dorsey: Of course. It was illogical.
George Fields: YOU WERE A TOMATO! A tomato doesn't have logic. A tomato can't move.

Sydney Pollack and Dustin Hoffman as George Fields and Michael Dorsey, respectively, in Tootsie

RIP Sydney Pollack

Sienna Miller is Right...

...There is a reason she called it "Shitsburgh"!


We kicked their ass again tonight 3-0!

We're on our way to the Cup! Go Wings!

*Sorry for that random excursion into sports, an area I know very little about, but I had to give props to my hometown team. And hockey is just a kickass sport.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Adam Brody on the Set of Jennifer's Body

I must say that I'm very intrigued by the projects Adam Brody has chosen after his success on The O.C. He could have done bullshit popcorn films, but instead he's doing smaller stuff like Thank You For Smoking, In the Land of Women (which was a rough, but nonetheless fascinating, film), The Ten.

Just Jared has pics of Adam Brody on the set of Diablo Cody's follow-up to Juno called Jennifer's Body, a horror film which I've heard is MAJORLY bloody and gruesome. Brody plays Nikolai, the lead singer of a rock band called Low Shoulder. Judging by these pictures, this looks to be a very interesting choice for Mr. Brody. As soon as I heard about his casting, I knew that Adam is the perfect actor to tackle Diablo Cody's ultra-talky dialogue.

Click on the link for more pics.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More Victoria Beckham on Ugly Betty? Yes Please!

Back in November, Victoria Beckham made a hilarious cameo appearance on Ugly Betty, pimping her husband's energy drink and stealing the thunder from bride-to-be Wilhelmina Slater. Now, according to IMDb, Victoria has agreed to become a regular guest on the show. Oh happy day! This is MAJOR news. You already know how hilarious I think she is and after Spice World and Victoria Beckham: Coming to America (in which Victoria plays a hilariously deadpan version of Victoria Beckham), she deserves more work to prove her comedic skills. Maybe Ugly Betty will lead to bigger and better roles (Even though she says she doesn't want an acting career. Whatever).

Reason #4036 Why I Love Diablo Cody

Diablo Cody started occasionally writing a column for Entertainment Weekly right after the success of Juno and since I love her writing style and sense of humor so much, I look forward to every one of her columns. A couple of weeks ago, she wrote one about the Rolling Stones and the Scorsese documentary Shine a Light. What really grabbed my attention, however, is her own experiences with "hipster rock":

"Yeah, I do have a few au courant records on my iPod- tracks by the Babyshambles and the Raconteurs and other talented anemia patients- but the play count is typically stalled around four. (Meanwhile, "Chiquitita" by ABBA is nearing triple digits.)...The soundtrack to my life is pure fondue: cheesy, gooey, prone to accidental seepage."

Not only does Diablo love "Chiquitita" (which I consider ABBA's second greatest song) but I'm intrigued that someone else has the same internal conflict I have when listening to music. I try to listen to hip, interesting music like Lily Allen or Santogold, but instead I find myself listening to "Gimme More" or "The Way I Are" over and over again. I wish I could be cool and discover a new indie artist, but I'm really destined to just listen to Spice for the 200th time. At Diablo feels the same way I do.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Five Ten Song Friday: Best of American Idol Season 7

American Idol is over for this year, but I would just like to take one final look back at the best performances of the season.

Honorable Mentions:
Although not technically any good, Kristy Lee Cook's flag-waving tribute to our country "God Bless the U.S.A." was the most brilliant song choice I've ever seen in any of the seven seasons and made me not give a crap that she lasted longer than she should have...Carly Smithson and Michael John's duet on "The Letter" at this year's finale wasn't part of the competition, but I was mourning the fact that, just like Jennifer Hudson, we let these two brilliant singers go way too early (especially when the mediocre Syesha Mercado and awful Jason Castro both lasted longer than both of them). They need to make a duet album pronto...David Archuleta's version of Chris Brown's "With You" made me swoon like a 13 year old girl at a Backstreet Boys concert

10. Michael Johns "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right"
Too often, Michael Johns picked the wrong song for his voice and ended up being labeled as mediocre for the first few weeks. But, all of a sudden, this soulful number popped up out of nowhere and proved that there was more to him then that sexy Australian accent.

9. David Archuleta "Think of Me"
By taking this enormous Andrew Lloyd Webber ballad and stripping it down to the bare minimum, Archuleta finally proved that he could be a contemporary recording artist.

8. Brooke White "You're So Vain"
"You're So Vain" is hardly the first song I would have picked for Brooke, but as soon as she started singing, it made complete sense.

7. David Cook "Eleanor Rigby"
I thought Beatles week would be a complete disaster, but it actually provided one-third of this list. Winner David Cook's "Eleanor Rigby" is the first entry and the first time I realized that he was a force to be reckoned with.

6. Syesha Mercado "One Rock 'n Roll Too Many"
After weeks of mediocre performance after mediocre performance, Syesha came out of nowhere on Andrew Lloyd Webber night with this sexy and fiesty performance.

5. Carly Smithson "Superstar"
I thought Carly had peaked a few weeks before, but she too came out of nowhere on Andrew Lloyd Webber night with this fierce performance. The voice is back! Too bad America got it wrong and kicked her out that week, but have you ever seen an exit song this strong?

4. Brooke White "Let It Be"
Possibly my favorite Beatles song and Brooke did complete justice to it. She would never match the vulnerability she poured into this song or her complete understanding of every lyric.

3. David Cook "Always Be My Baby"
I was ambivalent the first time I heard this, but I must say it has grown on me over the weeks. David C. got a little too much credit during his Idol run for turning random pop songs into rock songs, but this was one time he earned every complement he received.

2. David Archuleta "Imagine"
The moment America fell in love with little Davie Archuleta and proved he was a forced to be reckoned with. No other male teenage contestant (who are usually laughed off during the semi-finals) has every gone this far transforming a song to suit their needs. But, then again, David Archuleta always has been special.

1. Carly Smithson "Come Together"
This may come as surprise, given my complete love of Archuleta the entire season, but no other performance got me as excited as Carly's rendition of "Come Together." I listened to it over and over and started telling everyone about it. It's a shame that Carly went week after week without ever following up on the promise of this performance (that is, until "Superstar") but it's hard to match this top-notch work.

Let me know your favorite performances of the season in the comments!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Congratulations David Cook!

My birthday wish of David Archuleta winning American Idol didn't come true, and I'm still a little bitter, but I couldn't be happier that someone as worthy as David Cook won. I think he'll have a career every bit as successful as Daughtry or Kelly Clarkson and he deserves it. Congratulations!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's My Day!

For your information, today is my 20th birthday. Yay for me! I'm super pumped because I'm going out to the Chinese buffet and stuffing my face with egg rolls and Chinese donuts with a couple of my dearest friends and then having a bonfire (weather permitting, of course). So, my divalicious readers, if you could get me anything in the world for my birthday, what would you get me? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday's Film Quote: Two in a Cage

Brick: I don't have to do anything I don't want to! Now, you keep forgetting the conditions on which I agreed to stay on living with you.
Maggie: I'm not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that's all.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor as Brick and Maggie Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Saturday, May 17, 2008

J. Hud's New Music (and Fergie Too!)

Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson has a role in the upcoming Sex and the City movie, her first time on screens since Dreamgirls. Perhaps more importantly, she has a new original song on the soundtrack and it's fabulous (though you wouldn't expect anything less from her). The song is called "All Dressed in Love" and it is a ton of fun. The song is funky and J. Hud's vocals are immaculate, proving she can do up-tempo songs and that she can excel on non-Dreamgirls songs. If her upcoming debut album is anywhere near as good as "All Dressed in Love," there will be no stopping this woman.

Fergie also has a new song on the Sex and the City soundtrack called "Labels or Love." I don't love it as much as "Fergalicious" yet, but it does offer a new Fergie catchphrase: supercalifragi-sexy. How does this woman keep doing it? Even with the most awful lyrics, Fergie can turn any song into a masterpiece of pop trash. She's like Jesus.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Five Song Friday: Possible Song Choices for David Archuleta for AI Finale

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I'm rooting for little Davie Archuleta in next week's finale of American Idol. I think David Cook is fantastic, but Archuleta is just so irresistible. To help him out, I've compiled a list of 5 songs he should pick from to sing at the finale. He and David Cook are only allowed to sing 3 songs and 2 of them are already taken up with the crappy original ballad and their best song from the season (which can safely be assumed will be "Imagine"). If he picks one of these songs and arranges it correctly, Archuleta could have this whole season wrapped up in a heartbeat.

Amy Winehouse "Love is a Losing Game"

I know I've already pimped this song out a couple of weeks ago, but it's just so damn beautiful and Archuleta definitely knows how to work with that. The only downside is that Simon might complain about him singing another dreary ballad.

Jessica Simpson "I Think I'm In Love With You"

This is an admittedly silly choice, but I love the song and just imagine what Archuleta could do with that big note towards the end. Not only is this something different, but it could be magical.

Zac Efron "It Takes Two"

I'm afraid "Ladies' Choice" is a bit too sexual for little Davie, so this song from Hairspray will have to do. Efron does a fine job on this song, but just imagine the depth Archuleta could add to they lyrics (he might even make it sound non-jokey).

The Beatles "Penny Lane"

Ever since Beatles week(s), I've been hoping Archuleta would pull out this number and sing the hell out of it. Why not this week?

Mandy Moore "Umbrella"

A lot of people have taken the Rihanna song and slowed it down, but I happen to love Moore's version the best. Since we now know that little Davie loves to sing r&b songs after last week's swoon-worthy "With You," he'll really tackle those lyrics and make it even more beautiful.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rants on Bobby

I'm probably the most horrible person you'll ever meet in your life. I don't believe in charity or helping people. I'm a total bitch to my friends and once told one of them to "shoot herself in the brain" after she criticized Hairspray (she then gave me a signed picture of Blake Lewis and I, begrudgingly, apologized). I've laughed at retards (Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and Juliette Lewis in The Other Sister, specifically), Helen Keller, the Holocaust and have called someone "a cunt in a wheelchair."

Given this little backstory, riddle me this: Why am I feeling so charitable towards writer/director/star Emilio Estevez's pet project Bobby? Technically, it's pretty awful; the script doesn't work 75% of the time, the cast is so C-List that you can hardly call it "all-star" and Estevez's direction is merely competent, nothing quite as special as other actors turned directors Barbra Streisand, George Clooney and Robert Redford.

Watching Bobby, you can really feel Estevez's passion for Bobby Kennedy and his intentions. He really felt that Kennedy was going to change the world with his new ideas and that's probably why those sections of Bobby seem the most honest and real. If only Estevez's passion had extended to the dramatic scenes at the hotel, because they're definitely lacking that extra oomph needed to make them really shine.

Like most multi-character dramas, the stories range from the downright awful (Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen buying shoes, playing tennis and talking about nothing in particular; Demi Moore as the most uninteresting drunken diva ever) to the average (Lindsay Lohan saving Elijah Wood from Vietnam; Shia LaBeouf taking acid for the first time) to the superb (Freddy Rodriguez as the Latino- not Mexican- waiter; Sharon Stone doing hair and nails and then discovering her husband's affair). One problem is that Estevez doesn't really develop any one story in the script or with his direction. The reason that some work is because of the actors. Freddy Rodriguez is easily best in show as the slightly disgruntled Latino waiter who is forced to miss an important baseball game to work a double shift. I've loved Rodriguez ever since Six Feet Under and I love it that he finally got a role to show off his talents. Laurence Fishburne has a tiny, two-scene role, but his first scene, putting Jacob Vargas's Miguel in his place over a plate of berry cobbler, is the finest scene that doesn't take place in the final 20 minutes. It's nicely written, without going overboard on the sentiment and preachiness and Fishburne sells it like the pro he is. Sharon Stone also surprised me with her low-key performance. I've only seen Stone in Basic Instinct, but this seems like a lovely change of pace for her. She doesn't have much to say, but you can see the hurt and bitterness in her eyes in every scene.

The first 100 minutes of Bobby are pure soap opera with a couple of political thoughts thrown in, but the last 20 minutes are completely riveting. The way the characters rally around Bobby and his ideals is inspiring. When he eventually get shot, it's almost like a balloon being stabbed by a needle the way all the characters fall apart so suddenly. If Estevez has any talent as a director, it's in these last scenes that he shows us what he is made of.

So, all things considered, why do I feel so kind toward Emilio Estevez's Bobby? Maybe it's because I remember Estevez's looks of gratitude when he was being recognized, and finally considered equal to dad and brother, for Bobby's improbable Golden Globe and SAG nominations. You can see his blood, sweat and tears all over this project and I'm glad he got some sort of recognition; I just wish it was executed better. C+

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

American Idol Recap: Top 3 Edition

Theme: Judge's, Contestant's and Producer's Choice

David Archuleta: Paula chose Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" for the first round and although Archuleta did a fine job and the song was an interesting choice, the performance was really everything we've seen before from Davie. The same thing can be said about his third round performance of "Longer," possibly the worst song choice ever for the 17 year old (way to go producers). His shining moment this week was during round two singing Chris Brown's "With You." Was it perfect? No. He stumbled a couple of times and Paula was right in pointing out that his phrasing was too long for the song. That being said, all I know is that he had me swooning like a 13 year girl. The reason it worked so well for me was because it was the second time (after "Think of Me" a couple weeks ago) that I saw him as a contemporary recording artist.

Syesha Mercado: Poor Syesha. It seems like Randy and the producers are just setting her up to lose. Randy chose Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" for her and it was generally nice, but Syesha doesn't have the personality to make the song stand out from the original. And it was a really unoriginal choice from Randy; he might as well have chosen a Whitney song to be even more cliched. And what the fuck was up with that third song "Hit Me Up," some dud from the Happy Feet soundtrack? That was one of the most awful song choices this entire season (way to go producers, yet again). Her second song, "Fever," was another uninteresting choice, and she didn't add anything new to it, but it was definitely her most solid performance of the night.

David Cook: I have to concede that David Cook won the night overall, but his performances were all generally good, not spectacular. Simon's choice of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" was definitely a risk, but he pretty much nailed the challenge. It was a beautiful performance, possibly the finest of the evening, but it really pales in comparison to "Always Be My Baby" or "Eleanor Rigby." The second song, "Dare You to Move," was nothing to write home about and the less said, better. I generally hate "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" (it's loud, bombastic and corny as hell) but I thought Cook's rendition of it was really nice but, again, nothing we haven't seen before.

Books? Never Heard of 'Em...

I've been tagged by DL over at The Cellar Door to do this meme, so I guess I'll oblige since he asked so nicely.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Locate the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing...
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

Right now I'm reading Charlotte Chandler's Not the Girl Next Door, a biography of Joan Crawford. It's not very good so far and since a lot of it is taken from Crawford herself, I keep imagining her voice when reading and it is fucking creepy. I looked on page 123 and the fifth sentence is nothing more than a boring plot synopsis so I'll move on to another book.

John Welter's Begin to Exit Here is a book I randomly picked up from the bookstore a few years ago and as soon as I read it, I fell in love. The main character, Kurt Clausen, is a sarcastic ass with a dry wit that many would kill for. He works as a journalist for a small town newspaper, but he loathes his job. He is at a low point when he meets Janice, a woman who finally gets him and an editor who lets him write whatever he wants.

"The century was changing things. When lovers looked up at the burning hydrogen at night, it wasn't as romantic. And carnal love had changed, too, Janice said."

Ever since I've read it, I keep hoping someone important will pick it up and make it into a movie. Maybe one day I will write a screenplay for it myself, but I doubt I could ever do it justice.

I'm supposed to tag 5 people, but I'm always the last to get these and everyone else has done this one, so I won't tag anyone.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Banner

100 points if anyone can guess why I have gathered these five women for my newest banner. In case you can't tell, the women from left to right are:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Five Song Friday: My Mom's Favorite Songs

Mother's Day is this Sunday, so for this edition of Five Song Friday I thought I would honor my mother and post five of her favorite songs. Enjoy!

1. The Tubes "She's a Beauty"

2. Meredith Brooks "Bitch"

3. Lou Bega "Mambo No. 5"

4. Bob Seger "Old Time Rock 'n Roll"

5. Steve Miller Band "The Joker"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jason Castro is Gone!

Oprah finally heard my prayers for Jason Castro to be voted off American Idol and passed it on to the Big Man himself. Yay! It is a good day, indeed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I'm in Love With Duffy!

Duffy is unknown in America right now but after her debut album Rockferry is released here next week, that should all change. After hearing and falling in love with "Mercy," her breakthrough single in the United Kingdom, I downloaded her album and I immediately fell in love. Her sound is so fresh and unlike anything out right now. If you think Amy Winehouse has a patent on the retro 60's sound, think again. Besides "Mercy" (which you can listen to above), the highlights of the CD are "Delayed Devotion" (which is the finest song I've heard all year, single or not) and her latest single "Warwick Avenue." Whenever you get the chance, listen to this CD and you will not be disappointed.

American Idol Recap: Top 4 Edition

Theme: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

David Cook: No groundbreaking work here tonight, but a pair of solid performances that should keep David C. alive until next week. "Hungry Like the Wolf" was a fun, inspired choice, even if it offered nothing new. David's growly voice suits the song quite nicely. For the second choice, David had me at the words "Baba O'Riley." I love the original to death and when I heard he had picked it, I was like, "Perfect choice!" His arrangement was a bit too slow for my taste, but David nailed the vocals.

Jason Castro: Yes! I can not tell you how happy at this douche's misfortunes last night. Finally, he's showing America the major weakness I noticed right away: no talent. "I Shot the Sheriff" was abysmal and you know it's a bad sign when Paula Abdul gives you negative criticism. His version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" was mediocre at best and made even worse by the fact that he rather obviously stumbled over the lyrics. The really sad thing is that these songs were tailor-made for whatever talent people see in him. If he couldn't nail these songs, what can he do? If this tool does not go home tonight after these two awful performances I don't know what I will do. I will probably have to cut a bitch out of protest.

Syesha Mercado: Syesha is this year's Vonzell Solomon- the one girl with little or no personality who comes out of nowhere and ends up in third or fourth place. I don't know how she's done it, because apart from "One Rock 'n Roll Too Many" a couple weeks back, she hasn't had a week where I've gotten excited about her or her performance. This week was no exception, with her bland rendition of "Proud Mary" that was karaoke at best and the, for me, emotionally detached "A Change is Gonna Come." Randy was right in saying it wasn't as good as what everyone was saying. I did love her breakdown during judging though, with shades of Halle Berry's Oscar-speech "this is for Harriet Tubman and every black woman in history."

David Archuleta: Archuleta delivers once again. His performance of "Stand By Me" was excellent, but nothing legendary. For me, "Love Me Tender" was better. Archuleta's rendition was so emotionally vulnerable, with that little choked off squeak at the end, that it turned a boring song fantastic. If he keeps going like this, Archuleta will win the whole damn thing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Random Top 10: AfterElton's Hot 100

AfterElton has just announced their second annual "Hot 100" list, which celebrates the hottest men according to gay and bisexual men. I didn't vote last year, but I did read the list and it was surprising to see who made the cut (many of the actors from Queer as Folk) and who didn't (Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher). So, because I'm in a giving mood today, here's the list I submitted a few days ago, complete with pictures to admire the beauty of these men.

10. Casey Affleck

9. James McAvoy

8. Tom Brady

7. Blake Lewis

6. Joel McHale

5. Adam Brody

4. Zac Efron

3. Channing Tatum

2. James Marsden

1. Jake Gyllenhaal

Tuesday's Film Quote: Overdramatic

Robert: I'll write about you, about myself, about my wife, my children. You played quite a large part, you know.
Diana: I played the largest part.
Robert: Certainly the most dramatic

Dirk Bogarde and Julie Christie as Robert Gold and Diana Scott, respectively, in Darling

Monday, May 5, 2008

2007 Diva Cup Awards: The Top 10 Films of 2007

I could write some deep and meaningful analysis of the year in film, but, frankly, I'm just ready to put 2007 behind me once and for all. One thing did strike me though while looking through this list again: 7 of the 10 films have men as their main characters. While the good female roles haven't exactly dried up, the films these performances appear in just aren't as spectacular it seems.

I hope you have enjoyed this year's Diva Cup Awards and thanks for sticking with Rants of a Diva through the 2007 film year.

10. The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass)
If Jean-Luc Godard, in all of his inventive, New Wave glory, had been forced to make a crowd pleasing film, the end result probably would have looked something like Greengrass' The Bourne Ultimatum. With all of the jump cuts and shaky camerawork, the film was an adrenaline rush from start to finish. I haven't been this enamored with a pure popcorn flick in a long time.

9. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
It would be easy to dismiss There Will Be Blood as Daniel Day-Lewis' one man show, with him being in nearly every scene and his heartless domination of the entire narrative, but Anderson has grander ambitions for his project than a simple character study and fleshes them out nearly perfectly.

8. Superbad (Greg Mottola)
In the never ending "Best Apatow of 2007" debate between Knocked Up and Superbad, I'm placing my support behind Greg Mottola's rowdy comedy of two horny teenage boys looking for booze and girls. Nearly 20 minutes shorter than Knocked Up, Superbad is more concisely edited and can set up a joke, deliver and move on much quicker. The end result is a film that is more consistently funny with laughs that last nearly twice as long. As an added bonus, Superbad boasts a star-making performance by Michael Cera as the sweetheart Evan.

7. Zodiac (David Fincher)
I was skeptical at first, but David Fincher has made a 2 and a half hour, detail-heavy cinematic investigation into the Zodiac killings that terrorized San Francisco 30+ years ago one of the most gripping and intriguing films of the decade. I've liked, never loved, Fincher as a director before, but Zodiac has now put him on my directors to lust over. And no discussion of Zodiac is complete without mentioning the acting ensemble- most notably Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo.

6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)
Having heard it described as a Terrence Malick-lite film, I did not think I would like The Assassination of Jesse James... when I first saw it. But I was hooked from the opening few minutes and, although I'm probably the only person who believes this, I actually felt that the nearly 3 hour run time was too short. Brad Pitt is definitely solid in a nice change of pace performance, but the picture belongs to Casey Affleck, with his in-born awkwardness being used to infinite effect, as the "love-struck" Bob Ford.

5. Sicko (Michael Moore)
Michael Moore's documentaries customarily make me hate the problems that plague our society. Before watching Bowling for Columbine I never knew I cared about gun control, but now it's a huge issue with me. I knew Bush was a douchebag before Fahrenheit 9/11, but Moore showed Bush in a whole new douchy light. But after watching Sicko, I was literally sick to my stomach at the injustice of health care. Moore's constant attacks throughout the films are relentless and don't rely on the gimmicky assholishness of his other films. With Sicko, Moore steps back and lets the problems and his solutions speak for themselves.

4. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet)
Sidney Lumet's return to form was, along with Britney Spears, one of the most welcome comebacks of 2007. But the real star of the film is Kelly Masterson's script, with its clever shot/reverse shot approach that shows two sides (even three at others) to the story and adds more depth to the preceding scenes as it goes along. It is so brilliant that it's hard to believe that it is a debut script- imagine what Masterson will write for script number 2.

3. No Country For Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Oscar seems to be atoning for their sins after the 2005 Crash debacle by picking two worthy winners in a row. This Coen Brothers thriller is up there with Fargo and The Big Lebowski as their finest work. If it wasn't for that perplexing ending, which I'm still working through and need another viewing to understand, this would probably be the best of the year.

2. Hairspray (Adam Shankman)
Somehow, the director of Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pacifier has turned a beloved Broadway musical into an immaculately well-made movie musical. The soundtrack feels contemporary, pulled from the 60's and un-Broadway all at the same time; the script retains the original story but isn't afraid to make changes to better suit the film medium; and the ensemble is one of the finest assembled in recent history, complete with star making performances from Nikki Blonsky and Elijah Kelley, an endearing star turn from John Travolta, a fabulous return to the screen by Michelle Pfeiffer and James Marsden and Zac Efron singing and dancing their way into my heart.

1. Atonement (Joe Wright)
People often deride Oscar votes for voting with their hearts, and often times they go overboard by shameless manipulators (the love story in Titanic, The English Patient, Jamie Foxx in Ray), but sometimes you just need to let your emotions get the best of you. Movies are supposed to make you feel and the best ones get you so involved in what's going on that by the time the final frame is projected, you need a second to collect yourself before you can leave the theater. Those are the exact feelings I had at the end of Atonement. Not only does Atonement have the emotion wrapped up, it's blessed with a director more interested in emotions than the usual prettiness and grandeur of the usual costume picture, two sexy and vibrant young stars who give Leo and Kate a run for their money in the chemistry department, one of the finest child performances ever and a young actress, stuck bridging the gap between the younger and older versions of her characters, who miraculously connects the pieces and delivers a heartbreaking performance most people ignored. Atonement suffered a little bit of a backlash right before the Oscars and I only hope that people will eventually rediscover this gem and realize what it's intentions where and how well they were achieved.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Watching 30 Rock on Thursday night I realized two things. First of all, Jane Krakowski needs to be on every episode doing her thing. Seriously. Secondly, I have more in common with Liz Lemon than I ever thought possible or even want to admit. I first realized this when they showed Liz flipping out, turning the writers' table over and shouting "Where's my mac and cheese?!" This part was so funny to me I rewound it about five times and laughed my ass off each time. Tina Fey was so intense during those few seconds that I was afraid she would turn into Dame Judi Dench and cut a bitch for her mac and cheese. The second time came when Liz was talking with her ex-boyfriend Floyd and he had just compared himself to Michael Clayton. Frustrated with him, Liz blurts out "I hope your car gets blown up!" but then takes it back later in the episode. The scary thing about this little blurb is that I can totally see myself coming up with some horrible circumstance in a popular film and wishing it upon them ("I hope a crazed psychopath chases you with a compressed air tank!"). Oh Tina Fey, you are just too much for me sometimes. If only everyone was as brilliant as you are.

Friday, May 2, 2008

High School Musical 3: Senior Year Poster!

They haven't even started shooting the damn thing and they already have a poster. I really have no idea why I'm posting this (it's pretty much the same as the first two posters) except for the fact that Zac Efron is looking as good as always and that Ashley Tisdale steals the spotlight yet again. But would you expect anything less from these two?

Five Song Friday: Judy Garland

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. "Get Happy"
Amazing song and a fierce outfit.

2. "Swanee"
I tried to find "Lose That Long Face," my favorite number from Judy's version of A Star is Born (that isn't "The Man That Got Away"), but it's not on YouTube. Alas, I have to settle (if you can really settle with any Judy song) with her version of "Swanee" from the "Born in a Trunk" medley. Hers is possibly the finest recording of the song ever made. And bonus points for not going in blackface!

3. "Be a Clown"
Judy only worked with Gene Kelly a couple of times (three, I think...I'm to lazy to go verify) but each time it was magnetic. Their greatest duet together was this Cole Porter number from her then-husband Vincente Minnelli's 1948 The Pirate.

4. "I Could Go On Singing"
The finale to Judy's final film appearance. I Could Go On Singing is a decent film, but it has two major pluses in its corner that make it even better: 1. Judy Garland's immaculate performance which somehow matches her work in A Star is Born and even surpasses it at some points. 2. My pretend boyfriend Dirk Bogarde.

5. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
As Randy Jackson often points out on American Idol, if you have a great voice, it doesn't matter what you sing and it will be great (I'm just paraphrasing here...I'm sure he added a couple of "yo's" and "dog's"). Listening to this just now, it felt like I just heard this song for the first time. How often does that happen?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

When Stars Commit Unintentional Self-Parody: Rants on Torch Song and Hondo

Most of the major stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood had a definable persona and certain character traits. It's what made all of the MGM pictures of the 1930's such massive hits and why certain actors and actresses with limited abilities became popular. But, after awhile, the stars had to adapt their personas with the times, otherwise audiences would get tired of the same old shtick over and over again. By 1953, both Joan Crawford and John Wayne had been stars for years, but their respective films for that year, Torch Song and Hondo, proved that something needed to be changed to keep their careers fresh and free of unintentional self-parody.

Outside of a few pivotal performances, I've always felt that Joan Crawford (the actress, not the mother) has been a tad overrated. When she got a good script/film, as she did in Grand Hotel, The Women, A Woman's Face, Possessed and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, few could match her. But after wasting countless hours watching her early crap films from MGM in which the only decent thing was Crawford's performance, there's only so much of her saving that I can take. Torch Song (Charles Walters, 1953), her triumphant return to MGM after a 7 year stint at Warner Brothers, is more of the same old crap that her alma mater gave her in the early 30's. Instead of playing a scheming shopgirl, Crawford plays Jenny Stewart, the biggest star on Broadway, and judging by her first scene, also the biggest bitch on Broadway this side of Margot Channing. But that's where any similarities between the two films end, because the entirety of Torch Song isn't as written or acted as well as one line in All About Eve.

The first five minutes of Torch Song are somewhat amusing, with her belittling of her dance partner and the way she drives the composer to drink. But after awhile, it becomes exasperating to see her do the same thing scene after scene: there she goes chewing someone out and, what do you know, she being a major bitch to that poor person there. We also eventually realize that Joan Crawford is the star of this film, damnit, and she'll be damned before she will let any other actor in the film get a chance to give a great performance. I'm actually surprised that Marjorie Rambeau managed to survive, as StinkyLulu so eloquently put it, "Hurricane Joan," and receive an Oscar nomination. Nevermind that it's a nothing performance, just a couple of line readings and she's done, and that it's the most inconsequential nomination, in terms of story impact, since Maria Ouspenskaya in Dodsworth- it's almost a miracle she managed to walk upright after Crawford's whirlwind.

In the end, I feel like Torch Song isn't a film that couldn't have been saved by anyone, let alone Crawford, or one that is actually worth saving. But, for some reason, I kept imagining what Judy Garland would have done with Jenny Stewart and it feels more and more like a great idea as I continue to think about it. Except for the bitchy scenes, the loneliness sections would have fit well in the repertoire of Garland and she would have nailed the musical numbers in ways that Crawford couldn't even imagine.

I must admit that I'm quite a John Wayne fan. I could say that he's a guilty pleasure, given my admiration for Sands of Iwo Jima and True Grit, but there were times when he was an amazing actor (Red River, The Searchers). Unfortunately, Hondo (John Farrow, 1953) is not one of those times. Maybe it's just been awhile since I've seen a Wayne film, but those first ten minutes were excruciating. Wayne has one of the most stylized deliveries in the history of film, but I've never heard him that stylized. I would like to think that Wayne may have been making fun of himself, winking at the audiences expectations, but I don't think that's what he was trying to do. Not only does it not make any sense in the context of the film, but I don't think Wayne had that much of a sense of humor about himself.

Wayne does eventually ease into the role (or maybe the audience excepts his exceptional haminess), but Hondo does not become a great film. It's the classic story of the West: the good frontiersman versus the savage Injuns. I wish I could say I was offended by the film's treatment of Native Americans, but I've seen so many Westerns of this type I've come to expect it (and since when has Old Hollywood ever been a beacon for positive racial stereotypes?). Geraldine Page, who also earned an Oscar nomination along with Rambeau, plays the woman Wayne's Hondo is supposed to protect. I wish I could say I liked it, but Page gives one of the most frustratingly one-dimensional performances I've seen in awhile. Not only was the role nothing special, but everything she said and every gesture she made just fell flat in my opinion.

My Ratings:
Torch Song D+
Hondo D