Friday, August 29, 2008

Random Top 10: Films I'm So Excited for This Fall I'm Pissing My Pants in Anticipation

As I was reminded by my most recent copy of Entertainment Weekly, the fall season is quickly approaching so that means four blissful months of movies made for adults and not silly teenage fanboys. Looking through the magazine (which features Harry Potter on the cover- ugh, I'm so over it- just before their announcement of their release date change) I got really excited about all of the wonderful films coming out that I wanted to share with you the ten that I'm most excited about.

Runner-Ups: Oliver Stone is hit or miss, so lets hope W., his attack on Bush, is more Nixon and less Alexander...Mike Leigh is a fantastic director and I bet he'll do wonders with Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky...The poster may be complete shit, but the trailer for Lakeview Terrace looks like it could be a return to form for Samuel L. Jackson (plus, Patrick spends a lot of time without a shirt on)

10.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Director: Peter Sollett Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings
Release Date: 10/3
This won't win any Oscars or anything, but Cera and Dennings are two gifted young comedians and have the talent to make this somewhat overused premise work.

9.
Miracle at St. Anna
Director:
Spike Lee Starring: Derek Luke, Laz Alonso, Benson Miller
Release Date: 9/26
Spike Lee is always fascinating, even when he goes off the rails, so Miracle at St. Anna should be a good show, if nothing else. The WWII storyline bores me slightly but the trailer gave me hope that this one could be amazing.

8.
The Brothers Bloom
Director: Rian Johnson Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi
Release Date: 10/3
I wasn't really that excited for The Brothers Bloom until I saw the trailer and now I can't wait. It looks like a lot of fun, plus, in what other movie can you see Rinko Kikuchi- as a character named Bang Bang no less- blow a bunch of shit up?

7.
Revolutionary Road
Director:
Sam Mendes Starring: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kathy Bates
Release Date: 12/26
As if it hasn't been said enough, my main reason for wanting to see this is because KATE AND LEO ARE REUNITED!

6.
Burn After Reading
Director:
Joel and Ethan Coen Starring: Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich
Release Date: 9/12
I love the Coen Brothers in full-on anarchy mode and the all-star chemistry only adds to my curiousity. Plus, I laugh all the way through that trailer everytime I see it.

5.
Rachel Getting Married
Director:
Jonathan Demme Starring: Anne Hathaway, Debra Winger
Release Date: 10/3
Like The Brothers Bloom, I wasn't that excited until I saw the trailer and saw that this film is right up my alley. Anne Hathaway, steadily working her way up the Hollywood foodchain, looks like she has a legitimate chance at an Oscar nomination for her dark, deadpan work.

4.
Milk
Director:
Gus Van Sant Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna
Release Date: 11/26
What kind of gay man would I be if I didn't place this one on my list? I'm not a huge Van Sant fan (too avant garde for my taste usually) but he has his moments and the material here is can't miss.

3.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Director: Kenny Ortega Starring: La Tisdale, Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens
Release Date: 10/24
The serious film lover in me doesn't want to be so excited for this damn film that I already know is going to suck, but the teenage girl in me is screaming, "OMG, only two months left until I can swoon over Zac Efron on the big screen again!" Add to that the fact that we'll see this year's Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner here from Miss Ashley Tisdale and HSM3 earns its place this high on my list.

2.
Blindness
Director: Fernando Meirelles Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal, Sandra Oh
Release Date: 9/26
A dark, fantastic novel. The most brilliant, underrated director of the past ten years. One of our premier actresses with a juicy character that, if done right, should redeem the past few years of complete shit she's done. An eclectic and exciting supporting cast. Everything's lining up for Blindness to be one of the best films of the year-- let's just hope it fulfills that promise.

1.
Australia
Director:
Baz Luhrmann Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman
Release Date: 11/14 11/26
With every publicity still that's released containing Nicole Kidman looking fabulous and Hugh Jackman looking dashing and romantic, I get even giddier about this film. Add to that the sublimely talented director Baz Luhrmann, who makes every film of his an event, and you've got a potent combination in my eyes. I'm a little pissed I now I have to wait an additional 12 days to see Australia, but if that means the film will get the special attention it deserves than I will patiently wait.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jean-Pierre Léaud Has a Lesson to Teach



I'm on my way out to see Pineapple Express with my brother in a few minutes, so I thought I would share with you this video I found late last night on Youtube. It's a clip from Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film La Chinoise and it features Jean-Pierre Léaud and his crazy-ass take on the Vietnam War with different pairs of sunglasses and a woman being attacked by toy airplanes. I've never seen the film (I really want to now) but this scene was so bête et très amusante that I just had to share it with you (and it doesn't hurt that Léaud is there either).

Come On, Just Do It Already!


In my never ending quest to see true love rule the day, let me just say that La Tisdale and Zac Efron both need to dump their boring significant others and start dating each other. Ignore the fact that Zac's hair is a bit too long and he looks like a fucking lumberjack in the shirt, these two are always so adorable together and would make one hell of a power couple.

In other news, La Tisdale-- with her fab hair (doesn't she look good as a brunette?), sexy outfit and runway-ready pose-- looks especially fierce in this photo. Do you know what would look even better in this photo, though?

Mmmhmm, much better.

(Pictures via Just Jared)

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Somewhat Gratuitous Thought on Samuel Fuller's Masterpiece Pickup on South Street

Richard Widmark, you can pick my pockets and unknowingly steal my communist microfilm anytime.

Ignoring my huge infatuation with the tough, take no prisoners Richard Widmark after this and Kiss of Death (in which he pushes a cripple down a flight of stairs!), Pickup on South Street is a fantastic film. It's one of those films that you don't quite expect to be so amazing, but at the end all your left thinking is "Damn, this film is a masterpiece!" Widmark was excellent as the sneering anti-hero who plays both the police and the communists against each other for more money. Jean Peters, as the female lead, was unexpectedly good since the females in these types of movies tend to be one dimensional, we-need-a-good-looker-here roles. Then, of course, there's Thelma Ritter as the world-wise purveyor of information about the two-bit thieves who operate in her neighborhood. Not only is Moe the greatest, most in-depth character Ritter was every given to work with but she also does some of the best acting of her career (especially in her final scene, a real tearjerker it is). A

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Was Never Very Good at Mosaics

I found this interesting little meme floating around at Shiny Happy Blog and Valley Dreamin' and I thought it would be fun to do it myself. Here are the instructions

1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
2. Using only the first page, pick an image.
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

And now for the question and answer session.

1. What is your first name? James
2. What is your favourite food? Almond Boneless Chicken
3. What high school did you go to? Yale High School
4. What is your favorite color? Pink
5. Who is your celebrity crush? Jake Gyllenhaal
6. Favorite drink? Cherry Coke
7. Dream vacation? Paris
8. Favorite dessert? Chocolate Cheesecake
9. What do you want to be when you grow up? An accountant
10. What do you love most in life? Movies
11. One word to describe you. Diva
12. Your Flickr name. Don't have one so Dame James will have to do

I love how most of these pictures are the most random things ever. What does that picture from WWII have to do with Cherry Coke? And what about that crazy homeless woman for accountant? There's no way in hell she needs someone to take care of her finances. Anyway, that was quite fun and the picture sure is pretty.

2008 MTV VMA Nominees for Video of the Year: I Feel Sorry for Today's Teens

After an online voting session lasting a couple of weeks, the nominees for this year's Video of the Year award at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards were announced recently. In response to this paltry shortlist, I mourned the state of the music video. These were seriously the five best videos of the year? I realize that by opening up the voting to the general public is the cause of this travesty, but they can't be blamed entirely. Where are the Missy Elliott or Outkast videos which are always innovative? Where's Pink and the videos from M!ssundaztood or another White Stripes' "Fell in Love With a Girl"? Hell, where are the Eminem videos that, repetitive as they are, were always funny and relentless in their skewering of the pop culture of the time? Let's go through these nominees and then I'll let you know who I think should have been nominated.


Chris Brown "Forever"
I've never understood the appeal of Chris Brown and this video does nothing for me. The dancing is nice, but the CGI effects are as corny and ugly looking as that black shit in Madonna's "4 Minutes" video. I've certainly seen worse videos than "Forever"; I just wish there was something more here to get excited about.


Jonas Brothers "Burnin' Up"
The concept behind the Jonas Brothers' "Burnin' Up" is so corny and so overdone (it was done much better in the Beastie Boys' "Sabatage") that I can hardly sit through it. Add to that the saccharine lyrics and whiny lead vocals and I'm ready to throw my computer through the window. I guess this nomination is the obligatory teen girl Backstreet Boys/*NSYNC nomination that we saw between 1999 and 2002 (Can anyone truly say that "I Want It That Way" was one of the best videos of 1999 except for the thousands of girls who loved it?).


Pussycat Dolls "When I Grow Up"
I have mixed feelings about this song: the opening is truly epic, but that chorus is complete and utter garbage ("When I grow up, I wanna have boobies." Are you fucking kidding me?). The video is a vast improvement over the song, I'll give it that, and the dancing is technically amazing. In comparison with "Buttons" however, their other video in which they stood around strutting and dancing, it's minor PCD.

Britney Spears "Piece of Me"
(watch here)
I couldn't embed the video here, so head on over to Youtube to check it out. I love the song and am glad people are all for her comeback as much as I am. It's just that after "...Baby One More Time," "Oops! I Did It Again," "I'm a Slave 4 U," and "Toxic," all iconic music videos in their own ways, it would be a shame if she won for this personality-free clip. Britney was still in the midst of her breakdown when she shot this, so there's very little dancing to speak of and she spends most of the time just standing around, pushing her hair behind her ear. With such an angry and indicting song against the paparazzi, the video is surprisingly timid.


The Ting Tings "Shut Up and Let Me Go"
Technically, it's the most creative of the five and the one I would want to watch more than a couple of times. But it's no "Fell in Love With a Girl" and the song gets kinda annoying after awhile.

Will Win: I'm going to go with "Piece of Me" simply because Britney's never won a VMA in her long career and MTV will want to make amends for last year's performance.
Should Win: If it was by song, "Piece of Me" by a long mile. However, since it's for the complete video, I guess I'll go with "Shut Up and Let Me Go" for its interesting visual choices.

My Picks for Video of the Year:


Danity Kane "Damaged"


Duffy "Warwick Avenue"


Girls Aloud "Sexy! No No No..."


Janet Jackson "Feedback"


Rihanna "Disturbia"


Sneaky Sound System "Kansas City"

To me, these five nominees have both interesting videos and hot songs. It may seem like the Girls Aloud and Danity Kane videos are nothing more than PCD's "When I Grow Up" video, but I think the songs are a lot better and the dancing/posing is 100 times more original. Plus, the Danity Kane video has cheesy CGI effects yet doesn't treat them as anything more than eye candy (rather than force us to take them seriously). "Disturbia" is seriously one of the most fucked up videos I've ever seen and I love it. Janet's "Feedback" gets its spot solely for it being the strangest video I've seen all year. Nothing about it makes sense individually (what the hell is with that ball of light?) but all together, it reaches visual harmony. Originally, I had forgotten about Sneaky Sound System's Team America-inspired "Kansas City" clip but when I finally remembered what a fantastic video it is I knew I just had to add it in. And, finally, Duffy's "Warwick Avenue" video does nothing but focus on her face, but what a lovely and expressive face it is.

My favorite: Strangely enough, I'm going to go with "Feedback" for being the craziest non-Missy Elliott video ever.

Movies About Movies Blog-a-thon: The Opening Scene of Day for Night

Movies about the filmmaking process is one of my favorite subgenres of film. Even when they are bad, I'm always fascinated by the process of getting a story filmed and all the things that can get fucked up between the sheet and the celluloid. I love the bitterness of Sunset Boulevard and its portrayal of the Hollywood Dream gone terribly wrong; Singin' in the Rain showed just how awkward the conversion to talkies were and poked fun at the stiffness of the early ones; Sullivan's Travels set out to prove that comedies are just as important to audiences as serious, high-minded drama; Sherlock, Jr. showed that, even by 1924, people were living vicariously through film. The film I chose to talk about, however, is basically a love letter to the filmmaking process and how even when it kicks you in the ass, you would do anything for it: François Truffaut's Day for Night.

There are so many layers and so many things that can be discussed from this film, that I decided to make it easy on myself and discuss one small section of Day for Night. A nearly impossible task, mind you, but I've narrowed it down to the brilliant opening sequence. It is very short, only about a minute or so, but it comments on so much about the nature of film and sets up the rest of Day for Night and the rest of its film-within-a-film Meet Pamela.

The film's opening credits. I love how the sound waves are shown in these frames as a way to prove that Truffaut is the ultimate film nerd (even more so than Tarantino and Kevin Smith) and will stop at nothing to immerse us into what's rattling around in his brilliant mind.

The first shot. Day for Night starts off with a long take of a bunch of random people doing ordinary, everyday things in some random town. It's quite a nice shot and everything, but what exactly is Truffaut doing? This is supposed to be a film about the movies, not about nameless people living a normal life. The first 45 seconds leave you confused until....

...you breathe a sigh of relief because you finally recognize someone: Jean-Pierre Léaud! Now that we've seen our star, Day for Night is finally going to get off the ground and go on with the story. Or so we think. The camera follows Léaud for a few seconds but then drops him to go back to capturing the crowd for awhile longer. Then we get our first cut...

Léaud is back, now standing head to head with some guy we don't know the identity of. No words are spoken between them. Then...

SLAP! And, in sync, with the sound cue from Léaud's slap, we cut to...

Truffaut himself yelling "Cut!" In case you're as confused as I was during the first time I saw Day for Night, the film immediately cuts to....

A zoom out from the previous scene showing us that everything shown to us previously was all only a movie. It's the perfect sort of reality-bending trick than can only work in the movies.

Truffaut's point in using this as his opening is to lull the audience into a false sense of reality. From the opening shot, we think we're going to be watching one type of movie and just as we're starting to put things together and try to understand what's being presented, it's all being pulled out from underneath us with a little "gotcha!" from Truffaut.

I think it's also interesting that this opening is a further example of Truffaut's thesis that the cinema is more important than life. In real life, this scene would be nothing special, something we see every day on the street. But, in the context of Day for Night, it's immensely more fascinating because we are trying to put all of these clues together to try to make some kind of story out of the visuals. And, admit it, who doesn't find the moments after Truffaut yells "Cut," when he shows what is going on behind the scenes and the extraordinary amount of work it takes to make such an innocuous scene an exhilarating rush of deeply involving?

I could go on and on for days intellectualizing Day for Night, but I think it's quite wise to stop right here. If you haven't seen this gem of a movie, what the hell are you waiting for? Go out and see it so we can discuss it.

For other entries into Goatdog's Movie about Movies Blog-a-thon, head over here to the headquarters and check them out. I haven't read them all yet, but the ones I have clicked on have all been fascinating and quite diverse. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Zac Efron Pics from Me and Orson Welles



Just Jared has a couple of shots from Zac Efron's first attempt at serious filmmaking Me and Orson Welles, which is set to debut at the Toronto Film Festival in a couple of weeks. Who knows if Zac Efron will be any good in this film, but I must say that I love seeing him classy in his period clothes and hair.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oscar Predictions: August 2008

I haven't updated my original predictions on here since March. Yikes! A lot has changed since then so let's get started.

Best Picture
Australia
Changeling
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Revolutionary Road

Changeling
probably has the most buzz right now (probably because it's the only one people have had the chance to see, even if it was only at Cannes), but just wait until the release of Luhrmann's Australia and hopefully that will be the film everyone will be talking about. Frost/Nixon and Milk are the obligatory biopic nominees (although Milk actually looks to like a fascinating film) and Revolutionary Road will have the undeniable PR power from the reteaming of Titanic lovebirds DiCaprio and Winslet.

Best Actor

Benicio Del Toro, Che
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road (or Body of Lies)
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Viggo Mortensen, The Road
Sean Penn, Milk

I'm already slightly bored with this category and am hoping for some new and unlikely contenders to emerge in the next couple of months. Del Toro has the Cannes win in his corner, but who knows if his film will even get released this year. Langella and Penn are the biopic subjects in two films I think will make the Top 5, so they're in as of right now. DiCaprio, just like in 2006, could go either way with his two films being released this year: will Oscar rather see him suffering in an unhappy marriage or looking for an Al Qadea leader in Jordan? Mortensen has a powerful Cormac McCarthy novel in his corner (I've only heard amazing things about the book...maybe I should pick it up soon) so that's enough for me at this early stage.

Best Actress

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Nicole Kidman, Australia
Julianne Moore, Blindness
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

I still haven't given up on Moore yet, no matter how unlikely her nomination is seeming at this point. Maybe she (and the film) gain some more buzz once it is released in September. Kidman, Streep and Winslet almost seem too perfect at this point, but until I find some other more likely contenders, they're staying in. Hathaway sneaks after the amazingness that was the first trailer for Rachel Getting Married. Will she get the attention she should have gotten three years ago for Brokeback Mountain?

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., The Soloist
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road

At this point, Ledger is crushing the competition, so I'm curious to see if his buzz will last all the way until January or if it was subside as we move farther and farther away from The Dark Knight's dominance over our lives. Downey has gotten great reviews for both Iron Man and Tropic Thunder so I suspect that Oscar will top-off his spectacular comeback year with a nomination for his baitiest project, The Soloist. The film sounds completely shitty and almost designed solely for awards consdieration, but I doubt at this point that Oscar will go with both a Ben Stiller comedy and a comic book movie in its lineup. Brolin and Sheen still seem like good choices at this point so I'll stick with them. Oscar isn't as fond of male child actors as they are of females (I can only think of Jackie Cooper, Justin Henry and Haley Joel Osment getting nominations at such a young age, correct me if I'm wrong) so I'm a bit nervous for Smit-McPhee, but getting a nomination seems feasible at this point.

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Samantha Morton, Synecdoche, New York
Ashley Tisdale, High School Musical 3: Senior Year

My craziest category as of right now. Cruz's film has just opened and she's been getting tons of press for her performance. Oscar has shown that they already love her so that's one less hurdle to overcome. Davis apparently has the "big" supporting role in Doubt; if the film is any good and she gets good press, add her name to the shortlist. I figure one of the multitude of supporting women in Synecdoche, New York has to get a nom and I'm just guessing Samantha Morton at this point. She can be fun when she wants to be, right? I don't know anything about Henson's role in Benjamin Button, but I think she's fabulous and if the film's big she could go all the way. I know it may seem like wishful thinking but wouldn't it be a wonderful world to live in if La Tisdale got an Oscar nomination for HSM3? Stupider (and sillier) films have been nominated and in the second one La Tisdale was so in tune with her character that she became the sole focal point of the movie.

Best Director

Clint Eastwood, Changeling
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Spike Lee, Miracle at St. Anna
Baz Luhrmann, Australia
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Eastwood, Luhrmann and Van Sant are carry overs from the Best Picture race and I'm guessing there will be two "lone director" spots this year. Fincher hasn't been embraced by Oscar yet, but I think this year will be his year. Speaking of never being embraced by Oscar, Lee, 20+ years into his career, hasn't received a single Best Director nomination. Hopefully Oscar will right this wrong and give him a nom for his WWII drama (a favorite subgenre of Oscar) Miracle at St. Anna.

Best Original Screenplay

Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York
Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Australia
J. Michael Straczytnski, Changeling
Stanley Weiser, W.

Best Adapted Screenplay

William Monahan, Steve Zaillian, Body of Lies
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Joe Penhall, The Road
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Greatest Loudest Love Story Ever Told

Um...well, that sure was different.

After revealing my Shakespeare prejudice and proclaiming my love for Zeffirelli's 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet a couple of weeks ago, I was instructed in the comments to check out Luhrmann's 1996 version before making a definitive decision. I just watched it tonight and I must say that I'm still backing the Zeffirelli version whole-heartedly. Don't get me wrong, Luhrmann's vision and execution is impeccable and that opening scene-- a nearly post-apocalyptic version of a violence-torn city due to a grand feud between two wealthy families-- sucks you in so fast you almost have no idea what hits you.

My biggest problem was that everything in William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet was so fucking loud. I could kinda deal with the loud sound effects because, in context, they made sense with Luhrmann's vision. But when all of the actors are just shouting their lines so much that you can hardly make sense of what they are saying, it begins to become sort of a problem. And let me just add something about the acting: I never thought I'd say this but sometimes Shakespeare should be left to the theatre experts. John Leguizamo had the potential to be great, but he spoke every damn line through a clenched jaw that I suppose was trying to show how badass he was but instead made it impossible to understand the words coming out of his mouth. Of the star crossed lovers, DiCaprio was better, but not by a wide margin. He was at least trying to get into the character and make the material seem fresh. Danes, on the other hand, played Juliet like just another random lovestruck teenager in some 90's teen romance instead of a first-class auteur's modern vision of one of the most recognizable love stories of all time.

This brings me to another point. Watching this in 2008, as a child of the late 90's/early 2000's, the film already feels slightly dated. From the cheesy clothes and haircuts (which are very much of their time), to the romance (it didn't feel tragic enough to the point where they'd do anything for each other and I didn't feel any connection between DiCaprio and Dances and sort of wished they had cast someone like Kate Winslet to completely ignite the screen with chemistry) and the general debauchery and antics of all of the supporting cast which felt like it should belong in some fucked up hybrid of She's All That and Boyz 'N the Hood, everything felt completely 90's and almost kitschy. It will be interesting to see how this film fairs in 20 years: will people still love it or will it be a relic?

I know this may sound like I hated this film, but, truly, I thought it was a very jarring and provoking experience (in a good way). It was exactly what I needed to see that not all Shakespeare adaptations need to be excessively theatrical and can be used to express an unique point of view. I sincerely think that this film needs to be shown as part of Shakespeare units in high schools to prove that his works are still relevant 400 years later. Well, look at that...maybe Luhrmann's converted me after all. B

Smart People?

They should have called this movie Horribly Awful People Whom I Never Want to Get Within a 10 Mile Radius Of, Let Alone Have a Short, Pretentious Conversation With. I must say that I did enjoy Ellen Page, in a major reversal from her Juno character, and the script had the potential to be great. Ugh. C-

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Links

Both The Cellar Door and Valley Dreamin' announce their Top 10 films from 2007. Their varied and carefully chosen lists are well worth a look so who cares if they are a few months behind?

Stale Popcorn debuts the new Sugababes single "Girls." I'm in love already. Seriously, if you live in America and haven't heard of Sugababes, check them out right now.

PUXZKKX also thinks Katy Perry should suck it and offers a dozen reasons why. I agree with every single one.

Shiny Happy Blog offers her picks as the sexiest moments on film. It's hard to argue with Y Tu Mama Tambien or Brokeback Mountain. She even has a part two right here that's just as steamy.

Much Ado About Nothing has another entry in his weekly countdown of his favorite films. At #48, he has Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence. I've somehow never seen this film despite my admiration for all involved so maybe I should get on that soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sexual Harassment 101

I've somehow managed to go nearly three years without watching North Country (Niki Caro, 2005), the iron miner sexual harassment drama that somehow netted both Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand Oscar nods that year. I must say that I wish I never had to see this film, not just because it's fucking awful (more on that later), but it's seriously one of the most fucked up movies I've ever seen. I'm not denying that what happened to these women was horrific, because it was, but the way it was represented by Caro and screenwriter Michael Seitzman was alternatively hilarious and ridiculously over the top. Some of the scenarios they presented were straight out of an 8th grade health class "sexual harassment is bad, mmkay?" video (Bobby's dialogue when he traps Theron at the top of that iron chute, Theron's first day of work in the women's locker room) while others just left me disgusted at the stupidity. What kind of morons would possibly think it's okay to tip a portapotty while someone's in it so that all that shit and piss gets all over them? I don't care if the film presents these men as the most vile people since Hitler, that scene just doesn't make sense. And don't even get me started about the stupid scene where Pearson tells his lawyer that she was only hired because she was the smartest woman lawyer he knows and then proceeds to berate her for, just like the women in the mines, not having a sense of humor. Are you fucking kidding me? I highly doubt that a CEO executive would ever talk to rudely and disgustingly towards someone who's supposed to help save him from this class action lawsuit. North Country is so fucked up that it doesn't even present one decent man who stands up for these women. There's no way that there wouldn't be one guy who's like, "Wait a minute. This ain't right." Instead, in this fucked up alternate universe, every single man around is just waiting to write "cunt" in shit on the wall or molest every single woman who walks by and then tell her to take it like a man.

The rest of the movie doesn't fair much better. Charlize Theron is given absolutely nothing interesting or original to do with her character and is only given importance by the subject matter. Everything she is given to do has been done before and better in and Norma Rae, Silkwood and Erin Brockovich. Her praise for this film is only proving to Theron that deglamming is the only way people will respect her as an actress. She needs to find a film where she gets to play a sexy, confident woman with all the talent she showed in Monster and then I will be ready to love her. Frances McDormand had the best role in the film-- and also the baitiest-- but it's her other Minnesotian that we will all remember in 15 years (although I did love her line reading of "fuck you" through that voice box). The screenplay is one of the most atrocious pieces of crap I've ever heard (for all of the above reasons and more). I also hated Theron's son and the way he talks about his mother. I couldn't believe that he would call his mother a whore and say that she's only claiming that she was raped to win the lawsuit. I don't care how pissy you are as a teenager and how much you claim to hate the mother who's never done anything justifiably bad to him, you just don't say that to your mother. Just another stupid situation in a completely stupid film. D+

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

People Who Can Suck It: Katy Perry


Who Needs to Suck It: Katy Perry, inexplicably hot singer as of right now thanks to the success of "I Kissed a Girl"

Why She Needs to Suck It:
I don't have as much of a problem with Perry, per se, as I do with her song. "I Kissed a Girl" is inoffensive on its own, but its sudden and huge popularity pisses me off. I'm not going to call the song homophobic or anything like that because it's really not. Instead, I'm going to focus on my disgust that we have yet another medium playing into the straight male fantasy of two straight women getting so drunk that they let go of their inhibitions and make out with each other. Straight guys: this does not ever happen outside of The Real World or Girls Gone Wild so stop pretending that this song will change things. It makes me want to vomit thinking about the vapid, empty-headed party girls who think this song is clever and now will be using it as an excuse to make out with a random girl for fun one night at a kegger. There's also a hidden double standard that comes with the popularity of this song: if Justin Timberlake released a song called "I Kissed a Boy" and only changed the word "girl" to "boy," there's no way in hell it would ever be popular. The same people who loved "I Kissed a Girl" would be grossed out and some Baptist church would probably burn copies of the CD. So, Katy Perry, your second single better be one hell of a song if you're gonna convert me to your side after the poorly written piece of shit that is "I Kissed a Girl."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Did You Ever Know that You're My Hero?



Anderson Cooper, you have just gone way up in my book. Not only can he do a great impression of the "I love leathah" chick on Project Runway, but now he's taking on Dina Lohan, the rest of her family and her reality show on E!. It seems like someone has been taking some pointers from Emmy Award winner Kathy Griffin on how to trash talk Hollywood. Way to go!

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm the Nicole Kidman

I have this weird obsession with just being slightly taller than most of my friends at any given time. Usually this isn't a problem since nearly all of my friends are girls and I'm 5'11", which I believe is a pretty average height for men. On those rare instances that one of my friends is taller than me, most likely by wearing 2 or 3 inch heels, I feel slightly awkward. Why? Because I'm the Nicole Kidman and I hate being the Tom Cruise. I know that it is ridiculous to feel this way, but, seriously, who would you rather be: the tall, lanky, ellegant and extremely talented Nicole Kidman or the midget-esque, Scientology freak who's only been a great actor in three movies in 25 years? My friend Kathryn, who is a couple of inches taller than me, never has to worry about this and I once told her how lucky she was that she never had to worry about being the Tom Cruise. She laughed at me when I told her this, but I will stand by the philosophy that it's optimal to be the Nicole Kidman until my dying day.

Plus, when I'm singing the "Elephant Love Medley" from Moulin Rouge! with a friend, I'm always Nicole Kidman because her part is so amazing. I may not be anywhere near as good as she is (let's not mention how out of tune I am) but it's always fun to sing her part.



Damn, I need to watch that copy of Moulin Rouge! I bought again. So beautiful.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Billy Shakespeare and Zac Efron: Rants on Romeo and Juliet (1968)

My high school repeatedly tried to get me to read and enjoy William Shakespeare all through out my four years there, but I resisted as much as I possibly could. I just don't find Shakespeare enjoyable. Sure, his stories are interesting and what not, but that dialogue, my God! I can't make heads or tails of what they are saying half the time. Call me stupid or ignorant or whatever but the works of William Shakespeare are completely overrated.

The first work of his I was forced to read was Romeo and Juliet. Everyone on the planet knows the story of the star-crossed lovers and their tragic fate, so that wasn't difficult for me. What I couldn't stand was that dialogue and the 300 year old humor ("Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?") that's not exactly fresh or comical today. I saw a stage version done by a local college that same year and, although I started to understand it better, I still wasn't impressed. Add to that the lousy 1936 film version that I somehow found the strength to sit through a few months ago and I can tell you just how I excited I was to watch this version of Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli, 1968). Imagine my surprise when it turns out that this film is easily the greatest film adaptation of a Shakespearian work I've ever seen.

Everything about this film is completely cinematic and lightyears away from the stagy and overly theatrical style of the 1936 Cukor version. The opening fight between the servants of the Montagues and Capulets was spectacular in its scope and vision but still kept me guessing as to what was going to happen next. The sword fight between Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt also felt like I was watching it for the first time in the way the two fights are separated and succinct and the savageness of the second fight between Romeo and Tybalt.

Zeffirelli's choice in casting the leads in accordance to the age of the characters was risky but ultimately makes the film that much more fascinating. Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey were 17 and 16, respectively, at the time of the filming and their performances offer a new perspective on what the whole play is about. The excitement of first-time love has never been portrayed this honestly and emotionally compelling. Even a simple shot of Romeo and Juliet touching for the first time at the masquerade ball is a tender gesture that speaks volumes. Teenage angst, which is almost completely overlooked in other adaptations, takes the spotlight, front and center, in Zeffirelli's version. When Romeo and Juliet, miles away from each other, are crying over his banishment and the fact that they will never get to see each other again, you feel their frustration with their everything and the fact that they really have no idea how to respond to anything; they are only 13 and 16 for God's sakes. It's almost as if they are crying and crying but have no idea why they can't stop.

I thought the lead performances, especially for actors of their age, are exceptional. Olivia Hussey delivers the dialogue nicely, but she really shines in the moments when she doesn't speak and uses her wonderfully expressive face and eyes to convey her love for Romeo or, early on, when she's listening to her mother and her nurse give her the lowdown on marriage. Leonard Whiting is also quite good, nailing the dreamer aspect of Romeo and the fact that he manages to stay completely in character while fighting Tybalt (still hesitant and not that great with a sword) is damn impressive. The thing that struck me the most about Whiting, though, is this similarity:

A little creepy, non? Whiting even gives some of the exact same "I'm so confused!" expressions that Efron nearly trademarked during the High School Musical films.

I haven't seen the Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet, but, for some reason, I doubt it can stand up to Zefirelli's completely modern and sexy take on this stale old relic that's been told a hundred times between it's premiere and now. How can you hate a film that makes 16th century fashions so beautiful that I kinda wish they would come back in style? A-

This Diva Ain't Dead

In case you were worried or something, my sister blog, The Diva's Film Screenings, isn't dead. I was simply experiencing temporary burnout from posting so often and I couldn't keep up with all of the film I was watching. Now that I'm all rested and ready to get going on that again, I decided to just write short reviews on all the films I was missing. Here's the link to that post and I'm hoping that I can keep up again and not get so far behind!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New York Goes to Hollywood, You Skanky Ass Bitch

Did anyone catch the premiere of Tiffany "New York" Pollard's new VH1 reality show New York Goes to Hollywood? I understand that she's very divisive and most people can't even stand to look at her, but I think she's one of the smartest and most fascinating reality stars. Plus, she's one of the funniest actresses on TV right now (I believe this so much that I think she should have been nominated for an Emmy...seriously). On her new show, New York is trying to break into acting and wants to start being taken seriously. After last night's premiere, good luck with that. Here are 5 things I loved about last night's episode:

1. The theme song is Little Jackie's "The World Should Revolve Around Me," which Glenn at Stale Popcorn introduced on his blog about a month ago. It's my favorite song of the moment and the perfect choice for Miss New York.

2. The scene where she's hiring assistants to take her to the top had me dying of laughter. I loved it when she yelled at the first candidate, with the most hilarious annunciation ever, "Get off my property, you skanky ass bitch!" I was also fond of the moment when she nearly choked on her drink when she found out that the second candidate didn't believe in pre-marital sex. She prolonged it so long and was so over-the-top about it that it somehow worked perfectly for her. Her send off number two was also amazing: "She was wearing a sailor outfit but I know that bitch don't own no damn boat!"

3. If you ever want to know how I am when I'm working out, just watch the scene where New York does a "bootcamp" style workout and starts complaining five minutes in and has no desire to do any of the hard work to is required to have a "Hollywood" body. "I have to come back again?!"

4. The monologue she chose to perform was probably the most horrible thing I've ever heard. New York turned it into a comedic sketch, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it was written as a dramatic piece. Either way, it was completely dreadful. No wonder all the casting agents left before she came down to greet them.

5. Sister Patterson is coming! I was worried she wouldn't make an appearance on this show, but, lo and behold, in the preview for the season, she comes to lend "moral support" to her daughter during a voiceover audition and is wreaking havoc on everyone around her. YES! I seriously can not wait for more of this divalicious woman.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I'll Be in My Trailer

The Brothers Bloom

I didn't have any feelings towards Rian Johnson's follow-up to his critically acclaimed indie Brick (I kinda hated it) until I saw this trailer and now I'm highly anticipating this one. Just look at that cast: Adrien Brody as the romantic lead, Mark Ruffalo as the con artist brother, Rachel Weisz as the silly heiress and Rinko Kikuchi (!!) as an explosives expert. The plot sounds like something straight out of a 30's screwball so let's hope it does that better than Leatherheads.

Che

It's a shame that no distributor will go near this film because, judging by this Spanish trailer, Che looks absolutely gorgeous and Benicio del Toro seems absolutely game. I'm really hoping we will get to see this all in one piece as intended.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist doesn't look like it will change the world or anything, but it seems like a great film to just sit back and have a good time at. Michael Cera is a little cutey and his comedic style has grown on me after Superbad and Juno. I also liked Kat Dennings in The 40 Year Old Virgin and I think she looks funny in the trailer.

Burn After Reading (Redband)

I know this is a month or so old, but it's so damn hilarious that I want to share it. I love the Coen Brothers in their silly, Big Lebowski/Fargo mode and this one looks like another winner from them. Plus, how often does Brad Pitt come off looking like a full-fledged comedian?

The Unholy Three

This is either the most disturbing picture I've ever seen or the hottest, I can't decide. Just Jared has all the photos from the trio's spread in this month's Elle magazine so head on over there to check them all out. I think I may have to pick up a copy tomorrow. Here are a couple of my favorites:


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rants on Mamma Mia!

When I saw the stage version of Mamma Mia! a few months ago, I completely hated it. The show was the epitome of the cheesy, cornball, lets-stop-everything-and-sing type of thing I hate. The only semi-redeeming factor was the ABBA music, but, let's face it, wouldn't it have been more productive if you saved your money and listened to ABBA Gold a few more times at home? When I came home after the show and thought about it, I figured that the upcoming film version of Mamma Mia! could improve on the show--and even if it didn't, Meryl Streep was in the cast. There's no way she's ever done anything not worthwhile, right? Unfortunately for Mamma Mia! (Phyllida Lloyd, 2008), instead of a film-appropriate script, confident direction and actors who understand the material well enough to make us forget the implausibility of people breaking out into song dance, all we get is Pierce Brosnan shouting through "S.O.S."

The script is a little more polished from the lackluster stage version, but the integration of the songs into the plot is middling, at best. As a way to sneak in at least two more ABBA songs, they have Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters perform as Donna and the Dynamos, a girl group the trio had in the 70's which has no bearing on the story whatsoever. Not that there's much story to speak of. Mamma Mia! is basically composed of ABBA musical videos strung together by the vaguest of plots that the writers ignore three-quarters of the time. How is it logical that in one scene Dominic Cooper's character isn't sure he wants to marry Amanda Seyfried anymore when she admits she's trying to find her father and the next time we see him, it's the wedding and all is apparently forgiven without a scene explaining his change of heart?

One of the most frustrating things about Mamma Mia! is the choreography (or lack thereof). I think I understand what Lloyd was trying to accomplish in making the dancing look as realistic and non-flashy as possible, but it's completely inappropriate for the film and downright laughable at certain times. When I saw the credits, I couldn't believe someone actually wanted credit for the embarrassing mess that was occurring up on the big screen. It's pretty sad when your big showstopper, dancing wise, is the "Dancing Queen" number which consists of Meryl Streep and a chorus of 50+ women doing dance moves that would be considered second-rate in a high school production. The majority of the choreography consists of the actors strutting, jumping and doing something as obvious as holding up a finger while singing "feeling like a number one" during "Super Trouper." Fucking brilliant. Want to know when I came up with that dance move? When I was 11 and dancing to "...Baby One More Time" by myself in my room.

Meryl Streep, whom I rightly consider the greatest actress of our time, gives the worst performance I've ever seen from her. I never knew she could sink this low into the realm of the shitty. In The Devil Wears Prada, Streep took a cartoonish character and made her human-- she was a major bitch, but still seemed like a boss from hell we've all had. Here, she overacts in nearly every scene and, especially during the scene on the dock when she greets Baranski and Walters, I wanted to shout out in the middle of the theater, "Reel it in, Meryl!" The people who think Streep should be nominated for a Golden Globe (and even win in some cases!) for this travesty-- for showing her "light" and "fun" side-- make me question that we were watching the same film. Giving her a nomination for this film would be the equivalent of giving one to Joan Crawford for one of her low budget freak show movies she made towards the end of her career like Beserk! or Trog.

The rest of the cast, barring the lovely Amanda Seyfried who somehow remains unscathed, isn't much better than Streep. Pierce Brosnan, especially, takes a massive beating. At least Meryl can sing and does wonders with "Mamma Mia" and parts of "The Winner Takes it All"; Brosnan shouts through "S.O.S." and warbles through "When All Is Said and Done" in the same two-note (if he's lucky) range. Stellan Skarsgard just looks uncomfortable and out of place. Walters cackles like the Wicked Witch of the West throughout most of the film. Britney Spears' infamous pink wig looked more natural than the atrocious brown pile of fur on Baranski's head (hairpiece aside, Baranski is probably the most fun of the adults and her savage take on "Does Your Mother Know" is one of the best parts of the film). I like Colin Firth as much as the next guy, but seeing him have his clothes torn off by horny 20 year old girls during "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight" and then watching him proclaim his love for one of the 20 year old Greek bachelors as subtly as Jack McFarland is a tad off-putting. Dominic Cooper, I must admit, is easy on the eyes, but everything about the role (from the amount of time he spends shirtless to his gooey dialogue) reeks of the shameless.

Phyllida Lloyd's direction lacks any imagination whatsoever. Most of the stagings are straight from the play and the few that do differ aren't anything groundbreaking. It probably would have been slightly more interesting to shoot everything in a long shot (like we're watching a stage show) than Lloyd's slavishly dull combination of long shot/close up/slight pan repeated over and over again. I was afraid this was going to happen after the Susan Stroman debacle with The Producers and, unfortunately, I was proven wrong. Lloyd assumes that, like the stage show did, the music of ABBA will make you forget the mess that's going on around those wonderful tunes. And, for most, they did. To me, however, there's no way that even music as great as ABBA's will make up for something as lazy and trashy as this film. D