Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Marry, Boff, Kill

J.D. had this fun little meme of sorts on his blog last night and I decided (perhaps foolishly) to take part in it. Here are the rules:

1) Comment to this and I will give you 3 people.
2) Post this meme with your answers.
3) Provide pictures and the names of 3 people.
4) Label which you would marry, shag, and throw off a cliff.

I thought for sure that J.D. would be totally evil and either pick three men I absolutely adore or three men I completely abhor just so I would have to make the ultimate Sophie's choice. Fortunately, he decided to be somewhat nice and picked Kris Allen, Dev Patel and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet. Let's get started, shall we?

Kris Allen
I'm pretty sure I made this perfectly clear yesterday.

Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
Because he's adorable, legitimately do-able and, if I married him, someone might be a little pissed at me.

On a completely random side note: While I was looking for photos of Grégoire for this post, I ran across this photo of him and some guy named Esteban Carvajal Alegria. I immediately rushed over to IMDb, hoping to find out something about this mystery man and I was a little stunned by my discovery. He only has about 10 film and TV credits, but he shares at least 8 of them with Grégoire! Isn't that odd? Any thoughts out there?

Dev Patel
In all honesty, I was holding out hope for a three-way with Dev and Zac Efron (since Zac is clearly in love with Dev and they're going to announce their relationship anyday now). But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would rather have Zac all to myself. Sorry Dev, those are the breaks.

That was fun. Anyone up for this on their own blog?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Most Hated Woman in America

Not because she's a horrible person (although I have no proof that she's not not horrible), but simply because she gets to sleep with this man...

...while the rest of us have to be content with listening to Kris' crooning on American Idol and gazing adoringly at his picture on our computer screens.

Who out there wouldn't want to wake up next to this in the morning?

I, for one, would not be complaining. In fact, I think I would start to enjoy it rather quickly.

Sigh. So pretty.

So, in short, we've learned three things today.
1. Kris Allen is dreamy.
2. I will become Kris' mistress and enjoy it. Immensely.
3. Kris needs your votes on American Idol because he is bringing sexy back to a show that's only had one legitimate heartthrob (my Blakey!) in it's entire run. Oh, and he's a great singer, too! How could I forget about that?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

You Have to Take the Good With the Bad

A few high profile music videos wandered on my radar this past week, so I thought I would take a moment or two and share them with you.

The first one is "The Fear," the first single off Lily Allen's latest CD It's Not Me, It's You (You've all heard it, right? It's fan-fucking-tastic!)

It's quite breathtaking, non? The concept is nothing original, but the execution, with it's bright pastels, quirky male dancers and oversized sets, is astounding. To me, it feels like a lost sequence to the greatest musical never made, if that makes any sense at all. With so many artists wasting opportunity after opportunity by making shitty music videos, it's nice to see someone like Lily Allen taking risks and doing things a bit differently than everyone else. Then again, that's always been a part of her charm.

Next up is Girls Aloud's latest single from their Out of Control album (the #1 album of 2008, in case you forgot), the 4 minute radio edit of their 6+ minute masterpiece, "Untouchable."

It's no masterpiece, but it's 100 times better than the "Biology" video (which is the epitome of shit videos, especially disheartening since the song is easily one of Top 5 of the decade) and that's good enough for me. "Untouchable" copies the usual Girls Aloud/any girl group music video formula- stick the girls in different "situations" and edit them together- but does it in a totally kick ass way. The escalating manicness of the flashing lights and frentic camerawork as the song (and video) reaches a heart racing ending is nicely done.

On a side note, you simply must watch this fanmade video for the Girls Aloud B-side "Singapore" (thanks Dave for the heads up!). If only more music videos took risks like this.

Finally, after three great videos, I have to bring you back down to reality and show you that not every (in other words: 99%) music video being made is amazing. The latest example: the Ciara and Justin Timberlake duet "Love Sex Magic"

Let it be known that I actually quite like the song, but, oh Lord, this video is a complete piece of garbage. Where do I even begin? The general misogyny of the video- Justin gets to sit back and enjoy while it's up to Ciara to provide the sexual stimulation by dancing sexually and wearing skimpy clothing- very nearly turns my stomach every time I see it. It's especially disheartening to see Ciara stoop to the cheapness of this clip after her brilliant anti-gangsta-bullshit anthem "Like a Boy." What happened to that Ciara? I loved her so. Also, just as with the "4 Minutes" video, why are you going to waste the talents of two talented dancers by having them sit around and, in Ciara's case, do ridiculous stripper moves? I want to see them suggest sex through a swanky, sexy dance, not see Ciara lick Justin's earlobe. Gross. I think I'm going to take a shower now.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Underseen Truffaut (and one is for a very good reason)

In my never ending quest to see as many François Truffaut films as I can get my hands on, I found out that my school's video library had a couple of his little known movies stashed away: 1977's The Man Who Loved Women and his final film, 1983's Vivement Dimanche! [Confidentially Yours]. Now, let's do a little investigating and try to understand why no one talks about these films from the French master.

Well, the reason people have forgotten The Man Who Loved Women is really quite obvious: it's a terrible movie. Easily the worst Truffaut film I have ever seen. The plot is so Truffaut- a ladies' man, Bertrand (Charles Denner), loves and obsesses about the numerous women who have passed through his life- but, unlike any of the Antoine Doinel films, it's handled absolutely dreadfully. Truffaut thinks he's worshipping these women, but he really treats them like ridiculous, idiotic harpies who are all dumb enough to fall for Bertrand's creepy, stalker-ish tactics. I mean, seriously, what thoughtful, intelligent women is going to find it charming that a man tracked them down by copying their license plate down, pretending he had an accident caused by this woman, practically stealing her home address from the car rental service and then driving hours away to find her in hopes of a quick fuck? And the fact that this women- indeed, all of the women- fall for his smug act throughout the entire movie drove me absolutely insane. This film is so skanky and obviously of a "different era" sexually that I've honestly been more comfortable watching Flavor Flav make out with New York, Deelishis and three other chicks on the same episode of Flavor of Love. I also hated the way Truffaut thinks that by having the female editor (Brigette Fossey) like the book, rather than the macho males who should be cheering on Bertrand's sexual exploits, we will forget the previous misconstrued visions of women we've just seen. As if. And then she likes it for the most ludicrous reasons- something along the lines of he's an "everyman," he struggles with life like everyone else and he's really just a good guy dealing with some mommy issues. Puh-lease. This guy is a creep, plain and simple, and no amount of preaching is going to make me think that he deserves my pity. D+

I did, however, enjoy one really quick shot of a cat picking at Bertrand and his publisher's leftover food outside their hotel room- an obvious homage to the funniest scene in Day for Night where it takes Truffaut and company 50 takes to get the shot right. If only the rest of the film had been this inspired.

This brings us to Vivement Dimanche! (also known as Confidentially Yours in America), another in film in Truffaut's homage to his favorite director (and mine), Alfred Hitchcock. The film doesn't linger on the brain quite as long as the mysterious Belmondo/Denueve starring Mississippi Mermaid, but it's still quite a solid little film. The plot- an innocent man (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is accused of murdering three different people from very damning evidence and it's up to him and his secretary (Fanny Ardant) to find out the real killer- is really nothing special and probably wouldn't make much sense if you thought about it for a couple of minutes. As with most of Truffaut's work, what makes it special is the spirit, which is even harder to get right than the story. Plus, the cinematography- with its really crisp black and whites and complete elimination of grays- is especially beautiful to look at. Confidentially Yours isn't a first-tier Truffaut, but it's definitely worth a look and a fitting last film for one of cinema's true iconoclasts. B

Thursday, March 26, 2009

American Idol Recap: Top 10 Edition

Theme: Motown, an American Idol tradition

Really ecstatic

Matt Giraud "Let's Get It On" What made these three the best of the night was the fact that they took nearly "untouchable" songs and worked them to fit with their musical style. The best of these was Kalamazoo native (what what!) Matt Giraud's take on Marvin Gaye's overused "Let's Get It On." I was a bit scared when I heard his choice, but as soon as he started singing I knew I was in for something special.

Kris Allen "How Sweet It Is"
Kris, once again, showed why he's amazing by taking another Marvin Gaye song and completely transforming it into the cool, laid back pop song he does so well. This guy is so ridiculously talented and deserves way more respect than Adam and Danny. On a side note, Kris, you can divorce your wife and marry me anytime. I will even be your mistress if that's the way you roll.

Allison Iraheta "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"
Another worrisome song choice, but Allison, not surprisingly, nailed it. I thought it was amazing for two reasons: first, Allison's vocals were spot on. Secondly, she told a story with the song and, for the first time, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" made sense to me. Brilliant, bold move.

Paula Clap
Quite good
Adam Lambert "Track of My Tears" I know, I'm just as surprised as you. I didn't think it was as mindblowingly great as the judges seemed to think, but, for the most part, he avoided shrieking and pretentious wankery and actually sang the song. Now that I've complemented him, you know he's going to go back next week and do something shitty like "Ring of Fire" again. Sigh.

Dancing in My Seat
No one ever said it took much to get Paula on her feet
Lil Rounds "Heatwave" Mediocre. Where is this girl's mad skills that we've been hearing about (or, a better question is, when was this time where she "blew us all away" as Simon recollected)? I don't exactly think that someone practically shouting at us qualifies as any kind of talent.

Anoop "Oooh, Baby Baby"
What the Christ where the judges smoking when they critiqued this one? This was BORING and it sounded way to high for Anoop. The falsettos where whiny and extremely thin. Bring me back "My Prerogative" era Anoop, please.

Megan Joy "For Once in My Life"
After doing so amazing last week (well, by my estimation, anyways), this was a bit of a trainwreck, huh? Give her time, though, and I'm confident she'll finally learn to pick songs that match her extremely unique voice.

"Well, You Look Beautiful..."
It's never good when she starts with this
Danny Gokey "Get Ready" Goddamnit, why is this guy so popular? He does not even possess one-tenth the artistry of Matt, Kris or Allison (or even Adam this week), instead just blindly oversinging ever performance and yet the judges keep giving him a free pass. Gah, it drives me insane.

Michael Sarver "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
Instantly forgettable. It's to the point where I've just started blocking out his performances as soon as they are over. What the hell, America? This guy is better than Alexis Grace? I just don't understand it.

Scott McIntyre "You Can't Hurry Love"
MAKE IT STOP! Oh my God, you guys, this was one of the most horrendous performances I've ever heard on American Idol (yes, it reaches Sanjaya levels of awfulness). I'm no expert on pitch or anything, but even I could tell it was all over the place and rarely sounded in tune. Plus, it sounded exactly like every other performance of his. Please America, do us a favor and get rid of this succubus now.

Who Should Go Home: Without a doubt, Scott McIntyre
Who Will Go Home: Hopefully, it's between Scott and Michael, but I have a horrible suspicion that Megan may end up there as well (do not let this happen!).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anchors Aweigh

I really have no reason to post this picture of actor Luke Grimes (currently on the insufferable Brothers & Sisters) in a sailor outfit other than for the obvious, superficial reasons. What is it about sailors that drives people absolutely wild with lust? Silent movie star William Haines was known to enjoy their company and was arrested for having sex with one in 1934. And I'm sure we all remember Jenna Maroney's "disgusting story about Fleet Week" on 30 Rock. I'm sure this will be a mystery that will never be solved, so, in the mean time, enjoy a couple more of my favorite cinematic sailors.

Brad Davis as the hunky and homosexual (Maybe? This movie is very confusing) Querelle in Fassbinder's film of the same name.

Buster Keaton as the sweet and misunderstood son of a disapproving riverboat captain father in Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Moment I Became Infatuated With Kathy Griffin

I try not to think of it, but there was a time when Two-Time Emmy Award-Winner Kathy Griffin was not a part of my life. I remember the day I was first acquainted with the D-List Diva. My parents had just gotten the Bravo channel and we kept seeing these commercials for a comedienne who was making fun of Britney Spears and Whitney Houston. Needless to say, I didn't need anyone to ask me twice to see what she was all about. The special was her Bravo debut, The D-List, and today marks the fifth anniversary of its release. Right from the opening, when she proclaimed that Britney Spears was "our new Liza," I knew I was going to like her. However, it was this monologue below that truly converted me to the ways of Kathy Griffin. I swear, the first time I saw this I was laughing so hard, I was shaking and couldn't catch my breath for the longest time. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that, fortunately, has only grown stronger with time.

And now it's time for Sharon Stone to get up there and do her opening statements, right. So she goes up and looks, she holds the podium and looks out in the audience and she says, totally seriously, she goes like this, "You know, ummm, I've spoken about this topic so many times, I don't know if there's anything new I can say about it. So, I'm going to read you something I once read a long. time. ago." And everyone's looking at each other, "What is she...?" I don't know. So...right, it's kinda weird, right? So, then she takes out a piece of paper and goes like this, totally seriously, she goes like this, "Imagine there's...no heaven/It's easy...if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky"...At this point, I get what I like to call the "church giggles." That's when you're laughing, inappropriately at an inappropriate time and you can't stop, no matter what. I mean I got the shoulders going like this. *starts shaking* I'm crying a little bit. Here's the thing: Sharon Stone is reciting the lyrics to "Imagine" and CRYING AT HER OWN PERFORMANCE....that's funny! I'm only human! Alright, so then she stops and goes, "Wow, ummm, that reminds me. I was walking down the street here in New York many years ago and I passed a man and he passed me. And I went, 'Whoa, that's John Lennon.' And I smiled at him and he smiled at me." In the mean time, I'm watching this thinking, "Oh, I though John Lennon was so into Yoko. No, he's cruising the park, hitting on Sharon Stone." And then she goes, "And then we smiled at each other and then walked away...You may say, I'm a dreamer." Alright, she finishes and I look around and there are people literally moved to tears. I'm fucked! 'Cause if they like that, they're not going to like me and my vagina jokes!

Monday, March 23, 2009

2008 Diva Cup Awards: The "Oscar Categories"

Well, here we go again! The 2008 Diva Cup Awards are off and running and, for the first time, I decided to post my nominees for the "Oscar categories." Plus, instead of breaking them down into individual posts, I decided to group them together so I could move on faster. Here's how I plan on dividing them:

-The Oscar categories
-The Extra categories
-Original and Adapted Screenplay
-Picture and Director
-Supporting Actor
-Supporting Actress

I hope you enjoy all these and please do not be afraid to let me know what you think in the comments!

Best Cinematography

Mandy Walker
Every shot in Australia is so breathtakingly gorgeous that the film risks collapsing under all its beauty. Thankfully, Walker never lets this happen and makes sure the blazing colors are there for more than eye candy.


César Charlone
In the film, the characters are inflicted with a blindness that turns everything white. Charlone has a bright white light illuminating every shot, echoing the character's problems, and it never once feels gimmicky.

Boy A
Rob Hardy
It may not immediately jump out at you, but Hardy gets some amazing shots on what is sure to be a limited budget.

A Christmas Tale
Eric Gautier
Beautiful camerawork that doesn't get in the way of what's going on onscreen. It's truly the perfect compliment to the ugliness of what's going on in the family.

Jakob Ihre
Makes the risky choice to shoot a lot of the film in a blinding white light to contrast with the dark complexities of the relationships and circumstances in the film. The risk pays off.

If Only There Were Six: The Wrestler (Maryse Alberti)

And the Diva Cup Goes to: Reprise

Best Editing

A Christmas Tale
Laurence Briaud
Connects all the shreds of this emotionally disconnected family in interesting ways.

Kevin Stitt
The work is definitely from the Bourne school of hyper-editing, but I think it serves the film well. Things are flying at the screen and popping out of mid air at such an alarming rate that you have no idea whether this real life or merely fiction at certain points. Truly terrifying.

The Edge of Heaven
Andrew Bird
It would have been easy to play up the "fate" and "coincidence" aspects of the film when it comes to the film, but the editing wisely ignores such stupid tricks and only uses them at the appropriate time.

Rachel Getting Married
Tim Squyers
More likely than not, Squyers had a ton of footage to work with and some really awkward and unwieldy scenes to work around (the rehearsal dinner and reception immediately spring to mind) but he makes everything flow smoothly and knows just how to hold certain moments just to brink of exhaustion.

Olivier Bugge Coutté
Cuts back forth between the hopeful future and dark present like an unseen dagger in the back. Brutally beautiful.

If Only There Were Six: Milk (Elliot Graham)

And the Diva Cup Goes to: The Edge of Heaven

Best Art Direction

Catherine Martin, Ian Gracie, Karen Murphy and Beverley Dunn

A Christmas Tale

Dan Bevan
Overstuffed, like the film. But all in a good way.

The Dark Knight
Nathan Crowley and Peter Lando
Appropriately gothic.

Synecdoche, New York

Mark Friedberg
Intricate beyond belief.

Ralph Eggleston
Creates a world unlike I've ever seen before.

If Only There Were Six: Milk (Dan Bevan)

And the Diva Cup Goes to: Synecdoche, New York

Best Costume Design

27 Dresses
Catherine Martin Thomas
Hilariously over the top. The film's sight gags hinge on the hideousness of these dresses and Thomas delivers.

Catherine Martin
Nicole Kidman is the world's greatest Barbie doll and Catherine Martin has a ball dressing her up.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Caroline Marx
Any movie that put it's obviously gay character in pink pants and knee high boots deserves a spot in any Best Costume Design list. Plus, Marx gets mad bonus points for Sharpay's "fabulous" clothes, which only get more divalicious as the series goes on.

The Other Boleyn Girl
Sandy Powell
With sets so (appropriately) cold, Powell had the unenviable task of making the stifling period clothes sexy. By the end of the film I was wishing the 1600's would make a comeback. Mission accomplished.

Sex and the City: The Movie
Patricia Field
On the rack, these clothes probably looked like a hot mess that no one can pull off. Patricia Field knows these women so well, however, that she can make toilet paper and duck tape work for these ladies. Simply the most divine thing about this movie.

If Only There Were Six: Leatherheads (Louise Frogley)

And the Diva Cup Goes to: Sex and the City: The Movie

Best Original Score


David Hirschfelder
Now this is how you score an epic romance! Hirschfelder's work definitely puts you in the mood for love.

A Christmas Tale

Grégoire Hetzel
May strain too hard to be elegant and "classy," but I found it to be simply divine to listen to.


Randy Newman
There's nothing I love more than the 1920's, so I have to give it up to Randy for evoking the era so potently.

Slumdog Millionaire

A.R. Rahman
Precious little works in this film, but I have to give mad props to Rahman for this brilliantly bombastic music score which overshadows the visuals surrounding it a good part of the time.


Thomas Newman
When the first half of your film is silent apart from a couple of Wall-Eeeee's and Evaaaa's, you had better make sure you have a score that compliments, but doesn't overpower, the visuals at all times. On this and all counts, Thomas Newman's score is a major success.

If Only There Were Six: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat)

And the Diva Cup Goes to: WALL-E

Best Original Song

Les Chansons d'Amour [Love Songs]

"As-tu dèjá aimé"
Written by Alex Beaupain
Performed by Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet and Louis Garrel
I'm not fluent in French and, therefore, have no idea what they're saying, but it just feel right, doesn't it?

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

"Dracula's Lament"
Written and Performed by Jason Segel
It's supposed to be a joke, but the snippet Segel offers up in the bar makes you really want to see what the rest of the musical this number comes from is all about.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

"I Want It All"
Written by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil
Performed by Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel
Glorious. Words can not even begin to describe the elation I feel everytime I hear this song. Without a doubt, it's the greatest number in the HSM trilogy and a true milestone in the Disney musical legacy.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Written by Jamie Houston
Performed by Zac Efron
Who doesn't want to get angsty with Zac Efron after this emotional number? Finally, after a couple of incredibly bad solo numbers in the first film, the right song comes along for Zac to really prove what he's made of. Melodramatic with a capital "M."

Sex and the City: The Movie

"All Dressed in Love"
Written by Cee-Lo, Matt Kahane and Salaam Remi
Performed by Jennifer Hudson
A cute metaphoric ditty for the movie, but J. Hud rips into this song like no other. Some of the notes she reaches are breathtaking.

If Only There Were Six: Slumdog Millionaire ("Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)") [I was all set to include this even if it wasn't technically a part of the movie, but I decided against it at the last minute. This song is genius. PCD 4Ever!]

And the Diva Cup Goes to: High School Musical 3: Senior Year ("I Want It All")

Best Sound

The sound is as bombastic and over-the-top as the movie itself.

This is the sound of the world ending. I think I just peed my pants.

Funny Games U.S.
The horrificness of the situation is amplified tenfold by the film's manipulation of the sound design.

The Strangers
Twists the usual cheap "startles" into something genuinely frightening.

Immaculate work. The voices are at once robotic and human-like and the effects are painstakingly real.

If Only There Were Six: The Dark Knight

And the Diva Cup Goes to: The Strangers

Best Makeup

The Dark Knight
Some naysayers may hate this nomination, but that Joker makeup was truly inspired. Sometimes it's the easiest looking work that's truly the hardest to pull off.

Synecdoche, New York

A good number of the characters age quite drastically and it is all extremely subtly done.

The Wrestler

That "extreme" wrestling match is so realistic I was cringing with every staple being inserted into Randy's flesh. Gah, talk about uncomfortable.

If Only There Were Four: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

And the Diva Cup Goes to: The Wrestler

Best Visual Effects

Oh my God, what the fuck is that?!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

That was Brad Pitt?!


Cartoons can look like this?!

If Only There Were Four: The Dark Knight

And the Diva Cup Goes to: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Greatest Biopic Casting News I've Heard in Ages

The Greatest News Ever

Oh my God, I can hear the reviews already (as Glenn would put it): OMGAnneHathawayISJudyGarland. However, I'm still excited. I can't wait to hear Annie tear into "Get Happy" and "The Man That Got Away."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why Isn't Reece Thompson Hired for Every Movie Ever?

If there are any casting directors reading this, please take note. The amazing Reece Thompson, star of the indie hit Rocket Science (along with the also amazing Anna Kendrick) from a couple years ago and the lost-in-distribution-limbo Assassination of a High School President (with the dire Mischa Barton), needs to be working in some bigger movies. How is it that Jonah Hill gets work in every other comedy around and Reece Thompson can't catch a break? He's an extremely funny fellow who could do equally well in films as different as Superbad and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and, unlike Michael Cera, could do different characters in each of them.

I was rummaging around his Wikipedia page and eventually stumbled across his MySpace blog. There are only three (short) entries and he hasn't updated in two years, but Reece still managed to make me giggle with his reaction to the vultures trying to steal him after Rocket Science premiered at Sundance:

Sundance is going great the reaction to the film has been incredible. I've had many agents come up to me and try and make me one of their whores. It's pretty cool.

I love this guy. And what's even more amazing about Reece is that him and his friends have started this site called Jitterbug Productions, which makes hilarious short videos about the most random things you can even imagine. I should know- I spent a good two to three hours yesterday watching most of them. Some of my favorites include First Date, which includes a revealing shot of our lovable Reece, What's Up, Doog?, a spot-on parody of dumb sitcoms and Reunion, which I've placed right below for your viewing pleasure.

Sigh. Isn't Reece amazing? Definitely worthy of a few more roles, don't you think? Well, I'm off to watch Rocket Science because I've been thinking about it for a couple of days now. Do yourself a favor and go watch it yourself.

Friday, March 20, 2009

American Idol Recap: Top 11

Before we get started on my (very, very late) recap, let me just get something off my chest about Wednesday night's elimination: How stupid can you possibly be, America? Voting the strongest female singer of the competition in the Bottom 3 after a strong performance? Eliminating the second best female singer after a slightly off week that was still better than half of her competition? NOT PUTTING THE BLIND GUY IN THE BOTTOM 3 AFTER DELIVERING EXACTLY THE SAME SAFE AND UNINSPIRING PERFORMANCE? Ugh, I just do not understand this country sometimes. How can you be exposed to genuine talent flashing across your TV screen every week and then still vote for the BLIND GUY? What the hell, people?

Okay, ranting over (for now). Let's get to the performances. Like last week, they are arranged, in order, in one of these categories.

Really ecstatic

Megan Joy "Walking After Midnight" Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Sick or not, I thought Megan was absolutely fantastic. Her voice, much like Fantasia, will divide more people than the Cotillard/Christie debate, but count me in as one of the lovers. She has instantly gone from someone not even worth a shrug to someone I will be anticipating next week.

Kris Allen "To Make You Feel My Love"
Why, oh why is this guy not available for me to marry? I wouldn't even have to think about it if he asked me. Not only is he adorable beyond words, but his take on this number was simply one of the most beautiful performances I've ever seen on this show.

Paula Clap
Quite good

Allison Iraheta "Blame It On Your Heart" Can this woman do every genre known to man? You would think this rocker chick would be lost during Grand Ole Opry week but she absolutely nailed the song. I can't wait for yodeling week now because we all know she'll kick ass at that too.

Anoop "Always On My Mind"
Where the hell did this awesome performance come from? Remembering his mediocre take on Monica's "Angel of Mine," I audibly groaned when I heard he was doing this song, so imagine my surprise when it was nearly as good as Kris' similarly stripped down performance.

Matt Giraud "So Small"
The performance has diminished slightly since Tuesday, but isn't Matt's version like 50 times better than Carrie Underwood's lackluster original? I love what he does behind the piano, but I hope Matt takes a break from all of this balladering and gets us on our feet this week during Motown week. It would definitely be a welcome change of pace.

Alexis Grace "Jolene"
I will admit that it wasn't as good as last week's performance, but it was nowhere near bad enough to get kicked off. On a side note, what the hell was up with Kara's comment that she should have sang "Before He Cheats"? I love Alexis as much as the next guy (well, apparently not after Wednesday night) but there's not a chance in hell that she would have ever surpassed Carrie's version. That song is not open for reinterpretation.

Dancing in My Seat
No one ever said it took much to get Paula on her feet

Lil Rounds "Independence Day" One word: trainwreck. Way to piss all over one of the best divas of country music's signature song. This woman needs to do something great soon to live up to all of this hype she's been given.

Danny Gokey "Jesus Take the Wheel"
It actually wasn't too bad- and for an ever brief moment I actually thought he was a good singer- but his performance of the Carrie Underwood standard made one thing perfectly clear to me: he's "American Idol" good but not "real world" good. This is a very subtle distinction but it's what clearly separates Kelly, Carrie, Jordin and Chris from Ruben, Clay, Justin, Diana, Taylor, Syesha, etc. I just can not see Danny as a recording artist in today's music industry. He has no personality, no looks, no preferred genre and I have no idea what his album would sound like.

"Well, You Look Beautiful..."
It's never good when she starts with this

Michael Sarver "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)" Simon was exactly right: I couldn't understand a word coming out of his mouth. He should have gotten a free pass this week, but he completely fudged that up.

Scott McIntyre "Wild Angels"
Atrocious. He somehow turned a beautiful Martina McBride song into an incredibly cheesy power inspirational ballads that sounded EXACTLY like his performance last week. I think, for once in his life, Scott is thanking Jesus that he's blind because that's the only way he keeps getting voted through every week.

Adam Lambert "Ring of Fire"
What a complete piece of shit. Once again, Simon was spot on when he called this performance "pretentious." He finally toned down his screaming but everything else about his performance just reeked of "Look at me! I'm a respectable artist!" If this fuckhead wins the season based on shit like this, I seriously don't know if I can ever trust America again to pick an Idol again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Top 10 Films of 2008

On more than one occasion, I have been accused by different people of hating every movie I see. Granted, most of these accusations have come after my "meh" reactions to some of their favorite films, but the number of these claims got me thinking about my reaction to films. It is not that I give more lower grades than higher ones (they're about even, methinks); rather, I think it feels like I'm more of a hater because with the few films I do hate, I hate them with a passion. Most of my best/favorite reviews have been for films I completely disliked and I often complain about them for months on end. For whatever reason, I find it harder to write about the films I actually love in any given year. Now that I've diagnosed the problem, I think it's time for a change and, as we all know, living in the Obama Era is as good as time as any to start changing. From this point forward, I will devote more time to great films in addition to my constant bitching about Twilight and Mamma Mia!. The best way to start this off is with my Top 10 list of 2008 (a couple of months late, so sue me), which is also a kick off for the 2008 Diva Cup Awards! Woohoo! I know everyone is pumped for that so let's get started.

Close, but no cigar: The Edge of Heaven (Faith Akin) is the film Babel tried to be but failed so epically to accomplish; I really wanted to include Michael Haneke's Funny Games U.S., a remake of his own 1997 film, but I felt it was generally unfair since I haven't even seen the original and they're exactly identical; Shelter (Jonah Markowitz) gets points in my book simply for being miles above Latter Days and Big Eden, two contemporaries in the gay indie scene, but the goes above and beyond the call of duty in analysis of a boy torn between family obligations and a love he doesn't completely understand; John Crowley's Boy A, with the help of an incredibly game performance from Andrew Garfield, turns what may have been a fairly standard redemption drama and tweaks it in very unexpected ways.

10. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Directed by Peter Sollett
The plot of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist- two hipster teens obsessed with the same indie rock band meet and fall in love over the course of one crazy night in New York City- almost sounds like my own personal hell; it's as if the high school romantic comedy and indie rock have formed their own Axis of Evil just to spite me. When you're watching it, however, you quickly forget about all of these preconceived notions, instead getting lost in the simple yet endearingly sweet love story unfolding before you. Credit is due to screenwriter Lorene Scafaria and director Peter Sollet for taking a tired genre and squeezing something fresh out of it and the young cast, particularly the severely underappreciated Kat Dennings and the girl who reinvented "the drunk friend" role, Ari Graynor, for pushing themselves comedically and adding layers to characters that, in lesser hands, could have come off as one-note.

9. American Teen
Directed by Nanette Burstein
I'm not naive enough to truly believe that all of the footage in American Teen is truly "off the cuff"; in fact, I'm pretty sure that more than half (and I'm being generous here) of it is staged. What separates this film from the average episode of The Hills is that, either by a stroke of genius or luck, American Teen captures with an almost scary amount of accuracy just what life as a small Midwest town high school student feels like. Much more so than any other Hollywood film that claims to be the "final word" on the high school experience, American Teen feels like my own experience. The basketball players weren't big bullies who spent their time stuffing the socially awkward band nerd into lockers; they were too consumed by their own problems and pressures to spend their time falling prey to that stereotype. While Burstein's documentary does this all very well, I must admit that I loved the way it showed how these young people were growing and changing before our eyes. Seeing Hannah, the quirky girl rebounding from a case of severe depression after breaking up with her boyfriend, finally gain the courage to open herself up again to school heartthrob Mitch (who also did his sharing of growing, most notably during that fantastic scene on the school bus when he admits to his jock friends that he liked Brokeback Mountain) proved to be one of the few things in 2008 that warmed this cynic's cold heart.

8. The Visitor
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
What I loved most about Thomas McCarthy's quiet, studied and controlled The Visitor was the fact that one of its subplots was about illegal immigration, yet McCarthy DIDN'T feel the need to go all Paul Haggis on us and preach about the inhumanity of the deportation process. For that, I'm deeply grateful. The Visitor, instead, spends it time focusing on Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins, a beacon of quiet suffering barely covering some deeper pain under the surface) and his reconnection to society and intimate human contact after the death of his wife. Seeing him reemerge from his life as a zombie, just going through the motions of living, to help these people he has grown to care for is one of the most poignant experiences I've felt at the movies this year; in fact, The Visitor may truly be the first film of the Obama Era.

7. Burn After Reading
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Coming after a huge Best Picture win, most directors would either take some time off or work on a serious picture that proves that the win wasn't a fluke. Well, the Coen Brothers have never been "most" directors. After the enormous success of the ultra serious No Country for Old Men, the Coens went back to their kooky black comedy origins with Burn After Reading. To describe the plot of this film seems almost masochistic because, as with most Coen comedies, the film is about the journey, not the final destination. With a cast full of intelligent actors playing some of the dumbest people you can even begin to imagine- most notably Brad Pitt, in possibly the best performance of his career, as a dimwitted gym trainer who thinks he has the skills to negotiate a high sum of money for a CD that may or may not have secret codes on it- the Coens make sure that the journey through Burn After Reading is one you will never forget.

6. The Wrestler
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
The most interesting thing about The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky's back-to-basics redemption drama after the surrealistic Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, is that it can be appreciated by different people for completely different ways. Personally, I was fascinated by the fact that Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert D. Siegel treat professional wrestling, a sport I grew up watching, with the respect it deserves, instead of making fun of its theatricality or for being "fake." But then, soon after watching it, I was having a conversation with Nick about The Wrestler and while he had no idea about any of the wrestling stuff (he wasn't privileged enough to grow up with it), he was fascinated by it in a very different way. The Wrestler works on so many levels- character study, sports film, father/daughter drama, Mickey Rourke comeback vehicle, budding romance between two vulnerable people- there's something for everyone. And this doesn't even begin to describe the powerfully subtle and deftly handled performances from Rourke , Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, who all wisely dodge whatever clichés their roles/personas throw at them; I think this is probably the closest any film came to "realism" in 2008.

Directed by Andrew Stanton
Animated films are for kids, or so we've been programmed to believe all of our lives. You're allowed to love and/or be obsessed with Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, etc before you hit puberty, but after that, it's just "weird" and "immature." Thank the Lord then for Pixar and their contributions to the animation renaissance. Starting with Finding Nemo and with each film thereafter, they have continually expanded the audience for animated films and allowed people to start taking these films seriously as actual pieces of art (although it could be argued that Miyazaki's 2002 masterpiece Spirited Away could have gotten the ball rolling, too). Everything came together for Pixar in 2008 with Andrew Stanton's visually stunning WALL-E. You would think that an epic love story between two robots set during a time in the future when Earth becomes inhabitable for humans with an opening 30 minutes that are generally wordless would be a tough sell, but Stanton makes WALL-E a completely enthralling experience from the opening frame to the last. The world Stanton creates is simply astounding to look at, prompting "oohs" and "aahs" at any given moment, and the love story that takes place in this world between the endearingly determined WALL-E and the kick-ass EVA makes every other romantic plot in any film you've seen in the past decade look absolutely dire in comparison.

4. Rachel Getting Married
Directed by Jonathan Demme
The spirit of Robert Altman's best works are alive and kicking in Jonathan Demme's deceitfully simple but really painfully complex depiction of family struggling to deal with an attention-seeking drug addict who happens to bring out the worst in all of them. Demme weaves in and out of different threads and characters of the film as skillfully as Altman did in Nashville and, like that film, most of these threads hinge on the actions of one character. The "Barbara Jean" of this film is said drug addict Kym, played by Anne Hathaway, who proves that all of her hard work these past eight years has not been in vein. Rachel Getting Married has more going on than this Kym storyline- hello, there's a wedding going on!- and there are some that don't directly involve her, but Kym will be damned if she somehow can't turn every fleeting moment into something about her. This is exactly what Rachel Getting Married will do to you for days after you see it: turn every thought you have and direct it somehow towards the movie.

3. Reprise
Directed by Joachim Trier
From the opening shot onwards, you can practically feel all of Joachim Trier's influences on this film: the ice cold starkness that permeates throughout the compositions from Ingmar Bergman, the role of fate and chance in seemingly everyday occurrences from Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run, the idea that young men can just sit around and talk about nothing in particular from Barry Levinson's underseen Diner, etc. What Reprise does so well, and hence it's placement so high on this list, is that it takes these influences and creates something refreshingly new and personal with them. As I'm growing into my 20's, I can relate to the trials and tribulations of maintaining a longtime friendship as we grow into people that would have been unrecognizable just a few years ago. Reprise captures this complex fact of life with a precision and grace that is rarely discussed in cinema.

2. In Bruges
Directed by Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh's first obstacle to overcome in In Bruges: making the overused "hitman's redemption" plot line seem fresh and spontaneous while turning the numerous clichés on their head. Martin McDonagh's second obstacle: delivering a dark comedy that deals with the serious issues in a mature and complicated way but also knows how to step back and laugh at them. I'm sure it goes without saying just how difficult it is to do this properly. Martin McDonagh's third obstacle: getting a rich, deeply layered performance from the normally disconnected and generally uninteresting Colin Farrel as said remorseful hitman, a role that requires both excellent comedic timing (something we had never seen from Farrel before) and the ability delve into a pathos-driven moral minefield. The fact that McDonagh surmounts all of these seemingly impossible obstacles with the grace and ease of a veteran filmmaker makes In Bruges even more special.

1. A Christmas Tale
Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Dysfunctional family dramas are, along with inspirational teacher dramas, one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Give me some beautiful people with big problems, high-strung emotions and a couple of choice quips preferably taking place over a major event like a holiday or funeral and I'm perfectly content. So, it should come as no surprise that Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale, with it's cast of beautiful French actors including the legendary Ice Queen Catherine Deneuve, Anne Consigny, Mathieu Almaric, Melvil Poupaud, Emmanuelle Devos and Chiara Mastroianni (and that's not even including the warm and fuzzy father figure Jean-Paul Roussillon and up-and-comer Emile Berling), would be warmly received by me. What took me by surprise was just how much of a wallop A Christmas Tale packs. Days passed and all I could think about was the film's intricate, absorping plot that's so overstuffed it could have collapsed with one false move, Desplechin's ability to capture years of backstory with just one look or line of dialogue and the way he relishes these moments more than the big emotional outbursts, the depiction of a family falling apart for reasons, beyond their control, that can't even begin to be put into words, etc. As you can see, I can talk about this film for days, and that's precisely why it's the best film of the year. It can stand up to weeks of scrutiny in my head and still reign supreme over all other films. This is the true test of genius and, ladies and gentlemen, A Christmas Tale has it and more.