Friday, September 25, 2009

Christophe Honoré Can Suck My Balls: Rants on La Belle Personne

If Christophe Honoré is the voice of the new French cinema, then France may as well call it a day and just stop making movies altogether. I know I've already complained about him ad nauseum after Dans Paris, but his latest film, La Belle Personne, was just too awful to ignore. I can't believe I waited four months for the English subtitles to appear online.

If you're wondering why I bothered watching yet another Honoré movie, I can honestly say I'm not so sure myself. For some reason, I thought that since Love Songs wasn't horrible (original review) and showed some promise that was absent in Ma Mère and Dans Paris, maybe his next one would be even better. I really should have known better. Honoré has a keen knack for suckering me in with either an interesting premise or fantastic A-List cast and then make my life hell with a hellish movie. He got me this time with the 1-2 punch of Louis Garrel and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet. Unfortunately, there's no making out between the two of them in this one and that's only the beginning of the disappointments with La Belle Personne.

The film starts off with a bang, oddly enough, which only furthers the disappointment later on. The young students who dominate La Belle Personne are all introduced in this heavily understated opening taking place in their English classroom. They're supposed to be listening to some inane conversation in English on a cassette tape; instead, however, the camera follows their gazes between each other, sometimes reciprocated but often times not. I found it an interesting and thrifty way to set up relationships between the main characters--what could have been a lengthy introduction spread over multiple scenes or, heaven forbid, done with a voiceover, is instead captured in a minute or two without a word between any of them. Better still, Honoré's annoying Nouvelle Vague tendencies are completely extricated. Gone are the annoyingly random jump cuts that distract from more than they add to the scene. In my head, I was already doing cartwheels in celebration: Honoré had finally reined it in!

The rest of the film, unfortunately, doesn't live up to the standards of the opening. La Belle Personne revolves around Junie (Léa Seydoux), a blankly mysterious girl whom the main characters Otto (Leprince-Ringuet) and Nemours (Garrel) both fall hard for. She's the sort of character that stares blankly off in the distance whenever someone asks about her mysterious past and we're supposed to interpret that silence as an in-depth analysis of everything we could ever understand about her. In case you didn't catch my sarcasm, I can't stand and don't entirely understand films that use this as a plot device. I don't find it interesting in the slightest and actually find the whole thing desperately shallow. Some people may find deep reservations of feelings and a whole backstory hidden in that gaze; I just see emptiness. La Belle Personne falls into the same trap. The whole movie is so nicely photographed and nicely edited that it all becomes boring after awhile. I can only take so many scenes of people staring at each other or confronting someone about why they're not sharing their emotions with them. By the end of the movie, this tedium gets to the point where I was wishing for Honoré's crazy jump cuts. And you know that's never a good sign. D

Monday, September 21, 2009

RIP Sugababes Lineup #3

With the news of Keisha leaving the group right before the release of their latest album, the Sugababes have now surpassed Beyoncé and the Children of Destiny in amount of obnoxious lineup changes. Congratulations?

As a tribute, here are my favorite songs from the Keisha/Amelle/Heidi years:

"I was sick about awards, couldn't nobody cure me. Only playa that got robbed but kept all his jewelry"

The Wonderful, Horrible Decade Known as the 80's: Rants on The Informers and Edge of Seventeen

In case you haven't quite caught on, I'm a huge fan of the 80's. Love everything about them: the big hair, the bad clothes and the amazing synth pop. I was only around for the last two years of the decade, but I totally miss everything about it. I know it sounds odd to have nostalgia for something you were never really part of, but that's how it goes sometimes. Last weekend I had a wonderfully unplanned double feature of recent films looking back at the decade, whether in nostalgia or mournful remembrance: Gregor Jordan's multi-character drama The Informers and David Moreton's gay coming-of-age film Edge of Seventeen.

Bret Easton Ellis, an 80's icon famous for his novels about the disaffected children of southern Californian yuppies, wrote the collection of stories The Informers is based on and also worked on the screenplay for the film (the first time he's done that with any of his novels, which include Less Than Zero, American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction). Right from the get go, the script feels exactly like what you would expect an Ellis work to feel like with its collection of young, blonde, rich 20-somethings spending their time alternating between lying around the pool and engaging in meaningless sex. There are a couple of other subplots involving distant, cold parents going through an odd separation and reconciliation and a Mickey Rourke-led kidnapping that somehow involves a violent group of pedophile gangsters. But, aside from the screenplay, all touches of Ellis seem to have vanished from the finished product. Director Jordan seems clueless about how to bring what makes Ellis's writing so unique to life onscreen. To be fair, it takes a special director to make his spaced-out and drama-light plots and characters work in the film medium, but Jordan just isn't up to task. The cast feels completely random (Billy Bob Thorton married to Kim Basinger and banging Winona Ryder? What?) and no one seems to get into the Ellis-ian spirit. Jon Foster is pretty and certainly looks the part of the main douchebag, but I just couldn't muster any feeling for him--sympathy, hatred or otherwise. And the less said about my Jakey's BFF Austin Nichols and his abysmal performance, the better. Apparently, 40-something minutes had to be cut before its theatrical release and you can definitely feel it in the film's infinite boredom. Maybe a director's cut will reveal something not readily apparent, but for now we're stuck with this lackluster version. D+

The poster for David Moreton's Edge of Seventeen couldn't be more misleading if it tried. I was expecting a nice, charming 80's-set romantic comedy about two young men falling in love and what I got was something totally different. I'm not saying it was bad, just not what I was expecting. The film follows a young, inexperienced and doubting gay named Eric (the fantastic Chris Stafford) coming to terms with his sexuality in a small Midwest town in the 80's. He meets Rod, a gay man he works with who arouses something in him that he's never felt before. They eventually hook up in a hotel room, giving Eric his first male-on-male sexual experience. If this sounds like old hat, it probably is. But Moreton and the cast make it go down easy, even managing to make the clichés seem fresh. After this hookup, the film takes a drastic turn. Instead of focusing on a burgeoning relationship between the two, like the poster suggests, Edge of Seventeen turns slightly darker with Eric discovering the gay scene while trying to figure out his relationship with his best friend Maggie (Tina Holmes). It was at this stage where the film got extremely personal and I spent the whole time fretting about the bad decisions Eric was making regarding his choice in men. I don't want to say I've been there, because I haven't, but I almost empathized with the character and felt for him like he was a close friend. And that's where I feel Edge of Seventeen succeeds best. It may not be totally original or especially groundbreaking, but it really makes you feel for the characters. How many GLBT films--especially ones stuck in the "gay ghetto" of filmdom--can truly say that? B

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Only 365 Days to Go

Happy 17th Birthday, Nick!

Insert joke about waiting "a little bit longer" here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Dream Supporting Lineups for 2009

I gave up on Oscar predicting this year because a) there are a multitude of sites out there who do it better and more in depth than myself and b) I was quickly growing bored with it. It gets exhausting predicting the same 8 names all year, you guys! So, while I don't do that anymore, I thought about a couple of weeks or so ago that it would be fun just to make up random lineups that I would kill to see from this year's crop of Oscar contenders. The lead categories seem too cut and dry at this point with only a few legitimate contenders (we'll have to wait until Toronto ends for the true buzz to begin) so I wanted to dig through the supporting categories since they offer a wider array of actors in different films. I only had two rules when picking my linueps: one, the film actually has to have a legitimate chance (as of right now) at the Oscars (goodbye Sunshine Cleaning, Brothers Bloom and Funny People) and two, the performance doesn't necessarily matter--it's pretty much all about how I feel about the actor and the role. Whether it's because they're one of my favorite working actors, an underrated up-and-comer or just plain sexy, these are who I think would make the ideal supporting lineups this year at the Academy Awards

Best Supporting Actress

Mariah Carey, Precious
Wouldn't this be a great "fuck you" to all the assholes who burned her when Glitter came out? Plus, I hear she's legitimately good in this movie! It also doesn't hurt that I've loved Mariah for most of my life (seriously).
Penélope Cruz, Nine
The sexiest working actress today singing and dancing in sexy outfits. Yes please.
Dame Judi Dench, Nine
She is Dame Judi fucking Dench for Christ's sake. Do you even have to ask with me?
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
I have been talking about this young actress for ages now and it seems like she will finally get her due in the loudly buzzing Up in the Air. Maybe the stars will actually align for her and she will sneak in this category.
Mo'Nique, Precious
The star of Beauty Shop and Phat Girlz with an Oscar nomination (and possible win)? Only in America, my friend.

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Brühl, Inglourious Basterds
He's so pretty. All pretty people should get Oscar noms (especially when they're young and pretty).
Nicholas Hoult, A Single Man
He's also very pretty and, along with Kendrick, I feel like I've been talking about him for awhile. (And, on a side note, I love how everyone "discovered" A Single Man this past week after its Venice win when myself and A Blog Next Door have been talking about it since February and December of last year, respectively)
James McAvoy, The Last Station
Pretty. And he's been great in so many things without getting any due acclaim.
Joel McHale, The Informant!
The hilarious host of E!'s clip show The Soup with an Oscar nomination? Be still my beating heart.
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
He's just so goddamned good, that's why.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taylor Swift is an American Hero: The 2009 VMAs Be CAH-RAY-ZAY This Year

HO-LY SHIT YOU GUYS. Where do I even begin talking about this year's MTV Video Music Awards? When Beyoncé winning a well-deserved Video of the Year award for her epic 'Single Ladies' clip isn't the highlight of the night, you know some crazy shit went down.

Okay, let's get it out of the way, the moment everyone is sure to be talking about for weeks to come: that Kanye/Taylor Swift moment was so fucking bizarre I can't even begin to comprehend it. Let me set the scene for you. I, believing Beyoncé was going to win everything under the sun, was rooting for Taylor to win from the get-go. Her video wasn't as immediately eye-catching or iconic as B's, but it has an indescribable charm (probably stemming from the fact that I can relate to Good Taylor in the video) that I fell in love with immediately. So when she actually won the damn award, I was so happy and surprised I didn't know what to think. She gave her acceptance speech and everything was going well...until Kanye came on stage. By this point, one of my friends whom I was watching the show with had left the room for a moment. When she came back during the commercial break, she saw two people alternately laughing and horrified at what had just happened. In case you missed it, here's the low down: Kanye comes on stage, rips the mic out of poor Taylor's hands, half-heartedly apologizes for stealing her thunder and then says something about how "Beyoncé had the best video of this or any year" before meeting a LOUD chorus of boos from the audience. The camera cuts to B and she's like, "Bitch please, do not get me involved in this." Taylor just stands back, looking like she's ready to breakdown in tears at any minute while MTV scrambles to cut to the next clip for the show. Now, listen, I like Kanye's music and find his selfishness and sore loser mentality to be entertaining in the same way I enjoy all of my crazy divas like Mariah, Britney and Whitney, but that was an INCREDIBLY uncalled for and douchey thing to do. Of all the nominees, it's poor Taylor Swift that had the least chance to actually defend her self against Kanye's raging ego during that moment (you know Lady GaGa would have been like, "Up yours, fucker" if he did it to her). I kept waiting for her to say "Fuck you, Kanye" during her performance later on in the show, but she remained a perfect lady and class act throughout. You know, however, that she's going to hit all the shows and talk smack about him like she did on her Joe Jonas tour earlier this year. I am officially touting Taylor as an American Hero along with Martha Stewart and Jesus for her valor in a time of immediate (and strange) crisis.

If the whole Kanye/Taylor debacle hadn't gone down, then I'm sure the story of the night would have been Lady GaGa. For an artist who's built her persona based on unapologetic pop songs and outrageous, over-the-top costumes, she really got outrageous with her outfits tonight. When your most normal outfit of the night is this, you know you're dealing with someone who is trying to make a statement through fashion. Some of the best moments of the night were when the cameras cut to Beyoncé in the front and seeing GaGa just over her shoulder in her ridiculous outifts like it was a Tuesday morning at home.

When I glimpsed this last outfit over B's shoulder, I literally almost fell off the couch laughing at how ridiculous it is. YOU CAN'T SEE HER FACE! Some people think she's trying too hard, but I find it refreshing that we have someone who is so willing to go where few major pop stars are these days. And, speaking of "willing to go there," have you seen her performance of 'Paparazzi' last night? Holy fuckballs, I've watched it twice now and I don't even know where to begin with it. All I have in my head is the image of GaGa playing the piano with her left foot on the keyboard, the random person in the wheelchair and, of course, the insane finale complete with crazy intense eyes and blood. Yes, blood, like she's in a fucking Saw movie or something. I haven't been this worked up over a live performance since Britney's comeback performance in 2007. You simply must see this for yourself to truly get the full gist of it.

Beyoncé, of course, walked off with the Video of the Year award, but her biggest moment of the night (I mean, besides her crazy clevage during her fantastic rendition of 'Single Ladies') was when she graciously let Taylor Swift back on stage to finish her speech. You know, I make fun of Beyoncé for being a crazy, self-absorbed diva, but it is in moments like these where she really shows what kind of beautiful person she is.

Of course, though, B showed Taylor who the H.B.I.C. (head bitch in charge) is even while in the background. Taylor was thanking her brother's high school for letting them shoot there and B gave this look that was like, "You shot your video in a high school? Bitch please, that's so beneath me." Don't give me that look. You know it happened.

I also have to give props to Pink for performing 100 feet in the air on a trapeze and (I think) actually singing live. You know what? She sounded better upside down, flying through the air than 90 percent of all female singers these days just standing. Incredible. I'm so glad that MTV got the hint that to have interesting performances, you actually need performers either providing entertainment, changing up the song or being Lady GaGa. I'm so sick of seeing a rapper come out on stage with 50 member of his entourage and just stand around doing their dumb song. I was so proud of them...that is, until Jay-Z came out. First of all, when did this whole "Mayor of New York" thing happen? Did the people of New York elect him some time ago and no one said anything? Secondly, standing around rapping while Alicia Keys does something on the piano is not a performance. It's dull, especially after the ladies earlier in the show. And where the hell was Rihanna? She definitely could have added some spice to that lackluster clip.

After years of mediocre shows, I have a feeling that this year's VMAs will go down in history as one of the greats. It may not be for entirely good reasons, but the whole thing was actually entertaining, something which the past two years shows were sorely missing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

VMA Predictions

I will be watching the VMA's with some friends tonight (the same ones I watched the Movie Awards with, actually, and for the very same reason: a new New Moon clip/trailer) so I won't be around to bitch about it all with those people I usually bitch about all the award shows with. So, since I'll be gone, I thought I would share my predictions and who I will be rooting for tonight. The VMA's are notoriously hard to predict, so I don't expect to get many of these right but it's worth a shot!

Video of the Year
Should Win:
Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
Will Win: Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
I think I made it perfectly clear here.

Best Male Video
Should Win:
Kanye West 'Love Lockdown'
Will Win: Eminem 'We Made You'
Even when his video is the best of the bunch, Kanye always seems to get raped in the ass at the VMAs. Expect tonight to be no different.

Best Female Video
Should Win:
Taylor Swift 'You Belong to Me'
Will Win: Lady GaGa 'Poker Face'
Clearly, Beyoncé's video is the best of the year, but I think Taylor's 'You Belong to Me' is so much fun even with its limited scope and simple story that it deserves to win something. Don't worry, B, there will plenty more wins in store for you. Lady GaGa feels like she needs to win something big based on her huge breakthrough this year and I can definitely see it happening here--especially if B wins Video of the Year like expected.

Best New Artist
Should Win:
Lady GaGa 'Poker Face'
Will Win: 3OH!3 'Don't Trust Me'
Lady GaGa seems like the obvious choice here to win, so that means she won't. I expect 3OH!3 to nab prize solely based on the fact that they were a trending topic on Twitter the other day. Silly, I know, but weirder things have happened.

Best Rock Video
Should Win:
Kings of Leon 'Use Somebody'
Will Win: Paramore 'Decode'
None of these videos are especially interesting, so I'll go with 'Use Somebody' which starts off with an interesting premise but quickly turns ordinary after the first verse (it doesn't hurt that it's also the best song of the bunch). Paramore's song was off the Twilight Soundtrack so expect it to easily win if the fans are voting. If MTV votes, I expect it will either go to Coldplay or Green Day.

Best Hip-Hop Video
Should Win:
Jay-Z 'D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)'
Will Win: Flo Rida 'Right Round'
I heard/saw Jay-Z's 'D.O.A.' for the first time today and I was impressed at how interesting the song is musically and how mellow and cool the video was. He's up against Kanye, but expect Flo Rida to emerge as the winner here since Best Hip-Hop Video is often given to the "naughtiest" song of the year ('Lollipop', 'My Humps' and 'The Thong Song' have all won here).

Best Pop Video
Should Win:
Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
Will Win: Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
Easy pick.

Breakthrough Video
Should Win:
Will Win: Gnarls Barkley 'Who's Gonna Save My Soul?'
I don't have time to wade through 10 nominated videos (seriously, they couldn't narrow it down?) filled with crappy indie rock from artists I'll never hear from again, so I'll just go with Gnarls Barkely since they're the only group I've actually heard of and the video is odd enough for this category.

Best Choreography
Should Win:
Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
Will Win: Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
The most imitable choreography in ages. Expect an easy win here.

Best Direction
Should Win:
Lady GaGa 'Paparazzi'
Will Win: Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
'Paparazzi' could have been a gratuitous mess so thank goodness there was a steady director on board who made sure everything fell in to place. I wonder, however, if MTV will go for the simple, tidy direction of 'Single Ladies' over the visual excess of GaGa and Spears (And, as a side note, what in the hell is 'Good Girls Go Bad' doing in this category? When you can't even get a natural performance from Leighton FUCKING Meester in your video, you know you have problems).

Best Editing
Should Win:
Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
Will Win: Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
Miley's '7 Things' is obviously here because it had the most editing of any video this year, but that doesn't mean it's any good. 'Single Ladies' used a minimal amount of cuts and made them in the most natural way possible.

Best Cinematography
Should Win:
Beyoncé 'Single Ladies'
Will Win: Coldplay 'Viva la Vida'
Coldplay has to win one artistic award some where, right? It's like a VMA law or something. I still think 'Single Ladies' tops everything in this category because of its simplicity and using that for an intense dramatic effect.

Best Art Direction
Should Win:
Britney Spears 'Circus'
Will Win: Lady GaGa 'Paparazzi'
Both 'Circus' and 'Paparazzi' were gay visual porn but I like the somewhat muted colors of the Britney video over the flashy and loud palette of the GaGa's. But, honestly, they're neck and neck in my book and, I'm sure, MTV's (now watch Beyoncé win this category for her gray wall).

Best Special Effects
Should Win:
Gnarls Barkley 'Who's Gonna Save My Soul?'
Will Win: Gnarls Barkley 'Who's Gonna Save My Soul?'
The talking heart wins every time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Saddest Paragraph Ever

This madness would become part of Léaud's real life and a feature of his onscreen persona as it developed from the early 1990s. With Truffaut's death in October 1984, Léaud lost his mentor and protector. His dependence on this surrogate father had been reinforced by the director's insistence on paying him a monthly allowance rather than by the film; Truffaut academic Paul Michaud recalls that one month Truffaut withheld the money because of the state of the actor's personal hygiene and that the 35-year-old Léaud came to ask Truffaut to cut his hair and nails. Unsurprisingly, a period of psychological turmoil followed the film maker's death. Neighbours in Léaud's Parisian apartment block were said to have seen him stand ing naked in the courtyard waving a crucifix and bawling 'Back, Satan!' while in 1987 he assaulted an elderly woman he believed was spying on him with a flowerpot. He was given a three month suspended sentence; the psychiatric report stated that he was depressed following Truffaut's death.

I was doing some research and gathering some background info for a piece I am planning to write about Jean-Pierre Léaud and I found this article from Sight and Sound. Isn't that whole paragraph just distressing to hear? I like to think of my JPL as the sweet, happy-go-lucky in Stolen Kisses, not someone as sad and almost pathetic as Norma Desmond. I'm really curious to read a biography about him should one ever come out (and it's not looking likely since Léaud didn't even want his correspondence with Truffaut to appear in Truffaut's book of correspondence) but if it's filled with sad things like this, I don't know how I'll ever finish it.

I'm putting the citation here because I found the article through my school's database and I don't know if everyone can get to it through the interweb. I wanted to make sure that Mr. Darke got his due credit for writing such a great piece. If anyone is curious about it, email me and I'll pass it on.

Chris Darke. (2006, October). Jean-Pierre Léaud: LORD OF THE LEFT BANK. Sight and Sound, 16(10), 36,38-39,1. Retrieved September 11, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1149195741).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Disney Wouldn't Know a Good Thing if it Fell in Their Lap and Gave Them Head

If, judging by the title, you think I'm the least bit surprised about Disney making stupid decisions regarding their property talent, I'm truly not. These are the same people who think Miley Cyrus is funny enough to lead her own show while her funnier co-star Emily Osment is forced to play second banana.

But I'm not here to complain about Miley (hey, there's a first time for everything). Actually, I want to discuss the latest singles from the Brothers Jonas and Demi Lovato. I wasn't a fan of either of their previous albums, but their most recent ones released this past summer proved that they're expanding their musical horizions and trying out new things while still somehow fitting within the Disney mold (Of course, the Jonas's album wasn't as wholly successful as Demi's, but it still proves they're moving in the right direction). They both released awesome first singles which could be, as I think PopJustice once referred to them, considered "bridging singles" (a single that bridges the gap between the old and new sound of a musical act). Everything seemed to be going great for them until the announcement of their subsequent singles. The Brothers Jonas moved from the pop gem 'Paranoid' to the generic sounding 'Fly With Me' to coincide with the release of Night at the Museum 2 (which featured the song on its soundtrack) and then on to the even more generic and 'Keep It Real' which actually sounds more like a throwaway outtake song from their TV show than a legitimate single. Demi went from 'Here We Go Again' to the annoyingly saccharine 'Gift of a Friend,' which is still the only song on Here We Go Again that I skip EVERY damn time.

How could the Disney folks and record companies be so completely clueless? Not only do the Jonases have a legitimate single contender in 'World War III' (a bit generic rock sounding but so cleverly written that it makes up for that) but they also have the sublime 'Much Better,' which is quite literally the finest thing these bros have ever created. The song sounds surprisingly mature with its 80's inspired arrangement and Joe actually displays emotion with his vocals instead of merely whining everything. The song is so perfect and, yet, here it sits on their album, damned to obscurity, just waiting for some dumb schmuck to realize, "Hey, this could be a legitimate hit if we released this right!" As for Demi, any other song on the album has the potential to be a better single than 'Gift of a Friend.' I think 'Solo' seems like a strong, albeit safe, choice after 'Here We Go Again' (much in the same way Kelly Clarkson followed 'Since U Been Gone' with 'Behind These Hazel Eyes'). If we're looking for the true masterpieces, however, how about 'Every Time You Lie,' her sweet, jazzy little grown-up number or 'Remember December,' which has the potential to be a legitimate angry anthem? To some people, it may not seem like it matters since the albums have already sold so well, but that's complete rubbish. Miley already has four Top 10 hits under her belt and has proven that a Disney teen act can make the transfer to legitimate Top 40 radio. If Disney and the record executives stop mucking it all up and start releasing songs that have a legitimate chance of doing something on the charts, then maybe more people will start taking their music more seriously. And judging by the quality of their latest work, they're more than ready for that to happen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rants on The Star (1952)

I remember reading an interview with Dustin Hoffman in Entertainment Weekly some time ago where, in whiny, excruciating detail, he had the balls to complain that actors his age had a hard time finding good roles. Yes, let's all feel bad for poor 72-year old Dustin Hoffman who not only had an ace supporting role in a David O. Russell film a couple of years back but also works as steadily as actors half his age in big films with name directors. And let's not forget that, at the age of 45, he had the male lead in a little romantic comedy called Tootsie opposite a much younger Jessica Lange. I was so outraged by his audacity and stupidity that I commented about the article to my mother and added something to the effect of "Yeah, like women past the age of 35 have it so easy."

The reason I bring this is up is because the role of aging actresses in a Hollywood that values youth and beauty over talent is the subject of Stuart Heisler's The Star. The film is best remembered as the one that earned Bette Davis her 9th (or 10th, depending on your view of the legitimacy of the Of Human Bondage write-in vote) of 10 (or 11, for the same reason) Oscar nominations, but it actually has some interesting points to make about actresses past a certain age. There's a scene where has-been actress Margaret Elliott (Bette Davis) is testing for her comeback role, the dowdy older sister of the main character. A montage shows the makeup artists applying the old age makeup on Margaret, grimacing to herself in the mirror. Eventually, she wipes all of that off and begins to "young up" her look and the role in the misguided hope that the producers will see her test and think that she can still play the young ingenue. Of course, it's the wrong move and she ends up completely bombing the test, but this scene brings up something deeper about Hollywood's place for 40-something actresses. Once a female star has finished her ingenue years and gone through her "peak" years, what does Hollywood do with these talents? Why, stick them in the "older sister" role (think Angela Lansbury after earning back to back Oscar nominations in '44 and '45) or, worse, the mother to an actress maybe 10 years her junior (Teresa Wright in The Actress). Margaret's attempt to make her role sexier may have been the wrong choice for that film, but she reveals a glaring truth when she tells the director, "Women of 42 these days don't have to look ready for the old ladies' home."

Bette Davis, as usual, is nothing short of fantastic in a role that she normally could have done in her sleep. The bitchy eruptions are classic Bette, but there's one in particular when she cuts down two pompous old hens in a department that comes off almost as coy and sly the way she sneaks up behind them and starts quietly before exploding over them. Then there are two quieter scenes in the film that really got to me in unexpected ways. The first is when Davis walks by her former home which she had to sell due to financial hardships. She's drunk by this point and not making much sense, but she sees this house and quietly, yet slowly, mutters, "Going...going...gone" before breaking down in tears. I don't know how she did it, but they way she pathetically uttered those lines affected me, too. The second scene is when Davis is watching her screen test in the projection room. Up to this point, she had believed everything was going well, but once the film gets going, Davis comes to realize that her performance was complete and utter shit. The most noteworthy thing about this moment is that Davis does all this with just her face, slowly revealing to us what we've known all along. To think that after 20 years in the business Bette was still showing us new and unexpected things really boggles my mind.

With a sharp script and terrific lead performance, you would think The Star would be remembered more than it is. Well, it probably would be if someone had actually bothered to direct this thing. Stuart Heisler doesn't really have a point of view or anything interesting to say with the camera--in most scenes he just follows Davis around as she moves across the screen--so the film just kind of sits there waiting for Davis to do something. It seems like he's too afraid to actually direct Davis so he just shoots around her, forgetting that there are other decent actors in the film. Sterling Hayden was so one-note he might as well have used auto tune while Natalie Wood was shrilly and cloying in a role that was obviously suited for someone much younger than her. Maybe if Davis and the studio had gotten a director who could actually direct, this film might have become worthy of a double bill with Sunset Boulevard and not just a in-bred second cousin to that Wilder classic. C

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Best Actress Winners

Recently, I realized that I've never really shared something very important with you: who I would pick as my Diva Cup Award winners for Best Actress. I've shared with you my recent winners (and I've already changed from Streep to Dench in 2006) but nothing before 2004 or so. In case you're ever curious who I would pick in 1946 or any other random year, here it is for you in beautiful pictorial form starting with 1927/28.

By the way, a note on the 70's, 80's and 90's: I'm a child of TCM. My cinematic awakening coincided with my discovery of films from the 30's and 40's so I watched (and still watch) TCM obsessively. The only problem with that is they usually don't show many films from the 70's, 80's and into the 90's, so that's why I'm noticeably weak there with some of my choices. I hope to someday fill in huge gaps in these years, but my choices for now will have to do.

Row #1: Eleanor Boardman, Lillian Gish, Greta Garbo, Marie Dressler, Joan Crawford

Row #2: Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Katherine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Irene Dunne

Row #3: Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Greer Garson

Row #4: Teresa Wright, Judy Garland, Arletty, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford

Row #5: Olivia de Havilland, Olivia de Havilland, Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson, Vivien Leigh, Judy Holliday

Row #6: Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Susan Hayward, Giulietta Masina, Tatyana Samojlova

Row #7: Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis

Row #8: Leslie Caron, Joan Crawford, Catherine Deneuve, Elizabeth Taylor, Anne Bancroft

Row #9: Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda, Liza Minnelli

Row #10: Barbra Streisand, Ellen Burstyn, Ronee Blakley, Faye Dunaway, Diane Keaton

Row #11: Jill Clayburgh, Bette Midler, Sissy Spacek, Faye Dunaway, Meryl Streep

Row #12: Julie Walters, Lily Tomlin, Cher, Chloe Webb, Glenn Close

Row #13: Susan Sarandon, Jessica Tandy, Anjelica Huston, Mimi Rogers, Emma Thompson

Row #14: Angela Bassett, Sigourney Weaver, Toni Collette, Brenda Blethyn, Pam Grier

Row #15: Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane

Row #16: Diane Keaton, Imelda Staunton, Joan Allen, Dame Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard

Row #17: Anne Hathaway

See if you can guess the performance at home and if you're confused, just drop me a comment.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Five Favorite Performances in Inglourious Basterds

Given the high volume of incredible acting going on in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, I figured I would eventually compile this list. As always, however, someone more fabulous than myself beat me to the punch. Emma showed us her list a few days ago and I thought I might as well get mine done to share with the world.

(As for the film, in case you're wondering, I really enjoyed it. A bit uneven tonally and I could have done without the whole Basterds segment--not because I was offended, mind you, but rather it was the least interesting thing going on--but it was still a ton of fun to watch. Inglourious Basterds felt almost like an early New Wave film with its willingness to just stop and have a conversation about the most inane things and get caught up in it's own playfulness. I guess the same could be said about the rest of Tarantino's filmography, but I digress. B)

5. Diane Kruger As a divalicious German film star, Kruger's Bridget von Hammersmark was totally up my alley right from the start. Luckily she did not disappoint with her Dietrich-esque double agent.

4. Michael Fassbender At first I barely recognized Fassbender since he wasn't emaciated and making me cringe with every shallow breath he took like he did in Hunger. But once I got over that initial shock, I was impressed by just how funny he was riffing on the stereotypical British "stiff upper lip" humour. Talk about doing it all--I'm excited to see what he does next.

3. Daniel Brühl Even while playing an Ally-killing Nazi, Brühl is still his normal charming, adorable self.

2. Mélanie Laurent Tarantino is obviously very deliberate with certain camera angles and shots that he's trying to make Laurent into his Uma, but Shosanna's revenge story is just as fascinating in it's own muted way. Plus that maniacal laugh at the end is the stuff nightmares are made of.

1. Christoph Waltz Everything you've heard about him and his performance is positively true. He's scarier than Anton Chigurh but also just as charming as Cary Grant. As frightening a contradiction as I've ever witnessed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Sooo, Chad. I need a favor."

Sonny: Listen, I'm helping Tawni out and we need your courtside seats for the Lakers' game.

Chad: Oh, you mean these?

Sonny: Thanks, Chad!

Chad: Nah, not so fast! I have these seats because...

Sonny:'re the star of Mackenzie Falls, the number one tween show.

Chad: Oh! That's worth one.

Sonny: ...and you have the best tasting sandwich in the whole cafeteria.

Chad: *gasp* You have two, do you want to go for three?

Sonny: I can't.

Chad: Oooh, say it.

Sonny: I won't.

Chad: Say it.

Sonny: *mutters after long pause* You're the greatest actor of our generation.