Wednesday, August 31, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #97 Jeremy Irons

97. Jeremy Irons
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: British
Age: 62
Peak of Hotness: The 1980's
Best Known For: Oscar, Emmy & Tony Award winning acting legend. Star of such notable films as The French Lieutenant's Woman, Dead Ringers, Reversal of Fortune and, of course, The Lion King.

For this installment, I sought help from my friend Joel. We met a little over a year ago and have a shared passion for classic cinema, although you wouldn't know it from the way we seem to disagree about nearly everything. He's not really into Jeremy Irons in the same way I am, but he has a thing for respectable British thespians--his favorite actor is Richard Burton--so I forced him to help me out. Plus, he's incredibly smart and witty, which never hurts. I've tried to force him to get a blog or a Twitter but no go. One of these days he'll share his snark with the world! But until that day, here he is on my blog.

Dame James:  When did you first encounter Jeremy and when did you first realize how awesome he is?

Joel:  Umm, I knew the name since I can really remember but that's my creepy memory. I think the first movie that I saw with him in it prominently or at least that I noticed him in though was Damage and I was really impressed by that. So that would have to be my answer to both. This was about two and half years ago?

DJ: I'm pretty much the same way with Jeremy. He's always just sorta been there, hasn't he? I know I've known of him since at least The Lion King. But at six, I wasn't exactly interested in Jeremy Irons the person. He was just the awesome bad guy (I had a total thing for the bad guy in every Disney movie). Now, though, I'm totally like "Goddamn, Jeremy Irons is the man in that movie!"

It feels kinda weird labeling Jeremy Irons as "sexy" or "attractive" because, although he has a generally good looking appearance, he's hardly a looker. We all know the real reason I am, at least, attracted to him is because of that voice. My God, that voice! It's so rich and full and deep and British. I recently watched the miniseries version of Brideshead Revisited--ten hours of listening to him speak and I felt like I was in heaven. To modify a Nicki Minaj lyric "He just gotta talk and the panties comin' off, off." His good looks combined with that voice make Jeremy a very desirable fellow? What do you think of the voice? Does it add to his appeal for you? Also, I know you're a fan of the diction of British actors like O'Toole and Burton. How does it compare to their infamous voices?

J: I guess I didn't really connect that that was him in The Lion King but I was also never as interested as most kids were when that came out. It was never my favorite, too sappy. "Be Prepared" was a jam for me though then and it shows that he can kinda sing. He's very suave, I'd say. That'd be a good word to describe him. I don't find him attractive at all though I'd say he just stops short of being unattractive. His voice is good but I view it as more of an Alan Rickman kind of voice. They both are very distinctive and great but I can't understand how anyone would find him attractive. Maybe if he were whispering sweet nothings instead of the creepy things that he is always saying in his movies. And he admittedly chooses odd films. I feel like I need to see Dead Ringers and then I would know even more about him. He's kind of that British guy who's cultured, classy and dark with hidden secrets that women really seem to like. Kinda like Dirk Bogarde and Richard Burton before Liz got all over him. Like the kind of guys that Olivier played in the forties and thirties or dark Cary Grant. When they're trying to kill their wives.

DJ: "Be Prepared": The best homage to Nazism since the fall of the Third Reich? I am beyond obsessed with that song. I have quite a few Disney songs on my iPod and I listen to it far more than nearly any of the others. I like Jeremy's speak-sing voice and find it far more interesting than Rex Harrison's far more celebrated musical stylings.

I think you make a great point regarding the relationship between his attractiveness and the types of roles he takes. Personally, I don't think I would find him as desirable if it weren't for all of the Dead Ringers/Reversal of Fortunes/Damages in his filmography. As creepy as those roles are, they kind of define Jeremy as an actor and what he is best at. If he did a movie where he was whispering sweet nothings, I don't know if I would buy it. He's just fucking creepy and that's it. Not that that's a dealbreaker by any means.

And I know you listed all of those guys as creepers we're not supposed to find attractive, but how bad is it I found them all the sexiest (give or take Grant) in those types of roles?

So you find Jeremy suave but just short of attractive. I can live with that. And that's all I ask since I made you do this against your will. Any final thoughts on Jeremy?

J: Jeremy uses his looks to his advantage. He has a dark complexion as well, so it lends more easily to darker, more complex characters. It involves the audience in it more closely and intensely because he is often doing repulsive things. Like in Damage, even though we loved him originally. He was so powerful and attractive. Or in M. Butterfly, where we all think he's crazy, giving up his entire life and everything in his obsession. But Jeremy's always classy. He's like bad Hugh Grant, if Hugh Grant is going to sleep with sister-in-laws and conspire as opposed to fop around or just make weird witticisms.

DJ: Agreed on all counts. And I shall leave you with this article entitled Jeremy Irons: A Pat on the Bottom Shouldn't End in Court, aka the best article title in the history of journalism.

So what do you all think of Jeremy? Does The Voice make him any more attractive in your eyes? And what about his hot son, Max (pictured above)? Hubba hubba, am I right?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Legendary Miss Britney Spears Gets a VMA Tribute...LOL J/K MTV Doesn't Give a Shit About Her

The MTV Video Music Awards are usually a hit-or-miss affair. It's what gives them a cracked up charm which compels me to watch year after year, even when better judgment tells me otherwise. Last year's ceremony, and maybe this was the alcohol clouding my judgment, was actually quite good, so I was feeling optimistic. If you followed my Live Tweeting last night, it goes without saying that feeling went out the window 90 seconds in the broadcast. The whole ceremony was a shitfest, but nothing enraged me more than one particular moment of the broadcast: the so-called "Tribute" to Britney.

Britney looking absolutely flawless. The healthiest and happiest and prettiest she has looked in ages.

For a couple weeks now, MTV has been hinting in their promos for this year's Video Music Awards at some sort of tribute to Britney Spears. I am not shy about professing my love for Britney, so I was super excited that MTV would be honoring her. This is an artist who defined MTV in its final days as a music giant. She was a vital member of the TRL Generation, which made new music videos an event, a shared experience between fans everywhere. And the videos! A mere list of them would make any mere mortal quiver in excitement: "...Baby One More Time", "(You Drive Me) Crazy)", "Oops!...I Did It Again", "Toxic", "Stronger", "Everytime", "Womanizer", "Sometimes", "I Wanna Go", "I'm a Slave 4 U'. Say what you want about Britney as a musician, as a performer, or even as a person, she was, and still is, a major influence on 21st century pop culture.

So this Video Vanguard award/tribute should have been a slam dunk, right? I knew things were going awry the moment Lady Gaga stepped on stage to introduce the award. Earlier in the night, she opened the show and entertained bored the audience silly with a rambling, pretentious, unfunny monologue dressed as her drag king alter ego (who looks like a horrifying Danny Zuko). It was almost as painful to watch as Britney's infamous performance at the VMAs four years ago. I don't want to go in depth about how this performance practically killed any remaining love I had for this woman like a radiation therapy treatment for cancer, but, trust me, the performance was bad. Anyways, Gaga comes out for what is supposed to be Britney's big moment still dressed up like her alter ego. Leave it to an attention whore like Lady Gaga to stink up what should be a tender tribute to someone she/he/what-the-fuck-ever claims as a big influence on her career with some dumb schtick that only her hardcore fans were clearly enjoying. And leave it to MTV to suck Lady Gaga's dick once again by allowing her to do this in the first place so as not to alienate her and her "monsters." She can claim the contrary all she wants, but is there any popstar on the planet who shamelessly latches on to those she counts as her "influences" and then treats them with such little respect? Don't forget this is the same woman who mourned on Twitter that she felt guilty for not saving her "friend" Amy Winehouse after her tragic overdose. Really, Gaga? It's one thing to express sympathy and grief for such a tragedy but its a completely different thing to act like you really cared that much about someone you probably met only a couple times. But that is Gaga's nature; like a parasite, she latches on to other celebrities and sucks them for all their worth.

Gaga finally shuts up and we are then treated to a megamix of Britney's songs with choreography by a gaggle of young female dancers. It's cute and fun and Britney was clearly enjoying it, but we all know it's merely the warm-up to something legendary...right? Except it wasn't. That's right, as soon as it was over, Gaga called Britney on stage and she accepted her award (and there was that bit where Gaga wanted Brit to recreate her iconic kiss with Madonna at the 2003 VMAs and Brit was having none of that but that was completely awkward). As Britney spoke, however, Gaga, instead of stepping back and letting Britney have her moment, stood right next to her and made a host of dumb faces, effectively upstaging one of her so-called idols. Real classy, Gaga. But I guess it didn't really matter in the long run since Britney wasn't even making an acceptance speech. Instead, they had her reading from the teleprompter, introducing the next performer, Beyoncé. Yes, on what was supposed to be her night, Britney had to take a back seat to both Gaga and Beyoncé. What a fucking disgrace. This is a woman who has been in the business for 12 years, smashed countless sales records, came back from a public meltdown stronger than ever, regularly sells out world tours and has made some of the most treasured music videos of all time and this is how MTV treats her, making her play second fiddle to two other popstars. I was so pissed I couldn't even enjoy Beyoncé's performance.

Listen, I realize that the VMAs are under time restrictions and a proper tribute would probably take 20 minutes, at least. But that was just a slap in the face to someone MTV claims to hold in high esteem. Since Britney is probably the sweetest, most genuine popstar in the planet, of course she was thrilled by the moment. To hardcore fans like myself, however, the whole disgusting "tribute" to her was nothing but a sick joke. The Amy Winehouse tribute at the end of the show was nicely done and a respectful testament to the woman's talent. But you shouldn't have to die tragically to receive a proper tribute, especially when you're an artist like Britney who has contributed far more to MTV than Amy ever did.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

A precocious young boy, Oskar, loses his father in 9/11. Two years later, still trying to come to terms with the loss, he finds a key in his father's closet. Oskar doesn't know what they key actually unlocks, so, with the word "Black" written on the envelope the key was in as his only clue, he begins a journey to discover what the key is for. Given its grave subject matter, it's surprising just how quick of a read Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is. I was immediately hooked by Foer's prose, even if the novel's structure is a touch too precious and overworked at times (A second story emerges about the failed marriage between Oskar's grandparents; he writes in run-on sentences, her sentences are short, almost like lines of poetry. It's not complicated to understand but it does get to be a bit much in parts). He captures grief and loss extremely well, almost as well as Michael Chabon did with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

For all its strengths, though, never have I been in love with a book and simultaneously hated it as much as I did with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The character of Oskar is one of the most awful, unbearable protagonists I've encountered in ages. I understand that he's in pain and doesn't know how to process his father's death properly, but he's incredibly self-centered (just before his death, his father left recordings on the answering machine but Oskar refuses to share these recordings with his mother, primarily because she has found comfort with a new guy) and almost impossible to relate to. Oskar is a know-it-all and if you think they are bad in real life, try spending 300 pages with one. Obviously, I don't mean to suggest that we must "like" every protagonist in order for a book to be successful. But, in a story like this, we have to like Oskar, otherwise his journey means absolutely nothing to the reader. His revelations at the end would have been far more impactful if we could relate to Oskar. I was almost on the verge of tears as it was; if I had cared, it would have been waterworks. But it's a small complaint in the grand scheme of things, as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close remains a very good novel.

With a film this good and this timely, it's not surprising that we're getting a film adaptation later this year from director Stephen Daldry. A lot of people think this will be a slam dunk, but I remain pessimistic. I'm assuming the film will rest firmly on the shoulders of Thomas Horn, the young actor playing Oskar. Here's the problem: there is absolutely no way an actor his age can appropriately navigate the emotional journey Oskar goes through in the novel. Sure, he'll be coached and directed and it will most likely look halfway decent, but it will lack the power someone older could pull off. And I'm not saying this simply because I generally dislike child actors. I doubt that even my two favorites, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Phillip Alford (of To Kill a Mockingbird fame), could do it (although I'd be the first to admit that I would have loved to see Alford's attempt). I'm ready for you to prove me wrong, Thomas, but until then, I remain unconvinced. 

At least we'll get to see Sandy Bullock, presumably as Oskar's mother, in a meaty role. Will I need to dust off my Team Sandy martini glass to celebrate a second Oscar nomination? I certainly hope so!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #98 Brandon Flowers

98. Brandon Flowers
Occupation: Singer
Nationality: American
Age: 30
Best Known For: Lead singer of rock band The Killers

We're baaaaaack! After my first video in the previous installment of this series, "100 Hot Men and a Dame" returns to its roots. Back with Dave, we're here to discuss the charismatic lead singer of The Killers, the impeccably-named Brandon Flowers.

Dame James: When did you first encounter Brandon and, if it wasn't love at first sight, when did you fall in love with him?

Dave: Because he's a musician rather than an actor, I don't really have that moment where I first clapped eyes on them and reeled from the attractiveness. I was conscious of The Killers from their initial success, but I wouldn't say I really looked with attention at Brandon as a sexual object until his solo project, Flamingo. The video for "Crossfire" was basically an action movie trailer for Charlize Theron, but for me it was just as much a confirmation that Brandon Flowers is damn hot stuff. I mean, apart from anything else, he's basically tied up for the entire thing. And there's something very sexy about a submissive man when their face is that beautiful. He's even hanging upside down ready for a Spider-Man kiss!

Love came first in terms of falling in love with his voice - a friend of mine always says how she finds male lead singers of bands she loves sexy on some sort of higher level, and I understand exactly what she means - a man with a great voice, passionately in the moment of performing, wraps your experience of those brilliant songs up with your sense of their personality. I always refer to Hot Fuss when I talk about The Killers - nothing else compares - and I just love moments like the soft, tempting smoothness of the beginning of "All These Things That I've Done" or the wildness on "Somebody Told Me". And then there's that sort of drawl that you can totally imagine cockily calling you to the bedroom.

I'm trying to ignore the Mormon stuff. Can we discuss how hot he looks in a suit instead? (Since he won't take his shirt off, EVER.)

DJ: Really? I'm surprised it took you that long to realize his sexiness. I wasn't big into The Killers until college, even though my friend in high school was a big fan of Hot Fuss. Actually, I was aware of Brandon's hotness long before I really got into The Killers. I was flipping through an issue of Rolling Stone back in high school and came across a short profile of him. My first reaction was "Hot damn! Who is this hottie?" I think it was at that moment that I had to track down this CD because everyone knows that I only listen to male artists if I'm attracted to them.

I agree about his voice being a huge part of his sexiness. There's something about the thin veneer of melancholia underneath the aggressiveness of his vocals on "Mr. Brightside" that really appeals to me. I've never been much of a fan of rock bands, so I don't quite feel the same way your friend does but that's always been the stereotype, right? Everyone wants to fuck the lead singer, sometimes even if the band sucks but more so if they are fucking awesome. It's the reason every band between the Stones and Bon Jovi got so much action. In Brandon's case, I'd be more than willing to become a groupie and sleep with him, because that's what a good groupie does.

How can you ignore the Mormon stuff?! I'll admit that when I first found out, I was disappointed. But now that I've developed a Hot Mormon Fantasy, it only adds to my love for him. As long as he doesn't bring up God in the bedroom, I'm good. But Brandon sure does know how to fill a suit. He always looks so impeccably well made up, which is a rarity among rock artists. And, up until Hurts incorporated stylishness into their branding, I'd wager he was the smartest dresser in the music industry.

D: When it comes to music I'm very much a 'listen first, look later' person - I'm probably still not conscious of what half my listening library looks like. (Although would I have given Joe Jonas a chance if not for his face? Unlikely.)

Any kind of deep religious connotation puts me off. It doesn't infect the music or even his public persona though so it doesn't bother me unless I start thinking about it. Which I do reasonable often as HE NEEDS TO TAKE HIS SHIRT OFF. I would pay for a Killers gig in a heartbeat if he promised to show flesh. Suits are all well and sexy for photoshoots, but live, jumping around and getting sweaty - I need him to go all Adam Levine.

DJ: I'm currently rewatching the "Crossfire" video. I remember really digging it back in the day. And now I'm even more in awe at how well done the whole thing is. How incredibly rare is it to see a male rockstar let go of their ego and be not only the damsel-in-distress but saved by a female ass-kicker? It shows off Brandon's soft side, which I think only adds to his appeal more. Love the bad boys, but sometimes we need the sweet man as well.

Okay, so after Charlize, who would you rather see damsel in distress Brandon Flowers saved by? Ellen Ripley, Andy Garfield's Spider-Man, Christian Bale's Batman or McAvoy & Fassbender's Professor X & Magneto?

D: As far as the "Crossfire" video goes... I have to say, despite Charlize always rescuing him, I imagined them as a super crime-fighting power couple. Which is why I'd probably pick Ellen Ripley. This must be one of the rare instances where I'd choosing heterosexuality over gayness, but Charlize and Sigourney are sexy fierce bitches so it does something for me. And possibly that soft side stuff you mentioned. I don't really see Brandon as the weak one in a male-male relationship, but he could totally get owned by a female and remain awesome.

DJ: Ripley is a badass, but I'd go with Professor X and Magneto. Just for the gangbang possibilities, you know.

Is Brandon the only person on the planet who can pull off "guyliner"? (God I hate that expression).

D: Yes, probably, but, just for him, I'm thankful the concept exists.

So what are your thoughts on Brandon Flowers? Does he make a perfect damsel-in-distress? And, most importantly, can he pull off the "guyliner"?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #99 Michael C. Hall

99. Michael C. Hall
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: American
Age: 40
Best Known For: Emmy-nominated work as gay mortician Dave Fisher on Six Feet Under and serial killer Dexter Morgan on Dexter

For this entry in the 100 Hot Men and a Dame countdown, I enlisted my friend Sammi for help. Since we live five minutes from each other, I decided to do a video about Michael C. Hall. In case you've ever wondered what a typical conversation with me is like in real life, this video pretty much sums it up, as we discuss Hall but end up making pit stops all over the place. I hope you enjoy my first foray into vlogging! (And, yes, the sound is admittedly wonky, but a pair of headphones should make it all better. Trust me, it's worth it).

And what do you think about Michael C. Hall? Most importantly, would you rather be murdered by Dexter or embalmed by Dave?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #100 Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet

100. Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: French
Age: 23
Best Known For: His performance in Christophe Honoré's Les Chansons d'Amour [Love Songs] (outside of France, anyways).

Welcome to my first post in this exciting countdown! Joining me today is mon ami Dave, famous for his world-class blog and Tumblr and we will be discussing up-and-coming French actor Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet.

Dame James: When did you first encounter Grégoire and, if it wasn't love at first sight, when did you fall in love with him?

Dave: I think it's probably standard for any Grégoire admirer that the first encounter was through Les chansons d'amour. Let's be honest, would he even touch this list without it? I mean, I DID see his arse in La princesse de Montpensier, but he really got the duff part there - sure, Gaspard Ulliel is hot too, but that princess really didn't seem to see what she was missing in her bed chambers, and the film agreed with her. Which is a large part of why it was so rubbish, I'd wager.

But back to those chansons. It was pretty much inevitable that I was going to fall over head over heels for the plucky, encouraging, adorably fluffy-haired gay boy whose pursuit of Louis Garrel might be creepy and perverted in someone else's hands, but who WOULDN'T want Grégoire pulling you by the hand into the sack? The scenes between Garrel and Grégoire are pretty much my ideal of love, and that's probably not very good for me since no one as beautiful exists, but it's nice to lose myself in the fantasy.

Dame James: No, I'd wager that Grégoire wouldn't have snuck in this list without the help of Les Chanson d'Amour but what a way to make a splash! I'm pretty sure I mentioned in my review of the film that he was, indeed, kinda creepy and stalker-ish but I'll be damned if he didn't make that desirable. And Grégoire, for once, made Garrel seem like a normal guy and not the sexed-up horn dog he is in nearly ever film I've ever seen him in.

I think a good portion of Grégoire
's charm is, like you said, he (along with Garrel) represents an ideal love in Les Chansons d'Amour. He's not a walking sex god like Garrel, Ulliel or countless other French actors we've been accustomed to over the years. Grégoire has the "Léaud Factor"; he's adorable and charming precisely because of how "normal" he is and how much he appears to be a regular, everyday guy. His good looks are just the best bonus ever.

I am so glad that you brought up La Princesses de Montpensier because I was seriously going to bring it up for the "arse" factor. But since we've both seen it, I have to say I completely agree about your assessment of Grégoire
's role in it. Neither the princess nor the film seem to realize that Grégoire was not exactly a terrible catch. Red Riding Hood is another recent example of this and I was just as dumbfounded at its insistence that Amanda Seyfried would not be the slightest bit attracted to Max Irons. I am grateful that we got to see his rear in Princesse but it was a terrible casting choice (and it was not the ONLY problem with that movie).

Silly question time! Since Grégoire starred in Les Chansons d'Amour, which translates to Love Songs, what love song would you like him to sing to you with his lovely voice? Oh, and I suppose we should talk about his singing voice being another reason why he's amazing.

Dave: I'll start with the final question. I was musing over this earlier, sure I'd never come up with a nice answer - but then, for whatever reason, Marilyn Monroe singing "I wanna be loved by you, just you, nobody else but you" came into my head. And I think it would be perfect. It totally fits the kind of breathy non-singing they do in Les chansons d'amour and it's the kind of thing Erwann (his character - I admit, I only know that because I have the film playing as I write this) would sing. Grégoire, naturally, has a lovely voice - kind of rich and tremulous - but I think it's the earnestness and sweetness he sings with that really makes their duets in particular so perfect.

Absolutely with you on how his normality is what makes him so charming. Garrel mocks Grégoire's Breton jumper and looks like his usual stylishly offbeat tousled-haired sex god self, but Grégoire just has overgrown hair and an oversized puffa jacket. He's the normal guy seeing sadness in the usually untouchable Garrel, and reaching out to him. So his obsessiveness never seems lecherous, because it seems full of such genuine concern. Their romantic scenes are so beautiful because they mix a teenage horniness with what is clearly genuine affection and caring instincts on Erwann's part. He's enthralled by Garrel, but never stops being concerned for his potential sadness.

Oh, and he does have a very nice arse.

Dame James: Oooh, I'm liking your love song answer! It's both a good song and perfect for Grégoire's voice. I'd go with "Stickwitu" by The Pussycat Dolls. I will concede that it's not nearly as brilliant a choice as yours, but I really dig that song and I think I'd die from happiness listening to him try to wrap his French tongue around such an Americanized expression like "stickwitu".

I feel terrible that we keep going on and on about Les Chansons d'Amour--and I do agree with your assessment of his and Garrel's relationship and why it's so fascinating--but not a bunch of his work has been made available in the US (or UK in your case, Dave), as far as I know. I have seen La Belle Personne but that was a horrendous waste of Grégoire
's talent. Then again, aside from "Les Chansons d'Amour", Christophe Honoré really has reduced some quite amazing actors to being mind-blowingly godawful. Montpensier was also another waste of his talent, although, if you get the chance, fast forward about a half hour in and just watch Grégoire's arse. You won't be disappointed.

Then again, I think it's quite remarkable that we've both latched onto this actor just because of this one role. It's not every actor who can so firmly plant himself in the mind of many with just one performance, especially when they're acting with one of the five sexiest living French actors. For that alone, I will be a firm devotee of his. Any final thoughts, Dave? Also, have you seen any other work of his that you could recommend? I just added something called Black Heaven to my Netflix queue that sounded interesting.

Dave: I've not seen him in anything other than the two aforementioned, sadly. He seems to be in a lot of war films, they're the only other available features over here! Black Heaven sounds intriguing if almost sure to be terrible because it concerns video games.

But surely his moment is yet to come (well, his second moment). Personally I'd enjoy seeing him make his way around all five of the sexiest living French actors - maybe some sort of quadrilogy? As long as America doesn't get its hands on him, he needs to stay adorably, naively, beautifully French.

Because Americans tend to ruin everything that was once good, I totally agree he should stay in France. And what do you all think? Are you as smitten with Grégoire as Dave and I are or he is just another young French actor (quelle horror!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finishing Up the 2010 Diva Cup Awards

As you may have noticed, 2010 has been over for nearly eight months, yet I'm still rolling out my Diva Cup Awards honoring the best in film from that year. I'm not one for deadlines, especially when it comes to this, but it's time to finish this up. The problem is, I don't really have the time or the energy to do a long write-up defending my choices at the moment. So, what I'll do is give you my nominees for Best Actor & Actress and my Top 10 Films of the year with the promise that I will write about these more in the future. I realize only a few people will actually care about that but it would be more for myself than anyone. Without further ado, here are the final awards:

Best Actor
Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Édgar Ramirez, Carlos
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

And the Diva Cup Award Goes to: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Best Actress
Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Emma Stone, Easy A
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

And the Diva Cup Goes to: Emma Stone, Easy A

Top 10 Films of 2010
10. Catfish (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman)
09. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg)
08. The Last Exorcism (Daniel Stamm)
07. The Fighter (David O. Russell)
06. Winter's Bone (Debra Granik)
05. Everyone Else (Maren Ade)
04. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance)
03. Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos)
02. The Social Network (David Fincher)
01. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Crazy 80's Project: The Times of Harvey Milk

Back in the 1970's, we had people like Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the U.S., fighting the good fight for the rights of gay people in this country. Today, 35 years after his tragic assassination, we have Lady Gaga, a pop singer whose fans like to pretend that she's doing far more to advance gay rights than she actually is (or has the capability to do). A bit of a comedown, don't you think? The Times of Harvey Milk is a document of Milk's years as an influential San Francisco politician, culminating in his election to the city council in 1977. He was a politician who cared about his community, a claim many politicians have made but few have actually backed up. Where I think this film is most successful is in describing that not only was he was a fighter but he also had the brains to navigate the tricky world of politics. During his all too brief tenure on the city council, Milk took it upon himself to try and defeat Proposition 6, a proposed California law that would ban openly homosexual teachers from teaching in public schools. There is this great footage of Milk and a speech professor associate of his on some TV show debating the issue with the bill's right-wing writer. When the writer tries to argue that the law protects children from pedophiles, Milk intelligently tears his argument down, citing facts and statistics the other guy has no logical way of refuting. He's loud and aggressive but never resorts to name-calling or some other cheap tactic to win the argument. These are admirable traits that many other politicians could take a lesson from. My only complaint with the film is that it all but refuses to discuss Milk's personal life; if you thought Van Sant's Milk sanctified him to no end, Times damn well turns him into Jesus. But the reason for this, I feel, is far greater than any criticism I could hurl at it. Times isn't interested in talking about the "real" Milk. They're trying to make him a political, a savior to a disaffected and alienated segment of the population, the Martin Luther King, Jr. for the gay community. Then and now, the community needed Harvey Milk as a hero. And there's no way in hell I won't endorse that with every fiber of my being. The Film: A-, Harvey Milk himself: A+

Saturday, August 13, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: An Introduction

Who are the hottest men of all time? And, furthermore, what makes a man attractive? These are questions that have been pondered since, I'm sure, the dawn of time, when cavewomen (and that one caveman who never seemed to be any good at hunting or gathering) sat around their caves and started "Oh girl"-ing about all the hunky caveman in their village. As the world grew bigger, so did the amount of men to choose from, which only allowed for more debate about what is and isn't attractive in a man. Is it just his looks, or must he have something else going on--personality, humor, some kind of talent--in order for him to truly be attractive?

Lofty questions, I know, but it's been on my mind recently. A friend and I jokingly had a conversation recently about putting together a list of our favorite hot guys. She said that it would probably ruin our friendship because we would fight until the death for our picks and I wholeheartedly agreed. But then I sat down, thought about it and realized that nothing was preventing me from making my own list. And thus an idea was formed. Not a particularly clever idea, mind you, but one with a lot of potential: a countdown of the hottest men of all time. I love hot men and I love lists. What could be more perfect than that? Answer: nothing.

So I poured my blood, sweat and tears into coming up with a list of my 100 favorite men. I snubbed men I definitely wouldn't snub in real life. It was a heartbreaking task, but I finally came up with a final, ranked list. Who was eligible for this list? First of all, this list was only open to famous people. How creepy would it have been if I included people I know in real life? Number 75: the hot guy with the nice body in my accounting class. Although some of these guys were/are major influences on who I like in celebrities, it's not right including high school crushes on a list such as this (Sorry Bobby Watson). Secondly, I included men from all different time periods and vocations on this list. It didn't feel right to limit sexiness to the some arbitrary period of years or just actors. Since I'm a movie guy, you will see a lot of actors on here, but there are also singers, athletes, royalty, models, fashion designers and even a news reporter! It's definitely covers a wide spectrum, which is appropriate because I like a wide variety of guys. Yes, this list will skew younger and newer since I'm still in my early 20's but I feel like I also cover a lot more "older" men then most people would.

I should stress at this stage that this list will be a personal list, not a definitive, "one for the masses" list. Not only does that idea bore me to tears but there's no fucking way I could live with myself going on and on about Sean Connery or George Clooney's sexiness and be forced to leave off someone like Francisco Lachowski because he's not mainstream enough. I would love for this list to stir up some kind of debate, but I don't want to get endless comments about how I'm an idiot because I included such-and-such person but didn't include another person. As with anything, beauty is subjective, so there can be no definitive right or wrong answer; I can only come up with my own opinion.

To make this project even more special, I decided to enlist the help of some friends. In each post highlighting a certain guy, I will be talking with a friend who likes that certain guy about why we love them, when we first fell in love, etc. Not only does it provide me with more inspiration than to simply post a bunch of hot pictures--not that there's anything wrong with that!--but I'm hoping it will be both far more interesting to read and a lot more special of a project (With that said, if you want to help out, I still have lots of slots open. Just e-mail/Facebook/Twitter me and I'll see where I can fit you in).

There, that should cover the introduction. I really hope you'll stick around in the coming weeks and months for this project. I'm hoping it will be an entertaining read with a few surprises popping up every now and again. Let the hot men commence!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Britney's Videography: "Me Against the Music"

Britney Spears featuring Madonna "Me Against the Music" # # # # #

For the first single from her fourth album, Britney enlisted the help of the most influential female artist not only on her career but for every major female popstar of the past 20 years: Madonna. While its reputation as a mediocre effort from two artists who should have knocked it out of the park isn't wholly undeserved, the video has some smart, interesting ideas that aren't as dismissible. I love the video's overall sense of urgency and tension. It's never quite explained why Madonna is following/stalking Britney or why Britney feels so threatened by Madonna's presence, which is probably for the best, but I love how the frantic editing and the shaky hand-held camera during the maze sequences makes you interested in working toward finding out what's happening. Forgive me if I'm grasping at straws here but I feel like costuming Britney and Madonna in appealing, feminine versions of traditionally masculine suits, combined with the aforementioned stalking, makes an interesting commentary on female artists in the music industry, particularly those who work on their personas as carefully and deliberately as Madonna and Britney do. First of all, it's a commentary on how women, no matter what profession they are in, often must dress and act like men in order to be taken seriously. It's an issue Parks and Recreation also once tackled, humorously (Leslie tries to join the "Boys Club" in order to help herself in the future) but it's still prevalent all these years after feminism. Britney and even, in a way, Madonna at this stage in her career still have to prove they are worthy of being music icons among the male rockers, rappers and even popstars who dominate most people's conception of "musicianship." Secondly, the voyeurism feels like it's talking about how older females, again no matter what profession, feel they must watch out for every bright young thing that comes in and tries to steal their spotlight. Younger females, on the other hand, feel like they are being watched, waiting to get pounced on after making any little mistake. While I have no doubt that Madonna and Britney got along just fine, you can't help but feel like Madonna is always keeping tabs on all of these up and coming popstars and figuring out how she can out-maneuver them. Needless to say, it's worked for her so far as she has obliterated not only 99% of the 80's female popstars but also a good portion of those from the 90's as well. The reason this video doesn't get a full five stars is because, much like the song itself, it is missing that something extra that would have made it absolutely unforgettable. I wish the creepy undertones were played out a little better and that the weird Persona-like vibe the film seems to be giving was pushed further. All in all, though, "Me Against the Music" is a corker of a video, much better than I initially remembered it being back in 2003.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rants on Young Dr. Kildare

Young Dr. Kildare (Harold S. Bucquet, 1938) was not a film I ever planned on recommending in a million years. In fact, it was on a whim that I watched the damn thing: seeing that TCM was airing a mini-marathon of films starring Lew Ayres, a relatively obscure actor nowadays whom I loved as Katharine Hepburn's alcoholic brother in another 1938 film, Holiday, I decided to record a couple offerings. Young Dr. Kildare was one of these films (the other was Johnny Belinda, an Oscar-winning vehicle for Jane Wyman in 1948 that I wanted to re-screen) and, color me surprised, it is one of the most adult, non-clichéd doctor dramas of the 1930's. Coming from MGM, the Dream Factory of make believe and sickly sweet fantasy during this era, I expected a dopey comedy in the vein of the Andy Hardy films about a naive young doctor who makes a mess of his first job only to pull through in the end and save the day. Young Dr. Kildare does follow this plot somewhat, although it has a fondness for playing with the expected trajectory while ignoring the conventions of this type of film in this time period.

The film begins with the young Dr. Kildare (Ayres) returning to his hometown after graduating medical school. His father, also Dr. Kildare, mother and sweetheart are all waiting for him, ready to give him a surprise: they have turned their living room into another examination room so he can build his own practice along side his father's. He is thankful, but it's clear that this pre-ordained position, along with the societal mores and "comforts" that come along with it (marriage, house, children) is not what he wants, at least not at this point in his life. Quite a statement from the most conservative studio in 1930's Hollywood! Kildare admits that he's been offered an intern position at a prestigious New York hospital and he has already accepted in the hopes that the job will give him the guidance to decide what he's meant to do in the medical field. The reason this opening works so well is because of Bucquet's low-key direction. Moments that could have been played for cheap melodrama or cringe-inducing cliché--such as the father's disappointment when his son admits he doesn't want to work with him--are instead sobering moments of quiet drama; instead of experienced thespians slumming it as a middle class family, they come across as the genuine artifact.

Once at the hospital, Kildare is immediately immersed in the politics of the profession. One minute he's being touted as a hero for saving the suicidal daughter of a tycoon after she had been given up for dead and the next he's taking the blame for a paramedic's mistake that accidentally kills a high-ranking politician. His biggest challenge, however, is Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore), a sarcastic veteran who belittles and fights anyone who challenges his authority and whose eccentricities are tolerated by administration because of his genius. Sound familiar? Yes, Young Dr. Kildare is perhaps the closest 1930's Hollywood every got to House. Instead of hermaphrodite models and exploding testicles, however, we get Gillespie continually testing Kildare's talent by crushing any naivety he may have and fucking with his mind (although not nearly in as dark of ways as Dr. House normally employs). What's remarkable about the character, and Barrymore's performance, is the fact that Gillespie is a hard-ass right up until the final moments. Sure, he eventually admits that he was hard on him to develop his abilities, but he sputters out what could have been a sappy moment in such a way that it feels like Gillespie can hardly be bothered to explain and that Kildare should have figured it out ages ago.

In the main crux of the film, Kildare learns, in confidence, the reason why the aforementioned suicidal girl tried to end her life. After the in-house psychologist diagnoses her with schizophrenia, Kildare announces that he disagrees but refuses to admit what was told in confidence. Gillespie, in no uncertain terms, tells Kildare that he's an idiot, but he still doesn't compromise his principles. After an (admittedly insane and tidy) investigation of his own reveals the secret to curing the girl, Gillespie, however reluctant, manipulates his hospital connections to allow Kildare to see the girl. He cures her, obviously, but the fascinating thing about his solving the puzzle is the aftermath. Without revealing too much, Kildare is not allowed to reveal to anyone that he actually cured the girl. Just when you'd expect everyone to stop short of throwing Kildare a parade for his cure, there is, in fact, no gloating, no rubbing it in his superior's faces that he was correct and they were wrong and no hearty congratulations from said superiors. It's a curious, surprising ending to a crowd-pleaser from 1938. Then again, nearly everything about Young Dr. Kildare is a surprising treat. B+