Thursday, June 29, 2006

Beyond Actress-dome: Still More First Round

64 women enter. One woman leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).

Round 1 (continued)

Cherry Jones vs. Mary McDonnell
Quantity: It's a sad state of affairs that these two fine actresses haven't been given enough of an opportunity to rack up credits on the big screen. Cherry Jones is a familiar face -- if not name -- and has amassed more credits than McDonnell, almost entirely through bit parts in Soderbergh and Shyamalan movies.
Quality: I will stand by my belief that Cherry Jones in Signs is one of the finest bit parts in recent history. But stacked up against McDonnell's Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica) and Rose Darko (Donnie Darko), it's not much of a contest.
Fake Oscar Nods: McDonnell: 1 (Donnie Darko); Jones: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: This is a good battle. Both calm women with a mass of solid steel at their core. Cherry takes more of a no-nonsense approach, while Mary relies a bit on her Stoli muscles. It all seems pretty equal until you consider one thing: the airlock. McDonnell blows Jones into oblivion.
Winner: Mary McDonnell 3-1

Susan Sarandon vs. Tilda Swinton
Quantity: After spending the first half of the 1990s as arguably the best actress on record, Sarandon settled into a comfortable career of supporting roles. Of course, it's Susan Sarandon, so movies like Igby Goes Down and Alfie were all the better for having her. Swinton, meanwhile, tends to come out of nowhere with her scene-stealing, and even in the smallest parts (The Beach; Constantine) she delivers, reliably. Stacking the performances up against each other, it's a push.
Quality: Sarandon's Moonlight Mile performance is exactly what that movie needed to elevate it above weepie status, but it's bested by Swinton in a rare leading role in The Deep End.
Fake Oscar Nods: Swinton: 1 (The Deep End); Sarandon: 1 (Moonlight Mile). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Sarandon's no pushover, but Swinton's downright scary.
Winner: Tilda Swinton 2-0

Lindsay Lohan vs. Samantha Morton
Quantity: It probably speaks more poorly of me than anything. I haven't seen enough Samantha Morton movies, probably. I like her well enough, I suppose, but...anyway, this is all my way of saying that, yes, I tallied up more Lindsay Lohan performances (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, A Prairie Home Companion) I've enjoyed than I did for Samantha Morton. Fire when ready.
Quality: Every time I start to think Morton's Jesus' Son performance was one-note or annoying, I see the movie again. She really keeps it under control. Fantastic work.
Fake Oscar Nods: Morton: 1 (Jesus' Son); Lohan: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Even taking the leap of faith that we'd find Lindsay in a sober moment (depressingly unlikely), she's still far too frail to put up a good fight. And while Morton may not be Irish, she did play Irish convincingly enough in In America. Good enough for me. Sorry, Lindsay. That's what you get for learning at the feet of Paris Hilton instead of Shannen Doherty.
Winner: Samantha Morton 3-1

Julia Roberts vs. Lily Tomlin
Quantity: Hey, I like Lily better, too. It's not my fault she doesn't work a whole lot these days. Loved the hell out of her in Prairie Home Companion and Flirting with Disaster and even in her West Wing role. But Julia's been in more movies, and has been good in enough of them (Closer; My Best Friend's Wedding) to win the numbers game.
Quality: Tomlin's hysterical in I Heart Huckabees, but Roberts's work in Erin Brockovich was almost worthy of the hype that followed it. It's a star turn that holds up quite well.
Fake Oscar Nods: Roberts: 1 (Erin Brockovich); Tomlin: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They both played themselves in The Player, but that doesn't exactly count.
Girlfight Factor: I get the impression that Julia's all talk. Maybe it's the sheer size of her mouth that does it. But I think while she's yap-yap-yapping, Lily stomps on a toe and takes her to school.
Winner: Julia Roberts 3-1

Rosario Dawson vs. Edie Falco
Quantity: Edie's time spent on HBO -- fruitful as it's been -- has kept her from doing film work like her excellent turns in Sunshine State and Freedomland. On the flip side, Rosario has only recently been getting the kind of roles (25th Hour; Rent) she can impress with. In the end, the fact that Dawson can take even tiny parts like her Shattered Glass role and bring something to the table gives her the edge.
Quality: Nothing Dawson has done so far compares with the work Falco has put into Carmella Soprano. One of the great TV performances.
Fake Oscar Nods: Dawson: 0; Falco: 0. Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Oh, dudes. I think there's every chance Rosario's looking forward to this. Carmela's going down!
Winner: Rosario Dawson 2-1

Famke Janssen vs. Parker Posey
Quantity: Famke Janssen is one of my favorite kinds of actresses -- the seemingly superfluous supporting player who brings far more to the table than you even thought necessary. See Rounders, The Faculty, and Don't Say a Word for movies that weren't quite worthy of her. Parker Posey's been in better films -- thanks to Christopher Guest -- but her scene-stealing tendency is the same. Push.
Quality: Have I mentioned lately how awesome I thought Famke was on Nip/Tuck? Because, MAN was she great! However, in The House of Yes, Parker Posey had an entire movie on her shoulders. She delivered and then some.
Fake Oscar Nods: Posey: 1 (The House of Yes); Janssen: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Much as I'd like to believe Parker's badass enough to hold her own, I need to admit some things to myself. (1) Famke's a superhero. (2) Famke's a Bond villain. And (3) Famke's a man, baby! On screen, of course. Advantage: Janssen.
Winner: Parker Posey 2-1

Keira Knightley vs. Alison Lohman
Quantity: Yet another neck-and-neck battle. Both are young and have been consistently impressive. For every Matchstick Men (Lohman), there's a Bend It Like Beckham (Knightley). It's another push.
Quality: Keira got an Oscar nomination for Pride & Prejudice, but I think Lohman was better (and in far more daunting company, acting-wise) in White Oleander.
Fake Oscar Nods: Knightley: 1 (Pride & Prejudice); Lohman: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Keira played a warrior in King Arthur, but we didn't actually buy it, right? Meanwhile, Lohman threatened to cut a bitch in White Oleander, and I, for one, totally thought she'd do it. Edge: Lohman.
Winner: Alison Lohman 2-1

Zooey Deschanel vs. Gwyneth Paltrow
Quantity: Being a big star and all, Gwyneth stars in a lot of movies. Definitely more than Deschanel. But the thing with Gwyneth is that I kind of don't like her most of the time. Though the exceptions (Proof; The Royal Tenenbaums) are pretty exceptional, I actually prefer Deschanel's body of work -- vibrant supporting work in movies like Almost Famous and The Good Girl.
Quality: That being said, Gwyneth is so unexpectedly fantastic in Tenenbaums that even Zooey's strongest work (probably her lead work in All the Real Girls) can't compare.
Fake Oscar Nods: Paltrow: 1 (The Royal Tenenbaums); Deschanel: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: I find it hard to believe Gwyneth would stop posturing long enough to really get into it with Zooey. And I think Zooey would be smart enough to start fighting dirty first. It's the supporting actress in her.
Winner: 2-2. HOLY CRAP, IT'S A TIE! The tie-breaker scenario, I've just decided, is reader votes, so please vote in the comments as to your preference: Gwyneth Paltrow or Zooey Deschanel. Vote wisely (and once).

Beyond Actress-dome, Round 1 (cont'd)

64 women enter. One woman leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).

Round 1 (continued)

Cate Blanchett vs. Angelina Jolie
Quantity: While I tend to enjoy Angelina even when the films themselves are sub-par (Alexander; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), Blanchett is definitely among the more prolific actresses on this list, with a solid ten performances I'm willing to tip my hat toward.
Quality: Maybe Jolie's Oscar-winning work in Girl, Interrupted trumps Cate's Oscar-winning work in The Aviator, but both tend to bow before the performance that should have won the gold: Blanchett in Elizabeth.
Fake Oscar Nods: Blanchett: 2 (Elizabeth; The Aviator); Jolie: 1 (Girl, Interrupted)
Spotlights Stolen: 1999's Pushing Tin saw them swapping husbands John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. This was during Jolie's hard charge to the head of the pop culture pack, and she was regularly blowing everyone off the screen. This film was no exception.
Girlfight Factor: Not even a fair fight, what with Angelina's weapons training. Plus, now that being a birth mother has imbued her with all those mama-lion instincts? Cate's toast.
Winner: Cate Blanchett 3-2

Shoreh Aghdashloo vs. Joan Allen
Quantity: Shoreh's at a disadvantage, as I've only really seen her in House of Sand and Fog and 24, superb as she is in both. Joan's list looks shorter than I expected, but each performance -- from The Crucible to The Bourne Supremacy -- is a gem.
Quality: Shoreh's fine work in Sand and Fog gets trumped here by Allen's comic whirlwind in The Upside of Anger.
Fake Oscar Nods: Allen: 4 (The Upside of Anger; The Contender; Pleasantville; The Crucible); Aghdashloo: 1 (House of Sand and Fog)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: They've both played cold-blooded political operatives, but Shoreh's Dina Araz in 24 was a bit more adept at the deadly arts, giving her the edge.
Winner: Joan Allen 3-1

Toni Collette vs. Anjelica Huston
Quantity: Collette doesn't get enough quality roles to work with, as I've griped before. But she's amassed a smidge more memorable performances in the past decade than Ms. Huston, who was more prolific in the late '80s/early '90s and is on this list primarily for her wonderful collaborations with Wes Anderson.
Quality: Huston was perhaps the only actor who managed to keep up with Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic, which is worth mentioning. But it doesn't stack up quite well enough against Collette's work in Velvet Goldmine or The Sixth Sense (I can't decide which performance is her best, but they'll both work in this case).
Fake Oscar Nods: Collette: 3 (In Her Shoes; The Sixth Sense; Velvet Goldmine); Huston: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Experience has shown that Collette may just be too timid to deal with Huston, especially if the latter is able to re-capture some of that 1990 scariness, the kind on display in The Witches and The Grifters.
Winner: Toni Collette 3-1

Sarah Polley vs. Kate Winslet
Quantity: This is one of those interesting situations where an actress like Polley is able to take less-heralded performances in smaller films (The Sweet Hereafter; Dawn of the Dead) and amass enough to match the qualitatively more impressive Winslet. Hey, maybe Kate ought to stop taking time off to have babies with Sam Mendes. Or at least stop wasting time with crap like The Life of David Gale. Push.
Quality: I will always believe that Polley's work in Go is criminally underrated, but does it hold a candle to Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? No. It does not.
Fake Oscar Nods: Winslet: 3 (Eternal Sunshine...; Holy Smoke; Titanic); Polley: 1 (The Sweet Hereafter)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Polley's quite the lackadaisical sort. I can't see her getting all that pumped for a rumble. Kate's not exactly Bonnie Bareknuckle either, but I bet she throws a sucker punch while Sarah's talking Canadian politics or something. Advantage: Winslet.
Winner: Kate Winslet 3-0

Michelle Williams vs. Catherine Zeta-Jones
Quantity: I'm kind of shocked by the result here. CZJ has been a major film star for going on seven years now, whereas Williams has only recently emerged from the WB cocoon to show her chops in quality roles. But among Catherine's many performances, I only truly enjoy a few. And I've made the potentially inflammatory decision to count Williams's work on Dawson's Creek as a point in her favor. Hey, she was the only thing worth watching on that show until Busy Philipps came along. Anyway, this ends in a push.
Quality: CZJ's work in Chicago gives the bump to Williams's Brokeback Mountain performance.
Fake Oscar Nods: Zeta-Jones: 2 (Chicago; Traffic); Williams: 1 (Brokeback Mountain)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Even at her angriest, Michelle's strength lies in her weeping. Whereas CZJ's something of an amoral murderess when she wants to be. Big edge to the Welsh lady.
Winner: Catherine Zeta-Jones 3-0

Sissy Spacek vs. Renee Zellweger
Quantity: It's easy to forget, now that we're all sick of her, how hard Renee worked to bust out the string of strong performances she delivered in the early part of this decade. She breezes past Spacek, who has delivered strong work but much more sparingly as of late.
Quality: My favorite Zellweger performance to date was her under-recognized work in Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty. It's bested, though, by Spacek's powerful work in In the Bedroom.
Fake Oscar Nods: Zellweger: 3 (Chicago; Nurse Betty; Jerry Maguire); Spacek: 1 (In the Bedroom)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Seeing as she's got no strength at all in her entire body, due to the malnourishment, Renee looks to be easy pickings for the grizzled Spacek, channeling some Carrie for old times sake. But when Sissy slips on some pig's blood, she falls onto Renee's razor-sharp protruding clavicle, impaling herself and giving the shocking upset win to Zellweger.
Winner: Renee Zellweger 3-1

Kathy Bates vs. Scarlett Johansson
Quantity: It should be noted that ScarJo's been able to amass an equal amount of notable credits to her name as Bates, but in half the time. However, numbers are numbers, and Bates's work in, among others, The Late Shift, About Schmidt, and,yes, even The Waterboy (lady knows when to go big, I tell you) matches up evenly with Scarlett's work in, among others, Match Point, Ghost World, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. Push.
Quality: Good as Scarlett was in Lost in Translation, I hold a special place for Kathy Bates's work in Primary Colors, one of the finest acts of film rescue I've seen on the big screen.
Fake Oscar Nods: Bates: 2 (Primary Colors; About Schmidt); Johansson: 1 (Lost in Translation)
Spotlights Stolen: Okay, they were both in North. Which means nobody wins.
Girlfight Factor: I hate to play the weight card here, but let's be serious. That's a whole lot more that ScarJo even wants to think about handling. Edge: Bates.
Winner: Kathy Bates 3-0

Laura Dern vs. Emma Thompson
Quantity: Two of my favorite actresses who don't work nearly enough. Emma makes it primarily on the back of unforgettable supporting work in Primary Colors, Love Actually, and Angels in America, while Dern rides her remarkably strong turns in Citizen Ruth, Happy Endings, and We Don't Live Here Anymore. Result: push
Quality: Very tough choice. Thompson's Love, Actually work gets better every time I see it. But Dern's Citizen Ruth was career re-defining work, and carried an entire film besides.
Fake Oscar Nods: Dern: 2 (We Don't Live Here Anymore; Citizen Ruth); Thompson: 1 (Love, Actually)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Dern was able to cut her teeth on David Lynch earlier in her career, which gives her the edge in the "crazy" department. But something tells me Emma's cagier than she lets on. I wouldn't want to mess with her.
Winner: Laura Dern 2-1 (This was an awful first round draw for Emma, one of my true favorites.)

Coming up next: Lohan! Sarandon! The many vowels of Zooey Deschanel!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mad Actresses: Beyond Thunderdome

So, you all know that my boy Nathaniel is my first stop for all things movie obsessed. And you may also know that when it comes to making lists, I have what could be considered a psychological condition. It's pathological, really, this affinity I have for making lists. So when Nat decided he'd list his 100 favorite actresses, and then actors, of this brand new millennium, you knew I'd have to eventually get in on that action. Of course, I'm not an outright thief. And ranking my favorite actresses of the '00s from 1 to 100 would be...well, unseemly. Whereas picking my 64 favorite actresses from the past ten years and having them duke it out, tournament-style, until one emerges victorious? I see that as more of a loving homage.

Before I get to the first batch of opening round match-ups, a few words on the criteria. I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).

We'll do this in groups until we get down to quarterfinals. Jesus, I'm a huge movie dork. Anyway.

Round 1

Catherine Keener vs. Brooke Smith
Quantity: Closer than you'd imagine. Keener tends to be choosy, while Smith doesn't get as many chances to shine as I'd like. Keener wins out.
Quality: Keener's best performance (Being John Malkovich in '99) will trump a whole lot of her competition. Even Smith's fine, fine work in 2001's Series 7: The Contenders.
Fake Oscar Nods: Keener: 1 (Malkovich); Smith: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Dude, this fight would be awesome. Especially if Brooke brought her Series 7 persona. Catherine looks like she wouldn't be afraid to cut you, but Brooke wants it more. Needs it more. And after spending all that time at the bottom of Buffalo Bill's well, she's got some rage in her. Give it to Brooke Smith.
Winner: Catherine Keener 3-1

Sandra Oh vs. Natalie Portman
Quantity: While her Grey's Anatomy and Sideways performances were killer, Sandra hasn't had the chances to show her stuff on screen that Natalie has. Not close.
Quality: Portman's blistering performance in Closer beats out even Christina Yang.
Fake Oscar Nods: Portman: 2 (Closer; Beautiful Girls); Oh: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: No contest, Sandra Oh mops the floor with our lispy waif.
Winner: Natalie Portman 3-1

Shirley MacLaine vs. Naomi Watts
Quantity: Shirley's most prolific period is well behind her, even though I did appreciate a pair of fine performances in 2005: her unexpectedly warn turn in In Her Shoes and her welcome scene stealing in the otherwise crappy Rumor Has It. On the other hand, in five short years, Naomi Watts has amassed quite the collection of memorable screen turns, from the art house (I Heart Huckabees; We Don't Live Here Anymore) to less kudos-baiting fare like The Ring.
Quality: Shirley did very good work last year with In Her Shoes. But it's nothing like what Watts did with Mulholland Dr., maybe my favorite single performance of the decade.
Fake Oscar Nods: Watts: 2 (Mulholland Dr.; 21 Grams); MacLaine: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Shirley presents a boozy-old-broad front, sure, but I suspect she's a Lucille Bluth-like high-functioning alcoholic. Naomi is spry, and I suspect there's some ferocity buried in there, but I think she loses this fight.
Winner: Naomi Watts 3-1

Patricia Clarkson vs. Kate Hudson
Quantity: Maybe the biggest mismatch of the first round. Since 1998, Clarkson has amassed almost a dozen performances I thought were truly impressive, whereas Hudson makes this list on the merits of one performance alone, in Almost Famous. Clarkson in a walk.
Quality: Here's where Kate makes up some ground. I keep waiting for her to do something as good as Penny Lane again, but she remains steadfast in denying me. No single Clarkson performance is as high in my esteem.
Fake Oscar Nods: Clarkson: 2 (The Station Agent; High Art); Hudson: 1 (Almost Famous)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Kate's energetic but ultimately harmless, whereas you always get the sense that just beneath the surface, Clarkson's a wild cat ready to pounce. Don't you? You can't trust her.
Winner: Patricia Clarkson 3-1

Annette Bening vs. Nicole Kidman
Quantity: Honestly, I expected Kidman to win by a bigger margin here. Bening's only working with The Seige, American Beauty, and Being Julia. But Nicole's career didn't get goosed until 2001, at which point she began to amass one dazzling performance after another; half a dozen keepers, by my estimation.
Quality: Bening's American Beauty performance should have won an Oscar. Kidman in The Hours did. It's a close call, but I am a big, big fan of Nicole in The Hours. She takes it.
Fake Oscar Nods: Kidman: 3 (The Hours; Dogville; The Others); Bening: 2 (American Beauty; Being Julia)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Oh dudes, it's a massacre. Nicole doesn't stand a chance. Frankly, I'm worried about her. With all that Botox as of late, how are we even to know if she's grimacing in pain? Bening tears her limb from limb.
Winner: Nicole Kidman 3-1

Amy Adams vs. Meryl Streep
Quantity: It's not really fair to expect Amy Adams to compete here. She's the new kid on the block, with really only that fantastic Junebug performance from last year. We can't exactly expect her to put up with Streep, who manages to score points even when the movie itself is bad (Music of the Heart) or the role is super small (A Series of Unfortunate Events).
Quality: I'll reiterate that Adams in Junebug is truly fantastic, and would win out over many an actress on this list. Just not Meryl "Adaptation or maybe The Hours" Streep.
Fake Oscar Nods: Streep: 3 (The Hours; Adaptation; One True Thing); Adams: 1 (Junebug)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: I don't know enough about Amy to tell if she's a scrapper, but Meryl's a tough lady when she needs to be, I suspect. Not as genteel a rumble as you might expect.
Winner: Meryl Streep 4-0

Frances McDormand vs. Amanda Seyfried
Quantity: Allowing TV performances, like Seyfried's in Veronica Mars and Big Love, lets her to stay competitive here, but McDormand is just too good. Seven performances of note, including seldom-lauded turns in Laurel Canyon (propping up a bad movie earns extra brownie points) and Something's Gotta Give (a resonant cameo does the same).
Quality: I hate to say this, because I really do think Amanda Seyfried is one of the best younger actresses around, but Frances has a good half-dozen performances here that beat her. No contest.
Fake Oscar Nods: McDormand: 3 (Almost Famous; Fargo; The Man Who Wasn't There); Seyfried: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Okay, this one was just a mis-match on all sides. I'm sorry. If we're talking NCAA basketball terms, this would definitely be a 1-vs-16 Duke-vs-Sam Houston State matchup. McDormand wins the girlfight.
Winner: Frances McDormand 4-0

Ellen Burstyn vs. Laura Linney
Quantity: If this were the 1970s, Ellen might have stood a chance. But seeing as it's the last decade we're talking about, Linney's near dozen most excellent performances (lady's a favorite to take this whole tournament, I'll say that now) beat the hell out of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
Quality: Burstyn makes this list for Requiem for a Dream and Requiem for a Dream alone. And up against Linney's You Can Count on Me, it's the closest call we've had so far. This same battle took place in the 2000 Oscar race, where the prize was finishing second to the Brockovich juggernaut. Linney wins by a razor-thin margin.
Fake Oscar Nods: Linney: 3 (You Can Count on Me; The Squid and the Whale; Primal Fear); Burstyn: 1 (Requiem for a Dream)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: They both seem so serene. I think you'd have to scrounge up Linney's Mystic River Lady MacBeth and set Burstyn on a diet pills bender and maybe we'd have some fireworks. Drug-fueled desperation wins out.
Winner: Laura Linney 3-1

Coming soon: Blanchett! Spacek! The collected remains of Renee Zellweger! The first round continues!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Time to Plug Julie Chen In

Big Brother All-Stars, y'all. It begins. (Aside to John: TWoP's recapping it after all! I won't be, but Miss Alli's run this gauntlet before, so you'll be in good hands.) But anyway, CBS has announced the final twenty from which the eventual 12 "houseguests" will be chosen. America gets to vote for six of them. Then CBS gets to choose the six good ones.

Here's how this whole thing should shake out, ideally. As always, the American voting public could fuck it all up as they're so good at doing, but I have a feeling it'll end up being pretty close to this:

Alison - Producer's choice, no doubt, as even the people who want her back (me) pretty much hated her. But she's as close to a lock for this show as you can get. Absolutely ruthless, heartless, not entirely brainless, but dumb enough to hop alliances every week. And, say what you will about her, she cares more about playing the game than getting her ass a walk-on role on The Young and the Restless.

Dana - If you have Alison, you have to have Dana, right? In my opinion, yes, you do. She's probably the iffiest of the producers' choices on my list, but in my experience, any BB season can only be enhanced by the presence of the utterly insane, and season 2's Nicole didn't re-enlist. This lady's fueled by pure rage. She might just rip Jase's testicles clean off.

Danielle - My favorite player of all time. She's a mortal lock, most likely as a producer's choice. If she and Alison ever teamed up I might just pass out from the vapors.

Howie - I have a feeling that the public voting is going to skew heavily towards the season sixers, so I think he's in. He annoys me as much as he entertains me, if not more so, and he was dumb enough to turn on James when he didn't have to, but at the very least a placement among the true All-Stars might end up knocking him down a peg or three.

James - Oh, James. It's wrong of me to love a Republican so much, but I just adore him. This may be more wishful thinking than anything else, thinking he'll place, but somebody has to counter-balance the Kaysar/Howie/Janelle alliance. ...Right?

Janelle - Mortal lock for America's Choice, so I'm totally not worried. I think we all remember where we were when "Bye-bye, bitches!" hit the airwaves. I have a feeling she might not be as likeable when not opposed to the truly vile like Maggie and April, but I do tend to enjoy how this whole show is half a joke to her anyway.

Jase - Ah, fuck. Best start getting used to the fact that the producers will put him in the house. Every season needs someone you'd be willing to crawl through the television to punch in the face, and that will forever be Jase. I somewhat fear what may happen to the universe if Jase and Will come face-to-face on national television. Chilltown 2: The Chillening?

Kaysar - Maybe an even bigger lock than Janelle. Will he finally learn how this game works on his third try? What's the over-under on diary room whining about Will? Will his head explode once he sees the way Alison plays the game? I have to say I'm sort of interested.

Marcellas - He's going to straight after my dear Danielle, so he's got to be my enemy. But I do have to admit he gets a good line or two in those diary room sessions.

Monica - I personally didn't like her, but I'm hoping she gets America's Vote if only to keep some of the other borderlines off the show. Seriously, America, if you fuckers vote in Bunky or Cowboy, I'm gonna have to cut some bitches.

Nakomis - She's a good person at heart, and those are pretty rare in this game. She can get her head caught up her ass at times with honor and honesty and such, but she knows when and how to be all schemey, and she hates Jase like I do. I think she'll get America's vote.

Will - The evil doctor. Without this man -- well, half-man, half-amazing, if you recall (I'm not inclined to disagree) -- Big Brother isn't here today. Mortal lock, probably an America's Choice, guaranteed to make this show a ton of fun until everyone gets smart enough to vote him out.

Like I said before, if anyone fucks this lineup up, it'd be America voting for Bunky or Cowboy. Or the producers kicking Mike Boogie or Chicken George (ugh) into the house. Also, not that they were my favorites, but I'm almost interested in seeing Diane or Ivette making it into the house against all odds. With this show, the more dysfunctional, the better. Why not just let all twenty in and kick them out two by two? Fuck, I don't care. My show's back.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

In Which Joe Bloviates on the Magic of the Cinema

I hadn’t been to a movie theatre since February. In light of the once a week at least movie-going habit I'd developed over the last 2-3 years, that seemed an obscene amount of time to be away from my sticky-floored Mecca. Not that I didn’t know why I hadn’t been in so long. Combine an unusually busy spring, work-wise, with the usual crappy quality of films in the first quarter, then toss in a pinch of burn-out from the 2005 crop of movies -- which I seemed to invest a lot into (tried to see every single movie that passed through town no matter if it appealed to me or not, and cared way too much about the damn Oscars), despite having precious few flicks I actually loved -- and I totally get why I took a break. But with even my Netflix list gathering dust and my scour-the-internet-for-casting-news-and-trailers habit going the way of my "I'll smoke when I drink...maybe" habit, I figured it was time to get back to the cinema. The cinema! Where pretense rules all, and the lady three rows back just won't shut up! I missed it.

Plus, what better excuse to get up off my fat ass than Robert Altman? A Prairie Home Companion just opened, and I've been looking forward to it for over a year. Incidentally, I'm declaring shenanigans on the word "prairie." That first "i"? Is an asshole. It fucks me up every time, and when I try and compensate for it, I wind up writing "Parairie" which makes me look for-real retarded. Spell it how it sounds, Webster's. Anyway, because I'm attending the noon matinee, and because it's A Prairie Home Companion, I end up among the oxygen tank crowd. Plusses of going to the movies with the oxygen tank crowd: they're very polite, and they respect the buffer zone concept, on account of needing extra space for said tanks of life-sustaining air. Minuses of going to the movies with the oxygen tank crowd: you'd think "polite" would extend to not talking during the movie, but you'd be wrong, and since none of them can hear, they're super loud about it. And it's all really pedestrian stuff, like "We should see that movie about the Devil reading Pravda." I mean, at least make a bitchy comment about Anne Hathaway's bangs, old people, jeez.

As for the movie itself, it was delightful. Just really well done, and it leaves you actually wanting more, which is so rare these days. As always with Altman, the dialogue is naturalistic and funny, and he manages to do this every single time, and without the benefit of a truly repertory-like troupe like, say, Christopher Guest has. This time around, gold stars go to Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly and a host of other. Even Garrison Keillor, who may look like a bullfrog but manages to be a better actor than I gave him credit for. It's also a remarkably nimble movie, one which saw the inclusion of not one, but two characters who could have proved to be huge problems for the story, but through the acting -- Kevin Kline and Virginia Madsen doing some great work -- and the way the film lets them weave in and out just like everyone else, they manage to fit. Loved the whole thing. I need to figure out a way for Streep and Tomlin to get nominated as Supporting Actress as a dual entry. They're that good together. And Lohan, while looking like a bag of bones, still has that glimmer of the great actress she really is, and I hope somebody tells the President that Iraq can wait, but Lindsay needs our help now.

So it would appear that I'm back. No more having to shamefacedly admit that the last movie I'd seen was Glory Road. The upcoming movies are starting to look good again -- The Devil Wears Prada and Little Miss Sunshine looking especially promising. And I'll be on Nathaniel's site at the end of the week talking movie trailers. In fact, I think I might bring the "trailer trash" feature from the old 411 column here to the blog. I always liked that, and it's good fodder for discussion in the comments. Anyway, point being: movies good, old people loud. And kinda smelly. I didn't want to say anything, but...yeah.

Fun with Wikipedia

Among the countless ways in which I daily thank God for the wonder that is Wikipedia (motto: "Making obsessives work for YOU!"), there's the benefit of stumbling upon something like the definition of a "minced oath." The easiest way to define it would be when you say "sugar" instead of "shit," or "cheese and rice" instead of "Jesus Christ." Of course, by taking the un-vulgar way out of your verbal situation, you invariably sound hyper-folksy and funny. Which is why I use them so often when I write. And it's why Wikipedia's comprehensive list of minced oaths is such a joy to read through. All my favorites are there: "Jeezum Crowe," "gee willikers," "good gravy." The dagnabbit/dadgummit/consarnit triumverate is reprsented.

There are some eye-openers, too. "Gadzooks" is derived from "God's hooks"? Which refers to the nails that pinned Jesus to the cross. Oh, Christianity. And, as always with Wikipedia, The Simpsons is well represented, with "Jimminy Jillikers," "Jeebus," and (a favorite of mine) "holy flerking schnitt" on the list.

In a related story, yes I am at work. And yes it is a slow night.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Public libraries: so much more than internet porn

So the enduringly awesome Pam and Glark have decided to step up their plans to achieve world domination through charitable contributions, and have thus arrived at the Dewey Donation System, the next evolutionary leap in book drives. Dewey's kicking things off with a drive for the Harrison County (Mississippi) library sytem that saw significant hurricane damage last year. So if you're feeling charitable or bookish or both, please consider making a donation. Public libraries have it tough enough without God fucking with them like with Katrina, and every bit helps. Thanks!

Friday, June 09, 2006

That Lovable Hate-Monger

So, as has been reported and alluded to everywhere (including the post previous to this!), horse-faced she-beast Ann Coulter dragged her bony ass onto the Today show and, among other things, made clear she was opposed to Proposition 305 ("Moochin' war widows..."). As hard as it is to fathom how anyone could imagine that going on TV and rail against the 9/11 widows is a good way to sell a book, I wonder if Ann may simply be unveiling phase one of a multi-tiered plan designed to turn herself into the most despised woman in America. I mean, it got Paris Hilton a record deal, right?

So in the coming weeks, look for Coulter to speak out against the following:

-- Babies

-- Puppy dogs

-- A mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day.

-- The snooze button.

-- Ice cream

-- Casual Fridays

-- Rainbows

-- Sandra Bullock

-- Fall foliage

-- Unconditional love

-- Milkshakes

-- The other side of the pillow

-- Flowers

-- The last 10 minutes of Field of Dreams

-- A salty ocean breeze

-- Laughter

This all should serve as a nice warm-up to her 2007 book, tentatively titled Don't You Hate Moms?

Rock on, Ann. You contemptible beanpole.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Hi, Kath!

Every time she threatens to lose me -- like, say, by parading her latest batch of bad-idea plastic surgery on the TV ads for her Bravo show -- Kathy Griffin manages to win me back. This time, she does it with a couple of timely barbs shot in Ann Coulter's direction. I'm easy that way.

Check it out at Good As You (link via Towleroad).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mug It Out, Bitch

Is this cover of the latest Entertainment Weekly not the most unflattering cover photo in recent memory? What drunk and/or unconscious publicists approved this? When Jerry Ferrara is the best looking one out of the Entourage cast? Something's gone terribly wrong. Take a tour with me, will you?

Adrian Grenier, bottom left. Let's start with the obvious: the utter, blood-chilling fear in his eyes, due to Piven grasping his arm so tightly. How anyone who's been on Entourage for going on three seasons now can express such high levels of gay panic -- like, hello, the whole series is one big "bro's before ho's, let's watch each other jerk off" pitch meeting -- is beyond me. However, I will allow the possibility that the fear is stemming from his massive helmet of hair crushing down on his brain, causing his fight-or-flight responses to go haywire.

Kevin Connolly, bottom center. The easy excuse would be a recent Botoxing, and I'm not ruling that out. But I'm thinking he may have also had Julia Roberts's upper lip grafted onto his. He looks like he's retreated to his happy place, though. Free of whatever gay weirdness is going on between Grenier and Piven at this moment. He's thinking of Nicky Hilton and how many cool and expensive things she's gonna buy him when this is all over.

Jeremy Piven, bottom right. The cock-eyed grin always worries me. Makes me think you know more than you're letting on. Coupled with the evil eyebrow action going on? And the death grip he's got on Grenier's arm? Maybe he's just freaked out about how he clearly stole Taylor Hicks's purple velvet jacket from the American Idol finale, and maybe the authorities are closing in on him. Or maybe he's wondering how much longer he can get away with trolling for pussy in L.A. with these guys ten years his junior. And Kevin Dillon.

Kevin Dillon, top right. I'm not going to make fun of him like I normally would, because he's clearly suffered a stroke, and I don't want to kick him while he's down. Get better soon, Kevin!

Jerry Ferrara, top left. Like I said, compared to the rest of his drugged-up, botoxed, emotionally unstable cast mates, Jerry compares pretty favorably. He's still got that look on his face, like he sees boobies somewhere behind the camera. Even if they're only in his imagination. Perhaps he decided to stay in character for the shoot? Wait...what am I saying? Turtle isn't a real character. Never mind.

Anyway, not like I was going to be watching Entourage this summer anyway, but if I was, this cover might have just scared me straight. On the bright side, maybe this photo was allowed to run because the HBO folks were too busy working on Big Love's Emmy campaign. One can hope.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Game 7

So I finally remembered to buy myself MarioKart, the greatest video game (post-original Nintendo) in history, though I will now at least consider arguments for Guitar Hero since I played it at Tara and Dave's and nearly went into a fugue of joy. How is it possible that "More Than a Feeling" is the hardest song to master on a fake video game guitar? Have we all been underestimating the musical prowess of Boston lo these many years?

Anyway, so MarioKart arrived in the mail today, which meant it was time to haul the GameCube out of the moth balls. With the Cube out, however, and with me not being able to deal with one entire day without hockey, I popped in the NHL Hitz game that I've played a grand total of once. I started a season, made the appropriate trades, and wound up with a reasonable facsimile of the 2006 Sabres. Sure, I'm missing Derek Roy and Jason Pominville, but I can play Danny Briere, Chris Drury, and Mike Grier all at once, and that makes me happy. Problem is, I'm kind of sucking at my season so far, and now I'm worried that this is going to be a bad omen for tonight's game. So I've now completed my transformation into that guy. The ultra-superstitious sports guy who grows a playoff beard and has to sit in the same chair, at the same angle to the TV, for every game, lest he blow the big one for his team. If you only knew the utter turmoil I went through even getting up the nerve to blog about the Sabres. What if I'm jinxing them??? By now I've managed to talk myself down from the ledge. I've seen them win watching at home, and I've seen them lose watching at home. I saw them win when I was in Canada. They've won despite my Dad and I not being in the same room. They've won and they've lost when I was stuck at work with nothing but a radio. The Buffalo Sabres winning and losing doesn't depend on anything I do, be it embarass myself at NHL Hitz or watch the game on the big screen at the baseball stadium with half the city in attendance (I'm considering it, but I do still think that might be tempting I go again).

All I know is that there's a Game 7 tonight, and my team's playing in it, and if they lose (God forbid, knock on wood, and spit on the carpet), so help me Jeebus I will stop being friends with anyone who posts anything gloaty or mocking in the comments. You think I'm kidding. Don't do it.