Sunday, August 26, 2007

And Sometimes You Close Your Eyes...

...and see the place where you used to live, when you were young.

New city, y'all. You'll be hearing all about it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beyond Actor-dome: Round 2 begins

64 men enter. One man leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1997 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 actor have received since '97 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actors have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) since watching boys fight is something you can see at the closest downtown bar, this time around we're judging by who would prevail in the most time-tested of competitive activities: The Walkoff (Motherf*cking Walkoff).

Round 2

Matt Damon vs. Jack Nicholson
Quantity: We can't entirely blame Jack Nicholson for not being able to keep up with Matt Damon's career output. He's getting on in years, and waiting for the Viagara to kick in takes up a lot of time. Matt laps him, even if you don't count sequels, cameos, or TV. Which we are counting. Advantage: Damon
Quality: Damon was probably our favorite thing about The Departed, but not better than Nicholson as Warren R. Schmidt. That scene where he unexpectedly breaks down at the end still gets to us. Advantage: Nicholson
Fake Oscar Nods: Nicholson: 2 (About Schmidt; As Good As It Gets); Damon: 1 (The Departed).
Spotlights Stolen: They were both on the shady side of the law in The Departed. Like we said, Damon was our favorite thing about that overrated movie. Advantage: Damon
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Did you guys see how addled Jack looked at the MTV Movie Awards? I'm not sure I'd trust him to make it to the end of a runway standing upright. Advantage: Damon
Winner: Matt Damon 3-2

Jim Broadbent vs. Ian McKellen
Quantity: By the iron shavings on Magneto's fingertips does McKellen eke out a victory over Broadbent here.
Quality: Oh, Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. It still wakes us up in the middle of the night to think of how you lost out on a much-deserved Oscar to the organ grinder's monkey that was Roberto Benigni. Interestingly enough, McKellen later lost out on what everyone figured would be his makeup Oscar for Lord of the Jim Broadbent. Revenge is sweet. Advantage: McKellen
Fake Oscar Nods: Broadbent: 2 (Moulin Rouge; Gangs of New York); McKellen: 2 (LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring; Gods and Monsters). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They were both in Richard III. We can't remember who Broadbent played, but that doesn't matter because McKellen walked away with that movie.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: In a battle of atypically un-stodgy, how do we put this? ...McKellen's gayer. Advantage: McKellen
Winner: Ian McKellen 4-0

Clive Owen vs. Elijah Wood
Quantity: Wood walks away with this category on hairy hobbit's feet. Owen is, like, a year away from amassing enough credits to overtake him, but for now, it's all Frodo. Advantage: Wood
Quality: Clive Owen in Closer revenge-fucks Elijah Wood in Return of the King and makes Sam Gamgee cry in his doctor's office. ...And we are now officially uncomfortable at where this metaphor has taken us. Advantage: Owen
Fake Oscar Nods: Owen: 1 (Closer); Wood: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They were two of the brightest spots in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City, Wood as the silent, scary-as-hell depraved monster, Owen as the resourceful and chivalrous hero with an affinity towards sever heads. It's a tough call, but Owen carries more of the movie. Advantage: Owen
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Elijah Wood is short, for one. On the other hand, Clive Owen is older. On the other hand, Owen is sexier. And on that same hand, his emotionless visage looks meaner. Advantage: Owen
Winner: Clive Owen 4-1

Edward Norton vs. Mark Wahlberg
Quantity: It's a closer race than you'd think, considering for the first half of our ten-year judging period, I thought Wahlberg was something of a one-flick wonder, while Norton was Acting Jesus. Marky Mark has really come into his own since then, but Norton's been able to get his career back on track enough to maintain his lead. Advantage: Norton
Quality: Have we sufficiently bored you with talk of just how phenomenal Wahlberg was in I Heart Huckabees? If we have, all that means is that you haven't seen the movie. So, really, your irritation is ultimately your fault. That being said, we are very big fans of Fight Club, and of Norton's performance in it. Advantage: Norton
Fake Oscar Nods: Norton: 2 (American History X; Fight Club); Wahlberg: 1 (I Heart Huckabees).
Spotlights Stolen: To date, the only movie we've seen where Edward Norton delivered a bona fide bad performance was also the only film in which he's co-starred with Mark Wahlberg. Dam you to hell, The Italian Job. Advantage: Wahlberg
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Mark Wahlberg? Still a former Calvin Klein underwear model. Advantage: Wahlberg
Winner: Edward Norton 3-2

Daniel Craig vs. Johnny Depp
Quantity: That fallow period in the late 1990s almost costs Depp this category. He just barely holds off the hard-charging Craig on the strength of, of all things, the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. Yikes. Advantage: Depp
Quality: In a battle of performances that seriously elevated what could have been so-so material, Jack Sparrow (the first Pirates movie) bests James Bond (Casino Royale). Advantage: Depp
Fake Oscar Nods: Depp: 1 (Pirates of the Caribbean); Craig: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Depp's got the attitude, sure, but he's also just as likely to rock a red carpet looking like a particularly unwashed panhandler. Also, last time we checked, Daniel Craig could work the hell out of swim trunks. Advantage: Craig
Winner: Johnny Depp 3-1

Christian Bale vs. Billy Crudup
Quantity: Very close. Both men have been steadily working for the last ten years and have built up impressive résumés of quality films. And Reign of Fire and Trust the Man. By a margin of one performance... Advantage: Crudup
Quality: Crudup's mesmerizing rendition of a tremendous fuck-up in Jesus' Son juuuust gets edged out by Bale's frighteningly amoral serial killer in American Psycho. Advantage: Bale
Fake Oscar Nods: Crudup: 3 (Almost Famous; Jesus' Son; Stage Beauty); Bale: 1 (American Psycho).
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Invoking the Stage Beauty clause... Advantage: Crudup
Winner: Billy Crudup 3-1

Gael Garcia Bernal vs. Jude Law
Quantity: In any case, Bernal's youth and relatively recent entry into the American marketplace would be a disadvantage. Against Law, one of the most prolific actors in this competition, the kid ends up getting lapped. Advantage: Law
Quality: Law's miraculously unhinged Huckabees performance gets the best of Bernal's layers-upon-layers work in Bad Education. Advantage: Law
Fake Oscar Nods: Law: 3 (The Talented Mr. Ripley; A.I.: Artificial Intelligence; I Heart Huckabees); Bernal: 1 (Bad Education).
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Recent dirty-hairedness aside, Jude's given us a decade's worth of scorching photo ops, and Gael is, alas, still quite short. Advantage: Law
Winner: Jude Law 4-0

Russell Crowe vs. Ed Harris
Quantity: Close call. It's interesting to observe the way Crowe's list is exclusively leading-man roles in awards contenders while Harris has set himself up in supporting roles in...well, other awards contenders. Harris ekes out a slim victory here.
Quality: Love Harris in Pollock, but Crowe's breakthrough work in L.A. Confidential remains the best thing he's ever done. And the best thing a whole lot of actors have ever done. Advantage: Crowe
Fake Oscar Nods: Crowe: 2 (L.A. Confidential; The Insider); Harris: 2 (The Truman Show; Pollock). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They were both in the terribly manufactured-for-Oscar ode to the wonders of mental illness, A Beautiful Mind. It not that we're such huge fans of Crowe's heavily-nominated, buck-toothed, tortured genius performance. It's just that Harris didn't really get to do much besides act mysterious and not be real. Advantage: Crowe
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Once upon a time, Ed Harris was the go-to object of Hot Bald Middle-Aged Guy. Also once upon a time, Russell Crowe was Cro-Mag Clooney. Now, the latter has lost impulse control while the other's just gotten...old. in the face. Still, we're not convinced Russell can make it through a walk-off without an incident of some sort. Advantage: Harris
Winner: HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE. Vote, my pretties. Vote! Vote! Vote!

Fuck 27

It's my birthday! Buy me shit!

No, no. That's only a joke. But as MY birthday present to YOU, I am promising an Actors Tournament update TODAY. I know. I know. Now you want to buy me shit. My mama didn't begin raising no dummy twenty-seven years ago today.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Why Are You Like That? ...Like How You Are?"

You guys, you may not have heard it here first, but humor me and pretend you did.

My So-Called Life is finally coming to DVD! ...Again! If you recall, it was released in a wildly expensive, bare-bones set that ultimately became harder to find than Devon Odessa's career. That didn't stop me from borrowing Sars's copy for nigh upon a year, but good news, Sarah! I'll have a copy of my own soon!

The other good news is that this set is being produced by Shout!Factory, who gave us the jam-packed sets for Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, the two other most criminally cancelled shows of my time. So the special features look to be plentiful. And they got the rights to all the music. And it's gonna be totally affordable. That's some nice news to end the week with, right there. (Thanks to TVonDVD for the specs.)

The complete season set gets released on October 30.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Trailer Trash: Part 2

So, last we met, Michael Myers was afraid of opening on Halloween and Wes Anderson's latest was tantalizingly close on the horizon. But if you think my trip to the theatres this week stopped at a mere four trailers, you're effing nuts. What else?

Rocket Science (8/10): I was initially resistant to this movie due to the hard-sell effort to make this the '07 Little Miss Sunshine (Sundance darling! Weird-ass kids! Little movie that could!), but in the span of two and a half minutes, I was won over. After seeing the more extensive HBO First Look, I'm even more won over. I am a sucker for this kind of barbed sweetness, but consider also: Anna Kendrick, who I've loved since Camp, gets another chance to show her stuff; the adorable Nicholas D'Agosto, who played Jan's assistant on The Office this year; and the "do you know if she wears a bra...wanna see a bra?" line, which still has me laughing. Points off for the overused "Blister In The Sun" clip (though it earns those points back for the underused "Kiss Off"), and I'm puzzled as to why they didn't feature the speed-talking debate scenes, which are as good a hook for a brainy movie as I've seen, but this movie has shot right up the list of movies I have to see.

Death Sentence (8/31): Okay, a revenge fantasy by the director of Saw? Shitty. Sorry, Kevin Bacon. Revenge fantasies , for me, are like movies about child molestors (like The Woodsman, uh, sorry again, Kevin Bacon) -- why do I want to watch these people do these things? It takes a strong filmmaker to make a movie about either subject that I'll want to see. James Wan isn't that guy. Also, is that Garrett Hedlund with the shaved head and tatts and perma-scowl, aping Ben Foster from Alpha Dogs? That's a crime against beauty, James Wan. And I will seek out my vengeance.

Reservation Road (10/19): This one's been raked over the coals all week, and I agree that it gives away way too much of the plot and seems in many ways like movies we've seen before (In The Bedroom, 21 Grams), but I also am not sure if a movie of this sort can really be appreciated in trailer form. Not that it's above criticism, certainly, but I think this movie ends up living or dying on the performances, and a trailer hardly ever gives a good approximation of great performances, particularly the quiet ones. I'm finding it harder to believe this is the oscar contender many of us thought it would be, but I am also not ruling out acting honors for Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo. Not yet.

Finally, I know it's been carpet-bombing your television lately, but I have to put a word in for the Superbad trailer and TV spots, for many reasons, really. But mostly for McLovin. Makes me laugh my ass off every time. "It's like a sexy hamburger!"

Trailer Trash: Part 1

I went to the movies this week (should update the sidebar shortly), which means it's time for me to talk about...the trailers. I do love them so.

The Invasion (release date 8/17): The production for this one has been either "troubled" or "snake-bitten," depending on whether you believe Nicole Kidman's anke broke itself because it had problems with the script. I'm not sure we need to make the distinction, though, because I don't think this movie aspires to be much more than an asses-in-the-seats thriller for the end of summer. It appears to be a shockingly literal remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and in case we never saw the original, the trailer makes sure don't miss any plot development. Pros: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeffrey Wright, and Jeremy Northam make for a fine cast, and it's always fun to watch Veronica Cartwright unspool onscreen. Junk, but maybe enjoyable junk.

Things We Lost In The Fire (10/26): It looks like a pretty good showcase for Benicio Del Toro, and that can't be a bad thing. The fact that it's giving off Pursuit of Happyness vibes is less of a good sign, and hearing The Fray play over the trailer nudges me further in that direction. I don't know, it kind of seems like they grafted Del Toro's 21 Grams redemptive fuck-up onto Halle Berry's Monster's Ball mother in mourning and made it all about 60% happier. Not sure if that's what it takes to sell me.

The Darjeeling Limited (9/29): I've been looking forward to this movie more than any other this year. The return of Wes Anderson, his reunion with Jason Schwartzman, the first-time involvement of Adrien Brody...all good things. After watching the trailer, I'm not so much excited for it as not as overboard for it as I thought I'd be. Of course, the Life Aquatic trailer made me want to jump through my computer screen, and that ended up being something of a disappointment (though it's gotten better with rewatching and time -- it's halfway to "gets a bad rap" status), so perhaps the trailer isn't the best way to judge Wes Anderson's work. This still looks like it has every chance to be quite good. The Adrien Brody casting is near-brilliant -- he has the exact look Anderson's universe requires, like a Kennedy gone to seed. One thing: wasn't Natalie Portman supposed to be in this movie? Is that no longer happening? More's the pity if it's not.

Halloween (8/31): I know the brilliant and talented JA has expressed his serious distatse for Rob Zombie's re-boot of the Michael Myers saga, and I certainly defer to him on all matters horror, but if I'm being honest, this trailer really intrigued me. And creeped me out, in a serious way. I've said this before, but I really respect Rob Zombie as a dedicated student of the horror game, even if I haven't liked his movies. Malcolm McDowell playing Dr. Loomis is pretty good casting, too, though Donald Pleasance will never be topped. Also, pet peeve: August 31? For Halloween?? I've accepted that horror movies have, in recent years, crept earlier and earlier into September in a sad attempt to clear the deck for the Saw franchise, but THIS IS HALLOWEEN! Respect the holiday, mofos!

More in a bit! Can you stand it?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Your Weekly YouTube

It seems that every time I post here lately it's to apologize for not posting more. I hate that and I promise to do better...once I've completed the move. Heh. For now, expect an Actors Tournament update this week and hopefully some Trailer Trash as well.

Right now, enjoy the fruits of my procrastination. I was tooling around YouTube, looking for Madonna's "Like A Prayer" video (as you do), when I came across this video, which is like the greatest thing I've seen this week:

I know it's the kind of thing you'd be able to encounter on campus around 2 AM when the acoustic guitars get busted out and everyone's drunk but not too drunk. But this is like the absolute highest quality to which a performance like that can aspire. I've been listening to it all day. (All due props to the artist, Dave Werner, who also does a cover of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" that manages to be even better. Click and watch, I'm serious.)

It also got me to thinking about how a) "Like A Prayer" is an awesome song in any incrarnation, but also b) it's never quite the same without the burning crosses and bloody tears of the music video (the greatest music video ever, and I'm not hearing any arguments). I'm happy I've finally heard a version by someone who can actually sing, it's true, but sometimes you need to just watch the video and patiently wait for the day Madonna creates a full-length musical about how she saves people from racism and puts it on Broadway. Or, I'm sorry, the West End. Anyway, in case you forgot the awesomeness: