Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP

I found this interview though JA at My New Plaid Pants. I was originally just going to comment on it on his blog, but I figured my opinion on the subject is a little divergent from his, and I figured I'd take my bile on over here where it belongs.

Look. I love Joss Whedon as much as anyone whose post-adolescence was shaped by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And Angel. I even liked Firefly. A lot. I enjoyed the online comraderie with fans, I think he has superb taste in TV shows, and he played Numfar and danced the dance of shame in those Pylea episodes. But...well, here's the excerpt from the interview with Wizard Entertainment:

What about TV? You recently guest directed an episode of NBC’s “The Office.” Would you like to go back to television?

I love TV, I absolutely want to go back to TV. You know, if I have a series I believe in and I have the people to make it and a place to put it, yes. I adore television but a lot of things have to come together and while I have these other obligations, I can’t really pursue those things. I also just don’t want to get trampled on. So I’m a little skittish…

What do you mean, “trampled on”?

“Trampled on” as in having someone cancelling out from under you two things in one year. When a story doesn’t get finished being told, or you’re the victim of wrong-headed business decisions that nobody even seems to be losing sleep over, you really don’t want to walk in that world anymore. So, I’m not interested in telling stories that nobody is going to see. I don’t feel like making a pilot and seeing if it goes. I feel like if I make something, it has to have a venue. Whether that is a low-budget movie, a DVD or TV with commitment to DVD, whatever it is, I can’t tell the stories nobody hears anymore. I’ve done that in my life.

Oh my GOD. Is he seriously -- seriously -- playing the wounded puppy because he's had a few projects fall apart? He doesn't "feel like" making a pilot unless he's guaranteed...what, a full season? Two? Seven? I mean, sure, after having created three TV series, each one cut shorter than the last, I suppose that kind of "I won't get out of bed for less than a full-season pickup" attitude is understandable, but maybe that's something you bitch about to your friends rather than to the public at large. And if this is STILL about that goddamn Firefly movie, I'm gonna hit someone. Does he realize how many people don't get their pilots picked up or their scripts filmed? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him because, after three TV series getting made, he's had a couple rejected? To the point where we're supposed to read this pouty "well maybe I just won't write any more TV shows" crap and be sympathetic? There's a lot of genius in Joss, but a hell of a lot of entitlement, too. And the fact that he doesn't feel the need to conceal that tells me he's got ego to spare besides.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Marble Columns

I know, I know. Haven't posted for a week, and when I do it's about SNL again? All valid comments, but I was out of town! I don't do road-blogging. Anyway, watch the clip. Scarlett Johansson is hysterical. Also, I just realized that I was at NBC at the same time that ScarJo was. Damn. That was my opportunity! To ask her about escaping the Celebrity Center. Ah, maybe next time.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Switching It Up

The Sabres lost last night, and I need to get them off the top of the page here, so I'm just stopping by to sing the praises of Amy Poehler on SNL. I was working late last night, so I ended up watching the new SNL with Shia LaBeouf (surprisingly funny, if sparesely utilized) and a rerun on E! (Will Ferrell's underwhelming return).

But the best parts of each episode were the Weekend Update segments, one with Amy Phoelher and Tina Fey ("this is the last time I suck beer out of dirt with you,") one with Poehler and Seth Myers. So I've gotta give it up for the common ingredient there. Tina and Amy got a lot of shit for being too giggly (read: female) when presenting the news, but in these days of wildly erratic SNL content, Update is the only reliably funny segment. Plus, she delivers a kickass Nancy Grace as well.

Friday, April 13, 2007


John: What's up?
Joe: I watched the Sabres game from three different locations!
John: What was the result?
Joe: We won! 4-1! WOOOO!
John: Sweet! What's the series score?
Joe: This was game 1. Great way to start.
Joe: We watched the 1st period from an outdoor screen next to the arena. It was so fucking cold.
John: Oh my God. That is crazy.
Joe: That's Buffalo.

I will say one thing for that outdoor viewing experience: it wasn't snowing. It's snowing now, as I type this (sigh), but it wasn't snowing last night as several dozen hardy Sabres fans parked themselves right outside the sold-out arena to watch the game on a giant TV screen. I swear to God, we will tailgate anything. My favorite part was the rope line that ran around the perimeter of the officially dsignated courtyard area, beyond which point you couldn't bring your own alcohol. But since you could still see the screen from the sidewalk, people just parked their coolers and had a time. Open container law? Yeah, that's a good one.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From The Department of Silver Linings

First of all, you could have knocked me over with a feather with the news that Don Imus (left) was still alive. I always figured that guy on MSNBC at such an ungodly hour was some sort of mummified corpse used for decoration, much in the vein of a cigar store Indian.

But now that Imus has gotten himself into hot water over his racist comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team, not only do I know that he's still alive, but the media frenzy over said comments has also shed light on one of the more frustrating grammatical questions of the internet age: the correct pluralization of the word "ho." At last! AP style has finally weighed in and made it easier for every writer reviewing a Lil' Kim album or the new season of VH1's Flavor of Love: Charm School.

So now we all know: it's not "hoes" (that's still reserved for the province of gardening in the 1920s) and it's not "ho's" (that's what you use when talking about objects -- hot pants, lack of self-esteem, Johns -- that belong to the ho in question). The correct spelling is indeed "hos." And while it may cause some confusion with the word "hoss" -- to the point where my Mom asked at Easter brunch if I'd heard about Imus calling these women "nappy-headed hosses," which, knowing Imus, and knowing the prevailing stereotype about women basketball players, seemed as plausible an insult as any -- it's good to know we have a standard to go by.

So thank you, Don Imus! The re-animation of your corpse has at least done some good for the universe.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Read! Read! Me!

I haven't been so good at keeping y'all linked to my TWoP content, but this week I recapped our first episode of Brothers & Sisters. As you may know, I love that show to death, so please check out the recap for last weke's episode, "All In The Family."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Liz Lemon Lives Longer

Coincidence? You tell me:

This morning, I'm quoted in an L.A. Times article about the ever-phenomenal 30 Rock.

This afternoon, 30 Rock gets renewed for next season.

I'm saying, maybe I'm just a bit of good luck. Or maybe this "Joe Reed" person is. Weird that's he's been working at TWoP all this time and I've never come across him.

But the good -- nay, great! -- news is the renewal. If nothing else, it gives the show a whole other year to get Jenna Maroney into Urban Fervor, the sequel to The Rural Juror.

Speaking of which, celebrate this news with me and one of my favorite YouTube clips:

Oscar Predictions...Hey Wait, Where Are You Going?

Bear with me here. My good pal Nathaniel has posted his April Fool's Oscar Predictions, his more-accurate-than-most annual stab at what the eventual Oscar nominees will be nine months from now. Naturally, competitive bitch that I am, I want to post my own early, early, early Oscar predictions, both for comparison's and posterity's sake. Then I promise you won't hear from me on this issue until the fall. August at the soonest. Okay, maybe in May after Cannes. It's a sickness people. Thank God I don't put money on this shit.

First off, here are a handful of movies that I'm thinking will come into play during the '07 awards season:

Atonement -- Kiera Knightley, James McAvoy, and Romola Garai in an adaptation of the novel of the same name, directed by Pride & Prejudice's Joe Wright.

The Brave One -- Jodie Foster teams up with director Neil Jordan in a contemporary revenge drama.

Charlie Wilson's War -- Mike Nichols directs Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in a story about how the CIA armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. So it's a success story.

The Golden Age -- This would be the sequel to Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett and Shekhar Kapur returning, and Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, and Abbie Cornish hopping onboard.

I'm Not There -- Todd Haynes's unconventional Bob Dylan biopic. Which I believe is the film's new subtitle. Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, and Blanchett (among others) all play Dylan at various times.

The Kite Runner -- Guilt and betrayal set against the backdrop of recent Afghanistan history. Based on the best-selling 2003 novel.

Love in the Time of Cholera -- More literary adaptations, this time the renowned Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Liev Schrieber, and Catalina Sandino Moreno star.

Michael Clayton -- It's not about IRA terrorists, but it should be. No, this one's a legal drama starring George Clooney.

A Mighty Heart -- The story of American journalist Daniel Pearl, murdered by Al Qaeda terrorist, and his widow Marianne. Starring Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman, directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Reservation Road -- The director of Hotel Rwanda tells a story of tragedy and the aftermath. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, and Mira Sorvino.

The Savages -- Tamara Jenkins directs Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a family dramady. Partially filmed in Buffalo, this killed at Sundance.

Sweeney Todd -- Big musical adaptation of the year, directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter.

There Will Be Blood -- PT Anderson's first film in five years, adapted from Upton Sinclair's Oil! Speaking of a first film in five years, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as an oil prospector.

Okay, so, the Oscar predictions. We'll see if I get more than a handful of these right next year. For point of reference, when I did this least year, I nailed Forest Whitaker, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, and Meryl Streep. And that was it.

  1. Charlie Wilson's War (Universal)
  2. Atonement (Focus)
  3. Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
  4. Love in the Time of Cholera (New Line)
  5. The Kite Runner (Paramount Vantage)
Also: Reservation Road (Focus); Sweeney Todd (Paramount); Rendition (New Line); There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage); Lions For Lambs (United Artists); The Golden Age (Universal); The Assassination of Jesse James (Warner Bros.); My Blueberry Nights (The Weinstein Co.); Lust, Caution (Focus); The Brave One (Warner Bros.).

  1. Joaquin Phoenix -- Reservation Road
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis -- There Will Be Blood
  3. John Cusack -- Grace Is Gone
  4. Javier Bardem -- Love in the Time of Cholera
  5. James McAvoy -- Atonement
Also: 6. Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd); 7. Benicio Del Toro (Things We Lost in the Fire); 8. Tom Hanks (Charlie Wilson's War); 9. Khalid Abdalla (The Kite Runner); 10. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages); 11. George Clooney (Michael Clayton); 12. Brad Pitt (The Assassination of Jesse James); 13. Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah); 14. Tony Leung (Lust, Caution); 15. Tom Cruise (Lions For Lambs).

  1. Julie Christie -- Away From Her
  2. Jodie Foster -- The Brave One
  3. Kiera Knightley -- Atonement
  4. Marion Cotillard -- La Vie En Rose
  5. Angelina Jolie -- A Mighty Heart
Also: 6. Cate Blanchett (The Golden Age); 7. Laura Linney (The Savages); 8. Jennifer Connelly (Reservation Road); 9. Halle Berry (Things We Lost In The Fire); 10. Vanessa Redgrave (Evening); 11. Reese Witherspoon (Rendition); 12. Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Love in the Time of Cholera); 13. Natalie Portman (The Other Boleyn Girl); 14. Sigourney Weaver (The Girl in the Park); 15. Catherine Keener (An American Crime).

  1. Clive Owen -- The Golden Age
  2. Mark Ruffalo -- Reservation Road
  3. Philip Bosco -- The Savages
  4. Dan Futterman -- A Mighty Heart
  5. Tom Wilkinson -- Michael Clayton
Also: 6. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War); 7. Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood); 8. Robert Redford (Lions For Lambs); 9. Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men); 10. Benjamin Bratt (Love in the Time of Cholera); 11. James McAvoy (Becoming Jane); 12. Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James); 13. Eric Bana (The Other Boleyn Girl); 14. Patrick Wilson (Evening); 15. Terrence Howard (The Brave One).

  1. Romola Garai -- Atonement
  2. Samantha Morton -- The Golden Age
  3. Jennifer Jason Leigh -- Margot At The Wedding
  4. Cate Blanchett -- I'm Not There
  5. Vanessa Redgrave -- Atonement
Also: 6. Helena Bonham-Carter (Sweeney Todd); 7. Jane Fonda (Georgia Rule); 8. Susan Sarandon (In the Valley of Elah); 9. Scarlett Johansson (The Other Boleyn Girl); 10. Kristin Scott Thomas (The Other Boleyn Girl); 11. Mary-Louise Parker (The Assassination of Jesse James); 12. Abbie Cornish (The Golden Age); 13. Mira Sorvino (Reservation Road); 14. Alison Lohman (Things We Lost in the Fire); 15. Laura Linney (The Nanny Diaries).

Monday, April 02, 2007

So You Say You're From...Sparta?

You know, for a recruitment video for the Spartan army, 300 is awfully well-produced. Yes, to continue my journey through movies everyone else in the world saw a month ago, I saw 300 this weekend. First impressions? Fun movie, but it's fucking retarded. Definitely see it, but the idea that it's the first great movie of 2007 is hysterical. And I'm not kidding about the recruitment video thing, although I figure that was at least partially intentional. It had to be. The whole "see how we stand, marvel at how we fight" narration, coupled with Gerard Butler's preposterous dialogue filled to bursting with every "On my signal, unleash hell" cliché culled from the dregs of the Braveheart cutting room floor. The Spartan army is looking for a few good men, eager to fight for vaguely-defined "freedom" against vaguely-defined "tyranny" and seemingly even more eager to die. By the time the phrase "freedom isn't free" is uttered verbatim, you're pretty certain that if Dick Cheney isn't already jacking off to this movie nightly, it's only because Warner Bros. hasn't gotten a screener to him yet.

That being said, it feels almost cheap and dirty to bring Dubya-era politics into a movie as empty-headed as 300. Sure, it cloaks itself in so many swinging-dick pretensions that you half-expect the President to pop up in the corner, helmet and spear in tow, flashing a double thumbs up. But in all honesty, this is a movie about shoving sharp things into squishy targets. And about the traveling freakshow that was apparently the Persian empire. And about painting well-defined abs onto the already-taut tummies of the flesh parade that is your cast. It's about honor! And bravery! And how when you're a Spartan, you're a Spartan all the way! And how the Spartan shields were virtually indestructible! Far be it from me to ascribe any kind of serious intention to a movie that, no shit, trots out a massive blobby Lobster Man, not to mention a Faun serenading the Persian court on the flute.

The entire characterization of the Persians is just one big puzzle. I like that director Zack Snyder had the surrealistic verve to portray Xerxes as a literal giant of a man. I wasn't so sure, however, why he had to paint Rodrigo Santoro up as one wig short of full-on drag queen to make his point that Xerxes was the enemy. In a movie as dumb as 300, you don't need much justification as to why we're cheering against the Bad Guys. They're the Bad Guys! Cheering against them is what we do. So I'm not sure why we needed the reminders that the Persians were decadent (they wore lip-liner! Their women were lesbians!) or craven (all Xerxes wants is you to kneel before him, wink-wink). I'd lump it in with the depressing tendency on HBO's Rome to use eye-liner as a shorthand for weakness and indulgence, but I don't want to do Rome the disservice of dragging it into this muck.

I did say, way back at the beginning, that this was a fun movie, and I should stand by that. Rarely have I had a better time being told to act like a man and not a pussy-ass Arcadian. (And seriously, what the hell did the Arcadians ever do to deserve such scorn? They might as well be wearing Berkeley sweaters.) The action scenes, while not exactly worthy of the scores of fanboys passing out from the vapors at Snyder's feet, are not without their charm. And when the pace of the non-stop shield-to-sword-to-gaping-flesh-wound action gets too predictable, there's usually a well-toned thigh to draw your attention away. Or another weird-ass creature from Dr. Moreau's laboratory will show up and get quickly dispatched by Gerard Butler and His Manly Men. Felled by the mighty forces of his speech impediment, no doubt.

Sure, Snyder's film -- and no doubt the Frank Miller graphic novel upon which it was based -- seems to be slathering itself in the sweat and blood and guts of men who aren't too nancy to just die for their country already. But it's as much about a call to support the troops as it is a two hour advertisement for the fine craftsmanship of Spartan shields. Seriously, those things were fuckin' strong! Stop thinking so much!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Handwriting Analysis Never Had It So Good

Yes, I'm back! Back on the blog and back inside the inviting, darkened hollows of the movie theatre. I was called back to see my first feature of 2007 so I could be the last person in the universe to see David Fincher's Zodiac. Now, I realize that anticipatory fervor for the film gave way to a lot of underwhelmed "well...it was nice seeing Fincher directing again" reactions. But to be perfectly honest, I was more than satisfied. The serial killer movie told from the perspective of the behemoth investigation said killer launched could easily be pegged as the most sprawling Law & Order episode of all time, but I enjoyed the ways in which Fincher showed the Zodiac burrowing its way into the lives of the three main characters, whether it be through dogged investigation (Mark Ruffalo), narcissistic paranoia (Robert Downey, Jr.), or sheer teacher's-pet intellectual curiosity (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Speaking of which...that cast. Nice. This is the first time that Fincher has opted for the sprawling-cast approach, but every time you turn around, it's another recognizable face. Donal Logue and Elias Koteas may not be much more than familiar faces for the viewer to place upon the various jurisdictions involved in the investigation, but there's real enthusiasm and character to be found in Chloe Sevigny and Brian Cox and John Carroll Lynch. Not to mention perfectly typecast cameos from Adam Goldberg and Clea DuVall.

Back to Ruffalo and Downey, though. Fantastic one-two punch from a director who's no stranger to them. But unlike past parings (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Seven; Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club), this isn't a duet. They share scenes, and the results are predictably electric, but they're more cogs in the greater machine here. Which makes the fact that they walk away with the movie even more remarkable. If it's even possible to walk away with a Fincher movie -- though I'd certainly argue that Helena Bonham Carter did so in Fight Club, not to mention Charles S. Dutton's monstrous overacting in Alien 3 and Jared Leto's cornrows in Panic Room. I hold a special place in my moviegoing heart, always, for Robert Downey, Jr. He's a loose wire, once again, in Zodiac, to the point where I began to wonder at what point do we have to cease giving him so much credit and instead pass the kudos on to the casting director who had the bright idea to cast him in the first place. It's the Jack Nicholson argument: how much credit should we give a man who's simply doing what he always does, no matter how enjoyable that may be? Of course, the very existence of Two Girls And A Guy is cautionary tale enough to not ever take a good Robert Downey, Jr. performance for granted.

So here's to you, you chronic substance abuser. Way to make a good movie even better.