Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"What's Happening To Our Hood?"

I've seen the Be Kind Rewind trailer about three times in theatres now (most recently last weekend before The Mist), and every time it's drawn uproarious laughter. And that includes me, every time. Maybe I'm just a soft touch, but Jack Black in old lady drag, whapping Mos Def with a purse and screaming "Hokey!" a la Driving Miss Daisy is more than enough for me.

The January 25th release date is weird -- I know Michel Gondry isn't exactly a cash magnet, but that's usually a dumping ground for movies that are unprofitable and shitty, and I really don't believe that's the case here. Gondry directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He's earned a lifetime of credit from me.

Anyway, hopefully this just means the first good (or great?) movie of 2008 will just come a lot sooner than we're used to.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Beyond Actor-Dome: Round 3 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 3

Jeff Bridges vs. Ed Harris
Quantity: Okay, can we get Jeff Bridges in a good movie again? His last three credits are Surf's Up, Stick It, and Tideland. Can't fault him for a Gilliam collaboration, even if it did fail, but can the Coens call him up again or what? Even if Harris isn't stealing the show, he's been solid in supporting roles as of late (A History of Violence; Gone Baby Gone). Advantage: Harris
Quality: Bridges in The Door In The Floor and Harris in Pollock are both film-defining performances. Bridges gives the better one. Advantage: Bridges
Fake Oscar Nods: Bridges: 2 (The Big Lebowski; The Door In The Floor); Harris: 2 (The Truman Show; Pollock). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They were both in Masked and Anonymous, but I never saw it. Push
Motherf*cking Walkoff: They're very similar in terms of their propensity for working it. Both kind of old-man attractive but aloof about it. All things being equal, we'll once again give it to the Lebowski Strut. Advantage: Bridges
Winner: Jeff Bridges 2-1

Matt Damon vs. Jeffrey Wright
Quantity: Damon remains untouchable on the quantity scale, and I haven't even seen The Bourne Ultimatum yet. Jeffrey Wright has nothing to be ashamed of here. Advantage: Damon
Quality: Damon's strong collection of very good performances still doesn't produce something as great as Wright in Angels In America. Advantage: Wright
Fake Oscar Nods: Damon: 1 (The Departed); Wright: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They gave the two best performances in Syriana, with Wright's conflicted lawyer bested by Damon's oil...analyst? Sopkesmodel? What exactly did his character do for a living? No matter... Advantage: Damon
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Damon's the Sexiest Man Alive, sure, but he's still never gone drag. Advantage: Wright
Winner: Matt Damon 3-2

Billy Crudup vs. Brad Pitt
Quantity: The fact that I've yet to see The Assassination of Jesse James may or may not be my loss (I've heard enough divergent opinions to be utterly unsure as to how I'll respond to it), but it's certainly Pitt's loss here as it means he gets edged out by the star of World Traveler and Trust The Man. Ouch. Advantage: Crudup
Quality: Tyler Durden from Fight Club versus F*ckhead from Jesus' Son. If it were a fistfight, it would be such a hilarious mismatch that I'd pay full price to see it. As an acting battle, it's not quite that one-sided, but Crudup is still the clear winner. Advantage: Crudup
Fake Oscar Nods: Crudup: 3 (Jesus' Son; Almost Famous; Stage Beauty); Pitt: 1 (Fight Club.
Spotlights Stolen: Both played adult survivors of juvie abuse in Sleepers. Crudup managed to sell "strung-out vengeance" pretty well, but Pitt got more screen time and was slightly more impressive. Advantage: Pitt
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Difficult. You know Billy's my guy, but I suppose I'll have to bow down to popular opinion on some things. (No need to mention that I'm doing so only after the outcome is secured. I'm well aware). Advantage: Pitt
Winner: Billy Crudup 3-2

EDIT: Shame on me for failing to mention that the above face-off was a battle between the man originally slated to play Russell Hammond in Almost Famous and the man who eventually did play him, to much acclaim. Further proof that the right man prevailed here.

Hugh Jackman vs. Clive Owen
Quantity: It's kind of fascinating the way these two men's careers parallel each other. Both were packaged as action heroes in potential franchises (Owen with King Arthur and Sin City, Jackman in the X-Men movies), both worked for legendary directors like Woody Allen (Jackman in Scoop) and Robert Altman (Owen in Gosford Park), and both ended up on '06 "Best of" lists by working with two of the best directors of their generation (Jackman in The Fountain, Owen in Children of Men). It's no surprise that the ledger is balanced. Advantage: Push
Quality: The one thing that Owen has that Jackman doesn't is a performance like Owen's in Closer. He came into his own as an actor, in a big way, with The Fountain, but by that time Owen had already been there for a few years. And he'd done it (marginally) better. Advantage: Owen
Fake Oscar Nods: Jackman: 1 (The Fountain); Owen: 1 (Closer). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen. Un-fucking-forunately.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Oh my God, this is difficult. Usually, the walkoff goes to the most James Bond-like (Owen) or the better looking one (Jackman...by a nose). Of course, Jackman has the secret fancy-footed Peter Allen gay hoofer weapon going for him. Advantage: Jackman
Winner: 1-1 HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE! Tough call, kids. Vote wisely and once.

Capsule Review: American Gangster


Movie: American Gangster
Director/Studio: Ridley Scott / Universal
10 Word Review: Alongside "solid" in the 2007 film yearbook, you'll find this.
Best Thing About It: The squishy morality of the whole thing is pretty interesting throughout. Scott never makes the mistake of denying what a charismatic figure the local drug lord can be, but the more interesting decision is how he employs the standard implosion of the criminal (the part of the movie where Ray Liotta sweats a lot and screams at Lorraine Bracco) and directs it outward. Frank Lucas doesn't destroy himself, he destroys his community. Similarly, Russell Crowe rides the virtuous lawman/shitty human being line.
Worst Thing About It: Well, after all that meticulous upkeep of the film's moral ambiguity, we get an ending where the two movie stars team up to take out the unambiguously bad cops. I understand it's based on a true story, but it's a total letdown, storywise.
Best Performance: Remember how after all that hoo-hah (so to speak) about DeNiro and Pacino facing off in Heat, and then DeNiro just blew Pacino away? It's kinda like that here, only Denzel loses out to Crowe by being the same old boring charmer Denzel he always is (as opposed to acting like a giant Christmas ham like Pacino did). Crowe doesn't win best in show honors by default, though. In fact, for an actor I haven't cared for for a long time, he's delivered two great performances this year, in this movie and 3:10 To Yuma. Props grudgingly given, you big, grumpy rageaholic.
Oscar Prospects: Lots, thanks to the robust box office and the pedigree of the director and stars. Right now, I'm saying it's in line for Picture, Director, and Actor (Washington) nominations, and all the tech nominations that would come with it.

Grade: B

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Oscar Predictions: Eyes-Closed Edition

Now that November's almost over, and the precursor awards are waiting to be handed out starting in early December, I figured I'd put one last set of predictions on record so that once again I can hope to be proved clairvoyant about these things when in actuality I will be proved adequately observant. Better than nothing.

As we head into the turn on the Oscar year, we still don't have a movie that can be definitively termed a "lock." There's strong consensus around some films, certainly -- Atonement, Charlie Wilson's War, No Country For Old Men -- but nothing's a sure bet quite yet. Even in the acting categories, only a small handful of performances are pretty much guaranteed to endure (Cate Blanchett: clear up some mantle space). So here are my best educated guesses, frozen for posterity.

BEST PICTURE

  1. Atonement (Focus)
  2. American Gangster (Universal)
  3. No Country For Old Men (Miramax)
  4. Sweeney Todd (Paramount)
  5. Juno (Fox Searchlight)

Also: Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.); There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage); Into The Wild (Paramount Vantage); Charlie Wilson's War (Universal); The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax).

Truth be told, I'd like to swap out one of Sweeney/Juno for Michael Clayton but I'm not confident enough about which to drop. Unless Atonement gets brutalized by the critics, it looks safe for a nomination (I wouldn't call it a frontrunner for the win, though). Gangster's strong box office is strong in its favor while No Country has the critics. Any of that second five could surge its way to a nomination if it catches a wave of support in the next month.


BEST DIRECTOR
  1. Joe Wright -- Atonement
  2. Ridley Scott -- American Gangster
  3. Joel and Ethan Coen -- No Country For Old Men
  4. Tony Gilroy -- Michael Clayton
  5. Paul Thomas Anderson -- There Will Be Blood
Also: Sean Penn (Into The Wild); Jason Reitman (Juno); Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly); Sidney Lumet (Before The Devil Knows You're Dead); Mike Nichols (Charlie Wilson's War); Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd).

This looks like a strong year for that 5th director slot that tends to favor iconoclastic directors without corresponding Best Picture nods. Anderson, Penn, Schnabel, and Lumet fit that mold perfectly. Predicting Gilroy probably means I'm still holding a torch for big Oscar success for Michael Clayton, but I really do think it could end up as a big winner. In general, I'd caution against drawing too many comparisons from American Gangster to The Departed in terms of its potential Oscar success, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Ridley Scott could finally get a Best Director trophy this year.


BEST ACTOR
  1. Daniel Day-Lewis -- There Will Be Blood
  2. James McAvoy -- Atonement
  3. Denzel Washington -- American Gangster
  4. George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
  5. Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd)
Also: Matthieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly); Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah); Emile Hirsch (Into The Wild); Viggo Mortenson (Eastern Promises); John Cusack (Grace Is Gone); Tom Hanks (Charlie Wilson's War); Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages).

The advance raves for Daniel Day-Lewis are already looking mighty similar to his raves for Gangs Of New York. This time around, they may end up pushing him all the way to a second trophy. The time seems right for McAvoy's ascendance to the Best Actor echelon. I wasn't crazy about Denzel in Gangster but enough will be to allow him to ride a Best Picture nominee to a nomination of his own. Clooney by all rights should get recognized for a career-best performance while Depp will either blow people away or disappoint them utterly. The second tier looks kind of anemic, with only a groundswell for Viggo or a late charge by Cusack or Amalric looking like genuine upset possibilities.


BEST ACTRESS
  1. Amy Adams -- Enchanted
  2. Marion Cotillard -- La Vie En Rose
  3. Ellen Page -- Juno
  4. Julie Christie -- Away From Her
  5. Kiera Knightley -- Atonement

Also: Laura Linney (The Savages); Jodie Foster (The Brave One); Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart); Cate Blanchett (The Golden Age); Nicole Kidman (Margot At The Wedding).

Best Actress is suddenly looking like a stronger category than Best Actor, thanks in part to early-year performances from Cotillard, Christie, Foster, and Jolie. Amy Adams is at the top of my list because she's the only one of the top five that I can really evision winning the award. She's having this weird "Julia Roberts by way of Julie Andrews" moment -- it'll be interesting to see if it lasts.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  1. Javier Bardem -- No Country For Old Men
  2. Phillip Seymour Hoffman -- Charlie Wilson's War
  3. Tom Wilkinson -- Michael Clayton
  4. Casey Affleck -- The Assassination of Jesse James
  5. Paul Dano -- There Will Be Blood

Also: Hal Holbrook (Into The Wild); Max Von Sydow (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly); Philip Bosco (The Savages); Alan Rickman (Sweeney Todd); Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men).

Nobody's talking about Tommy Lee Jones in No Country, but I think it's an easily-campaigned lead/supporting borderliner, provided his Elah bid doesn't catch fire. Bardem's buzz hasn't diminished any, and Hoffman's had a strong enough year that he'll end up getting nominated for something. I'm currently picking youth (Affleck and Dano) over age (Holbrook, Von Sydow, Bosco), but I could easily see that flipped.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  1. Cate Blanchett -- I'm Not There
  2. Tilda Swinton -- Michael Clayton
  3. Jennifer Jason Leigh -- Margot At The Wedding
  4. Helena Bonham Carter -- Sweeney Todd
  5. Saoirse Ronan -- Atonement
Also: Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone); Romola Garai (Atonement); Leslie Mann (Knocked Up); Meryl Streep (Lions For Lambs); Marisa Tomei (Before The Devil Knows You're Dead).

Blanchett's about as locked a nominee as you can get. It's starting to look like she's unbeatable for the win, too, but seeing as I'm Not There doesn't figure to be that strong of a presence in other categories, I won't set it in stone yet. As strong as Supporting Actress has been in the last couple years, it's looking awfully anemic this year. Which is good news for someone like Tilda Swinton, who'd have been overlooked in years past. I'm still hoping Leigh can hold on, though her popularity may be more among prognostocators rather than those with an actual ballot. I'm calling "uncle" on Saoirse Ronan as the Atonement nominee since she's the one people keep coming around to. I tried, Romola Garai. I really did.

In other category prediction news:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1. Juno
2. Michael Clayton
3. Enchanted
4. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
5. The Savages

Also: Ratatouille; Knocked Up; Eastern Promises; Lars and the Real Girl; Once.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. Atonement
2. No Country For Old Men
3. American Gangster
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
5. There Will Be Blood

Also: Into The Wild; Charlie Wilson's War; Sweeney Todd; The Assassination of Jesse James; Away From Her.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
1. Roger Deakins -- The Assassination of Jesse James
2. Eric Gautier -- Into the Wild
3. Janusz Kaminski -- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
4. Robert Elswit -- There Will Be Blood
5. Seamus McGarvey -- Atonement

Also: Roger Deakins (No Country For Old Men); Dariusz Wolski (Sweeney Todd); Rodrigo Prieto (Lust, Caution); Harris Savides (Zodiac); Edward Lachman (I'm Not There).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Smooth Joey Apollo's '07 NFL Picks: Week 12

Last week:

Joe: 10-6
Aaron: 14-2

Season to date:

Joe 105-55
Aaron 104-56


Green Bay at Detroit

Aaron: After the Packers win, Brett Favre will kill a wild turkey for dinner. Damn, he's gritty. On a related note, Detroit's homeless better hope Brett wears his huntin' glasses. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Seems the Lions only started losing once I decided to pick them. ...No, you're not rational. Pick: Green Bay


N.Y. Jets at Dallas

Aaron: Wow. It's like Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one for the Cowboys. With games like these, I'll be drinking my holiday beers with the TV off. OK...on "mute". Pick: Dallas

Joe: Terrell Owens had his week of gluttony and having more than his fair share last week. Let Jason Witten have some stuffing this week, dude! Damn! Pick: Dallas


Indianapolis at Atlanta

Aaron: The NFL Network might wanna consider giving me a better reason to call my local cable provider and make unreasonable, unsolicited scheduling suggestions. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: And thus concludes this week's edition of "Grandpa Aaron Complains That The Thanksgiving Games Aren't As Good As They Was In Aught-Four." Pick: Indianapolis


Buffalo at Jacksonville

Aaron: LOVED the Bills fans booing the Pats last week when they went for it on 4th and 1 a few times. If I may quote Simpsons episode Homer the Clown (2F12): "Stop! Stop! He's already dead! (Sobs)" Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: On the bright side, the 1992 Dallas Cowboys can suck it -- the Bills have a new example for humiliating defeat on national television. Pick: Jacksonville


Houston at Cleveland

Aaron: The Browns have all the makings of a team that's going to upset a division winner on "Wildcard Weekend", build a week's worth of "could they?" hype, then lose to New England by 66. Let's enjoy the ride. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: ...Or else they lose a shocker to "Broadway" Matt Schaub this week. Pick: Houston


Minnesota at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: There's a new watch commerical that calls paid endorser Eli Manning "unstoppable". Eli Manning. "Unstoppable". Like a fuckin' force of nature or something. Eli Manning. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Maybe he would be if fat-faced Jeremy Shockey weren't dropping every other pass sent his way. Pick: NY Giants


New Orleans at Carolina

Aaron: Two teams that, from week to week, are impossible to get a handle on. Gotta make a call, though, and I think the Saints' 2007 season officially ends. Pick: Carolina

Joe: I think I've finally figured out how to handle the Panthers: they lose. Pick: New Orleans


Oakland at Kansas City

Aaron: The Chiefs will play without Larry Johnson for the third straight game and are currently mired in a three game losing streak. My Raiders have reached the point where I'd probably pick every other team in the league if any of them were playing KC. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: See, the way I see it, the Raiders have been inching ever-closer to win, particularly ever since they've put their eggs in Fargas's basket. It does concern me that, in all my picks that differ from Cam, I'm taking the road team. Pick: Oakland


Seattle at St. Louis

Aaron: The Rams might be the first 2-8 team in NFL history that, it could be argued, controls its own playoff destiny. Run the table and they could sneak in. Can't wait for ESPN's made-for-TV movie of their season if it happens. Pick: St. Louis

Joe: It would be called "Battle of the Bulger." ...I'll show myself out. Pick: Seattle


Tennessee at Cincinnati

Aaron: This will be the game where Titans' QB Vince Young "silences the doubters" for one week. And, if he gets to play against this sh*tty defense again the week after, he might silence them again. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: My inexplicable hatred for Tennessee continues. But at least I get to pick a home team! Pick: Cincinnati


Washington at Tampa Bay

Aaron: The Redskins might be a decent road 'dog to play this weekend against a Bucs team that doesn't even average 20 points/game. Washington's not winning this one outright, though. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe:Hey, you think Joey Galloway will catch a 50+ yard touchdown for the 34th consecutive game? Pick: Tampa Bay


San Francisco at Arizona

Aaron: Quite the nuclear winter for Bay Area sports fans, no? Well, the San Jose Sharks are in first place, but all I need is a hockey team that breaks my heart. Pick: Arizona

Joe: 4-2 over Ottawa, bitch! Sabres are back! Pick: Arizona


Baltimore at San Diego

Aaron: If the Ravens only had a quarterback and some receivers. As it stands, the Chargers are about due for their once-a-month beatdown of a mediocre team. Pick: San Diego

Joe: I don't even think the Ravens are mediocre anymore. Now that their defense has quit on them (because...that's totally what's happening, come on), they're actively bad. Pick: San Diego


Denver at Chicago

Aaron: Is Jay Cutler still the Broncos' QB? He is? And, he's on the road? Juuuuust checking. Pick: Chicago

Joe: I don't know. Chicago seems to be responding well to Rex Grossman (...I know), but Denver's been playing better as of late, too. Go with the home team, I guess. Pick: Chicago


Philadelphia at New England

Aaron: This one's made even more awesome by the possibility of a start by Eagles back-up QB A.J. Feeley. Can a team score negative points? Pick: New England

Joe: Can the rest of the NFL agree to just take the opening kickoff, run right out the back of the end zone, and take a forfeit rather than give the Pats the satisfaction of another 50+ point win? Please? Pick: New England


Miami at Pittsburgh

Aaron: The Dolphins aren't the Jets. Thank God for that, Steelers fans. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: 0-16 Dolphins? What do the rest of us get to toast with for that accomplishment? Pick: Pittsburgh

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Capsule Review: Before The Devil Knows You're Dead


Movie: Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
Director/Studio: Sidney Lumet / ThinkFilm
10 Word Review: Heist gone bad freshened up by smart direction, strong acting.
Best Thing About It: The idea of a nonlinear timeline jazzing up an otherwise unremarkable story will understandably get eyes to rolling in the post-Iñaritu cinematic landscape, but the way Lumet presents the jagged timeline, there's a purpose behind it beyond mere showing off. Each pass at the story we know a little bit more about the characters and their circumstances, so each pass at the story is a little different. It's refreshing to see a device that was rapidly becoming hackneyed used in an intelligent way.
Worst Thing About It: I suppose Ethan Hawke's performance could be described as appropriately unhinged, as befits his character. I found it off-puttingly over the top almost throughout. I get that he's the weak one. I'm not sure we needed all the jittery double-takes.
Best Performance: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who seems to have shed a lot of the tics that have long bothered me and made it unable to enjoy about half of his performances. Here, he reveals his character sparingly, bit by bit, until by the end we can see every ugly, scary, sad, sympathetic, contemptible part of him.
Oscar Prospects: A Best Director nod for old pro Lumet isn't out of the question, but the film itself doesn't seem very Oscary. Hoffman's performance here might bolster his Best Actor chances...for The Savages. And if the editors are thinking beyond the Best Picture field, a Best Editing nod would be well deserved. As for all this dark horse talk for Marisa Tomei...I really don't see it. She's fine, but she has no big clip scene and she's aggressively sexual, which isn't exactly Academy catnip.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Capsule Review: No Country For Old Men

Movie: No Country For Old Men
Director/Studio: Joel and Ethan Coen / Miramax and Paramount Vantage
10 Word Review: Best Coens since Fargo, easily. Contemplative and terrifying at once.
Best Thing About It: The whole movie is great, but the sense of dread, of oncoming, unstoppable doom that is created by the Coens, cinematographer extraordinaire Roger Deakins, and Javier Bardem is terrifying and ultimately exhilarating.
Worst Thing About It: Gosh, I don't even know. It's not a perfect movie -- a very, very good one, but not perfect -- but there's no major flaw that jumps out. It's a movie that could easily end up overhyped, I will say that. As always, moviegoing public, recommend responsibly. Don't overpromise.
Best Performance: Javier Bardem, oh my God. Absolutely terrifying. He measures out the performance in the same way the Coens measure out his killings, and he never once gives the audience an ounce of anything besides unrelenting pursuit and the stringent moral code that only a killer can possess. So, so good.
Oscar Prospects: Bardem's currently the acknowledged "frontrunner" for the Supporting Actor trophy, but it's a long way to the stage from now. He's a shoo-in for the critics awards, though, and he should at least nab a nomination. As for the film, the directors, screenwriters, cinematographer...they're all going to be a part of the conversation, but critical support and the middlebrow tastes of the Academy are two very different things. I'm predicting Picture/Director nominations right now, but very tentatively.

Grade: A

Monday, November 19, 2007

Programming Note

I'm working from home today, and since The Price Is Right just isn't the same without the rest of the TWoP bullpen crew, I'm watching a marathon of The Real World: Sydney on MTV. I haven't watched any of this season at all, and I've heard it's terrible, but I've also heard that people keep moving out/getting kicked off at such a furious rate that they might run out of rommates by the end of the show. That kind of outweighs by earlier objection that it was too hard to tell the one vapid blonde from the other, idential vapid blonde.

HOWEVER, an even better recommendation for this marathon -- going on right now on MTV, go watch it! -- is that it's being broadcast in Coral Vision, with former Real Worlder Coral Smith getting a platform to break into the middle of episodes and make fun of the show. If you love Coral like I do -- and you totally should -- this is the best thing to happen to this dumb, crappy show. Sample quote, re: Shauvon's hideous outfit: "Are those shoulder pads? Jesus, Gloria Estefan!"


Love ya, Coral!

UPDATE: Coral is now being joined by her The Duel teammate Evan From Ontario. It's fucking hilarious. Don't think I won't keep you posted on this shit all day. You're all lucky I have work today or else I'd probably be liveblogging it. Shut up.

UPDATE #2: Now it's Coral and Kenny, who I normally like but he's being kind of creepy-ogler guy. Though, true to form, he's kind of winning me over by making fun of that bumpkin stereotype and some rando ugly bartender. Oh, Kenny. I'm not proud.

UPDATE #3: "A bird just told Isaac his grandpa died." This actually happened. Where has this season been all my life?? Seriously.

Gay For Pay (Queer Film Blog-A-Thon)

[This post is part of today's Queer Film Blog-A-Thon at friend of Low Res Queering The Apparatus.]

Ah, queer cinema. Where would we as a culture be without you? We'd be down several screenshots of Johnny Depp in drag as a Cuban prostitute, I'll tell you that. And a rallying point for the nation's collective hatred of Crash. Jonathan Schaech's career would be considered boring in its entirety rather than simply boring once he stopped making movies with Gregg Araki. Not to mention losing a whole host of oppressive-or-perhaps-hilariously-
super-supportive mom roles for actresses like Mary Kay Place, Andrea Martin, and Meredith Baxter (-Birney). Pedro Almodovar, Jay Brannan, the Threshold of Revelation, hideously overpraised Tori Spelling performances, Curt Wild, Ian McKellen... A world without Hedwig or the last fifteen minutes of Y Tu Mama Tambien would not be worth living in.

So I'm very glad to be participating in this blog-a-thon. As for choosing a topic, I figured the topics of coded homosexuality under the Hays Code, the underrepresentation of lesbians, and why the hell we know the name "Matt Keeslar" would have been well taken care of by the time I'd signed on. And then it hit me, while I was recapping Weeds...

Best Performances In Queer Films By Actors Who Shockingly Turned Out To Be Straight:

Justin Kirk -- Angels In America

It is absolutely a testament to Justin Kirk's acting talent that he was the first person to come to mind under such a heading. Everything about his endlessly compelling rendition of Prior Walter in Mike Nichols's Angels in America screamed "one of us!" to me. The sad-eyed sensitivity, his expressive physicality, his...ease with the French language? I don't know. This wasn't a straight actor mincing it up for the camera, I knew that. All the principal actors in Angels -- Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson, Jeffrey Wright -- gave convincing performances, but only Kirk seemed like he went home with it. Shows how much I know. Cut to two years later when he shows up on Weeds, and within three seasons, he's erased any and all lingering ideas about his potential queerness. Andy Botwin is so incredibly, heterosexually disgusting, I can't imagine any self-respecting homo ever touching him. Not even while taking it up the bum with a giant black strap-on. Uh...kudos, I guess? No, seriously, it's an awesome performance -- so good, in fact, that I don't even think of Prior and Andy as being played by the same person. Thank God, because: seriously. Those two don't need to be sharing my headspace, ever.


Jonathan Rhys Meyers -- Velvet Goldmine

Chalk this up to the whole British-or-Gay thing. Or perhaps the whole wishful thinking thing. JRM is not a bad actor, and he gives a good performance here (still the best thing he's ever done), but it's not like he's so incredibly good that he had me totally fooled. I guess I just fell for the fey, pouty demeanor and (more importantly) the way Todd Haynes was able to create the all-things-to-all-people rock-god hysteria over Brian Slade so successfully that we (or at least I) fell under the same spell the audiences in the film did.

Dan Futterman -- Urbania

Look, he just really loved his boyfriend, okay? Maybe -- maybe -- I was projecting a little. A little. Can you blame me? It really is a sympathetic portrayal in a surprisingly affecting movie.



Gina Gershon -- Bound

I still can't believe Gina Gershon isn't an actual lesbian. Jennifer Tilly, sure, she was just a tourist, but Gershon. After Bound and Showgirls? She didn't earn that icon status for nothing.




Wes Ramsey -- Latter Days

I have weird mixed feelings about Latter Days, but I was completely sure that at least one of the central gay romantic pair was the real deal. Okay, maybe note Steve Sandvoss, whose sensitive-guy baby face was likely hiding a total poon-hound, but Wes Ramsey? Looked really into those sex scenes. And considering the other acting we'd seen from him in the rest of the movie, what were the odds that he could fake it so successfully? Of course, now his website is full of ruggedly butch head shots, and a few years ago he showed up on Charmed. Which seems like it should have been a queer-tinted show, but it really, really wasn't. Boo.


SPECIAL BONUS QUEER CONTENT

Just to continue the theme, I thought I'd dig up the five gayest posts in Low Res history. Generally, this blog's queerness is set at a low simmer with the occasional flame-up, so to speak. Here are the flameiest:

I *Heart* Johnny Weir.

I High-Five The Universe Over Reese Witherspoon's dress.

I Get Psyched About Nina Garcia Having a Baby.

I Express My Love For Janet Jackson's "If" video.

I Get Girly For Orlando Bloom.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beyond Actor-dome: Round 2 concludes

So I used to do this thing called an Actors Tournament. Then I moved to New York and forgot all about it like an asshole. Well fear not! It continues today. And just in case you need to refresh your memories, here's how it's gone so far:

ROUND 1, GROUP 1 saw Sean Penn get swept, Elijah Wood win unpopularly, and a highly controversial Bale v. McGregor Battle of the Internet Darlings.

ROUND 1 GROUP 2 saw Wilson v. Wilson, Lebowski v. Lebowski, and an epic Pitt v. Denzel battle.

ROUND 1 GROUP 3 saw Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt fall victim to their own electric youth.

ROUND 1 GROUP 4 saw Paul Rudd get regrettably shut out.

ROUND 2 GROUP 1 saw Billy Crudup earn the ire of Bale's Bitches For America.

And thus, here we are, with the second half of Round 2. Seriously, sorry it took me so long to pick this up again. Hope it was worth the wait:


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

Brian Cox vs. Hugh Jackman
Quantity: Keeping up with Cox's prolific output is folly. There aren't enough X-Men sequels out there to let Jackman catch up. Advantage: Cox
Quality: Oh, this is tough. Jackman's Fountain performance grows stronger and stronger in my mind as time passes. Yet Cox's Long Island pedophile is disturbingly good; memorable in a role you'd rather not remember at all. In a squeaker...Advantage: Jackman
Fake Oscar Nods: Cox: 2 (L.I.E.; 25th Hour/Adaptation); Jackman: 1 (The Fountain).
Spotlights Stolen: Both men were in the real best comic book movie ever made, X2: X-Men United (Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins can kindly step aside). Cox was shiny and new and chomping up every piece of scenery he could find, but Jackman was still riding his "best casting decision in recent memory" triumph, and it's not like he found fewer ways to be awesome this time around. Advantage: Jackman
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Well this isn't even worth arguing about. Advantage: Jackman
Winner: Hugh Jackman 3-2

Alec Baldwin vs. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Quantity: Alec Baldwin is in a lot of movies. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in a lot of movies. I almost always like Baldwin in whatever he's in. I...can't say the same for Hoffman. Advantage: Baldwin
Quality: Jack Donaghy versus Truman Capote. I'd like to think Jack could build a hit show around Capote, perhaps making him the host of "MILF Island." You have to admit, Truman would get along famously with those MILFs. Advantage: Baldwin
Fake Oscar Nods: Hoffman: 1 (Capote); Baldwin: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: I liked them both in State and Main. Hoffman's neurotic screenwriter was a strong center to Mamet's ensemble, but Baldwin stole the show as the lecherous (and possibly felonious) movie star. Advantage: Baldwin
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Maybe if Hoffman thought to show up to the Oscars showered and shaved, I might have given him more consideration here. As it stands, Advantage: Baldwin
Winner: Alec Baldwin 4-1

Morgan Freeman vs. Brad Pitt
Quantity: I haven't seen The Assassination of Jesse James yet, and that might not be so far to Brad Pitt, particularly since I have seen Gone Baby Gone, which puts another credit in Freeman's corner. Lucky for Brad, it doesn't change the fact that he's accumulated more worthy credits in the past ten years. Weird to think about, but true. Advantage: Pitt
Quality: Pitt in Fight Club trumps Freeman in Nurse Betty. Advantage: Pitt
Fake Oscar Nods: Freeman: 1 (Nurse Betty); Pitt: 1 (Fight Club. Push
Spotlights Stolen: Both were in Seven. Both were quite good in Seven. While Pitt's performance remains underrated (the ability to carve such an odd duck out of a typically straight-man role is not easy), Freeman was award-caliber. Advantage: Freeman
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Whether he has any interest in it or not, Brad holds a decisive advantage when it comes to working a runway. Advantage: Pitt
Winner: Brad Pitt 3-1

Jake Gyllenhaal vs. Heath Ledger
Quantity: Ledger's excellent, excellent performance in Candy pulls him into a tie with Jake, who had momentarily snagged the lead via his Zodiac performance. Push.
Quality: Heath's lone Oscar nod was for his career best performance, which is rare. Our favorite Gyllenhaal performance is still Donnie Darko, but it doesn't quite measure up here. Advantage: Ledger
Fake Oscar Nods: Ledger: 1 (Brokeback Mountain); Gyllenhaal: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: So there was this movie called Brokeback Mountain... Heath's certainly getting a lot of mileage out of one performance, but rules are rules. Advantage: Ledger
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Ah! Now it's JAKE'S time to shine. Advantage: Gyllenhaal
Winner: Heath Ledger 3-1

Paul Giamatti vs. Jeffrey Wright
Quantity: Two superb character actors who have muscled careers for themselves by the sheer amount of ass they consistently kick onscreen. I'll say it right now: every role that ultimately goes to Denzel Washington should be offered to Jeffrey Wright first. Giamatti beats him here, though, due heavily to the fact that it seems you couldn't make a movie between 1997 and 2000 without having Giamatti in a pivotal bit part. Advantage: Giamatti
Quality: Giamatti's beleaguered drunk in Sideways was great, but not better than Wright in Angels In America. Advantage: Wright
Fake Oscar Nods: Giamatti: 2 (Sideways; American Splendor); Wright: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: Both were decidedly too good for M. Night Shyamalan's Lady In The Water. It's kind of unfair to say that Wright's role being smaller makes us like him more because there's less of an opportunity to embarrass himself by advancing Shyamalan's self-aggradizing fairy tale bullshit, but...here we are. Advantage: Wright
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Oh, Paul Giamatti. You are so very outgunned here. Advantage: Wright
Winner: Jeffrey Wright 3-2

Jeff Bridges vs. Leonardo DiCaprio
Quantity: Looking at their credits, neither of them have been all that prolific in the last decade. But when they do show up, it tends to be special. Note that DiCaprio isn't getting credit for his Oscar-nominated performance in Blood Diamond (haven't seen it), or two of his three Scorsese collaborations, The Departed and Gangs Of New York (didn't like 'em). That don't hurt him none, however: he still ekes out a victory over Jeff "Four Movies" Bridges. Advantage: DiCaprio
Quality: The one acclaimed DiCaprio performance I did dig was his work in The Aviator. It's more assured than his GONY turn and less overstuffed-with-tics than he was in The Departed. Good as it was, though, it's no match for Bridges's children's novelist/misanthropic sadist in The Door In The Floor. God, we should see that movie again. Advantage: Bridges
Fake Oscar Nods: Bridges: 2 (The Door In The Floor; The Big Lebowski); DiCaprio: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen (though we kind of think they'd make a good father and son).
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Is it just, or does Leo often seem a little wrapped to tightly at awards shows and such? Like he's trying to hard to make people forget about the Pussy Posse days that he's afraid to even breathe? We'll still take the Lebowski dream-sequence pimp walk, regardless. Advantage: Bridges
Winner: Jeff Bridges 3-1

Robert Downey Jr. vs. Peter Sarsgaard
Quantity: A best-in-show performance in this year's Year Of The Dog lets Sarsgaard eke out a slim win here. Advantage: Sarsgaard
Quality: They both manage to elevate good movies into great ones, but Downey carries Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in a way Sarsgaard doesn't quite in Shattered Glass. Advantage: Downey Jr.
Fake Oscar Nods: Sarsgaard: 2 (Jarhead; Shattered Glass); Downey Jr.: 1 (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Put him in a tux and far away from the junk and Downey can rock a runway with the best of 'em. Advantage: Downey Jr.
Winner: 2-2. HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE! Vote wisely and once, you know the deal.

Bill Murray vs. Owen Wilson
Quantity: At the last minute, and with a typically charming (or charmingly typical if you're being less kind) turn in The Darjeeling Limited, Owen Wilson forces a Push.
Quality: Settling on Wilson's best performance (it's The Royal Tenenbaums, edging out Zoolander) is harder than deciding whether it trumps Murray's work in Lost In Translation. It doesn't. Advantage: Murray
Fake Oscar Nods: Murray: 2 (Lost In Translation; Rushmore); Wilson: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: Both being members of the Wes Anderson troupe means Wilson and Murray have shared a lot of screen time. They jockeyed for Gwyneth in The Royal Tenenbaums (edge to Wilson), they were estranged father and son in The Life Aquatic (big edge to Murray), and while it may not seem sporting, Murray's Darjeeling cameo can't stand up to Wilson's lead performance. Advantage: Wilson
Motherf*cking Walkoff: The Owen-Wilson-was-Hansel clause remains in effect. Advantage: Wilson
Winner: 2-2. OH MY GOD ANOTHER TIE. Please don't allow your feelings of sympathy about Wilson's suicide attempt or Murray being in Garfield 2 to cloud your judgment. Vote wisely and once.


That's two ties, then. Robert Downey Jr. v Peter Sarsgaard and Bill Murray v. Owen Wilson. Please vote for both in the comments.

Smooth Joey Apollo's '07 NFL Picks: Week 11

Last week:

Joe: 8-6
Aaron: 5-9


Season to date:

Joe: 95-49
Aaron: 90-54


Week 11:

Arizona at Cincinnati

Aaron: Glad to see the sh*ttiest teams of my youth (OK, my late teens to late 20s) are still paired up occasionally. Let's see: Cards = top 10 defense, Cincy = at home. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Porous Bengals defense don't fail me now! Pick: Arizona


Carolina at Green Bay

Aaron: Testaverde vs. Farve! This'll surely be the oldest combined age for two starting quarterbacks since every week Joe Montana took the field in his last two years as a Kansas City Chief. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: So when do the Packers play a team that's any good? And is there a higher visibility platform than Sunday Night Football to beam that mythical game to the masses? Pick: Green Bay


Cleveland at Baltimore

Aaron: Only in the NFL could Browns QB Derek Anderson, 24, put up great numbers and carry a mediocre team to respectability...only to have his long-term future in doubt cuz he's not as pretty or marketable as unproven first round pick, Brady Quinn. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Yeah, but Brady Quinn's a big queermo. Don't you read the hilarious Deadspin commenters? Pick: Cleveland


Kansas City at Indianapolis

Aaron: The Colts put on the single worst (non-Raider) half of football that I've seen in years vs. the Chargers last Sunday. That said, the bat-sh*t insane 14.5 spread might make this the single best bet of the year. Colts win, but no way they cover. No way! Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we don't deal with point spreads around these parts, lest we end up with Aaron's Lockdown Steal of the Week. (That is a big lock...) Pick: Indianapolis


Miami at Philadelphia

Aaron: The Dolphins have a rookie quarterback making his first start, on the road, no less. But, now there's word that the Eagles' Brian Westbrook is questionable for the game. IF he doesn't play, a Miami upset wouldn't surprise me. I reserve my right to mention this next week if I'm right. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Hold up...I just heard that a student reporter at a Philadelphia high school questioned Donovan McNabb's ability and whether he should be starting in his "Scotty's Sports Corner" column. Sorry, Miami. Pick: Philadelphia


New Orleans at Houston

Aaron: I thought the Saints' faux renaissance would last a few more weeks. Meanwhile, I'll amuse myself the rest of the season with all those "What's Wrong with Reggie Bush" stories. Pick: Houston

Joe: Rather than going back in the tank, I think the Saints will opt for "frustratingly inconsistent" instead. Pick: New Orleans


N.Y. Giants at Detroit

Aaron: Now that the Giants have clearly established their standing in the second echelon of NFC teams, maybe they can take the Lions out for pizza and Hi-C, afterwards. They are neighbors, after all. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: I already think this is a stupid pick, but the Lions are at home. Pick: Detroit


Oakland at Minnesota

Aaron: Last week, Rex Grossman beat the Raiders. The week before it was 400 lb. Ron Dayne. Do the Vikings have any washed-up talent in need of an inexplicably good game? No, no...Daunte Culpepper plays for Oakland, now. Good guess, though. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Without Adrian Peterson, Minnesota's got nothing but washed-up non-talent. Enjoy your last win of the season, Raiders fans! Pick: Oakland


San Diego at Jacksonville

Aaron: Love the Jags' running game vs. a susceptible defense, but the Chargers are looking like a team that's going to unify against the authority of their management for the rest of the season. Wasn't that the plot in that Scott Bakula/Kathy Ireland/Sinbad vehicle Unnecessary Roughness? Pick: San Diego

Joe: Um, I believe the movie was called Necessary Roughness. Stupid. Pick: San Diego


Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Aaron: Possible postgame headlines: "Colts Roast Falcons", "Colts Feast on Falcons", "Colts Stuff Falcons" or "Colts Feast on Roasted Stuffed Falcons". Wait, Indy v. Atlanta is on Thanksgiving, isn't it? Fine, just substitute "Bucs" for "Colts" here. What? I'm not typing it over. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: I don't know. The Bucs really seem to have lost their mojo as of late. And the Falcons at home seem like a decent upset pick. 'Specially now that Warrick Dunn has awoken from his 50-year slumber. Pick: Atlanta


Pittsburgh at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: Never let it be said that I'm NOT the last one to use a tired soundbite: The Jets are a win over 0-9 Miami from being 0-9 Miami. No, really, that JUST came to me. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Huh. I was just going to say "Jets stink worse than the rest of New Jersey." Yours is better. Pick: Pittsburgh


Chicago at Seattle

Aaron: Hey, these guys! Last January, the Bears were 8.5 point favorites in a divisional playoff game vs. Seattle and I told all of you that Chicago wouldn't cover. Still got funds in the bodog.com account because of them. I will never stop mentioning this. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Wow, awesome. The Bears inept running game against the Seahawks inept running game. First back to 50 yards wins! In related news, if Shaun Alexander winds up dead under mysterious circumstances, you never heard of me. Pick: Seattle


St. Louis at San Francisco

Aaron: No, no...keep losing 49ers. Since the Patriots have your first round pick next year, we'll need a fresh new story about them in March and April leading up to the draft. Pick: St. Louis

Joe: Lord, seriously. Call me crazy, but I think the Rams may have turned a corner on their season. Pick: St. Louis


Washington at Dallas

Aaron: Not sure if we're getting this game in San Diego, but if so, they'd better feature several airings of that Pepsi AM commercial with pretty much the entire Cowboys team and front office. Cola for breakfast. And, we wonder why the world hates us. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Wait, wait, hold up a second. "Pepsi AM"? Pepsi for breakfast? I never thought I'd live to see the day. Kids, we're moving into the root cellar. The end times is comin'. Pick: Dallas


New England at Buffalo

Aaron: Let's just say the Generals aren't due. Pick: New England

Joe: Come on, seven! Pick: New England


Tennessee at Denver

Aaron: I think we can safely call Vince Young's season the first successful "Madden Curse" that didn't involve a season-ending injury. Pick: Denver

Joe: And yet that bastard team for jerks continues to win, despite all logic. Pick: Denver

Friday, November 16, 2007

Low Res Caption Contest No. 010


Thanks, Defamer! Yes, that's John Travolta. And yes, Kirk Douglas as well. What they're up to is anybody's guess.

Hit the comments and post your captions, dear readers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Trend-Spotter!

Okay, this is weird: earlier this week, I saw three movies in three days in which a dog was killed. You never see dogs killed in movies (unless you're watching Fear, but then you forget about the dog and only remember Marky Mark fingering Reese Witherspoon on a rollercoaster anyway). And now three in three days? Am I just seeing the wrong movies? Or the right ones?

One thing I do know: that one guy from the Michael Haneke Q&A last month is probably fuming right now.

Back!

You knew the new season was already hitting its stride once Nina Garcia unleashed her first "I'm confused..." of the season. Love her.

Ah, Project Runway. Any fears that my love for you had faded after over a year off the air were unfounded. Though the consensus around my viewing party was that "make it work" is now officially played out as a catch phrase and needs to be de-emphasized in favor of the Tim Gunn's Guide To Style staple "That's a lot of look."

My early favorites are Jack and Rami:










Which ultimately means that I'm shallow. No, but really, check out their designs:













Rami's was a little slate-gray-toga-party, maybe, but Jack's was overlooked perfection.

So who else watched? How did you like it? And..."Sweet P"?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Capsule Review: Away From Her

Movie: Away From Her
Director/Studio: Sarah Polley / Lionsgate
10 Word Review: Alzheimer's drama features stellar performances; emotionally powerful without being manipulative.
Best Thing About It: The performances by the leads, Julie Christie as a woman with Alzheimer's who decides to check herself into an assisted living facility before she gets too far gone and Gordon Pinsent as her husband who has to watch her steadily slip away. They're both so heartbreakingly real. A close second, however, is the remarkably sure-handed direction from Sarah Polley. If this is her first try at directing, I can't wait to see where she goes from here.
Worst Thing About It: Every once in a while, Polley's direction gets a little unnecessarily showy, but if that's the worst thing I can say about it? Nice job.
Best Performance: It's almost impossible to choose between Christie and Pinsent, so I'll say it's a tie. And kudos to Olympia Dukakis and Kristen Thomson, too, for giving such unexpectedly deep supporting performances.
Oscar Prospects: Christie stands the best chance of holding on for a Best Actress bid, but there's a distressingly good chance the voters will have forgotten her in favor of newer, shinier options. In a weaker year for Adapted Screenplay, I'd have held out hope as well, but it's not that year.
Grade: A

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Smooth Joey Apollo's '07 NFL Picks: Week 10

Last week:

Joe: 9-5
Aaron: 11-3


Season to date:

Joe: 87-43
Aaron: 85-45

Atlanta at Carolina

Aaron: The Vinny Testaverde Septuagenarian Tour rolls on. Get your t-shirts (with all the cities and dates on the back)! Pick: Carolina

Joe: Carolina's drive to an 8-8 division championship begins here. Pick: Carolina


Buffalo at Miami

Aaron: Hmmm. Four of the Dolphins eight losses have been by just three points. They're coming off a bye week AND playing at home. F*ck it. Pick: Miami

Joe: Officially, I'm picking against the Bills because that's been working out pretty well for them lately. Unofficially, it's a road division game against a winless rival late in the season. Big potential landmines there. Pick: Miami


Cleveland at Pittsburgh

Aaron: And a confidential "kiss my black ass" to the Steelers for scoring 35 points thru the air last week, when I needed just an average game from RB Willie Parker to win my fantasy game. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: I'm so incredibly tempted to pick the Browns here, but I think the Steelers are, for the first time I can ever remember, well equipped for a shootout. Pick: Pittsburgh


Denver at Kansas City

Aaron: A haiku: Jay Cutler, road game...First place Kansas City Chiefs?...Yo, belee dat, cuz. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: Wow, someone's getting all fancy-pants for their anniversary. Pick: Denver


Jacksonville at Tennessee

Aaron: The Jaguars might wanna look into finding a quarterback this offseason. It would go a long way towards winning those pesky games against ferocious defenses. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Tennessee continues their quest for a 12-4 season, a Wild Card round win at San Diego, and then an 82-14 loss to New England in the Divisional round. Mark it. Pick: Tennessee


Minnesota at Green Bay

Aaron: Thank you, Vikings! There's nothing quite like a week of local "sky is falling" talk after another inexplicable Chargers loss. Now, enjoy your loss this week, Vikings. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Here's hoping Peterson runs for a 90-yard touchdown, fakes mooning the Lambeau fans, and makes Joe Buck pass out from the vapors. Pick: Green Bay


Philadelphia at Washington

Aaron: Anyone remember the last time that Donovan McNabb wasn't giving a quietly panicked, overtly paranoid mid-week post-practice interview where he's defending himself? Discuss. Pick: Washington

Joe: Doesn't Donovan McNabb usually win after giving said interviews, though? Isn't that how it works? Always one step ahead of his detractors? Pick: Philadelphia


St. Louis at New Orleans

Aaron: Still another week or so before the Saints turn back into pumpkins. Thankfully, that leaves us all enough time to enjoy those creepy compare/contrast Subway commercials with Reggie Bush and Jared. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: See, now they've actually got be believing. I'm falling for the exact shift in public opinion that I predicted. I'm all the way inside the Matrix now. Pick: New Orleans


Cincinnati at Baltimore

Aaron: I think I speak for everyone when I say I'm done picking the Bengals this year. Besides, after Monday night, I'm told Ray Lewis is feeling awfully stabby. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Now that Baltimore's defense is allowing points, I think they can lose to anyone. Pick: Cincinnati


Chicago at Oakland

Aaron: Raiders coach Lane Kiffin made news this week when he declared that his team would be kicking to Bears super-return man Devin Hester. Thanks for clearing up any lingering doubt the casual picking fan might've had on this one, coach. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Man, I so want to pick Oakland here (come on, Justin Fargas!), but they've proven themselves to be quite crappy. Crappier, even, than the Bears, who have done pretty well against the AFC this year. Pick: Chicago


Dallas at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: Six wins in a row for the Giants, plus they're coming off a bye week. And, they're playing at home. Fun fact: The Giants have only beaten one team with a winning record this year. Pick: Dallas

Joe: ...So have the Cowboys. Pick: NY Giants


Detroit at Arizona

Aaron: Jon Kitna v. Kurt Warner?! Who will God choose? Pretty sure that Kitna's been giving Him a bit more glory this season, so there ya go. Pick: Detroit

Joe: Yeah, but: dome team in the desert, Arizona's due, and the Lions can't go 7-2, can they? Pick: Aizona


Indianapolis at San Diego

Aaron: In case Peyton Manning's reading this, just remember how the Chargers fans treated your lovable brother, Eli, when the Giants played here a few years ago. And, the things they said about your momma. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Well according to Bill Simmons, the Colts have the refs in their pockets anyway, so... Pick: Indianapolis


San Francisco at Seattle

Aaron: Pretty sure that anyone on either side of The Rockies couldn't care less. Call it the N(F)LCS. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Shaun Alexander's maybe not playing, which means maybe Seattle will have a running game that's worth a damn. Pick: Seattle

Third Quarter Best-Of Lists

I should be seeing the Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men this weekend, which will officially kick off Oscar season in earnest. Nothing but awards talk for four months! Ah, can you stand it? So in anticipation of the glut of awards-baiting movies I'll be choking down for the forseeable future, I wanted to document the best of the first three quarters of the year (or five sixths, whatever). To wit:

Best Picture
Away From Her (Lionsgate)
Into The Wild (Paramount Vantage)
Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
ONCE (FOX SEARCHLIGHT)
Zodiac (Paramount/Warner Bros.)

Best Director:
John Carney - Once
DAVID FINCHER - ZODIAC
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Sean Penn - Into The Wild
Sarah Polley - Away From Her

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck - Gone Baby Gone
GEORGE CLOONEY - MICHAEL CLAYTON
Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl
Glen Hansard - Once
Gordon Pinsent - Away From Her

Best Actress:
JULIE CHRISTIE - AWAY FROM HER
Marketa Irglova - Once
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart
Keri Russell - Waitress
Molly Shannon - Year Of The Dog

Best Supporting Actor:
ROBERT DOWNEY JR. - ZODIAC
Ben Foster - 3:10 To Yuma
Mark Ruffalo - Zodiac
Paul Schnieder - Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

Best Supporting Actress:
Regina King - Year Of The Dog
Emily Mortimer - Lars and the Real Girl
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
TILDA SWINTON - MICHAEL CLAYTON
Kristen Thomson - Away From Her

Best Original Screenplay:
The Darjeeling Limited
Lars and the Real Girl

MICHAEL CLAYTON
Once
Waitress

Best Adapted Screenplay:
3:10 To Yuma
AWAY FROM HER
Bug
Gone Baby Gone
Zodiac

(Current "winners" in CAPS)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Little Late For Halloween, But...

...this Vanity Fair cover scares the shit out of me in no less than seventeen ways.


Okay, first of all, her disembodied head is clearly floating atop someone else's torso. Not even a torso, maybe...is that a knee? WTF? No two elements in that composition look like they're in the same zip code as each other, from the rose to the light to the "torso" to the face. Her facial features are freakishly oversized -- like her mouth wasn't already scarily large -- and she looks like she's about to devour that rose in a most unwholesome way. It looks like the DVD cover for a schlock horror movie about a severed head that comes back to wreak vengeance. This shit's gonna haunt my dreams for quite some time.

Conversations I Almost Had (But Am Really Glad I Didn't)

The scene: my neighborhood CVS, on my way home from work. I am purchasing, among other sensible items, a box of Junior Caramels. Because shut up, that's why.

What the CVS checkout guy says: Hey, you know the Milk Duds are on sale for sixty-two cents a box over there.

What I say: Nah, I'll stick with these.

What the CVS checkout guy says: I mean, since they'll both stick to your teeth anyway, right?

What I am tempted to say but do not: See, that's where you're wrong, friend. The Junior Caramel does not stick to your teeth like other caramel-based candies, because it is a softer brand of caramel. In fact, the chief virtue of the Junior Caramel, particularly when contrasted with the Milk Dud, is that it will not end up stuck to your teeth. You're kind of missing the entire point of the Junior Caramel by saying that it's interchangeable with the Milk Dud, especially if you're bringing up the sticking-to-teeth issue, which as I mentioned is the whole entire reason the Junior Caramel exists in the first place. I think you need to check your facts before making a blunder such as this again. God forbid you end up recommending Hershey's chocolate in place of Cadbury's because "chocolate is chocolate." Don't even get me started on that.

Man, I am really glad I decided to shut up and ignore him.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Know How I Know You're A Played-Out Cliche?

I know that when I write too many sports posts in a row that some of my readers get hives, but this one's gay too. Also (since this paragraph is apparently Caveat Central), you should know that I adore Deadspin as a sports blog and the folks who write for Deadspin. I even love the Deadspin commenters a good 75% of the time. But it's that other 25% where things get...dicey. Embarassing, even.

Such is the case today with the seemingly throwaway post about footballer (or soccer-er, if you're so inclined) Ben Cohen (the frequently ogled Ben Cohen, if you're so inclined) throwing a, for lack of a better word, Gay Day as a tip of the hat to his significant block of gay fans who supported him for so long. Pretty cool, right? Admirable and progressive, particularly for a pro athlete, yes? [EDIT: Okay, so he plays rugby and not soccer. What am I, factually accurate?]

I winced as I went to check the comments, because Deadspinners tend to get gross when speaking on matters of race, gender, or sexuality. They seem to mean well, but in a very "not that there's anything wrong with that" way. I hate to reinforce the stereotype of the fratty locker-room jock when talking about a site that more often than not transcends that image, but looking at the comments...okay, first of all, it reads like Open Mic Night at the Yuk-Yuks Gay Panic club. I mean, Better Midler jokes? Judy Garland? "I love my dead gay son," without any context whatsoever? It's like being in a room full of bro-dawgs trying to find an Anchorman quote for every situation, no matter how ill-fitting. In short, it wasn't even offensive. Just kind of embarassing. It's like they all thought they were auditioning for a job on the Jimmy Kimmel Live writing staff (and: there's a strike on, people! Pencils down means pencils down!) Anyway, by the time you check the link, these overused "gems" may have already been snapped up, but just in case they haven't, commenters could have also posted:

(the aforementioned) "Not that there's anything wrong with that!"
"You know how I know you're gay..."
"It puts the lotion in the basket!"
"I wish I knew how to quit you, Ben Cohen!"
A Lance Bass reference
An Elton John reference
A Dumbledore reference
A Cristiano Rinaldo reference
A Vito Spatafore reference
An Alex Rodriguez reference (whoops, too late)
A "balls flying at my face" reference

Goddammit, Don Shula

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: the Miami Dolphins ruin everything. No sooner has the Bills' Nov. 18th showdown with the 9-0 New England Patriots been promoted to nationally televised Sunday Night Football than Don effing Shula (pictured left) had to open his big, wrinkly mouth and poke the by-no-means-slumbering giant with a stick, noting that even if the '07 Pats go undefeated, it still wouldn't be on par with the undefeated '72 Dolphins, because the '72 Dolphins didn't get caught cheating. Never mind that it's a classless and transparently whiny thing to say on the record. More importantly: like the Pats -- the least-classy sports franchise since the late-'80s Detroit Pistons -- needed one more excuse to run up the score like the Florida Gators playing Northwest Louisiana Tech. It's kind of fitting that Shula would want to provoke New England before a game against the Bills. He could never beat those early-'90s Bills teams when it counted, and he and Dan Marino have been noticeably bitter about Buffalo ever since. The Bills were at best a long shot in that game anyway, but now that there's no chance to catch the Pats napping, the game has become a matter of the moral victory found in merely covering the point spread.

One other thing I've said before: the only -- ONLY -- good thing about the Pats going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl would be to shut the smug, whiny pieholes of the '72 Dolphins.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Capsule Review: A Mighty Heart

I figured I'd bring back the capsule reviews now that I'm seeing way more movies and we're getting into the fat part of the fall film season. I'll still try to update the sidebar, if only for posterity's sake.


Movie: A Mighty Heart
Director/Studio: Michael Winterbottom / Lionsgate
10 Word Review: Daniel Pearl's widow gets not-undeserved hero's treatment; could've hit harder.
Best Thing About It: Due to the fact that the movie is almost exclusively concerned with showing us Marianne Pearl as a beatific, strong, wordly widow, the movie rests entirely on Angelina Jolie's shoulders. She delivers, certainly -- it's easily the best performance she's given in nearly a decade -- but I have to wonder what she could have done if the film had challenged her more.
Worst Thing About It: With Daniel Pearl's death being so widely known before the movie even begins, the movie flirts with a lack of tension, which you'd think would be impossible. But that's what happens when your main character has nothing to do but sit at home and wait by the phone. You don't have to Hollywoodize this story to make it compelling, but you do have to dig into the characters a bit more than this movie does.
Best Performance: Jolie, certainly. Though I was also partial to Archie Panjabi as Marianne's closest confidant.
Oscar Prospects: If the right pieces fall into place, I could see Jolie nabbing a Best Actress nom, but already I'm seeing her pegged as the "celebrity" entry, as in "Well, such-and-such Deserving Indie Contender might get in. That is, if they don't value celebrity over merit and nominate Angelina Jolie." That kind of sucks if she gets pegged like that, because it's a better performance than that kind of statement implies.
Grade: B-