Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Year In (Alphabetical) Movies

So, despite the fact that I have come far closer than I ever have before, there's just no way I'm going to have seen all the movies I need to see to tackle proper year-end movie coverage at the actual end of the year. (There Will Be Blood, Persepolis, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly top a not-insurmountable list.) The good news is that instead of waiting until mid-February to pretend like I give awards away, I'll only have to wait until mid-January.

That said, I'm trying to rock something of a Best Of 2007 theme, so rather than tip my hand as to my 5-movie Best Picture ballot, I'm just going to list my twenty favorite films of the year, alphabetically. It's been an uncommonly good year, so it's a strong twenty.

[Since this is something of a content-light post, feel free to use it as a discussion thread for your favorite movies of the year.]


JOE'S TOP TWENTY FILMS OF 2007...THUS FAR...LISTED ALPHABETICALLY

The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)
Atonement (Joe Wright)
Away From Her (Sarah Polley)
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass)
Bug (William Friedkin)
The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson)
Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck)
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright)
Into The Wild (Sean Penn)
Juno (Jason Reitman)
Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)
The Mist (Frank Darabont)
No Country For Old Men (The Coen Brothers)
Once (John Carney)
Ratatouille (Brad Bird)
Southland Tales (Richard Kelly)
Superbad (Greg Mottola)
Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton)
Zodiac (David Fincher)

Aaaand My Five Least Favorite Movies

300 (Zack Snyder)
Catch And Release (Susannah Grant)
La Vie En Rose (Olivier Dahan)
Priates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski)
Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi)

And finally:

The Ten Best Performances That Still Likely Won't Crack My Year-End "Awards":

Casey Affleck -- Gone Baby Gone
Joan Allen and David Strathairn -- The Bourne Ultimatum
Jason Bateman -- Juno
Michael Cera -- Superbad
Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- The Lookout
Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon -- Bug
Regina King -- Year Of The Dog
Leslie Mann -- Knocked Up

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Smooth Joey Apollo's '07 NFL Picks: Week 17

Last Week:

Aaron 11-5
Joe 10-6

Season To Date:

Aaron 159-81
Joe 155-85

So this is it. Four games to make up or else Cam becomes two-time champion.

Week 17

New England at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: The fact that this could look like an exhibition game by halftime, with all the starters resting, takes a lot of the "historic" luster off this one for me. But, since the NFL now controls the entirety of television, none of us will be able to escape. Let's hope no one important dies on Saturday. I'd hate for the networks to be torn between the game and "Jimmy Carter: A Life Remembered". Pick: New England

Joe: Now, I'm not normally a praying man. But we're talking about the prospect of a New England 16-0 season. Our grandchildren's grandchildren will never hear the end of it. We're looking right down the barrell of Mike Vrabel autobiographies, stadiums named after Belichick, and Tom Brady being allowed back to host SNL again. So if you're up there, Superman, please keep speeding around the Earth and reversing time until the Giants pull this one out. As many times as it takes. Pick: New England


Buffalo at Philadelphia

Aaron: How Donovan McNabb has parlayed two December wins into a 2008 starting job in Philly leads me to believe that affirmative action is alive and well. Looks like "Pros vs. Joes" will have to wait another year for him. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: How are these for stakes: both teams are 7-8, so the winner gets rewarded with a lower draft pick. Reverse psychology rules still apply. Pick: Buffalo


Carolina at Tampa Bay

Aaron: The Bucs rested their starters for the most part last week and lost to one of the worst teams in the league. We're officially in the part of these picks that could go either way, regardless of records. My shaky four game lead over Joe is officially "shakier". Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: Nice try, getting me to pick the Panthers on the road, Cam. Pick: Tampa Bay


Cincinnati at Miami

Aaron: And, it's a quick segue back into "sure things". I'm fairly certain that Dolphins coach Cam Cameron is going to pull a Nick Nolte at the end of "Blue Chips" here and give a quick press conference after the game, then walk out of the stadium forever. He'll send for his things. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: I really want to pick the Dolphins here -- the Bengals already played spoiler last week, and it would be just like Miami to start 0-14 and then win two in a row when it matters least. But Miami's really, really bad. Also, about this Parcells thing: the Bills are now the only AFC East team that's been untouched by the Tuna's fat fingers. Let's hope they stay that way. Pick: Cincinnati


Detroit at Green Bay

Aaron: Ugh...I hate Week #17 picks. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: The Pack are not going to want to back into the playoffs with two straight losses. That, plus the Lions playing in the cold. Pick: Green Bay


Jacksonville at Houston

Aaron: The Jags have already locked up a playoff berth next week, so they'll be playing at half-speed here. Plus, they're not playing the Raiders. Then, again, they are playing Houston. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Okay, now I'm the one who hates making Week 17 picks. My rationale last week -- that the Texans were playing for pride and the Colts were playing for nothing -- still applies here. But you see how well that worked for me last time. Still, I ain't gonna pass Cam'ron by playing it safe. Pick: Houston


New Orleans at Chicago

Aaron: Hey, remember when these teams played for the NFC Championship? All that'll be missing this time are backflips into the endzone from Reggie Bush and postgame questions to Lovie Smith like "Wouldn't it be neat if TWO black coaches got to the Super Bowl?" I'll miss 2007. Pick: Chicago

Joe: All logic says that the Bears got their big win of the season out of their systems last week. Of course, logic also said that the Saints could take care of the Eagles last week with the playoffs on the line. Also, another dome team playing in frigid weather. ...God damn it. Pick: New Orleans


Seattle at Atlanta

Aaron: Falcons owner Arthur Blank can take solace in knowing that he now places 2nd all time in "worst year by an Atlanta owner". And, yes, the number one spot DOES involve those owners affected by the Emancipation Proclamation. But, Blank came close. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Don't forget Andre Rison, man. Or was he just renting that mansion? (I've probably made this joke before. I honestly do not care.) Pick: Seattle


San Francisco at Cleveland

Aaron: Good to know I'll be geting at least one right, this week. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Amen, sir. Pick: Cleveland


Dallas at Washington

Aaron: Back when I was a kid, my family would roll the color Westinghouse TV into the dining room to enjoy a Saturday night filled with new episodes of "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Silver Spoons". In 1982, the Cowboys/Redskins were the overexposed "Yanks/Sox" rivalry of their era. Nothing lasts forever. Pick: Washington

Joe: When I was a kid, it was Cowboys/49ers. Old man. Pick: Washington


Kansas City at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: I wonder if Herm Edwards will be looking on from the Chiefs' sideline, twirling his sinister mustache and taking sick satisfaction in that he set the wheels in motion for the ruining of both teams on the field this day. (A quick Google Image search tells me you'll have to imagine the mustache.) Pick: N.Y. Jets

Joe: What, Roger Goodell? You couldn't simulcast this game across all television channels in prime time too? ...Is that because Herm Edwards is black or because Eric Mangini is fat? Pick: Kansas City


Minnesota at Denver

Aaron: The Vikings need a win here and a Redskins loss to make the playoffs. I like the motivation for the Vikes, but they looked awful last week in getting schooled by those same 'Skins at home. Great, now my head hurts. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: Doesn't this seem like the week Mike Shanahan plucks some random cable repair man off the street, puts him into his backfield, and has him run for 180 yards? I think it does. Pick: Denver


Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Aaron: The Ravens will be without several starters on offense and damned if none of us would've even noticed. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Seriously, save for Miami, the Ravens just might be the worst team in football. Lucky for Pittsburgh, too, because guess who's been playing like crap for a month? Pick: Pittsburgh


San Diego at Oakland

Aaron: I know that JaMarcus Russell missed all of training camp and has been forced to play behind a mediocre o-line, but he's looked skittish in the pocket, overaggressive when he throws and, frankly, not too smart. He's starting on Sunday. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Sorry, Cam. I know that had to hurt to type that. Pick: San Diego


St. Louis at Arizona

Aaron: Psst, Kurt Warner. I'm starting you in my fantasy championship game this week. If you kick ass, I'll commit to helping you and your ilk put the "Christ" back in "Christmas" next December. After all, it's the Godless heathens with the "agenda". Certainly, not the religious right. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Happy Holidays to you too, Cam. As for the game, I need to make up ground somewhere, and whenever Marc Bulger's been able to last a full game without his shoulder falling off, he's been pretty excellent. Now to check that injury report... Pick: St. Louis


Tennessee at Indianapolis

Aaron: The Titans always play the Colts tough and this time the game has actual meaning for Tennessee. Win and they're in the playoffs. I likes them odds. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Sure, this'll be the game the Colts lay down for, putting the goddamn Titans into the playoffs ahead of the Browns. Rot in hell, Jim Storgi. Pick: Tennessee

2007: The Year In (Mostly) Commercial Pop

I didn't think I'd make a year-end list about songs for 2007 because I didn't think I listened to a whole lot of new music this year. I kind of retreated into my archives and listened to way less of the glossy radio pop I gravitate towards, much less the actually respectable music of which I am usually underinformed. But as I was going through the music on my computer, I found that 2007 was pretty good to me, music-wise. Maybe a stronger year than most. Go fig. So once again, the conceit here is 18 songs, juuuust stretching the limit of what could fit on one Best of '07 CD. This year, there's also room for five honorable mentions. Because it's the season of giving, that's why:


Honorable mentions (alpha order):
The Bravery -- "Time Won't Let Me Go"
Kelly Clarkson -- "Never Again"
Fergie f/ Ludacris -- "Glamorous"
Snow Patrol -- "Open Your Eyes"
Eddie Vedder -- "Society"


18. Amy Winehouse -- "You Know I'm No Good"
It's been a long twelve months for me and Amy Winehouse. "Rehab" was cool but not as cool as the hype seemed to suggest, and then in light of her best attempts to be this side of the pond's Pete Doherty, it just sounded...sad. "You Know I'm No Good" endured, however, with a much cooler, sexier, soulful sound.


17. Boys Like Girls -- "The Great Escape"
Continuing my proud tradition of latching onto the odd pop-punk flash in the pan, I have to admit my fondness for MTV's latest boy crushes. They sound a lot like Yellowcard, which fits because I had a very similar relationship with that band a few years ago. This time next year, I'll probably have disowned them, but as the presence of at least one eyelinered emo-punk band later in this list, that's not always the case.

16. Van Morrison w/ Roger Waters -- "Comfortably Numb"
While everyone else was hanging off of the Dropkick Murphys' jocks after The Departed's soundtrack dropped, I hung at the back with the old folks and marveled at how naturally Van Morrison's voice fit into the well-worn shoes of Pink Floyd's ode to the chemical haze. This version's been knocking around for a while, since a live performance at the Berlin Wall site in 1990 (linked above), but its presence in Scorsese's movie, as well as a Morrison compilation this year, gives me excuse enough to include it here.

15. Kerry Butler -- "Magic"
After all my enthusing about the Broadway version of Xanadu, I had to include something off the marvelous cast album. I ended up choosing my new girl crush's best number, a breathy, hilarious (yet still sweetly melodic) take on Olivia Newton John.

14. The Marble Index -- "I Don't Want To Try To Change Your Life"
When I went home to Buffalo to see the Lowest of the Low's last show, I was fortunate enough to see the Marble Index open for them. I'd seen them open for the Low before, and remember enjoying them, but they've really come into their own this year. "I Don't Want To Try..." marked the high point of their live show and their album Watch Your Candles Watch Your Knives.

13. Kanye West -- "Stronger
Such an awesome, driving dance track. It'd have to be to make me like a song that's basically a response to Kanye's haters. Constantly shouting out your haters doesn't make you seem more secure, boss.

12. Jay Brannan -- "Soda Shop"
In a year when the most visible product of MySpace was the freakishly alien face of Tila Tequila, I remain thankful that it can also give a boost to singer-songwriters like Jay Brannan. The song -- which you'll recall from Brannan's performance in last year's Shortbus -- is as sweet a confection as its title suggests, with a winking sense of humor so you he knows what century we're in.

11. Christina Aguilera -- "Candyman"
I love all the new and interesting ways Christina has found to act a ho. Seriously. The whole "Andrews Sisters harmonizing about cock" idea might have been the funniest thing in music all year, and the best indication yet that if we had to look for raunchy old Xtina any place beyond our own backyard, we never even lost her to begin with.

10. Justin Timberlake -- "What Goes Around Comes Around"
It's not a party without Justin, and while he traded in the irresistible hooks of "Sexyback" for the smoother slow jams of this second single, the real pull for "What Goes Around..." is the energy that goes into it live. Even I, a bigger Justin fan than most, never thought I'd be recommending a JT live track as better than the studio, but click the link above.

09. Augustana -- "Boston"
It's very VH1, I'll admit. Maybe it was because this was the year I moved away that I latched onto the lyrics about getting out of the old town and starting a new life, but it always spoke to me in one way or another. And I got to see them in person over the summer, and they're a really solid live band. Oh, piano ballads, you've got me again.

08. Band of Horses -- "The Funeral"
07. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova -- "Falling Slowly"
Technically, these are both 2006 songs. I know this because I was introduced to them both via a compilation CD that a friend gave to me at this time last year. That being said, 2007 was the year that Once made "Falling Slowly" the unofficial romantic anthem of the film year, and it was also the year where "The Funeral" starting popping up in movie trailers and TV commercials, and since you know that's my preferred method of acquiring new music, you know it meets my standards. Anyway, they're two of the prettiest songs of the year, and they're guilt-free to boot.

06. Maroon 5 -- "Makes Me Wonder"
Damn, what a fun record this was. Adam Levine reaching his slenderly sexual peak while the music got funkier and catchier.

05. Fall Out Boy -- "Thanks For The Memories"
I can't quite seem to shake Pete Wentz and company, can I? I want to. But no band that has the ear of the kids today is more energetic and enthusiastic, not just about their music but about their celebrity. If you're going to be the cause célèbre of whatever constitutes the MTV generation these days, that's a big deal. As for the song? It rocks.

04. The Killers -- "The River Is Wild"
Sam's Town was 2006, yes, and if you recall, last year's Best Of list was topped by "When You Were Young." But the rest of the album's stellar songs (top to bottom, it's superb) came into their own in '07, and none better, for me, than this track. Brandon Flowers just wants to show you what he knows. What's wrong with that?

03. Timbaland -- "The Way I Are"
It's sounds like a throwback to every dance floor anthem Tim has produced in the last five years, thrown together and distilled to maximum potency. If I'm ever sitting down when it starts playing I feel resentful -- this track cannot be wasted on my homebound moments.

02. Rihanna f/ Jay Z -- "Umbrella"
I'm not made of wood, people. Come on. This was hot.

01. Ron Hawkins -- "Peace And Quiet"
The dust has barely started to settle on the career and legacy of the Lowest of the Low, and already lead singer Ron Hawkins is atop my list. Deservedly so -- his Chemical Sounds is a mature, mellower take on the clever songwriting that has always marked his solo albums. "Peace and Quiet" has been the song most passionately delivered in Hawkins's live shows, making it an easy favorite for a rabid fan like me. Buy the album, seriously.

Sadly, I can't link to any performance or recording of my number one song, alas. But since 2007 was also the year that saw the last hurrah of my favorite band in the world, I'm just going to post two "found gold" YouTube clips of footage taken from those final Lowest of the Low shows.

The first is the venerable "Rosy and Grey" from the second-to-last show ever in Toronto:


The second is "Black Monday" from the final show in Buffalo. I promise to stop harping about these guys if you guys promise to take a look:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Guilty Pleasure No. 6

This is something of an addendum to yesterday's Best of TV post, but I just spent half a day watching a marathon of A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila, and I am pretty much shocked at how much I sorta dig it. I mean, sure, on one level it's a total, shameful mess, and I feel guilty indulging in the "crazy, dramatic, violent lesbians" stereotype (though, seriously, a world without crazy, dramatic, violent lesbians would not be worth living in, I promise you). And obviously Tila Tequila herself kind of sucks, but she sucks in a way I wasn't entirely expecting. She's just kind of lame and tries way too hard to be controversial and this Pussycat Dolls brand of "sexy." But she did a pretty good job of whittling the competition down to a handful of people who...weren't all that objectionable. Seriously, you stack most of these people against, say, the Big Brother cast last summer and it's no contest. And there were several moments that were almost...sweet? It's weird. I'd say I owe MTV an apology, but I'm 99% sure the general inoffensiveness of this show was totally an accident.

Capsule Review: The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford


Movie: The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Director/Studio: Andrew Dominik / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Overlong, but packed with great performances; best cinematography in years.

Best Thing About It: Those visuals, holy god. Roger Deakins has long been my favorite cinematographer in the business, and his work on Jesse James is probably the best he's ever done. It's not just the pretty widescreen shots of contemplative wheat fields you see on the posters, either. The best shots come under cover of darkness, with characters emerging from or retreating into the shadows.

Worst Thing About It: It's still too long -- sorry to sound like a dilettante, but three hours is far too long to spend contemplating things, even if you're contemplating the western reimagined as a commentary on celebrity. Also: three hours and you still can't find enough story for Mary-Louise Parker and Zooey Deschanel? Come on.

Best Performance: My fingers are crossed that Casey Affleck will end up scoring the Oscar nomination he's hovering around this year, even though it will be for Best Supporting Actor when he's clearly a lead. I'm still not 100% used to this idea of Casey Affleck as a serious, awardable actor, but that's two straight movies (this and Gone Baby Gone) where he's been fabulous.

Oscar Prospects: Both Affleck and Deakins look to be in decent shape for nominations, but since the idea of a film's two most worthy aspects being recognized seems doomed to failure, we'll have to cross our fingers. I suppose Andrew Dominik stands a long shot at a Best Director nomination, but there's a lot of competition in that field.

Grade: B+

Thursday, December 27, 2007

At Year's End: The Best In Television

Okay, first thing's first: head on over to Modern Fabulousity and read his stacked and awesome ModFabulous: Television post. Gabriel was nice enough to invite me to be a part of his expert panel TV bloggers to choose the best 2007 television. So after coming up with a ballot to submit to him, I figured I'd flesh it out into a year-end feature of my own. And since it's far too late for me to stretch out this intro any farther. The Year In TV:

The Top Ten TV Shows Of 2007

1. 30 Rock
The smartest, funniest, most consistently great comedy since...well, The Office. Interestingly enough, Tina Fey's little showbiz parody has become an equally sharp comment on corporate culture as its Thursday night companion, even if Jack Donaghy's brand of corporate culture includes more dinners with deformed Hapsburg princes.

2. John From Cincinnati
I can't hold it against anyone who didn't get, didn't like, or felt jerked around by David Milch's latest adventure in flowery dialogue and metaphysics, and I'd have traded it all for another season of Deadwood, too. But this weirdo summer offering wherein Jesus comes to a small California surfing community and repeats our words back to us as prophecy was inexplicably delightful.

3. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
In its third season, this most underrated comedy took its already scumbaggy characters to new depths. Dennis's vanity got him turned out as a whore, Charlie and Dee's opportunism got them hooked on coke, and Mac's bizarre notions of family values led him to another paternal disappointment. A slow, McPoyle-heavy start to the season gave way to some of the best episodes in the series: Fatty Magoo's epic battle with the Aluminum Monster, the gang's attempt to unload a brick of "nose clams," Dennis, Dee, and Charlie getting jobs at TGI Fridays, and that season-capping dance marathon.

4. Battlestar Galactica
Despite a third season that was scattershot and underwhelming, it still ranks among the top five shows of the year, if only for that bugfuck insane scene where Laura Roslin screams for Gaius Baltar to be thrown out an airlock, not to mention the Cylons-along-the-watchtower season finale. Now that Kara Thrace has come back to life, as human or Cylon or both, I wonder if she'll be able to avoid spending another season being drunk and self-destructive. Weirder, I'm not sure whether that would be a good or bad thing.

5. Dirty Sexy Money
The best new show of the season, as it turns out, and the most sparklingly written prime time soap in many years. Even the show's most notable flaw -- the fast-forward-worthy scenes in which Nick's wife Lisa attempted to justify her existance on the show -- has been remedied in the past few episodes by teaming her up with Jeremy. But the fine writing is met by even finer acting, with can't-miss performances from Donald Sutherland, Glenn Fitzgerald, Natalie Zea, and Seth Gabel.

6. Friday Night Lights
If not for the ludicrously dumb murder plot that has marred the first half of this season (and the only-less-dumb-by-comparison romance between Matt and Grandma's caregiver), this easily places as my number one. Thank God, then, for Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler tearing up season one and for the Jason-Lyla-Riggins Y Tu Mama Tambien tribute episode last month.

7. Mad Men
The "good old days" of the 1950s and early 1960s rendered as a misogynistic horror show of corporate culture, this was the scariest, most sharply observed case against straight white men I've ever seen. It does for the post-war generation what The Sopranos always did for mobsters, the only difference being that it hasn't yet had the chance to become a mainstream hit and have millions of viewers mistake its monstrous lead characters for heroes. A price I'll gladly pay if it means we get more of this show.

8. Frisky Dingo
I've always been appreciative of the Adult Swim brand of comedy but never an avid viewer. Not until I got turned on to this 15-minute gem of a show about billionaire himbo and superhero Xander Crewes and his nemesis, the erudite yet monstrous Killface. Season Two saw both nemeses on the presidential campaign trail, as well as the emergence of trigger-happy security professional Wendell and revenge-mad assassin Val. Not so much a parody of superheroes as it is a parody of...everything. It's glorious.

9. Lost
Big points for rebounding creatively (if not with the Nielsens) from a dismal season 2, primarily by being ballsier than we expected the creators to be. Not all the experiments worked out (viewers really reacted badly to Nikki and Paulo, though I found them to be a clever little joke on the producers' part) and some didn't go far enough (the Desmond episode where we found out he could see the future could have been a series-altering development, but the show jumped back from it), but by bringing Locke back to prominence (and as a bona fide third party), and developing Juliet as a worthy lead character, the show has set the table for what could very well be a memorably strong run for the finish line.

10. Ugly Betty
I liked Ugly Betty quite a bit last season, but I really see it coming into its own in Season 2. I've said it before, but the appeal of this show is not in its centrail conflicts -- I like America Ferrera quite a bit, but her romantic triangles and struggles to remain a good girl from Queens in big, bad Manhattan tend to bore me. Good thing for the show that this has become a true ensemble show. The sibling rivalry between Daniel and Alexis Meade, Wilhelmina Slater's mad grabs for power, Hilda's struggles to crawl out from under her heartbreak...there are among the more compelling stories on TV. Plus, and this is no minor point, the show has been able to spin Marc and Justin, two potential stereotypes, into two of the most layered, exuberant, and proud gay characters on TV. Bravo.

The Top Ten TV Performances Of 2007

Brian Van Holt
If the characters in John From Cincinnati were either frayed live wires sparking off in all directions or fonts of wisdom sprouting up in the most unexpected places, Van Holt's Butchie Yost was definitely the former. Every week, as another layer of insulation was stripped away, Van Holt made this open wound of a man into someone both endearing and worthy of salvation.

Brooke Smith
Pick a show she's been on this season: Grey's Anatomy, where she replaced Isaiah Washington and provided the kind of upgrade you'd expect when you replace a homophobic fuckwad with a kick-ass character actress. Or on Weeds, where she showed up far too briefly as Nancy's best friend/chief rival. Hell, she even brightened up her little corner of the Dirty Sexy Money pilot -- she's since been replaced by Sheryl Lee, but not even Laura Palmer alive and well can compare to the sarcastic tour-de-force that Brooke brings to everything she does. Love her.

Donald Sutherland
It was tough choosing a best in show designation for Dirty Sexy Money, a show whose strong freshman season has featured an almost peerless ensemble cast. What isn't tough is choosing the best Sutherland working on TV today. Sorry, Kiefer, Dad's got you beat by a mile. If I see nothing else on network television all season (and with the writers' strike going the way it has been, that just might be the case), at least I got to see Donald Sutherland speaking Swedish to a illegitimate grandchild while seated a foot and a half away from a lion.

Ginnifer Goodwin
Choosing one best performer from among the triptych of Big Love sister-wives is a divine exercise in futility. Ladies, ladies, you're ALL awesome. Great big chunks of Season 2, however, belonged to Ginnifer Goodwin's Margene, who discovered where her power lied within the Henrickson family and took up agency for herself at long last. (...Only to get deep-sixed by Barb something fierce in the finale, but that's why we love this show.)

Christina Hendricks
Of all the throwback, sexist, racist, horror-show attentions to period detail in the spectacular freshman season of Mad Men, Hendricks's Joan is the clearest indication that the show is being produced in 2007. A pre-feminist dynamo, Joan is the proto-Mean Girl who has learned to play the game and play it well. There's as much going on behind Hendricks's eyes at any given moment as anything else happening on the show.

Kristen Bell
In its unfortunate (and perhaps inevitable) letdown of a second season, there have been far too few bright spots on Heroes. Even solid performers from last season like Zachary Quinto and Hayden Panettiere got boring and repetitive. Aside from poor Jack Coleman holding the entire show up with both arms, though, the most exciting performance was given by Kristen Bell as the electrified Elle. She started out like Veronica Mars Gone Bad, but it didn't take Bell long to bring Elle into her own: a damaged, infantile live wire who has long since given up trying to understand her role in this great superhero war. If scripted TV ever comes back, she's be one of the few reasons to think Heroes has a shot at pulling out of its tail spin.

Glenn Fitzgerald
Another stellar member of the Dirty Sexy Money ensemble, Fitzgerald has been knocking around the film industry for as long as I can remember. He was the single greatest thing about the pilot, a rageful and childish imp of a priest, forever nipping at the heels of Peter Krause's good lawyer. As the series went on, Fitzgerald didn't fall back to the pack so much as the rest of the cast caught up to him, but he's ferociously held on to some of the season's best line deliveries. Pity Brooke Smith had to leave the show and deprive us of her and Glenn's Series 7 reunion, but we take what we can get.

Zeljko Ivanek
Standing out among the Damages would seem to be an insurmountable task, particularly for a Hey! It's That Guy character actor extraordinaire with a funny name that people would rather just move on to singing Ted Danson's praises than attempt to pronounce. But Ivanek's sad, overwhelmed southern lawyer -- a principled man who has learned to swallow his principles long enough that it's quite literally killing him -- became the unexpected MVP of this already well-acted show. Nice job, Governor Devlin!

Kaitlin Olson
Choosing a favorite from the It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia cast is like choosing among my children. My stupid, vain, greedy, nasty, amoral children. Olson edges out her manly competition due to her seemingly endless ability to find new notes to play Sweet Dee's exasperation at the guys and her blind enthusiasm with which she throws herself into their schemes anyway.

Ed O'Neill
David Milch does love a wise old fool, does he not? That old mining town of Deadwood seemed like it was full of them. O'Neill's Bill Jacks sure seemed like a fool during the early hours of John From Cincinnati, what with talking to his dead wife and birds and his easy irritability ("Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ!"). But as the season wore on, Bill's lunacy looked more and more like the mask of a sad and traumatized man. No one in Milch's cast drew laughs or tears with half as grace.

The Top Eight Reality TV Performers Of 2007

Dale Levitski (Top Chef: Miami)
[Rocked the kitchen with a hot underdog hook and a sharp, sarcastic wit that was quite a bit hotter.]

Saaphyri Windsor (Flavor of Love: Charm School)
[Once I got over the guilty feelings of watching this show in the first place, I was hardcore rooting for Saaphyri for the win. Maybe the most satisfying reality TV winner this year.]

Lauren "Lo" Bosworth (The Hills)
[Every second week or so -- about the time when we're all starting to wonder why we even bother with this fake-ass show full of assface rich brats like Spencer Pratt and Brody Jenner -- Lo shows up, sits Lauren down for some straight talk, manages to be the only person in a fifty-mile radius who manages not to sound like her words aren't scripted, laughs her ass off at stupid Justin-Bobby, and generally makes us all wish she were our friend too.]

Melinda Doolittle (American Idol)
[The best voice on Idol since Kelly Clarkson. I'm just going to keep saying this again and again while I cross my fingers and pray that her first album isn't a gospel album.]

Kathy Griffin (My Life On The D-List)
[She's already one of the funniest women on television, but this season on the D-List also managed to make Kathy Griffin, struggling to cope with the end of a marriage and the loss of her beloved father, also made her among the most relatable.]

Laurel McGoff (Kid Nation)
[In a town full of apple-polishers, Laurel got to be the coolest kid in school through her brains, talent, leadership, and friendly personality. And then the show ended and she had to return to a society that values none of those things.]

Tabatha and Tyson (Shear Genius)
[Much as I enjoyed the underrated Shear Genius, the fact that it didn't end with a climactic Tyson v. Tab showdown for first place was kind of bullshit.]


The Five Guiltiest TV Pleasures Of 2007
Gossip Girl
Flavor of Love: Charm School
The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency
The Bad Girls Club
The Real World/Road Rules Challenge

Five TV Shows I Dropped In 2007
Nip/Tuck
Reaper
Prison Break
Private Practice
Bionic Woman

Three TV Shows I'd Like To Add In 2008
The Wire
The Tudors
So You Think You Can Dance

Three Shows I've Stockpiled On DVR For The Long, Scriptless Winter
Chuck
Pushing Daisies
Dexter

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Smooth Joey Apollo's '07 NFL Picks: Week 16

Last week:

Aaron: 10-6
Joe: 10-6

Season to date:

Aaron: 148-76
Joe: 145-79

Pittsburgh at St. Louis (Thurs)

Aaron: The Steelers are reeling, while the Rams are...whatever happens when there's no place left to reel. St. Louis is also an eight point dog at home. Steelers win, but it'll be a cockfight. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Here's how it works: it was too much to hope that the Steelers could fell the obnoxious Patriots juggernaut two weeks ago. Now it's too much to hope that the Browns can overtake the Steelers for first place in the Central. The rule is: nothing good ever happens. Pick: Pittsburgh


Dallas at Carolina (Sat.)

Aaron: The fact that Jessica Simpson was mentioned a million times on ESPN in the aftermath of the Cowboys loss last week hurts more than a billion "boo-yahs". And just one Sean Salisbury. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Okay, it's annoying but it really has become an epidemic. The woman is the ruination of everything she touches, from handsome guys to movies based on crappy '70s TV shows. She must be stopped...or fixed up with Tom Brady. Pick: Dallas


Cleveland at Cincinnati

Aaron: So, with 12-24 months of hindsight, Bengals fans, would you rather have the lawless band of rogues on your roster and a division title or a slightly less arrested-at-2AM crew and the comfort of 10+ loss season? Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Jonathan Joseph isn't walking through that door, people. AJ Nicholson isn't walking through that door. Chris Henry isn't...oh no, wait, here he is. Regardless... Pick: Cleveland


Green Bay at Chicago

Aaron: So, which Star Wars quote best embodies Brett Favre: (1) "He is more machine now, than man...twisted and evil" or (2) "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine". Christ, I just scared myself. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Bears QB Kyle Orton gets his quote from Return of the Jedi: "I'm endangering the mission, I shouldn't have come." Pick: Green Bay


Houston at Indianapolis

Aaron: Has there been a more anonymous 12-2 season in recent league history? If not for the last 10 minutes of the Pats game and an inexplicable missed FG in the Chargers game, the Colts could be the team that America hates! With the Patriots (whom we hated already). Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: So the Colts have nothing to play for while the Texans are fighting for their first winning season in franchise history? This is how I talk myself into dumb picks. Pick: Houston


Kansas City at Detroit

Aaron: Watching the Chargers' practice squad mop the floor with the lifeless Lions in the 2nd half last week wasn't pretty. Good thing the Chiefs packed it in around Halloween. Pick: Detroit

Joe: This is the Lions' last chance to pick up a victory and fall short of Jon Kitna's pre-season prediction by three games rather than four. Pick: Detroit


N.Y. Giants at Buffalo

Aaron: I think fans and the media make WAY too much over the "inspirational" angles. But, after reading in last week's SI how Bills TE Kevin Everett went from certain paralysis to now walking...hell, even I wanted to stand up and cheer. He'll reportedly be in Buffalo for the Bills' final home game on Sunday. Pick: Buffalo

Joe: For the record, Everett gave a message of inspiration to the team before the Patriots game last month. 56-10, in case you forgot. Pick: NY Giants


Oakland at Jacksonville

Aaron: The Jags are my 2007 rooting interest for this year's playoffs. May their run be as successful as my 2006 rooting interest: "Anyone but the f*cking Chargers". Seriously, people, if you lived out here, you'd hate 'em, too. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Jeez, Cam. You talk about the Chargers in these picks almost as much as you desperately avoid talking about the Raiders. Pick: Jacksonville


Philadelphia at New Orleans

Aaron: I only made the playoffs in one of my fantasy leagues this year. Behind QB Kurt Warner and God's will, I won last week. This week, Willie Parker carries once and breaks his leg. So, umm, Mr. Westbrook...I need you to play like two guys here. K thx. Pick:
Philadelphia

Joe: Here's where Pro Bowl snubbees Drew Brees and Marques Colston wreak havoc on their hapless opponents. Pick: New Orleans


Atlanta at Arizona

Aaron: Between the ruining of his franchise QB and the head coach who betrayed him and being left at the altar by Bill F'n Parcells, Falcons owner Arthur Blank should just embrace the 1940s sad-sack cartoon caricature that he's become. What's that theme music they all had? "Waa WAAAAH". It's funnier when you say it out loud. Pick: Arizona

Joe: Bill O'Reilly is blaming Atlanta's woes on karmic payback for Ludacris and his boastful vulgarity. Also the War On Christmas. Pick: Arizona


Tampa Bay at San Francisco

Aaron: Sorry, 49er fans...when you sold your collective souls to Satan just to be able to call yourselves "The Team of the Decade" (the '80s!...that was so long ago!) this was the inevitable consequence. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: As for the playoff-bound Bucs and their squinty-faced, looks like this Chucky has as many lives in him as his cinematic namesake. Look for assistant coach Jennifer Tilly on the sidelines next season. Pick: Tampa Bay


Baltimore at Seattle

Aaron: Might be time to let go of that near miss against New England, Baltimore. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Not that it'll matter against a team that still hasn't stopped bitching about the Super Bowl two years ago. Of course, I'll be bitching about Shaun Alexander for at least that long, so... Pick: Seattle


Miami at New England

Aaron: Hmmm...douchebag Pats fans on the verge of an undefeated regular season or douchebag '72 Dolphins players - sure to be in attendance - on the verge of seeing their entire reason to live snuffed out in a few weeks. C'mon on, dirty bomb. Pick: New England

Joe: Seriously. No matter who wins, we all lose. Pick: New England


N.Y. Jets at Tennessee

Aaron: All Vince Young does is win football games, occasionally. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Can't top that. Won't try. Pick: Tennessee


Washington at Minnesota

Aaron: The Vikes are 1st in rushing and 30th in passing this year. Is it possible to play all eleven men on the defensive line against them? Is that against the rules? Pick: Minnesota

Joe: And underestimate the WR tandem of Chris and Anthony Carter? ...Those are still the Vikings wideouts, right? Pick: Minnesota


Denver at San Diego

Aaron: That's right, America...ESPN broadcasts Christmas Eve from San Diego. We promise to import all the snow, chestnuts and wind chill that makes your holiday season so much better than ours. It's gotta be gone by the 25th, though, cuz we're grilling ribeyes and eating dinner out on our deck on Xmas Day. But, no...your way of life is better. And that sweater looks great on you! Pick: San Diego

Joe:It's times like these, when the petty squabbling between the White-Christmasers and the Green-Christmasers really escalates, that I begin to wish for the speedy arrival of global climate change so that we can all celebrate Christmas the same way. Under water. God bless us, everyone! Pick: San Diego

Capsule Review: Juno


Movie: Juno
Director/Studio: Jason Reitman / Fox Searchlight
10 Word Review: Most certainly overwritten, but also a witty and kind comedy.

Best Thing About It: The screenplay. Diablo Cody's much-lauded script has some truly funny moments, but more importantly is unexpectedly generous towards all its characters, despite what its too-cool-for-school leanings might suggest. The story takes some unexpected and welcome turns, but most importantly, it finally calms itself down long enough to let the actors shine. On the other hand...

Worst Thing About It: The screenplay. All those funny moments threaten to drown in a sea of overwritten, aggressively sarcastic, unbearably self-conscious dialogue. It leaves the cast -- every one of them doing yeoman's work -- with a lot to overcome, particularly when it comes to the Juno character; it's extremely difficult to feel anything about a girl who is such a mass of affectations. I honestly think if you simply cut half the words out of most of the scenes, you'd have a much stronger movie.

Best Performance: Ellen Page does a hell of a job muscling a real girl out of the tangled ball of quips Juno is on the page, but my two favorite performances were given by Allison Janney and Jennifer Garner. Janney is perhaps the most talented actress in the business at creating complete and hilarious characters from the absolute margins of the story. Garner's character ends up benefiting most from that unexpected generosity in the script I was talking about, but she certainly earns it with a performance full of quiet pain and even quieter joy.

Oscar Prospects: It's sort of suspended in between "good bet" and "shaky prospect," and my guess is we'll need some hints from the guild awards to show us the way. Best Picture is a possibility, and Ellen Page stands an even better shot than that. Jennifer Garner's a long shot, but not out of the question. Diablo Cody is totally winning Best Original Screenplay, though, which is too bad, because she's an incredibly talented storyteller who needs a lot more discipline, and I'm not sure winning an Oscar right out of the gate is going to deliver that message.

Grade: B-

These SAG Award Nominations Are Freaking Me Out!

The Screen Actors Guild accounced their awards nominations this morning. Usually, the awards season sees some kind of progression from the critics awards to the Golden Globes to the guilds, so that by the time SAG announced their nominations, the various Oscar races have coalesced into something of a shortlist. Not this year. Here are their nominations (thanks to Nathaniel for the lists):

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett -Elizabeth the Golden Age
Julie Christie -Away From Her
Marion Cotillard -La Vie En Rose
Angelina Jolie -A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page -Juno

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney -Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis -There Will Be Blood
Ryan Gosling -Lars and the Real Girl
Emile Hirsch -Into the Wild
Viggo Mortensen -Eastern Promises

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett -I'm Not There
Ruby Dee -American Gangster
Catherine Keener -Into the Wild
Amy Ryan -Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton -Michael Clayton

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Casey Affleck -The Assassination of Jesse James
Javier Bardem -No Country For Old Men
Hal Holbrook -Into the Wild
Tommy Lee Jones -No Country For Old Men
Tom Wilkinson -Michael Clayton

BEST ENSEMBLE
3:10 to Yuma
American Gangster
Hairspray
Into the Wild
No Country For Old Men

Some observations:

-- Total shutouts for Atonement and Sweeney Todd would probably be the biggest news. I'm planning to see Sweeney tomorrow, but I already think Atonement is brilliant, and while I always want the movies I love to be nominated for these kinds of things, I wonder if it wouldn't be better for Atonement's perception in the culture for it to be shut out by the Academy as well. The backlash has already been formidable against it -- maybe the only way for people to view it for what it is and not as the be-costumed Oscarbait it's been pegged as is to be ultimately snubbed by Oscar. Look at Dreamgirls last year -- only after the Best Picture snubs did some critics come out of the woodwork as having liked it. Public opinion and contrarianism are weird things.

-- Into The Wild, after the giant Globes snubs, looks to be back in the game in a big way. My guess is that the Academy goes for it too.

-- Does...does Hairspray stand an outside shot at Best Picture? It has to be considered at least a possibility now.

-- Best Actress: I still can't see Blanchett getting double-nommed, particularly for the terribly-reviewed The Golden Age. I'm weirdly encouraged by the fact that Jolie seems poised for an Oscar nomination, even though she probably wouldn't make my top 5 (though I thought she was quite good). Maybe because I predicted her way back in April? Oh, and I saw La Vie En Rose yesterday and Marion Cotillard is AWFUL. So's the movie. Both perfect examples of LOUD being confused for GOOD. As if I needed another reason to pull for Julie Christie hardcore.

-- Best Actor: Huge shakeups here. Looks like Emile Hirsch is back in the race, not to mention Ryan Gosling. Not sure if Oscar's going to nominate two young pups in the same year, but who knows? Also, it looks like Viggo's probably going to get his first Oscar nomination for Eastern Promises. I...well, I guess I'm happy for the people who are happy about this.

-- The stellar Michael Clayton triptych (Clooney, Wilkinson, Swinton) looks to have gotten across-the-board support, which couldn't make me happier.

-- Supporting Actress: Blanchett, Ryan, and Swinton are set in stone. Ruby Dee's nomination here is sentimental but I could imagine worse career-honor nominations. Keener's nomination is probably due to the Into The Wild love, but she's great, and after Capote, I kind of love the idea that she can get recognized no matter how marginalized her character is.

-- Supporting Actor: LOVE that Tommy Lee Jones has finally showed up for his No Country performance, even though it's probably the one performance from this list that won't make it to Oscar. He'll give way to Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War and you'll have your Academy nods.

-- Best Ensemble: Not even close to what I would have chosen, but they could have been worse. Good that 3:10 to Yuma is getting some love somewhere, but I'd have rathered a Supporting Actor nod for Ben Foster. I can't see how No Country doesn't take this running away. In fact...

-- Big love for No Country For Old Men overall, which means it really does seem to be the prohibitive Oscar favorite. As weird as that is to consider. I mean, two years in a row with super-violent Best Picture winners by egregiously overdue auteurs? That's a little ambitious for Oscar. Of course, this year the honors would actually be deserved, so that's nice.

-- So that's one Best Picture nominee locked in. As for the rest of the field...fuck if I know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Capsule Review: Atonement

Movie: Atonement
Director/Studio: Joe Wright / Focus Features
10 Word Review: Far smarter than the sweeping romantic epic you're probably expecting.

Best Thing About It: In a dead heat, the absolutely spectacular visuals (Seamus McGarvey's camera is so deceptive and tricky, it's astounding) get edged out by the strength of the layered storytelling. Credit goes to novelist Ian McEwan and adapter Christopher Hampton for that. It's funny, because the backlash against the film (something that began well before most of the backlashers even saw the movie) centers on the fact that it's so predictable for the presumptive Oscar front-runner to be this grand romantic epic in the vein of The English Patient. The thing is, if you look at Atonement even a little closely, you realize it's really not that, at all. The layers-upon-layers of storytelling and deception and self-deluded characters and guilt-ridden fantasies creates a rich and completely satisfying story that you get to keep unraveling even after you've left the theater. Seriously, this is so much more than your average costume drama.

Worst Thing About It: There's at least one scene where a visual metaphor is rendered so inelegantly that you can't help but lose a smidge of respect for the filmmakers. We get it: she's trying to wash the blood off her hands! Stop lingering on the close-up so long that we can describe her cuticles from memory!

Best Performance: Tough call: everybody's good, and I especially want to give props to Romola Garai, who I've liked for a long time and who was my favorite of the three actresses who played Briony (Saoirse Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave come to play as well), but James McAvoy was the best of the bunch. Every film he makes, he gets better and more assured; here, the story leaves so much of his character up to him to create, and he does, through small gestures and a handful of tough emotional moments. Every time you think the story is going to float away with the pretty faces sighing longingly at each other, he cuts through the gauze with a shot of raw emotion and you're back on the ground.

Oscar Prospects: After leading the pack in Golden Globe nominations, I'd say it's still among the front-runners, if not the film to beat. The backlash remains strong, however, but for now it's a contender for all the big awards, McAvoy, Ronan, Kiera Knightley, Dario Marianelli's score, and one would hope the cinematography, costumes, and art direction. It'll deserve them all.

Grade: A

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Something You All Should Know

God, this is weird. Mom and Dad, if you're somehow reading the blog today, you might want to skip this. I have a strange and uncomfortable (but exhilarating!) announcement to make regarding certain things I've recently discovered about my life. I think...I think I have a girlfriend. I don't know! It kind of happened all at once. I saw her across a crowded room -- it sounds like a total cliche, I know! -- and by the end of the evening, there was no denying it: I was in love. This girl, right here:

Because, see, I saw Xanadu on Broadway tonight, and this lady -- Miss Kerry Butler -- is quite simply the most awesome thing I've seen in quite a long while. And sure, the fact that I saw her in the midst of the single gayest thing I have ever seen in my life might make the whole "girlfriend" thing a bit dicey. And yes, the fact that notorious Broadway hottie Cheyenne Jackson was absent from tonight's performance probably cleared the playing field for her (seriously, Cheyenne, you're lucky Curtis Holbrook was totally adorable in your stead, but you still owe me one), but regardless: love her. Don't plan to start shutting up about her any time soon.

I feel like I'm way late to the "Just fucking go see Xanadu" party, but seriously. Go see it. The cast is phenomenal (no, Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa, I love you!), the camp is undeniable, the shorts are totally short, and the Australian accents are ooowwf the chayyyyn.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Smooth Joey Apollo's '07 NFL Picks: Week 15

Last week:

Aaron: 13-3
Joe: 10-6

Season to date:

Aaron: 138 - 70
Joe: 135-73


Denver at Houston

Aaron: I went agin' my own "Jay Cutler in road games" rule vs. Oakland a few weeks ago and it bit me in the ass. Never again, Jay Cutler. Never again will you bite my ass. Pick: Houston

Joe: Here's where I make my formal apology to Sage Rosenfels. Sorry, dude. How was I to know? It's not like you engineered a 20-point second half comeback against the Bills or anything. Ass. Pick: Houston

Cincinnati at San Francisco

Aaron: In researching my quip for this game, I discovered that former Bengal Ickey Woods is now the coach for the Cincinnati Sizzle in a women's football league. His salary = a warm place to sleep at night. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Wow. Between women's football, "a warm place to sleep at night" and "Ickey," this blurb has gotten...well, icky. This game won't be any prettier, I'll tell you that. Pick: Cincinnati


Arizona at New Orleans

Aaron: The Cards begin what should be a three game cakewalk to 9-7. As for the Saints, I'm about 11 years too late for an effective "Dead Man Walking" reference. I loved that movie. Pick: Arizona

Joe: I don't like the Cards on the road, especially not with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitz banged up. The Saints, on the other hand, can get by without Reggie Bush a bit easier. Pick: New Orleans


Atlanta at Tampa Bay

Aaron: I can't help but think that the Falcons' 2007 season is some sort of karmic payback for the ATL unleashing Lil' Jon on an unsuspecting country. And, yes, I have no shame with being five years too late with my "bash Lil Jon" reference. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: My guess is that the Lil' John karma is being crowded out by the Michael Vick dogtrocution karma. Though I won't rule out a haunting by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. Pick: Tampa Bay


Baltimore at Miami

Aaron: F*ck it, why not? (That was rhetorical.) Pick: Miami

Joe: You just don't know how bad this Dolphins team is until you see them with your own eyes. Besides, my theory that the Ravens have quit on their coach was obviously wrong because they extended his contract. Because if they renewed the contract of a guy who has allowed his team to unravel around him, that'd be pretty stupid, huh? Pick: Baltimore


Buffalo at Cleveland

Aaron: They're talking playoff implications for BOTH the Browns and Bills here. No, really. I heard it on ESPN's PTI this week. If only the Bills were at home... Pick: Cleveland

Joe: The last time a Bills-Browns game mattered, it was 1989 (actually, January of 1990): Don Beebe got dropped on his head with no ill effects, Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar combined for seven touchdown passes, and Ronnie Harmon dropped the winning touchdown in the corner of the end zone. ...Yep, still hate him. Pick: Cleveland


Green Bay at St. Louis

Aaron: After no less than 200 concussions this season alone, Rams QB Marc Bulger is expected to start. Brett Favre scoffs at this infidel's shoddy Brett Favre impression. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: His Steve Young impression, however, should be coming along quite nicely. Pick: Green Bay


Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Aaron: The Steelers haven't looked good in the last four weeks, but I'll take the northeast (to me, anyway) home team in December over anyone from Florida. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: It's sound logic, especially after getting a look at that m-f'er of a nor'easter headed their way. Pick: Pittsburgh


N.Y. Jets at New England

Aaron: Of course the Pats are gonna win, but the last spread I saw was 21 points. I'm told something called a "nor'easter" (pfft, it's spelled "norTHeaster", idiots) could wreck havoc in the area. Three TD difference on, potentially, the planet Hoth? No chance. Pick: New England

Joe: Beat ya to the nor'easter reference, sucker. My questions is this: will Belichick be more pissed off that the weather will keep his asshole team from running up the score or that it'll force him to wear something warmer than his Flashdance cut-off sweatshirt? Pick: New England


Seattle at Carolina

Aaron: Still no clue as to what to make of the Seahawks team. But, as long as the Panthers continue their rotation of AARPQBs, me likey Seattle here. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Yeah, I guess the 'Hawks aren't as bad as I've been saying. Shaun Alexander is, how Matt Hasselbeck will end up carrying this team into the playoffs and getting no credit for it. Hot bald guys have it rough sometimes. Pick: Seattle


Tennessee at Kansas City

Aaron: I like how everyone has blamed Larry Johnson's lackluster season on the fact that he missed training camp and NOT the 4,000,000 times he ran the ball last year. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Has anybody blamed it on the delicious barbecue yet? Pick: Tennessee


Indianapolis at Oakland

Aaron: Moving on. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe:It's no fun to hate on your team when they're this bad, Cam. Hope they get better next season. Pick: Indianapolis


Detroit at San Diego

Aaron: All season long, when the Chargers have built up a game or two worth of momentum, they unexpectedly stink up the joint. Sooo, tempted here with the SD defense beat up. Can't do it. Pick: San Diego

Joe: That demoralizing defeat to the Cowboys last week has to have broken the Lions' will for good, don't you think? Pick: San Diego


Philadelphia at Dallas

Aaron: Anyone else think the Eagles will talk themselves into bringing back Donovan McNabb next year, chalking up '07 to "injuries n' stuff"? The "stuff" is that he's juuuust about through. Pick: Dallas

Joe: As are the Eagles this season. Pick: Dallas


Washington at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: The Redskins have dedicated this game to the memory of Coach Joe Gibbs' marbles. Pick: N.Y. Giants

Joe: Can't top that. Pick: NY Giants


Chicago at Minnesota

Aaron: Am I too late to make the obligatory "they both have an Adrian Peterson" joke? No? Good. Cuz my money's on the Black one! Pick: Minnesota

Joe: If only they both had a Kyle Orton, the Bears might have a shot. Pick: Minnesota

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Beyond Actor-Dome: Round 3 Concludes

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).


Heath Ledger vs. Edward Norton
Quantity: Much like Brad Pitt and The Assassination of Jesse James, Ledger suffers for me not having seen I'm Not There yet. I mean, there's no guaranteeing I'd like those performances, but the odds are in their favor. Instead of a category win, Heath settles for a Push
Quality: Norton's tricksy-but-relatable work in Fight Club goes up against Ledger's much-ballyhooed Brokeback Mountain performance. It's ballyhooed for a reason. Advantage: Ledger
Fake Oscar Nods: Norton: 2 (American History X; Fight Club); Ledger: 1 (Brokeback Mountain).
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Well, Heath, perhaps if you didn't go out of your way to continually show up at events and in photos like an unkempt undergraduate with an 8 AM class, you might stand a better chance here. Not to mention if you stuck around in Brooklyn long enough for me to spot you getting coffee somewhere. Enjoy Australia, mate. Advantage: Norton
Winner: Edward Norton 2-1


Ian McKellen vs. Peter Sarsgaard
Quantity: You know, Ian McKellen really needs to make another movie, if only so I can stop feeling bad for the fact that not hating his DaVinci Code performance is proving to be the difference in some of these competitions. Advantage: McKellen
Quality: Much love, as always, to Peter Sarsgaard in Shattered Glass, and much credit to the man for being the best thing going in at least half the films he's in, but McKellen's sad, majestic James Whale in Gods and Monsters continues to stand tall. Advantage: McKellen
Fake Oscar Nods: McKellen: 2 (Gods and Monsters; Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring); Sarsgaard: 2 (Shattered Glass; Jarhead). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Motherf*cking Walkoff: Looking through Sarsgaard's filmography, it's tough to find even one character able to work it as fiercely as McKellen's Whale, or as sagely as Gandalf, as world-dominatingly as Magneto, or as...you know, I was going to bring Apt Pupil into this discussion but I'm grossing myself out, so never mind. Advantage: McKellen
Winner: Ian McKellen 3-0


Alec Baldwin vs. Jude Law
Quantity: Two of the heaviest hitters in the numbers game, Baldwin and Law have each put in a solid decade of performances, both big and small. After seeing and enjoying Law in last winter's little-seen Breaking and Entering, their credits end up matching exactly. Advantage: Push
Quality: In a battle of two pitch-perfect comic performances, Law's high-strung golden boy in I Heart Huckabees falls to Baldwin's unparalleled Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock. Advantage: Baldwin
Fake Oscar Nods: Law: 3 (The Talented Mr. Ripley; A.I.; I Heart Huckabees); Baldwin: 0.
Spotlights Stolen: Both had small roles in The Aviator, but Law's Errol Flynn cameo was both smaller and pound-for-pound less impressive than Baldwin's aeronautical rival. Advantage: Baldwin
Motherf*cking Walkoff: While it's a fact that Baldwin can still rock a tux (it’s after six, what was he, raised on a farm?), Law still hasn't managed to let infidelity and (have we mentioned?) unwashed hair piss away all of his dashing charm. He'd better watch it, though. Advantage: Law
Winner: 2-2. HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE! Vote.


Johnny Depp vs. Bill Murray
Quantity: Sweeney Todd couldn't come soon enough to give Depp the (razor's) edge in this close (shaven) face-off (literally). He's a barber who cuts people's heads off! Get it? Anyway, credit this to poor timing on Depp's part. Push
Quality: It's 2003 all over again as Murray's Lost in Translation performance goes up against Depp's original Jack Sparrow. And as it would have happened if I'd had a vote, Murray would have come out ahead, much as I love both performances deeply. Advantage: Murray
Fake Oscar Nods: Murray: 2 (Lost in Translation; Rushmore); Depp: 1 (Pirates of the Caribbean).
Spotlights Stolen: Both appeared in Ed Wood (the Spotlights Stolen category is exempt from the 10-year eligibility period, as you may have previously noticed; basically because I said so, that's why), and while Murray fit in reasonably well with Tim Burton's cast of weirdos, Depp stole that show pretty easily, I think. Advantage: Depp
Motherf*cking Walkoff: He may rock the runway staggering like Captain Jack, but he'll rock it nonetheless. Advantage: Depp
Winner: 2-2. HOLY CRAP IT'S A TIE! Vote wisely and once, you know the deal.

That's two ties, folks. Please vote for both in the comments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

America, Once Again, Wishes Critics Would Just Like The Same Brainless Crap They Do

Well, it's starting again. Earlier than usual this time. Most years it takes until the Oscar nominees are actually announced before some bullshit critic who should know better (and likely does) cynically panders to Middle America by whining about the disconnect between the movies the critical establishment loves and the movies Regular Americans pay to see. Two years ago, this same argument took on a cloak of homophobia, as Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Transamerica were deemed (incorrectly, in the case of Brokeback) too gay for the American public. But really, this comes up every year, every time some publication wants to score easy points by telling the bloated middle of the cinematic bell curve that their shitty taste in movies is populist and anyone who says otherwise is an elitist.

This year, the bullshit critic is Richard Corliss at Time, and he's kind of pre-bitching, saying that this week's New York and Los Angeles film critics' awards -- which gave Best Picture honors to No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, respectively -- will ultimately lead to an Oscar lineup full of movies that nobody in American has seen or will care about, resulting in yet another lowest-ratings-ever Oscar ceremony. None of these pandering, dishonest articles ever takes that argument to its logical end, that being a Best Picture lineup made up of the five highest-grossing (and thus "best") films of the year. In 2007, those wouild be: Spider-Man 3, Shrek 3, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Now there's a lineup you can be proud of.

Dumber still is Corliss's seeming insistence that the fact that a performance like Julie Christie's in Away From Her should somehow not be touted by the critics simply because the film only made $5 million when the fact is that the only way people are going to hear about that (fantastic) movie and performance is for critics to yell at us about how awesome it is.

Look, I'm not saying that the critics' organizations don't get weird and sometimes embarassing with the look-at-me weirdo citations (the L.A. critics do seem to love choosing one actor absolutely no one has ever heard of from a movie no one's ever seen, not even movie fags like me), but overall, this idea that film critics need to be embarassed because the movies they love weren't the $100 billion blockbusters that everybody watches when they want to sit in air conditioning in the middle of July is pretty infuriating.

There are so many things about that article that are stupid that I barely have time to rant about them all. About how film criticism has a duty to be, to some degree, disconnected from the mainstream if they're ever going to guide us to transcendant films. About how the chain of causation from the critics groups to the Academy to the people who care about the TV ratings for the Oscars is tenuous at best. About how the Academy just got finished honoring a $132 million Best Picture last year and the artsy-fartsy NYFCC-approved No Country For Old Men will have made at least $50 million before it's all said and done. Just...ack! So stupid!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Golden Globe Predictions

Golden Globe nominations get announced tomorrow Thursday. Couldn't let that happen without getting my predictions down for the record.

BEST PICTURE: DRAMA
Atonement
Into The Wild
Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood


alt.: American Gangster; The Kite Runner

**(This is the last stand for American Gangster, I think. It misses here, it's done.)

BEST PICTURE: MUSICAL/COMEDY
Charlie Wilson's War
Enchanted
Juno
Lars and the Real Girl
Sweeney Todd


alt.: The Savages; Hairspray

**(I keep going back and forth on predicting across-the-board nominations for The Savages or a shutout. As you'll see, I hedged my bets. A nomination for Once would make my year.)

BEST DIRECTOR
Tim Burton - Sweeney Todd
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country For Old Men
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Sean Penn - Into The Wild
Joe Wright - Atonement

alt.: Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood; Jason Reitman - Juno

**(Gilroy is a shot in the dark, but I think There Will Be Blood takes a bit of a hit here.)

BEST ACTOR: DRAMA
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Emile Hirsch - Into The Wild
Frank Langella - Starting Out In The Evening
James McAvoy - Atonement

alt.: Denzel Washington - American Gangster; Tommy Lee Jones - In The Valley of Elah; Josh Brolin - No Country For Old Men

**(EDITED because I had forgotten all about Langella. Sorry, Denzel.)

BEST ACTRESS: DRAMA
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Jodie Foster - The Brave One
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart
Ashley Judd - Bug
Kiera Knightley - Atonement

alt.: Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Halle Berry - Things We Lost In The Fire

**(Judd's a weird pick, but she's been nominated out of the blue before (De-Lovely), and honestly, after Cate and Halle, there is nobody else.)

BEST ACTOR: COMEDY/MUSICAL
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - The Savages
Jack Nicholson - The Bucket List
John Travolta - Hairspray

alt.: Tom Hanks - Charlie Wilson's War

**(Comedy/Musical is usually a mix of Oscar prospect runoff and populist pap. This seems about right.)

BEST ACTRESS: COMEDY/MUSICAL
Amy Adams - Enchanted
Helena Bonham Carter - Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose
Laura Linney - The Savages
Ellen Page - Juno

alt.: Nikki Blonsky - Hairspray; Keri Russell - Waitress

**(The toughest category on the map, I think, aside from maybe Comedy/Musical Film. Any other year, I think Blonsky's a shoo-in, not to mention women I'm not even mentioning like Nicole Kidman and Katherine Heigl.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James...
Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men
Sacha Baron Cohen - Sweeney Todd
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

alt.: Hal Holbrook - Into The Wild; Paul Dano - There Will Be Blood

**(Cohen's an unconventional pick, but the Globes love their musicals, and SBC has gotten a lot of notice. This is actually another super competetive category, with Max Von Sydow, Philip Bosco, and Alan Rickman also helping to crowd the doorway.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Kelly MacDonald - No Country For Old Men
Sairose Ronan - Atonement
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

alt.: Jennifer Jason Leigh - Margot At The Wedding; Ruby Dee - American Gangster

**(I think Helena Bonham Carter goes here for the Oscar campaign, but her absence here , I think, opens the door for Kelly MacDonald. Here's where we'll get the first indication as to where the Briony Hierarchy stands for Atonement, so you could swap Ronan out for Romola Garai or Vanessa Redgrave.)

BEST SCREENPLAY
Atonement
Juno
Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men

The Savages

alt.: Before The Devil Knows You're Dead; Into The Wild

**(Once again, I'm probably overvaluing Michael Clayton, but whatever. A nomination for Away From Her, much like a Once nod, would absolutely make my year.)