Monday, June 30, 2008

Almost Forgot!

Almost let the day go by without making note that today is Lizzy Caplan's birthday! Lizzy who I fell in love with in Mean Girls, and who I realized way after the fact was in Freaks and Geeks for a bit, and who I and I alone watched and loved on that show Related, and who managed to be a highlight in a very good movie in Cloverfield. Lizzy who I am hoping will start landing better projects than Dane Cook/Kate Hudson romantic comedies. Isn't everybody in Hollywood in love with her by now? Let's get some offers out, people!

Movies at Mid-Year

Today marks the end of June and the halfway point of the year. The calendar year, at least. The movie year, as always, has back-loaded its schedule so much that while we may have seen half the movies this year, but probably a quarter of the good movies.

Still, I wanted to do a post on the best of the year (so far), both to set the table for the rest of the year, and to remind you all that the best movie I've seen this year gets released on DVD tomorrow is recently available on DVD.

runner-up: The Strangers

The best movie of the year so far and a terribly underrated one, too. It's easily the best comedy and among the best action of the year, it's headlined by a pair of excellent performances by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, it's unexpectedly touching for such a foulmouthed movie, and yet it's also unexpectedly violent for such a funny movie. All due credit to Martin McDonagh for blending it all with such a light touch. This is a good-time movie you can feel good about, and you should pick it up on DVD tomorrow any time you like.

Big ups to The Strangers, too, for being a tight, straightforward nightmare of a horror flick.

BEST ACTOR: Colin Farrell - In Bruges (also Cassandra's Dream)
runner-up: Robert Downey Jr. - Iron Man

It was such a great start of the year for Colin Farrell that I'm not even going to link to those photos of him looking like a homeless bag of bones. After seeing Cassandra's Dream, I got a feeling -- almost too fragile to speak about -- that Colin Farrell might be back on an upswing, and after In Bruges I was sure of it. Maybe he just needs to play thuggy lowlives with easily-corruptible hearts of gold. It's weird for a big movie star to play smaller than he is to such great effect, but that's exactly what he does. I'll just cross my fingers that he doesn't forget that as he hollows himself out to play Heroin-Bones McGee or whatever the hell he's doing.

On the completely opposite tip, Robert Downey Jr. called upon every inch of his movie star charisma to carry the Iron Man movie across the finish line.

BEST ACTRESS: Naomi Watts - Funny Games
runner-up: Frances McDormand - Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

If Funny Games weren't a shot-for-shot remake of an intentionally off-putting film by an intentionally off-putting director, Naomi Watts would've gotten a whole lot more credit for her performance here. The point of the movie is to make you feel guilty for sympathizing with Watts's character and wanting vengeance on her behalf, and even knowing that going in, she still manages to draw you into her fear and struggle.

McDormand delivers a solid performance in a decent film, but I'll be honest when I say that the rest of the year had better be more equipped with strong female lead roles, because this was a bit of a defauly.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Michael Angarano - Snow Angels
runner-up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Stop-Loss

Angarano's been on my radar as far back as when he played the even-younger version of Patrick Fugit's character in Almost Famous (ask Jay Baruchel -- even the smallest bit players in that movie earned unending loyalty from me...unless your name is "Jimmy Fallon" or "Bijou Phillips). So imagine my delight when he delivered such an affecting, tragicomic turn in David Gordon Green's depresso-matic movie? Way to go, kid.

JGL stole Stop-Loss from the sidelines whenever he got a chance and proved once again that he's an invaluable addition to any movie. And now we wait to see if Cobra Commander disproves that theory or not.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Olivia Thirlby - Snow Angels
runner-up: Clare Higgins - Cassandra's Dream

I saw Snow Angels not very long after I saw Juno, and it's a very good thing I did, because it allowed me to have another impression of Thirlby besides the second-in-command spouter of all that annoying Juno-speak. She's a great counterpart to Angarano in Snow Angels, and together they create a much stronger storyline -- funnier and more touching -- than the Kate Beckinsale/Sam Rockwell stuff.

Clare Higgins was a loud, brassy hoot as the nag-tastic mother to Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor in Cassandra's Dream. Every single line reading drew laughter.

Will any of these films or performances stick around for the year-end awards? I doubt it (though Robert Downey Jr. has the best shot of all of them). But I'd expect at least a few of them (Farrell and In Bruges in particular) to hang around the top of my lists until something awfully great knocks them off.

An Airing of Grievance

I'm usually not one to gripe about the America-centrism of network tennis coverage -- it sucks a lot of the time, yes, but I'm an adult and I can grasp that the economic realities of getting casual sports fans to watch tennis at all means a steady diet of American players and the select few foreign rock stars (Federer, Nadal, Sharapova).

That being said, NBC can go suck a bag of lemons. Mario Ancic comes back from two sets down to win 13-11 in the fifth set, and NBC only cuts in to show us the last three points, and only after having to watch Serena Williams plod her way through a 6-3 6-3 snoozer. Ancic's story is a great one -- he's on the comeback trail after a year's worth of injuries -- and the reason I know it's great is because ESPN actually aired his last match and told me about it. It's a sad day when I can look to ESPN as the better option for sports coverage.

It's actually been a pretty enjoyable Wimbledon thus far. Upsets like crazy, which usually would deplete the talent pool for the second week, but the way it's shaking out here is that a whole lot of second- and third-tier players -- who are dynamite players on grass -- are getting their chance at the spotlight. [see photo below] Provided NBC actually airs their matches. And of course, this only applies to the men's draw. The women's draw is a hodgepodge of women I kind of don't care about, waiting to get steamrolled by the Williamses.

Anybody else watching Wimbledon this year? Talk it up in the comments.

Top(l-r): Marat Safin, Janko Tipsarevic, Feliciano Lopez, Mario Ancic
Bottom (l-r): Marin Cilic, Rafael Nadal, Stanislas Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet

Your Monday Morning YouTube

Just because.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wanted (A Bit More)

The best review I saw for Wanted stated right upfront: "I Want To Fuck This Movie." Man, if anything summed up the feeling I was looking for upon exiting the theater today, that was it. The reality of the situation, after seeing Wanted, is this: I want to fool around with this movie, but it sadly falls just short of fuckability. And considering my expectations, that's a shame.

Don't get me wrong, this is most likely because my expectations were set too high -- this is a fun, dumbheaded movie, and I enjoyed the hell out of a great deal of it. It honestly could have stood to be a little dumber, as the parts that drag around the middle are the parts when that pesky story is getting in the way of the parts when Angelina Jolie throws cars at other cars.

The movie's a stylistic hodgepodge that owes an awful lot to The Matrix and Fight Club, co-opting the former's visual dimensions and the latter's "punch me in the face, faggot!" masculine posturing. The best parts -- the parts where the movie really takes off and you're sent into adrenaline-fueled giggle fits -- are the big action setpieces (obviously), the gleeful fetishization of violence (poor Chris Pratt, Bright from Everwood, getting his teeth knocked out was a highlight), and the more ludicrous plot elements. Seriously, the more whacked-out the concept, the more entertained I was. As soon as they got to the Loom of Fate (LOOM OF FATE!), I was more than satisfied.

So why do I feel like everybody enjoyed Wanted more than I did? The car chases were great, the violence was enthusiastic, that James McAvoy shirtless scene went on for a very long time. The story even made sense, within the weirdo parameters that it set for itself (LOOM OF FATE), and the plot twists stayed true to the characters.

I guess my problems were twofold:

1) The time it took to forge James McAvoy into this superhuman assassin too greatly outweighed the time we saw him actually performing as a superhuman assassin. The training got repetitive (and we already know he's going to pass, so I kind of caught myself checking my watch waiting for them to get on with it), and that time might've been better spent on new and interesting ways to shoot businessmen. Also, along that tip, Common and the other non-Jolie assassins could have seen more field time.

2) James McAvoy's American accent, while perfectly fine, saps him a good deal of his deep reserves of charm and humor and makes me wonder how much better his characterization could've been if he'd have been unbound by that. I realize that him being an American is integral to the character (you can't make a pseudo-critique on the pussification of the American male if he's not American), and McAvoy does a great job, but I couldn't help but play "what if?"

Oh, and if there's gonna be a 3), it would be that the aforementioned Fight Clubby cubicle-jockey-reclaims-his-testicular-birthright stuff isn't satirized enough...or at all, really. And the quickest way to take me out of the fun of a two-hour violence romp is to make me roll my eyes at the idea that the filmmakers are buying into that chest-puffing, pseudo-sociological bullshit. Fight Club did that right (though you wouldn't know it to talk to fans), but here it just kind of lays there atop all the bloody carnage, like someone decided there had to be a message to the movie.

This all makes it seem like I disliked the movie, and that's just not true. Good time. Hot costars. Fast cars. Curved bullets. Loom of Fate.

And it pulled in $51 mil at the box-office this weekend, which makes it every bit the success I was hoping for (enjoy your next giant paycheck, James McAvoy!), and with great word-of-mouth besides. In the just world, both Wanted and WALL-E would beat back the terrible-looking Hancock next weekend, and while a little thing called economic reality tells me that's not gonna happen, I can hope that they take a good bite out of it regardless. But that's for another post.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wow, Restraint? Really?

I think lost track of where the culture has ended up on Cloverfield. This is a movie that was backlashed for months before it premiered, enjoyed a spike of goodwill during its opening weekend with a lot of really positive reviews and a strong box-office total, and then after that box-office declined steeply, the naysayers came out of the woodwork and started painting the picture of a total flameout. Is it time for a backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the backlash? I hope so, because I really loved Cloverfield -- so much so that I'm actually looking forward to a sequel.

Which makes this bit of news from Gothamist (via a very good thing: director Matt Reeves says they're not going to proceed with a second film until they have a really good idea for one. How...novel. You wouldn't think it'd be so laudable that you'd wait for a good idea to make a movie, but...well I could link to shit all day.

Pair this news with the word, via MNPP, that Guillermo Del Toro's only going to make that second Hobbit movie if the story's there and you could chalk this up as a pretty good week for restraint. You know, Wanted notwithstanding.

Emmy Semi-Finalists

Thanks to Alan Sepinwall for pointing me to the Top 10 semi-finalists for the Best Comedy and Best Drama Emmys. It's good to know ahead of time that good shows like Battlestar Galactica and Big Love will definitely be getting crowded out by Boston Legal and other such crap.

Anyway, here they are:

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
The Office
Pushing Daisies
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty

Boston Legal
Friday Night Lights
Grey’s Anatomy
Mad Men
The Tudors
The Wire

So I suppose the best-case scenario would look like this:

BEST DRAMA: Friday Night Lights, Lost, Mad Men, Damages, and, before you all start screaming at me, The Wire.

BEST COMEDY: 30 Rock, The Office, Pushing Daisies, Ugly Betty, and Flight of the Conchords.

Of course, the more realistic predictions would be:

BEST DRAMA: House, Boston Legal, Mad Men, Damages, and let's be optimistic and say Lost.

BEST COMEDY: Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock, The Office, Pushing Daisies, and Entourage.

...And I'm already getting depressed. Of course, I'd advise the Wire fans to get their bitching out of the way ahead of time, because it's totally getting snubbed again. We all know this.

By the by, I'll be posting my own Emmy ballot at some point in the next two weeks. Expect it to look nothing like the eventual Emmy lists.

Round Springfield XXI: A Funny Way of Celebrating Pride Week

The incomparable Rich at FourFour is incomparable for a reason. He draws you in with the Top Model recaps, lulls you into placid domesticity with the cat-grooming, then BAM, he hits you with something like this Week In Homophobia clip and reminds you he's not fucking around. Awesome.

Nathaniel at The Film Experience takes on the Tarantino filmography and, in wake of this week's news regarding the impending Inglorious Bastards two-parter, wonders if he's perhaps been over-coddled. I disagree with Nathaniel about Death Proof (I really loved that talky little gem), and I'm not sure if discipline has ever been a QT string suit, but it's a good point he makes re: Quentin's lazy output.

Since this was such a James McAvoy-heavy week here at Low Res, it's fitting to end it with a link to Stale Popcorn posting some pics of James pulling some adorable faces on TRL.

You may think I wrote this week's So You Think You Can Dance recap on Best Week Ever since it echoes a great many of my thoughts, right down to being in love with Mark, but I didn't. Still worth a read, though. As for my take on last night's results: predictable (I called all three bottom couples) but deserved. And while Thayne is certainly a better dancer than Chris, I'm not sure he's any more suited to Comfort's style. They'll likely be back at the bottom next week.

Finally, Vulture ranks Pixar's movies from 1-8 in anticipation of The Greatest Movie In The History Of Ever, If You Aren't Some Kind Of Asshole, WALL-E. They put Monster's Inc. at the top, which reminds me I need to see it again, because friends of mine also rank it at #1, and I kind of don't remember much about it. As for my list, it'd have Finding Nemo at the top, The Incredibles in the middle, and A Bug's Life and Cars at the bottom, 'cuz I haven't seen 'em.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A VERY Good Year

I thought about writing a post similar to Linda's when I was on the train back to Buffalo, but I didn't because a) I was exhausted, b) my stomach was doing some bad things to me at the time, and c) I would have totally started crying like a bitch in front of the entire Amtrak business class. I was sad to leave New York, you guys. Seriously sad. Sad about the way things turned out at Bravo, sad that the year seemed to fly by so fast, sad that I was only able to uncover 1/1000th of such a vast and surprising city, and of course mostly sad about the friends I was leaving behind. I hadn't realized it until that train ride "home" to Buffalo, that New York had become home for me too. It only took a year.

I don't write about my personal life much here on Low Res. I don't have that Emily Gould gene for public self-examination. Whether that makes me more or less healthy as a person is a question for another blog post (that will never, ever be written). But here's the thing about me: I never thought I could make it in New York. Too crowded, too cramped, too dirty, no family to fall back on. A great place to visit, I said, but I could never live there. The TWoP/Bravo thing, of course, was far too good to pass up, and I don't regret it for a second. Getting to work in the same room with the finest, funniest people I've ever known, in the same building as NBC news, on the same floor as Saturday Night was a fantastic experience. But the best thing about that (ultimately unrealized) dream job was that it proved to me that I could hack it in New York. At least in terms of the crowded hustle-bustle (the money is another story -- one that will hopefully be bent to my will soon enough). I'm not going back upstate because New York defeated me -- which was a real worry when I first moved there -- and I can carry that knowledge into the next time I move there.

And there will be a next time. Soon.

But while I was busy not writing this entry on the train ride to Buffalo, I was thinking of everything I'd take away from my first year in New York. From that first week where Linda and I were out to dinner and I overheard the guy at the table behind me say, " I said 'fuggedaboutit,' right? Badda-boom!" I swear to you, that's exactly what he said, in the most sincere manner possible. I sort of raised my eyebrow to Linda and told her we could cross that one off our list.

I managed to cross a whole lot of other things off my list after that: seeing the B52s on Halloween at a Roseland Ballroom chock full of costumed revelers; watching the Giants win the Super Bowl in most spectacular fashion and with real, true Giants fans and not just people like me who hated the Patriots; cackling at Step Up 2 [No Colon] The Streets with Tara and Linda and Adam; walking through Central Park when my parents and sister came up to visit, simultaneously showing off my new city and being amazed by it myself; Xanadu with Tara and Dan and John (...and again with Maria and John...and a third time at some point this summer); the day the cab caught fire in front of 30 Rock; the Tomato Dance; movie screenings with Michael Haneke, George Romero, and Sissy Spacek with probably the best movie pal I've ever had; proving my Scene-It dominance at Tara & Dave's and kind of freaking Tara out with the depth of my arcane trivia knowledge; Survivor Thursdays with Linda and Brian; the subway performers (big ups to the guy who fit that stand-up bass onto the train; no big ups to the wannabe Step Uppers who kept almost kicking commuters in the head as they did their flips); the brownies at Pret; the heroes at Brooklyn Bread; the waitstaff at the Noho Star; riding the elevator with Tom Brokaw and Tiki Barber; my precious few other celeb sightings (what up, Donna Murphy and Keenan Thompson!); every single gorgeous and wonderful friend I either made or bonded deeper with in the last year -- you know who you all are, and you're the reason I'll be back.

Like I said, countless good times, and not 1/1000th of what the city has to offer. Next time, I'll be ready for more. More Broadway shows. More city wandering. More (any) photos taken. I won't miss the summer, but I'll miss everything else.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Thursday

A slow starter of an episode that picked up quite a bit by the end there.

I'm not sure if this is controversial or not, but I totally love Adam Shankman as a guest judge. He's like the perfect combination of Mary's enthusiasm, Nigel's concern for the dancers, and Mia's weirdness. He's lovely. And I wanted to smack the shit out of Nigel and Mary for that whole "Adam is so longwinded and boring zzzzzzz" thing while Adam was giving actual productive advice rather than screaming like a banshee or hitting on the girls. Jesus, you guys.

Anyway, as for the performances:

Kherington and Twitch
Hip-Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha)

I thought Kherington picked up the hip-hop stuff pretty damn well for a newbie, though it seems the choreography was dumbed down to that end, so Twitch didn't end up getting to dazzle as much as he might have. Still, they're the best, so even when they're merely good, they're still great.

Courtney and Gev
Rumba (Tony Meredith)
Oh my god, I love these two so much, and I thought they really delivered tonight, Glad the judges finally got onboard with these two. [EDIT: And also nice of the judges to finally get on the "Gev looks like Dominic" train, only two weeks late, but they failed to add the requisite "only not as troll-like" caveat.] Big props to Courtney for wearing that dress too -- she's got thick legs, and she's not afraid to show them. Their chemistry is off the chain, too; my sister and I vowed to track down Courtney's boyfriend and kidnap him so C&G can get together. ...Oh, calm down, it's just an idea we're batting around.

Comfort and Chris
Jazz (Tyce Diorio)

Ugh. Uninspiring. I just don't like them, and every week my desire to see what Comfort might be able to do with a different (better) partner continues. After three weeks, there is wheat and there is chaff in this competition, and I'd just as soon get rid of all the chaff at once. That means these guys.

Will and Jessica
??? (???)
I could go back to the DVR and refresh my memory, but if I can't remember even the genre of dance they performed not an hour later, I think that says enough about my general apathy for Will and continued dislike of Jessica.
[EDIT: Oh right, disco. This was the routine where Will picked Jess up and spun her around about fifty times, which to me came across as kind of desperate. But the judges managed to slobber over Will again, with Nigel even complimenting his technique on the Saturday Night Fever pose, which is kind of excessive. I did think it was cute (though not fooling anybody) when Jess put her hand on the floor after Will needed balance at the end.]

Kourtni and Matt
Contemporary (Sonya)

I'm pretty sure I'm one of those people Nigel was talking about who would prefer the emotionality (new word?) of a Mia Michaels routine to the Manson-esque grotesquerie of whatever Sonya put together. That said, I thought Kourtni and Matt danced it perfectly well. I worry about them, and I'll get to that in a moment, but for now I'll say that I'm glad they did well and that the judges seem to be giving them a damn break.

Chelsea and Thayne
Quickstep (That Lady)

The judges ripped them about six new a-holes, but I thought it was pretty good for a quickstep. Though Nigel was right about the smiling -- that's like my number one obstacle to loving Thayne's gay ADD (gay-DD?) ass.

Mark and Chelsie
Hip-Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha)

Once again, I'm with the judges in their appreciation of Napoleon and Tabitha's "lyrical hip-hop" style. They've delivered and then some. And how about Mark (MY BOY!) and Chelsie just kicking total ass on this one? It took me a while to come around on them (longer for her), but they're at the top of my list right now. This is another pair that I feel are finally getting their due from the judges.

Joshua and Katee
Samba (Tony Meredith)

Technically perfect, if not as emotionally affecting as some of the other dances. But what can you say about Josh and Katee? They're flawless. And Katee's new haircut is awesome.

So, in order, here's how I see this week:

1. Mark and Chelsie
2. Courtney and Gev
3. Joshua and Katee
4. Kherington and Twitch
5. Kourtni and Matt
6. Chelsea and Thayne
7. Will and Jessica
8. Comfort and Chris

This is my same Top 4 (different order) as last week, as the cream of the crop are really starting to separate themselves. I'd put those last three couples as this week's Bottom Three, but I'm super worried about Kourtni and Matt. Even I, who really like them, forget about them a whole lot. Being a solid #5 in a group of 8 is really not a great position to be in. I'm confident the judges will keep them safe, but they'll be dancing for their lives this week, I'd bet.

[Photos to come once the FOX site updates.]

What Happens To The Blog When I Start Watching MTV Hits Again

Okay, I know I've been spotty on the pop music landscape for quite some time now but...

...who exactly does Jesse McCartney think he is? And can he please stop looking at me like that? Before Dateline comes knocking on my door?

Quit making me feel dirty, kid.

Timothy Olyphant Still Doesn't Give His Best Friends Head

But he DOES sign on for Season 2 of Damages. Awesome!

After Todd Gaines and Seth Bullock, I think Olyphant might be ready to add another classic character to his c.v.

Adding to the good news -- I'll be recapping Season 1 of Damages for TWoP later this year, and I'll be waiting for Olyphant to pop up when the show returns in January. Yay!

Trailer Trash: Eagle Eye

Okay, so when I first saw the trailer for Eagle Eye (DJ Caruso's pseudo-sequel to Disturbia), I was able to laugh it off pretty easily as "that movie where Shia LaBeouf keeps getting phone calls telling him to duck." Now that I've seen the new, expanded trailer...maybe not:

I mean, yes, it's still Dear Shia running away from things for two hours. And yes, Disturbia was pretty crappy (pretty really crappy). And I freely admit that my affinity for Michelle Monaghan may outpace your own. But this new clip suggests a fun little runaway train of a movie. I like that the small roles are filled with actors I like (Rosario Dawson and an increasingly old-looking Ethan Embry). I'm intrigued by the power-lines sequence that is hopefully a better homage to North by Northwest than Disturbia was to Rear Window. The plot's not reinventing the wheel, but I do enjoy a good mysterious-voice-on-the-phone movie.

God help me, I'm anticipating a Shia flick.

Round Springfield XX: Kim Kelly Is My Friend

While I watch Novak Djokovic blow it at Wimbledon.

Sarah offers a great take on the HBO doc Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired at Tomato Nation. Polanski is a thorny issue, but Sarah comes out about where I do: the crime doesn't lessen the filmography, but the filmography doesn't excuse the crime. I re-watched Rosemary's Baby the other day, too, and holy shit. Not all the classics hold up to their reputation, but this one certainly does.

Jason at MNPP offers birthday wishes to the ever-fantastic (and Michelle Williams BFF -- and Matilda's godmother) Busy Philipps. One of the many reasons I wish ER would just get canceled already is so it would stop swallowing up good actresses like Busy and Linda Cardellini (and Maura Tierney and Parminder Nagra) and let them star in something I'll actually watch.

Jezebel offers the terrifying news that Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck might be on the verge of splitting up. God, I hope not. Jen's been doing some of her best work as of late, and I'd hate for anything to upset that particular apple cart. I wonder if Ben will go back to acting like a total knob like he was before JG started keeping him away from cameras.

Finally, Best Week Ever delivers the latest on the Shaq/Kobe beef (Kobe beef! I'm awesome!), which has easily become my favorite celebrity feud of the summer (sorry, Lauren/Audrina). Watching the SportCenter anchors this week deliver stone-faced accounts of Shaq's anti-Kobe freestyle and his hilarious public statements ("Everybody who knows me knows I'm a rapper and a comedian") has been a treat. Stephen A. Smith hollering about the nature of freestyling? Can't buy that kind of funny. And now this news that Shaq has lost his status as honorary sheriff's deputy in Arizona because of the "racial" context of this scandal (...?). It's glorious.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

While I'm on the Subject...

Once Mamma Mia drops and everybody's all over Dominic Cooper's jock, just remember that I SAW HIM FIRST TOO.

Exceptions for those who saw him on stage in The History Boys noted. (I suppose.)

Oh, and speaking of Mama Mia, it has increasingly become my go-to guilty-pleasure-to-be for the summer. The lovely Vance at Tapeworthy pointed me towards this video of Amanda Seyfriend singing "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie (A Man After Midnight)," and I'm no longer able to dent it. I totally cannot wait for this movie.

Official Low Res Crush Object: James McAvoy

I'm tinkering with the category title, but you get the gist: this is the first in a randomly-appearing series of my pop cultural objects of affection.

So with Wanted opening this weekend -- and with me being the only person in creation who wants to see it more than WALL-E -- and with James McAvoy showing up on The Daily Show last night and reminding me just how sparkling (if fidgety) a conversationalist he is, I figured it was high time to show my appreciation.

The important thing to remember about James McAvoy, of course, is that I SAW HIM FIRST. Way back in 2003 when...shit, I don't know who the Hot Young Thing of 2003 was (Shawn Ashmore? Orlando Bloom?), but whenever everyone was talking about whoever was up and coming in 2003, I was bust telling no one in particular about this kid in the weird Sci-Fi Children of Dune miniseries who managed to steal the show from sandworms and pre-born abominations and Susan Sarandon. James McAvoy, bitches. I saw him first.

I tried to keep an eye on him as best I could over the years -- no, I didn't see Wimbledon, yes I do think he made a rather fetching quadriplegic in Rory O'Shea Was Here -- until the first Narnia movie dropped and a few people here and there were talking about that goat-looking fellow who was kind of the best thing in the movie not named "Tilda Swinton." And then there was The Last King of Scotland and it snowballed from there. He's still got his naysayers, and if Wanted bombs, it's going to be a weight around his neck for a long time, but I'm of the mind that you can't go wrong with an attractive, well-mannered young Scot, can you?

No, you cannot. So enjoy this smattering of YouTubings featuring McAvoy at his most charming.

James talking about sex scenes and "doin' it on the telly":

James's scarily perfect Ryan Seacrest impersonation:

And finally this lengthy (but worth it) appearance on fellow Scot Craig Ferguson's show.

Monday, June 23, 2008

'Round Springfield XIX: Before You Log Off

The Onion A.V. Club, ever-awesome, posts a fantastic list of the greatest cameos in film, topped by Alec Baldwin's flithy-mouthed shot in the arm at the beginning of Glengarry Glen Ross. It's a lot of fun going through the nineteen cameos, which includes some of my favorites (David Bowie in Zoolander; John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac) and some I'd forgotten about (Janneane Garofalo in The Cable Guy! The best thing about that movie!). The A.V. Club seems to post something like this about once a week, consistently stealing my ideas before I have them. The bastards.

Elsewhere on the internets...

Nathaniel posts the next installment in his genius June Weddings series. It's an incredibly creative conceit, and he always delivers them with a good laugh. Plus: Muppets!

Vulture bitches about having to catch up on Mad Men (suck it up, you guys, that show kicks ass), then gets to the more important job of taking those fuckers at Entertainment Weekly to task for, among other things, ranking Jay Leno above Laura Roslin.

Finally, FourFour sings the praises of She's Got The Look, and that's great, but the real draw of this post is the divine wallpaper of blowjob faces from America's Next Top Model. I highly recommend peeping each photo in order, from left to right and top to bottom. It tells a hell of a story that way.


That there is a teaser poster for next year's G.I. Joe movie. A movie that I am not as vehemently opposed to as I thought I'd be. I mean, sure, I'm disappointed that this thing got made before Aaron Cameron and I could fantasy-cast it. But I don't think it's going to be raping my childhood or anything.

There are some (many) things that give me pause, however. Starting with Stephen "Van Helsing" Sommers behind the camera. Uh...yikes. Channing Tatum as Duke I'm ambivalent about. Duke's not such a deep and complicated character that he needs to be an award-winning thespian or anything (I'm pretty sure "Yo Joe!" is the extent of his personality), so casting an attractive slab of granite like Tatum isn't a bad idea. It does signal a significant youth-ifying of the story as a whole which on the one hand is more realistic (America's elite fighting force would probably not be a bunch of grizzled old vets), but on the other strains credulity when you're talking about fantastical taking-over-the-world plots. What do kids know about weather-changing machines and DNA-cloning anyway?

The rest of the cast is similarly a mixed bag. Let's examine, shall we?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander: Okay, he's easily my favorite actor in the cast, so that's a plus, but...Cobra Commander? I guess the degree of cartoonification (or not) in this role will probably dictate the tone the movie will take (I don't know how you make someone like Cobra Commander realistic without making him totally boring but whatever), so there's a lot of wait-and-see here. I'd kind of rather see JGL using his time more wisely, to be frank.
Joe's Alternate: Josh Lucas

Brendan Fraser as Gung-Ho: Gung-Ho was never a favorite of mine, so to see him so prominently featured (particularly with characters like Flint and Roadblock absent) is a little boring. But what luck! They cast one of the more boring American actors in the role! Perfect!
Joe's Alternate: Thomas Jane

Dennis Quaid as General Hawk: Yeah, sure, boring character, whatever.
Joe's Alternate: Quaid's fine

Rachel Nichols as Scarlett: That's more like it. Great (and most likely economical) casting there. I've liked Rachel Nichols ever since that last season of Alias, and I think she can really shine here.
Joe's Alternate: I'm just glad we didn't get Olivia Wilde or Megan Fox.

Sienna Miller as The Baroness: Total wasted opportunity here. The Baroness should be one of those roles an actress can really dig into. There had to have been better actresses available who could have invested the part with the kind of largesse it deserves. Think Angelina Jolie in Alexander crossed with...well, Angelina Jolie in Wanted, from the looks of it.
Joe's Alternate: Kisten Dunst. ...Just kidding; Angelina Jolie, come on.

EDIT: In hindsight, Jolie's not an ideal choice, both because her star power would overshadow the rest of the cast/production, and because you could get more bang for your buck with a Famke Janssen or a Milla Jovovich (credit to Cam for that last one).

Arnold Vosloo as Zartan: I like this one. Zartan's maybe more verbal than Vosloo is used to being, but he's also a chamaleon, and I think Vosloo offers a great palette for that.
Joe's Alternate: Justin Theroux

Christopher Eccleston as Destro: This is perfect casting, and I have no qualms with it at all. And considering the movie appears to be hewing closer to the comic books than the cartoon, Eccleston's Scottish roots suit the character. But as someone who grew up with the cartoon, I always thought Destro was...well, black. So while I find zero fault with the casting as it is, I nevertheless might have cast it differently.
Joe's Alternate: Lance Reddick or Eammon Walker

Ray Park as Snake Eyes: I guess if you're looking for a guy who never speaks and you barely ever see his face, Ray Park is the guy to go for.
Joe's Alternate: Will Yun Lee

Byun-hung Lee as Storm Shadow: He was in Hero, but I don't remember who he was or what he did. And if we're on the Zhang Yimou tip anyway, why not...
Joe's Alternate: Takeshi Kaneshiro

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Heavy Duty: Okay, I don't remember who Heavy Duty was at all, but if it gets Adebisi back on a screen in front of me, so much the better.

Interesting to note the characters who are absent so far: Flint (like I said), Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, Dr. Mindbender, Tomax and Xamot. I guess the absence of the latter four means we're going way less cartoony for the movie. Probably a defensible choice, but I'll miss that crazy asshole Mindbender (seriously, how great a show is it when even your mad scientists wear a cape and no shirt?), and the former two are perhaps being held in reserve for a sequel? They were kind of second-generation Joes.

Holy shit, I wrote a whole lot about the G.I. Joe movie, huh? Please tell me some of you have thoughts on this matter so I don't feel so weird. Any casting choices you might add to mine?

"And It's A Beautiful Day"

Happy Birthday wishes go out to Frances McDormand today. Frances, as you'll recall, was named the greatest actress of the last ten years by a very scientific study.

And because I can't seem to stop watching it myself, here's the red-band trailer for Frances's upcoming movie, the Coen Bros.'s Burn After Reading:


Friday, June 20, 2008

Lightning-Fast So You Think You Can Dance Thoughts

I was fully intending to bypass blogging the show this week, but it turns out that I HAVE OPINIONS THAT MUST BE HEARD.


Okay, so my three favorite routines were Kherington and Twitch (again -- best dance of the night), Joshua and Katee (again), and Courtney and Gev, who I have resigned myself to liking way more than the judges ever will. I thought they were just lovely -- yes, the choreography was simple, and yes they stumbled once or twice, but in was in service of a gorgeous and deeply felt performance. I am also rapidly falling in love with weird little Mark and all the different ways the show can use "quirky" to mean "scorchingly homosexual."

As for Susie and Marquis...I didn't think they were so terrible. I can see what the judges were saying as far as some of the technical aspects, but I liked their energy, and that lift was terribly impressive. Nothing quite so awful as Comfort and Chris's listless so-called "krumping."

As for the miscellania, despite my occasional problems with his maculinity issues, I absolutely love how animated Uncle Nigel gets. Between his boogie-infused joy over the Broadway routine to his showing Chris how krumping should be done (and doing a hell of a lot better at it, sadly), I'm almost sorry I ever compared him to the Phantasm guy. Almost.

Oh, and Cat Deely crouching down to put Chelsie's rogue toe back in her shoe encapsulates everything I love about her. I think Mia Michaels's boner was about to burst through her pants at that one. And who can blame her?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dave and Tara Are Not Good People

I really hope you're all listening to the nightly Overwhelming Positivity podcasts as Dave and Tara take their Atomic Tour across America. Between today's slack-faced stroke PSAs and chalking devastating floods up as entertainment, it's the easiest way in the world to feel better about your own chances of getting into heaven. Unless you were laughing your ass off, like I was. Then you're kinda fucked.

On The Tony Awards

It's weird -- pretty much every single recap of the Tonys I've read this morning has been remarkably bitter. Am I weird for finding the show to be pretty good? Weren't all the winning shows/performances fairly well-received? I don't know, I'm new at this.

What the Tonys did accomplish extremely well was that it made me immediately regretful that I didn't see more shows this year. Particularly In The Heights, Passing Strange, Boeing-Boeing, August: Osage County, The Homecoming, and The 39 Steps. And that's just to start. I'm going to be a lot better at this kind of thing next time, I promise.

What's Happening? (And Please Make It Stop!)

I'm not going to do a full capsule review of The Happening, not entirely because I'm so paralyzed with rage, and not entirely because Jason offered up a way better metaphor than I possibly could have. Mostly it's because I don't think I could, in good conscience, come up with something to fit the "Best Thing About It" and "Best Performance" categories. Because holy balls, what a steaming load that was. It's not even suitable as high camp, as so-bad-it's-good, thanks to the wildly inconsistent directorial tone. The rap on M. Night Shyalaman (mostly deserved) has always been that he's a great director and an increasingly shitty writer. Good news, though, now he's a shitty director too! The film is a total failure of tone -- a thriller that never once allows the audience to experience anything close to suspense because the characters and events are so ludicrously impenetrable.

The acting is ... infuriating. Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel are good actors. Very good actors, if you ask me. Limited, sure, but they're very capable. And even when they're not at their best, they've never been close to the kind of breathless, bewildered lobotomy outpatients that they've become here. It made me angry -- furious, really -- to see two such talented actors being, at best, set adrift in a directionless movie without any sort of instruction at all, and at worst, instructed to act like total weird-asses in service to whatever cockamamie "vision" Shyamalan promised but failed to deliver. There ought to be a law.

Also wasted? The potential of a movie about a toxin that makes you want to kill yourself. Sure, the idea of a malevolent wind carrying poison produced by devious vegetation is kind of stupid, but even THAT could have worked with a better director at hand. But what a paradise the idea of a suicide toxin could have been in the hands of someone better! Night looked like he had the right idea for a moment -- a series of upping and re-upping the ante on new and fucked-up ways of offing yourself. But too many of them came across as silly (that goddamn green-screen-looking lion mauling) and, even with the (pathetically overhyped) R rating, pretty toothless. Night's failure to make this movie into the Hitchcock Junior success that Signs was is one thing, but failing to deliver a proper B-movie instead is just as bad.


Forgiveness Please!

I have to apologize in advance because blogging is going to be slow-going this week -- my life is nothing but boxes and newsprint this week -- but I wanted to get a couple short things in today.

I'm pretty sure the universe has had all it's had to say about Tim Russert's passing by now. And, yes, my instinct at times has been to bitch about the incessant coverage of a newsman's death as if he were a head of state or something. But this is what you get with a 24-hour news cycle, and honestly if it weren't for wall-to-wall Russert retrospectives, it'd be more of the same Hillary-as-VP speculation masquerading as news instead. If you think we'd have gotten any more or less coverage of the floods in Iowa had Russert not died, you're dreaming.

I watched a good bit of the Russert coverage, mostly because I love getting to see Tom Brokaw being stately again, but also because I'm every bit the homer for Buffalo that Russert was, and it was funny to see what a big part of his legacy that's become. I kind of thought that would end up being a footnote, but a good 30% of the discussion was about his Irish Catholic upbringing (not five blocks away from where I grew up) and his sincere and incessant boosting of his hometown. Any day I get to see my Grandpa in the background on a national TV broadcast is a good day for me.

I saw Tim Russert once at 30 Rock while I was getting lunch. The sandwich counter was super crowded that day, full of tourists, and I am really, really reluctant to approach celebrities in public, because who wants to be that guy? I kind of hoped I'd see him up by the elevator so I could say hello and drop a B-lo reference or two without coming off like a tourist, but I never did. After watching the coverage this weekend and all the stories about how he loved talking about his hometown and boosting people from his hometown, I really wished I had made a point to say hi to him that day. Not only would I have been happy to meet him, but I think he'd have been happy to meet me, a South Buffalo kid making a go in the big city.

Or maybe he'd have taken his pannini and run.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance: Top 20

Okay, twenty people makes for FAR too long an intro, but I'm still in love with the "These are the girls...and here are your guys!" thing they always do. I just realized I kind of want to be Cat Deeley for Halloween.

Jamie & Rayven: Hip-Hop (Napoleon & Tabitha)
A decent routine that seemed a lot better after seeing everybody else dance. I really wish Rayven could stand still for two seconds and stop constantly mugging for my vote. Everybody does that, sure, but this girl does not stop.

Susie and Marquis: Smooth Waltz (Hunter Johnson)
Marquis has "personal family issues" with his parents not wanting him to dance. ...That's one way of putting it, yes. I really didn't care for Susie at all before this week, but she and Marquis were quite beautiful on this routine, botched lift be damned. Elegant, with some great lines, but it was never boring, unlike some ballroom pairs tonight. (Jessica King!)

Kourtni and Matt: Jazz (The Other Mandy Moore)
Okay, Matt is absolutely beautiful. Not even in terms of attraction, but, like, in terms of art. His face should be sculpted. I really like them both, and I think their routine was much better than the judges gave them credit for. Nigel in particular was way harsh to Matt, with the broomstick up his ass comment. Plus, who doesn't love a jewel-heist-themed jazz routine? Love you, The Other Mandy Moore!

Chelsea T. and Thayne: Cha Cha (Tony Meredith)
Really? "Thayne"? Okay. Thayne has the biggest teeth I have ever seen and is also incredibly kooky. Unchecked kookiness can be a problem with me. Was this what Benji was like? The routine was okay. Nothing terribly special.

Chelsie H. and Mark: Contemporary (Mia Michaels)
Tim Burton's wedding. God bless your crazy ass, Mia Michaels, but I didn't love this routine. A little too foo-foo, even for contemporary. Mark looked like a damn fool flitting about all by himself, and Chelsie's poofy dress made it so you couldn't see her move half the time. Best I could tell, I like him and she's merely okay.

Kherington and Twitch: Broadway (Tyce Diorio)
Awesome. My favorite routine of the night. Often when the poppers/breakers/b-boys start braching out into other styles, the praise can seem condescending ("Good for YOU! 'A' for effort!"), but for Twitch it was well-deserved. He was great! And Kherington was his equal with every step.

Comfort and Chris: Jive (Tony Meredith)
Total trainwreck. I would enjoy the whole Comfort experience a lot more if (and hopefully when) she starts dancing better (perhaps with a new partner?). I'm pretty sure Nigel's in love with her, so I wouldn't be shocked to see Chris bumped off and Comfort paired with someone else.

Katee and Joshua: Hip-Hop (Napoleon & Tabitha)
At first I thought he was great and she was only so-so, probably because she's been working my last nerve since that boo-hoo business last week. But as the routine went on, I found her more and more appealing. They make a good pair. I liked that the hip-hop routines took on the storytelling pretensions of a contemporary or jazz number. That was fun.

Jessica and Will: Tango (Hunter Something-or-other)
Technically proficient but boring as hell. Jessica bugs the crap out of me, but that wasn't my problem with the actual dancing. Neither was my resentment that Will is keeping the deliciously daffy Debbie Allen from the judges' panel. It was just a snoozer. No idea what Nigel and Co. saw that was so special.

Courtney and Gev: Disco (Doriano Sanchez)
Not the most inspiring routine ever, but while they didn't blow the doors off the place, I like the both of them, and I really like them together. Courtney reminds me of Lacey a bit, and Gev is a less Orc-like Dominic. I hope they survive this week.

Top 3: Kherington/Twitch, Katee/Joshua, Kourtni/Matt

Bottom 3 (personally): Comfort/Chris, Chelsea/Thayne, Jessica/Will

Bottom 3 (predicted): Chelsea/Thayne, Courtney/Gev, Jamie/Rayven

Predicted Eliminations: Rayven and Gev

Because I Can: The Five Best Mario Kart Courses

[Note: this is for Mario Kart Double Dash, not your fancy-schmancy Wii version. What am I, made of money?]

1. Baby Park
I don't think I've finished better than 3rd (150 speed) on this course in months. The sheer amount of shit clogging up the track makes for an incredible obstacle course, and it's basically an endurance contest of who can sustain the most damage and still win. "Baby" don't mean "pussy."

2. Yoshi Circuit

In terms of pure racing, it's the hardest course in the game. Also, there's that secret underpass that I always go for, foolishly, and end up in the drink. Because Yoshi is an asshole.

3. Donkey Kong Mountain
That cannon is a blast. A BLAST! Right?? Oh, shut up.

4. Peach Beach
Because that detour across the tiny island is Mario Kart the way it should be played. Recklessly and drawn to the pretty colors on the ramp.

5. Bowser's Castle

...Which is apparently so badass a course that it refuses to allow itself to be screencapped.

Oh, and the Worst Course in Mario Kart?

Fuck off and die, Dry Dry Desert.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Low Res Celebrates So You Think You Can Dance Week, Day 7

Seven days is a week! We made it! The Top 20 dance tonight, so from now on we'll be looking ahead. But one more glance back at my two favorite things about Season 3.

First up, my very favorite routine of last year: the Mandy Moore-choreographed boardroom jazz dance between Neil and Sabra. Sabra was one of those dancers who was just baseline great all season, and she deserved to win the show, but she didn't have nearly as many highlights as some of the other dancers did. This is an exception. She and Neil really sparked together, and their intensity and ability to stay in perfect synch with each other (not to mention the ingenious choreography) is what makes this performance.

And finally, from my favorite routine of last season to my favorite dancer of last season: Lacey Schwimmer. I didn't realize it at first, until I started ticking off in my head how many great performances she'd put in, how dazzlingly gorgeous she was in her performances, how many different styles she did so well in. Seeing as I liked about 80% of last year's finalists, something intangible had to put my favorite over the top, and for Lacey it's either her weave (probably not) or her grace and beauty on the stage. Go with that one.

Now, you should know I am appropriately scornful of the YouTube fan montage phenomenon. A few reasons/excuses as to why I'm posting one here: 1) I couldn't settle on one Lacey moment, so this fits all of them in one clip, 2) fan videos get profoundly less annoying when they're not shipper videos, 3) the Ryan Cabrera song was used as the elimination ballad last year, and ... well, I don't want to talk about it, and 4) Lacey's probably the kind of dweeb who digs fan videos, so it's in her honor.

It's Movie Catch-Up Time

I've experienced a slight downtick in my movie-watching this month, and a less-than-slight downtick in my blogging about movies (oh, sidebar, I'll update you one day). So in an effort to keep you, the reader, better informed, here's how my last month or so of movie-watching (including DVDs and IFC and stuff) has gone:

Best Movie (current): The Strangers. Unbelievably tense and terrifying. You think you won't give a shit if Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are killed by masked home invaders, but the movie puts you right in there with him. Simple, but not in a self-consciously ethereal way. "Is Tamara home" is my new calling card. For real.

Best Movie (classic): The Sixth Sense. Seriously, I'd always liked this, but seeing it again a few weeks ago, it is a phenomenal movie, both from an emotional and a craft perspective. Toni Collette kills me dead every time, and the Haley Joel Osment performance holds up too.

Best 3/5 of a Movie: I'm Not There, parts of which were mesmerizing and parts of which were either stultifying (lookin' at you, Billy the Kid) or irritating (Christian Bale).

Best Performance: everyone in The Talented Mr. Ripley, another movie that leaped in my estimation upon rewatching. Matt Damon really digs into the role -- if this was released this year, after all the Bourne success and his popularity being so high, he'd win an Oscar for it -- and Paltrow, Law, Blanchett, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, plus a gallery of Hey! It's That Guys (James Rebhorn! Phillip Baker Hall!) are all at the top of their games.

Most Overrated Performance: Shia LaBeouf in Indiana Jones. And that's not just because I watched him call someone a faggot not five minutes ago. He's the most ridiculous part of the movie, and while most of that's not his fault, he doesn't exactly make up for it either.

Worst Performance: Richard Gere in I'm Not There. What the F, dude?

Worst Character: Not even Emily Blunt could pull off the joyless, humorless, superior, jittery basket case she's asked to play in The Jane Austen Book Club. In a film full of joyless (Maria Bello), humorless (Amy Brenneman), superior (Kathy Baker), jittery (Hugh Dancey) basket cases, Blunt's character manages to be too neurotic for the lot of them. Why the fuck do they put up with her? THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW HER!

Worst Movie (current): You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Nobody seems to think "it was 100 degrees and we needed a/c" is a good enough excuse for seeing this movie. I absolutely agree with them.

Worst Movie (of this or any era): You Don't Mess With The Zohan.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Favorite Blog Reactions To Bromance

Bromance, FYI, is the upcoming (Ryan Seacrest-produced!) reality show wherein celebrity oxygen-squanderer Brody Jenner will audition gents to be his newest "bro."

My New Plaid Pants echoes my own thoughts most exactly, zeroing in on the shameful act of finding Jenner detestable but hot. Plus a couple photos of Brody sporting some admirable ass cleavage.

Best Week Ever lets the "bros" fly and makes the appropriate Entourage reference.

Defamer is more dismayed than amused, though they offer the best summary of the show so far: "[T]his is a dating show for dudebros who probably don't understand what the word 'repression' means."

And, as always, the least amusing take on the show is given by AfterElton, the well-meaning, killjoy blog of choice for gay outrage.

Oh, and in case you were curious, I will absolutely watch this show.

Low Res Celebrates So You Think You Can Dance Week, Day 6

Yeah, sorry. I missed yesterday and I almost missed today. Did I mention how it's been 100 degrees for four days, I have no a/c, and I'm moving? Yeah, so sorry and all, but I've got bigger fish to fry. On the sidewalk (it's HOT, motherfuckers).

Anyway, so I'm going to post two clips today and two tomorrow. And then I promise I'll stick to Season 4 (and for those of you who could give a shit about this show, I promise I'll talk about other things).

Both of today's clips feature the much-maligned Lauren Gottlieb, who I really liked. The fact that she partnered with Neil so much didn't hurt, but I also really appreciated her energy and her goofiness and the fact that she didn't much hide the fact that she was hot for Neil. Girl, I feel you.

First up is Neil and Lauren's best dance together, the Wade Robson-choreographed angel/devil jazz routine. Again, my preference for more performancey/actorly dances prevails, and Lauren and Neil really throw themselves into this.

The second clip is probably the best dancing Lauren did all season, her contemporary routine with Danny. It's very similar to the Lacey/Kameron routine I posted last week, true, but I cannot get enough of the way Lauren and Danny move around here. Mia Michaels says the movement is "alien." Uh, sure. That works. It's gorgeous, to me. And I love how it's urgent and triumphant, in keeping with the music (Celine!). Probably my favorite dancing from Lauren AND Danny.

Check in tomorrow for my two favorite things about Season 3!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Low Res Celebrates So You Think You Can Dance Week, Day 5

Sorry about the no posting on Friday. Busy, busy, busy. Anyway, we're taking this week up until Wednesday, when the competition begins, so a few more entires to go.

As I mentioned last week, my eyes have been opened to the ass-kickery of Travis Wall, so today's post presents a couple of my favorite dances of his. The first is the one everybody's been recommending, the park bench routine with Heidi that's won Emmy awards and heaps upon heaps of praise. I've found a clip with the whole segment on it, because for me, watching Travis and Mia shepherd Heidi through a difficult routine that was out of her comfort zone is at least half of the charm of the whole dance.

Next, one of Travis's solo performances, which I'm including not just because it's great (though it is), but because of Mia telling Travis she'd like to work with him for the rest of her career. You guys! How awesome!

12 Days of Summer Movies: Rolls On

MARVEL at the woman who sat through Stolen Summer...on purpose!
The subtextual mission, meanwhile, is a quest undertaken by Project Greenlight to wring a successful movie out of the semi-autobiographical treacle penned and helmed by Pete Jones, despite Jones's inexperience; non-credible dialogue; contrived ignorance of major religions on the part of the main characters; trite subplots; a weak understanding of mid-seventies culture; Jeff Balis; and truly painful child acting that, while it is not entirely (or even mostly) their fault, is a serious problem in a film that centers on said children.

PUZZLE along with Sarah at the coded sexuality and couldn't-be-more-obvious melodrama of Tennessee Williams's Suddenly, Last Summer!
...not since Brenda Walsh went to Paris have I witnessed such wretched accent work — if you go by this movie, New Orleans is somewhere in western Massachusetts. Massachusetts, Quebec.

THRILL that you don't have to be the one to watch Summer Catch like I did!
It's a very bad movie that wanted very badly to be Bull Durham, but, you know, updated for the kids today. But no matter how many ballplayers wear ladies' underpants, or how many chatty conversations take place on the pitcher's mound, this is no Bull Durham. And Jessica Biel's Tenley Parrish (…Jesus) is no Annie Savoy.

A Random Sampling...

... of movies that, according to Roger Ebert's three-star review, are inferior to You Don't Mess With The Zohan (Ebert's star rating in parentheses):

Beetlejuice (2)
Blue Velvet (1)
Bottle Rocket (2)
Bring It On (2)
Charlie's Angels (.5)
The Crucible (2)
Dogville (2)
Donnie Darko (2.5)
Edward Scissorhands (2)
Empire Records (1.5)
Fight Club (2)
Friends With Money (2)
Full Metal Jacket (2.5)
Girl, Interrupted (2.5)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2.5)
Heathers (2.5)
The House of Yes (2.5)
I Heart Huckabees (2)
Independence Day (2.5)
Jawbreaker (1.5)
Labyrinth (2)
The Life Aquatic (2.5)
The Long Kiss Goodnight (2.5)
A Mighty Wind (2.5)
Reality Bites (2)
Rent (2.5)
Reservoir Dogs (2.5)
The River Wild (2)
Space Camp (1.5)
The Strangers (1.5)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2)
The Usual Suspects (1.5)
Velvet Goldmine (2)
Wedding Crashers (2)
Wet Hot American Summer (1)
White Oleander (2.5)

I assure you, whatever issues you may have with any of the above motion pictures, they are not anywhere near as bad as You Don't Mess With The Zohan. ...Uh, so I've heard.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Post-Cannes Oscar Predictions:

I did these back in March, and now that there's been a smidgen of new information about the movies in play, it's time to re-do them. There isn't much overhauling to be done, which I'm saying speaks well of my original picks. Or else my wrong-headed stubbornness. I prefer the one where I'm brilliant, though.

01 - Milk (Focus)
02 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount)
03 - Changeling (Universal)
04 - Defiance (Paramount Vantage)
05 - Doubt (Miramax)

Next Five: Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage); The Reader (Weinstein Co.); Che (Focus); Australia (20th Century Fox); Frost/Nixon (Universal).

I'm holding on to my hope that Milk will live up to its sky-high potential, and since nothing's happened thus far to make me doubt that, on top it remains. Changeling got a boost from Cannes (though not without blemish), and while I'd started to doubt my call on Defiance, its move to December seems to confirm my hunch. I think both Benjamin Button and Australia have tricky tonal issues that make it hard to tell how they'll be received (i.e., will they be deemed "important" enough), Revolutionary Road will have to overcome the frontrunner pressure that hit Atonement so hard, and I'm kind of buckling to the Doubt consensus at this moment.

01 - Gus Van Sant (Milk)
02 - David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
03 - Steven Soderbergh (Che)
04 - Clint Eastwood (Changeling)
05 - Edward Zwick (Defiance)

Next Five: Baz Luhrman (Australia); Stephen Daldry (The Reader); Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road); John Patrick Shanley (Doubt); Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon).

Even with Zwick on that list, it's probably too optimistic to think the Academy will come in with such a visionary-heavy lineup. Still, they nominated Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coens last year, so who knows?

01 - Benicio Del Toro (Che)
02 - Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
03 - Sean Penn (Milk)
04 - Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt or Synecdoche, NY)
05 - Viggo Mortenson (The Road or Appaloosa)

Next Five: Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road) (or Body of Lies); Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Daniel Craig (Defiance); Ralf Feinnes (The Reader); Jamie Foxx (The Soloist).

Del Toro was probably the person whose Oscar chances were most boosted at Cannes. I figure he's in this for the long haul, along with Langella and (probably) Penn. The other two slots are tough. I should probably have slotted DiCaprio given how much the Academy has gone for him as of late, and Pitt's certainly got that anti-aging hook in his corner. It's a strong talent pool this year.

01 - Meryl Streep (Doubt)
02 - Angelina Jolie (Changeling)
03 - Kate Winslet (The Reader) (or Revolutionary Road)
04 - Rachel McAdams (The Lucky Ones)
05 - Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria)

Next Five: Julianne Moore (Blindness); Michelle Pfeiffer (Cheri); Nicole Kidman (Australia); Anne Hathaway (Dancing With Shiva); Natalie Portman (Brothers).

Streep seems rock-solid and Jolie got great ink at Cannes (and, though it seems we say this every year, the idea of both halves of Brangelina walking the red carpet as nominees would be a pretty great hook). I'm still waiting to hear more about Winslet's roles before I lean either way on her. And I'm sticking with McAdams and Blunt mostly because the other contenders have too many question marks to leapfrog them. The Lucky Ones getting pushed back to late October makes me feel better about McAdams's chances.

01 - Josh Brolin (Milk)
02 - Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)
03 - John Malkovich (Changeling)
04 - Liev Schrieber (Defiance)
05 - Robert Downey Jr. (The Soloist)

Next Five: Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road); Demian Bechir (Che); Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight); Jamie Bell (Defiance); Alan Alda (Nothing But The Truth / Diminished Capacity); Tobey Maguire (Brothers).

Another strong, strong lineup. I'm incredibly confident in Brolin and Sheen, Malkovich seems to have a big year ahead of him, Schrieber's got Zwick in his corner (the man gets his actors nominated), and RDJ has a whole lot of Iron Man goodwill going for him. Of course, Bechir's got the plum Castro role, Shannon's an up-and-comer who apparently has a big part, Alda plays Alzheimer's, and Heath Ledger ... well, you know.

01 - Viola Davis (Doubt)
02 - Kathy Bates (Revolutionary Road)
03 - Penelope Cruz (Vicky Christina Barcelona)
04 - Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
05 - Amy Adams (Doubt)

Next Five: Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Samantha Morton (Synecdoche, NY); Carice Van Houten (House of Lies); Vera Farmiga (Nothing But The Truth); Annette Bening (Dirty Tricks) (or The Women).

I still don't know what the deal is vis-a-vis Viola Davis and Amy Adams and who has the bigger/better role in Doubt (Davis's role was more prominent in the play, but I'd heard Adams's role was beefed up for the movie), so for now I'm picking them both. Buzz has settled around Henson standing out among the Button women (though betting against Blanchett is surely folly), and Cruz got great buzz out of Cannes.

01 - Milk (Dustin Lance Black)
02 - WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
03 - Synecdoche, NY (Charlie Kaufman)
04 - Changeling (J. Michael Straczynski)
05 - Hamlet 2 (Pam Brady; Andrew Fleming)

Next Five: The Lucky Ones (Neil Burger; Dirk Wittenborn); Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh); The Soloist (Susannah Grant); Vicky Christina Barcelona (Woody Allen); Nothing But The Truth (Rod Lurie).

Hamlet 2 is poised to be the Fox Searchlight quirky indie darling of the year, Pixar has carved its own niche in this category (as has Charlie Kaufman), and the Milk screenplay is supposed to be genius. Auteurs Mike Leigh and Woody Allen make for formidable outliers, too.

01 - The Reader (David Hare)
02 - Frost/Nixon (Peter Morgan)
03 - Revolutionary Road (Justin Haythe)
04 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Roth)
05 - Doubt (John Patrick Shanley)

Next Five: Defiance (Clayton Frohman, Edward Zwick); Body of Lies (William Monahan); Cheri (Christopher Hampton); Miracle at St. Anna (James McBride); Blindness (Don McKellar).

Lots of big names on this list, so this could go a whole lot of ways, but I'm hedging with the stage adaptations (Frost/Nixon, Doubt) and the F. Scott Fitzgerald.

01 - Milk (Harris Savides)
02 - The Reader (Chris Menges)
03 - Australia (Mandy Walker)
04 - Blindness (Cesar Charlone)
05 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Claudio Miranda)

Next Five: Changeling (Tom Stern); Defiance (Eduardo Serra); Miracle at St. Anna (Matthew Libatique); Revolutionary Road (Roger Deakins); The Dark Knight (Wally Pfister).

Blindness got roughed up in Cannes, but I have to believe Charlone does some gorgeous (or at least showy) things with the "white sickness."