Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Not Kidding

This is a couple weeks old, but I don't think I saw anyone else talking about it, and I haven't gushed about Kristen Wiig around these parts for a while.

I actually hope this is the last we see of Judy Grimes. I don't know how they can top this feat of strength, and who wouldn't want to take a character out on such a high note? I can't remember another time I actually cheered for a comedy sketch like it was a sporting event, but I was practically on my feet in my living room after this one.


AAAACK!

I guess my question as to whether, now that she's broken up with Marilyn Manson, I can go back to not being creeped out by Evan Rachel Wood _more than the usual, acceptable levels of being creeped out by Evan Rachel Wood -- i.e., that she's a dead-eyed, bloodless minion of the Prince of Lies), has been officially answered. With a resounding NO. Because: ACK!

Sadder still, I can't tell whether this helps Mickey's Oscar campaign or hurts it. Certainly the five clones of Karl Malden would approve.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Week in TV

Please discuss in the comments!

Big Love (1/25)
God, Lois is so hardcore. Love her. The twin themes here seemed to be the handcuffs of motherhood -- neither Nicki, Margene, nor Sarah (Sarah! No!) are very jazzed about the idea of expanding their heavenly bounty by having another baby, though it looks like Margene's relenting after overplaying her hand on Weber Gaming. I still don't entirely understand why Ana is along for the ride; the prospect of having sex with Bill can't be THAT enticing. Speaking of not enticing, how about that skanky FLDS flophouse where Frankie and Rhonda (among others) are staying? I was simultaneously horrified and happy for those little monsters.

Battlestar Galactica (1/23)
Leave it to this show to make me want to kick democracy to the curb and fully embrace military dictatorship. And as annoyed as I was by most of the usual suspects -- Gaeta finally gathering up his balls at the moment he can be most self-righteous; Zarek doing his usual politics-by-demonization; Baltar and his usual bullshit -- it was nice to remember just how much I fucking love Doc Cottle. I sometimes forget. Also: Hot Dog is Nicky's daddy? I don't buy it. There is no way two such tiny people as Cally and Hot Dog ever produced that gargantuan child.

30 Rock (1/22)
A fairly brilliant episode, even with a spotty A-plot (though the callback to the "totally gaybones" incident from last season's finale was bril). No, it was actually the Jenna/Frank subplot (one that began so typically) that kept unfolding and unfolding until it stole the episode.

Ugly Betty(1/22)
I hate that the lesson (at the moment) seems to be that Betty's job and family are incompatible, so she should give up on her job. In other words: I really wish Ignacio would just hurry up and die already. Sloppily-written episode this week, with a couple notable saving graces: 1) Alec Mapa's character turning out to be a straight (!) family man (!!) living in Jersey (!!!), and 2) Marc's struggle to emerge from Wilhelmina's shadow. As has been the case for quite a while now, I'm watching this show for Marc's journey way more than Betty's.

Damages (1/21)
Okay, Matthew Davis is on the show now? In addition to Timothy Olyphant? What have we done to deserve such bountiful hottie representation? Anyway, this was the first week that the Glenn Close/William Hurt Big Chill reunion thing clicked for me. Duh. Not the most mind-blowing revelations this week, which, on a week when we find out that Daniel is Patty's son't father, should tell you something about how this show rolls. Anyway, more Marcia Gay Harden, please!

Lost (1/21)
You know...I don't know. It was fine. It wasn't my favorite episode (or pair of episodes) ever. I hate to be the guy to say that the time travel didn't make any sense to me, but...the time travel didn't make any sense to me. And I was hoping that by the end of the two hours we'd have arrived at a place where it would make more sense but it didn't. I'm not losing faith in the show or anything, but I do worry that the show has put itself in a position where they've established the time travel stuff in such a specific scientific setting that they're not going to be able to get away with things like "Desmond is exempt from the time-travel because he's special." Also, that hour-long clip show was immensely helpful, and I get that they didn't want to telegraph any surprises, but I really wish they'd have revisited that Desmond time-skipping episode more, if only so I could remember more about Finoula Flanagan's character. I'm not sure I thought she actually existed before.

Top Chef (1/21)
I thought it was kind of cool that Restaurant Wars (which...bravo to Bravo for branding their paltry recurring challenge motif so that it's now spoken of like it's an Olympic event) pitted the two couples (Leah/Hosea and Stefan/Fabio) against the four girls (Jaime, Carla, Radhika, and Jeff). The elimination was telegraphed from the first 10 minutes, which this show tends to do a lot, which is annoying. And I still hate the new judge.

Gossip Girl (1/19)
Nice to see Laura Breckinridge emerge from the wreckage of Related at long last. And really nice to see Chuck Bass have a rare moment of humanity and...dare I say warmth? And the fact that he's now in the business of preventing sexual assault means he's kind of come full-circle. Meanwhile, much as I love Blair, it was nice to see that she couldn't talk her way out of her own consequences for once.

Bromance (1/19)
Nothing quite so awesome as last week's shower scene, but seeing Brody's butt-cleavage during the episode-ending bubble-bath...okay, maybe as awesome as the shower scene. I love the idea of...Chris? I don't know his name -- the short one, regardless...but Chris scoffing that Darling Alex and the Boston one are in love with each other is pretty rich on a show called BROMANCE in which Chris(?) is currently competing for the right to participate in three-ways with Brody Jenner.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Orlando, You Like It?

Very Brief, Very Immediate Oscar Nomination Thoughts

Nathaniel's got the full list for you, so go check 'em out.


GOOD THINGS:

Melissa Leo and the Frozen River screenplay nomination. I'm sad Sally Hawkins got snubbed too, but Melissa was more than deserving, and I always like when an unheralded indie script gets nominated.

In Bruges gets Original Screenplay nomination. Way too many deserving scripts this year, and this category also contained my two saddest snubs (Jenny Lumet for Rachel Getting Married and Robert Siegel for The Wrestler). But I'm glad that funny little comedy about Belgium can carry the "Oscar-nominated" moniker.

Kate Winslet once. For The Reader. In lead Actress. It kind of heads off that distasteful Winslet backlash that was brewing after the Golden Globes (because we want nothing but success for our favorite actresses -- just so long as it's not too much success and they're not too happy about it -- ugh), and it allows everybody who wants her to win the Oscar to funnel their votes into one category. Good stuff.

Richard Jenkins: Oscar nominee. Heck yes! Funny that it's a Best Actor nod when he's been the consummate supporting actor for so long, but right is right.

The Dev Patel snub. Not because I thought he was so awful, but because he would have been the only nominee with a chance to unseat Heath Ledger, and nobody wants to see a kid start getting death threats at such a young age.


NOT-SO-GOOD THINGS

Michael Shannon for
Revolutionary Road. God damn it. Just as I was getting my hopes up that awards season had justifiably passed over the year's most overpraised, hammy, scenery-devouring performance, the Academy has to go and remind me how much they love-a the BIG performance. And to top it off, every smug Revolutionary Road supporter who whined for two months about how Shannon was getting the shaft now gets to be smug for a week. Crap.

No Sally Hawkins. No Rosemarie DeWitt. No Darren Aronofsky. No Colin Farrell. No Debra Winger. No James Franco. No Eddie Marsan. Sad.

No Dark Knight or WALL-E. Yes, yes, just the other day I said they were overrated, and neither made my own Top 5. But they were better than 80% of the nominated Best Pictures, and they would have injected some interest into what is not a stultifyingly boringBest Picture race. Plus it gives the "Oscar is out of touch with Real America" reverse-snobbery proponents some (really good) ammunition.

His-n-Hers nods for Brangelina. Look. I'm no hater. They've both been worthy of nominations before that they didn't get, and I think they're still generally underrated for their acting ability. But these were not, in my opinion, award-worthy performances. That being said, I will once again attempt to throw cold water on the idea that the Academy is nominating them simply for their star power. For one thing, it's not like they wouldn't probably be there anyway, as presenters or whatever. Secondly, people have been glibly predicting Brangelina twin nominations practically since they got together. In 2006 (Brad for Babel, Angelina for The Good Shepherd); in 2007 (Brad for Assassination of Jesse James, Angelina for A Mighty Heart). Big snubs both times. It took Brad starring in the overall nominations leader and Angelina hooking up with Clint "Oscar magnet" Eastwood to make this grand photo op happen. It really does take more than just star power. Ask Leonardo DiCaprio.


ONE INTERESTING THING
I can't say it with any certainty, but I'm going to float my hunch that despite Kate Winslet's one nomination, she probably made the Top 5 in her category three times. With the preferential ballot system that the Academy uses, I'd be willing to bet Kate placed #1 on enough ballots to merit nomination for Lead Actress for Revolutionary Road, Lead Actress for The Reader, and Supporting Actress for The Reader. But since you can't be nominated twice in the same category, there goes Revolutionary Road. And since you (obviously) can't be nominated in two categories for the same performance, there goes the Supporting notice for The Reader. So what now looks like a partial snub might well have actually been a SUPER-DUPER LOVE FEST. But we'll never know.

What did you all think?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Low Res Oscar Ballot: Best Picture

[Previously: Acting awards; Technical awards; Underrated/runners-up]

THE TOP 10 MOVIES OF THE YEAR (as chosen by some blogger you know)

#10 -- American Teen: Just a joy to behold, and no pesky concerns about the state of reality television or the authenticity of media-bred high-schoolers could possibly dampen the love I felt after seeing this. Mitch Reinholt 4 Life!

#9 -- Vicky Christina Barcelona: The kind of breezy, witty, verbose fun that Woody Allen's movie's are supposed to be but so rarely have been in the last fifteen years.

#8 -- The Strangers: I think I still have muscles that are still tensed up from seeing this back in May. Absolutely terrifying, artfully simplistic.


#7 -- WALL-E
#6 -- The Dark Knight
The two most overhyped movies of the year. Of the decade. And they're great. TDK is an immensely satisfying, epic crime drama; WALL-E is (most of the time) a sweet and innovative love story. Of course, they both had their flaws, and by saying that I've become a hater. And honestly, in a better year, these two wouldn't place nearly as high on my list, so maybe I am a hater. But they've come to define the cinematic zeitgeist for good reason, and I'm almost entirely happy about that.

#5 -- Wendy & Lucy: Quietly devastating, impeccably performed, and doggedly resonant. No pun intended.

#4 -- Milk: Again, a flawed movie, though apparently it's not against the law to say so about THIS movie. But honest to god, I could give a shit. I'm not sure how it happened, but the shortcomings of the script (which I maintain deep-sixed Diego Luna's character more than Diego Luna did) and the erratic distribution of directorial flourish (honestly, a minor concern, but superfluous voiceover is superfluous voiceover) could not have mattered less by the time the story reached its emotional conclusion.

#3 -- In Bruges: The funniest, most enjoyable, violentest, unexpectedly sweetest, foul-mouthiest, Colin Farrell making good on his last chance-iest, inanimate fucking object-iest, indirect travelougue-iest, midget-tastic movie of the year.

#2 -- The Wrestler
#1 -- Rachel Getting Married
Let's tackle these both at once, since it seems like I have been singing their praises for longer than I've had this blog. They both inhabit their worlds with bracing specificity and they both flay their main characters and put them on display for all to see. Of course, it's not only their similarities that I loved. The vibrant life on display in Rachel is traded for deeply felt (if noble) fatalism in Wrestler. Both are rendered with honesty and kindness and insight into the lives of actual flesh-and-blood human beings won't be found in at least 3/5 of the ultimate Best Picture field.

Final Tally:
The Dark Knight 9 nominations
Rachel Getting Married 8
The Wrestler 7
Milk 6
Doubt 5
In Bruges 4
The Reader 4
Vicky Christina Barcelona 4
Wendy & Lucy 3
Frozen River 3
Synecdoche, NY 3
The Strangers 3
[7 movies with 2 nominations; 12 movies with 1 nomination; 32 movies recognized in total.]

Low Res Oscar Ballot: The Techs

[Previously: Acting Awards; Underrated/Runners-Up]

For the three of you who care about what kind of art direction I dug this year, here's how the rest of my pretend Oscar ballot would look:


BEST EDITING
Cloverfield
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Milk
The Strangers
The Wrestler


BEST ART DIRECTION
Be Kind Rewind
Brideshead Revisited
Doubt
The Strangers
Synecdoche, NY


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Rachel Getting Married
Sex and the City
The Wrestler


BEST MAKEUP
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Synecdoche, NY
Teeth


BEST SOUND
Cloverfield
The Dark Knight
Encounters at the End of the World
WALL-E
Wanted


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Maryse Alberti - The Wrestler
Cesar Charlone - Blindness
Chris Menges (and Roger Deakins) - The Reader
Wally Pfister - The Dark Knight
Peter Zeitlinger - Encounters at the End of the World


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Courtney Hunt - Frozen River
Martin McDonagh - In Bruges
Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married
Woody Allen - Vicky Christina Barcelona
Robert Siegel - The Wrestler


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan - The Dark Knight
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Lorene Scafaria - Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
David Hare - The Reader
Kelly Reichert, Jonathan Raymond - Wendy & Lucy


BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky - The Wrestler
Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married
Martin McDonagh - In Bruges
Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant - Milk

[Next up: The Top 10 movies of the year.]

Low Res Oscar Ballot: The Acting Categories

[For reference's sake, here's what I didn't or couldn't see before making these lists: Australia, The Class, Let the Right One In, I've Loved You So Long, Waltz with Bashir, The Edge of Heaven, Gran Torino, Hunger, W., Last Chance Harvey, The Secret Life of Bees, Nothing But the Truth, Elegy, Cadillac Records.]


BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Michael Angarano - Snow Angels
David Kross - The Reader
Charlie McDermott - Frozen River
Amanda Seyfried - Mamma Mia!
Ben Whishaw - Brideshead Revisited

Angarano, Kross, and McDermott are all at some stage of development and should do big things down the line, and we'll all have known them when. Whishaw is my new favorite skinny/ghostly androgynous actor of choice (sorry, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). And Amanda Seyfried is going to rule the world in about five years, and if you're not on the train by now, I can't really help you.


BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
Doubt
Happy Go Lucky
Milk
Rachel Getting Married
Vicky Christina Barcelona

I probably wouldn't have nominated Doubt here if I didn't have to bump Streep from Best Actress. Happy Go Lucky is here for that flamenco instructor (LOVE!) and other less important reasons. Milk is here because I could find space elsewhere to rave about Josh Brolin and Allison Pill and Joseph Cross and Victor Garber and Dennis O'Hare and James Franco. Vicky because the leads all meshed together so well. And Rachel because each guest had their moment, even if it was miniscule, and because the four leads couldn't have been more perfect.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Emile Hirsch - Milk
Bill Irwin - Rachel Getting Married
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Gary Oldman - The Dark Knight
Brad Pitt - Burn After Reading

An uncommonly strong Supporting Actor year, and any of the below runners up would have been perfectly worthy of nominations. Only Ledger's going to end up as an Oscar nominee, and he's absolutely worthy of it for, if nothing else, being the one part of The Dark Knight that managed to live up to the outrageous hype. But here's where I pour one out for Hirsch's energy and enthusiasm, Irwin's great big wounded heart on display, Oldman's quiet resolve, and Pitt's volcano of dipshit hilarity.

Runners Up: Ben Whishaw (Brideshead Revisited); Eddie Marsan (Happy Go Lucky); John Malkovich (Burn After Reading); Ralph Feinnes (In Bruges and The Duchess); Josh Brolin (Milk).


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Rosemarie DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married
Ari Graynor - Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist
Michelle Williams - Synecdoche, NY

So here's the thing with Ari Graynor: hers was the single funniest performance from a supporting actress all year, and she absolutely walked away with what was already a pretty good movie. If Robert Downey Jr. can get (justifiably) Oscar-nominated for doing that, then I'm down for Ari doing the same. Cruz and Davis also stole their movies out from under the feet of their co-stars, and they'll brawl with Kate Winslet over that Oscar statue. Williams I've already talked about, and DeWitt chose not to allow Rachel to rest on the laurels of being the "good sister" and let her every petty and self-centered quality shine through.

Runners Up: Debra Winger (Rachel Getting Married); Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler); Samantha Morton (Synecdoche, NY); Dianne Weist (Synecdoche, NY); Tilda Swinton (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).


BEST ACTOR
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder/Iron Man
Colin Farrell - In Bruges
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Sean Penn - Milk
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Slim pickings this year -- represented by the mere two runners-up -- but that doesn't mean I didn't love these five performers (and six performances). The fact that Colin Farrell actually won the Golden Globe is fantastic and all, and his speech might have been my favorite of the night, but it kind of stole my thunder for being the one person in all the world to recognize just how great he was in In Bruges. Of course, those hopes were already shot, since it looks like a whole lot more people were on that particular bandwagon than I thought. Downey's two giant star turns were the stuff justifiably large paydays are made of. Penn and Rourke you've heard about and you'll hear about again for the next four weeks or so. Know that I was wild about them both (though Rourke moreso). PSH is an interesting case, because I'm not always his biggest cheerleader, but I was really knocked out by his work in Doubt. The fact that there are a couple shouty scenes that attract the clip reels is deceptive, because the absolute best stuff comes in the 6-10 really tiny moments when he subtly shifts the audience's perceptions, back and forth, based evidence even flimsier that what Sister Aloysius is going on.

Runners Up: Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges); Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon). EDIT: ACK! And Richard Jenkins (The Visitor). Glad Oscar remembered him even if I didn't.


BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins - Happy Go Lucky
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Michelle Williams - Wendy & Lucy
Kate Winslet - The Reader

As opposed to the lead actors, this category is STACKED this year, so don't take Streep's omission to mean that I didn't like her dragon-lady performance in Doubt, because I totally did. What I liked more was the twenty-odd layers of sympathy and defiance Hathaway brought to the usual selfish fuckup; or Winslet's stone-cold sex Nazi; or Leo's eternal quest for a double-wide; or Hawkins's Poppy realizing what a terrible driving instructor Scott is; or Williams's heartbreak in that scene by the fence.

Runners Up: Meryl Streep (Doubt); Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona); Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road); Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Julianne Moore (Blindness).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Be With Me On This, Readers


Click on the above screencapped image from CBS Sportsline to enlarge, and read the encircled headline. Glance at it really quickly and read it. And please tell me you misconstrued its message the same scatological way I did.

Winter/Spring Movie Preview '09, Part 2

Previously: Part 1

Movie: Taken (Pierre Morel)
High-Concept Synopsis: Liam Neeson's daughter gets kidnapped, and he must use his ex-spy expertise to save her before she's sold into white slavery. Maggie Grace and mothereffin' Famke Janssen co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Euro-style action thrillers. Folks who think Neeson missed his calling as a star of Euro-style action thrillers. Fans of MOTHEREFFIN' FAMKE JANSSEN.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who feel they've seen this kind of "This time...it's personal" story before. Lost fans still resentful of Maggie Grace's long-dead Shannon character. People who will end up totally overlooking the movie's depressingly generic title.
Why I'd See It: It seems like a perfectly acceptable way to kill a couple hours...on HBO. But there is that matter of mothereffin' Famke Janssen. January 30

Movie: The Uninvited (Thomas and Charles Guard)
High-Concept Synopsis: Emily Browning's dad (David Strathairn) marries Elizabeth Banks. Who is probably a killer. Oh, and the girl's dead mother's ghost is around too.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the surprisingly vast wicked-stepmother genre. Fans of the unsurprisingly vast ghost-leads-you-to-ghost's-killer genre. People who found Emily Browning to be incredibly promising in that Lemony Snicket movie.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who are able to suss out the good January horror movies from...this. Elizabeth Banks fans who figure if they wait a week, she'll be in another movie and they won't have to see this one. Alanis fans disappointed this isn't an adaptation of her City of Angels song.
Why I'd See It: You guys, it looks so...dull. I spent the last two years hoping Emily Browning would get another movie so she could start kicking the shit out of Dakota Fanning's career, and I'm so disappointed that she emerged in this. January 30

Movie: He's Just Not That Into You (Ken Kwapis)
High-Concept Synopsis: A large, likeable (with a few glaring exceptions) cast fictionalizes the infamous dating "advice" book by basically doing an intertwined-stories singles-in-the-city story.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the likeable people in the cast (Ginnifer Goodwin, Drew Barrymore, Bradley Cooper, Justin Long, Scarlett Johansson). Fans of the self-justifying "men are pigs, don't try to change them" source material. Non-fans of the source material who nonetheless were charmed by the trailer, perhaps in spite of themselves.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Non-fans of the less likeable people in the cast (Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Connolly, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Connelly, and Gretchen from Dawson's Creek). People annoyed at the repetition of seeing Affleck romancing another one of Brad Pitt's exes. People who are so over the film's played-out cliché of a title that they can't bear to speak it at a box office.
Why I'd See It: God help me, this whole project seemed absurd, but watching Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long being all cute with each other in the trailer...I don't know. I fully realize almost all of the actors I deemed "likeable" up there are wholly annoying to a good chunk of everyone else, so I don't expect anyone else to join me, but...I think I might see it. February 6

Movie: Coraline (Henry Selick)
High-Concept Synopsis: Neil Gaiman's children's novel is adapted in animated form. Secret doors and alternate worlds await in a story that sounds like it splits the difference between Alice in Wonderland and Pan's Labyrinth. Dakota Fanning voices the main character.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Selick's (The Nightmare Before Christmas) distinctive brand of animation. Fans of Gaiman's distinctive brand of witty and whimsical British fantasy. Acolytes of the demon Dakota Fanning.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Tim Burton, white-hot with rage that Selick isn't bringing one of HIS visions to the screen this time. Audiences frustrated that Teri Hatcher is sullying such an otherwise stellar voice cast (Jennifer Saunders, Ian McShane, Keith David). Catholic priests from a secret department in the bowels of the Vatican who will be too busy laying out their crucifixes and holy water in preparation for dealing with Dakota Fanning.
Why I'd See It: Love Neil Gaiman, love Henry Selick, and 80% of that voice cast really do have wonderfully expressive voices. Big expectations here. February 6

Movie: Fanboys (Kyle Newman)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler, Kristen Bell and some other dudes play dorks who go cross-country to steal a print of Star Wars: Episode I so their pal can see it before he dies.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The Ain't It Cool News crowd, for whom this was crafted to be a delicate handjob (not knowing what a handjob feels like, they will surely run screaming from theatres). Fans of the numerous geek properties being afforded cameos here (everything from Jay and Silent Bob to Happy Gilmore). People looking to feel superior to all of the above.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Star Wars fans for whom the Episode I PTSD is still too strong. Harvey Weinstein, who famously tried to edit out the cancer story and basically turn it into a Scary Movie-style spoof. Audiences allergic to fanboy culture.
Why I'd See It: The plot sounds a lot better than the movie the trailer suggests -- in fact it looks very much like the brainless string of pop culture references Harvey reportedly wanted. I'm curious, but I don't expect much. February 6

Movie: Push (Paul McGuigan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Camilla Belle are Americans in Hong Kong, and the government's after them for their extraordinary abilities. You guys, it's basically Wanted in Hong Kong. And with Dakota Fanning instead of Angelina Jolie.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Sickos who would have liked Wanted better with Dakota Fanning in place of Angelina Jolie. Perfectly acceptable human beings who would like to see Chris Evans being all actiony and hot. Fans of Hong Kong action, if that's even a genre anymore.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who weren't so crazy about Wanted the first time around. Non-fans of director McGuigan's Josh Hartnett oeuvre (Wicker Park; Lucky Number Slevin). Crazed Jonas Brothers fans angry at Camilla Belle for stealing the cute one away from them.
Why I'd See It: This looks like a perfectly acceptable silly action movie in February. Plus: Chris Evans! February 6

Movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic (P.J. Hogan)
High-Concept Synopsis: Isla Fisher plays the titular shopaholic who gets a job as a financial advice columnist to make ends meet. Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Leslie Bibb co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead and Straight Talk, the two movies that, when blended together with the essence of Carrie Bradshaw, yield this movie. People happy to see Isla Fisher get her first chance to carry a movie. Muriel's Wedding fans who vowed to follow director P.J. Hogan anywhere. Anywhere.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Recession-crushed peasants maybe not so willing to see a movie about the life-affirming joys of consumption. Imagination-deprived souls who found the plot to Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead to be farfetched. Muriel's Wedding fans who vowed to follow P.J. Hogan anywhere ... except to generic-looking chick-lit adaptations.
Why I'd See It: I like Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy quite a bit. The premise seems thin enough to let it slide to Netflix, though. February 13

Movie: Two Lovers (James Gray)
High-Concept Synopsis: Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow star in a romantic drama about family and love and Brooklyn and what have you. Vinessa Shaw and Isabella Rossellini co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of The Yards and We Own the Night, the previous two Gray/Phoenix collaborations. Fans of the old-fashioned story -- Joaquin falls for Gwyneth even though he's dating Shaw and she's living in an apartment paid for by another man. Because everything 1966 is new again! Joaquin's fans hoping they can convince him to keep acting now that he's apparently decided to retire.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Fans of The Yards and We Own the Night who were only in it for Mark Wahlberg. Joaquin fans betrayed by the retirement announcement. Anybody who has ever heard of GOOP.
Why I'd See It: February ain't no time for thoughtful nomantic drama! Something's gotta be wrong here. February 13

Movie: Friday the 13th (Marcus Nispel)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch...ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. All over again.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Horror fans who grew up on the original slasher flicks. Horror fans who look down on the original series and hope this can improve upon it. Deformed, teen-hating monsters.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Snobs. Wimps. Horny teenagers who don't have time to be looking after mentally challenged campers much less see a movie.
Why I'd See It: The formula is a winner, the teenagers are plentiful, and the Valentine's Day programming is pretty delicious. February 13

Trailer Trash Tuesday: 500 Days of Summer



Pros:
-- Joooey, who are both criminally adorable and also dynamite actors.
-- The voice-over. Not only does it make the trailer instantly distinctive (which too few trailers are) but it's also an interesting contrast to the wispy-lovely footage, which makes me think there's a brain behind all the romance.
-- The song, which is totally catchy and modern and unsentimental (which, again, provides much-appreciated contrast) and which reminds me of the Garden State trailer, which by the way I loved.
-- The dance sequence and the many Zooeys on the bus, evoking the kind of Michel Gondry-style whimsy I can get onboard with.
-- It looks like we get to see Zooey sing.

Cons:
-- Zooey's character is named "Summer," making the film's title an unfortunate pun.
-- The animated bird in the dance sequence, suggesting an Uncle-Remus-by-Disney style whimsy that I'm kind of not down with (exception noted: Uncle Jemima's Pure Mash Liquor).

As you can see, that ledger comes down firmly on the "pro" side. The movie opens July 24 -- I'll be there.

Monday, January 19, 2009

'Round Springfield XXVII: Fake Movie Awards Edition

Seems like everybody's caught the movie awards fever, what with the Oscar nominations just a few days away. Mine will be up by Wednesday, but for now, take a look at some of my blog pals and their choices for the best of the year:

Nathaniel's annual Film Bitch awards are in full swing at the Film Experience. Today, he unveiled his Best Actress lineup, which (SPOILER) bears a striking resemblance to my own Best Actress lineup. A fact we both kind of stumbled upon in conversation, after which I momentarily considered switching mine up because I am SO invested in being a unique snowflake in the movie blog universe. Whatever, go read Nat, he's bril.

StinkyLulu continues his quest to be the internet's foremost authority on supporting actresses (which, um, he kind of already is) by presenting his first-annual LULUs recognizing the year's best secondary actressing.

Roommate Mark begins to unveil his dream Oscar ballot, starting with the supporting performers.

And finally, this was last week, but My New Plaid Pants offered the Golden Trousers awards for 2008, which utterly put anything I was planning to write to shame, to the point where I wonder why I'm even going to bother. So, you know, thanks?

Low Res Oscar Ballot Primer: Underrated in '08

So before the Academy Awards nominations on Thursday, I'm gonna toss up my own selections for the best of the year, movie-wise. It's gonna be scaled down from the last couple years (no full-on Rezzies, alas), but honestly it's more than I was intending to write this time last month. So here we are.

Despite the fact that I found 2008 to be a really disappointing movie year, not everything I liked is going to make it into my imaginary Oscar ballot. So here's where I'm gonna give myself the chance to shout-out a handful of also-rans that aren't getting the love elsewhere.

Underrated Lead Actor: Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon
I didn't care for much of Frost/Nixon, but almost all that I did like (besides Rebecca Hall's wardrobe) was contained in Sheen's performance, which brought actual complexity to a potentially one-dimensional man the same way Frank Langella brought pretend complexity to a potentially one-dimensional man. Frost's struggle seemed genuine, while Nixon's seemed superficial. Naturally, then, Sheen's performance is being overshadowed by Langella's impending Oscar nomination, which is a shame. Of course, Sheen will soon be seen in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, so you tell me who came out on top.

Underrated Lead Actress: Rebecca Hall in Vicky Christina Barcelona
I've gone through my feelings on Ms. Hall before. I just wanted to get on the record before she ends up the odd woman out of my Best Actress lineup.

Underrated Supporting Performances: The cast of Revolutionary Road
It sometimes seems like I viewed Revolutionary Road through the wrong end of a prism. Particularly when web pundits are composing songs of mourning to the uncharitably shunned masterpiece of '50s malaise. Whatever. I didn't hate all of it, but even the parts I liked nobody seemed to be talking about. Kate Winslet's performance seems to be both underrated and overrated at the same time (though I thought she was great), DiCaprio's fine if not nearly worthy of any kind of rave, and rather than talk about Michael Shannon's performance, I will instead mop up the large puddle of drool left in his wake. I guess I understand why people loved him -- he drinks your suburban-angst milkshake! He drinks it up! -- but I couldn't take it for one more second.

Anyway, enough bitterness, this is where I'm supposed to give props. And props I shall give, to Kathy Bates for her ability to imbue some tonally regrettable comedy with sufficient feeling; to David Harbour and Kathryn Hahn for playing their mirror couple with tremendous depth; and to Zoe Kazan for taking a nothing character wringing the absolute most out of every moment without looking like she was expending a whole lot of effort. Tremendous work from within seriously miniscule roles, but these four actors delivered with minimal fuss. Too bad the rest of the movie couldn't live up to that standard.

Underrated Director: Kelly Reichert for Wendy & Lucy
At first glance, there doesn't seem all that much to this movie. A bit of an actor's showcase for Michelle Williams, sure, but these small little indie movies where not much happens are never all that impressive for the director. But it all sticks to your bones, this movie. The directionless atmosphere and the delicate interactions with largely indifferent people all take much clearer shape the farther you get away from it. It's not by accident, and I've suddenly become very interested in everything else Reichert's done or will do.

Underrated Scene in a Bad Movie: The Happening
Look, I hated The Happening. A lot. I wrote about how much I hated The Happening. It is a terrible movie. But it's a terrible movie with a few killer opening scenes, including the below screencapped one:

...which is terrifically creepy and almost operatic. It's just another reminder that Shyamalan can be a gifted visual artist even if he is SUCH a crappy storyteller.

Underrated Worst Movie of the Year: The Life Before Her Eyes
I understand about The Love Guru. I'm with you on Speed Racer. I sympathize about Twilight. I may never stop apologizing for paying full price to see You Don't Mess with the Zohan. But in terms of sucking me in with an idea I thought was good, giving me two good-to-great actresses in Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood, and no outward warning signs of impending garbage and then delivering utter crap, this one takes the cake. First of all, you can't make a Columbine movie in the wake of Elephant and differentiate youself via a painfully obvious "twist" that sucks all the wind out of the story. Second of all, the acting isn't terrible, but it doesn't come close to saving it. And third of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... . [Honorable crappy mention to Run, Fatboy, Run, which made me totally distrust Simon Pegg's judgment, maybe forever.]

The Week in TV

Big Love (1/18)
Holy hell, that was a lot of storyline being set up right there. But after almost a year and a half out of the Henrickson orbit, I was happy to reintroduce myself to everyone. Barb's cancer returning was a sucker punch, and her decision to respond to it by bringing Ana into the fold on her terms was typically affecting. As was Nicki's rooftop "confession" (where she looked to all the world like the Wicked Witch of the Prairies), which was one of those Nicki moments where she gets to be unexpectedly brave amid the sneakiness of her everyday life. Loved Teeny being a secret porn proprietress, loved everything about Sarah, loved the introduction of Bill's brother Frankie into the mix. I didn't love Ana being suddenly high and mighty about wanting to be able to sex up Barb's husband in private, and I also didn't like the way Lois was looking at Wanda's $2,000 parrot. Even crazier than usual. And poor Albie. Why can your attempts at dangerous, anonymous gay sex never go smoothly? Anyway, a big YAY to the return of Big Love.

Friday Night Lights (1/16)
You guys! Billy Riggins and Ole Sis are getting married!
You think it'll be weird when the bachelor and bachelorette parties run into each other at the strip club? Anyway, Tami Taylor remains the greatest person to ever walk the halls of Texas public education, and my heart kind of broke for "7" when that perfect new QB threw that purty looking touchdown. Wait a second...broken hearts, Tami being awesome, Ole Sis...my show is back!!

Battlestar Galactica (1/16)
God, just a knockout episode -- SO great to have this show back, even if it's the beginning of the end. I was glad that they revealed the 12th Cylon early on because, to me, there are so many more pressing concerns. I'm totally fine with it being Ellen Tigh, by the way, particularly because clearly Starbuck is some kind of unknown 13th. As for Dee ... you knew something bad was happening as soon as they started focusing on her, but even still that moment was shocking and terribly sad.

30 Rock
(1/15)
Salma Hayek remains a weak cog in the machine (as she always is, everywhere), but that Mr. Templeton song kind of made up for it. And that Dunkin Donuts gag was brilliant.

The Office (1/15)
More of a plot episode than a joke episode, but it was a good one. Jim's line about a Dwight/Angela baby having a giant head and beet-stained teeth was choice, and Michael being praised for his work was a great change of pace.

Top Chef (1/14)
Okay, so I've finally figured out the competitive dynamic here: Hosea and Leah suck, while Stefan, Fabio, and Jamie are obnoxious but I love them, Carla is hootie-hoo crazy yet lovable, Radhika is a total sitting duck, and Jeff is an absolute tool

Scrubs (1/13)
That Courteney Cox thing came and went pretty quickly, didn't it? Loved the Carla/Blair scenes, though.

Bromance (1/12)
To anyone who questions the camp comic genius of this show, I have two words for you: shower scene. Please and thank you.

The City (1/12)
So, I kind of never pay attention to this show. It's on, and I'm looking at it, but I'm not sure how much of it ever gets absorbed. That said, I already know I prefer the Uptown Socials to the Downtown Hipsters.

New Podcast!

And I didn't cringe at my performance in this one!

Once again, I joined Mr. Rogers and the Vicious Circle for the latest Film Experience podcast. Click on over and listen to Nathaniel, Nick, Katey, and I discuss Kate Winslet, Dev Patel, Mickey Rourke's dead dog, and why nobody wanted to hang with Penelope Cruz on Golden Globe night.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Multitasker of the Week

She visits her husband in prison, she makes her daughter fake identification cards (and a passport to come, if needed!), she orchestrates a multi-level obstruction of justice campaign (wherein she convinces dowdy cult members to forsake their prairie garb for modern-day hussy wear in the service of the prophet), she arranges the attempted murder of her son in a roadside truck stop bathroom because nobody knows a son's unnatural proclivities and shameful practices more than his mother, AND she dictates her memoirs into a machine so clunky and ancient that it might as well be a dictaphone.


God damn Gosh darn, Adaleen Grant, it is good to have you back on TV.

(Check the sidebar for my thoughts on the Big Love season premiere.)

Smooth Joey Apollo's NFL Playoff Picks: Conference Championships

Standings
Last Week/Total (Straight Up):
Cam: 1-3 (4-4)
Joe: 1-3 (1-7)

Last Week/Total (Against The Spread):
Cam: 2-2 (4-4)
Joe: 0-4 (0-8)

Philadelphia Eagles (-4) at Arizona Cardinals
Joe: Here we are. 0-11 on the line. And yet, for the life of me, I can't tell whether my instincts are guiding me to pick a winner (and salvage some pride) or pick a loser (and keep the streak alive). And on top of that, whether my instincts -- which have served me so crappily the past two weeks -- should even be listened to in the first place. Anyhoo, Arizona is the home underdog, has the benefit of the best player on the field (Larry Fitz), and yet still seems like the most unlikely choice. Works for me. Pick: Arizona 31, Philadelphia 27

Aaron: The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl. There. The sooner we put it out there, the sooner we'll all accept it. This also means accepting two weeks of stories on the "long suffering" Cards fans who started showing up two years ago with the opening of a new stadium. The Cardinals. In the Super Bowl. And...wait. Joe's pickin' 'Zona? I recant. Pick: Philadelphia 17, Arizona 14


Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)
Joe: I don't care how many points the Steelers put up on the fairly crappy Chargers D last week, six points seems a little high against the Ravens D, right? Pick: Pittsburgh 14, Baltimore 10

Aaron: Looks like I'm going to have to talk myself into picking the Ravens, since Reid's reverse ju-ju once again plants the kiss of death on my original pick. That aging Ravens defense HAS to know that this is the last hurrah, right? Hunger still counts for something. The Ravens have already lost twice to the Steelers and, sooner or later, they'll have to figure Pittsburgh out. Finally, Ravens' QB Joe Flacco may be a rookie, but he sure doesn't play like one! Convinced? Me, neither. Pick: Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 16

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Golden Globes Stat Sheet

Number of Awards won by Slumdog Millionaire, John Adams, 30 Rock, and Kate Winslet: 13
Number of Awards won by everyone else: 12

Number of nominees in the movie acting categories who no-showed: 6 (WTF, Sean Penn, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, James Franco, and Frances McDormand?)

Percentage of presenters and winners who were drunk off their ass onstage: 91%

Percentage of attendees who needed to pull the sticks out of their asses after that Madonna joke: 100%

Number of times I could watch Laura Linney accept an award, Emma Thompson present an award, and Jennifer Lopez tell a crowd of mega celebrities that "Mama's talking": infinity

Number of worst-dressed lists Drew Barrymore and Renee Zellweger will end up on in the next couple days (over/under): 11

Number of times Angelina Jolie was caught on camera smiling, laughing, or otherwise being a perfectly nice and happy human being: +/- 4

Number of times Angelina Jolie stared impassively as Kate Winslet nearly forgot to name her among her nominees for Best Actress: 1

Number of times people will talk about the latter while ignoring the former: six hundred thousand

Number of dollars NBC will be fined for allowing Darren Aronofsky's middle-finger to be shown on America's virgin airwaves: lots and lots of dollars

Number of people who still think Tracy Morgan is in any way "acting" when he plays Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock: 0

Number of obnoxous internet posters who Tina Fey told to suck it in her speech: 3

Number of obnoxious internet posters who Tina Fey still has yet told that they can suck it: 53,772

Number of times Best Actor winner Colin Farrell referred to his former cocaine habit on the air: 1

Number of times presenters The Jonas Brothers referred to their obviously ongoing cocaine habit: 0

Number of times Emma Thompson was the most delightful part of other actress's award-winning celebrations: 3

Number of people who had worse seats than Best Actress winner Sally Hawkins: +/- 6

Number of movies Danny Boyle has made that were better than Slumdog Millionaire: At least 2

Approaching the Finish Line

So at some point about a week ago, I decided that rather than give up on the 2008 movie year and decline to see any of the late-December awards hopefuls, instead I would see ALL of them. I think the turning point was Roommate Mark asking me to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I totally was not going to see under my own power. And I wouldn't need to see Australia (the other 3-hour monkey on my back) because its total bombing made it a movie I wouldn't need to have an opinion on until at least DVD. The other major factor was the glorious influx of DVD screeners I was able to obtain through back-channels, spy networks, and back-alley transactions completely legitimate means, which meant I could knock off a half-dozen awards contenders in little over a weekend. I'm back in the game, folks! Here's what I've seen in the past 10 days and my initial thoughts:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Flawed but enjoyable. But, you know, flawed. I wanted more of an insight into what it would mean to age backward than we got. I don't think we ever learn anything from Benjamin's unusual life other than the fact that it's pretty goddamn sweet to grow up to look like Brad Pitt. I did enjoy the fact that the second half of the movie played like a lyric poem honoring the unbelievable beauty of perfect Brad Pitt. I mean, when you're right, you're right. But anyway, for all that this movie had to say about Benjamin's odd life, he could have been beset with any affliction that made him different. That said, Cate Blanchett gives a great performance of this kind of sad, graceful physicality. Her story affected me. And for a three-hour movie, it never felt that long. Well-paced, even if the framing device (both the contemporary scenes in the midst of Katrina and the voice-overs) was totally superfluous and intrusive. I'm fine with this as an Oscar nominee because it's the kind of grand, romantic movie that the Ocars always nominate, and it's good, but don't expect to see it on my (imaginary, hypothetical) ballot. B

Frost/Nixon
I wasn't a fan. I thought it was superficial, and I was really not impressed with Frank Langella's stagy (understandably so, but still) performance. Michael Sheen was very good, though, and probably saved the movie, for as much as I liked it. And while Rebecca Hall didn't have a single thing of substance to do, I have to say she looked absolutely dynamite in some awesome '70s clothing. Anyway, probably the biggest gap between potential and actual quality of any movie this year. C+

Wendy & Lucy
The kind of movie that I could have easily drifted off into doing other things while it played on the DVD player, but I never once did, to the film' credit. I really liked the lost-in-plain-sight atmosphere, which presented a version of America that isn't some scary and foreboding place but is nevertheless unavailable to some people. Michelle Williams gives a dynamite lead performance (she's done some great work this year) that mutes her natural beauty to great effect. I've never owned a dog in my life, but I hear it's quite the devestating movie for people who have. B+

Changeling
As overwrought as you were expecting it to be, with some truly regrettable supporting work from actors I generally like (Jeffrey Donovan; Denis O'Hare). The real-life story about not only the counterfit child but the serial murders in California at the time were intriguing, and I kind of wanted to learn more about it, but maybe in some kind of A&E true crime program and not this movie. C

The Reader
I believe I'm not going too far out on a limb when I call this the sexiest Holocaust movie I've ever seen. Which, okay, to be fair this doesn't become a Holocaust movie until the last 45 minutes or so. Kate Winslet is marvelous, even by her high standards, and Stephen Daldry makes a triumphant return to directing (after The Hours) and, if the lingering shots up and down David Kross are any indication, his triumphant return to total gayness. B

Happy Go Lucky
A rather lovely little movie featuring Sally Hawkins giving a rather lovely performance about a truly exasperating woman. The movie's upfront about that, though, and Hawkins is undeniably funny in the role. I did find some of the banter in the film to feel scripted, which is odd given Mike Leigh's reputation for cultivating lived-in ensembles. That said, huge props to Eddie Marsan and Alexis Zegerman in supporting roles, and Karina Fernandez who is a scream as a commanding flamenco teacher. B

Frozen River
Melissa Leo is phenomenal here, stone-hard but she knows just the right moments to let the softness peek through. I'm still letting the movie roll around in my head, but I very much enjoyed it. As far as low-budget stories about bleak and desperate lives of single women in America, I think I was more impressed by Wendy & Lucy, but this is a close second. B+

Slumdog Millionaire

I definitely didn't connect to it the way a lot of people have, but I also didn't resent it the way a lot of other people have. I do wish there had been more Bollywood in it. That dance sequence in the end credits was my favorite part, and I don't think it should have been. Also, I'm kind of weirded out by how cute I thought Dev Patel was, particularly when I looked up how old he is. But seriously: way hotter than he is on "Skins."B-

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Best Golden Globe Coverage on the Internet

...isn't here, obviously. I don't have much to say about what is shaping up (as of a quarter past ten) to be a largely expected affair -- with the notable and lovely exception of Kate Winslet, which was awesome. If she's nominated for the Oscar, she's totally winning because, oh right, people effing LOVE her!

Anyway, if you're looking for the two most glorious, hilarious, and essential liveblogs of the ceremony itself, please check out New York magazine's pre-show blog with the fabulous Fug Girls, then chase that down with the main-show blog at Nick's Flick Picks. Nick has me in stitches, even if he didn't like In Bruges.

The Goods on In Treatment Season 2


Many thanks to Alan Sepinwall, who reported on the changes in store for the second season of In Treatment on HBO. Sez Alan:
So, as we begin the new season, Paul's marriage is over (though Michelle Forbes will appear at some point), he's being sued for negligence by Alex's father (which means more of the amazing Glynn Turman), and he's moved to Brooklyn. The new patients include Hope Davis as a tightly-wound lawyer (who's also representing Paul in the negligence case), Aaron Shaw as an 11-year-old struggling to cope with his parents' impending divorce, Alison Pill as a young woman who doesn't want to accept her cancer diagnosis, and John Mahoney as a CEO who's having trouble sleeping.
I had assumed Paul would have new patients, given the fates of Blair Underwood and Melissa George's characters. But I will be sad to lose the sessions with Sophie (Mia Wasikowska) and Jake (Josh Charles). That said, I like Hope Davis (even if "tightly wound lawyer" isn't exactly a departure for her), and I'm really into Alison Pill (Milk) these days. Dianne Weist will be back for Gina's weekly sessions with Paul, which is great. And good to hear Michelle Forbes will be taking time off from being a freaky flickering SOMETHING on True Blood to play Paul's wife some more. All good things.

Season two returns in April, and the schedule will be a bit different:
Instead of one episode per night, Monday to Friday, HBO's going to air two on Sunday nights and three on Monday nights, because their research showed that people tended to watch the show in chunks anyway.
Considering I watched all of Season 1 via On Demand, I can't argue with that conclusion.
Anyway, I can't wait for this show to come back. Has anybody else picked up the show On Demand since I watched over the summer?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Week in TV

TV is back thank God. I was almost able to go outside there for a second.

Ugly Betty (1/8)
See, this is where I get bored with this show. Yet again, we learn the dubious lesson that Betty's career advancement will always be at odds with her family life, and Betty focusing on her (pretty damn awesome) job is tantamount to not caring that her father is dying of a heart attack. It's a total false conflict, and it makes Betty and her family incredibly tedious to follow through sixteen iterations of the same plot. In other news: more Marc and Amanda! Jesus.

The Real World: Brooklyn
(1/7)
I understand the hype this one got. At first glance, it does seem like something of a throwback cast. Not because none of these guys are idiots (the rose-colored way the early seasons have been remembered as compared to the spring-breaky later seasons tends to obscure some of the morons who made it onto the show back in the day), but because with a couple exceptions, these people have actual personalities. And I'm interested to see how they progress. And I kind of don't want to see any of them end up on a Challenge. You know it's a good season (...so far) when even the people you wouldn't like in person (Ryan, Chet) are really watchable. It would take me about three screens to psychoanalyze everyone in the cast (J.D., you make me weep, kid), but the fact that there's anything to analyze at all is a bit of a godsend.

Damages (1/7)
As I said in my TV preview post, Rose Byrne has really made big strides since the show started, and it's really paying off now that the roles have been reversed a bit and Ellen is the predator and Patty the prey. Of course, Patty's still got it enough to destroy the life of a college-bound girl just to get funding for her CHARITY (god love her), so I'm not too terribly worried. It occurred to me that Damages is a bit like a less-fascist version of 24. Their seasons are both more self-contained than most serialized dramas, they can both be kind of dumb, they both have dragged in mid-season, and they're both reliant on big twists, to the point where you pretty much suspect everyone of double-dealing (Timothy Olyphant, we're onto you!). But I love it anyway and I'm glad it's back.

Top Chef (1/7)
God, judges who set out to be spectacularly mean end up being so BORING! I so do not look forward to judge Tobey's continued laborious and exhausting metaphors. I'm getting a good sense of the competitors, but they're all people I'm not sure if I like or not. Fabio, Stefan, Jamie, Carla -- not sure if they're my favorite people (though they all have their moments -- and Carla is a straight-up delight), but I'm enjoying watching their exploits.

Scrubs (1/6)
Aziz Ansari is an invaluable addition to the cast ("Steak Niiiiiiight!"), and I'm kind of loving Denise/"Jo" and her "chubster" predilection. Very strong beginning to the final season.

Bromance (1/5)
I'm not sure I can't put into words just how awesome this show is. Where do these guys come from? Why do they like Brody Jenner? Why does Brody need a new friend when he's already got Frankie the world's biggest girl and the illustrious Sleazy T? Is Alex cute enough to overcome the fact that he willingly signed up for this show? I'm not sure we'll ever get answers to any of these questions (except the last one, which: yes). I was discussing this on Facebook with some friends, the degree to which Brody is in on the joke that is this show. My conclusion was that Brody thinks he is, but there's a whole other level of joke that he's totally clueless about. Nobody who tells a story about winning a boat from "the Sultan of Brunei and some of his homies" in a poker game with a straight face can be 100% in on the joke. Still cute though.

Confessions of a Teen Idol (1/4)
Okay, I still have no idea who he is, but I kind of love the "Fame" guy. And I think we can all agree on three things: 1) David Chokachi, while still having it going on, is a total wiener; 2) There is absolutely zero reason that Scott Baio is hosting this show rather than participating it; and 3) Eric Nies has gone all the way around the bend. Lookin' good, VH1!

Smooth Joey Apollo's NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Round

Last Week (Straight Up)
Cam: 3-1
Joe: 0-4

Last Week (Against The Spread)
Cam: 2-2
Joe: 0-4


Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans (-3)
Joe: My lack of respect for the now 12-5 Ravens has lost me many a game throughout this season. Why quit now? Pick: Tennessee 27, Baltimore 20

Aaron: Meanwhile, I believe I was the one who wrote words to the effect of "Tennessee is NOT a great team" earlier this year (check the archives!) I ignored the whole "rookie QB on the road" stuff last week with Matty Ice and got burned. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...ah, screw it. Pick: Baltimore 17, Tennessee 16


Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-10)
Joe: Ten points is a lot to lay down in a divisional round game. Particularly for the shakiest of the four home teams this week. But consider that the Cardinals have lost on the road this season by 21, 28, and 40 points and that point spread starts to look positively modest. Yes, I realize Carolina only won by 4 when they met in October. Regardless. Pick: Carolina 34, Arizona 20

Aaron: So, was I wrong about Matt Ryan and the Falcons or wrong about Kurt Warner and the Cardinals last week? I'll say this much: that Arizona crowd was LOUD. I know people in 'Zona and they aren't a loud people. They're polite, old and white. They also won't be in North Carolina to save their team this week. Kudos to Joe for citing a Cards' loss to Brett Favre as a reason why the Panthers will cover. He just can't let go, readers. Pick: Carolina 22, Arizona 20


Philadelphia Eagles at NY Giants (-4)
Joe: The Giants wideouts are still a problem. But if the Eagles were real contenders, they'd have beaten Minnesota by more. That's college football logic, so you know it's sound. Pick: NY Giants 29, Philadelphia 17

Aaron: Last week, I was the only guy in America who picked the Chargers outright over Indy. I had the benefit of seeing San Diego all season and knew that their QB was pretty damn good and LDT was far from their only weapon. This week, everyone I know from NYC is spooked(!) by this Eagles team. Do you guys know something I don't about the Giants or did you not notice that Philly needed three quarters to finish off Quincy Carter Tarvaris Jackson last week? Pick: NY Giants 38, Philadelphia 17


San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)
Joe: So. 0-4 last week. Not a proud day for yours truly. My downfall, besides picking four teams who ended up losing, was that I picked the four teams I wanted to win. That freakin' NEVER works. I should have known better. This week, I'm really liking the Chargers -- I like Sproles, I like Babyface Rivers, and I like how they're the only team still alive in the AFC who don't have to rely on winning ugly defensive struggles. I think Pittsburgh is deeply flawed on offense, and their last meeting was pretty much a toss-up. And that was before the Chargers had all the momentum. I love the Chargers here. Not falling for that shit again. (Though I'll take them to cover.) Pick: Pittsburgh 22, San Diego 21

Aaron: This was gonna be my still-unsponsored lock of the week AND still-unsponsored upset of the week. Then, *everyone* got on the Chargers' bandwagon. People...that was NOT a good (or well-coached) Colts team that San Diego beat. That's not why they're going to beat Pittsburgh. Here's why: Ben Roethlisberger's concussion from two weeks ago was so quickly and ridiculously dismissed by everyone that I have to believe some sort of wishcasting reverse ju-ju is in place. Oh, and the Chargers have a better offense. But, it's mostly the ju-ju thing. Pick: San Diego 17, Pittsburgh 12

Friday, January 09, 2009

Low Res Big 2009 Preview, Part 4: Even More Movies

Big 2009 Preview Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Performances to Watch
Matt Damon - The Informant: Seriously, when is Matt Damon's mid-career surge going to be rewarded with an Oscar nomination? Maybe right here, in this Steven Soderbergh movie about a whistle-blower with an agenda.

Meryl Streep and Amy Adams - Julie & Julia: In what is fast becoming the Annual Meryl Streep Summer Movie, she plays Julia Child (or perhaps the restless spirit of Julia Child, depending on how weird Nora Ephron is willing to go), as Adams plays a contemporary woman who tries to cook every dish in the Child cookbook. Could be the rare mainstream movie that allows two female leads without requiring them to be feuding brides.

Joooey! - 500 Days of Summer: Yay, my favorite made-up celebrity coupling! Though I suppose it'll be harder to pretend Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are together now that she's engaged to Ben Gibbard. No matter! Joooey forever!

George Clooney - Up in the Air: The role seems like it splits the difference between Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love and Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. Probably slicker than that, since it's Clooney, but ever since Michael Clayton, I have faith in him beyond the shiny movie star stuff.

Vera Farmiga - The Vintner's Luck: Farmiga's been on the brink of breaking through for three years now, and director Niki Caro is two-for-two in directing her female leads to Oscar nominations (Charlize Theron in North Country and Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider). Not saying a 19th-century French winemaker is a slam dunk of a role, but it's worth watching out for.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire (Brothers): Mentioned this in the Top Ten; it's a trio of the best actors of their generation getting good dramatic material.

Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Colin Farrell (Crazy Heart): Great mix of actors I love, or want to love (...Colin). And hey, this gives Bridges and Gyllenhaal a chance to come back from their crappy performances in 2008 summer blockbusters.

Harrison Ford - Crossing Over and Morning Glory: It's a dicey proposition, but I wonder if this doesn't become a comeback year for Harrison Ford. He's reached that point in his career where people are going to want to like him in something again, and with a Big Important Drama like Crossing Over and a showcase and media-friendly role in Morning Glory, that just might happen.

Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts - Need: The Australian BFFs will play opposite each other as a shrink (Watts) and her patient (Kidman), the latter of whom starts sleeping with the former's husband.

James Franco - Howl: This would be the Allen Ginsberg bio-pic, which means, yes, Franco's going queer again. He's also got a hell of a supporting cast to play off of (Paul Rudd, Mary-Louise Parker, David Strathairn).

Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker: I really like this guy, and he's been getting my attention more and more lately (he was great in The Assassination of Jesse James). The movie is supposed to be excellent.

Rachel Weisz - Agora: It's not every movie that gives an actress the chance to play ancient Egyptian philosopher/atheists, but that's just one of the many reasons why I love tiny, adorable director Alejandro Amenebar.


Neil Jordan Cockteases
Here's the thing with Neil Jordan. Every time I say I'm looking forward to something of his, it's either underwhelming (The Brave One; Breakfast on Pluto) or it never actually gets made (the umpteen times I believed he was making a movie about the Borgia dynasty). This time, there are two Jordan movies dangling on the line. One, A Killing on Carnival Row, is a supernatural/historical detective story that sounds like it was written by Neil Gaiman. It doesn't even have an entry on IMDb yet, so don't get excited. The other, Ondine, is about fisherman Colin Farrell, who discovers a mermaid in his net. This one is listed as "filming" and has Stephen Rea in the cast, so I guess it's happening. And who doesn't want another version of Lady in the Water?


Audience-Hating Directors
The White Tape (Michael Haneke)
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
Antichrist (Lars von Trier)

I lump these three together, even though "audience-hating" only truly applies to one of them. That'd be Haneke, whose upcoming film takes place at a school in Germany during World War I, but of course that's not what it'll be about. It'll be about our own depravity and bourgeois complacence. Malick is probably more of an "audience-punisher" than a hater. At least when that audience is me. Loved Badlands a lot, but The Thin Red Line was a chore and a half to sit through. This new film -- starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, so get ready to hear about it -- will hopefully try to be more like the former, but I'm not too optimistic. That title already sounds ponderous. I talked about Von Trier's film earlier, but I should mention that he hates his characters (particularly his lead actresses) more than hating the audience.


Filthy Pleasures
Jennifer's Body (Karyn Kusama)
Fighting (Dito Montiel)
Love Ranch (Taylor Hackford)
"Filthy" is the only way I can describe my feelings for these movies. Like guilty pleasures with an extra layer of grime on top. I'm psyched to see them, but I feel kind of gross about it. Jennifer's Body was written by Diablo Cody (umm) and stars Megan Fox (yikes), but it also stars Amanda Seyfried and Adam Brody and Allison Janney and it's about demonic possession and zombies 'n' stuff. If you know why I saw Never Back Down with Sean Faris and Cam "Hatchet-Face" Gigandet in theatres, you'll know why I'll be seeing Fighting with Channing Tatum. Love Ranch starts out all respectable-like, with Helen Mirren leading the cast. But then you find out it's about the people who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada, and it also stars Joe Pesci, Gina Gershon, Bai Ling, and Taryn Manning. Fil-thy!


The Accursed Ones
Nailed (David O. Russell)
Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan)
Spring Breakdown (Ryan Shiraki)
The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson)

I'm not even sure if Nailed is still coming out, with all the stops and starts of production. It's probably David O. Russell's big karmic payback for being such an a-hole, but I've loved his movies (and it stars Jake Gyllenhaal, James Marsden, and Catherine Keener), so if it makes it to a screen, anywhere, I'm in. Bloom got pushed back to May, from like three different '08 release dates, so lord only knows if Rian Johnson's Brick follow-up will open on schedule. If I had to guess, I'd day that Spring Breakdown will end up getting released direct to DVD, but it's a shame that an Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, Rachel Dratch comedy won't get its due. As for Margaret...well, I'm no longer fool enough to think we're ever going to see Kenneth Lonergan's loooooong-finished follow-up to You Can Count on Me. Not even with a cast full of Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Anna Paquin, Matthew Broderick, Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney, and Rosemarie DeWitt. I've even given up seeing it on DVD. I just figure I shouldn't let another year go by without mentioning that it's out there, on a shelf, unseen. At least some things will be unchanged.

One more part to the big '09 preview coming next week, as I foolishly try to peg next year's Oscars more than a year ahead of time. Yipee!

Low Res Big 2009 Preview, Part 3: More Movies

Big 2009 Preview Part 1, Part 2

Worst-Looking Summer Movies
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Mark S. Waters): Matthew McConaughey's latest crappy romantic comedy, this time dragging Jennifer Garner and director Waters (Mean Girls) down with him.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
(Shawn Levy):
Self-explanatory.

Land of the Lost
(Brad Silberling):
Will Ferrell and Anna Friel in a nostalgia-bait movie for a show I never watched.

Nowhereland
(Karey Kirkpatrick):
Eddie Murphy's latest high-concept abomination.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
(Tony Scott):
I'd hold out hope for brainless, fun action if not for John Travolta and Denzel Washington as the stars.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
(Michael Bay):
I'm still mustering the interest to remember what happened in the first one.

2012
(Roland Emmerich):
I should cover this movie's assholish marketing campaign in an upcoming Trailer Trash, but as for the movie, it's like asking me to watch The Day After Tomorrow without the pleasure of being able to stare at Jake Gyllenhaal and Austin Nichols.

Big-Budget Anticipateds
The Wolf Man (Joe Johnston): Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Emily Blunt star; not sure how much of writer Andrew Kevin Walker's (Seven) screenplay was rewritten by David Self, though.

Where the Wild Things Are
(Spike Jonze):
This book wasn't a major fixture in my childhood, so I'm probably undervaluing this a bit, but it'll be good to see Spike Jonze behind the camera again.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
(David Yates):
For incredibly obvious reasons.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
(Gavin Hood):
It's X-Men, so I'd be in anyway, but kudos for the easy-on-the-eyes supporting cast (Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schrieber, Taylor Kitsch).

Star Trek
(J.J. Abrams):
It's kind of an asshole thing to say, but the more the Trek fanboys wail and moan about this, the more I want to see it. I have absolutely zero loyalty to the Star Trek franchise in any incarnation, so the fact that they decided to reboot the franchise as a young, sexy action film with a smoking hot Captain Kirk is so completely fine with me.


Award-able Movies I'm Looking Forward To
Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar): Yet another chance for the Penelope Cruz International Fan Brigade to spend the whole year talking about how much they love her.

The Road
(John Hillcoat):
This is the rare movie that got pushed back a year but (at least so far) hasn't gotten any bad buzz for it.

Cheri
(Stephen Frears):
Michelle Pfeiffer's return to prominence or something only the die-hards will notice?

Up in the Air
(Jason Reitman):
This was near the top of that "best unproduced screenplays" list that was circulating about a month ago. George Clooney plays a corporate drone who gets joy from racking up frequent flier miles. Could be potential for Clooney and Vera Farmiga.

The Human Factor
(Clint Eastwood):
Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, as directed by Clint Eastwood? Just try to give an award to anything else next year. Hopefully there's room for Matt Damon to get some love too.

Crazy Heart
(Scott Cooper):
Cooper's unproven, but the washed-up guy looking for redemption model could work for star Jeff Bridges. Also potential for Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, and Robert Duvall.

Green Zone
(Paul Greengrass):
Political thrillers can be dicey prospects for awards, but Greengrass and Matt Damon re-teaming should bring some residual "why didn't you ever nominate any of those Bourne movies" guilt.

Crossing Over
(Wayne Kramer):
Multi-character drama about illegal immigration with Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, and Ashley Judd. Could be the next Traffic if it's good, or the next Crash if it's bad. Either way, those movies got Best Picture love.


Award-able Movies I'm Dreading
Ameila (Mira Nair): Besides the fact that Nair's uneven and never seems to deliver when the expectations are high, this is Hillary Swank's bid for Oscar #3. Quick, what's Annette Bening doing this year?

The Soloist
(Joe Wright):
The fact that it got bumped to April makes me think we may not have to worry too much about this.

Hurricane Season
(Tim Story):
Inspirational sports coach movie meets inspirational Hurricane Katrina movie meets Forest Whitaker's Best Actor follow-up.

Powder Blue
(Timothy Linh Bui):
The unholy legacy of Crash lives on; Jessica Biel plays one of the four leads, all Los Angelenos who randomly encounter each other in terribly deep and random ways.


Could Go Either Way / Directors Teetering on the Edge
The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson): The coverage of the last-minute casting swap of Mark Wahlberg for Ryan Gosling gave me the impression that critical types might have the knives out for this one. Fairly or not.

Sherlock Holmes
(Guy Ritchie):
It's a big evolutionary leap for Guy Ritchie -- unless Watson starts speaking in indecipherable slang and shooting up warehouses full of gangsters, this is incredibly different than anything he's ever done before. He either gets some post-Madonna goodwill or else he fails miserably.

Funny People
(Judd Apatow):
This is either going to be Apatow's best-received movie yet or his worst. Doesn't it feel like the film community wants him to deliver a high-profile failure just to cut him down to size? He's going to need to knock this out of the park, and Adam Sandler as the lead makes it even more if a question mark.

Biutiful
(Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu):
Is Inaritu as off-putting without screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga penning his stories of random chance and cruelty? We shall see.


Most Anticipated Horror Movies
The Box (Richard Kelly): The plot sounds a bit like that short story "The Monkey's Paw" that I read in about three different high school English classes. But I'm still firmly in Kelly's corner, and James Marsden is fine by me.

Drag Me to Hell
(Sam Raimi):
Raimi's return to horror, starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long.

A Perfect Getaway
(David Twohy):
Murderous Timothy Olyphant stalks Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn across Hawaii? In.

Friday the 13th
(Marcus Nipsel):
Teens getting hacked to bits. Good times.

Antichrist
(Lars von Trier):
Von Trier makes his murderous cruelty overt this time. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willen Dafoe take to a wooded cabin to mourn the loss of their child and bad, bad things happen to them.

Final Destination 3D
(David R. Ellis):
Hilarious and elaborate death sequences, this time in 3D!