Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trailer Trash Week: The Company Men

Note: I'm kind of stealing this idea from Roommate Mark, except in my defense, A) I was planning on doing one giant Trailer Trash post and it got too long, and B) um...I don't have a second defense. Basically, we're in the middle of a glut of fall movie trailers, and what am I here for if not to pontificate about them? Not all of these trailers are brand-new, but I came across them while looking up the slate of fall movies.

The Company Men
Okay, first of all, let's get this out of the way: this trailer gives away WAY too much of the movie. I know it's the most common complaint about movie trailers, but as the good ones get better and better about keeping an air of mystery (see the above two clips) it becomes less and less excusable for the rest of them to give away the farm.

That said, on to the strange push/pull of this particular movie. I know nobody wants to watch movies (or read books, Mr. Franzen) about the plight of white men anymore, but this story of older men losing their jobs as the merciless realities of this economy come crashing around their ears hits me right at home. Right at home. I may not have loved Up in the Air, but those moments where the real-life people talked about getting laid off had me legit crying in my seat. I can't imagine Chris Cooper is going to be any less affecting. But that's my issue. Not everyone will share it. And Cooper's only one-third of this movie, at best.

In the lead, we have Ben Affleck, who has unfortunately allowed the recent erosion of the public backlash against to convince him that it's time to headline serious dramas again. And speaking of bad decisions, I give you Kevin Costner returning to his Thirteen Days New England accent. No, really, I give it to you. TAKE IT.

Back on the bright side, however, is Rosemarie DeWiit, who may be trapped in Affleckistan, and who may have been cast in the most stock Supportive Wife role since Renee Zellweger leaned against her door jamb and watched Russell Crowe box for two hours in Cinderella Man, But God damn it, when she grabs Ben's face and tells him "You have me!" I want him to BELIEVE IT!

Anyway, I'm sure this movie is destined to be typical manipulative red meat to middle-class white America, but my terrible secret is that I grew up in middle-class white America so fine.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trailer Trash Week: 127 Hours and Black Swan

Note: I'm kind of stealing this idea from Roommate Mark, except in my defense, A) I was planning on doing one giant Trailer Trash post and it got too long, and B) um...I don't have a second defense. Basically, we're in the middle of a glut of fall movie trailers, and what am I here for if not to pontificate about them? Not all of these trailers are brand-new, but I came across them while looking up the slate of fall movies.

127 Hours
This clip confirmed what I already suspected about Danny Boyle's film about the true-life tale of Aron Ralston: the degree of difficulty is going to be steep. But thus far, from what I've seen, I like the choices Boyle is making. Ralston is looking like a difficult character to latch onto -- thrill-seeking jackass and all -- but I think James Franco's real-life persona actually makes that character more palatable. I've already learned to accept Franco's artsy pretensions and like him anyway. It's like he's been galvanized. I also am already kind of in love with the visual design, with all those aggressive primary colors and the inviting-yet-threatening nature.

Black Swan
So, you know my thing with Darren Aronofsky, right? He's yet to make a movie that I haven't found to be excellent. His four movies have, in order, ended up as my eighth, third, seventh, and second favorite movies of their respective years. And he's married to Rachel Weisz! What's not to love?

Anyway: this movie! Holy eff! Not only does this movie look like a total psychological freakout, but it offers me the best chance for my girl Natalie Portman to knock one out again. It's been six years since Closer, and considering the dearth of great performances since then, it seems even longer. I can honestly say that anywhere between 15 and 55% of my active consciousness is obsessed with what's behind Natalie pulling that baby feather out of her back. This movie can't come fast enough.

Here's my one caveat: Mila Kunis's character has to be real. She can't be a figment of Natalie's tortured psyche; she can't be Natalie's alternate personality. I have faith in Aronofsky not to do that, but...still.

Once Upon a Time, When the Emmys Were Pretty Great

Round about the hour-and-a-half mark last night, I tweeted that the Emmy Awards, thus far, were "shockingly great." That was before some of the air went out of the proceedings with the sloggish journey through the Variety and Miniseries awards (would that Temple Grandin had crashed the podium during all of those acceptance speeches). But on balance, this year's Emmys were an uncommonly surprising affair, at least in the realm of WHO won. Of the eight acting awards handed out in Comedy and Drama, an unheard of SEVEN went to new performances. Only Bryan Cranston's Breaking Bad performance had been previously honored, and you're not going to hear me complaining too loudly about such accomplished work winning (he's ineligible next year anyway). Deduct partial credit for Edie Falco winning her fourth Emmy if you must, but it was for a wonderful Nurse Jackie performance that sees her doing anything but resting on her Sopranos laurels.

I had a wonderful time liveblogging the Emmys at NPR's Monkey See, which you can re-live right here. Follow along as I play Sue Sylvester to Kyra Sedgwick's Will Shuster for reasons even I don't understand.

I wanted to note the handful of best moments from the show, which in Jimmy Fallon's hands went pretty well, even if the good stuff was significantly frontloaded. Starting with my favorite Emmy moment maybe ever ...

You knew they were going to do something with the Glee phenomenon, but credit to Fallon, Tina Fey, and a cast of dozens (or...dozen) for throwing every bit of themselves into making "Born to Run" happen. It's the kind of thing that makes me like every single person involved so much better, and if you hadn't noticed, I already liked Tina Fey and Jon Hamm a whole hell of a lot.

I love the whole big sister/little brother vibe that persists whenever Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon have worked together since the old Weekend Update days (case in point). But everyone put their back into it, from Joel McHale to Hurley to even stupid Kate Gosselin, who is such a terrible dancer that she couldn't even credibly hop up and down, but who at least was willing to let herself get made fun of (it's the incredibly small victories sometimes).

At a time when Glee disillusionment is gathering like dark clouds on the horizon, this segment did more to remind me what's so fun about that show: that unfettered joy that comes with performing, especially when you're not the best at it. Watching Hurley and Nina Dorbev and McHale and Jane Lynch take that stage in a frenzy of adrenaline and silliness and throw their whole selves into what is essentially a lark could not have been more delightful. Kudos upon kudos to this whole endeavor.

Aaron Paul was the most deserving acting nominee in any category, and he was one of the precious few instances where I actually predicted the most deserving nominee to win. (I went 7-for-14 on my picks, by the way. I'd have done better had I given up the ghost on Sofia Vergara and stuck to my guns on my Archie Panjabi hunch.) Anyway, Paul's win was the one moment where I actually whooped and cheered -- deserving in a way so few awards of any stripe are. And, not for nothing, but how tiny and adorable is he? Come on.

Eric Stonestreet besting Jon Cryer here was only one of the several instances where my cynical predictive instincts were beaten back by really worthy winners. Watching Jesse Tyler Ferguson streaming tears from his seat as his on-screen partner accepted his award was just incredibly sweet.

And of course, Jane Lynch. One of those performers who you never expect to actually accept any kind of award like this because she's always been -- as she mentions -- an ensemble girl at heart. I guess it proves that there's an awards-baiting role for every great actor out there. Check out the genuine delight on Lynch here, though. That's kind of why I stick with awards shows through the bullshit and self-congratulation and crassness and frustration: because every so often, an actor I love can get their due in front of the whole world, and I can see them being made as happy as they so often make me.

That sounds pretty Glee of me, which is only appropriate, I guess.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Emmy Predictions

I'll be part of the gang live-blogging the Emmy Awards this Sunday over at NPR's Monkey See blog. And between all the gripes about production and wishing that Claire Danes could present all the awards in her Temple Grandin voice, I might not have the space to explore who I think will win and why. Which is what I have a blog for!

"Breaking Bad" (AMC)
"Dexter" (Showtime)
"The Good Wife" (CBS)
"Lost" (ABC)
"Mad Men" (AMC)
"True Blood" (HBO)

A lot of people are seeing this as Mad Men vs. Lost. I think Lost is way too polarizing. I'd say this is Mad Men vs. Breaking Bad, with The Good Wife as a stalking horse/spoiler. Emmy likes a good streak. Winner: Mad Men

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)
"Glee" (Fox)
"Modern Family" (ABC)
"Nurse Jackie" (Showtime)
"The Office" (NBC)
"30 Rock" (NBC)

The entire comedy slate appears to be narrowing down to Modern Family vs. Glee. Glee had the big momentum coming off of nominations, but I have maintained all along that Modern Family is the tortoise in this race. And the slow-moving Emmy voters will eventually gravitate its way. Winner: Modern Family

Jim Parsons - "Big Bang Theory"
Larry David - "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
Matthew Morrison - "Glee"
Tony Shalhoub - "Monk"
Steve Carell - "The Office"
Alec Baldwin - "30 Rock"

Who Submitted Well? From what I've heard, Parsons's episode ("The Pants Alternative") was a strong one, but we heard that last year too, right? Baldwin ("Don Geiss, America & Hope") submitted the episode where Jack Donaghy invents porno for ladies, and I suspect that he might win solely for the way he delivers the line "Fresh-Ass, Based on the Novel 'Tush' by Ass-Fire." Larry David wisely submitted the "Seinfeld" episode, and Shalhoub submitted the two-part, two-hour Monk finale.

Most notably, I can tell you that Matthew Morrison ("Mash-Up") submitted HORRIBLY, choosing the episode where he sings the "Thong Song." Morrison was never going to win anyway, but if he'd have submitted either of the two April Rhodes episodes (Chenoweth brought out the best in the Will Shuster character and Morrison's best musical performances), he might have become a spoiler.

Who Wins? Baldwin's the choice for inertia, and we know the Emmys love inertia. But they love Tony Shalhoub more. Everybody keeps saying Jim Parsons is bound to win sooner or later, but I'm not going to be the sucker betting against Shalhoub AGAIN just to see him trot up to the podium for a fourth time. Winner: Tony SHalhoub.

Bryan Cranston - "Breaking Bad"
Michael C. Hall - "Dexter"
Kyle Chandler = "Friday Night Lights"
Hugh Laurie - "House"
Matthew Fox - "Lost"
Jon Hamm - "Mad Men"

Who Submitted Well? All indications are that Hugh Laurie ("Broken, Parts 1 & 2") submitted the most tour-de-force episode he's ever done (and a two-parter, to boot), but his competitors weren't slouches either.

Who Wins? Very tough call. Let's safely set aside Fox and Chandler, for whom the nomination will be reward enough. Hamm would easily win among weaker competition, but unfortunately, he might not even be the best lead actor on his own network. Certainly, the Emmys prefer Cranston, and I would not be at all surprised to see him three-peat. The possible spoilers are Laurie and Hall. And I don't want to hear any sniffing from anyone about sympathy voting if Hall wins. The man should already have two Emmys (Dexter's first season and at least once during Six Feet Under's run). Every year, I keep fucking myself over thinking THIS is the year they finally award Laurie. Sometimes they just won't. Winner: Michael C. Hall

Lea Michele - "Glee"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - "The New Adventures Of Old Christine"
Edie Falco - "Nurse Jackie"
Amy Poehler - "Parks And Recreation"
Tina Fey - "30 Rock"
Toni Collette - "United States Of Tara"

Who Submitted Well? It's impossible for me to tell whether Lea Michele ("Sectionals") submitted well or not, because I don't know what aspects of her performance appeal to Emmy voters. She performs "Don't Rain on My Parade," for what it's worth. And while I love Amy Poehler ("Telethon") and Louis-Dreyfus ("I Love What You Do for Me") has won before, the ace submissions by Fey, Collette, and Falco leave them in the dust. Fey is screamingly funny in "Dealbreakers Episode #001," Collette cycles through all her personalities in "Torando," and Falco, already an Emmy favorite, submitted Jackie's incredibly strong pilot.

Who Wins? It's a tough three-way race, but Falco's newness and the fact that Emmy voters already love her, give her the edge. Winner: Edie Falco

Kyra Sedgwick - "The Closer"
Glenn Close - "Damages"
Connie Britton - "Friday Night Lights"
Julianna Margulies - "The Good Wife"
Mariska Hargitay - "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
January Jones - "Mad Men"

Who Submitted Well? Well...I don't think Close ("Your Secrets Are Safe") had all that much to work with all season, so picking a strong episode to submit would be a challenge. And while Connie Britton ("After the Fall") is never not amazing, the big scene in her episode has her getting overshadowed by Matt Lauria. January Jones, I think, has the strongest submission, with "The Gypsy and the Hobo" being a huge turning point for Betty, and one where she's at her least abhorrent.

Who Wins? I'd like to think Jones's strong submission will make a difference, but I don't see anyone besting Julianna Marguiles here.

Chris Colfer - "Glee"
Neil Patrick Harris - "How I Met Your Mother"
Jesse Tyler Ferguson - "Modern Family"
Eric Stonestreet - "Modern Family"
Ty Burrell - "Modern Family"
Jon Cryer - "Two and a Half Men"

Who Submitted Well? Lots of people! Colfer submitted "Laryngitis," which combined his unquestioned musical highlight of the year ("Rose's Turn"!) with some great father/son sentiment. Stonestreet submitted "Fizbo," and Ferguson ("Family Portrait") submitted the one where he deals with a pigeon in the house, my favorite moment of his. Even NPH, while not having my favorite season, had a whole lot to do in "Girls vs. Suits." And while I initially thought Burrell submitted the 30-minute Apple commercial that was "Game Changer," I'm now reading he submitted "Up All Night," where he's afflicted with kidney stones. Much funnier.

Who Wins? Seems like a toss-up, because we don't know which Modern Family member the voters will gravitate towards (I'd guess Burrell, but who knows?). Everybody's picking NPH because everybody loves him, but in all the years I've followed the Emmy's, I have NEVER been happy with the winner in this category, going back to the Michael-Richards-over-Jason-Alexander days. Why mess with a streak? Winner: Jon Cryer

Aaron Paul - "Breaking Bad"
Martin Short - "Damages"
Terry O'Quinn - "Lost"
Michael Emerson - "Lost"
John Slattery - "Mad Men"
Andre Braugher - "Men Of A Certain Age"

Who Submitted Well? Lost actors get the luxury of always being able to submit episodes that are All About Them (O'Quinn submitted "The Substitute"; Emerson submitted "Dr. Linus"). But I'm of the opinion that there's no such thing as a weak submission for Aaron Paul. He picked "Half Measures," wherein he got to play the battle for his soul as well as he had all season.

Who Wins? Predicting Emmy awards is one continual process of checking your most optimistic instincts and picking completely counter to that. But I'm talking myself into Aaron Paul. If the fact that he gave the best performance in any category all year doesn't mean anything, we can at least point to Cranston's two wins as proof that voters do appreciate the show. And while I could see either of the Lost guys getting a trophy for the road, I'm ready to stick my neck out just once. Winner: Aaron Paul

Jane Lynch - "Glee"
Julie Bowen - "Modern Family"
Sofia Vergara - "Modern Family"
Kristen Wiig - "Saturday Night Live"
Jane Krakowski - "30 Rock"
Holland Taylor - "Two And A Half Men"

Who Submitted Well? Julie Bowen probably made the smartest move in submitting "My Funky Valentine," where she gets to be so much more than her standard annoyed wife. But that episode also contains my favorite Sofia Vergara moment of the season, when she impersonates an alarm clock. I actually don't think "The Power of Madonna" was the best Jane Lynch has done, but as with all things Jane Lynch, the specifics may not matter.

Who Wins? I've been saying for months and months now that Lynch was going to be SHOCKINGLY upset for the Emmy by Vergara. The nominations announcement gave me some pause, with Glee being embraced far more than I expected it to be. But I'm holding to my guns. Every year, there's a big shock at the Emmys that only seems non-shocking in retrospect. I'm calling that for here. Winner: Sofia Vergara

Sharon Gless - "Burn Notice"
Rose Byrne - "Damages"
Archie Panjabi - "The Good Wife"
Christine Baranski - "The Good Wife"
Christina Hendricks - "Mad Men"
Elisabeth Moss - "Mad Men"

Who Submitted Well? I only watched half of these nominated performances this season, but I can say that Moss ("Love Among the Ruins") submitted a show where she was excellent, if not exactly revelatory, and Rose Byrne ("Your Secrets Are Safe") submitted the season premiere, which was more about establishing the Tobin family than about Ellen herself. Hendricks ("Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency") picked the episode where Joan and Don have that rather electrifying conversation in the hospital ER after what'shisface got his foot run over. I'd say you'd have to understand Joan's history on the show to get why that scene is so good, but Emmy voters are clearly familiar with Mad Men.

Who Wins? This one's a real toss-up, with only Byrne out of the running. I'd say that Moss being previously nominated as a Lead Actress bodes well for her, but that never proved true for Lorraine Bracco. And while I have a nagging desire to call a win for Panjabi along the lines of a Camryn Manheim/Michael Baddalucco/Richard Schiff (a.k.a. the "Voters must see something they like to nominate someone with no name value" theory), I think Baranski's presence gums up those works a bit. A lot of people seem to be calling a Sharon Gless win, and lord knows I have underestimated the Cagney & Lacey effect to my peril before, but I just don't see the Emmys going that big for Burn Notice. I'm calling this as a toss-up between Baranski (another Emmy fave) and Hendricks. Winner: Christine Baranski

Lost, Jack Bender ("The End, Parts 1 & 2")
Mad Men, Lesli Linka Glatter ("Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency")
Mad Men, Agnieszka Holland Treme ("Do You Know What It Means?")
Breaking Bad, Michelle MacLaren ("One Minute")
Dexter, Steve Shill ("The Getaway")

This looks like a battle between Lost and Mad Men, with a big ol' opportunity to honor the one thing everybody could agree on about Lost: it looked amazing. And this same award went last year to another long-running show's series finale (E.R.). Then again, Mad Men has yet to win in this, and I'm not sure if that means they're due or the direction isn't as beloved as it could be. Winner: Lost

Friday Night Lights, Rolin Jones ("The Son")
The Good Wife, Michelle King & Robert King ("Pilot")
Lost, Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse ("The End, Parts 1 & 2")
Mad Men, Robin Veith & Matthew Weiner ("Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency")
Mad Men, Matthew Weiner & Erin Levy ("Shut the Door. Have a Seat")

Whereas Mad Men has taken this award the last two years. And I don't see a reason why it won't go three-for-three. "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" is such a clear crowd-pleaser, I can't see voters not rewarding it. Winner: Mad Men ("Shut the Door, Have a Seat")

Glee, Paris Barclay ("Wheels")
Nurse Jackie, Allen Coulter ("Pilot")
Glee, Ryan Murphy ("Pilot")
30 Rock, Don Scardino ("I Do Do")
Modern Family, Jason Winer ("Pilot")

This award has gone to a pilot episode five of the last six years, so that helps narrow the field a bit. The temptation is to split the writing and directing awards between Modern Family and Glee. If so, Glee would seem to be the more directorial effort. Plus it lets the voters honor Ryan Murphy even if they decide to give Modern Family the top prize. Winner: Glee ("Pilot")

The Office, Greg Daniels & Mindy Kaling ("Niagara, Parts 1 & 2")
30 Rock, Tina Fey & Kay Cannon ("Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter")
30 Rock, Matt Hubbard ("Anna Howard Shaw Day")
Modern Family, Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd ("Pilot")
Glee, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk & Ian Brennan ("Pilot")

I would be honestly pretty shocked if Modern Family doesn't take this one in a walk. Neither 30 Rock episode was all that spectacular, The Office, despite "Niagara" being a strong episode, is past its prime, and Glee is not exactly a triumph of writing. Winner: Modern Family

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Spy...

Is the cute, Keira-Knightley-obsessed, sign-holding, admittedly best-friend-screwing-over guy from Love Actually going to be the lead in AMC's upcoming zombie (mini?)series The Walking Dead? A quick trip to IMDb says it is!

Why hello, Andrew Lincoln. I'd been wondering what became of you, considering pretty much everybody in Love, Actually who wasn't already wonderfully famous went on to become wonderfully famous (including your storyline partners Keira and Chiwetel Ejiofor). Now you're fending off zombies on a show that starts off looking like a criminally blunt 28 Days Later ripoff but goes on to suggest an emotional, immersive account of life among the undead. Count me in!


Let's Watch Some TV

You guys! Fall TV season is almost upon us! Somebody give me some oxygen! ...Actually, I'm in the unfamiliar position of having to fake enthusiasm about new TV, because this year's crop of debut series looks awfully underwhelming.

That said, even with a listless freshman class, there are still plenty of great TV shows I'm psyched for this fall. But I wanted to do something different here on Low Res. I'm finding it harder and harder to stay current on TV and talk about it on the blog. Shows get time-shifted or stockpiled on the DVR (for the second straight season, I saved almost the entire season of Fringe for the summer months; I still have to catch up on Justified), and I forever seem to be an episode behind. So I decided: I will have ONE show that I cover here on the blog. Next-day posts, serious analysis, (hopefully) robust comment discussions, it'll be like a real live TV blog.

The question of what TV show to choose comes down to you guys. Obviously, if I'm picking one show, I want it to be something we can all dig into and pick apart and enjoy. I'd like it to be an hourlong drama; I find it harder to write about sitcoms with any kind of depth, and there's less to dig into with reality shows. Here are the shows I've narrowed it down to:

Lonestar (Mondays / 9PM / FOX)
Pros: One of the more critically-praised pilots on the fall slate; Friday Night Lights' Adrianne Palicki; cute guys.
Cons: Time slot competition (The Event; Gossip Girl); possibility that ratings will tank and it'll get pulled; Jon Voight.

Boardwalk Empire (Sundays / 9PM / HBO)
Pros: Looks AH-mazing; cast includes Kelly MacDonald; will be one of THE shows people will be talking about this fall.
Cons: Could be dense; might be one of those shows people like to stockpile and watch in chunks.

Glee (Tuesdays / 8PM / FOX)
Pros: We know it, we (mostly) love it, we already love talking about it.
Cons: Examining this show with any depth might be harmful to my appreciation of it, particularly as we prepare to enter the inevitable sophomore slump.

Parenthood (Tuesdays / 10PM / NBC)
Pros: It's supplanted Brothers & Sisters as my unambitious, likeable family dramady; Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman are doing great things; characters I love AND characters who annoy me could make for some fun posts.
Cons: Though I do expect the show to make a leap this season, it doesn't feel like too many people are watching this.

Fringe (Thursdays / 9PM / FOX)
Pros: After watching the end of Season 2, there is NO WAY I'm waiting til next summer to watch; I have a feeling writing about this show every week could make it even better.
Cons: Writing about this show into a vacuum could be really boring; I'd have to count on you guys to bring it in the comments.

The Event (Mondays / 9PM / NBC)
Pros: Fun mystery concept; could be fun to try and unravel central mystery.
Cons: It could go the Flash Forward route, and I'd lose interest after an episode and a half; time-slot competition (Lonestar; Gossip Girl).

My Generation (Thursdays / 8PM / ABC)
Pros: Young, attractive cast; semi-inventive premise.
Cons: Not exactly sure it's going to be good. Time-slot competition (Community/30 Rock; Vampire Diaries).

Please vote for the show you'd most like me to cover here. You can vote for multiple shows if you'd like.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fall Movie Preview 2010, Part 1

Fall movie season is upon us! What goodies await? What kind of an impact will they make? How many leading questions will I ask before I just get on with it? Three. The answer is three.

Movie: The American (Anton Corbjin)
High-Concept Synopsis: George Clooney plays the titular American, an assassin hiding out in an Italian village. He eludes captors! He prepares for a job! He talks metaphysics with a local priest! He romances an Italian brunette of the sort you'd expect him to date in real life.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Clooney, and especially the amorous ones, as there are more than a few shots of shirtless assassin-training. Fans of director Corbjin, whose 2007 film Control was received quite well. American fans of European cinema.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: American fans of American cinema and only American cinema. American actresses taking umbrage at Clooney taking his leading man charms to Italy on this one. Concerned Citizens for Detail-Oriented Film Titles.
Why I'd See It: I'm a fan of Clooney, but this role seems to be a combination of his characters in Syriana and Up in the Air, two roles I find to be Lesser Clooney, Oscar love be damned. Also, I know a lot of people loved Control, but I found it snoozy, and the trailer for this movie projects a similar drowsiness. Not entirely sold. September 1

Movie: Machete (Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis)
High-Concept Synopsis: Danny Trejo plays the titular betrayed tough guy who embarks upon a bloody campaign of revenge, yada yada Mexico, guns, grindhouse.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Robert Rodriguez's orgiastic celebrations of grimy, violent genre filmmaking. Audiences happy to see all-star character actor Trejo finally get his moment in the sun. Lost fans eager for the long-denied meeting of Frank Lapidus and Ana-Lucia.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who would roll at their eyes at the self-indulgence of Rodriguez making a feature film based on one of his fake trailers from Grindhouse. People who would refuse to see any movie that leads its trailer off with Jessica Alba. People who would be so busy trying to determine whether Robert DeNiro is or isn't slumming it in this movie that they miss its theater run entirely.
Why I'd See It: I was completely ready and willing to ignore this movie -- I'm hit and miss with Rodriguez, and his half of Grindhouse wasn't remotely my thing -- until I saw the trailer in front of Piranha 3D. It reminded me quite a bit of From Dusk 'Til Dawn, perhaps my favorite Rodriguez movie and certainly a classic of modern junk cinema. Plus I kind of have a soft spot for Michelle Rodriguez, and she got fairly prominent placement in the trailer. September 1

Movie: Going the Distance (Nanette Burstein)
High-Concept Synopsis: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are cute and in love and must navigate a long-distance relationship.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Romantic comedy fans who find Barrymore and Long appealing. Fans of the supporting cast which is brimming with talent, from Christina Applegate to Jason Sudekis to Charlie Day to Kelli Garner to Jim Gaffigan. The entire staff at Us Weekly.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who hate Barrymore's sunny cheerfulness and Long's shrug-ful cuteness. People who didn't dig director Burstein's teen docu-soap American Teen (those people are wrong). PC users.
Why I'd See It: I've already talked about how much I'm looking forward to this one -- it's my great romantic comedy hope as the summer checks out. And I love Drew Barrymore and Justin Long so there. September 3

Movie: The Tillman Story (Amir Bar-Lev)
High-Concept Synopsis: The family of former NFL player turned post-9/11 Army enlistee turned friendly-fire victim Pat Tillman search for the truth of Pat's death amid lies and obstructions from the military and government.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Documentary fans encouraged by the waves of great buzz coming out of the film festivals, including Sundance. Anti-war types looking for a movie to stick it to the war machine. Folks with less militant (heh) views on the war who nonetheless have found Tillman's story compelling.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who feel like they've gotten the whole Tillman story from the thousands of news reports and magazine articles they've read about it. People who don't want to hear about the icky war, still. Philadelphia Eagles fans (...right? I kind if couldn't think of who the Cardinals' major rival was. But Philly fans are a-holes in general, right?).
Why I'd See It: To be honest, I thought I was Tillman-ed out, but the buzz out of Sundance was pretty spectacular, and the trailer makes this looks like a compelling and illuminating documentary. It'll be interesting to see if Tillman's newsworthiness gives this some box-office presence. September 3

Movie: Resident Evil: Afterlife (Paul W.S. Anderson)
High-Concept Synopsis: Once more into the I-think-it's-zombies breach with Milla Jovovich. This time, she's got Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller along for the ride. So...yeah, fuck with that.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who have seen and somehow enjoyed the first three (four? seven?) RE flicks. People who have merely seen the earlier RE movies and want to play out the string out of a sense of completion. Milla Jovovich fans who have decided to forgive her for The Fourth Kind.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anyone who might refer to him- or herself as a "cineaste." Everyone who mistook the director for Paul Thomas Anderson and have vowed NEVER AGAIN. People who have seen Ali Larter or Wentworth Miller in things.
Why I'd See It: I haven't seen the first three (nine? eleven?) Resident Evil, so why start now? It's funny, the premise always intrigues me. Every time the first one is on TV, I intend to watch it, but I'm always out by the 15-minute mark. Still, if this is your thing, I hope Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller, like, do it onscreen or something redeeming like that. September 10

Movie: Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kind of a futuristic Brit period drama, Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield star as a trio of prep school alums whose intense friendship and romantic entanglements are set against the backdrop of the shocking truth of their shared past. (Come on, Fox Searchlight, give me a job!)
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Kazuo Ishiguro's extravagantly acclaimed novel upon which this is based. Fans of the cast, a who's who of underrated Brit talent, including Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, and Charlotte Rampling. The folks behind the Spider-Man reboot hoping to give their star Andrew Garfield a head start.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Skeptical fans who aren't sure how the guy who made the pretty-terrible One Hour Photo got a crack at such prized source material. People who got the central conceit of the story ruined for them by careless synopses (IMDb, for shame). Folks opposed to pale, skinny British chicks and their inherent ghostly creepiness.
Why I'd See It: I've enthused about the trailer clip enough around these parts, so I'll just hit my major bullet points: I hated One Hour Photo, but Romanek's music video output keeps hope alive, I'm wild about the cast, and the premise feels like the best of Merchant-Ivory combined with some choice Phillip K. Dick. And by the author of The Remains of the Day? So very sold. September 15

Movie: Easy A (Will Gluck)
High-Concept Synopsis: Emma Stone plays a high-school nonentity whose notoriety skyrockets -- while her reputation plummets -- when she pretends to bed a neverending parade of nerds and gay dudes.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Emma Stone, who proved her comedy chops in Superbad and Zombieland. Fans of any member of the truly impressive supporting cast, including Dan Byrd, Penn Badgley, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Lisa Kudrow, and Cam Gigandet's abs. Fans of nerdy-guy fantasies where a hot, smart, funny girl will want to have sex with them for her own good.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Non-fans of the tired concept of wrangling a literary classic (in this case, The Scarlet Letter) into a teen comedy (they can't all be Clueless). Certain obsessive chroniclers of Penn Badgley's chest hair situation who would object to the wax factor of this movie. Amanda Bynes fans blaming her participation in this movie (as a poor man's Mandy Moore in Saved!) for their girl's retirement from acting.
Why I'd See It: I wrote about totally digging the trailer a while back, and my opinions remain unchanged: funny girl, cute boys, Dan Byrd, and don't tell anybody but I kind of liked director Will Gluck's Fired Up. September 17

Movie: The Town (Ben Affleck)
High-Concept Synopsis: Director Affleck is a blue collar Boston bank robbah who falls in love with a victim of one of his heists (Rebecca Hall). Jon Hamm plays the Fed intent on busting him. Many shades of Heat, Dennis Lehane, and Boston-era Martin Scorsese to follow.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Affleck's Gone Baby Gone, a promising directorial debut. Fans of star-studded crime drama -- the supporting cast includes Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper, Blake Lively, and Pete Postlethwaite. Boston yahoos who respond to the movie being set in rough-and-tumble Charlestown, pissah, Yankees suck, et cetera.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Persistent Affleck-haters. Mad Men fans who want to forestall Jon Hamm's eventual jump to movies for as long as possible. Audiences burned out on stories of the poetry of the Massachusetts working class white dude.
Why I'd See It: I liked Gone Baby Gone, and I really like the cast that's been assembled here (though obviously I wish Renner had the Affleck role). But I wonder how high this movie's aspirations are. If you're not bringing anything new to the heist movie, your execution really needs to be perfect. September 17

Movie: Devil (John Erick and Drew Dowdle)
High-Concept Synopsis: A small group of people are trapped in an elevator. One of them is the devil. Simple enough. M. Night Shyamalan wrote the story. That's the scary part. Chris Messina, Caroline Dhavernas, and Logan Marshall-Green co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of high-concept, low-fuss atmospheric horror. Fans of the Dowdles' last well-received horror project, Quarantine. Wonderfalls fans who are contractually obligated to follow Dhavernas wherever she goes.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Shyamalan-phobics, who have good reason to be wary. Your more skittish and restrictive Christian denominations. Claustrophobics, who have enough problems with elevators to begin with.
Why I'd See It: You guys, maybe I'm just a glutton for Shyamalan-style punishment, but this looks like it might be a fun, scary time at the movies. September 17

Movie: Catfish (Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman)
High-Concept Synopsis: Documentary about an NYC photographer who takes a road trip to meet a MySpace friend in person.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Trusting filmgoers, since everybody who has seen the movie has been recommending to see it while knowing as little about it as possible.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who won't see a low-profile documentary on faith alone.
Why I'd See It: I read about the hoopla about this movie coming out of Sundance -- didn't Movieline raise the question of whether or not it was a hoax? -- and am willing to forego the trailers and synopses of the movie. But I'm in the distinct minority on that, I'm sure. And even my willpower is not guaranteed to hold out. September 17

Movie: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Woody Allen)
High-Concept Synopsis: Woody Allen returns to England and to stories of married old men who fall for young prostitutes, comparatively younger married men who fall for even younger women, and either Anthony Hopkins or Josh Brolin doing a neurotic Woody Allen impersonation.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Woody fans eager to see him work with new talent like Hopkins, Brolin, Naomi Watts, Lucy Punch, Antonio Banderas, and Freida Pinto. Moviegoers who have faith that Woody's return to Europe will return him to Vicky Christina Barcelona form and make us all forget Whatever Works. Those weird freaks who started fetishizing Freida Pinto after seeing Slumdog Millionaire (included in that group: Woody Allen).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who see Woody, Anthony Hopkins, and a hooker with a heart of gold, realize we haven't somehow time-warped to the early 1990s, and this will take a pass.
Why I'd See It: It seems like an arbitrary distinction, but I really like Euro Woody Allen, and while this cast isn't as packed with actors I love as Vicky Christina Barcelona or Match Point, I'm more than willing to give it a look. September 22

Monday, August 16, 2010

There's a Difference! ...There's a Difference.

My pal Jason at MNPP put up a "Five Frames From" challenge this morning on the subject of (SPOILER) a movie I have very recently re-fallen in love with.

I saw Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion for the second time ever the other night, and I realized it needs to go in my Adventures in Babysitting/Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead/Empire Records pantheon of silly movies I should be watching embarrassingly often. There really isn't much to the movie -- I was shocked by how little actually happened between Romy learning about the reunion and the reunion itself -- but the dialogue is super quotable, the performances are really strong, and the cast is full of wonderfully random appearances by, like, Camryn Manheim and Pam from True Blood. And that dance sequence with Romy, Michelle, and Allan Cumming interpreting "Time After Time" is actually a seriously beautiful statement about individualism triumphing over sad conformity! Really!

But much as I loved Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino (and I did), the hands-down best part of the movie is Janeane Garofalo. I love her in general, but she's waaaaay better in this movie than I remember her. In fact, while I adore her in Reality Bites and Wet Hot American Summer, and I'm sure The Truth About Cats and Dogs has its fans, I don't know why Heather Mooney isn't considered THE quintissential Garofalo performance. Every line reading is nicotine-infused sarcastic perfection, and somewhere out there, I hope Heather and that cowboy played by Justin Theroux are angrily making out right this second.

I love you, Heather! Even if you do tell me to go fuck myself!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Before Y'all Start Making Step Up 4-Eva*

*credit to Pamie for that all-too-plausible title...

So, you know I saw Step Up 3D on opening weekend. And besides squeaking every time Legacy (LEGACY!) appeared onscreen, marveling at how much fun water-based choreography is in 3D, and sneering at Julian and his trust fund, I had to wonder about the casting.

This makes three straight Step Up movies where the lead characters have pretty much been the same: hunky, dim guy meets deceptively down white girl. Now, I'm not talking about making the leads more ethnically diverse -- I'm not CRAZY. And honestly, if they want to keep cycling in a new underwear model or mumbly dreamboat (or even the odd actual dancer) every movie, that's fine with me.

But with these female leads, it dawned on me that they're all pretty mediocre dancers, but they're also all chasing the same ideal. That cute faux-tough girl who can dance in a hoodie and sweats, hang with the boys, romance the lead, and actually rock the hell out of the dance battles. You guys, why have they not just cast Lauren Gottlieb already?

I mean...right? I'm not saying playing to the Dance audience will yield huge box-office, but Lauren's at least a bigger draw than the no-names they've had, she's a better dancer, she's got personality for days, and she's no worse an actress than what these movies call for. Make it happen, Hollywood!

You've Failed Me, Internet

So James McAvoy was in a British TV series back in 2004, and nobody told me. The show, called Shameless, is pretty hilarious and weirdly touching -- it's about this super white-trashy family in (I think) Manchester, and how the kids have to basically raise themselves because their dad is this raging drunk. McAvoy played the charming car-thief boyfriend of the eldest daughter.

That nobody told me about this show isn't a failure in and of itself. The vagaries of British TV mean not everything is even available here in the states (only the first 7-episode season of Shameless is available at the moment). But the fact that nobody told me there existed a James McAvoy program in which he filmed a scene where he did this?

UNFORGIVABLE! Why is this not all over the internet? You people know how I feel about James McAvoy!

Anyway, you all should give the show a look. It was written by Paul Abbott, who did the original State of Play (which is also excellent and required viewing). It's actually an ongoing series, but McAvoy only lasted the first two seasons.

Showtime is making an American version, too, with William H. Macy (as the dad), Emmy Rossum (as the daughter), and in the McAvoy role, Justin Chatwin, who you all may remember as Tom Cruise's son in War of the Worlds, but I remember as the delightful Josh Wilson, who rocked the pilot episode of Weeds and then never returned to the show again.

Anyway, James McAvoy naked but for strategically-placed roses! Internet, I am disappoint.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Angels in America

[Here's my entry for Nathaniel's Hit Me With Your Best Shot feature on The Film Experience.]

I'm squeaking this one in under the wire, but you didn't think I'd miss out on an opportunity to post about what might be my favorite thing I've ever laid my two eyes on, did you?

Unfortunately, I'm in the process of moving, so my Angels in America DVDs are packed safely away. Which meant I was left to choose among the stray screencaps I'd already saved on my computer. I looked around the internet in vain for an image of my first choice for this feature: Louis Ironson, makeshift napkin yarmulke and all, saying Kaddish for Roy Cohn, with a cosmic assist from Ethel Rosenberg emerging from deep within the frame.

EDIT: You guys, Nick Davis is the greatest. He read my plight and -- while I slept -- provided me with the exact screencap I desired. I'm having a hard time coming up with five Christmas mornings when I woke up to a better gift. Anyway, here it is, in all its Hebrew splendor. You son of a bitch.

Ethel also shows up in the second image I chose:

I am apparently not alone in my great love for Belize. This scene comes right after he tells Roy what heaven is like -- my favorite monologue in the play -- and Roy, in his stupor, is being led away. As the dark figure prepared to lead Roy to the underworld, Belize mutters, "I'm just a shadow on your grave." Roy looks back and sees that a man who's lived as he has can have more than one shadow on that grave.

On a metatextual level, I like how this image shows both fantasy and reality existing side by side as America drifts ever closer to the end. Her racial, religious, and political past haunting her straight into the ground. It's not the only message Angels has to give -- part of the reason I love it so is that it has so many things to say about who and how we are -- but it's one that hits home the hardest here.

A Children's Treasury of Fake Inception Trailers

I made mention of this on Twitter last week, and it's just as true today: I will never get rid of Inception trailer parodies on the internet. Much like pornography and cat videos, the internet has an endless supply of Inception parodies, and they're all worth watching at least once.

The first one I saw was this awfully clever one starring a live-action Dora the Explorer:

Points for Dora's cute friend and for "Can you say BURRRRRRR?" Minus points for the reductive "this is so confusing!" angle.

Next was this mashup with Toy Story 3:

This one gets points for slowing things down for that stuffing-floating-in-the-air effect, not to mention for pairing the summer's two zeitgeistiest films.

Staying on the Pixar tip, though not quite as clever as the TS3 clip, were parodies of Up and Monsters, Inc.

And then the live-action movies wanted in: Jurassic Park! Gangs of New York! Titanic! Willy Wonka! Even The Dark Knight, pulling the circle to a close.

Yesterday, I found my favorite one of all: Dumb and Dumber, Inception-style.

We all knew this movie was lurking just beneath that dunderheaded surface. It's just too bad Lauren Holly couldn't score a credit. The lady could use something.

Anyway, which one does it best for you? And how much do you wish Ellen Page would shut up about that damned work placement?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

My Emmy Ballot, Part 2: The Comedies

The real Emmy nominations got announced a couple weeks ago, of course. But for the last few years, I've ventured to offer my own choices for the best TV of the year (check out my ballots in 2009, 2008, and 2007). I'm going to pretend like I have a say-so and present my own pretend ballot. The dramas got presented on Monday -- check 'em out here. Please do hit up the comments and offer up your own choices.

Cougar Town
Modern Family
Nurse Jackie
Parks and Recreation

So, as you may have heard at some point in the last 6-9 months, there's been a bit of a comedy resurgence on TV this season. New shows like Modern Family and Community and Glee (and technically Nurse Jackie, which at this point last year had yet to debut); resurgent shows like Parks and Recreation, Ugly Betty, and Cougar Town (yes, I'm counting the leap it made in its second half to be a resurgence), underappreciated (and now canceled) gems like Better Off Ted and Party Down. Much like a moon pie, TV's great comedies made this year a great time to be alive. It also means I have to defend myself for leaving shows like Party Down and Glee off my ballot.

In fact, the only show that made my top 6 this year that was even around last year was Parks and Rec. And the great leap in quality it took between seasons means you might as well consider it a new show as well. That's a hell of a freshman class. So don't take me for a 30 Rock hater for leaving it off my list. Look, I like all these shows. But Glee was always way too up-and-down an experience for me to value it over what became such reliable sources of joy like Cougar Town and Archer. I don't not love Party Down or Better Off Ted or my beloved Greek; it's just been a great year.

Runners-Up: Party Down; Greek; Glee; Better Off Ted; 30 Rock; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Ugly Betty

Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock
Ty Burrell - Modern Family
Steve Carell - The Office
Charlie Day - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Joel McHale - Community
Adam Scott - Party Down

When did this become such a barren category? Even in this year of comedic resurgence? Not that the six nominated actors aren't great, but ... well, in a stronger year, I'm not sure if Steve Carell's predictably-solid-but-decidedly-unspectacular performance survives to a nomination. But even in a shallow pool, it should be noted that Joel McHale and Ty Burrell made brilliantly funny debuts on their respective comedies, though playing couldn't-be-more-different characters. We could debate how much new spin Burrell put on the standard "befuddled sitcom dad," but it almost ceases to matter when he delivered laughs so reliably. McHale's task was considerably harder, balancing Jeff Winger's Teflon cool-kid exterior with...well, you'd expect me to follow that with something like a vulnerable interior, but the brilliance of McHale is that Jeff's layers are sometimes shallower than his surface. The moments when Jeff's image gets dinged are some of the season's best, but he remains a satisfyingly non-pat guy.

Runners-Up: Matthew Morrison (Glee); John Krasinski (The Office); Jay Harrington (Better Off Ted)

Portia DeRossi - Better Off Ted
Edie Falco - Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey - 30 Rock
Kaitlin Olson - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Mary-Louise Parker - Weeds
Amy Poehler - Parks and Recreation

You'd think after years of me ringing a bell for people like Tina Fey and Mary-Louise Parker and Kaitlin Olson, their contributions would start to feel stale, but all three women continue to reign as the brightest lights on their respective shows. Just because their work isn't novel anymore doesn't mean they should be overlooked. The predictability of the Emmys' love affair with Edie Falco shouldn't diminish the nimble work she does on Nurse Jackie. Part of me has decided to hold out hope that her clip scene will be that season-capping "Blow me." Meanwhile, I'll be pouring one out for yet another Portia DeRossi character gone too soon. After Lindsay Bluth and now Veronica, are we ready to call her a great comedic actress now? And then there's Amy Poehler; the degree to which I am over-the-moon happy that her show turned it around in the second season and not it's a critical darling and she's an Emmy nominee would have you thinking she's a blood relative.

Runners-Up: Lizzy Caplan (Party Down); Courteney Cox (Cougar Town); Jenna Fischer (The Office)

Dan Byrd - Cougar Town
Ryan Hansen - Party Down
Justin Kirk - Weeds
Tracy Morgan - 30 Rock
Eric Stonestreet - Modern Family
Michael Urie - Ugly Betty

I know, I know, no Neil Patrick Harris. It's a Neil Patrick Heresy! (Thank you.) Look, this is a stacked category -- the fact that there's only room for one Modern Family cast member should say something. Looking at my list, with the notable exception of the delightfully precise Stonestreet, these guys tended to float below the radar this TV season. Tracy Morgan excepted, I guess, though the fact that his back-to-the-old-neighborhood meltdown episode didn't score him an Emmy nomination for this, his best season tells me he was no longer on voters' radar. Same for Justin Kirk, who might have gotten notice a few years ago, but now that much of the TV audience has moved beyond Weeds, nobody noticed that his years of deepening his character culminated in a remarkable tragicomic season for an actor who doesn't get enough love. Age may be the defining factor in why Dan Byrd and Ryan Hansen don't get the love they should -- well that and the fact that people either don't watch or don't watch to admit they watch their shows. As for Michael Urie, this is the last chance I'm going to have to enthuse about his portrayal of Marc St. James, one of my favorite TV characters of the last few years. Urie didn't disappoint in Ugly Betty's final season, bringing Marc into his own in a way that felt true to the character while maintaining as light a touch as possible. Looking forward to wherever he goes from here.

Runners-Up: Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother); Jonathan Slavin (Better Off Ted); Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation); Donald Glover (Community)

Andrea Anders - Better Off Ted
Eve Best - Nurse Jackie
Jane Lynch - Glee
Busy Philipps - Cougar Town
Sofia Vergara - Modern Family
Merritt Wever - Nurse Jackie

First things first: I am sorry, Aubrey Plaza! I love you dearly on Parks and Recreation, especially where things went in the second season. But who am I going to jettison from these six? Merritt Wever's enthusiastic spazziness and Eve Best's cool (but quietly desperate) elegance are the perfect flanks for Edie Falco's Jackie. Andrea Anders will one day land a comedy that manages to showcase her gift for sunny quick-wittedness (she'd have killed on a show like Friends) and is watched by more than a dozen people. And what more can I say about our Emmy duo, Lynch and Vergara? Lynch almost lives up to the hype, which is not the backhanded compliment it sounds like. That kind of outsized praise is impossible to back up; that Lynch nearly does so only proves her considerable comedic chops. Vergara, meanwhile, has joined Tracy Morgan under the Andy Kaufman umbrella of performers who always keep me wondering just how much of the performance is them just being their weird selves. When it's this funny, it's tough for me to care. And then there's my beloved Busy Philipps, my great TV love back to Freaks and Geeks, who got me invested even in the final dismal seasons of Dawson's Creek. Because nobody will admit that Cougar Town grew into one of the more reliably funny shows on TV, nobody's talking about how she's taken one of the most narrowly defined characters on the show (she's trashy!) and spun off into the most wonderfully bizarre directions. Busy latched on early to how Cougar Town could be more than a one-joke premise, and in many ways Laurie (and Dan Byrd's Travis) led the way to the show's brave new future.

Runners-Up: Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation); Allison Brie (Community); Amber Stevens (Greek); Becki Newton (Ugly Betty)

Matt Damon - 30 Rock
Reid Ewing - Modern Family
Harvey Fierstein - Nurse Jackie
Mike O'Malley - Glee
Adam Scott - Parks and Recreation
Michael Sheen - 30 Rock

Interesting that between me and the Emmy nominations, I was the one who went for the big starfucking opportunity by nominating Matt Damon. What can I say, I'm a Matt Damon fan. But he's not my favorite in this category, no matter how good he was opposite Liz Lemon. I should also give shouts out to Scott, who will make a fine addition to Parks and Rec whenever it manages to return next season, and Ewing, who never gets credit for his contributions to the Modern Familyensemble as Haley's songwriting, lovestruck boyfriend Dylan. But the three guest performances that stood out the most this season were: Fierstein's mournful widower on Jackie; Sheen's delightfully awful Wesley Snipes; and O'Malley's frankly shocking proof that he can actually act quite well.

Elizabeth Banks - 30 Rock
Kristin Chenoweth - Glee
Jan Hooks - 30 Rock
Judith Ivey - Nurse Jackie
Idina Menzel - Glee
Megan Mullally - Parks and Recreation

Here's a category that, at the top level at least, might outshine even the supporting and lead categories. Megan Mullally was sexed up and kind of scary on Parks and Rec. Banks rose head and shoulders above all of 30 Rock's attempts at giving Jack Donaghy a love interest (sorry, Julianne Moore), while Hooks got big laughs on par with anyone on the show this season ("I got the meat..."). If only the real Emmy committee could have reunited the Wicked witches, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, under the same category again. They both got ample opportunity to shine on Glee, albeit separately. And they managed to bring the best work out of leads Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele, respectively. Judith Ivey had a great, baity role as an acerbic, dying ex-nurse on Jackie, but she delivered it without a trace of laziness or relying on sympathy.

"Give Him the Kick!"

That line from Inception has only a tangential relationship to the content of this post. But I've kind of become obsessed with the concept of the "kick" -- some metaphysical whatever that lets you zoom up through multiple realities back to consciousness. ...Okay, mostly it's just when I'm, like, on an escalator and I can say "let's ride the kick up to the surface." Dork.

Anyway! My real point to being here is that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, sayer of that titular line in the movie, is really attractive. Somebody needs to hand him a Degree of Difficulty award for remaining hot despite several usually-debilitating obstacles, such as:

glowering through one's eyebrows...

...showing off bloody arm gashes procured while preparing for a role as a bike messenger...

...sporting tighty-whities, an obnoxious hipster tattoo, and hair that looks like it never even heard stories about showers as a child, for his upcoming movie Hesher.

I'd still do him in all three circumstances. That's goddamned impressive. This post has remarkably few reasons to exist.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Joe Reid vs. The World

I was fortunate enough to get a pass to a free preview screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World last night, and while I'm under no kind of embargo, I figure I'll hold off my thoughts on the movie proper until it actually opens and y'all have seen it. I'm not sure if this is more a function of who my friends are these days or if it's something I can chalk up to Things These Days, but it feels like we're losing more and more conversation about the movies because we're all seeing them on such a staggered schedule.

Anyway, I did want to come here with my one dominant reaction coming out of the screening, one which I voiced on Twitter last night: if this movie were called Stacey Pilgrim and Wallace Wells vs. A Different Movie Altogether, I would have felt much happier exiting the theater.

Not that Kieran Culkin and Anna Kendrick were the only performers worth loving. In fact, Kendrick's not in enough of the movie to give a full performance anyway. But also, in a cast this overstuffed, the law of averages alone says there will be a good handful, and indeed props must be given to Chris Evans, Mae Whitman, Brie Larson, and Aubrey Plaza. Plus Brandon Routh has never in his life looked as fuckable. So there's that! Silver linings!

But seriously, Kendrick and Culkin need a second chance to shine onscreen without any purple-haired sourpusses or mopey smugmiesters pulling focus. Make it happen, Hollywood.

Monday, August 02, 2010

My Emmy Ballot, Part 1: The Dramas

The real Emmy nominations got announced a couple weeks ago, of course. But for the last few years, I've ventured to offer my own choices for the best TV of the year (check out my ballots in 2009, 2008, and 2007). I'm going to pretend like I have a say-so and present my own pretend ballot. I've got the dramas up today, look for the comedy categories on Wednesday. Please do hit up the comments and offer up your own choices.

Breaking Bad
Friday Night Lights
Mad Men
United States of Tara

So, to address the biggest piece of weirdness, yes, I classified United States of Tara as a drama despite it competing as a comedy at the Emmys (and despite my having classified it as a comedy last year). The Showtime "comedies" tend to be thorny hybrids anyway, but basically, I decided that Tara behaves like a drama with comedic elements, while shows like Weeds and Nurse Jackie function as comedies with serious elements. Honestly, it's a whole big grey area, but here I am. And here Tara is, because no matter how I classify it, its second season took a show I was already fond of and made it utterly indispensible.

As for the other nominees, the positive qualities of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Friday Night Lights should, by now, be pretty well evident. For a guy who didn't bother with Treme, these are the three best hourlong dramas you can find. I watched the entire back half of Fringe's second season over one weekend and was over the moon for how character-focused it allowed itself to be while steamrolling ahead to a truly crackerjack two-part finale.

I was most torn about which show to throw into that last slot. Despite really enjoying the Lost finale (while acknowledging how unsatisfying it was in many ways), I was generally down on its final season, mostly due to a sideways universe that I found extraneous even before it was confirmed to be so in the finale. But it's not like Dollhouse was a perfect show either. The beginning of the season was a regression to the kind of problematic standalones that failed to satisfy in the first half of Season 1. But the run-up to the finale managed to bring every positive element of the show into brilliant light, from the thorny moral issues at the center of the plot to the ever-more-compelling supporting cast. Any season that could perform the total 180 that it did on a character like Topher deserves many props. At the end of the day, my thrill at seeing what Dollhouse could become bested my frustration at seeing what Lost wasn't living up to.

Runners-Up: Lost; True Blood; Dexter; Parenthood

Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights
Bryan Cranston - Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall - Dexter
Jon Hamm - Mad Men
Timothy Olyphant - Justified
Aaron Paul - Breaking Bad

Bumping Aaron Paul up to Lead status here, despite his Emmy classification, because there's just no reason to say he's not at least the co-lead of the show. Fact is, I don't think there was a better lead performance on a show this season, and if he can't even win the Emmy for supporting, it'll go on Emmy's looooong list of shames. As for the others, Chandler, Hall, and Hamm are all here again, and now that I've finally caught on to Breaking Bad, I can say I should've nominated Cranston last season too. Olyphant bumps Bomer for the "blazing hot hottie in a cable series that I find pleasant but not crucial to my life" slot.

Runners-Up: Matt Bomer (White Collar); Tim DeKay (White Collar)

Connie Britton - Friday Night Lights
Toni Collette - United States of Tara
Ginnifer Goodwin - Big Love
Anna Gunn - Breaking Bad
Chloe Sevigny - Big Love
Jeanne Tripplehorn - Big Love

The crossover of Toni Collette and the ascendance of Anna Gunn kind of squeezes the Mad Men ladies out of the group. Because, for all the things about the fourth season of Big Love that were brutally awful, the acting of its three central women went a long way to salvage it. I'm continually amazed at how Connie Britton is able to muscle out a corner of the Friday Night Lights universe despite having increasingly less and less to do with the big season arcs. But here she is again, the most compelling thing onscreen and possibly the most aspirational character on TV. Who DOESN'T want to be her?

Runners-Up: January Jones (Mad Men); Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men); Anna Torv (Fringe)

Giancarlo Esposito - Breaking Bad
Kier Gilchrist - United States of Tara
Zach Gilford - Friday Night Lights
Enver Gjokaj - Dollhouse
John Noble - Fringe
Terry O'Quinn - Lost

This one's the most stacked category of them all, despite the fact that almost none of my favorites even came close to an Emmy nomination. No matter; I'm happy to sing the praises of Esposito's exquisitely composed kingpin, Gilchrist's post-gay search for identity, Gilford's much-ballyhooed episode of heartbreaking loss, Gjokaj upping the chameleonic ante, Noble pushing at the harrowing limitations of mental illness and poor choices (and throwing in some sublime comedy too), and O'Quinn funneling all of John Locke's uncertainty and desperate faith into an entity who despised both. It's a brilliant collection of performances, and I could throw out six more and then some (check out the runners-up below).

Runners-Up: Nelsan Ellis (True Blood); Dean Norris (Breaking Bad); Josh Holloway (Lost); Michael Emerson (Lost); Walton Goggins (Justified); John Lithgow (Dexter); Fran Kranz (Dollhouse).

Jennifer Carpenter - Dexter
Rosemarie DeWitt - United States of Tara
Lauren Graham - Parenthood
Christina Hendricks - Mad Men
Mae Whitman - Parenthood
Deborah Ann Woll - True Blood

Man, I've been holding on to this recognition for Jennifer Carpenter since early fall. To me, while John Lithgow was great and all, the biggest story to come out of the fourth season of Dexter was the great leap forward Carpenter made. Part of it what her character incrementally getting her shit together, but Carpenter was more sure of herself too, and in most episodes, she was the best thing going. Nobody doesn't love Joan Holloway, and Hendricks once again made the sad-yet-capable office manager the one character you'd like to know in real life. Less lovable were the complicated ladies played by DeWitt and Woll, each one sharp as a thorn in the main characters' side, but also wrestling audience sympathy as if by force. And then there's Parenthood, where Graham and Whitman are the unquestioned shining lights in a show I fully expect to come into its own next season. Graham and Whitman's mother-daughter act is already where the rest of the show wants to be.

Runners-Up: Amanda Seyfried (Big Love); Michelle Forbes (True Blood); Olivia Williams (Dollhouse); Blair Brown (Fringe)

Keith Carradine - Dexter
Mark Margolis - Breaking Bad
Tom Noonan - Damages
Michael O'Neill - Grey's Anatomy
Jason Ritter - Parenthood
Michael J. Willett - United States of Tara

Carradine played the wise, driven, and ultimately doomed mentor on Dexter; Margolis the impossibly perturbed elderly former kingpin; Noonan's trademark unsettling calm made what amounted to mere framing scenes crackle with menace; O'Neill made the very most of his impassive Sam Elliott face as a hospital stalker; Ritter was hot as blazes as a Lauren Graham love interest; and Willett took what I figured would be a one-time and one-note flamer (the "gayble"-leading Lionel) and made him a genuine counterpoint -- and then a genuine character, one we'd be rooting for -- in the span of a half-dozen episodes. Indelible brief impressions, all of 'em.

Joey Lauren Adams - United States of Tara
Viola Davis - United States of Tara
Famke Janssen - Nip/Tuck
Elizabeth Mitchell - Lost
Mary Kay Place - Big Love
Lily Tomlin - Damages

Here's where you can find some of my very favorite actressing on television. Certainly few performances give me as much giddy pleasure as watching Mary Kay Place stomp Adaleen up and down the dusty compound roads on Big Love. Her season arc was as fucked as any I can remember in recent memory, and she still almost sold me. Similarly, Famke Janssen gets credit for being the only thing that made my returning to Nip/Tuck for the final season worthwhile. Famke kept Ava's edge, but she's always had more lurking behind various cracks and crevasses, and the show was kind enough to let her bring that out before all was told. And we've all been through my multi-season love affair with Lost's Juliet. That one appearance at the finale...that fateful meeting at the vending machine...that's all it took. Not to slight the other three performances -- Adams grounded Buck's infidelity subplot and Davis made for an intriguing garage artist on Tara, while Tomlin made for the unexpected heart and guilty conscience of the Damages season -- but it's hard for me not to give all my love to Famke, Lizzie, and MK.