Sunday, December 20, 2009

Do I have to remind you guys it's only a movie?

Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and Jake (Sam Worthington) in "Avatar."
It appears when you are James Cameron, there's only one way it's gonna go. Of course, the guy didn't help himself by declaring himself "The king of the world!" with an armful of awards when his last movie swept the 1998 Oscars. There's gonna be a backlash, and it's gonna happen before your movie even comes out.
Because of this kind of thing, I was a willing participant in the pre-release anti-"Avatar" bandwagon. After all, the first trailer didn't give us much of a clue as to what the film was about, and ended up bearing a more than casual resemblance to a dismal animated film called "Delgo." Check it out on Youtube sometime (it won't stay up here). It's eerie.
Then there was the hype itself. "The first fully animated characters ever featured in a live action film." Um, are you kidding? You're gonna hang your movie on a Jar Jar Binks? Good luck with that.
Fast forward to a couple months later, and the reviews started coming out. And they were good. My friend Josh Larsen at gave it 3 and a half stars, and he was as skeptical as I was (check his review out here). An 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. The same on Metacritic. Big budget action movies by popular guys like James Cameron don't usually do this well. So pretty soon I was done making fun and fully in the "OK, I'm checking it out" crowd.
"Avatar" is an astonishingly rich film, one that needs to be experience in a theater. The visuals are gorgeous, and it must be said immediately, the Na'vi are not Jar Jar Binks. But there is much more to this film than pretty pictures, although they are beautiful. The story is better than average for a film like this, which is admirable. So often the plot gets lost with science fiction and fantasy. Clearly this film was a labor of love for Cameron, who wrote it and spent many years on it, and he should be proud. It was also nice to see something that Cameron has always featured in his films, strong female characters, in particular Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the Na-vi heroine.
The story is a classic one about an indigenous population and what happens when it is found that they have something valuable on their land. And that's where my headline comes in.
In the past week I have read everything from this movie being an inexcusable example of white guilt to it anti-American. What it is, is a movie, and a good one, with a good story, fantastic visuals and a nice message.
Let's not get all riled up now. Let's just have a little fun.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

FlashForward - an exercise in tedium

Bryce, back from Japan

This fall I was looking forward to three heavily hyped dramas - ABC's "V" and "FlashForward" and AMC's miniseries "The Prisoner."
All have been huge disappointments, but "FlashForward" has been the most frustrating, because at least "V" and "The Prisoner" had the decency to end - "V" until March, anyway.
If you have not seen "FlashForward" - first, good decision. It is about the consequences of a worldwide event in which virtually everyone blacks out for two and a half minutes and flashes forward to April 29. You would think a phenomena like this would be enough for plenty of drama - how did it happen? What are the ramifications of such an event? - but sadly, too often this show focuses on mundane daily events in the characters' lives in a maddening way, or takes stupifying leaps of logic.
"The Prisoner" and "V" suffered the same fate - one of having a wonderful premise (in the case of "The Prisoner" an excellent show had already been made) and botching it in mind-blowing ways. This column will focus on "FlashForward."
This plotline, from the Nov. 19 episode, is typical of this show's complete lack of continuity. A minor character from the show, Bryce (Zachary Knighton), was revealed to have cancer for the first time.
Never mind that the show has been airing for around two months now, and all everyone does is talk about what happened to them before and after their flashforwards, when they aren't whining about their relationships. The fact that millions died on that day and no one spends a second mourning any of them is only one of the many annoying things about this program that I now suspect is written by teenagers undergoing ADD treatment.
Anyway, back to Bryce. Though Bryce discussed his suicide attempt, which occurred during the blackout, extensively with his friend Olivia (Sofia Walger), he has never mentioned the cancer. Why? Who knows? Anyway, now it's all he talks about, so he suddenly becomes obsessed with finding this Japanese woman. We also see Japanese woman's story.
The Japanese woman's deal is basically this - she starts out as this brilliant engineer and her flashforward shows her with Bryce. He is obsessed with finding her because she is happy and pretty and it proves he is still alive on April 29 (the date of everyone's flashforwards). She doesn't care about finding him, only about getting away from her job, which turns out to be boring.
In one insufferable scene, he goes to Japan to find her because he finds out that her T-shirt reveals where she likes to eat, and it's a small restaurant, and meanwhile she decides to shake the dust off this Japanese life and flees to - wait for it - America.
Do these two idiots really deserve to find each other? This kind of stuff happens all the time on this show, where people seem to have lost all their sense during their blackouts.
By the end of the show we still haven't seen how they hook up in the flashforward. They haven't met. It would be typical of the show to just drop their storyline all together.
Another problem is the show has a wonderful cast - Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Sofia Walger and Dominic Monaghan from "Lost" - all charasmatic actors who are awful here. It's not their fault. They have nothing to work with almost all the time.
I bet you have figured out the most irritating thing of all. I am still watching.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I (heart) this boy

Joseph Gordon-Levitt...

... Makin' 'em laugh.

On a weekend that saw the world going cookoo for Cocoa Puffs for a bunch of pretty boys in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," another boy captured my heart on "Saturday Night Live" by quite literally falling on his face.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, most recently of "(500) Days of Summer," went on "Saturday Night Live" and did a few things that you just cannot do if you want to escape my ardor.
First of all, he bounded out on that stage with so much enthusiasm, you might have just thought he was TRULY thrilled to be there. After the debacle that was the January Jones episode, just a week prior, it was like watching a different show. After saying the customary "I'm happy to be here" he proved it by admitting he's been contemplating a monologue since he found out he would be on the show two months ago.
What he decided on was a tribute to Donald O'Connor's number "Make 'em Laugh" from the classic 1952 musical "Singin' in the Rain." He nailed the number, and it was unlike anything I've seen on "SNL" in some time. If you hit the link above, you can watch it, too, and I recommend you do.
After that, the episode became more like a normal episode, with good and bad points. The "Palin 2012" was an unfunny attempt to do a Palin book joke. Surely there was something better. Kenan Thompson's "What's Up With That" is quickly becoming a hilarious new segment. The digital short featured Kenan Thompson, who had convinced Andy Samberg he was Reba McEntire by putting on a red wig and doing nothing else, was pretty good. There was more singing than usual overall, which I like.
There are always going to be people who say "SNL" is done, and I'm sure opening with a number from a 60-year-old musical will do little to change that opinion. But I thought it was pretty gutsy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's like 'Mad Men,' with consequences

Where would Don Draper be without his drink and his smoke?

Last night I watched a movie which really got me thinking - "The Days of Wine and Roses." It was released in 1962, and stars Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as a devoted married couple who also happen to be a devoted pair of alcoholics.
Watching it, I was struck again and again by how our culture downplays alcohol use and alcoholism.
Very few films deal so honestly with the horrors of alcoholism as this one. In one scene, Lemmon's Joe returns, drunk, from a party and shames Remick's Kirsten for no longer drinking with him. Kirsten, who is nursing their baby at the time, pleads that the doctor says it will get in her breast milk and Joe spits at her "you're going to lose your shape" and other cruel comments until she reluctantly drinks.
In another Joe is so desperate for a drink that he tears apart his father in law's greenhouse looking for a bottle he stashed there. As he whines, "he stole it, he stole it," it's hard to look at him, he is so pathetic.
I couldn't help but think of Betty Draper from "Mad Men," sitting there glamorously with her cigarette and glass of wine, pregnant and then with baby Gene, or Don, coolly sipping his scotch, never seeming to get very drunk. Sure, their characters are not supposed to be a full blown alcoholics, but the relationship with alcohol for the characters on "Mad Men" is almost played for laughs on the show, and this movie takes place at the exact same era. It's almost as if 40 years of culture enlightenment have left us more in the dark as to how to deal with alcoholism.
Freddy Rumsen, the one character on "Mad Men" who was singled out as having an alcohol problem, was played off as a joke. Meanwhile, the other characters clearly use alcohol to hide from their problems, especially Betty, who drank to excess constantly while pregnant this season, and it is not addressed at all. Was it really that normal? In the film, Joe was fired from his job, and he and Kirsten lost everything because of their alcoholism.
I love "Mad Men," but it's clearly supposed to be a cool show. And whether we like to admit it or not, we certainly live in a culture that treats adults who don't drink as weirdos. I'm just raising a question.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My name is Wendy and I like "Modern Family"

A TV family that doesn't make you wince, ABC's "Modern Family."

It's about time I came out and admitted something that I have been keeping from even my best friends - I LOVE the new ABC comedy "Modern Family."
It doesn't look like my kind of show. It's traditional family sitcom, although blessedly laugh-track free. And even when I saw the promotional pictures in Entertainment Weekly, I made a face. It looked like the typical family sitcom stacked with smart-ass kids, cynical parents who hated each other. Plus it stars Ed O'Neill. You know. "Married with Children"? Ugh.
"Modern Family" is not that. It started showing up on all the TV critics lists as one of the top shows of the year, so I thought I'd check it out, and it turns out, it's my favorite new show of the year.
And best of all, it's popular! I can't tell you how many times I love a new show, and it's the first one to get canceled. It took years before anyone else I knew was watching "Mad Men" except my husband, so I am used to being alone on these things. But this show is being written and talked about all the time. And it's damn funny. My whole family watches and enjoys this show. And here's why:
1) It's not just funny, it's sweet. But it's really funny. Although we have a debate about clueless dad Phil (played by Ty Burrell) nearly every week, he is the best character on the show. His idea of keeping up with the times is understanding that LOL means laugh out loud, and then adds WTF means "why the face."
2) It's loaded with TV veterans who have deserved a better show. Julie Bowen (most recently of "Lost" in a small part as Jack's wife), Jesse Tyler Ferguson of CBS' "The Class," Sofia Vergara of ABC's "The Knights of Prosperity," as well as Burrell of FOX's "Back to You", and it could even be argued O'Neill, who recently told EW this was the first show he was in where when people said "I love your show" he was actually proud instead of wanting to reply "really? Why?"
3) It's one of the rare shows that I like that doesn't require a lot of thought or attention, but it's still worth watching, and I even look forward to it. Like "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "The Simpsons," "The Office," "How I Met Your Mother" and "30 Rock," it's one of a number of half-hour comedies that I tune into weekly and truly enjoy. Take that, those who insist the sitcom is dead. And unlike "FlashForward" and "V," two of the most overhyped shows of the year, this show is delivering, every time. I'd love it if you checked it out - because I said so.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

'A Christmas Carol' wants you to know it's time to start buying stuff

Jim Carrey looks mad!

I went to see "A Christmas Carol" in 3D today and I am shocked to report it is not the worst movie ever. My son does mini-reviews for the local paper so I went in with him, my other son and their friend, who all were excited, with as much enthusiasm as I usually approach root canals and mammograms.
This movie had a lot going against it. First, is it based on a beloved tale which has already had several - not one but SEVERAL - distinctive definitive movie versions made of it already. It also features director Robert Zemeckis' latest attempt to force that creepy "realistic" animation on everyone, which manages to make people look like dead-eyed robots.
Why anyone has embraced these films is beyond me, but his previous movies featuring this technique, "The Polar Express" and "Beowulf," did well enough I guess. "Polar" was a big hit anyway. When "Beowulf" did not connect, I guess they decided, stick with Christmas. People like Christmas.
The movie is too dull for too long, but it takes a sudden and bizarre turn while Scrooge is talking to the Ghost of Christmas Present. It starts to get kind of weird, and this is where it becomes an interesting adaptation. Even the grotesqueness of the animation is useful here, as things we have seen and read again and again, like the servants picking over Scrooge's clothes, take on a new life.
Sadly, it doesn't last long, and then it's back to boredom. The Cratchits in particular suffer from from the terrible animation, which takes all the heart out of the exchanges between the parents (some of the best dialogue in the story).
It's sad when the very best thing about the moviegoing experience is the trailer to Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," which will also be in 3D. Now, THAT made me gasp.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What you really need to know before you see "Transformers"

Since my only "readers" are my friends, and most of my friends will never see "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen," I thought I would entertain you with the more hilarious parts of the movie. I am not sure any of these were intended to be hilarious, since I am relatively sure that director Michael Bay thinks everything he does is AWESOME, including taking a pee.

1) Rainn Wilson is featured as a sexually aggressive college professor who wears a scarf. In his scene, which like everything in this movie, seems to last forever, he takes a bite out of an apple, lets it drop to the floor and suggests that one of his adoring "fans," a gaggle of hotties who hang on his every word, "finish it" for him. If there was a an Oscar for most misplaced cameo in a motion picture, Wilson would walk off with it, and I am sure he would enjoy every second of it.

2) Speaking of those hotties, Bay takes his objectification of women to new heights in this movie, even sexualizing Sam's (Shia LaBeouf's) MOM, during a campus visit, which again, is endless, considering this is a movie about transforming robots, and none of the bots are even in the college scenes. After a student gives Mom some pot-laced brownies, she trips around campus and ends up led away by Sam's dad. Is it Sam or Shia, who recently confessed to Playboy that he is in love with his own mother, who doesn't seem to care that his mother is tripping her brains out all over campus?

3) One more thing about the women. There is a female Decepticon and when she is revealed, it's about as subtle as something out of Pink Floyd's "The Wall." As she mounts Sam, her Decepticon tail first comes out of her back, revealing her still-hot body and perfect rear end, but she is interrupted. A couple seconds later, it emerges from a her tongue! It's the most obvious case of misogyny since Robert Rodriguez put the vampire monster head on Salma Hayek's still-hot body in "From Dusk 'til Dawn," and yes, I hated that too. At least that was rated R, though. This is a movie for 6-ear-olds? Why are my first 3 items about sex?

4) Yes, as you have heard on NPR, there are two bots called Skids and Mudflap, and it is exactly like having TWO Jar-Jar Binks in your movie. They are given way too much screen time, their "riffing" is nails-on-the-chalkboard irritating, they are never around during the action (suggesting no real purpose), and your innocent kids will think they are funny. Mine did, anyway. I did not see the gold tooth, but all the rest is true, unfortunately, and it is painful.

5) The whole thing reeks of an indulgent Hollywood system. Couldn't someone have suggested that we didn't really need to see the racist stereotypes for 20 minutes? Or the long college scenes? I watched "Synedoche, New York" the same night, a movie I had been warned repeatedly by my good friend and great critic Josh Larsen not to watch if I was in a depressed state, because I was depressed about the state of movies. It cheered me up.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

10 years of new "Star Wars" movies!

Remember when no one had heard of Jar Jar Binks? When there was no chance getting caught in a conversation with some jerk who would go on and on about George Lucas doing weird things to your childhood?
It was about 10 years ago, and 10 years ago this weekend "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace" was released in theaters. I still have such fond memories of this movie and taking our five-year-old Eric to see it. Finally, I would not only be able to see a new "Star Wars" movie, but introduce my child to it as well!
As the lights dimmed and the familiar "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away ..." flashed on the screen, it brought a tear to my eye.
And yes, there were things wrong with the prequels, particularly "Episode II," but there were great moments too, plenty of them. The lightsaber duel between Obi Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul at the end is still one of the best "Star Wars" fights ever. I still prefer to think of the fond memories with my kids - and honestly - myself, enjoying those new movies in a way that a movie like "Fanboys" could never hope to capture.
May the force by with you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

’12 Rounds’ and the Cousins o’ Kunka

I have never met Daniel Kunka. But that barely mattered Friday night when my 15-year-old son, Eric, myself, and about 50 of his closer relatives crowded the Loews Woodridge theater lobby for champagne, photos and laughs to celebrate the release of the movie “12 Rounds,” which Kunka wrote. By the time the evening was over, I felt pretty close to him.
Kunka’s story is one you can’t help but root for – a 30-year-old South Sider’s first screenplay, a WWE fan whose film stars WWE star John Cena, a humble guy whose father describes the thrill he felt at having his film debut at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Friday night was all about supporting Daniel from halfway across the country – and it started early. From my desk I had to laugh as I read the Facebook updates from “Cousin O’Kunka,” but I was admittedly a bit concerned about the planned tailgate. A tailgate at a movie theater? It sounded a little dangerous, but also fitting for a WWE movie, to be honest. It went off without a hitch; they even played bags.
When my aunt arrived with a bottle of champagne, I thought, “this is it, they’ve gone too far,” but she promptly charmed the burly manager, and soon the adults were sipping champagne from tiny plastic medicine cups.
But we weren’t there just to drink and play bags. There was a movie to see.
As a writer I got my own little personal joy from clapping when the writer’s name came up in the opening credits. This should definitely happen more often.
Daniel’s father had patiently and meticulously explained over and over the scene that the parents appear in (many of us still managed to miss it, maybe it was the eyedropper of champagne?) and held court in the lobby, beaming with the kind of pride that only the proudest of parents can feel. His mother was quieter, and let Dad do the talking. When their big moment on screen arrived, he whispered afterward in awe “that was it.”
The movie itself was a thriller, a story about a decent policeman who is haunted with guilt after accidentally killing a criminal’s girl while arresting him. Still, when the bad guy breaks out of prison, all he wants is revenge. It is one of those films that keeps putting the good guy in impossible situations, and just when you think he is going to be all right, something happens to mess things up for him. You really want him to win, especially since the bad guy is going to kill the hero’s pretty wife.
During the movie, I started thinking about box office and business, and what Daniel’s future may hold. Occupational hazard, I guess (I’m an entertainment editor by trade). Renny Harlin is a big-time director, and the WWE seems like a prosperous company to hitch one’s wagon to, but there had been no advance screening. Still, there were a lot of commercials, which means there was a big marketing push. He’s probably got a pretty good chance at a decent career.
The evening ended with a group photo, and I was astounded as to how many people were in it. I knew we took over the theater, I just didn’t realize to what extent. I found myself thinking of another movie line, one focusing on one of the more important things in life. “To Daniel Kunka, the richest man in town!”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

81st Academy Awards

We're still in our preshow "bitch, please" segment. My husband is now telling me that Penelope Cruz sometimes looks like a boy (uh, not tonight she don't), and Anne Hathaway often does not look good on the red carpet (also, not tonight). I yelled "who is good enough for you?" and he answered "YOU!" Oh.

Jack Black! AAH! I didn't think I'd get to see him tonight. Could they have made it a little more obvious he was not a big priority for them? I love you Jack, and I always will, and I don't care that you never comb your hair.

Marisa Tomei is wearing three dresses that have been maybe stapled together. No clothes in the movie, three dresses to the Awards.

If anyone did not like the opening number that Hugh Jackman did kindly keep it to yourselves because it was an utter delight. Have a sense of humor.

Best Supporting Actress: "Penelope Cruz"

I love how she says "Woody." She thanked Pedro Almodovar. Awwww.

Tina Fey and Steve Martin are a good team.

Best orginal screenplay: Dustin Lance Black "Milk"

Sweet speech. The politcs of this film seem to be its trump card, as my friend Josh Larsen predicted.

Best adapted screenplay: Simon Beaufoy "Slumdog Millionaire." And the race is on.

Jack Black, squee!

We have a family joke about "Space Chimps" and let's just say, Jack is very annoyed right now.

Best animated feature: "Wall E"

Nice cut from Jennifer Aniston to Brad and Angelina's reaction. Stay classy, Oscar cameramen.

Best Short Animated Feature: La Maison en Petits Cubes" Kunio Katô Aw I was rooting for the other one. Did he just say Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto? I believe he did.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Daniel Craig landed the plum presenting gig, if one like to be on stage for a long time.

Best Art Direction: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo

Best Costume Design: "The Duchess" Michael O'Connor

Best Make Up: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Greg Cannom

And now, YOUNG PEOPLE PLEASE TUNE IN! It's Edward! and I still think Wall E and Eve might be the most romantic couple at the movies last year.

Ben Stiller is doing the Joaquin Phoenix thing with Natalie Portman. She looks pretty. What is everyone going to do when he comes back? Well, this is awkward.

Best Cinematograghy: Anthony Dod Mantle

James Franco and Seth Rogen laughing through "The Reader" and "Doubt" = AWESOME.
Janusz Kaminski holding his Oscars and watching "Zohan" "I liked this movie" = possibly MORE awesome.
Then Kaminski comes on and says "suck it, Anthony Dod Mantle!" Someone will write a column about how undignified this is tomorrow. I want to know why they still even present best short film during the show. No one cares. I mean they sure dispatched the geek awards quickly enough this year.

Best Short Film, Live Action: "Spielzeugland" Jochen Alexander Freydank

John is sitting next to me clearing his throat every five seconds, but I like musicals, so he can suck it.

This is really neat, having the former winners come out and say nice things about the nominees. It gives both their moments.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger "The Dark Knight"

His parents and brother are accepting. Everyone is pretty moved by this moment.

Best Documentary: "Man on Wire"

I think that's the first time a documentary winner was so entertaining. The Man on Wire of "Man on Wire" did TWO magic tricks!

Best Documentary, Short Subject: "Smile Pinki"

I am officiallly getting a little tired.

Will Smith just said he prefers that have fans.

Best Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron

I was just checking a name spelling and you know what the number one movie this weekend is? "Madea Goes to Jail"? How much money did it make? $41 million!

Will Smith said "Boom goes the dynamite"! Some guys at my office are going to find this hilarious.

Best Sound Editing: "The Dark Knight" Richard King

Best Achievement of Sound: "Slumdog Millionaire" Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty

Best Achievement in Editing: "Slumdog Millionaire" Chris Dickens

Eddie Murphy looks like he's still pretty mad he didn't win for "Dreamgirls" as he introduced Jerry Lewis.

Best Original Score: "Slumdog Millionaire" A.R. Rahman

When all the music is played like that, it really shows how boring most movie scores are.

Best Original Song: "Jai Ho" A.R. Rahman, Sampooran Singh Gulzar

I wonder how many people woke up because of those giant "Slumdog" drums. On another note, I don't remember the last time there were three such great songs nominated for Oscars.

I'm going to put Freida Pinto's picture here, because I love her blue dress, and she and Liam Neeson presented this award.

Best Foreign Language Film: "Departures" Japan

No one is clapping for any of the dead people this year. Harsh. Well, Paul Newman got a hand.

Best Director: Danny Boyle "Slumdog Millionaire"

One down, one to go! He jumped up and down like Tigger. I agree with him, it is a very nice show. Did you heard what happened with this movie? It was almost never released! Can you believe it now?

It's weird every year to realize who has won Oscars. Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon, for instance.

Best Actress: Kate Winslet "The Reader"

Halle Berry is so ugly, isn't she? I mean, why does she even get out of bed? And Sophia Loren, who are you kidding? this is just a stage full of ugmos, isn't it? (In the words of Homer Simpson, in case you don't realize it, I am BEING sarcastic!) I'll be honest, I didn't at all care for this film, and the other film Kate did this year, but I love her as an actress and think she is very deserving of this recognition.

Best Actor: Sean Penn "Milk"

I think Sean Penn's had a little work done. And I think DeNiro wrote what he said about Sean Penn.

Best Picture: "SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE"! The kids are on the stage. This pleases me.

Hugh was a great host, the stage was cool, and the show ended in about the same time as ever. But I predict a bunch of articles tomorrow saying he sang too much and the show was too long. Weber out!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2009 Film Independent Spirit Awards

First off, the name of this show is always like "Film Independent Spirit blah blah blah" ....

Ben Stiller looks cute with more hair. More hair for Ben Stiller. Steve Coogan starts out pointing it really bothers Ben Stiller that he is only the third biggest star in the world. Already better than last year's endless Rainn Wilson and Dennis Hopper weirdness.

James Franco, sigh.

Nice one: Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" brought a new category, "Best Girl on Girl Action Disguised as Art."

"Man on Wire" would have been better if he had fallen at the end.

Cut to Lucy Lui with a giant bottle of Jameson in front of her. Party!

Funny bit about Steve Coogan running into Jonathan Demme in Whole Foods and imitating Hannibal Lecter. I bet that happens to him all the time.

People are seriously more dressed up this year. They used wear jeans and stuff.

More James Franco. Could he be nominated in every category? He is so cute! OK, that kid is "Ballast" was awesome, but I am still glad Franco won.

Best supporting actor: James Franco "Milk"

Ben Kingsley and Mary Kate Olsen could have used a screenplay - and some acting lessons - for their best first screenplay award presentation. They were not believeable as humans. And could this be the last time we hear of the existance of "The Wackness"? People said "Milk" was "awfully gay"? Come on!

Best first screenplay: Dustin Lance Black "Milk"

That "Afterschool" movie looked seriously messed up.

Does anyone get the feeling Aaron Eckhart could have worn a bathrobe and looked as good?

Best first feature: "Synedoche, New York" Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman is a hilariously strange person who would probably be awful to know in real life.

I would think the Independent Spirit Awards is the one place we wouldn't have to see Jessica Alba. Chiwetel Ejiofor, there's a tall drink of water, though.

Best supporting female: Penelope Cruz "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

"They told me to swear a lot." You do that, Penelope. She then told an awesome story about Woody Allen going to the dermatologist the day she was kissing Scarlett Johansson.

Ugh, they brought back the parody songs from last year. I was really hoping they would not. I rememeber vividly the "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" song from last year. "I can't feel my toes and I can't feel my nose..." FAIL.

Ack! Mickey Rourke just flipped off the camera!

John Cassavates Award: "In Search of a Midnight Kiss"

Nice hooker outfit, Sandra Oh

First f-bombs, 50 minutes in. Six in one speech.

Phew, "Rachel Getting Married" got to have a real song, by Robyn Hitchcock no less. Lucky them. Note to 2009 films, always have music.

Note to anyone who hasn't seen "Rachel Getting Married," it features the coolest wedding ever. Everyone's wedding is lame next to this film.

Oh dear, we appear to have another attempt at a joke. "Joaquin Phoenix" and "Christian Bale." Decent line: "You look like a homeless munchkin!"

Best documentary: "Man on Wire." The documentary winner did not look amused at the intro team.

Jason Bateman and Ellen Page should go out on the road because they are just so damn cute together.

Tarra Riggs looks GORGEOUS.

Best female lead: Melissa Leo "Frozen River"

Melissa Leo's hairstyle and outfit had better be totally different at the Oscars tomorrow or the fashionistas are going to eat her alive. OH MY GOD THOSE GLASSES! IS SHE A SHUT IN? WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH HER? Her speech was sweet and all, but still THOSE GLASSES! MY EYES!

These parody songs are just so undignified. During the one for "Wendy and Lucy," Michelle Williams just looks confused. You aren't the only one, Michelle.

Claire Danes looks mean. Be honest. She looks mean. I bet she yelled at John C. Reilly backstage.

Who is this douche next to the winner of the Someone to Watch Award?

Producers Award: "Frozen River"

Truer Than Fiction Award: "The Order of Myths"

Man, Bradley Cooper is handsome.

Best Screenplay Award: Woody Allen, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

Rosie Perez just said "I just want to say I hate Penelope Cruz." She then called what she had to read corny. I love these dresses with pockets. They rock.

Best foreign film: "The Class"

Best cinematography: "The Wrestler"

Darren Aronofsky is suck a loveable dork.

Robert Altman Award: "Synedoche, New York"

During "The Wrestler" parody song, they did not get anywhere near Mickey Rourke. I am just trying to imagine the threats. Earlier they showed him writing the name of his dog who just died on the wall.

Best male lead: Mickey Rourke "The Wrestler"

Hey Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the hat, not working. However Mickey is a snappy dresser. His speech starts out talking about how Eric Roberts deserves a second chance, then said he's going to beat Rainn Wilson's ass, and then he finally gets to his speech. The audience yelled to him to thank Marisa Tomei. "Thanks to the wrestling community. We exposed some issues, like bangin' the girl in the a** in the bathroom ..."

Ugh. Then right after John Waters and Zooey Deschanel came on and did stupid banter they were WAY TOO INTO.

Best directing award: Tom McCarthy "The Visitor"

Kudos, Alec Baldwin. "I want back into the movie business so bad. I'm going to get a dog, start working out, and I want to second, whatever Eric Roberts did 15 years ago, let it go!"

Best feature: "The Wrestler"

Hopefully, Mickey Rourke, who is so happy he just picked up Darren Aronofsky, is too happy to beat up Alec Baldwin later.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

We can be “Heroes,” but just for one day?

At least we still have Hiro

When “Heroes” started two years ago, I was pretty excited about a live-action, network show about superheroes. I don’t know what I expected, and I still don’t. But I know I expected more than the show as is. Sometimes I think its companion, “Chuck,” is a better superhero show.
Last night, “Heroes’” latest chapter, “Fugitives,” started, and while it was better than the season two I’ll never get over, it was still below expectations. “Heroes” has simply never been as good as its first season, although at least its last chapter, “Villains,” was an improvement over the dreaded season that must not be named.
What’s the problem? On the surface, not that much. Many of the most problematic characters have either been purged (goodbye Wonder twins!) or their roles have been diminished (please let a side effect of the new world order be the banishment of voiceovers by Mohinder forever). Last night, Hiro and Ando had banter, and Sylar kicked some ass. Nathan was bad and Niki was naked.
But then Peter forgot he could fly, on a plane no less. Or maybe he lost the ability to fly? And HRG turned out to be the head of the baddies? And the guards on the plane were the worst henchmen since that stormtrooper who hit his head in the Death Star in Episode IV (classic moment, if you’ve never noticed it. It’s the scene where C3PO and R2D2 are hiding out in the little control room waiting for Han and Luke).
I’m … worried.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Can't keep up with 'Lost'?

This is all you need to know.

How is this that Jorge Garcia has not even been nominated for an Emmy yet?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Isn't this what American Idol is really about?

Last night, on the premiere of "American Idol," Ryan Seacrest high fived a blind auditioner. And isn't that what this show is all about -- people making fools of themselves? In this case, it was Ryan, most of the time it's Paula or the contestants, but isn't that really why we still watch "Idol" in its eighth season? I mean, is any one out there still taking this seriously as a way to choose new talent, after all the fixed contestants and top 10s featuring people who can barely carry a tune? Here's the moment from last night's show that everyone wants to see.

"American Idol" continues tonight on Fox from 7 to 9 p.m.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Revolutionary Road vs. Mad Men

WARNING: SPOILER SPOILER BIG FAT SPOILER. If you have not seen "Revolutionary Road" yet, though I recommend against it, do not read this post, as I give away major plot points. This is not intended as a review of "Revolutionary Road," only a comparison of it to the stellar AMC drama "Mad Men."

While I was suffering through the overrated drama "Revolutionary Road" the other day, I was thinking about AMC's "Mad Men."
Now "Mad Men" gets more than its share of accolades, so this is not a question of "Mad Men" being underrated or anything. But I could not believe how "Revolutionary Road" botched a subject "Mad Men" tackles so well, and with such a great cast to boot.
I'll have to revisit "American Beauty" to be sure, but I think most of the blame must lie squarely at the feet of director Sam Mendes. Was "Beauty" this hamhanded, though? The major problem I found with "Road" is the need for it to scream its theme out to me to over and over, when "Men" has similar themes - marital discontent, midlife crisis - I mean don't most dramas have these themes without the need to broadcast them so obviously?
Take the character of the neighbor, played by Michael Shannon. There is no such character in "Mad Men," to show up at pivotal moments of the movie to tell us THIS MARRIAGE IS A FRAUD!!!, but we seem to get the point that Don (Jon Hamm) and Betty (January Jones) don't have it all together. "Road" would never have been content with the final scene of season two, which I will not give away, because I respect it too much. Suffice it to say it did not include a long voiceover to tell us what was going on in the character's heads, or a crazy man yelling it at us.
My colleague Josh Larsen of noted when I finally got him to check out "Mad Men" that this was really a show about the women - and these were interesting, developed women. I can't even believe Kate Winslet took the part of April Wheeler, whose idea of true non-conformity is to move to Paris, where I can assure her, they have mortgages, boring neighbors and soccer games as well (only they call them football games). Maybe she was thinking once she got there Jack, er, Frank would just want to draw her naked all the time .... sorry, wrong movie.
If you thought "Revolutionary Road" was deep, check out "Mad Men" some time. It'll blow your mind.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jack's back!

Hurry Jack! There's not enough time!

"24" came back with a vengeance Sunday and I was surprised at how much I missed it, but the premiere was a reminder of what has always been the best thing about the show. Its ideals are like political comfort food.
In this case, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is pulled out of a Senate hearing on his torture methods to essentially do the same thing again. I mean, the agent he's with is begging him to torture a guy in minutes. Then there's the new president, played by character actress Cherry Jones. Her main plot involves stopping a genocide in Africa that bears a striking resemblance to Darfur. Yet, unlike our country, which has spent years arguing over the definition of the word genocide, this president is taking decisive action. Ahhhhh, that feels good....
Janeane Garofalo also joins the cast as an FBI agent who is kind of a Chloe type. She'll do for now, but we want the real thing asap.
Jack has finally found someone who listens to him, Agent Walker (Annie Wersching). He says "that's not the right call," and she actually listens! Who knows what'll come of this , but it's pretty exciting.
I don't know about that ending though. Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) kind of looked like a teenager who had just been grounded when he was glaring at Kiefer. "I'll teach you for taking away my xBox," he said with his eyes.

"24's" 2-night premiere continues Monday at 7 p.m. Central on Fox.