Friday, November 27, 2009

meep meep meep bork bork bork

How did i miss this? The Muppet Show may not be on the air these days, but that's alright, because the frogs and pigs and chickens and things have found a new outlet for their performances. That's right, kids, it's the 21st century, and Muppet Studios has a Youtube channel. This totally makes my Black Friday. It's absolutely divine. Their cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a brilliant ensemble show, but it's certainly not the only gem on the channel. No, no, they've got a shortlist of Statler & Waldorf web commentary, Sam Eagle giving us "culture, morality, and patriotism" on the internet, and, best of all, someone over there is making spectacular use of the Swedish Chef and Beaker. them perform the "Habanera" from Carmen. Forget today, it totally makes my week. Week = set. I love this. So much. So so much.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Hopefully it's nothing at all like the Eli Roth's faux (and NSFW) trailer from Grindhouse (will they ever release the theatrical version on DVD, btw?).

Watch something starring Julie Andrews for me, yeah?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trailer: Greenberg

Sometimes Wes Anderson collaborator and otherwise solid in-his-own-right director Noah Baumbach's last movie was Margot at the Wedding. Which was sort of disappointing. I really wanted to like that movie, and I kind of did, but in a way where i never really want to watch it again. You know, like a half interesting New Yorker story with characters you try to identify with and then start hating yourself. Before that, though, Baumbach made two of my favorite go to movies for collegiate, east coast, pseudo-intellectual jibber-jabber: Squid and the Whale and 1995's post-grad truth, Kicking and Screaming. Both of these are why i'm feeling optimistic about his next film Greenberg, about a 40-year old underachiever played by a subdued looking Ben Stiller. Stiller hasn't really done anything past straight comedy in awhile, and while i'm amongst those who enjoyed the violent absurdity of Tropic Thunder, my favorite level of high-strung Stiller will always be Chas Tenenbaum. Maybe he and Baumbach, alongside Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rhys Ifans, and Greta Gerwig (Hannah Takes the Stairs) can both stage a respectable comeback. Yes?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Seen & Heard: Beyonce and Lady GaGa

Video Phone from Jerel Curry on Vimeo.

Since it's all over everything in terms of buzz, here's the video for Beyonce's new single "Video Phone" which has Beyonce looking awesome, and happens to feature GaGa as a rather normal, pint sized human being in the presence of the diva otherwise known as Sasha Fierce. It's pretty generic music video stuff. Looks a bit like "Gold Digger", has some Tarantino sight cues, AK-47s, super bright colors, and epileptic strobing (yeah, don't watch it if you're prone to the grand mal).

I Don't Usually Mention Theater...

I don't usually mention theater...but last night I went to check out the pre-Broadway Chicago engagement of the brand shiny new musical adaptation of The Addams Family. With Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth starring as Gomez and Morticia, it's practically a guaranteed hit, but i still must tell you that i absolutely loved it. Repeat, for emphasis, with enunciation: Absolutely. Loved. It. Granted, i've been indoctrinated into the Addams clan since early childhood, and that sort of quirky gothic humor hits the nail directly on the head and deep into the part of my brain that elicits all sorts of gleeful joy, so, i may not be most impartial critic. But, i can try, right?

The show draws its basis not from the films or television series, but from the characters outlined in the original set of drawings by Charles Addams. Even so, it feels remarkably complete. All the traits, all the little details and references we associate with the family are realized with love and goofy reverence. Morticia still feels compelled to chop the buds off of flowers, Wednesday still tortures Pugsley, Gomez fences, tangos, and plants kisses rabidly up the arms of his beloved, even Thing makes several appearances. The premise is that Wednesday has grown up. She has reached the age of consent, danced the "Clandango", and is now a woman. Worse than that, she's in love...with a normal boy from Ohio (she met him while shooting down animals in the park with her crossbow). The Addamses, bizarrely social as they are, invite the young man (Lucas) and his parents (Alice and Mal) over for a get-to-know-you dinner. After enduring the trials and tortures of awkward social interaction, the lovebirds declare their intention to marry... surprise, surprise, chaos ensues. In one madcap night, family bonds become strained, romances are tested, and every sort of relationship is put on the ropes. It takes a little while for things to get moving, and at first the music isn't especially stand-out, yet once you're hooked, you're invested, and the show is an absolute joy to watch. It's got a fantastic energy, a dead on sense of timing, and a script loaded with gems. At about three hours long, the show is a little on the overblown side, but in retrospect i can't think of much i would want to see sacrificed.

The cast is fantastic. One expects showmanship and expert comic timing from veterans like Lane and Neuwirth, but it should be said they aren't the only vets in the family. Jackie Hofflund, who i thought was absolutely hysterical in the New York run of Xanadu, is equally outrageous as Grandmother Addams (who may or may not be the family matriarch), she steals several scenes right out from under the others. Frequent Tony nominees Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, and Kevin Chamberlin (Mal, Alice, and Fester, respectively) also put in solid work even as they engage in love affairs with the moon, the Addams's resident squid, and banjo plucking shenanigans. As Wednesday, serious up-and-comer Krysta Rodriguez captures the requisite swings of violent teen angst.

Even more phenomenal than the cast, however, are the sets. If for nothing else, this show has some technical awards coming its way. I'm quite sure i've never seen set design quite like this. The family mansion is realized beautifully, and with no expense, effect, or detail spared. The portraits come to life, the staircases can be jumbled to create any number of different rooms and set-ups, there are chandeliers and New York skylines, open and close shuttered nooks, cemeteries and gigantic trees, crawling monsters under beds, mice being fed to gobbling plants, and Bernice's tentacles snaking up and out of every cranny, flailing wildly in the air. It's beautiful, nostalgic, and a sight to behold. There were several numbers where i sat there in a thrall of childlike wonder seriously just trying to figure out how they just did that live and on stage. Every element is approached imaginatively and used to its full potential, even the curtains reveal and conceal as necessary. I'll even give a shout out to the lighting, as someone certainly understands that what is concealed in shadow can truly make things magic.

If you dig musicals, darkness, raunch and gallows humor...or, you know, just the Addams Family. Try to see this if you can. The characters have been fully developed in a way that i could easily accept, and divorce, from all their other incarnations. I left the theater giddy and though it was closing in on 11 pm, i probably would have walked right back in and sat through another performance. The Addams Family is only in Chicago through January then it moves on to what will hopefully be an extensive engagement on Broadway. Opening night in NYC is April 8, 2010.

It's Time We Talked About Project Runway...[Spoilers]

I may not have found her personality to be so fantastic, in fact, i can safely say i spent most of the second half of this season of Project Runway muttering about Irina Shabayeva's smugness and calculating ways...but, as her final collection stomped the runway at Bryant Park, i admitted defeat. Irina, of course, was declared the sixth season winner last night, narrowly (but wholly) defeating Althea Harper and poor, ailing little trooper Carol Hannah Whitfield.

Let's be honest, Althea's 50's themed sci-fi collection looked a little more 80's/90's post-apocalyptic. If some of that wasn't torn straight from the Nebuchadnezzar, i'd be surprised. Aside from that, it was, as Michael Kors mentioned, standard sportswear. Well done, but not particularly memorable, and occasionally reminiscent of Jay McCarroll's season one finale. I can see it on the racks at Urban Outfitters. Actually, i think i have. Gah, harem pants.

Carol Hannah, as likable and hard-working as she was, delivered the Project Runway standard. There's one in every finale: the designer who makes things that are 'pretty'. Very nice, very lovely. Maybe they drape well, maybe they use color well, maybe they're flattering, and (more than likely) maybe it's something the designer herself would wear. Problem is, Carol Hannah's collection lacked an overarching theme, and in between her standout gowns were garish maternity tops and garments so wearable, they already exist. Though, i'd like that puffy tutu skirt to wear to a holiday party or two.

Irina was the only designer to shoot beyond Project Runway 101 for Milan. Everything, down to the little helmet hats (which i loved) brought her closer to Balenciaga than semi-pro. While her New York Warrior theme was maybe a bit contrived, it's still (to argue with Kors) a character that always works on the runway. Irina's outfitting followed through and revealed a remarkably solid understanding of presentation and an ability to work within and beyond couture trends. Irina's got skill. She makes opulent but ultimately wearable clothes. While i would have liked to see her transcend her limited palette, i could definitely use one or two of those giant hooded sweaters.

So, Irina had to win. Mathematically, she got it right. Her collection was cohesive. It was operating in perfect synchronicity with an understanding of high/low luxury and accessibility, the creation of an unusual silhouette, and the then (at the time of filming) exploding menswear for women trend. Irina created a look that was tailored, finished, edgy, and very New York without sacrificing femininity. She gets it. And on Project Runway, that sort of full comprehension is always rewarded, deservedly so.

Still, this was a season that celebrated mediocrity. I don't know if the move to Lifetime or the legal trouble had anything to do with it, but it was bland. It was boring. Its designers were generally subpar. They lacked interesting personalities and outlooks and some made up for that in misplaced boasts (Nicholas, your house is made of ticky-tacky. And Johnny, if i ever see you, it'll take a lot not to put my fist through your jaw). Adding to this seasons issues was a series downgrade in terms of editing. Each episode's focus was so particular it made the winners/loser obvious 5 minutes in. There's nothing quite as uninteresting as watching a competition where you know from the beginning who will be up for discussion. Dull. All said and done, Irina might be boring, she might be mean, but she had talent. Talent and a taste level that was never questionable. You know, not like Christopher.

RIP: Daul Kim

20-year old South Korean supermodel Daul Kim was found hanged in her Paris apartment yesterday. Kim, a regular at fashion weeks world round, was known outside of the fashion world for her quirky blog and as a painter. Her body was discovered by her boyfriend, who informed police that Daul's mother had long been scheduled to arrive in Paris today. The model's blog chronicles a recent series of ups and downs, with mentions of being "lost", "mad depressed", and cryptic definitions of protons as objects stable by themselves. Her last entry was a video of a dance track titled "I Go Deep". Eerie, and sad.

It's probably bad that the proton entry, and the assumption of significance just assigned, echoes of "eskimo" in Heathers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's About Time.

Hey, guess what? America's Next Top Model finally got it right. My early pick, Nicole Fox, the girl who was smart, savvy, and talented enough to pay attention and study the behaviors of models (while remaining above the drama in the house), walked off with the title, Cover Girl contract, and cover of Seventeen magazine. For the first time ever, the most interesting girl, and the one with the brightest future, has won. I know it's superficial tripe and you don't care, but give me this moment to yammer on about this, because it seriously never happens. Every cycle, the tie-ins with Cover Girl and Seventeen get in the way of letting the person who deserves it win, and a commercial, fresh faced, 'girl next door' winds up winning. Nicole, at last, is someone who can manage approachable while maintaining editorial. She's going to get jobs, she might actually have a future once she gets past hawking mascara in guest appearances in the next cycle. The awkward nerd finally wins! It was so close last cycle, with saucer-eyed Allison, but wound up going to bubbly, wind-in-her-face sporty-type Teyona (who could turn it out in pictures, but even in her cameo on tonight's episode was underwhelming). Victory. All my time spent watching this show has been validated.

Seen and Heard: Massive Attack & Air

United Snakes from Stephen Walker on Vimeo.

When you need something to space out to late late this evening, try watching these videos, the first for Massive Attack's "United Snakes", the second for Air's "Heaven's Light". The former, black and white and clear as crystal. The latter, vibrant and subdued.

We Don't Need No Education

You know what's pretty great? When people actually represent kids as the badass individuals they are instead of something sugar and spice and everything nice. Purple magazine put together a rather striking editorial photo shoot of kids doing some couture dress up. I like that for the most part they don't look like mini-adults, and that instead of being coaxed into provocative positions, they actually look natural and like they just might be having a lot of fun. Goofy, ridiculous fun. I mean, with those threads, who wouldn't be having a fabulous time? See them all here.

Seen & Heard: Charlotte Gainsbourg

I enjoyed actress/singer/fantastic dresser Charlotte Gainsbourg's last album 5:55, it had some pretty solid indie pop ("The Operation" wracked up a staggering amount of play counts for me) and for whatever reason i just love her voice. She has that strange sort of split French/English murmur from her divided ancestry, it's charming. I'd hesitate to call it elfin, but, I mean, it's almost there.

For her upcoming album IRM (the French version of MRI, much of the work was inspired by her near death 2007 water skiing accident, in which she suffered cerebral hemorrhage), Gainsbourg collaborated quite a bit with Beck. Now, we have a video for the single "Heaven Can Wait", a duet with the man himself. It's a meandering piece of alt-pop, a bit woozy and tinged with the sounds Beck has worked with on albums like Sea Change and Modern Guilt. Plus, the video features a man with a stack of pancakes for a head, so that's always good. If for no other reason, you should watch it for the pancakes.

Writing for Fun and Profit.

So, it's not news that boring old chick lit author Candace Bushnell has been working on a prequel to her book Sex and the City. The book, uncreatively titled The Carrie Diaries, is a young adult novel about Carrie Bradshaw's teenage years. You know, relationships, clothes, the beginning of her interest in writing. Admittedly, while I'm not particularly interested, I'd argue the young adult book is a more interesting forum for Carrie Bradshaw's story than some sort of sequel, and if she can manage to write it properly, it could make for a fascinating commentary on how a character like Carrie's perspective is formed by her high school environment.

Ultimately, though, no good can come of this. I shouldn't have to tell you that I have little faith in Bushnell. Yes, i am ashamed to admit that as someone now devoting copious hours to the study of literature and writing that from ages 14-16 I read essentially all of what is now considered the basis for the 'chick lit' canon (between the consumption of the major Russian novels). Fielding, Kinsella, Green, the lot. And though Bushnell is better than most (and perhaps not as fluffy), I wasn't impressed. Somehow, though, out of the wreckage, Darren Star's HBO adaptation did wonders with the source material. I'm a big fan of Sex and the City as a television show (not as a book, not, repeat, not, as a movie....eegads). It was consistently entertaining, had strong character development and a core of really solid ladies with perspectives that kept things moving. The show has already been partially corrupted by the heavily edited reruns and the absurd big screen moneymaker, and now this, The Carrie Diaries, could be the blow that transforms it into a parody of itself.

Following the release of this book (April, 2010 for those curious), it's only a matter of time before someone ::cough:: The CW::cough:: decides to adapt it into a television series. And when we have a high school Sex and the City (complete with 80's ensembles!), then we open the floodgates for all sorts of other quagmires and issues. Personally, i think i'd like to live in my little bubble. In my bubble, the events of the movie never occurred (because they're absurdly out of character, all of them, every woman). In my bubble, the 8th and 9th seasons of The X-Files never happened. In my bubble, Lindsay Weir went to college instead of getting on that damn bus.

Also, i really hate to devote this much space to this, but i've just gotta make a prediction. People claims that the Stephen Sprouse-esque cover art of the book "specifically references an incident between the character and her mother" [source]. Right, so, here's what's totally going to happen. Tell me if i'm wrong. Carrie Bradshaw's mother has high hopes for her daughter, a respectable career, a respectable school, because Carrie's no dummy. So, she gets her some sort of nice gift. A respectable bag/wallet/briefcase/portfolio, likely to bring to interviews and such. Carrie, fashionista that she is, is disappointed. The item just isn't her. She wanted something else, something edgy. Carrie decides to put her own personal flair on said item and deface it. Mom gets pissed. Eventually, both reconcile and reflect on Carrie being her own person. Am i right, or am i right?

NME Counts Down the 100 Greatest Albums of the 2000s

UK music magazine NME has compiled a list of the albums that define the 2000s. For the folks here in America, the list is definitely colored by Brit picks that would likely never make it over here (for example, The Libertines sit at #2, here they're uniformly identified as 'that band dirty Pete Doherty played in'). Topping it is The Strokes' Is This It?, an album that admittedly sat in my high school boom box for a pretty good block of 2001/2002 and that epitomized the New York garage sound that was one of the decades biggest musical trends.

PJ Harvey - This Is Love
Vezi mai multe video din Muzica

While the nostalgic bit of me would agree that The Strokes put together a pretty masterful debut in 30-minutes of upbeat rock, i'm not so sure i'd throw that one up as album of the decade, particularly as the band failed to fully develop a sound that moved beyond that first effort. Still, it deserves a spot on the list, and the rest of NME's picks read like a short trip through the development of my own musical tastes. PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea slips into the top ten (and damn did i think she was a bad ass), as do the debuts from The Arcade Fire and Interpol, both bands (the latter especially) who i went phases of complete infatuation with. Radiohead's In Rainbows, a sonically full-bodied effort which i think may actually deserve the title of best album of the decade, is at #10.

Overall, while much of the music on NME's list is solid enough, and definitely was buzz worthy at the time of its release, together it's alarmingly safe. Perhaps i shouldn't be surprised, given the source, but for me all i can see is a sort of Introductory tutorial to the music every generic college kid should give a listen to. A sort of 101 class to being a pseudo-indie kid in the oughts. Basically... this is what the freshman kids working at the college radio station circa 2006 bust out in an effort to prove their salt (and who wind up getting schooled by the Juniors). There's not a lot of risk taking, not a lot of hip hop, not a lot of acknowledgment of stand out pop albums or genre benders, just rock.


If you weren't already aware, Lady GaGa is less Britney Spears than Elton John. Here's a video of Stefani Germanotta (that's the Lady before her reinvention) performing original works at an NYU talent show. Anyone who watches Gossip Girl will find the clip relevant to this week's episode, but what is perhaps most noteworthy is that for those who doubt the overproduced sounds of "Poker Face", it's an interesting sort of musical revelation. Yeah, the girl can sing. She can also play. But unlike dozens of other female singer/songwriters, she shot the ambitions of her project away from Lilith Fair and towards glam rock.

While her music, including the recently leaked tracks on next week's Fame Monster release, veers mostly towards the radio friendly, she is lyrically** and performatively on par with a solid tradition of musical chameleons. While i was initially dubious of GaGa (and i think my past writing reflects this), and still think that as catchy as her songs are, they aren't up to snuff with the incredible amount of thought and artistry put into her image (the look and the sound just don't fully match up, too bright and effervescent, if i didn't know better i'd say a song like "Summerboy" was sung by a Pixie Lott or Candy-era Mandy Moore type), i've become a definite GaGa fan in the last few months. Maybe it was the VMA martyrdom, maybe it was the 10-minute Paparazzi video, I don't know, but once we got past the abysmal overplaying of what is perhaps her worst song ("Just Dance") i embraced GaGa as a serious pop performance artist. She's got staying power. She's a storyteller, a visual artist, and damn ambitious.

That said, I'm surprised she's as successful as she is with such diverse audiences. Is it because the image and the sound don't fully sync? That the music remain accessible while the persona is off-putting? I'm not sure. All I know is, it never seemed to fully pay off for Grace Jones or Roisin Murphy.


** I recognize that generally her lyrics are absurd. That's the beauty of them. Their hypersexualized postmodern nonsense saves the song from becoming just another pop puff piece on relationships and moves it towards that which recognizes and operates within its own absurdity. "Disco stick", "stunnin with my love glue gunnin'", etc. are perhaps the female post-Warhol and Madonna response to sci-fi reminiscent cut up lyrics of earlier glam artists like Bowie, T-Rex, and (at times) Queen. GaGa essentially reclaims and appropriates the sexual stance of homo/bisexual androgynous past performers and remixes it for the electronic era. If you can't imagine Lady GaGa pouring over "Killer Queen", "Moonage Daydream", or proclaiming "tell you who you are if you nail me to my car", you're listening but probably not hearing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The 80's Redux Continues Its Path of Devastation

My Little Pony is coming back to TV. The Hollywood Reporter has announced that the toy franchise, which has had its fair share of cartoons and VHS tapes in the past (check the original theme song, oh memories), is the first official title to be added to the line-up of a brand new kids cable channel from toy giant Hasbro and Discovery.

Wait, Hasbro and Discovery? I mean, i'm not surprised that My Little Pony is back, it never really went away, and luckily, i don't think there's too much they can do to corrupt or sluttify the candy colored ponies (they've already been branded with rainbow tramp stamps)....but, Hasbro and Discovery joined forces to bring us television? I don't think i'm too far off base when i guess that the newly created Hasbro Studios will build the station as one massive commercial. Next up: Transformers, GI Joe, Clue, Candyland, Battleship, Mr. Potato Head, Cabbage Patch Kids, Pokemon, and a return of Jem. What I'm really looking forward to, though, will be when they run out of ideas and go for Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, and Easy-Bake Oven: the television series.


Trailer: Leaves of Grass

No, it has nothing to do with Walt Whitman. Instead, Leaves of Grass is a stoner comedy thriller about a college professor who gets involved in a drug war led by his redneck twin brother. Yes, it's a movie about pot and twins. While it may sound like a recipe for absurdity and disaster, believe it or not, it has nothing to do with Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, or any of Hollywood's other half-baked regulars. Leaves of Grass is written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson and stars Edward Norton as Bill and Brady Kincaid. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Fest and has picked up a fair amount of buzz as Norton's comeback after a series of relatively forgettable films (Pride and Glory, The Incredible Hulk). More importantly? It looks pretty entertaining, like Pineapple Express with the sort of absurd sight gag we haven't seen used in a decent film for awhile. Also featuring Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss (as the southern fried drug lord), Waitress's Keri Russell, and this year's indie queen Melanie Lynskey (The Informant, Up in the Air), the film is slated to start appearing in theaters come Christmas.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Defending Megan Fox.

The cover story of the New York Times Magazine is all about Megan Fox, and the problems she (and her publicists) are having with her image, particularly the way she's perceived by women. The article can be found online in its entirety, and serves as an interesting addition to my defense of the bombshell pseudo-actress from earlier this year. I've met nary a woman who isn't bothered by Fox and the brand of sexuality that she seems to effortlessly exude, and while i 'get' that in a way she has been marketed as a validation of porn-queen trashiness, i still fail to see a reason why that reading is stamped on Fox herself instead of the men's magazines and internet fanatics who have created and perpetuated it. What sort of self-proclaimed feminists devote so much time and energy to the cattiness needed to tear down Megan Fox? Why is it that Megan Fox has had to capitalize on a persona in order to obtain temporary celebrity? Why is it that the gossip hounds and photogs aren't questioned when they objectify someone who is, in fact, a real person?
For me, and apparently the NYT, Fox acts as a signifier of some serious societal issues. I'm not interested in how pretty she is, whether or not she can actually act, or how ridiculous some of her claims are. What i am worried about is how she's been written off based on the superficial alone. It's one thing for me to say "i don't like Jessica Alba because she ruins almost every movie she touches (except Sin City)", it's another for me to say "i don't like Jessica Alba because she's a dumb slut who thinks she's hot shit". I know that I would act out and bite the head off of anyone who perceived me that way. Alarm bells, people, you should be hearing them.

Follow That Bird!

Man, would you look at that fuckin' hipster? I mean, those glasses, that ironic mustache, the primary blue pants, and...oh my god, that shirt. Holy crap, that shirt. Hipster...where did you get that shirt? Why, from American Apparel of course. Crazy Dov Charney got something right when he signed on to produce some commemorative t-shirts celebrating the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. The Big Bird design might be my favorite, as it really captures the yellow one's wanderlust. He was always one to tie on a neck scarf and jet off to Asia. The others are pretty good as well. Prairie Dawn tries to feed Cookie Monster something healthy, and if I'm not mistaken Guy Smiley even made it into the group shot. Am i too old to add these to my Christmas wishlist? Is this going to be like that middle school Tigger trend all over again?

Best Animated Picture by the Numbers

When it comes to animated features, this year has been huge. So big, in fact, that there are actually 20 films under consideration for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. There haven't ever been this many in the category's short history (it began in 2001), in fact the only time its come close was in 2003, when Miyazaki's Spirited Away led a pack of 15 other eligible cartoons. As was the case with that year, this year's ceremony will then expand the usual list of three nominees to five. On top of the 10 Best Picture nominees this year, this means we can expect a seriously supersized Oscars.

Here are the possible contenders:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
Astro Boy
Battle for Terra
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Disney's A Christmas Carol
The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Mary and Max
The Missing Lynx
Monsters vs. Aliens
Planet 51
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
A Town Called Panic

Out of those, I'd say some are definite write offs. Don't place bets on Alvin and the Chipmunks or the Tinker Bell sequel, but don't write off relative unknowns like Australia's Mary and Max or the vibrant Secret of Kells. There have been quite a few worthwhile animated features this year, and even no frills comedies like Monsters vs. Aliens have been better than the average Dreamworks showing. My prediction, though, is that a few are definites. Coraline's whirlwind use of stop-motion is something the Academy can't ignore. Up, as Pixar's latest emotional masterwork, is a no-brainer. Same goes for Ponyo, since no one can ignore what Miyazaki brings to the table. My other two guesses, though I have yet to see them, are Fantastic Mr. Fox and Disney's The Princess and the Frog. The former because it's Wes Anderson's aesthetic in complicated stop-motion, the latter because the film is being heralded as the rebirth of the Disney 2D animated fairy tale. But, again, the Academy is known for their upsets, and we have yet to see what the upcoming month will bring.

What would you like to see nominated?

Trailer: Kick-Ass


Trailer Park MySpace Video

The much murmured about film adaptation of Mark Millar's (of Wanted fame) graphic novel Kick-Ass finally has a trailer those who weren't at Comic-Con can watch. That means the independently produced movie has found a distributor and has an actual release date, and come April you'll be able to check out the ultraviolent adventures of some teenage vigilantes. Don't let the bright colors and kids lull you into a false sense of security, rumor has it that this film lives up to its title and then some, and is as brutal as they come. Now if only the printed version i've had on my wishlist for two years could get an actual publication date. I'm guessing that'll come soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sleep No More

I don't live anywhere near Brookline, Massachusetts, but if i did i'd be scrambling to get tickets for "Sleep No More", the deconstructed production of Macbeth that has taken up residence in an abandoned school building. British theater company Punchdrunk has re-imagined the Shakespeare play as a work of environmental theater, allowing the audience to don white masks and wander at their leisure through 44 sumptuously designed rooms. The production's 18 actors perform their scenes throughout the building, not merely reciting lines, but creating their characters through dance and mime. Supposedly designed to present the essence of Macbeth through the lens of a Hitchcock thriller, the result seems nothing less than haunting. It sounds to me like a more fantastical, beautiful version of a Hell House. I love the idea of exploring a building that's pre-loaded with secrets to discover. Its almost enough to make me want to skip out on the responsibilities at the end of the semester and catch a plane over to Boston. Almost.

Seen and Heard: Grizzly Bear

Guess what guys? Brooklyn based indie stars Grizzly Bear have a new music video as well. While the artsy fartsy claymation trip for "Ready, Able" doesn't have any costume changes, i'd argue it still manages to rival GaGa on the imagery front. Though, you know, it's more placid than frenetic.

Seen and Heard: Lady GaGa

Another epically over-the-top Lady GaGa video premiered while you were sleeping. This one, for "Bad Romance", the single leading the release of The Fame Monster, features enough costume changes to make your head spin (including the return of the White Witch-esque crown). Check it out.

Trailer: A Single Man

Fashion designer Tom Ford, the man responsible for turning around Gucci in the 90's, has written and directed a film. A Single Man, starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, and Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy, Skins) chronicles a day in the life of an English Professor whose partner has just died. More importantly, it looks 100% stunning, and is purportedly the role of a lifetime for Firth. I'm now obsessed with having to see this movie, don't know how i'll wait until its limited release December 11.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: An Education

Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a middle-class sweet sixteen in 1961 England. She smokes cigarettes with an affected posture, drops French into casual conversations, escapes through Francophile songbirds on the hi-fi and longs for an adulthood just past her parent's (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) unceasing pressures for her to get into Oxford. Then one day she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard) a silver-tongued older man with a nifty car, sophisticated friends, and the means to make her fantasy a reality. With her otherwise strict dad & mum manipulated blindly into submission and her friends living vicariously through her whirlwind 'education', Jenny embarks on a treacherous voyage towards the life she thought she'd only ever dream of, without a lifeboat, without an anchor.
Yet, An Education is no Lolita. Jenny is dazzled by David and he dotes on her in a way that's more charming than creepy. He showers her with gifts, with champagne, small talk, and impromptu trips to Paris. He allows her to take her time getting to know him. While their relationship lacks the chemistry needed to make An Education the horribly romantic film every bookworm anglophile girl wants it to be, it's perhaps for the better. The film uses the relationship as a catalyst for Jenny's repressed teenage rebellion. She's too analytical to get swept up in something truly passionate, and the relationship feeds off of her own desire to live, and her eagerness to experience as much as possible. Carey Mulligan gives a subtle, starmaking performance that captures her character's conflicts, excitement, and heartbreak perfectly. She oscillates wildly between a refined Leslie Caron (yes, I'd disagree with all the comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, she lacks the requisite enthusiasm) on the night they invented champagne, and a smart alecky, disappointed schoolgirl. Even as Jenny makes foolish decisions and bad judgment calls, she does so with a joie de vivre that makes her seem brave instead of stupid. Sarsgaard, too, plays David with the requisite hint of devilry, but makes him likable. He's not a predator so much as a man repeatedly making the mistakes Jenny is making for the first time. Together, they're less infatuated with each other than with the idea of what being with the other, being in love, means.
Director Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners) and screenwriter Nick Hornby have made a lovely, fairly light adaptation of journalist Lynn Barber's memoir. While the world has its fair share of cautionary tales of young ladies falling into the traps of older gentlemen, and An Education is certainly one of them, the film never quite takes the turns you expect when you expect them. David and his high living friends Danny and Helen (Dominic Cooper and a brilliantly vacant Rosamund Pike) manage to obscure their true natures as the film twists, turns, and jet sets. The conventional format of the film is there, but not immediately obvious. Jenny, eagerly along for the ride, is equally mercurial, and at times it's unclear whether or not she understands the risks involved, or if the realizations the audience slowly receives are fully veiled from her as well. In the end, it doesn't matter. Jenny's education, while it careens towards detrimental, is an experiment in worldliness.
Admittedly, it's perhaps because of this imposed distance that I couldn't shake the feeling of being less involved in the events of the film than I ought to be. Without a dangerous passion, or any real chemistry, the film tiptoes around the darker elements of the material it puts forth. Jenny, though she plays at being so, is not fully in control of her situation. When word gets out of her philandering, the headmistress (Emma Thompson) of the stuffy all girls school she attends seeks to eliminate the risk of one bad apple spoiling the bunch. She succeeds. When propositioned by a man with an overflowing bank account, Jenny's parents seem to lose focus on their dreams for their daughter's education. It doesn't matter anymore so long as she's provided for. The social commentary on postwar England and the drawbacks of the time period are there, but underdeveloped. While Jenny's teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Cross, minus Max Fischer) fights for her future, the film sidesteps dramatic tension and difficult material for paltry distraction. Ultimately, while An Education is compelling, it's not quite as smart as it could, or should, be.
As a coming of age story, however, it's delightfully refined. Though its make-up is pure melodrama, An Education remains afloat on something that's not quite comedy, not quite nostalgia, but feels close enough. See it for the performances and the entertainment value, don't expect a masterpiece.

3.5 out of 5

See all of Wilde.Dash's reviews at Love & Squalor!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Who Dare Go Near Roger Rabbit?

Robert Zemeckis revealed in an interview with MTV that the Roger Rabbit sequel is in the works. Though its only in the scripting stages, Zemeckis, the man responsible for the freaky deaky performance capture animation seen in The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, and the upcoming Yellow Submarine reboot, fortunately is wise enough to state flat out that Roger, Jessica and the toons will remain 2-D. That bullet may be dodged, but we're not safe yet. Zemeckis can't seem to stay away from 'technological advances', and rumor has it performance capture will still be used. I don't like this idea, personally. We've gone over two decades without a second feature length Roger Rabbit film, and the first one is certainly impressive enough on its own. Aside from being a potential moneymaker, what makes now the right time for a return?

I've really got to hope, hope, hope a new Roger Rabbit maintains the 2D/live action interaction without transforming the humans into awful animated beings themselves. That would truly be awful.

Award Season Begins

Hugh Jackman isn't returning to sing and dance his way through the Oscar telecast this year. Instead, in a turn that could perhaps prove that Tina Fey does indeed now control Hollywood, hosting duties will be shared between It's Complicated co-stars Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. The last time anyone co-hosted the Oscars was 1986, and on top of the 10 Best Picture Nominees, it seems like the Academy is looking back to the future to boost their popularity. While I'm not a huge fan of Martin's over-the-top comedy, he's a diverse enough talent to keep things interesting. Alec Baldwin, too, has carried enough SNL monologues to prove he'll be an asset to both Martin and the never ending ceremony.


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