Thursday, January 22, 2009



















The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and there were a few surprises. The Dark Knight was bumped from its expected Best Picture position by lackluster Holocaust film The Reader, Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins was snubbed by the Academy for her performance in Happy-Go-Lucky, and RDJ managed to maintain his Tropic Thunder Best Supporting Actor position. Well, well. Once again the Oscar has accepted standard dramatic fare and ignored the films that might actually make history. Oy. It's like they had to even things out because they added noise-making indie Slumdog Millionaire.

However, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was (deservedly) given a lucky 13 nods.

Hit the jump for the full list of nominees.

BEST PICTURE
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
Kate Winslet, "The Reader"

BEST ACTOR
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn, "Milk"
Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"
Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, "Doubt"
Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"
Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road"

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"
Gus Van Sant, "Milk"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"
Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"
Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Marttin McDonagh, "In Bruges"
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, "WALL-E"

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"
David Hare, "The Reader"
Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"
John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt"
Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
"The Baader-Meinhof Complex" (Germany)
"The Class" (France)
"Departures" (Japan)
"Revanche" (Austria)
"Waltz with Bashir" (Israel)

BEST ANIMATED FILM
"Bolt"
"Kung Fu Panda"
"Wall-E"

BEST ART DIRECTION
"Changeling"
"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"
"Dark Knight"
"The Duchess"
"Revolutionary Road"

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
"Changeling" Tom Stern
"Slumdog Millionaire," Anthony Dod Mantle
"The Reader," Chris Menges
"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button," Claudio Miranda
"The Dark Knight," Wally Pfister,

BEST FILM EDITING
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall
"The Dark Knight," Lee Smith
"Frost/Nixon," Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill
"Milk," Elliot Graham
"Slumdog Millionaire," Chris Dickens

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
"Australia," Catherine Martin
"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button," Jacqueline West
"The Duchess," Michael O'Conner
"Milk", Danny Glicker
"Revolutionary Road," Albert Wolsky

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
"Encounters at the End of the World"
"The Garden"
"Man on Wire"
"Trouble the Water"

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

"Slumdog Millionaire," "Jai Ho," A.R. Rahman
"Slumdog Millionaire," "O Saya," A.R. Rahman & M.I.A.
"Wall-E," "Down To Earth," Peter Gabriel & Thomas Newman

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button," Alexandre Desplat
"Defiance," James Newton Howard
"Milk," Danny Elfman
"Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman
"WALL-E," Thomas Newman

BEST MAKEUP
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Colleen Callaghan, Fionagh Cush
"The Dark Knight," Peter Robb-King, John Caglione Jr.
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army," Mike Elizalde, Thom Floutz

BEST SOUND EDITING
"The Dark Knight," Richard King
"Iron Man," Frank Eulner, Christopher Boyes
"Slumdog Millionaire," Tom Sayers
"Wall-E," Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood
"Wanted," Wylie Stateman

BEST SOUND MIXING
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Mark Weingarten, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce
"The Dark Knight," Ed Novick, Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo
"Slumdog Millionaire," Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
"Wall-E," Ben Burtt, Tom Myers, Michael Semanick
"Wanted," Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Eric Barba
"The Dark Knight," Chris Corbould, Nick Davis, Paul Franklin, Tim Webber
"Iron Man," John Nelson

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
"Auf der Strecke (On the Line)"
"Manon on the Asphalt"
"New Boy"
"The Pig"
"Spielzeugland (Toyland)"

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
"La Maison en Petits Cubes"
"Lavatory - Lovestory"
"Oktapodi"
"Presto"
"This Way Up"

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM
"The Conscience of Nhem En" "The Final Inch" "Smile Pinki" "The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306" .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Top 12 Films of 2008



Better late than never, right? Besides, staggered limited release dates make it tought to see a fair amount of these films until just after the New Year. While there may still be a few to be discovered at a later date, I present to you now my Top 12 Films of 2008.



12. Slumdog Millionaire - A great little Dickensian human interest drama with a beautiful palette. Definitely succeeds in stringing together entertaining vignette slices via a fairly clever device. It's got a soul and some heart and champions the human spirit and all that jazz. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon and saying it's the best film of the year (nor is it director Danny Boyle's best film), but it ranks, and was enjoyable. I don't think it's worthy, however, of a Best Picture Oscar.



11. The Fall -It's not perfect, and certainly draws a fair amount of negativity in the wake of Pan's Labyrinth, but The Fall is a visual masterpiece. This is an epic in miniature beautifully realized by Tarsem Singh and worth switching over to Blu-Ray for. While technically wrapped in 2006, this film didn't see the light of day until 2008.



10. Frost/Nixon - A surprisingly entertaining film that blends docu-dramatic touches in with solid scenes that succeed in drawing the viewer in to the urgency of this interview during that particular moment in time. Even if you know the outcome, you can't help but feel the tiniest bit of angst as you watch how it plays out.




9. Son of Rambow - Should have been a sleeper hit, but failed to catch on in the states. A pitch perfect comedy that blends 80's nostalgia, coming of age, and French Exchange Students with the greatest of ease. It earns a spot on this list if for no other reason than that i know this will be one worthy of many repeat visits. Just for fun.



8. Revolutionary Road - There's a ton at work here, particularly in terms of character depth and development. What we don't see is as important as what we do, and we are given a picture that is perhaps more fully realized than American Beauty. For the optimists, it's a devastating portrait of a relationship, and yet i can't help but feel it should be required viewing for young, desperately in love couples everywhere.



7. Vicky Christina Barcelona - Thoroughly enjoyable. This is definitely Woody's best in ages, and if it weren't for the neurotic nature of the characters, it would be easy to forget his involvement entirely. The scenery is beautiful and the story is sharp and frequently laugh out loud funny. Bardem is charming and Johansson is fairly static, but Penelope Cruz (with a late entrance) steals every scene she's a part of.



6. The Wrestler - This is a beautiful little movie that really captures the devastation of age and the slow realization that you are no longer being able to do/have that which you love. Mickey Rourke delivers a high impact performance and you believe in his character every second he's on screen. For me this is definitely ranking as one of the only worthwhile "sports" films of all time, right behind Raging Bull. It's also proof that Aronofsky is a master when if comes to truly harnessing human emotion in cinema.



5. Doubt -Excellent. A rapid-fire story with smart dialogue that builds in intrigue steadily, and approaches 'same-old' controversies from another angle. The acting is top shelf and it's safe to say that while at its heart Doubt is high-drama, the performances lift the story out of the mire and make this film remarkably watchable and entertaining.



4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -If you meet someone who tells you this is just some overblown Forrest Gump rip-off...bludgeon them with the nearest heavy object, and then run the other way. Aside from the portrayal of an amazing life over decades, there's no comparison. Benjamin Button boasts an impressive cast, a visionary director at its helm, and a story that unfolds like a fairy tale meditation on human life. There's magic here. It's true.



3. Synecdoche, NY - I really thought this was a beautiful movie worthy of repeat viewings. Like all of Kaufman's work, it teeters on the brink of science fiction and madness and uses abstraction to ultimately present something that is unflinchingly human. This is a movie about life in the broadest sense of the term, and because of that, many may find the scope of this film a little overwhelming. In fact, it may be safe to say that what many will take as the movie's drawback is a flaw built into the film from its onset. That in depicting so much, the viewer is forced to filter it into so little. But the pieces are all there. Synecdoche showcases every aspect. Relationships, decisions, dreams, worries, neurosis, bodily limitations, birth, death, loneliness, this isn't a movie where nothing happens, this is a movie where everything happens and what the viewer takes from it defines their own personal experience (in this way, it actually mirrors the assumed intention of Caden's dramatic project). Apart from that, however, I'd argue this is definitely a worthwhile movie, or meta-narrative. The acting is great on the whole (though I do wish that some of the characters were allowed to stick around longer), there's an undercurrent of quirky humor, and it really does look great. As Kaufman's first film in the director's chair this is a very impressive (and highly ambitious) effort. Ultimately, I dug it, but be forewarned: it's not easy. Very postmodern. Very melancholy. Very original. Definitely on the pretentious side.



2. The Dark Knight - Do I need to offer up an explanation? It redefines the superhero genre and serves up multi-layered mythology and action in a way that, as of right now, appears to be leaving a definite mark on the future of comic adaptation and crime drama.



1. Wall-E - I've gone back and forth as to what should be at the top, and i've become quite sure that Wall-E is destined to become a classic. This is a stunningly beautiful work of science fiction that functions on so many levels. I wouldn't hesitate to call this a masterpiece of dystopian post-apocalyptic work, really. Not unlike 2001, but combined with a serious amount of heart that makes the film and its message accessible to a much wider audience. Wall-E himself is completely adorable and unforgettable, he's an AI version of Chaplin's little tramp, and will probably never cease to succeed in making me joyously happy and heartbroken simultaneously.


Honorable Mentions: Let the Right One In, Iron Man, The Reader, Gran Torino, Choke .

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The One Where I Overthink Things and Tell NBC to Step Off


We all want our favorite shows to survive, and more often than not the good ones don’t. Award wins couldn’t save Arrested Development. Critical acclaim couldn’t save Freaks & Geeks. The list goes on, and often a lack of network support is to blame. That’s why it should be a positive thing that NBC is putting so much effort into keeping 30 Rock fully afloat, right? After all, 30 Rock is a brilliant comedy that has ‘classic’ stamped all over it. Latter, right. Former, wrong.

I’ve gushed about 30 Rock constantly, to anyone who will listen, since the pilot episode. Seriously, I cannot count the number of my friends who now possess DVD box sets of the show’s first two seasons. There’s no doubt it’s my favorite show on television, and no doubt that Tina Fey has ascended through my mental stratosphere as one of my celebrity patron saints (with Bowie and Warhol). So when I say this, you know it hurts. Let’s rip the band-aid off: 30 Rock is kinda losing it this season. I blame NBC’s cross-promotional efforts and the now over-the-top attempts to ingratiate the show into Hollywood’s web of mediocrity.

Allow me to attempt an explanation. Hit the jump.
In the beginning (for all of you who weren’t watching pre-Palin) 30 Rock came on the scene as a smart, irreverent ensemble workplace comedy. Yes, Fey’s Liz Lemon and Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy were stand-outs, but this was truly a show about chaos behind the scenes. Its characters were sharp. They knew who they were and had been crafted by a writer who understood them completely. Part of the show’s beauty was that each action, each line, made sense in context. We believed Kenneth’s backwoods naïveté, Tracy’s tendency towards showy insanity, Jenna’s desperate cries for attention, and Frank’s subdued douchebaggery. The supporting characters were vital, since they were the pieces that needed to be held together and dealt with by the slightly neurotic (but still in control) Liz Lemon.

If you’ve watched the show this season you know that the supporting cast has been largely dismissed in favor of weekly guest stars. We never get a story about Pete Hornberger’s issues with his marriage or the cast messing with Lutz. In fact, Hornberger, Lutz, Cerie, Toofer, Josh, Grizz, and Dot Com seem to have all but disappeared. And my god, I miss them. We’re lucky, these days, it seems to receive Tracy and Jenna at all, and usually their screen time is shared and, well, forced. (Last week’s episode pushed them towards getting soup for the crew…what?) Essentially, 30 Rock, the TV comedy about the anxiety that goes into making a TV comedy has instead become a comedy about Liz and Jack losing their self-assuredness and drifting into embarrassing moments of madness as NBC accommodates now too-big-for-primetime stars like Jennifer Aniston and Oprah.

We know that NBC has abused 30 Rock in the past, who can forget the shameful Bee Movie plug that kicked off season 2? And honestly, it should be said that Aniston and Oprah’s respective episodes were actually fairly decent, and wouldn’t be a problem had they had been spaced more evenly. The problem, however, is that this season has been nothing but a long string of over-hyped guest appearances. Each half hour is spent trying to find ways to maximize the screen time for Salma Hayek or Steve Martin instead of allowing them to be fully incorporated into the show’s context. In previous seasons, guest stars appeared almost without warning, and were painted-in flawlessly. David Schwimmer’s character conquered the writer’s room (which, it should be said, used to be one of the best opportunities for comedy within the show) and Carrie Fisher came on the scene with big plans for TGS. Will Arnett and Edie Falco just made sense within this miniature universe. They were insiders, they weren’t outsiders with tangential sub-plots who seem to only interact with Liz and Jack at seemingly unnecessary social functions.

Which brings us to the next issue, which is: Liz and Jack are no longer well-defined characters. Back in the good old days, I could identify with Liz, I understood where she was coming from. Here we had this smart, workaholic, slightly awkward, take-charge woman who didn’t see a point in compromising her values when it came to doing what she loved, but who had just enough private self-doubt to keep her human. She was snarky, sarcastic, and generally cynical (with moments of liberal optimism), but every once in awhile she got freaked out about her priorities and became just desperate enough to backslide towards Dennis Duffy. Yet she always picked herself up, and she rarely settled. This was a Liz that was easy to see as being latched onto by Jack as an unsuspecting protégé. She had powers she didn’t fully comprehend. This was a Liz that was elitist without meaning to be, smug because she had a right to be, and who didn’t conform to typical depictions of women on television. It worked. Liz appealed to a smarter television viewer. When Liz fretted about being single, it was because she almost choked to death alone in her apartment. When Liz suddenly had delusions of a white wedding, it was depicted as a bout of mania.

These days, Liz has become compliant. She is a sub-par everywoman content to humiliate herself and prone to hysteric, out of character, desperation. This Liz Lemon isn’t the glue that holds TGS together, but instead seems never to even sit down long enough to type something out. This Liz Lemon steals baby shoes and holds fanatical fantasies about adopting a child though we can’t imagine why she’d really want one. This Liz Lemon is compliant. She falls into dates with odd characters and seems frequently content to settle for whatever happens to present itself. I mean, come on, this is a woman who in the past decided that a sandwich took priority over a boyfriend…why the hell would that character suddenly take part in cloying schemes more appropriate for Teri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives? I don’t see as much of myself in this character anymore, and while that may make it more personal, I take it as a bad sign. The same goes for Jack. While a little of his loosening up can be attributed to his heart attack and friendship with the TGS crew, he retains little of the rampant right-wing logic and socioeconomic elitism of previous seasons. And call me crazy, but his off-color comments are half the fun of his character.

Maybe this is the problem. In being shoved into the limelight as an NBC phenomenon that plays host to A-listers and wins every award it’s nominated for (deservedly), 30 Rock has lost some of the elitist attitude that really gave it that initial edge. I think the cast and crew know it, and more importantly, I think Tina Fey knows it. Was it just me, or did the Feyster seem to take her repeat Globe win as almost a burden? In that walk up to the stage, could you read a hint of disdain? A desire to break free from the sudden sycophantic crowd and return to the way things used to be? Maybe I’m romanticizing the plight of Fey as seemingly well-adjusted human being suddenly accepted by the fucked up in-crowd…but I don’t think so. Right now it seems as though 30 Rock is being shoved into a position that would win them that “followship” award. Characters who weren’t mined enough have been traded out for headliners and there just ain’t enough soul. Why do we have to sacrifice strong characters for better ratings? What does it mean? What does it signify? Is this the price we must pay for being able to keep our beloved show? Is this a trade-off? 30 Rock remains but will slowly become a ghost of its former self? Am i the only person who notices the dilution? Perhaps this is the way of all television. We can only hope that now that 30 Rock has been renewed and has a definite future, they’ll also gain the freedom to go back to their roots.

NBC, let 30 Rock be. The best way to insure success now that all eyes are on Tina Fey is to allow her to do her thing, without the frills. Do it for me. We don’t need another Friends. Don’t try and make it one.

Friday, January 16, 2009

RIP: Andrew Wyeth






















American-realist painter Andrew Wyeth, best known for his work Christina's World (pictured above) died in his sleep today at age 91.


Wyeth's work focused heavily on desolate landscapes and solitary figures while carrying heavy emotional/symbolic content. Christina's World is on display at MoMA, where it is part of the permanant collection, and while many are familiar with this piece, i feel that Wyeth was largely overshadowed by the rise of the abstract-expressionists and the coming of the pop movement. I'll admit a certain ignorance to his career as a whole. From what i can tell, his work spoke to a lost sensibibility rooted in the more traditional works of the 19th century and was/is actually quite striking.


Check it out:


























A more recent painting, titled Otherworld, from 2002:

Just Because


Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

This is a video in which some girl who has only seen pieces of the original Star Wars trilogy retells the story to her friend with a recording device...who then adds some amusing animation and shares it with us. All we can assume is that this girl's childhood was a little sad. Check it out.

How Did I Miss This?


Apparently, Joaquin Phoenix (who most notably played Johnny Cash in Walk the Line) decided to opt out of his acting career and focus on becoming a musician. This was last spring. I didn't get the memo. Not that i would have done much with the memo, so maybe i did receive the memo and proceeded to use it as scratch paper for drawing a a scene in which zombie-Amy Winehouse battles Rodan. This is possible.

I feel, however, that the memo in early 2008 did not include the little detail that Phoenix is not simply becoming a musician in the vein of Cash, but is transforming himself into a rap artist. Not only that, but his album is being produced by Sean Combs and his first performance is TODAY at an unnamed Las Vegas club. Casey Affleck (You know, Ben's brother? C0-star of the Ocean films and lead in Gone Baby Gone) will be directing a documentary following Joaquin's arrival on the scene.

Am i the only one who has trouble imagining this? When i think Joaquin Phoenix, i don't exactly picture a guy with the ability to spit fast-paced rhymes into a mic. If anything i could see him as the sort who picks up a black acoustic guitar and pens some horrible songs about life tragedies, lost loves, and anger management. But then again, my own rap skills have also been frequently underestimated. I too don't appear to be the type who has "OPP" down pat. Yeah.

My one hope is that the music and documentary will show us that whacked-out, possibly tripped-out Phoenix. If he includes some tracks about large frogs crawling out of his scalp and having "the sensation of [his] brain being eaten", i'm backing this 100%.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spin-Off: That 80's Show

Remember "That 80's Show"? Don't worry, it wasn't worth remembering. But it did have Glenn Howerton, who now plays Dennis on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". True story, but not the point of this post.

The point is that "Gossip Girl" parental figure Lily Van Der Woodsen (Played in adulthood by divorce-battle plagued Kelly Rutherford) is the first GG-er to receive a televised spin-off that will detail her youth and early relationship with old flame Rufus Humphrey. The Hollywood Reporter claims:

"After months of, well, gossip, the show's creators/exec producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are proceeding with a spinoff that will serve as a prequel to the sophomore drama and chronicle the wild teen years of Lily van der Woodsen (Kelly Rutherford) in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

The network has ordered a backdoor pilot for the project, which will air as a "Gossip" episode May 11. The 1980s world will be introduced in flashbacks tied to the episode's story line of Lily and her daughter Serena (Blake Lively) wrestling with a problem, Schwartz said. He would not add further details.

Written by Schwartz and Savage, the spinoff will center on young Lily Rhodes (her maiden name) who, after a falling out with her parents, is forced to move in with her sister, the black sheep of the Rhodes family. Overnight, Lily has to transition from a life of luxury and education at a wealthy Montecito boarding school to living deep in the San Fernando Valley she once made fun of and going to public school. Caught between two worlds, Lily dives into the fast-paced Sunset Strip and the Hollywood lifestyle of the '80s, journeying over the hill to a world of wealth and excess that used to be her own."

Yep. That's right. Los Angeles in the 80's. As if "Gossip Girl" hasn't been the bane of many a parent's existence, you will now have to deal with the cocaine excess of the landscape that brought us Less Than Zero. Oh, hell yes. That's the best we can hope for, I think, Bret Easton Ellis meets GG's sensational style.

In the literary world, little Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momson) has the spin-off book series The It Girl chronicling her reinvention at college (My reasons for knowing this may be cause for a follow-up post). Apparently, TV execs at the CW weren't down with this, and it's probably for the better. Poor Jenny Humphrey. Can't catch a break.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Anticipate This: 2009


Posting that Franklyn trailer got me thinking, what other films are showing promise this year? Here's a few to look forward to, beginning with Spike Jonze's long-awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are ....

1. Where the Wild Things Are - Director Spike Jonze has already spent a few years making sure this movie is believable and just right. With a Dave Eggers penned screenplay and starring relative newcomer Max Records as, well, Max, the early stills are impressive and if we can trust anyone with this whimsical material, it's Jonze. No bluescreens. Real trees.



2. Terminator: Salvation - Sure, T3 sucked. But we have learned: trust Christian Bale. If he deems the script worthy enough for multiple sequels, he knows something we don't. Salvation indeed.



3. Public Enemies - Johnny Depp plays Dillinger. Christian Bale returns to the Windy City. And there was much rejoicing.

4. Watchmen - Haven't I already proclaimed my too-high expectations enough?

5. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - The sixth film was delayed a good six months. If it was sloppy before, hopefully its been polished so much it shines like a snazzy new snitch.



6. Up - Pixar leaves robots and cars and fish behind and takes on a 78-year old curmudgeon who ties thousands of balloons to his house and takes off on a great adventure...with a stowaway.

7. Star Trek - As a childhood pseudo-trekkie and someone who hasn't watched a Trek in about a decade, i'm already a turncoat to general geekdom. That's why it's safe to say that while i may be upset if JJ Abrams botches it terribly, i'm still pretty excited about a shiny new reworking of the original series.



8. Inglourious Basterds - Spelled just like that, yes. Quentin Tarantino's WWII movie with a cast lead by Bradley Pitt. The Basterds are a ragtag group striking fear into Nazi hearts...by brutally scalping and killing them of course.

9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - I'm still not completely sold on this film, which, if the title didn't clue you in, is an origin story for X-Men fave Wolverine (still played by Hugh Jackman). Gambit and Sabretooth finally show up, though.

10. Nine - Director Rob Marshall's (Chicago) screen version of the stage musical version of the non-musical classic art house Federico Fellini film 8 1/2 (one of my faves). Daniel Day-Lewis plays a director struggling with his next film and dealing with the overabundance of women in his life. The ladies, it should be said, are played by a knock-out cast including Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Dame bad-ass Judi Dench, and...Fergie as Saraghina. Craazy.



11. Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - Heath Ledger's actual last picture and another production nightmare for plagued auteur Terry Gilliam. Ledger's role was filled in by three actors: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. It promises (like all Gilliam films) to be a sight to be seen.

12. Sherlock Holmes - Guy Ritchie takes on a classic and puts Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. While the film's production has had its issues (and is now rumored to be cursed) i'm sold on a turn from Ritchie's usual. Particularly with RDJ in tow.

13. Fantastic Mr. Fox - The fantastic Mr. Wes Anderson's next film is a stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book with Blanchett & Clooney as voices (plus Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, of course). No stills have surfaced yet, but there's no reason to suspect Anderson's first foray into animation will be anything other than...fantastic?



Post-Globes #1: In Bruges?


Don’t let the trailer fool you, In Bruges is a comedy in the loosest sense of the term. Sure, it has moments of dark humor, but the themes sit heavy and the drama, through much of the film, is palpable. Last year’s The Savages (nominated in the same category) manages more hilarity from a topic doubly depressing (watching your parents wither in old age). I mean, even if we’re looking at In Bruges in the old-school dramatic, Shakespearean sense, it’s not a comedy. In fact, it has the trappings of an action-tragedy brought up from the mire with a handful of scattered punchlines, Colin Farrell playing a repentant version of his jittery, ADHD self, and the exploited physical comedy of one seriously messed up little person.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a quality film. But an award nominee? Unlikely. An award winner? Not exactly. What’s more, an award winner thrown into the Musical/Comedy categorization? Are you kidding? Yet, that’s what the Hollywood Foreign Press did, and a gum chewing, blathering Farrell slipped into stream-of-consciousness mode and picked up his award for best comedic actor. Interesting.

Equally interesting were the other nominees under the Musical/Comedy heading. Woody Allen’s delightful Vicky Christina Barcelona rightfully took home the gold, but the only other nominee with audience-friendly appeal was the ABBA-fueled sugar rush Mamma Mia!, which after a critical bashing, we can safely assume was nominated merely as the token, legitimate musical offering.



Ignore the bright colors. Lies. So many lies.

The other two, Happy-Go-Lucky and Burn After Reading, are tales in which the laughs are sparse. The latter was initially received with mixed reviews. Critics and audiences alike found it clunky and weighed down with Coen-brand bouts of increasingly unnecessary violence, though still fairly humorous. The former is a character study of an illogical and obnoxious woman so lonely and existing in such a shitty world that her peppy can-do attitude comes off as some sort of mental illness. How can we believe in her exuberant facade as she drowns herself (scene by scene) in alcohol, chortles, and unhappy situations? Does she believe herself? Can she really be that daft? No. I think the critics misread Happy-Go-Lucky entirely. It’s a melancholy drama occasionally mined for awkward, heart-breaking laughs. I don't know what US Weekly's Thelma Adams was tripping on when she wrote "This film made me blissfully happy", but i think i should have taken some of it.

Makes you wonder if the HFP actually watched the films or just checked out the trailers.

It’s true that traditionally speaking the Golden Globe category for best Musical/Comedy works a bit like a catch-all for the films they can’t justify placing in the more prestigious Dramatic categories. After all, they randomly placed 2005’s period romance Pride & Prejudice there, and have frequently thrown in quirkily sad Charlie Kaufman fare. But this year seems exceptional in terms of selection. Why is it that a large percentage of the supposed best “comedies” of 2008 are in fact, full-blown dramas in disguise? Since when are our light-hearted options such heavy lifting? Can we blame the economy? Our dire political situation? With the arrival of Mr. Yes-We-Can Obama will we see an altogether more optimistic representation of our society at next year’s Globes?

Who knows?

I get dark comedy. I’m a big fan of it. I dig my humor with a bullet through the skull or a dose of sardonic cynicism. But I’ll tell you, if In Bruges & Happy-Go-Lucky are comedies, than I’ve got two films that rival them in the laugh department. It might sound strange, but Doubt had a number of laughs equal to (oddly parallel minded) In Bruges, and Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino is shockingly (and purposely) hysterical, deftly executing well-timed lines and expressions into a tale that is essentially one of heartbreak. If Happy’s Poppy (Sally Hawkins) and Clint’s Walt were to meet, maybe we could find a happy medium.


Nuns. Apparently not funny to society at large.

Something to Look Forward To

Things that peak my interest without fail:

1. Dystopian cinema
2. Dystopian worlds in which religion is the cause of all grievances
3. Dystopian societies with a vigilante hero
4. Highly stylized dystopian visions (see: Brazil, Blade Runner, etc.)
5. Bleak views and bad ass costumes
6. David Bowie.


This movie appears to have 5/6 of those. You’re probably sensing a theme, right? If a movie has got ‘messed-up society’ stamped on it, chances are I’ll watch it. I mean, I even rented Doomsday…but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, the new buzz trailer on the block is for a film called Franklyn, starring Ryan Phillippe, the divine Eva Green, and previous Sexy x 50 lister Sam Riley (Control). Centered around intertwining tales and parallel universes, if the trailer is any indication, this is one to watch for. The film seems to have been received positively at the London Film Fest and is slated for a February release overseas. However, it has yet to find a distributor in the United States and all we can do is hope this movie will find a place on screen in 2009.

Check it out:


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tonight, Tonight


GOLDEN GLOBES tonight! I may not be invited, but i've got big plans involving cocktails, popcorn, and making snarky remarks at the television. Excellent.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Suggestion Box


So, i'm all over listology, but i think i need some suggestions. Even though i only have like 3 readers, and even though i could totally just call these readers up and ask them their opinion, i'm opening this up to the public: what should the first list of 2009 be here at Pop Candy Arcade?

Oh, Kanye...
















Everyone's talking about Kanye West's cover story in February's Vibe magazine.

You know, the one where he says he plans on posing naked within the next few years and that what he actually wants is fewer fans (well, a core of devoted fans and none of these sycophantic cool-mongers)...like Bjork.

"I made a decision. I wanna make popular music, but I want less fans," he told writer Sean Fennessey when asked if he was comfortable with fame. "I want the freedom of having less fans. It's like the freedom of having less money. If you have less money, you have less responsibility. It's like Björk. If she wanted to pose naked, you'd be like, 'Oh, that's Björk.' But if I wanted to pose naked, people would draw all type of things into it. I definitely feel like, in the next however many years, if I work out for two months, that I'll pose naked. I break every rule and mentality of hip-hop, of black culture, of American culture." (Source)

I get it...but i'm not sure i buy it. Is posing naked breaking the rules of hip-hop? Also, does Kanye really want fewer fans? I mean, i've seen the man's ecstatic, exclamation point happy blog entries every time his song gets bumped a place up the charts. Hmmm.

He's also put some consideration into where he stands in the current pop cultural spectrum:

"I believe Beyoncé is the greatest performer of our generation," he offered. "I believe I am the greatest entertainer of this generation. I go neck-and-neck on Jay-Z and [Lil] Wayne as far as who's the best lyricist. Jay-Z has longevity."

Wait, where's JT? Remember back in 2007 when he said "My biggest inspiration and biggest competition is Justin Timberlake... I look at me and Justin like Prince and Michael Jackson in their day." (Source)

Interesting. This sounds suspiciously like the thoughts that go through my head when i have delusions of grandeur. Because, you know, in my literary life i will be the greatest writer of our times. I mean, JK Rowling is just about spent and she's not in my field anyway. I go neck-and-neck with Jhumpa Lahiri and make Miranda July look like child's play. Stephanie Meyer is a joke and forget David Sedaris, he's really just a stand-up comedian.

Narcissists of the world unite.

Draper/Lemon

In what may be the first of Liz Lemon's love interests that i find myself able to approve of (ok, Floyd wasn't bad), Don Draper's appearance on the real best show on television is actually scheduled. That's right, Mad Men actor Jon Hamm's 3-episode arc on the Feyster's NBC's 30 Rock will begin February 5.

While I approve of this guest-stint, i've gotta say: i really wish NBC would stop using bigger celebrities to sell the show. What's wrong with just having the cast every once in awhile? Why do we need the who's who?



Friday, January 9, 2009

Blago!


He's IMPEACHED!!!!!
Finally, at long last, break out the champagne! Blago, evil King of Illinois and doppelganger for my high school's bagpipe playing girl's basketball coach (yes, it was a woman) is so gone!

It's Not Incest if it's Fictional


Supposedly Dexter's Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter have eloped in some super secret ceremony. I'm really only including this because on the show they play an adopted brother & sister and for some reason, though it doesn't make much sense, i find this just a tiny bit weird. But good! They make a killer pair. Har har. I'll go back to my corner now...

I Better Be Watching the Watchmen...


Or i'm gonna hulk out. Major. Big time.

In more super-fun Hollywood legal news, the studio battle over the rights to Alan Moore's graphic classic The Watchmen seems to be inching closer to a predictable conclusion. You know, the inevitable solution in which Warner Bros. forks over tons of cold cash to the disappointingly greedy, awful people at Fox so that they can proceed with releasing Zack Snyder's film adaptation on March 6.
I need to see this movie so fucking bad that it hurts. Like, really, i'm having major geek attacks on all fronts. If Fox blocks this release, i'm going to cry. Also, if it's released and it sucks, i'm seriously going to cry. And then get angry. And yell a lot. And call everyone i know even though i know they don't care. And then lock myself away and live off my rage and salty tears.

SAGgy





Remember this big fun last year? Ah, the months of painful reruns and reality shows, the skipped and shortened television seasons. Well, not only have we (supposedly) not yet experienced the results of the full fallout theatrically, as many of the films halted are slated for release this year, but we're not in the clear yet.

No, it's not the writers this time, but remember the strike rumblings from the Screen Actors Guild earlier in 2008? Yeah. That hasn't been resolved yet. Entertainment Weekly is reporting that the divided SAG is still planning on sending out ballots for the strike vote on/after January 14th. The celebrities are divided over $$ issues regarding DVD residuals, etc.


Meanwhile, i'm bummed out because i don't get paid enough for putting up with assholes all day. That's it, i'm walking out. I'm gonna be in pictures and fight for my DVD rights. STRIKE!

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