Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Blog Next Door Recap 2.0 or How while I'm away you should catch up!

Holidays 'round here begin this week so I'll be away from the blog for a while (partly because I'm (gasp!) going to be internet-less for the coming weeks) so feel free to peruse a selection of this year's best posts:

I love writing about animation, so feel free to start off with Pixar, or How Everything I know I learnt from Animation cause I'm really proud of that post. And if I hadn't already pledged my allegiance to that form (not a genre!) Andrew Stanton's Wall-E blew me away earlier this year, and proved to me that it might actually have a shot at a Best Picture Oscar: just look how much it has in common with that other animated BP nominee!

What else did I learn this past year? Well, I found out that my funniest film reviews come about when I really don't like a film. Don't believe me? Catch the reviews for, 27 DressesIndiana Jones IV, and W. And conversely, found that really inspiring films make me wordy and all 'deep': see those for Revolutionary Road, Happy Go Lucky, & Synecdoche New York .

In terms of music, among other things, I checked out Madonna's Hard Candy & Britney's Circus (and offered my own retail tie-in idea from the latter's Womanizer video). But really, all you should know about Pop Music is that it is just the newest version of Post-Humanism.

TV-wise, I Live-Blogged the Desperate Housewives season premiere (and survived!), dissected the women of Mad Men, listed my Favorite Characters on TV, fell in love with the Piemaker (and his clothes!) yet again and mourned his loss in my own way.

I realised Academic Biopics might be a way to earn some Oscars in the next few years, realised Can't Hardly Wait works as a who's who? of the 1990s. Also found out Bill Condon reads my blog: see? He took my suggestion of Hugh as Oscar host! Found that Academia can meet Pop Culture and found new political relevance in Tony Kushner's Angels in America after Prop 8.

I also participated in a couple of guest-posts over at The Film Experience. My favourite of which was Voice Actressexuality which spawned my My Stuff and Cr*p's Rugrats Blogathon post on Child (Voice) Actors. And yes, we started with animation and end there too... how predictable am I?

Enjoy! See you in 2009!

Oscar Predictions, or How The Race Continues

So now that I've seen some of the heavyweight contenders (Milk, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, Rachel Getting MarriedRevolutionary Road) I thought I should update my predictions (see my earlier ones here). Bear in mind, they're part predictions/part wishful thinking, which is why I am rallying behind Wall-E but keep some Oscar hopefuls I think are 'locks' by now, why I am rooting for a Kate double dip and yet trying to work with some well-known Oscar rules (rarely does an acting nom come unaccompanied with other noms; usually one Best Pic Pic doesn't translate into a Best Director nom, etc.). Without further ado, here goes:

Best Picture

Frost/Nixon (B)
Wall-E (A+)
Milk (A)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire (A+)

Wishful thinking: Revolutionary Road

Best Director

Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon - B)
Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight - A+)
Gus Van Sant (Milk - A)
David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire - A+)

Wishful thinking: Andrew Stanton (Wall-E - A+)

Best Lead Actor

Sean Penn (Milk - A)
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road - A)
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Wishful thinking: No Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)

Best Lead Actress

Meryl Streep (Doubt)
Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road - A)
Melissa Leo (Frozen River)
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married - A)
Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky - A-)

Wishful thinking: Kristin Scott-Thomas (I've Loved You So long - A+)

Best Supporting Actor

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight - A+)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Josh Brolin (Milk - A)
Robert Downey Jr (Tropic Thunder)
Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road - A)

Wishful thinking: Emile Hirsch (Milk - A)

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis (Doubt)
Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona - A)
Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)
Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Wishful thinking: Kathy Bates (Revolutionary Road - A)

Best Original Screenplay 

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (A)
Milk (A)
Rachel Getting Married (A)
Wall-E (A+)
The Wrestler

Wishful thinking: Burn After Reading (A-)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire (A+)
The Reader
Revolutionary Road (A)

Wishful thinking: The Dark Knight (A+)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frost/Nixon & The Other Boleyn Girl, or How I liked the other Peter Morgan film better

Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Rebecca Hall, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt & Matthew McFayden

Adapted from Morgan's play of the same name, it follows Richard Nixon and David Frost as they prepare for the TV showdown of the century, in a set of interviews following Nixon's resignation after the Watergate scandal. B

The Other Boleyn Girl
Directed by Justin Chatwin
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Jim Sturgess, David Morrissey & Mark Rylance

Adapted from Philippa Gregory's novel of the same name, it follows Anne and Mary Boleyn as they prepare for the sexual showdown of the century, in a set of romance plots following Katherine of Aragon's 'resignation' after she fails to give Henry VIII a male heir. B

If I have been glib in trying to find mirrors between these two Peter Morgan penned adaptations it is because I do believe there is much to be glimpsed at in Morgan's selection. At the heart of these two films we have a confrontation between two strong-willed characters, and they both end with the least-likely of the two succeeding. And yet, for all the flack TOBG got upon release (hanging at a mere 41% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to F/N's healthy 90%) I believe (despite Chatwin's boresome and infuriating direction - can you please not obstruct your actors with windows, ledges, gates!) the Portman/Johansson film is a much more enjoyable ride. Maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges but the historical drama meets soap opera of 16th C England is much more engrossing and vibrant than Morgan's own fictional dallying into late 20th C media politics. 

The reason? Their respective reach. 

Frost/Nixon is a tour de force commentary on the way media and politics came to a(n albeit rocky and tempestuous) marriage by the late twentieth century most prominently through the figure of Richard Nixon. It is also a great actor's showcase - more adequate for the stage, I presume, than for Howard's directed screen (a snore all the way through, if you want to credit the film for its depiction of 1970s life, credit Howard's production team not himself; all he gives are dull shot A, shot B scenes - no flair, and maybe the material needed none, but then one has to wonder why translate it to silver screen if it's gonna look like a filmed performance?). That said, Langella did little for me as Nixon - maybe I'm adverse to such mimicry? while Sheen and the ensemble cast (especially Hall and Bacon) really hit it out of the park for me, though not enough to fall in love with the film. I'll blame it on my age: really, two duelling white old(er) dudes are not really my fancy, especially when they seem to be engaging only when they're lifting its source material word by word from the small screen to... the silver screen, to little or no effect. Also, the docu-feel of all of it works really well on paper (Morgan's play employs it well to give insight into the characters in soliloquies) yet it seems too contrived for the realistic feel Howard/Morgan seem to be aiming for.

The Other Boleyn Girl on the other hand (maybe to much of its disadvantage) aims to cover a lot more ground and a lot more depth: what is TOBG if not an exploration of gender dynamics in dynastic 16th C England, an analysis of the political world of the times and an apropos (and more nuanced, I think) performance of 'corrupt power'? True, the plot starts losing some steam after we enter the last third of the film and some of the film's original intensity lags - especially considering we all know the outcome of Anne's gambles. It's true, I didn't love this film - but I did love Natalie (can we please ask her to play a bitch more often?) and Sandy Powell's costumes are enough to warrant the price of the ticket. To see Portman's character go from sly sister, to sexual seductress, to power-hungry mistress and later to become a powerless, slain queen is much more riveting than watching Nixon give you a five minute drunken scene where he's shown as 'vulnerable' but which has little or no weight on his character arc (what with it being a fictional scene and all) by the end of the film. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Norwegians, or How I (heart) the Daisies being pushed!

God, I love this show:

"But I don't need protection! That's what I have several long-standing restraining orders for."

"And if you want to enlist a crack team of P.I.'s from the Land of Norwegia, you go girl!"


"I love 'I have a plan' Ned: Who says spontaneous is sexy? Sexy is a man with a to-do list, schematics."

And what?!

Oscar Consensus, or How whither the women?

[And no, the title of this post does not refer to a certain ill-conceived remake that should give its thanks to Ms Benning for making it not an entire waste of my time]

Over at My Stuff and Cr*p, Michael has used his spreadsheet magic and come up with the films/directors/actors, etc. who have been gaining traction from the precursor awards and after looking at the list I was struck by something: 2008 is a boys year.

Think of the 5 films currently ahead and most likely to garner a BP nom: Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E (which I'm thinking might get the shaft for something like Frost/Nixon), The Dark Knight, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & Milk. (Should we add Doubt into the mix after its great showing in the SAG Awards noms? - let's not as it'll fuck up my theory)

How many of them are headlined/helmed by women? 

Sure. We're used to seeing a lineup of all-male directors (except a Coppola, a Campion or a Wertmüller here and there), but it strikes me that this year we might have a Best Pic lineup that so heavily skews towards the males it might actually be barren from also sweeping any Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress noms. The last couple of years had at least one or two BP films that centered on female characters (The Queen, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine). And yet, the more I look at past lineups, the more I realize they rarely celebrate films for/by women. 

That wouldn't be as surprising except in every 2008 wrap-up article, hits like Sex and the City: The Movie, Mamma Mia! and Twilight have help dub 2008 the year when Hollywood (finally? yet again?) realised women were a key demographic and that their voices had been heard. How sad that instead of acknowledging that, the Academy might keep the BP films in the hands of films that find only one top female headliner (Ms Blanchett in Fincher's film - or in the case Doubt gets in, we'll have Ms Streep) while the likes of Wendy and Lucy, Frozen River, Happy-Go-Lucky, Rachel Getting Married need to make do with critical praise and prizes (W&L just got honored by the Toronto Film Critics, FR got some love from the Indie Spirit Awards and the NBR, HGL got some Gotham/NYC online critics love and RCM keeps popping up as runner-up/winner in the critics prizes for Anne, Jenny Lumet's script and Demme himself). 

Another way of looking at this - to prove I am not being overly paranoid, or overly trite - is to look at the way the Actor/Actress nominations might go. If you truly don't believe me when I say the potential BP lineup is shaping up to look like a boys' club think of the Best Actress lineup: if indeed we are looking at a Streep, Winslet, Hathaway, Hawkins, Jolie combo we find that it shows none of them will come from BP nominees. And if, as in the Globes, Taraji P. Henson is snubbed, the Supporting Actress category is looking at the same trend. Indeed, it would seem only Fincher's film (from the above group of 6 BP possibilities, again excluding Doubt) might deliver an Actress nomination: I mean, does Rebecca Hall get anything worthy to do in Frost/Nixon? Maggie Gyllenhaal in TDK? Alison Pill in Milk? Freida Pinto in Slumdog? They are all adequate performances in adequate roles that don't go beyond "the girlfriend" (except for Pill, who from this list seems to have the more interesting, if limited, role). And then factor in that the Best Actor lineups with possible noms for Langella, Penn, Pitt, Ledger, Brolin, Patel and Franco (?) seem stuffed with those men involved in BP potentials.

This isn't news, I know - the predominantly white-old(er) Academy member is male and thus his "manly" picks shouldn't be surprising, but when a female director is ousted from a successful franchise and when a female co-director is not given equal credit in crafting the critical sensation of the year,  that - just as Ms Kidman tells Hugh in Australia - "just because it is, doesn't mean it should be"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Piven exits Speed the Plow, or How Mamet's wit is so scathingly awesome

“I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury,” Mamet said. “So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”

[src Variety]

Australia, or How only Baz could make a film like this

Directed by Baz Luhrmann 
Written by Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Hardwood & Richard Flannagan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham & David Gulpilil

How do you follow a threequel of sorts (Strickly Ballroom, william shakespeare's romeo+juliet and Moulin Rouge!) with a film so confident/ambitious you've named it after an entire country? Well, if you're Baz Luhrmann what you do is explode the 'epic movie', add a pinch of the theatricality that marked your earlier work, stylize it to extremes, enlist a great tech team, a couple of gifted Aussie thesps (and an unknown!) and you head to the outback to shoot Australia. Is the result an accomplished success like his 2001 Oscar-nominated musical wonder? Not particularly; but you have to give Baz & co. props for aiming so high with a project as expansive and unconquerable as the land it tries to portray.

What works:
- Nicole as Lady Sarah Ashley. To those who say that Ms Kidman has no range and little facial mobility I dare you watch her scene with Nullah as she explains the plot of The Wizard of Oz and not be moved (Kidman attempting to sing 'Over the Rainbow' is probably one of my favourite scenes in cinema this year)
- Hugh as the Drover. Need we say more?
- The cinematography. So gorgeous. It almost... almost made me think again about packing everything and going walkabout. But then, Y: The Last Man memories kicked in and well... we all know how that ended, right?
- Brandon Walters. Such a natural thesp... or maybe such a thesp because he's a natural.
- The costumes. Need I say that Kidman's dress is this year's green-library Keira gown for me? (Though Kate's Revolutionary Road's yellow city dress might tie for it)

What almost works
- The CGI backgrounds. Too painterly to be taken seriously and too realistic-looking to be taken George-Lucas-ey. 
- The length. A clip here and a clip there... though where? I still wonder.

There's plenty more to say about this film, but I think I need a couple of more views to be able to critically assess it. For now, let's just say it's a film I would recommend to anyone who loves film-making and who relishes the grandiose nature of The Baz. B+

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SMG's back! or How does this mean I have to read Coelho?

I'm not a big fan of Paulo Coelho, who I think writes trite self-help books masked as mediocre novels (see The Alchemist, which I haaate!) but I am a HUGE fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar - so much so that she made the 'inner square' of my Favourite Actresses image

Which is why I'm torn over the trailer for Veronika Decides to Die. But then, even in less than stellar material (Southland Tales, The Air I Breathe) SMG shines, and I've never faulted her for her clearly 'ambitious' and (shall we say it?) 'artistic' whims so count me in for whenever this opens in a limited engagement in NYC and LA sometime in... 2009.

Speed the Plow, or How Raul knocks it out of the park!

Speed the Plow
Written by David Mamet
Directed by Neil Pepe
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Raúl Esparza & Elisabeth Moss

For someone as interested in the world of Hollywood (the world that constantly gives me movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and personalities like Adam Sandler) Speed the Plow is a hysterical wit-filled ride as it follows Bobby Gould (a film producer in Tinseltown) being the center of a didactic play about the age-old question of the blockbuster vs the artsy film. Okay, so maybe it's not age old, but it sure as well comes up in conversations around me more often than not.

In any case, Speed the Plow is less about this conversation and more about its performers: Jeremy Piven - playing an albeit less annoying version of Ari Gold - is adequate as the conflicted Gould; Elisabeth Moss - playing the flirty and oddly naive Karen, works with the (albeit under-written) part she's got. But the show is entirely owned by Mr Esparza who plays Charlie Fox with such bravado you forget at the end that you are cheering on (or was that just me?) for the total annihilation of the promise of quality over the promise of big bucks. He is brass, loud and in-your-face in a way that makes Fox's tantrums less child-like and more sinister, pleading but also manipulative. He plays all the cards he has, not because he needs to (and he does) but because he thrives playing this Big Boys Game and won't let a girl, let alone one like Karen take the toys away. And that last scene alone, with the full blown confrontation is worth the price of admission. This is verbal sparring (and script throwing) at its best.  A

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Four Things Meme, or How I'm running out of things to disclose!

Rants of a Diva tagged us for this. It's pretty self-explanatory, so here goes:

1. Residence Advisor (Yes, I was that guy who told 18 year olds to shut it past quiet hours)
2. Waiter (for a catering company)
3. Summer Camp Counselor (and later Summer Camp Residence Supervisor)
4. And currently: Teacher Assistant (yay teaching writing to freshmen!)

1. Moulin Rouge!
2. Disney's Beauty and the Beast
3. My Best Friend's Wedding
4. Closer

I feel like I covered this in an earlier meme but whatever:
1. Bogota, Colombia
2. Vancouver, Canada
3. New Brunswick, USA
4. And currently: NYC, USA!

Reruns (I know I'm cheating)
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. Friends
3. Gilmore Girls
4. Will & Grace

On the Air
1. Mad Men
2. Battlestar Galactica
3. 30 Rock
4. Pushing Daisies

1. Toronto, Canada (my first 'winter Christmas')
2. Santa Marta, Colombia (what more does one need in a Caribbean resort?)
3. Las Vegas (no gambling for me, but the hotels are so pretty!)
4. Bournemouth, UK (lovely in the summer!)


1. Chicken Teriyaki
2. Any type of Curry (India, Thai, Japanese...)
3. Alfajores - I have a sweet set of teeth.
4. Arequipe! 

1. Someplace sunny and warm (though I'd be in the shade with tons of sunblock on, reading)
2. Eating a cinnamon bun @ Grounds for Coffee in Vancouver (or just having a cupcake @ Cupcakes down Denman)
3. Someplace in Texas having Malibu OJ with two of my favourite people.
4. In NYC (which if you're confused... just make note that I'm visiting family in Colombia)

Meh, you know who you are who haven't done this ;-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

FYC High School Musical 3: Senior Year, or How Go! Wildcats Go!

It's my blog and I'll FYC if I want to, FYC if I want to... 

Hugh Jackman to host Oscars, or How really: you heard it HERE first

The AP is reporting that Hugh is hosting the Oscar telecast, which is all very exciting, cause it proves that Bill Condon is most likely reading my blog.

Hugh Jackman
- Talent (not just comedic: please see Kate and Leopold; not just musical: please see The Boy from Oz and not just dramatic: please see The Fountain but also of hosting: please see The 59th Tony Awards and no, you're not allowed to think about Viva Laughlin...)
- Class: don't he look good in a tux?
- Drool-worthy Oscar moments: I mean, isn't he dreamy looking?
- Musical medleys! Think Billy Crystal only hotter!
- Industry good-will and good timing: Baz Luhrman's Australia will be coming out later this year, and it might make a big splash with AMPAS and X-Men: Origins will be coming out next year; it's perfect timing to get Jackman in the spotlight!
- International appeal: he is Australian for god's sake!
- Box-office clout. Two words: X-Men.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Revolutionary Road, or How suburban ennui never goes out of style

Revolutionary Road
Directed by
Sam Mendes
Written by Justin Haythe
Starring: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kathy Bates, Zoe Kazan & Michael Shannon

There are moments in a movie that so perfectly encapsulate the mood, tone, look and rhythm of a film and its performers that you just have to sit back and catch your breath. Revolutionary Road, adapted from the Richard Yates novel of the same name, has many such moments but one in particular still haunts me. April and Frank (Kate and Leo) are at the dinner table joined by the Givings (including their clinically insane son John - an electric Michael Shannon). Lunch is yet to be served, so the conversation steers in an awkward direction when John, seeing past the well polished facade of the Wheelers, hits a couple of nerves with his wildly inappropriate (though for that, no less accurate) remarks about the Wheelers' plans. It's a moment that offers these very gifted actors a well-written and staged scene: Frank loses his temper, Mrs Givings swoops in to avoid a physical confrontation, John cackles an lashes out at the couple; and April... well, she just sits still holding her cigarette looking ahead even when John is raising his voice and uttering one of the most searing lines in the entire film. Winslet - a truly remarkable force in this film, shines in this scene for the amount of emotions she manages to portray in a single look. After the Givings leave, Mendes has a close up of Kate with Leo squirming in the background unable to contain his emotions; but all we're focused on is Kate's face - stern, thoughtful, impossibly at ease. 

In a way this scene epitomises what the film is about - in a way it is a battle of wills that echoes Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but it is also much more introspective (look out for the constant close ups of April as she turns a teary eye into a faked smile; and of Frank as he contracts his face, always so at odds in showing how he claims he feels) and more focused on small moments (the breakfast table, a dance at a party) that spiral into big blown out fight scenes (outside the car, around the house). The Wheelers seem unhappy, and maybe they are, but both are so enraptured by their seemingness that is hard to get at what each really wants - it is not for nothing that Mendes turns again and again to shots of mirrors and reflective surfaces, reminding his audience that what these characters show is almost if not more important than what they are, think and feel. And that in itself is the true tragedy of this suburban couple that so vividly comes to life in the hands of two actors that in a decade of working apart come together to give us another tragically romantic story of a couple at odds with what the world has to offer them.

Mendes and his production team deserve a shout out for making this aching story such a beauty to watch: Roger Deakins' cinematography beautifully plays with sunlit rooms that defy their own promise of warmth and homeliness; Kristi Zea's production design meticulously recreates this mythic landscape of American suburbia; Albert Wolsky's costumes are gorgeous (I fell in love with each of April's dresses, and loved seeing 1950s beach wear) and lastly Thomas Newman (who already won me over with his Wall-E score earlier in the year) here just blew me away with a score that simmers and soars apace with Yates' creations. A

HSM3: Senior Year Ryan Action Figure, or How isn't this a Gay Action Figure?

Seriously. I had to do a double take while shopping for my younger cousins when I came across the Ryan HSM3 doll at Target.

Why is it that Disney can be so progressive in tie-ins but not on the silver/small screen?

Also, are we thinking this was from another scene left at the cutting room floor alongside that now infamous Zeffron shower scene? Discuss.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Golden Globe Predictions, or How I'm just offering general ones here

No time for full blown GG predix; I mean honestly there are WAY too many categories to cover. And while I think there are 'rules' to go by when predicting this crazy group (A-list Star in semi-baity role OR in relatively buzzed project = nom: see Amy Adams get in this way; Worldly subject matter with pedigree = nom: watch this help Slumdog Millionaire) I just don't have the time or the effort to get to it.

Instead, here's a wishlist (and yes, I am also throwing in TV stuff... so many people forget the HFPA also does TV!):

Kate Winslet double dips for Revolutionary Road and The Reader getting some love and some necessary traction if Camp Winslet wants to nab that Naked Golden Man this year.

Jane Krakowski gets some love for her portayal of kooky, self-obsessed Jenna on 30 Rock (Tina, Alec and the series are pretty much staples by now)

Pushing Daisies grabs noms for Comedy Series, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor, & Supporting Actress, proving once again that ABC doesn't know quality when it is being baked right in front of its Dancing with the According to Practice's face.

How I Met Your Mother cracks the Comedy lineup and is joined by NPH in the Supporting Actor category.

Brad and Angie get snubbed (Nothing against them but I'd like to see more diversity and less star wattage on the red carpet this year)

Mad Men ladies get to shine with nominations for January Jones, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks (the Johns - Hamm and Slatery - and the hot hot Series also get some love, of course)

The Dark Knight shows up in the Best Drama Picture.

Unsung (camp/gay icon) performers Michael Urie and Becki Newton get noms for their Mode Magazine duo.

Clint gets snubbed (sorry, but the Clint love is too much sometimes).

Charlie Sheen and his CBS sitcom pals get the shaft.

The Zeffron gets a nom for HSM3 to the public outcry of the older media elite.

Ms Fey double dips for Baby Mama and 30 Rock ending 2008 with a bang.

Sex and the City: The Movie nabs at least 2 nods (Best Comedy and Best Lead Comedy Actress for SJP) showing how much HFPA really adores the Parker vehicle.

We'll see if my foreignness and my inner will manage to make any of these come true.

The 20 Actresses Meme, or How my name is mB and I'm an Actressexual

This started over at The Film Experience, but I was tagged by JA over at My New Plaid Pants and it's already cropped up in a couple of other blogs I read, so here we go. 

My favourite actresses of all time:

(Clockwise) Felicity, Penelope, Natalie, Maggie, Emily, Amy, Tina, Bette, Lisa, Nicole, Judi, Alyson, Vivien, Mary, Kristin, Salma, Julia, Kate, Meryl and SMG

And now I need to tag some people:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Milk, or How Van Sant and Penn serve it up well

Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Victor Garber, Alison Pill and Diego Luna.

To watch Gus Van Sant's Milk is to be immersed in the world of Castro St in the 1970s. When the film starts, we are welcomed by archival footage of the political world on the streets, where homosexuals were arrested for no reason - it almost suggests to me that if Van Sant had had his way, he would have shot the entire film in a way that looked as if it were all archival footage (he finds ways around this: having pictures come alive, shooting some scenes up so close and so grainy they look old and dusty). If nothing else Milk needs to be the movie everyone who cares about Prop 8 and all other anti-gay laws passed this Nov 4th sees and recommends as widely as they can. For, unlike that other Oscar-baiting 'gay' project that was robbed of its statuette to that horrid Paul Haggis "film," Milk is unabashedly about the out, campy, in your face, 'we're here, we're queer' activist world of the 1970s civil rights movement (with man on man sex, drugs and blowjobs included!). Not something you see everyday on 'mainstream' movies, but which comes at a timely moment in this nation's (cultural) politics.

There are many things to love in Milk, many of which are its performers who so convincingly inhabit the characters they portray. Penn, who I've never really cared for is a revelation as the campy, strong-willed Harvey, and along with Franco he portrays one of the most realistic and (shall we say it?) ordinary gay couples I have seen on-screen. We feel for their relationship because it feels so 'lived in' and this is mostly due to Franco and Penn's performances, whose furtive smiles, annoyed looks and witty dinner table talk sell us on their relationship. Also worth singling out are Hirsch and Brolin, the former for its sunny persona as Cleve Jones (oh to dance and be caught in a dark room with him!) and the latter for embodying the slowly boiling turmoil he reveals with tight fists and crunched teeth. The only person I couldn't stand throughout was Diego Luna - maybe it was his hair, his facial hair, his accent or just his overall demeanour but god I just wanted him out of the frame every time he was on (a testament to how well he played the character? Maybe... but annoying nonetheless).

It may be a paint by the numbers biopic (and there's only so many ways you can make that interesting) but Van Sant's gritty direction, Danny Elfman's score and Harris Savides documentary-style cinematography make the film resonate in a way that exceeds its oh-so Oscar-baity and politically "liberally progressive" message. A

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Umbrella Academy Movie?! or How This is kind of Awesome!

Sure, we're pretty much sick of all the superhero movies coming our way: I'll grant that I'm excited for sequels for The Dark Knight (here's hoping!) and for Iron Man, but every other superhero franchise coming our way is dull to say the least (can we not import Robert Downey into the Avengers movie?); do we really need a Thor movie? A Captain America film? Yet another re-boot of Superman?

That said, I was thrilled when I read that Gerard Way's creation for Dark Horse, The Umbrella Academy is being fast-tracked over at Universal Studios. The Umbrella Academy tells the story of seven children who are born with supernatural powers (example: The Rumour's power is that every 'rumour' she utters becomes true) and are tutored by Dr. Hargreeves to become city heroes. 

From the very first page I knew I was going to like this comic-book. Actually, I take that back. From the cover, I knew I was going to like this comic book. James Jean never goes wrong. Also, having Scott Allie associated with a project is a plus any day.
So first page: I love Way's "notes from Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a.k.a. The Monocle" they're really funny and offered a good 'intro' to our Academy members. My favourite line:
"00.03 Insufferable, narcissistic creature, but extremely useful.
That said, after reading the first issue I fell in love with everything - the ridiculously crazy plot, the witty dialogue, the super-fun artwork by Gabriel Bá (reminiscent enough of his brother's work on Joss Whedon's Sugarshock but appropriately different to suit Mr Way's tone and story) and of course, the characters. Rumour might just actually have the greatest power I have ever heard of. So simple and yet so 'extremely useful.'
Can't wait to see who gets attached to this project. Would Tim Burton be too much of an obvious choice? Would Del Toro be a too lofty an ambition? I just hope Universal stays away from the Brett Ratners and Michael Bay types and sticks to the idiosyncrasies of the comic book. If I have peeked your interest, buy the trade paperback, now available with the first six issues arc (+ all the wonderful covers by James Jean!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prop 8: The Musical, or How NPH can do no wrong


See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

A Single Man, or How had I not discussed this earlier?

Okay so I have no clue what Tom Ford will do with Christopher Isherwood's beautiful book A Single Man, but I'll be damned if he didn't bring in a great team of thesps to help him (Colin Firth, Julianne Moore and Matthew Goode) - oh and glasses (see his glasses in the pic? That shows he's a 'thinking-man' director!)

Isherwood (who you might know from being the guy on whose stories (The Berlin Stories) the musical/film Cabaret is based on, only y'know, less gay)'s book is a meditation on gay life. I pulled up a meditation I had written about Isherwood's novella. Indulge me in my academic narcissism:

Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man accounts for the last day in the life of George: the single man from the title. But we all know that. And what happens that day, while important to the ‘plot’ of the novel, is the least important and (in my mind) less relevant aspect of the story when framed in light of a gay experiment in narrative. The exploration of George as a character that is at once a unified individual and at times a diluted and fragmented subject is one of the most striking aspects of Isherwood’s narrative. The seemingly internalised third person narrator shows us George as a subject that sleeps, drives, teaches and so on, but also at times, gives us the feeling that the character whom we are intimately getting to know can’t be dissociated from a performer: his subjectivity becomes then a creation and can only exist with an audience.
George presents himself always framed in a stage-space, always in need of being interpellated by an (imaginary) audience: “George slips his parking card into the slot (thereby offering a piece of circumstancial evidence that he is George)” (Isherwood 43). From the moment he gets up and the narrator conflates being and time in the axiomatic “I am now”, George is being hailed into being by the reader in the act of reading his present tense narration. It is when “he gets out of his car, [when] he feels a surge of energy, of eagerness for the play to begin…He is all actor now – an actor on his way up from the dressing room, hastening through the backstage world of props and lamps and stagehands to make his entrance” (44, emphasis added). While we can take this instance as the initial point where his performative nature begins and take it as an isolated event in the narrative, we should pay attention to the ways in which, for example, George talks of his ‘chauffeur’ and his ‘head talking’ personas as independent from the body/actor subjectivity he feels he has: “George realizes this with the same discomfiture he felt on the freeway, when the chauffeur-figure got them clear downtown…But here in broad daylight, during campus hours, when George should be on-stage every second, in full control of his performance!” (54).
But, even when George is not dissociated from his stage persona, his life seems to work as if he was always an actor: he has the part of a ‘single man’ that the title bestows on him; the role of professor that he enjoys playing; the narrative endows him with child-like qualities in response to Kenny’s “nanny-like” behaviour (163), and more poignantly, the last scenes with Kenny portray how Isherwood’s narrative constructs George as always performing a role. The last pages of the book work to (re)create George as role-playing a masochist educator following (if anything) the homosocial order of Classical Greece: Kenny enjoys calling George “sir”, Kenny’s attire “turn[s] itself into a Greek garment, the chlamys worn by a young disciple – the favourite, surely – of some philosopher.” (169); and lastly their relationship as framed in the platonic/symbolic dialogue places them with restricted roles to play: the masochist educator/teacher and sadist disciple/student. 
When this framework collapses and his fellow actor/audience leaves, it is the reader who is left alone with George and Isherwood’s narrator. And George, as if addressing us, takes it upon himself to change his role: “And I’m about to get much crazier, he announces. Just watch me, all of you!” (180) and “Daytime George may…question the maker of these decisions; but he will not be allowed to remember its answers in the morning” (181). Sadly for George the narrative and the irrepressible force of the past (overflowing with the finality of the preterit) engulfs him and forces him to portray the ultimate role: ‘the cousin of the garbage bag’.

In other words: read up children cause it's a short, brilliant piece of queer writing.

[Photo of Ford with (obviously scantily clad) extras via Towleroad]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Circus, Circus or How I'm Seeing Double

Seeing Double - Circus Edition:

"There's only two types of people in the world: 
The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe" sings Britney in the title track of Circus (coming out today!)

"There are two kinds of people in ze world: the ones that take the risks and make you feel something besides the dull thumping of your own heart and those that pay to watch." says Pierre in Pushing Daisies' earlier episode of the season Circus, Circus.