Thursday, April 30, 2009

Every Little Step, or How you really hope they get it

Every Little Step
Directed by Adam del Deo & James D. Stern

They say (who is 'they,' don't ask me...) that documentaries are as good as their subjects. Maybe this is why I enjoyed Every Little Step so much: its 'subject' (auditions and performers, Broadway and a classic musical) is utterly hypnotizing and makes for a great ride. Del Deo and Stern takes us back in time to the 1970s when Michael Bennett sat down with a bunch of NYC dancers and taped a session where they discussed their lives as performers. From that initial session came the stories that make A Chorus Line, whose revival sets the stage for another set of auditions and stories which the documentary tracks. It's 'meta' filmmaking at its best: a doc about auditions and performers vying for a spot in a show about auditions and performers based on try stories about auditions and performers. That all these strands are kept nicely balanced throughout, shows the deft and clear vision of its directors: we care about the performers we meet but we also follow the show's creation and process, and enjoy the snippets of the actual show we glimpse from auditions and callbacks. With a format that might mirror current reality TV, Every Little Step's never misses a beat by knowing that it is not only echoing but re-enacting the show which it is at once following and re-creating. A

Scene to watch out for: Jason Tam's heartbreaking audition for 'Paul' which left both the production team (and this audience member) in tears.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Julia Roberts, wtf? Or How I (heart) Julia

As if I didn't love Julia Roberts enough, here she is roasting Tom Hanks at an event honoring him at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Best line: Tom Hanks, what the fuck?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

30 Rock, or How "Elisa! Elisa! La Viuda Negra!!"

Liz can't read the Spanish-language websites on Elisa, but I CAN:

"The Black Widow is Elisa Pedreira and she is known for having killed her husband. She is a woman very jealous. No cross her. No make her anger. No look other woman. No talk close to other woman. When in presence of Black Widow is better to pretend no other woman in exist Earth. The Black Widow is very pretty and that is what makes it so dangerous. When is about the Black Widow is better smile the smile, but not too much or too little. No touch unless she gives you permission. No take nothing from her without permission. No forget of your love with all your heart for all the time and more"

I tried to mimic the syntax and bad grammar as best as possible. But here's to the hit song 'La Viuda Negra':

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lisa the Drama Queen, or How I'm Seeing Double

The Simpsons' "Lisa the Drama Queen" took a page (or two) from Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (minus the whole matricide, of course...)

And it left me wondering: so is Lisa Kate, then? Or would it be the other way around?

Die Twilight, or How I (heart) Guillermo del Toro

"None of this romantic, languid young men sucking the necks of beautiful people." He reassures his hardcore horror fans that he will not be churning out more of the same. "I tried also to make the vampires as menacing and as real and as absolutely disgusting and as alien as possible," he promises."I tried to make them into a plague of creatures where you did not recognize their humanity — but our own inhumanity in them."

Del Toro on his take on Vampires for his upcoming books and how they're NOT like those /other/ books that are such a hit with the tweens

[via Vulture]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gigantic, or How THIS is what's wrong with indies these days

Written by: Matt Aselton & Adam Nagata
Directed by: Matt Aselton
Starring: Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman & Ed Asner.

It had been a while since a film infuriated me and frustrated me more than Gigantic did. In a way, the film takes most of the things we tend to love (or at least appreciate watching) in "indie" films (quirky characters, dysfunctional families, introspective leads) and uses them in such bizarrely contrived ways that you end up wondering why someone (Aselton, I presume) would think all of the elements belonged in one single film. Take for example Ed Asner's character: he is Paul Dano's father (I won't even bother with names, cause they alone made me roll my eyes every time; "I'm Happy, I mean, my name is Harriet, but everyone calls me Happy", seriously?) and every scene he's in becomes a "Old People Are Crazy" skit, having him ask for bourbon at an office ("Dad they don't do that anymore"), wonder why Paul doesn't have a porter in his apt ("He lives in squalor!" he exclaims) and be utterly overwhelmed by a cellphone. In the same way characters like Deschanel's "Happy," Goodman's "Al Lolly" and Dano's "Brian Weathersby" (see what I mean?) become mere caricatures of themselves by pushing their endearing quirks to awful extremes: Happy comes off as a 'happy drunk,' Al's racism and homophobia try to come off as tongue in cheek but that somehow rings hollow while Brian's big reveal at the end of the film seems like a cinematic cop out for character development since it doesn't feel earned or deserved.

There are good moments in the film (the pool scene between Deschanel and Dano is starkly cute) but these characters, their lives and their dialogue inspired little other than frustration so that when we get to the end of the film and Brian's mom and Happy share a balcony scene and actually utter the words "I think I fucked things up"/"Nothing in this world is fucked up" (or something as inane like that) I wanted to mirror a character in the film and punch these people in the face. Thank god I had Ms Deschanel's wardrobe to stare at (and sometimes puzzle over) otherwise I think I might have walked out. C -

Friday, April 17, 2009

30 Rock, or How Tina & co. makes my Thursdays THAT much better.

"Friendship and trust in the entourage is the most important thing. Like that HBO show... John Addams"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Grey Gardens or How Barrymore + Lange = Great TV

Grey Gardens
Written by: Michael Sucsy & Patricia Rozema
Directed by: Michael Sucsy
Starring: Jessica Lange, Drew Barrymore, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Daniel Baldwin, Ken Howard & Malcom Gets.

Grey Gardens, a TV Drama produced by HBO based on the lives of Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale (relatives of Jackie O) is an amazing journey - a "riches to rags" story like no other, filled with humour, singing, dancing and top notch production (the transformation of the eponymous house from 1930s splendor to drab 1970s squalor is mesmerizing). And that doesn't even begin to describe the acting talent that its two protagonists showcase here. Now, to say that Ms Lange is a wonder is no surprise: her crazy cheekbones and commanding voice and presence suit Big Edie well (both early on as wealthy bohemian matron and later as recluse commanding mother) but the surprise (obviously) comes from realizing that the Barrymore name comes not in vain with Ms Drew who (and what a biopic cliche!) 'becomes' Little Edie - a character which could have easily become a caricature had Barrymore not tinged her quieter moments (and her louder ones as well) with a vulnerability and tenderness that humanizes her portrayal. This is such a luscious production (the music! the art direction! the costumes!) that dazzles without losing the heart and soul of the two characters at the center of the drama. A+

Monday, April 13, 2009

Zefron Flag, or How Zac does GQ

There's a joke in here about flag poles or blowing but I am just in awe and can't be bothered with the funny while staring at Zac's pic from his GQ spread.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mrs Harris, or How Ms Benning never lies

"Cruelty isn't a crime, boredom is."

From Mrs. Harris, which features an amazing female ensemble:

Cloris (in her SAG/Emmy nominated role)


Ellen (in her infamous Emmy-nominated 30 second role)





& 'Cuddy'

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ms Pfeiffer, or How remind me to NEVER get on her bad side

So no later than a day after my last Pfeiffer post I find myself posting a new picture, but I recently watched White Oleander for the first time and it solidified what I've always thought:

Never get on Ms Pfeiffer's bad side! 

Cause behind that icy smile, there's a gargantuanc condescendingly aggressive personality waiting to come out and cut you ("What are you gonna learn from her... how to pine artistically?" - well, Renee is quite good at that, actually)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What a tease! or How I love me a good one-sheet

And here are two of them:

Nora Ephron's Julie and Julia:

and Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock:

PS. Both films made my Most Anticipated Films of 2009, so color me (even MORE) excited!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Important Artifacts, or How BUY THIS NOW!

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, including books, street fashion, and jewelry is, to put it lightly one of the best books I've read in a long time. Sure, sue me because the only reason I looked it up was because Ms Portman and Mr Pitt have recently signed on to star in the silver screen version/adaptation of this romantic tale, but mark my words: Leanne Shapton's 'auction catalogue' is a wonder of a book.

The book "tells" the story of Doolan and Harris through the items that mark their relationship (letters back and forth, email printouts, clothing, gifts, etc.) and it is an achievement for Shapton to be able to create such full-fledged characters from mere objects. Forgive me while I put on my 'graduate student hat' for a second and quote Elaine Freedgood from her book The Ideas in Things:
The writer must “translate” the world rather than copy it. “The aim of Art, in depicting any natural object, is to produce in the mind analogous emotions to those produced by the object itself; but as with all our skill and care we cannot imitate it exactly, the aim is not attained by transcribing, but by translating it into the language of Art.” [George Eliot, Letters to Ruskin] The writer doesn’t “transcribe” the things of the world, but gives us instead some “translation” of them that will produce in us emotions that would be similar to those produced by the real stuff were it present: a subjective correlative, as it were. (118)
Shapton takes these ideas and literalizes. The romance (and break up) of Doolan and Harris as told by their objects is incredibly touching and real: here, playbills and slippers and dresses speak up and become both center of and the vehicle for this story. Shapton's is a testament to the vicissitudes of materiality, a nostalgic look at how the objects that fill out our lives tell our story (that in 2009 we can still tell this story says as much more about the 'virtual revolution' than the endless Facebook and twitter updates flooding the net) and a heartbreaking romance that, though elusive and fragmented still hits home even though it ends as abruptly as it begins: with the turn of a page.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

United States of Tara, or How Toni's amazing

So comes the end of United States of Tara Season 1. We met Buck (who's a lefty), Alice (who's in charge), t (who's sex-crazed) and gimme (who's a forest animal minus the cute?) - all of Tara's alter(ed state)s. 

Codyisms ran amok, pop culture references went through the roof, indie soundtrack prevailed but all in all I really enjoyed hanging out with these characters. Honestly, using DID (while still staying true to it) to depict (dys)functional families makes for great television. Throw in lopsided boobs, Christian closet cases, Patton Oswalt, self-made sex toys, sexual harassment in the workplace, suburban ennui, a green VW beetle, a hellhouse, and really all I can say is: can someone please get Toni Colette her Emmy?

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Lion King, or How Everything I Know I Learnt from Animation

Everything I Know I Learnt From Animation: The Lion King Edition

So clearly I'm a child of the 90s and with that comes the educational value of the Disney animated musicals. You've seen what I learnt from a tale of love between a beauty and a beast; what a mermaid taught me while under the sea, and the Herculean lessons I gathered from that Greek-myth based film. But if there was a gigantic runaway Disney animated success in the 1990s it was a Shakespearean story (psst... it's  Hamlet!) set in the African serengeti. So, what did we learn from spending time with a pack of lions?

'Hakuna Matata' 
It's a problem-free philosophy!

Frisky girls will always want to be on top
Ed note: this doesn't change with age (See older Nala)

Effeminate birds make for great assistants. 
That works on so many levels I'm surprised Disney would even teach that!

Unwed, childless men are evil. 
You can tell by their swagger and their icy cold dialogue delivery.

James Earl Jones's voice is heavenly. 
For good contrast see Star Wars.

Sun = Good. Shadow = Bad. 
It's Western Civ 101, really.

Hyenas are prone to fascism.
Or was it fascism = bad? I forget sometimes.

Babies are everything.
Yes, this film is 'heteronormativity' 101.

What did Simba & co. teach you?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dollhouse, or How it's good: tell your friends

Dollhouse just keeps getting better and better. Joss and co. have started to flesh out the universe of the Dolls and have worked hard at exploring the moral ramifications of the actions of the Dollhouse without sacrificing tension, drama and even romance. The latest episode ("Needs") was an interesting (literal) mind-bending experiment that saw Echo, Victor, Sierra and November deal with their 'inner demons' and sought closure through their newly found free-willing actions. But then, nothing ever beats 'concept episodes' in a Whedon show right? Here's to looking forward to next week's installment.