As I was typing up my list of Top 20 Actors, I bemoaned to myself that Ewan McGregor (who I can't NOT-love after Moulin Rouge!) hasn't had the greatest track record (why must he play second-fiddle to Oscar winners in thankless roles? Yes, I'm looking at you Miss Potter and Amelia!) And then, as if answering my prayers, come the trailer for The Men Who Stare at Goats (which seems like it'd make a great triple feature alongside A Serious Man and The Informant! no?)
I love me some Clooney comedy and some rugged Ewan, so here's hoping the film delivers.
Goes to show how much I love actresses that when Nat posted his list of Top Favorite Actors and beckoned for our own lists... well, I gotta say I sat in front of my MacBook scratching my head, imdb-ing and wikipedia-ing more than I should have. And even then I could barely make a Top 20, but here goes:
Top 20 Actors
It's a hodge-podge mix of Old & New, Rising and Established, TV & Film
Diva (n.) A celebrated female singer. Derived from the Italian/Latin adjective diva for "divine female person." The basic sense of the term is "goddess."
Diva: Julie Andrews as Victoria Grant in Victor Victoria (1982)
First let's do a simple checklist, a good diva needs:
1. A powerful entrance.
Nothing says "diva" like capturing the camera's attention from the moment you're on screen.
Lucky for Victoria she gets two "entrances." For the first one (and continuing a trend in introducing divas) we only at first hear her voice as we follow the camera along before finding her mid-audition (sadly, she doesn't get the job). Not a good start. It's a good setup though.
But later! Oh later does she get her diva entrance in full!
As 'Victoria' she makes a splash with her iconic shimmering frock to the tune of 'Le Jazz Hot' (one of my all-time favorite musical sequences in film) - I mean, she gets a spotlight, a closeup, a shimmering gown: what else does a diva need for an entrance?
2. A great wardrobe (including an amazing headdress!)
I mean, what better way to capture anyone's looks than by drawing attention to your body?
It seems being a diva and being costumed by an Academy Award nominated Costume Designer go hand in hand: Ms Andrews' Oscar-nominated frocks came courtesy of Ms Patricia Norris and they ran the gamut from flashy (Le Jazz Hot's silvery sensation) to mutely appropriate (the flamenco ensemble). The fact that they sway from overly feminine (Victoria) to faux-masculine (Victor) adds to the allure and caché of Ms Norris' designs. That we're located in the showbiz world allows for wildly accessorized ensembles that quickly draw attention to themselves (I mean, is she wearing a chandelier on her head, perchance?).
3. A loving entourage (read: a lovely audience)
What's a diva without an adoring fan-base?
Always able to escort and dance around 'Victoria' the dancers from her ensemble are like a little dancetourage (and look! aren't they pretty?). But of course Victoria also has adoring fans outside of the thea-tah (most notably 'Toddy' who keeps her secret to her success, and King Marchand who seems oddly attracted to that 'man in drag' - even Norma becomes a fan once she sees 'Victoria' perform!)
To create one iconic character (Mary Poppins) would be a thrill for any actress, to create two (Maria from The Sound of Music) would be a blessing... but for Julie Andrews, so 'late' in her career to knock this one out of the park, well, that just proves how great talent sometimes really is rewarded in Hollywood (Notice how all three performances were nominated for an Oscar, with a win coming for her film screen debut in that Disney flick).
Oh Julie, when you play me "le jazz hot" baby, you're holding my soul together too!
Speculation about Paramount's decision to move Scorcese's Shutter Island from Oct 2009 (primed for Oscar season) to February 2010 (Oscar no-man's-land) range from idiotic ("it's no good!" - uh, hello, DiCaprio + Scorcese + crazy Patty Clarkson? Riiight) to industry-savvy ("it makes more sense financially to not spend $50M+ for an Oscar campaign") but I think I figured it out: Leo's just gotten used to having 2 big releases per year.
Don't believe me? Let's group Leo's biggest (post-Titanic) "hits" by year:
(Okay one, but didn't it feel like TWO?)
My theory fails me in 2000/2001
Noticeably absent or not grouped at all: The Beach (2000), cause... let's just forget about that one, shall we? and Don's Plum (2001) which I had never heard about before...
This way, Leo can have Scorcese's Shutter Island nicely paired alongside Nolan's Inception and make 2010 another banner year where we'll probably be asking ourselves: "What film will he be nominated for...?"
Wow. Some are still awe-inspiring (Jurassic Park, T2) and put so many FX oriented tentpoles to shame (Wolverine I'm talking to you!) while others just showcase what happens when good story meets appropriate effects (Mary Poppins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Curious Case of Benjamin Button):
I love The Apartment (and not just because of the great performances by Jack Lemon and Shirley McLaine). While re-watching it yesterday I realised I love this sequence at the beginning where Baxter sits down to eat dinner and while being intrigued by the prospect of watching Grand Hotel the TV keeps going to "a message from their sponsor" and other channels just have cowboy movies where things crash and people fight. I love it mainly because you could it set it in 2009 and it'd still work and it'd still be relevant: marketing and bang! bang! turn smart viewers off. No?
I'm not here to discuss any new releases (District 9 rocks by the way!) or new TV Shows (I'll be getting to Mad Men Season 3 opener later today) or casting news (Brad Pitt on Sherlock Holmes whaa?) - no, I'm gonna use my blogging powers (as feeble as they may be) to tout my brother's work on Youtube:
It bears noting that no... the love for animation is not accidental or coincidental in our family since. It's the family business after all:
Does the character look familiar? It's the animated version of the original Ugly Betty (the Colombian one): my mom's company produced it, and I can safely say that the bee sequence was much too painful to colour in: I would know! It took me an entire weekend!
I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who thinks this whole Entertainment Weekly giving bi-weekly covers to Twilight is bullsh*t (seriously, off the top of my head I can think of about 4 covers this year alone). I know they sell, but of ALL the Fall films they had to choose this so-called "saga" for their cover story?
Thankfully, the peeps at TV Addict agree with me, and came up with an alternate cover: one I would MUCH rather buy/read:
Ugh. This movie (and its marketing) are driving me nuts! (I love me some Richard Gere and some Ewan McGregor but Swank is someone I can't stand to watch on screen - Boys Don't Cry excepted). With this, its new poster and it's holier than thou artwork, I'm pretty sure I won't be lining up to watch it when it comes out this fall.
[Disclaimer. Excepting the title, this post has been edited to purposely exclude food puns. If you want those, please go ahead and read any and all other reviews about Nora Ephron's latest]
Julie & Julia
Written and Directed by: Nora Ephron
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina & Jane Lynch (!)
The premise is simple: Julie Powell, a lowly cubicle worker in NYC (living in Queens - eek!) decides to plow her way through Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and write a blog about it: 524 recipes in 365 days is no small feat but also not very cinematic. This explains why the other half of this film focuses on Child's years in Paris as she learns the art of cooking. Indeed, this double narrative gives Ephron a way to explore the larger than life Child figure and off-set the shrewish and at times off-putting antics of Adams' Julie. While the Queens-dwelling blogger's story is what drives the plot, I think the screenplay gives her little to do other than give a framing device for the much more exciting (and laugh-out-loud funny) story of her icon, Julia Child. This is of course, fine by me. I love Adams, but I love Meryl more.
There is a key therefore, to understanding this film and its centerpiece (namely, Streep's depiction of Julia Child). Since as audience members, we are put squarely in Julie Powell's shoes we are invited to see and explore Julia Child's life through Julie's eyes. The movie is very forthcoming about this in one of its final scenes, but I think it bears pointing this out because for all the strong work that Adams does as Julie, it is Streep (and to a lesser extent, Tucci as her husband and Lynch as her sister) who steals the show and does so by playing, not Julia Child per se but Julie's Julia Child. It is because Streep understands this that her depiction of Child hits the right chord: in a crowded NYC theater, every gesture (smile, look, grunt, you name it) from Streep delighted the audience. Just like Julia, Streep seems motivated by the motto: 'Never apologize' (and why would she? She's Meryl effin' Streep for goodness sakes!). This makes watching Julia's move from 'wife' to 'hat-maker' to 'cooking student' to 'cookbook writer extraordinaire' that much more thrilling; it gives the audience (and Julie) a way out of our own lives and into the cinematically enhanced world of Paris with Julia as our foodie guide.
Ultimately, Julie & Julia is a well crafted picture with a wonderful lead performance by Streep that has an obscenely hilarious first hour (the second half lags a bit) which effortlessly teeters between froth and funny without sacrificing character and offering up mouth-watering shots of food of all kinds. A-
Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002), based on the true story of con-artist Frank Abagnale Jr is a film I hadn't seen since its release. Only things I remembered: it featured one of Leo/Tom's most effortless (and humorous) performances, a quirky score and an array of great up and coming actresses. Upon re-watching it, I couldn't help but think of the film (and its young actresses) as a lovely preamble to what are turning out to be accomplished Hollywood careers.
Inspired by Nat's wonderful Vanity Fair series, I figure I would pay him a compliment by taking his concept/template and apply it to the women of Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can.
And so, without further ado:
Ellen Pompeo plays a flighty flight attendant who's quickly taken with Leo's Frank Abagnale Jr.
Before 2002, Ms Pompeo had been doing odd-jobs here (Law & Order) and there (Strangers With Candy). After Catch Me If You Can she still had a couple of years where she did small work (in Daredevil, who knew? in Friends?!) and it wasn't until she was cast as Dr Grey in Shonda Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy and she is now probably the most well-known whiny doctor on Network TV.
Jennifer Garner plays a high-paid...er... "model" (who was on the cover of 17 Magazine)
Before 2002, Ms Garner was probably best known for her work on TV (in Time of Your Life and her small role in Felicity). Catch Me If You Can came at a cross-roads moment for Ms Garner: JJ Abrams' Alias blew up into our screens only the year before and everyone was abuzz with the spy-centered show and it's kick-ass (and mostly flawless) first season. Daredevil would soon follow which made way for its horrid spin-off (Elektra-whichwasnotwarmlyreceived).Manywouldhavecrumbledaftersuchamisfire,butMsGarnerhasalwaysbeen good at switching back and forth between comedy and action-dramas, so her rom-coms (13 Going on 30, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) have kept her afloat. A high profile hubby and a family (hint: rhymes with Baffleck) would soon follow as well as her career-best work in a Best Picture nominee (Juno).
Amy Adams plays a braces-addled nurse whose wide-eyes are all oogly for Frank.
Before 2002, Adams was doing bit work around TV (most notably for us geeks in Joss Whedon's Buffy The Vampire SlayerwheresheplayedCousinBethtoWillow'sgirlfriendTara,butimdblistsothersmallrolesinavarietyofshows:Charmed, Smallville, Providence) so her role as Brenda in Spielberg's film was arguably her most high-profile role of her career. Stardom and bankability was still a while away: Amy had to wait a couple of years, but once Junebug hit theaters in 2005, well... a star was born. An Oscar nomination for this small indie film brought her into the fold and proving this was no fluke, she has since proven herself a box-office draw in a Disney flick (Enchanted), a funny girl with her stint at The Office as Jim's girlfriend (and her parts in Talladega Nights and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian), and with a couple of Meryl films (last year's Doubt for which she received her second Oscar nom, as well as this week's Julie & Julia),Adamsisnowsquarelyabona-fideactressinhighdemand.
Elizabeth Banks plays a flirty bank teller who falls head over heels for Mr Abagnale Jr.
Before2002,Ms Banks had a couple of bit roles here (Sex and the City) and there (Spiderman - whose role she reprised throughout the trilogy), and while this role didn't quite catapult her anywhere (nor did her role in Best Picture nominee Seabiscuit the following year), she has been working hard since. One could argue that Ms Banks is still waiting for that one big breakout role but solid work in comedies (Meet Dave, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Fred Claus) and some dramas (Heights) have made her profile a bit more public.Everything suggested that 2008 was going to be bigger for her with a high-profile role in Oliver Stone's W. as Laura Bush, a suggestive Kevin Smith comedy (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) and a raunchy comedy role (Role Models) but not even this three-punch was able to materialize into anything other than some magazine profiles here and there.
Can you guess who's one of the lucky gals who gets picked as one of Frank's Panam girls?
Or Whiskey/Dr Saunders herself.
Or, as imdb.com knows her: Amy Acker who before this smallest of roles didn't have much to show for her resume (and this hardly counted, I'm sure) but who had come crashing into fanboys' lives only months before with the introduction of Winifred Burkle in Joss Whedon's Angel. ItseemsMsAckerismoreathomeingeek-fulshows(withstintsinAliasandDollhousecomingafterAngel fadedaway) andwhose next project includes Happy Town on ABC this fall looks to follow on those same eerie, fringe-y footsteps.
Average age: 29 Collective Hardware (Emmys/Oscars/Golden Globes) stats before Catch Me If You Can: 0. Collective Hardware (Emmys/Oscars/Golden Globes) stats after Catch Me If You Can: 2 Oscar noms (courtesy of Ms Adams), 6 Golden Globes noms (3 for Ms Garner, 2 for Ms Adams and one for Ms Pompeo) and 1 Golden Globe win (for Ms Garner in her first season of Alias)aswellas4Emmy nominations for Ms Garner. Ms Banks only has an ensemble SAG nod while Ms Acker is a Saturn Award winner (as is Ms Garner) and a multiple nominee. Fame levels in 2009, according to famousr, from most to least:JenniferGarner, Ellen Pompeo,AmyAdams,AmyAcker, Elizabeth Banks.