Friday, December 10, 2010

Villains! or How Everything I know I Learnt From Animation

It's been a while since I've done one of these, and what better way to celebrate Donna Murphy's induction into the Disney Villains Hall of Fame (with her deliciously scene-stealing Mother Gothel in Tangled) than by telling you what I've learnt from Disney's villains?

And so I give you, with my tongue clearly planted in my cheek,

The Top 10 Things I've Learned from Disney Villains

1. Mother knows best (Tangled).
Sure, she's overprotective and only has selfish reasons as to why Rapunzel should stay in her tower, but this kernel of wisdom need not be underestimated.

2. Don't ever underestimate the power of body language! (The Little Mermaid).
Who knew that the film that taught me the word 'reprimand' would also be the one to give me guiding when hitting up the clubs? That said, this works as advice for us that aren't also gifted with beautifully alluring voices (or sumptuous red hair!)

3. Good looks and impressive pecs won't get you the girl (Beauty and the Beast).
Someone had to break it to me (I mean, Belle chose the bear/beast for god's sakes!)

4. Be prepared (Lion King).
Some would say that boy scouts taught us this, but... I was never one to seek out old men to get a new badge, so it took an effeminate lion to teach me the basic tenet of Life: be prepared!

5. With infinite power comes responsibility (Aladdin).
Yeah, I didn't need Tobey to lecture me on this because Jafar had already taught me that if you get unlimited cosmic powers, you also get unfashionable Wonder Woman-like bracelets that imprison you.

6. Fashion comes at a price (101 Dalmatians).
One which is much too adorable to pay.

7. You can be cool and be flaming (Hercules).
Another gay-themed lesson from the greatest Disney soul-trader around.

8. There's always some hot new white thing ready to take your 'fairest of them all' crown. Also: apples/fruits are deadly (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).
I've outgrown that last one, but that first lesson still sticks with me to this day.

9. Evening wear and swamps don't really mix (The Emperor's New Groove & The Rescuers).
Who knew Disney was so intent on teaching me what's appropriate to wear in swamps? [Oh Yzma, so full of wisdom (see more here)]

& of course, the takeaway:
10. Evil is sexy, alluring, seductive, stylish, witty, hip and hilarious, but sadly, it does not pay off and if you follow these villains' path you'll end up incarcerated, eaten alive by your cronies, dead or worse...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Swan, or How I'm obsessed, Nina Sayers-obsessed!

Black Swan
Director: Darren Aronosfky
Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz & John McLaughlin.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Wynona Ryder.

If you've been following me on Twitter (and let's face it, you probably have since I've mostly abandoned the blog... real life and school has beckoned - I'll try my best to keep it pseudo-active, I promise!) you know I was obsessed with Aronosfky's Black Swan even before it came out. This would usually have led me to overhype the film to an absurd degree and in the end found it wanting. But quel surprise! The film lived up to my crazy (mark my word!) expectations and I'm probably MORE obsessed now, not least because the film combines so many things I adore both personally and academically.

I could probably go on for hours about how Natalie's performance is as bit an achievement as everyone has been saying (compare the scene where she calls her mom from the bathroom to the fight scene in the dressing room and not only do you notice this is a thespian in full control of her body, her voice and her performance, but someone fully committed to the part, even though it takes her from one extreme to another - usually in less than it takes the camera to blink and catch her on the mirror!). The supporting cast isn't far behind, giving us a complex Mommie Dearest, a doppelganger worthy of Nabokov, a sexy/ual choreographer and a drunken, broken and past-her-prime Wynona (which, you gotta admit, is a great casting coup in it of itself).
I could also go on for hours on the beautiful cinematography and on Aronosky and Libatique's choice to film with hand-held cameras, usually keeping us behind Nina's head, as if we were at once stalking, preying and encouraging her. This is particularly effective in the ballet sequences which forgo the usual fourth wall/from the audience POV and instead place us alongside Nina/Natalie, giving us a real sense of the physicality and intensely emotional ride that is dancing in front of an audience.
But instead I'll simply ask you to go watch it and experience it for yourself, and find yourself being plunged into a frenzied film that can only be described as a 'balletic horror film' (or would a 'horrific ballet film' be more appropriate? Clearly, in the world of doppelgangers and mirrors that Aronofsky creates, the distinction becomes mere semantics). A

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception Island or How I'm Seeing Double

Leo is really perfecting his "grieved by his wife" role no? Despite the differences in style, tone and subject matter, at heart these two Leo DiCaprio films have an unstable man trying to keep his grasp of reality intact. I enjoyed both of them more than the critical community it seems, but then I'm a sucker for smarter-than-they-think-they-are screenplays and for well-executed plot twists that aren't really that twistey to begin with.

But really, who can blame DiCaprio's characters with these beauties at his side?

I don't even know if I could pick one over the other... Actually yeah: Marion's deep blue expressive eyes trump even waif-y Michelle's downcast eyes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Kids Are All Right, or How I kinda wanna drink with Annette Bening now

Saw The Kids Are All Right and yes, all the praise is well-deserved. It is a hysterical film that treads difficult issues and doesn't shy away from being at once light and funny, while remaining serious and heavy. The cast is in top form of course:

Wasikowska, Hutcherson and Ruffalo provide solid support for the main couple, but clearly the film belongs to Julianne Moore and Annette Bening who give nuanced and funny performances. Moore plays the west coast hippie "good vibe"/fun mom while Bening plays the uptight, 'write thank you notes' mom. In my head, it's as if a gay Carolyn Burnham (American Beauty) had married a sunnier/hippier Laura Brown (The Hours).

But you know who in my head, did the best supporting work in the film?


(props to @ClaytonArbo for the punchline)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

15 Reasons you should be watching Web Therapy, or How look! Funny famous people!

Are you watching and keeping up with Lisa Kudrow's hilarious web-improv series Web Therapy? Why the hell not? The premise ("50 minute therapy sessions are just too... much, I do 3 minute sessions via iChat") is hysterical and the guest stars alone should make you chuckle.

Don't believe me? Here:

15 Reasons you should be watching Web Therapy.

Tim Bagley

Rashida Jones & Dan Bucatinsky

Bob Balaban

Jane Lynch (playing an anger-prone exec = COMEDY GOLD!)

Julie Claire

Courtney Cox-Arquette (playing a psyhic!)

Steven Weber
Alan Cumming & Victor Garber

Michael McDonald

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (As Fiona's sister = DysFUNction!)

Selma Blair

Molly Shannon


Of course

Lisa Kudrow

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TiMER, or How this a good Sci-Fi Comedy!

Written & Directed by: Jac Schaeffer
Starring: Emma Caulfield, Michelle Borth, John Patrick Amedori, Desmond Harrington & JoBeth Williams.

Emma Caulfield + Quirky name = Awkward Comedy Gold

"So, what do you do?"
"Far out. Like a dentist?"
"Yeah... Only... an orthodontist"

Of course exhibit A is Buffy's Anya (and/or Aud and/or Anyanka) but TiMER's Oona is no exception. The premise is an interesting one: what if you had the chance to implant a 'timer' into your wrist that'd tell you exactly when you'd meet your one true love?

You should really take a look at it (you can watch it on Netflix Watch Instantly).

Also: it features this hottie:

Also: it features a Halfrek/Anyanka reunion!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NYT Great Performances, or How look: gorgeous pics!

The entire NYT gallery "Great Performances" is gorgeous, but these three were my favorites (and that's not even going into the very ethereal "The Secret Lives of Girls" portraits which include 2009 it girls from Sidibe to Mulligan to Ronan).

Hunky "Brothers"

God! Julianne and Colin need to reunite ASAP (at least for another dance party, no?)

I don't know how I'm more jealous of.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day, or How let's break it down by actors

There's no way to really review Valentine's Day (C) other than to say that it's the American long lost dopey mopey American cousin to the (far oh so very far) superior Love, Actually, with even less narrative structure and character development. But let's face it, you didn't really come to this movie for its character arcs or even for its plot. You watch movies like Valentine's Day because of its cast, so... what better way to "review" this movie than to examine its players?

Listed from worst ("What the hell? Get him/her off my screen NOW!") to best ("What would I have done with this movie without you?!")

Taylor Lautner
Okay, I get it. He's hot. He's ripped. But why is Taylor Lautner such a boring actor? (And why is this a trend with those effing Twilight boys?). No chemistry, no on-screen persona, no timing, no nothing. Waste of screen space.
George Lopez
There are few things I hate more than "dark-skinned token sidekicks." And really, that's all Lopez is here. That and the center of a couple of really unfunny bits.
Patrick Dempsey
Oh McDreamy. Go back to Grey's. And stop playing doctors. That said, if you wanna keep playing jerks, that's fine by me. It makes it easier for me to hate your on-screen persona.
Jamie Foxx
I can't stand Jamie Foxx. Don't know what it is. So me disliking him (and his lame ass storyline - Sports Anchor hates Valentine's Day, falls for a publicist...snooze) this came as no surprise even as the film tried hard to make him lovable.
Taylor Swift
I'll admit it: I enjoyed Taylor Swift on SNL. But I'll also admit that here, she's useless. Also, seeing her trying to be "funny" next to Jen Garner in close quarters (an elevator) only exacerbated her inadequacy and lack of comedic timing (on the other hand, Jen did wonders with just a cellphone as a prop).
Jessica Alba
I have decided something upon watching Ms Alba in this: I don't want to watch her on screen again until she dyes her hair back to a darker tone. Seriously, how is this the same girl who knocked my socks off in Dark Angel? I blame the hair colour, so Jessica, if you're taking notes: dye it back! And contact the guy who gave you your break, I hear he's doing pretty good for himself with that blue people movie of his.
Eric Dane
Okay, so his storyline is a wee bit interesting to see on screen in a big Hollywood ensemble romantic comedy, but other than some gratuitous shirtless scenes, he has little to do (He's a football player whose career is about to "change!"). Thankfully, he's in great shape so I wasn't complaining.
Kathy Bates
Oh Kathy, if you knew it was such a throwaway role, why'd you take it? Seriously, she has like...2 lines. None of which are particularly good or funny.
Queen Latifah
Ms Latifah clearly just cashed her cheque. She has little to do and she does even less with it (except for a couple of bloopers at the end). Good thing she has great on-screen chemistry with the camera (because of course she gets an off-screen "lover").
Hector Elizondo
Playing Shirley MacLaine's husband can't be that hard - she's lovely! She wears crazy outfits! She's an actress! (Actually that scene in the cemetery is pretty hysterical). Reliable and adequate - nothing to write home about.
Jessica Biel
Oh Ms Biel, at least here you seem more at home than in our sojourns into "costume drama." Neurosis suits you, even if you can do very little with it in the storyline given to you (she finds love while hosting her anti-V Day party in the unlikeliest of Oscar winners!)
Ashton Kutcher
I'll say this now: I hate Kelso. And Ashton has done nothing to dispel that persona enough for me to take him seriously as an actor. But here (Ms Garner does wonders for her co-stars, I guess) he's adequate enough as a fumbling romantic. He's dopey enough to be annoying but not annoying enough to be grating.
Bradley Cooper
Oh Bradley! You're so dreamy (yes, my love for Alias and its alums continues!). His scenes with Julia are great and the reveal at the end (take note gay blogs: there's a REASON /other/ than homophobia for keeping Bradley's storyline under wraps!) is just lovely (take note gay blogs: maybe take issue with the fact that the reveal only goes so far: where's the gay PDA?).
Emma Roberts
It must be in the blood: in one of the more touching romantic storylines (revolving around teenage premarital sex), Roberts (and her hunky co-star) hit all the right notes (take notes Taylors!) - at once awkward but also sweet.
Topher Grace
Okay, when did Topher Grace get hot and why did no one tell me? He was so gangly and dorky and adorably awkward in That 70s Show I was a bit disconcerted (albeit pleasantly surprised) when I saw him shirtless in this. Damn. He's proven before he can act (P.S., In Good Company) so that and his chemistry with Anne help in fleshing out a nicely drawn out storyline (can he date a girl who does something questionable for a living?).
Shirley MacLaine
At this point, Ms McLaine can do this role in her sleep. But why should we hold that against her? She's great as a wife with a past secret that will test her long marriage (and in turn serve as a "teaching moment" to one of the younger couples). So much learning always happens in these movies!: "We must love everything about the other person... love them wholly!"
Anne Hathaway
It's no overstatement to say that Anne Hathaway has grown into one of the most charming of actresses out there, right? Here she gets a chance to go "dirtier" than usual (she moonlights as a phone adult entertainer) which works very well as it disrupts our vision of "Annie" as "that girl from the Princess Diaries" without needing her to play a privileged brat going to her sister's wedding. Her and Topher have great chemistry and offer one of the more interesting plot lines the film has to offer.
Bonus points: all her accents and her creative use of office props for her phone calls.
Jennifer Garner
I've loved Ms Garner since her Alias days, and to this day I think she is one of the most charismatic actresses out there. That she can pull off Sidney Bristow as well as carry a film like 13 Going on 30 should still wow you, even if you're not a fan. In a storyline that mirrors a gazillion rom-coms out there (best friends find out they love each other, after finding out she's been dating a jerk), her smile and star-quality make her character vulnerable, funny and real.
Bonus points: Her scene at the restaurant (and then her scene with the piñata) were master-classes in comedy acting.
Julia Roberts
Okay, it's no surprise Julia tops my list, right? But seriously Ms Roberts does in six minutes what half of this cast wishes they could accomplish in an entire film. She's funny, she's effortless... yes, she's Julia Roberts but it's genuine and in a sea of thankless plots, she's always a breath of fresh air.
Bonus points: she was the only actor in this film to make me shed a tear (hers is the story that while seemingly trite and what is apparently a glorified cameo ends up having the most gravitas)