Sunday, May 31, 2009

May. It's a Wrap

One more month and the year is half over! Yikes. I only have six months left to churn out some fantastic life-saving (my life anyway) "best of the decade" book for you to purchase. In case you missed anything, here's the best of May.

The Blockbuster Loop I buried the lead. Everyone thought it was about Christian Bale but what I really wanted to discuss was the loop!
May Flowers
My favorites were Vertigo and My Fair Lady. Yours?
9 for Nine I should talk about this everyday given your enthusiasm.
Juliette Binoche JA thinks she's the "best crier" in cinema. A lively discussion followed.
Terminator a retrospective and the debut vodcast.

'Precioussssss' the new movie looks great but I can't stop thinking about the white poodle and the girl in the pit.
John Cameron Mitchell on Nicole Kidman
"a stradivarius"
Signatures: Jamie Lee Curtis Adam chose a truly undervalued actress to celebrate.
Cannes Coverage the most we've done. If only I'da been there.
Triple Crowner this one was for the awards freaks. Who's next: Jane Fonda, Geoffrey Rush, Marcia Gay Harden, Dianne Wiest or John Lithgow?

Both serious and un postings (thrice ? weekly) about America's most acclaimed actress, her co-stars, her filmography. For those who share Katharine Hepburn's "click, click, click" reservations about Meryl's work, Streepless posting will continue. Topics to include: Sam Rockwell in Moon, Michelle Pfeiffer in Chéri, Sam Mendes' Away We Go, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Woody Allen's Whatever Works
This week:
Oscar prediction updates

MTV Movie Awards

I didn't live blog the MTV Movie Awards tonight but I tweeted about it -- if you followed along -- whilst bracing myself for the last death rattle of Slumdog Millionaire's trophy gathering prowess. It lost everything to Twilight and that makes total sense since the latter stare-fest was the worst movie in the mix and this ain't about the cinema!

It was the MTV Twilight Awards. They won everything. Here's the New Moon trailer. Lots of screaming on MTV when Taylor Lautner took his shirt off.

It looks like he'll lose more than his shirt. When he transforms into a fearsome WereCGI his clothes explode.

The big takeaway of the night: Brüno wins. Eminem loses.

Sacha Baron Cohen hasn't lost any of his ability to cause a comedy stir and Eminem hasn't gained any sense of humor. Shouldn't rehab give you a humbler handy sense of humor about yourself? I do think it was justly hilarious to see Eminem's gaybaiting come back to (ass)slap him in the face. To be fair though he has cooled the homophobia a bit, unless you consider the 'don't mean to offend' to be sarcastic
He does not mean to lesbian offend
But Lindsay, please come back to seeing men
Samantha’s a two, you’re practically a ten
I know you want me, girl, in fact, I can see a grin
Sorry Portia, but whats Ellen DeGeneres
Have that I don’t, are you telling me tenderness?
Well I can be as gentle and as smooth as a gentleman
At least Zachary Quinto and Cameron Diaz thought the Brüno/Eminem bit was funny. Here's a theory about the prank that I suspect is true

Signatures: Kathy Bates

Adam of Club Silencio here with another look at my favorite actresses and their distinguishing claims to fame.

I'm probably not Kathy Bates number one fan, but I'd certainly be club treasurer. As much as I love her, I just don't have the follow through to keep her bed-ridden and hobble her legs. Even so Kathy's worth any and all fan-frenzy devotion. Not only does she consistently turn potentially mocking roles into comedy and drama gold, she's a director in her own right and an inspirational cancer survivor. It's not just her characters that are unsinkable, it's Kathy Bates.

Many of Kathy's most mesmerizing turns play on that fact that she's an atypical starlet, and she always seems to revel in that - capturing the misery, humor and strength in unglamorous roles. Her Oscar-winning character Annie Wilkes surely never crossed the paths of Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts, but Kathy takes on this frumpy and fanatical Colorado native as if she'd been listening to Liberace and abducting authors her entire life. Acting shouldn't always pretty, and Kathy manages to make even the most unappealing part a thing of beauty. Few could give an overweight character named Evelyn Couch her due decency, but Kathy never flounders.

Towanda will go on a rampage! I'll slip tiny bombs into Penthouse and Playboys so they explode when you open them. I'll ban all fashion models who weigh under 130 pounds! And I'll give half the military budget to people over 65 and declare wrinkles sexually desirable.

She tackles roles without reservation, without vanity, and that's what really plumbs the depths of her characters. Likewise, real depth exists when you're trying to dump your deadbeat husband's body in a well...

One of Kathy's most stirring and complex portraits comes in Dolores Claiborne, about a woman whose life has been centered on abuse: verbal abuse from her boss, physical abuse from her husband, and emotional bruises that still exist with her distant daughter. The film takes us through the years of Dolores' headstrong life to find the power in a woman painted as victim, bitch and bully. Kathy's own strength is what translates and gives this woman her second chance at redemption.

Here's to Kathy Bates. An atypical starlet as strong, beautiful and bold as ever. Truly unsinkable.

May Flowers, Vertigo

For the finale of May Flowers I thought we should gaze at Alfred Hitchcock's immortal Vertigo(1958). Aside from Vertigo descendants like Robert Altman's Three Women or David Lynch's Mulholland Drive what film is more appropriate for this time of year when we're ruled by twin sign Gemini? Hitchcock films generally deserve complete dissertations but we don't have Scottie Ferguson's (Jimmy Stewart) stamina when it comes to fetishizing doppelgangers. So in the space of this blogpost we merely glance at his introductions to Madeleine/Judy (Kim Novak).

Ferguson has been hired to follow Madeleine and as he first spots her in the deep rose red restaurant, Hitchock slow zooms out from Scottie (far right) at the bar and pans left, following his gaze, into the dining area filled with flowers and well heeled customers and even a painting of a floral arrangement framed by floral arrangements before it finally stops at Madeleine (tiny, far left) in her emerald green dress.

As she leaves the restaurant we get Kim Novak's first bewitching close up, carefully calibrated and emphasized by Hitchcock's editor George Tomasini and cinematographer Robert Burks. Scottie likes what he sees but this is a job.

Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger,
you may see a stranger
Across a crowded room
And somehow you know,
You know even then
That somewhere you'll see her
Again and again.

-"Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific which (trivia note!) opened in theaters two months before Vertigo.
Scottie will indeed be seeing Madeleine again and again. His interest is piqued. Hitchcock sees this man's spiral into obsession coming long before he does. When Scottie next follows Madeleine she enters a door in an alley way and he enters, not knowing what he'll find there.

This is psychologically astute visual storytelling. Once he's in pursuit, Scottie is cast into shadow and suddenly it's all color, flowers, woman. This will be happening to Scottie again and again, albeit not in the literal sense. His personality will darken (obsessive bullying voyeur coming right up) and soon his life will be entirely focused on colors (it must be the gray suit!), flowers (his eyes darting from bouquet to bouquet) and this particular woman. All he will be able to see is Madeleine.

Or Judy as the case may be...

Scottie also first "meets" (okay, stalks) Judy, who looks suspiciously like Madeleine, in a setting bursting with colored petals. His eye is drawn there by a familiar bouquet... And then he spots Judy, introduced with a right profile closeup just like Madeleine. Her shot isn't as elegant but she's from Selina, Kansas. What did you expect?

Though she lacks Madeleine's class, she's practically a fraternal twin. Scottie will force the issue until she's identical. Hitchcock, Novak and Stewart aren't afraid to commit to unlikeable characters (pity that neither actor was Oscar-nominated for this, but then Oscar treated this masterpiece quite shabbily, extending only sound and art direction nominations) and the movie is richer and darker for it.

Vertigo makes you dizzy with its duplicate women, tripled bouquets -- oops, I didn't mention the third woman, Carlotta Valdes, and that painting that hypnotizes Madeleine? No?!

We can't venture there, lest we be sucked into the knotty insane spiral of all of these doppelgangers. We don't want to end up like Scottie or Madeleine who'll violently toss her flowers into the river before jumping in herself.

This movie was all too much for her.


Marisa vs. Miranda vs. Judy ~ 1992 Smackdown

I regret to inform that I had to bow out of StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown for 1992. I haven't participated in a long time and I had really hoped to. 1992's women offer a wealth of Oscar discussables and tropes: the wisecracking dame, the old biddy, the longsuffering spouse, the maligned winner, the nominee who maybe isn't being thanked for the performance she's nominated for but for her entire year, the Woody Allen player, Oscar's perceived anglophilia versus its perceived nationalism.

The nominees were:
My vote would have gone to Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives) and by quite a large margin. To drive the point home further, she is roughly tied with Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights) for my favorite supporting actress performance of the 1990s altogether. Unless you count Michelle's Catwoman (Batman Returns) as supporting... and I'm never sure that you should. If I had a nominating ballot back in the day, these four women would have made it.
  • Helena Bonham-Carter, Howards End
  • Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives
  • Miranda Richardson, The Crying Game (I'm not sure what it is about this performance that I find so spooky but she really puts me on edge. 1992 was such a peak year for Richardson: This film, Damage, Enchanted April, the BAFTA & Globe win, the Oscar nom. When will she get another chance like this? She was even better in Spider (2002) but no plum parts as of late)
  • Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny [new readers take note: she talked to me about this Oscar win on the first episode of the Film Experience Podcast]
Not sure about the fifth slot. I love Alfre Woodard in Passion Fish but it's kind of a dual lead film, isn't it? Who to put in slot five... Hmmm. Any suggestions?

Now get on outta here and enjoy Stinky's Smackdown!

P.S. Oscar prediction updates coming June 1st and 2nd. Sorry for the delay

Saturday, May 30, 2009

UP Vodcast Review

We're back with round two. This time Katey and I are discussing Pixar's latest Up.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Pixar's latest film and protagonist Carl Fredrickson (we didn't get into this in the video but isn't it strange that Pixar films never have female leads?). I take it many of you already took that balloon ride.

related post: Pixar Top Ten

If you were dragged to hell...

...which actors, actresses and directors would you expect to find there?
(And also: what did you think of Drag Me To Hell itself?)

May Flowers, Sex and The City

May Flowers

I'm not sure that Georgia O'Keeffe would have loved Sex & The City but I'm pretty sure Sex & The City loves Georgia O'Keeffe. Those lady flowers are everywhere.

While it's true that you can't really make a wedding movie without a floral arrangement, Sex... doesn't just use flowers for the bouquet toss.
Just give me the damn symbolic vaginas
-The Bachelor (1999)
Flowers cling to Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw like she's a one woman photosynthesis factory. It'd be a stretch to say that every costume includes them but more often than not costume designer Patricia Field has dipped Carrie in vats of them: green florals (buying an apartment), red (bragging about her boyfriend), purple (single again), huge gigantor white florals just because. She's a photosynthesis factory and a color wheel.

Subtlety has never been Sex and the City's strong suit. The movie is all about the act of handing her ladyparts over to Big permanently, so they must be fully visualized. She even beats Big over the head with them!

Carrie has never been a shrinking violet, she's always an exhibitonist. She parades it around. She turns heads with it on the street. She even writes best selling books about it as you know.

The other women are not without their own floral motifs. Charlotte (Kristin Davis), always the most subdued, doesn't wear a lot of flowers but she's named her daughter "Lily" so she's done her part. Her sexuality was always goal oriented anyway.

The older women get floral representation too, albeit with less saturation. Carrie's envious editor (Candice Bergen) has given up. She's framed hers and hung it in her office.

Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who kept Sex in Sex and the City (the TV show) even when it forgot its libido late in the run, isn't having a lot of sex (in the movie). She wears no florals but in one key sequence she decides that she must have a pricey bit of jewelry at auction.

This flower ring is the essence of me. One of a kind.
It's a symbolic vagina for a symbolic vagina (oh, the folds and layers!). See, her boyfriend Smith Jerrod also wants to purchase the ring and Samantha's entire subplot becomes a tug of war between them. Smith wants her ladyparts for himself. She wants them back.

This leaves two characters and they're both conspicuously lacking in the flower power. 'Saint Louise from St Louis' (Jennifer Hudson) has no vagina. Poor thing. She's only there to help Carrie, so I guess they figure she doesn't need one?

And finally there's Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) who definitely has one but is being punished for pretending she doesn't. Her vagina is furious and only comes out once (barely visible: black on dark brown) to warn Big away from Carrie's vagina.

My vagina's angry. It is. It's pissed off. My vagina's furious and it needs to talk.
-The Vagina Monologues
Miranda is all work work work and 'let's get this over with' mood killer. Unless she learns to let Steve in, she'll never be able to wear bright floral prints again!

P.S. We'll find out if Miranda is back in bloom when Sex and the City 2 opens next year on this very weekend.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Neil Patrick Harris Sing-Along Week

In my weekly column over @ Towleroad I've declared next week "Neil Patrick Harris Week"... pass it on! The hilarious Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (pictured left co-starring Nathan Fillion) comes to DVD on Tuesday* and then NPH hosts the TONY Awards on Sunday. He'll basically sing for you all week if you want him, too. The column also features a quick bit on two gay winners from Cannes, Bruce LaBruce's plan to make another explicit zombie picture and more...

*Apparently it was already on DVD but is being rereleased or released in some new way? DVDs schedules are making me crazy, lately. I can't keep track anymore... they're getting as convoluted as theatrical. How many versions and how many release dates can each movie / tv show have? And the press releases don't even mention the other releases. Ayiyiyiyiyi.

Drag Me To Link

Getty Drew Barrymore and Emmy Rossum attend the reject Prop 8 rallies. I think this is the most animated I've ever seen Emmy Rossum's face. It can only mean one thing: supporting gay rights makes you a better actress!
Gawker Wikipedia cracks down on Team Scientology
Pretty on the Outside imagines a Playbill for the new Hugh Jackman / Daniel Craig Broadway outing.
World of Wonder and Gawker finally other people besides me are beginning to talk some sense about celeb du jour Adam Lambert's dumb coyness. I seriously have been annoyed at the way the gay community has been kissing his ass for months.
Just Jared Jude Law hones his Hamlet. Oh, I wish I could see it. And I'm totally sick of Hamlet.

The Rocchi Files Open Letter to Pixar (great stuff)
Lou Romano production art development for UP. Just beautiful
The Celebrity Truth Steven Spielberg's Tintin movie, with Jamie Bell in the lead is now scheduled for Christmas time 2011. Unfortunately it's a motion capture thing. Hopefully Jamie Bell will look more human than Tom Hanks did in that Polar movie
AfterEllen the hottest sporty women in sports movies or some such. Thumbs up on the high rank for "Missy Pantone" in Bring It On. But then I'm always up for Eliza Dushku.
i09 Spider-Man 4 to focus more tightly on Peter Parker
Cinematical fun piece on horror replacement actors to celebrate Alison Lohman's role in Drag Me To Hell which, as you may know, was originally Ellen Page's.

And finally, just for fun... here's a sampling of the variety of things people -- complete strangers , I just did a title search -- are tweeting about Drag Me To Hell.

True Bite

While some people were enjoying the sunshine last weekend I was holed up with Joe having a True Blood marathon (I'm not much for sunshine). Now, that it's on DVD have you caught up with it yet?

Art of the Title Sequence investigated its NSFW opening titles last year which I still can't get enough of. I couldn't ever fast forward. I love how the credits shove religiosity, carnality and base nature into a crammed pot, boil them down to their base essences (remarkably similar as it turns out!) and mix them into a trashy stew... just like the show. "I wanna do bad things to you" I'd only seen the first few episodes before and the show never got any less obvious about what some saw as its awkward / obvious political sexual metaphors but as it turns out it didn't need to. Good trash is good trash. Trash that has campy knowing fun with its awkward flailing at message and meaning? I'll take it. The second season starts June 14th.

<--- Robert Pattison on the set of New Moon

The vampire mythology has always readjusted itself to suit current preoccupations and we've definitely moved back into the realm of the romantic vampire. The romantic undead was missing for awhile -- see 2006's vampire blog-a-thon -- but he's returned defanged. The traditional romantic/erotic vampire has been replaced by the romantic/sexless vampire. Twilight bores me stiff, like rigor mortis stiff, but a lot of people of all ages love its weird asexuality... which... though I'm no social theorist, I'm guessing is a natural result of the past decade of purity rings, abstinence fever and attacks against sex-ed. But it's strange (to me at least) that the TeenBeat style sexuality isn't just for tweens and newly hormonal teens anymore.

The recent television upfronts have revealed that we'll be getting more Twilight style PG vampirism with The Vampire Diaries which is also about a beautiful high school girl falling for the mysterious undead classmate who initially resists her. How much do you have to change something to avoid lawsuits?

Not much apparently!

I assume that a lot of this teen vampire craze sprung from the influential and totally brilliant Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy may have also been a high schooler but you know what they say: some people mature faster than others.

Thank god there's True Blood for a randy bloody counterpoint to the wildly popular but anemic teenage vampire craze. For all the dreamy eyed romanticism of the Bill (Stephen Moyer) & Sookie (Anna Paquin) relationship on True Blood, it also feels just as sexually dangerous as it should. I mean loving the undead... that should be a little frightening, not just mushy. That scene late in the first season where Bill emerges from the earth and mounts an initially terrified Sookie? That was dirty... in both senses of the word.

Will True Blood get any cinematic company or will Twilight ripoffs completely take over in the next few years? Surburban Vampire has a huge list of upcoming undead titles and the answer seems to be neither. Most of the new vampire films seem to be horror or action related like...
  • High Midnight -a period piece and vampire western which the always welcome Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist, Valkyrie) was initially rumored to be starring in as a vampire hunter.
  • Daybreakers a scifi horror take which frankly sounds more like a zombie film. Most of the human race has gone bloodsucker. With Willem Dafoe and Ethan Hawke (who look quite clean and fresh for people fighting for their lives in a horror film.)
  • Last Blood epic war between zombies vs. vampires with the vamps out to protect their food source, humans
  • Dark Shadows in development (previously discussed here)
Now if only someone would make Lost Souls into a movie so we'd have a queer entry in the crowded vampiric canon.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Crazy" May Flowers

May Flowers, evenings at 11... or thereabouts

I go crazy, crazy, baby, I go crazy
You turn it on - then you're gone
Yeah you drive me crazy, crazy
Remember when Liv Tyler wasn't yet "Arwen" and Alicia Silverstone wasn't yet "Cher"?

Yeah, me neither. (That was so many career phases ago. Crazy, indeed)

[This 1995 flashback has been brought to you by three vodka tonics and visiting friends from Michigan. gulp]

John Cameron Mitchell Does The Impossible...


... and finally gets Nicole Kidman's hair red again!

JA from MNPP here making a couple of assumptions and false statements for entertaining bullshit's sake: first off, I don't know for sure that Nic's dyed her hair for Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell's film with her and Aaron Eckhart, but I'm assuming so since that thing's filming these days, ain't it? I'm sure one of you Kidman disciples will fill me in if I'm incorrect, or correct, or falling somewhere in between.

And also, it makes for a punchy headline but JCM's hardly accomplished the impossible - Nic's gone back to red for several of her auteur-pals: Baz got her fire-enginey and Jonathan Glazer got her strawberry.

But it feels like forever and it's always a cause to celebrate - I'm a firm advocate of her embracing her unique gingerness - so I don't feel too bad in mis- or over-stating my case. She looks lovely!

Top Ten: PIXAR

tuesday thursday top ten: for the listmaker in me and the listlover in you

What follows is a reworking of a post originally published in 2007. It's two years later and you know what that means: Pixar has given us two more classics. UP brings their feature film count to ten. You know what Ten means: Top Ten Time!

Pixar by Preference

Cars (John Lasseter, 2006) 117 min.
Pixar's only dud. Chief among its problems: the anthropomorphics were forced. Let me get this straight: Cars as bugs on windshields of cars as cars who act like humans and they even sleep in hotels for cars -- What? What? It's not quite Shark Tale in the realm of painful "they're just like us!" pandering but it's not 'good' either. I would give it a second chance except it's also Pixar's longest feature... too long by about 23 minutes. Thankfully, they seem to have reversed their bloated running time trending. It peaked here and began coming back down to 90 minute levels.
Best character: n/a
Oscar noms: 2 (Original Song and Animated Feature)

Good Movies

A Bug's Life (Lasseter & Andrew Stanton, 1998) 96 min.
Not as memorable as the other films but a solid entertainment.
Best character:
Heimlich "finally, I'm a beautiful butterfly!"
Oscar noms: 1 (Score, Musical or Comedy)

08 Finding Nemo (Stanton & Lee Unkrich, 2003) 100 min.
Pixar's biggest hit and the appeal is obvious. It's consistently funny and it looks like a million billion bucks. And I'm not just talking about the color palette (fish were such a brilliant subject for an animated film) but the intermittently serene bliss of the uncluttered frame. Animated films tend to overstuff and err on the side of visual and narrative chaos, desperate that the littlest eyes in the audience might wander. Pixar is more confident than that (though I could've done without some of Nemo's lamer gags like "surfer" turtles. 'Whoa')
Best character: Dory, possibly the best celebrity voice casting ever for a toon. In non-Pixar efforts the casting is usually only about the marquee value of the name. Pixar almost always does right by casting. It's character first. Ellen DeGeneres's whole comic persona serves the fish and not the other way around.
Oscar noms: 4 (Animated Feature*, Score, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay)

Toy Story 2 (Lasseter, Unkrich and Ash Brannon, 1999) 92 min.
The last time I made a Pixar list I asked if it was as great as some claim? But unfortunately I didn't seek an answer for myself. I loved its basic story concept but I don't remember it well.
Best character: They're mostly holdovers but I do remember that that Barbie sequence was bananas.
Oscar Noms: 1 (Score). 1999 was the year that prompted the Academy to create an animated feature category, which became an official category in 2001. The collective critical response to Toy Story 2, The Iron Giant and Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke which were all released stateside in 1999 was basically along the lines of 'these animated movies are as good as any live action movie'. AMPAS decision seemed like a good move at the time, but now the category has become a ghetto preventing films as rich and lauded as WALL•E from landing in the Best Picture category where they belong.

Very Good. Sometimes Great.

06 Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson) 96 min.
This ranking might be too high or too low. But the film is brand spanking new. I'll need time to settle with it... float back down to earth. I always feel high in the sky after a Pixar... even the ones that don't include helium balloons. Our Vodcast Review
Best character: Carl Fredricksen. I love how square his face is, how it ages and how expressive it remains throughout the film, despite being as boxed up as his life in his old house.
Oscar noms: We'll know in January 2010. I'm going to guess three (Score, Animated and one Sound categories)

Monsters, Inc. (Docter, Unkrich and Lee Silverman, 01) 92 min.
One of the most underrated films of 2001, arguably the best cinematic year of the decade. How can this be underrated when it made hundreds of millions and people generally like it, you ask? Because they should love it. It's got all the Pixar strengths in abundance: inventive screenplay, memorable characters, complicated gags, glorious production design. Those people (including Academy voters) who thought Shrek was better? They're monsters! My screams when it lost the Oscar could power Monstropolis for a year.
Best character: Boo
Oscar noms: (Original Song*, Animated Feature, Score, Sound Editing)

04 Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 07) 111 min.
Left the movie theater with a huge smile on my face... interrupted only by an occassional shudder from the heebie-jeebies. You know, hundreds of rats... in a kitchen... touching food! Pixar is totally gourmet. You always feel that the films are crafted with great skill and love. They make a mint but it's plain as day that's not their soul purpose. It's not an assembly line. One hopes this anti fast-food approach eventually rubs off on the increasingly soulless direct to DVD Disney.
Best character: Gusteau
Oscar noms: 5 (Animated Feature*, Score, Sound, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay)

For the All Time Lists

03 Toy Story (Lasseter, 95) 81 min.
I'm not sure if it's the 99th best film of all time as the AFI claims but I'm glad animation is represented on that list. We were both excited to see it as we were ahead of the populace on the Pixar curve. I don't remember how I obtained it but I had a bootleg VHS tape of all of the Pixar shorts that had been made before they risked going into features. I had already converted my whole family to the cult of Pixar and even considered buying stock in the company went it first went up for sale even though I was a poor college student (Oh, to have done so). As long as I live I will never forget the first time I saw the film. I went with my brother. The moment that lifted it into a complete comedic classic was 'The Claw' My brother and I literally hurt from laughing. That's a good kind of pain.
Best character: Buzz Lightyear
Oscar noms: 3 (Score, Original Song, Screenplay... and a special Oscar for John Lasseter for making it all happen)

02 The Incredibles (Bird, 2004) 115 min.
From my top ten of 2004 review: "I saw The Incredibles three times within the month of its opening. And every time something else opened the following month that only looked sort of appealing I thought to myself. "Self, you can always go and see The Incredibles again"
... Gah. Pixar is so awesome. Group hug!

Best character: Elastigirl. She keeps this family together... and not just with those rubbery arms that can literally do so.
Oscar noms: 4 (Sound Editing* Animated Feature*, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay)

01 WALL•E (Stanton, 08) 98 minutes
One of the best pictures in recent years from any medium or genre. Since it's still fresh in mind I'm guessing we've discussed it enough for awhile. I was wild for it as you know. See my annual awards for further proof.
Best character: Read my ode to EVE here if you missed it.
Oscar noms: 6 (Animated Feature*, Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay)

Next up for Pixar? I hope they don't spoil their status as "most consistent studio on the planet" but they're moving into two pictures a year now, instead of one. When Disney sped up in the mid 90s, things started going downhill.

2010: Toy Story 3 which will be directed by Lee Unkrich, who is finally getting his own movie after co-directing three of their giant hits.
2011: Newt about the last remaining male and female blue footed newts... who hate each other and Pixar's first fairy tale (moving into Disney's realm, eh?) The Bear and the Bow
2012: Brings a weird double feature: the one I'm least excited about, Cars 2, and the one I'm most excited about John Carter of Mars. The latter will be a real departure for the studio, a sci-fi adventure / adaptation that's not specifically aimed at children. UPDATE: Apparently Andrew Stanton is being essentially "loaned out" for this one and it won't be a proper Pixar film after all. Live action. Barsoomia is tracking the project closely.

Pixar shorts top ten, a
bonus list. Here's my top ten.
  1. For the Birds (Ralph Eggleston, 2000) 3 min. Oscar winner
  2. Knick Knack (Lasseter, 1989) 4 min.
  3. Boundin' (Bud Lucky and Roger Gould, 2003) 5 min. Oscar nominee
  4. Tin Toy (Lasseter, 1988) 5 min. Oscar winner
  5. Geri's Game (Jan Pinkava, 1997) 4 min. Oscar winner
  6. Luxo Jr (Lasseter, 1986) 2 min. Oscar nominee
  7. Lifted (Gary Rydstrom, 2006) 5 min. Oscar nominee
  8. Presto (Doug Sweetland, 2008) 5 min. Oscar nominee
  9. Red's Dream (Lasseter, 1987) 4 min.
  10. One Man Band (Mark Andrews and Andrew Jimenez, 2005) 4 min. Oscar nominee

Your Pixar Experience

Which was your first in theaters? Which film has shifted the most in your opinions about it over the years? How would you rate them on a scale of dud to all timers? Or are you, like Armond White, tired of hearing about their awesomeness? If so, how soon do you think a backlash will happen?

related post: UP Vodcast

May Flowers, Sean Penn

May Flowers, evenings at 11... or thereabouts

Playing against type is an ancient Oscar-winning trick but it only works if you do it really well (or if enough people are hoodwinked into believing you've done it really well). A lot of people, including myself and Academy voters, rethought Sean Penn last fall due to his twinkly and affable work in Milk. The famously sour Penn was suddenly funny, likeable, warm... sweet even.

Sean Penn in 1996. Sweet smiling Sean was always in their somewhere.

In other words, not "Sean Penn".

How on earth will he follow Harvey Milk up?

He himself probably isn't feeling the pressure, "Great Actor" status having been granted long long ago, but I was curious. Would he return to directing, to more typically Penn parts? Turns out the 48 year-old actor is booked until he's 50. At least. He's got five new identities lined up for our cinematic enjoyment over the next two years.

Contemplative Narrating Penn: In Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life (previous post) he plays "adult Jack" and since the film is focused on a father (Brad Pitt) and his three boys... I guess that means Sean Penn is playing Brad Pitt's son. Brad really did age in reverse!

Political Penn: In Doug Liman's Bush era dramatization Fair Game he's Joseph Wilson, the administration's nemesis and husband to CIA Agent Valerie Plame, played here by Naomi Watts. It's their third time playing Very Intense Screen Couple (see also: 21 Grams and The Assassination of Richard Nixon).

Tough Penn: I'm not sure who he is playing in Cartel, but it involves guards protecting a lawyer trying a mafia case.

Slapstick Penn: He's "Larry" in the Farrely Brothers The Three Stooges... but you knew that already. Jim Carrey is "Curly" and Benicio Del Toro is "Moe"

Rock Star Penn:
I saved the oddest one for last. Odder than The Three Stooges? Maybe not. Okay okay, I saved the furthest away for last. Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian writer/director behind the award winning Il Divo, is prepping a movie called This Must Be the Place. The plot is unusual. A retired rocker (Penn) decides to find his dad's executioner, a former Nazi.

Excited for Penn's upcoming projects? Or are you more excited about the continuing drama of the on again off again on again off again on again off again (I actually think that's the right number of times) Robin Wright Penn divorce? Can those two crazy kids make it work? Or make it work again as the case may be?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

If Alison Lohman Must Be Dragged to Hell This Weekend

...may I kindly request that she take all those bad wigs from White Oleander with her to the fiery pits?

They distract me when I'm trying to look at Michelle Pfeiffer!

Please and thanks.

Victor Fleming: Did the Auteurist Theory Do Him Wrong?

You must... you simply must set aside ten minutes today to read this terrific piece at The New Yorker on Victor Fleming and 1930s Hollywood. It digs into Fleming's heavily debated contributions to the twin immortals of 1939 (Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz -- he was a replacement director on both) and what it unearths is fascinating, indeed. Frankly my dears, I gave a damn... several damns if you're counting.

<-- Clara Bow on Fleming: "Of all the men I've known, there was a man."

For instance, I knew that Vivien Leigh didn't like Fleming and was angry that George Cukor who worked with her closely on her performance was fired. But I had no idea how complex and influential Fleming's relationships to Hollywood's top actors (Gable prominent among them) and actresses actually were (nor what an actressexual -- ok womanizer but we're splitting hairs here -- Fleming was. He had affairs with Clara Bow, Norma Shearer, Lupe Velez and Ingrid Bergman among others). This is but one of many quotes worth sharing.
"Despite his later reputation as a ‘man’s director,’ ” Sragow says, “Fleming launched or cannily revamped a host of female stars from the 1920s on.” The hot-wired Bow did her sexiest, best work for him, in “Mantrap” (1926), and he got sensationally funny performances out of Jean Harlow in “Red Dust,” “Bombshell” (1933), and “Reckless” (1935). The sacred male companionships of seventy years ago did not have the effect of downgrading women—anything but. Fleming, along with his friend Hawks, created women onscreen who were resourceful, strong-willed, and sexual—the kind of women they wanted to hang out with, partners and equals who gave as good as they got. For a while, they, too, were an American ideal.
Selznick, Fleming, Leigh & Gable on the contentious Gone With the Wind set

Gone With the Wind gets the most time in the article. It's a great read and now I think I'll have to look into Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master as well since this essay references that work frequently.

This, That and The Other Link

Thompson on Hollywood really cohesive Cannes roundup on buzz winners and losers
EW funny stretch of a followup to yesterday's Buffy reboot news. What does Whedon think of it?
<--- Pixar an interview with Tim Hauser on The Art of UP
Lazy Eye Theater "don't terminate until you can see the whites of their teeth"
My New Plaid Pants a pearl of wisdom from The Others
Risky Biz Blog the 2009 Oscar race. It's not off to any kind of real start
The Evening Class on Latino images in film and Turner Classic Movies

These three go out to you Californians!
Movie|Line on California's Prop 8 Disaster "J.J. Abrams to Revitalize Supreme Court Franchise" ... a stress release laugh
Socialite's Life
Colin Farrell to be best man at his gay brothers wedding. Awww. No wonder he was so sincere in that A Home at the End of the World movie.
The Post Game Show "The Movement to Protect Singing"

yes please

And finally, a most unexpected but exciting news bit to brighten your morning: Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig to co-star on Broadway this fall !!!