Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March. It's A Wrap.

Egads. I haven't been doing my monthly wrap-ups to point you to highlights should you just be joining us. So back to that, must I go. In case you're just joining us. Which would be really weird since Oscar season recently ended. Here's 10 highlights from this month that flew right by.

Boys and Their Dogs

Pete Doctor, "Mr Madcap" Robert completes his terrific Pixar auteur trilogy
Do You Talk With Your Hands? If so I know just the career for you
10 Actresses to Watch in the 'Teens much can happen in a decade
"As Long As He Needs Me" a look back at Oliver!'s classic torch song
Yes, No, Maybe So: Eat Pray Love wanna take Julia's trip?

A Conversation... with Guy Lodge about Best Actress 2010/11
The Kathleen Turner Story
How did The Man With Two Brains (1983) know what was to be?
Top 10 Characters of the Aughts Tom Stall, Elle Driver, Clementine and more...
Dear Baz Luhrman... get back to work!
Oscar Night in Review so many posts. so long ago (doesn't it feel so long ago?)

Coming in April: First Oscar predictions of the year, April Showers and the usual blog goodies.

RCL: Chloe, Clint, Christopher and Charlize, Pleaze.

Red Carpet Lineup: each monday (oops, it's Wednesday!) a random batch of movie peeps out and about. Who is Where and Why? And What (are they wearing)?

from left to right: Chloe Moretz just turned 13 and she'll be ubiquitous before anyone can decide whether they want to see her constantly. I have only seen her in (500) Days of Summer in which she essayed the beyond cliche role of "little person who is wiser than adults", a blight on an otherwise great movie. I can't blame her for that exactly but I hate that there's no ümläüts (or whatever the heck they're called) hanging over her name. And that I CAN blame her for. It's spelled Chloë, right big mouth? The fanboys already love "Chloe" [sic] in advance for being "Hit Girl" in Kick-Ass . That's the movie she's been out promoting this week here with shiny checkers (dress) and snarky accessory (face). She will soon be seen as the thirsty child vamp in Let Me In, the disastrous* remake of Let The Right One In; Emma Thompson brought a pig to the premiere of Nanny McPhee 2: Mole Harder in London. I adore Emma and her wit but I just don't want to see her unrecognizably uglied down for a movie. That's just the way it is. I like my movie stars to look like their beautiful selves. It's kind of what I live for. Emma recently spilled her heart out for a BBC radio show about her 90s divorce from Kenneth Branagh; Clint Eastwood was out for a meal with friends looking pretty spry. He becomes an octogenarian this May and he's still cranking out two movies a year. Bless (yes, I'm feeling generous today. It's partially because my favorite filmmakers I'm interested in tend to sit on their asses for YEARS between projects and I just don't get it). Clint's supernatural thriller Hereafter, arrives in theaters in December 2010. When else? You can probably expect Hoover, the biopic, in December 2011.

*I'm guessing. I mean, the ONLY logical reason for its existence is to sell it to people who can't read.

from left to right: Christoph Waltz is STILL collecting awards for Inglourious Basterds. This time it was the Jameson Empire Award in London. At one point does he cease being a professional actor and become a professional trophy collector? I believe this makes #26; Blanca Portillo was at the "Union de Actores" event in Madrid (is that like Spain's SAG awards? Anyone?). She's so good in Almodóvar movies (Broken Embraces and especially Volver) but I haven't yet seen her elsewhere. I'm hoping that our Spanish-speaking readers can tell us other roles of note?; Young French star Tahar Rahim, all of 28, is still out selling Un Prophete but he's already lined up new projects after that extremely well received breakthrough. Next up: The Eagle of the Ninth with Channing Tatum and then back to the arthouse for Cool Water by Emir Kusturica; Finally we conclude with Charlize Theron looking disco glam at an evening honoring Matt Damon. I've been meaning to talk about Charlize anyway...

Charlize Theron is 34. I don't know why this is but I often think of her as an older actress.

I don't mean this in the reductive Hollywood way of "let's look for a younger version, now!" or in the "she looks old for her age" way. I mean that if you asked me to place her with a group of peers I'd forget about the Gyllenhaals and the Witherspoons and put her with the Kidmans, Hayeks, Cruzs and Berrys of the world... all of whom are older. And whatever their future achievements may be, those actresses feel finished... "finished" as in fully formed, not as in "over." Don't freak out!

But who is Charlize Theron exactly? More than possibly any A list actress, I'm not sure that she has a star persona. I think she's very talented but in truth I don't often think of her and I never think "that's a Charlize Theron role right there!" In their mid 30s actresses often become forever who audiences will always think of them as. But what do we think of Charlize as. Other than "beautiful" perhaps. But that describes everyone.

<--- Theron in Sleepwalking

Does anyone else feel this disconnect? I think the problem may lie with Monster. Quality of the performance aside, it has gobbled up her career and she looked nothing like CHARLIZE THERON while acting in it, so it could it ever truly be definitive for her? In roughly 2/3rds of Sophie's Choice, for example (the definitive Meryl Streep performance if you will) she looks EXACTLY like everyone's Great Thespian Regal Beauty Fantasy of MERYL STREEP. When people conjure up images of Audrey Hepburn and her style, aren't they picturing her in Breakfast at Tiffany's fashions?

So when we think of Theron what do we think of?

What's your take on her career? I think she needs to step it up and seek out challenging roles that aren't downbeat. She's an excellent dramatician (see: Monster, Sleepwalking, North Country) but whenever she's in dramas they seem to be of very limited dour rage and they seem to require that she downplay her beauty. Where are the roles that require all of her parts and not the absence of pieces of her like her beauty, wit and energy? When she isn't dressing down onscreen, she seems to be coasting through doing things that any one of her peers could do just as well (Hancock). I'm not sure I understand her career at all. Do you?

Do you think she has more to show us... and more she should show us, after 15 years on the silver screen?

Hedwig and the Angry Link

Michael Reidel Hedwig and the Angry Inch made it from stage to screen and now it's going back again. [Insert a billion exclamation points here] The cherry gummi bear on top: John Cameron Mitchell will reprise his classic role. This show is a-ma-zing live. One of the best experiences I've ever had in the theater way back in 1999 or so. You must come to NYC and see it. Between this and Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell may have an incredible 2010
MNPP alerts us to the must-read sounding book "The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock's Shower". I already want this to be a movie.

MovieLine an imaginary apology from James Cameron for making you sit through Avatar
Cinema Blend Anna Faris to get all Goldie Hawn in a remake of Private Benjamin. Hey she sold Cameron Diaz with great flair, didn't she?
The Playlist has details on Steven Soderbergh's Contagion. The cast list is almost frighteningly A-list huge. Even if it's a disaster, it'll get a SAG ensemble nod.
Just Jared Reese Witherspoon in talks to play a country singer (again). If at first you do succeed...repeat.
Banana Penis
[nsfw] Did this predate An Education or is someone using movies brilliantly for safe sex promotion?
Empire State of Mind pretty fun Star Wars by way of Alicia Keys video
Popnography skewers Miley Cyrus and The Last Song and suggests a gay alternative
Blabbeando If you're tired of catty remarks about Ricky Martin's coming out, try this on for size. Definitely something to think about.
(Le Sigh)... Isabelle Huppert to guest star on Law & Order: SVU. The apocalypse is nigh. Someone please shoot me!

Finally, remember that unusual zombie movie I told you about that won the Nashville Film Festival? It's called Make-Out With Violence and if you're curious about it you can now "save it" to your Netflix queue.

<--- poster design by Family Tree

If the movie gets enough 'saves' Netflix will purchase copies to rent out. I really marvel at how many ways there are to distribute movies now and how hard it still is for filmmakers despite all those channels, even when they have a quality movie on their hands. I don't think Make-Out is a perfect movie but it sure as hell was made by people with a filmmaking eye. And it makes you want someone to give the Deagol Brothers more money to make a second feature and see where their talents can take them. This is one of the obvious drawback of film festivals... you see work by all sorts of interesting off-the-map talent and then you return to the real world and notice how many hacks are so gainfully employed by Hollywood. Not that film festivals don't have their own "keep your day job" failures ... but this movie is definitely not one of them.

Three Steps to McGregor...

...One: Musical Ewan

Moulin Rouge! may have showcased his vocal abilities to best and most acclaimed effect so far, but back in 1993 when he was starting out Ewan forswore the Suez Crisis for girls and guitars in Dennis Potter’s musical-drama TV throwback Lipstick on Your Collar. The first time I saw him in anything he was shrugging off clerk work and leaping on his desk in gold Elvis get-up miming to ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. And of course four years later the karaoke resurfaced in A Life Less Ordinary, where Ewan’s spontaneous serenading of Cameron Diaz was the only thing that wasn’t lifeless and ordinary. Belting out the tunes came second to his lascivious Iggy Pop-meets-Kurt Cobain routines in Velvet Goldmine, but he gamely sang every song himself. He’s an under-praised cinematic crooner – it’s one of his most dependable attributes.

Come What May, Ewan is always glad to flex his vocal chords on celluloid.

...Two: Ballsy Ewan

As much as Ewan seems to frequently like getting his tackle out, he also seems equally unafraid to take on gay roles. He likes setting his characters’ sexuality free on screen. Four gay roles in a forty-feature career isn’t that many, but it’s more than what most of his peers seem willing to take on. And how venturous and open he is with it, too: he was an open bi book for both Yoshi Oida and Vivian Wu in The Pillow Book; there was the Wild and roughed-up rooftop nookie with Christian Bale in Velvet Goldmine; in Scenes of a Sexual Nature he cruised one long, sunny day away on Hampstead Heath; and in the recent drama-comedy anomaly I Love You Phillip Morris he bunked with Jim Carrey. Ewan is au fait with playing gay. He not only doesn’t seem fazed by it as a factor in choosing parts, he also carries it out with aplomb. In fact he does it in an unabashedly liberating manner: for each of these characters the closet door was flung wide open (check his levity levels on being reunited with Carrey in a crowded jail in Phillip Morris or the flippant way he disregards the social strictures of the ‘70s in Goldmine).

As an actor – and in his own small way – he’s making an affirmative impact from the outside in.

...Three: Smiley Ewan

Drug happy, love happy, dance happy; happy high, happy heart, happy Feet. Ewan has one of the happiest faces in cinema (check out his IMDb photo for proof). And directors love capturing it on screen: Danny Boyle framed Ewan’s drug-placated grin during his heroin highs in the flophouses of Trainspotting; thanks to the magical sheen Baz Luhrmann sprinkled over the Moulin Rouge, Ewan’s face literally lit up upon entering Nicole Kidman’s Paris of 1899; and it may have been Down with Love but he was Up with Joy for Renée Zellweger in ‘60s New York. The places change, but the face remains the same: blissed out with glee. Despite furrowing his brow in a generous handful of the more serious roles that have peppered his filmography – in sci-fi-fantasy (Star Wars prequels, The Island), gritty Brit flicks (Young Adam, Incendiary) and action-drama vehicles (Black Hawk Down, Angels & Demons) – it’s the lighter, cheerier fare in which he endears the most. He works an audience well when he throws a smile down from the silver screen.

So, say ‘cheese’ Mr. Ewan McGregor, it’s your (birthday) party – you’ll smile if you want to.

Who's the Blonde?

Can you name these blondes?

A. [Highlight for answer] Emily Watson in Punch Drunk Love guessed by GBW

B [Highlight for answer] Maggie Gyllenhaal in Sherrybaby guessed by Joe Reid

C [Highlight for answer] Faye Dunaway in The Arrangement guessed by Sam

D [Highlight for answer] Toni Collette in Japanese Story guessed by Michael W

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DVDs: Tea Parties, Sex Education, and Magick Lanterns

What's out on DVD today and which will you be watching?

Sherlock, Dr. Watson and tag-along Jenny. She likes older men, y'see.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
    I pray that Jason Lee is doing charitable things with the money. Did this make money or were the gods merciful and there'll be no Threequel which is a less offensive word than Squeakquel you must admit
  • An Education
    Time to find out what all the 2009's Mulliganza! was all about if you didn't catch this coming of age breakout the first time around. If you did, enjoy the detailed supporting work the second time around. How the hell does Emma Thompson pack so much punch into her every line?
  • The Baader Meinhof Complex
  • Germanic movie star roll call ahead. The German Oscar nominee hits DVD so you can find out if it deserved to lose to Japan's Departures. You can already 'watch instantly' on Netflix.
  • Sherlock Holmes
    The performances are enjoyable but to tell you the truth the central mystery bored me (since you couldn't play along at all). What I found most mysterious was this: what is Rachel McAdams doing with her career? And why could you barely see her through the immense costumes?
and a couple of classics...
Which of these DVDs does Nathaniel have to post about next Monday?
Boss him around with your vote! (Last week you made him watch Fantastic Mr Fox)

You chose AN EDUCATION. Here's the Write Up.

Which movie... you most want to see a sequel of? Even if you don't normally care about sequels.

(You may have noticed we're not franchise obsessed around here but sometimes more is definitely more.)

Curio: Franky Panky

Alexa here. Nothing screams Easter week like a creepy doomsday rabbit! Yes, that's Frank from Donnie Darko, a movie I still love for all kinds of reasons. (Jake and Maggie playing sibs! Lost-esque tangential timelines! Swayze!) And while there's loads of Darko geekery out there, Missy over at Boopsie Daisy had the inspired idea to sprinkle Richard Kelly's dark universe with all kinds of sugar. The results are yummier than a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Frank is just one of the bunnies...

so why can't he find love, too?

See more of Missy's world of twisted whimsy here.

An Education Giveaway

I have one DVD copy of Best Picture nominee An Education (2009) to hand out to a reader. The film, set in 60s London, is about a teenage student Jenny (Oscar nominated Carey Mulligan) and the older man (Peter Sarsgaard) who seduces her away from her college preparations. His glamourous friends aid in the seduction (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike are the movie's secret weapons), her parents (Cara Seymour, Alfred Molina) get confused and her educators (Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson) worry and fume.

Pretty soon all the Best Actress nominees will be out on DVD (Helen Mirren in The Last Station is the lone holdout) and the debate about who was really deserving in that Meryl vs. Sandra vs. Gabby vs. Carey vs. Helen cluster can start up all over again. Joy!

This giveaway is open to all readers -- just bear in mind that the DVD will be in the American format so you'll need an all region player if you're watching it elsewhere. To enter, send an email by Friday April 2nd with "EDUCATION" in the subject line. Include:
  1. Your name
  2. Your shipping address
  3. And the answer to this question: Which movie actor or actress could easily derail your education should they turn their bedroom eyes your way?
The winner will be drawn randomly but I might share a few answers to #3 as long as y'all keep it PG-13!

Pedro & Pe... Giving It Away

Readers were invited to submit their favorite thing about either Pedro Almodóvar or Penélope Cruz for a chance to win a copy of the new Broken Embraces DVD. This contest got a great response. I guess the film experience's well known love for P&P has attracted other like-minded movie freaks. THE WINNER, drawn randomly, is... Adelutza in Indiana who writes
I don't think I can express how much I love Pedro and his films. I love him so much that, when I have a bad day, all I have to do is bring up the memory of Tacones Lejanos (High Heels) , the scene where Letal sings "Piensa en mi" - and the voice of Luz Casal combined with the face of Miguel Bose are enough to bring me back to the real world where movies rule. Wouldn't that be nice? :-)
Adelutza... are you implying that movies don't rule the world? What a cruel cruel world we live in. Your DVD ships this week. (Anybody waiting on recent past contests... I have confirmation that your wait is also over this week. I did hear from a few people who just received theirs.)

This shot above, is from my favorite scene in Broken Embraces... the amount of emotions that cross Cruz's post-coital face here, are just wondrous to behold. But this post isn't about my Almodóvar/Cruz fixation, but yours. Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. Here are some excerpts from the many contest entries that I wanted to share.

On Pedro...
Fabrice in Montreal: One of the many reasons i love Almodovar, is that he certainly has a special talent to film the hottest sex scenes ever. Or, As we say in french: Almodovar tourne les scènes de baise les plus torrides!

Candice in New York: the man knows how to write complicated sass queens who unabashedly admit faults without making them look wishy-washy and one-dimensional.

Janice in Connecticut: What I loved after seeing All About My Mother, Women on the Verge...., Volver, and even Pepi, Luci, Bon is the depth of his love and compassion for all of his characters, which few other filmmakers match; there are no "bad guys", no monsters in his films (not even the tranny ex-husband of whom the protagonist screams "You are an epidemic!"), only foolish and fucked-up human beings reaching for love in their own unique, foolish and fucked-up ways.

Eric in Pennsylvania: As a Douglas Sirk-a-holic, it is a joy knowing that there are filmmakers like Almodovar still carrying his style and spirit.

Brad in Toronto: I am a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown but Pedro's films always manage to keep me sane.

Bernardo in Mexico: I am the grandson of Spanish refugees and whenever I watch an Almodovar film, I can't help but feel the sense of passion that I feel every time I taste my great aunt's paella: Spicy and colourful, just like the enthralling images of Almodovar's films.
On Penélope...
Derek in New York: I, along with everyone else in the world, am absolutely amazed at Penélope's complete transformation into a great actress, having not given a single performance I would consider less than remarkable since Volver.
On the Almodóvar/Cruz Combo...
Bryan in Washington:The two together work with such passion and beauty, yet seem to be doing so effortlessly, with grace and without a trace of falseness. I know there is a great deal of effort involved in their collaborations, but whenever I see a film they've done together, hell an interview with them, it reminds me of old friends from my life who I love dearly. Their connection is so vital and wonderful that it just makes me smile.

Serghio in Guatemala: One thing I love about Pé and Pe: The diva-legend vibe surrounding them, equally!

Hayden in Boston: Cinematography that lusts after a lead actress is a beautiful thing, whether it's classy like Nicole Kidman in Birth or trashy like Megan Fox in Transformers. Pedro knows exactly how to straddle that line with Pene, daring to push the limits of taste (that ceiling-boob shot in Volver!) while clearly adoring her as the Sophia Loren of our generation. From Pedro, you get the idea that filming Penélope is a true privilege.

Andrew in Ontario: My favourite thing about Pedro and Penélope is that they found each other, and continue to work together.
Amen, Andrew... amen.

I wish I had 10 copies to give away but if you didn't win, you can still rent the movie or buy it. I'd love to hear what you think of it. One day I'll have to rank all of the Pedro oeuvre. One day...

I could have kept sharing contest entries. Y'all have such good taste but I must be getting on. Are these things you also love about Pedro or Pe?

First and Last, 3.7

the first image after the opening credits

and the last line
I didn't mean it!
Highlight for the answer if you're stumped: It's the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. The one starring Jack Nicholson that's not a musical
for all first and last puzzles, click the label below

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts I Had While Watching... Fantastic Mr Fox

I'm going to be experimenting for a short while with having readers pick which DVD we cover here. Which new release I blog about will be up to you but how it's blogged we'll let my schedule decide. My schedule is an unkind mistress. She's very disorganized and thinks that there's 38 hours to each day and 8 days in a week. She also thinks blogging and sleeping are both wastes of time, inks in lots for staring off into space time, and has lately even been forcing me to only write inbetween actual money-making jobs. What's her problem, anyway?

Where were we? Last week you chose Fantastic Mr Fox so here we are.


First thing I notice my third time through from the ungodly hour of midnight till 1:27 AM, is that when it starts I'm instantly in a good mood. Is it the banjos? I don't know from musical instruments. Maybe it's the warm color palette or the feeling that I'm staring at an intricately designed diorama that I know people fussed over with their own hands (I love stop motion).

Are you fussing with me? The fuss you are.

I credit this insta-mood booster with my giddy delight that the movie does all sorts of things that are traditional, classic or expected (the "one last job" plot, holding up a storybook cover to begin an animated film, reflecting Wes Anderson's favored eccentric gifted family stories) and they feel totally fresh to my heart even though my brain says "excessively familiar!"

The portrait of a Foxy marriage is really compelling stuff, despite it happening in very tiny increments with screwball fast banter
If what I think is happening, is happening. It better not be.
Of course it helps that talented actors are doing the voice work for roles to which they're well suited. Meryl Streep is so familiar and beloved that she can perfectly sell warm but formidable domesticity (who wouldn't want to marry and be bossed around by her?) along with the backstory idea that that's not all there is to her... she's lived! The town tart line is especially funny given Meryl’s recent forays into risqué humor. To quote It’s Complicated “Turns out, I’m a bit of a slut.” For his part George Clooney harnesses his mega-charm for a role that's all about how far charm can take you but what price people and their loved ones sometimes pay for that gift. While I don’t normally condone the animated film’s reliance on “names” as voice cast, it’s actually helpful in this one case. Part of the humor and pathos here is that the animals are ultra aware of whether or not their behavior is fitting in with what's expected of their species and we in turn are ultra aware that they're standing in for humans. This adds an extra meta layer to the laughs that come from both the mandatory anthropomorphics of the genre and the regressions into pure animalistic behavior. The recurring joke of the foxes eating like wild animals is hilarious each and every time. Especially because it always happen so quickly and is ignored by the characters once it has. They even pick up the dishes after their feeding frenzy! I don’t even always do that and…. I am animal.

The best thing about the movie might be how excessively quotable! it is. "I don't know what you're talking about but it sounds illegal" I sense that the more we watch this, the more we'll crib from its extensive pantry full of laugh lines. I'm 100% certain that movie buffs who are good at sounds and whistles, will adopt Fox's signature send-off as well.

If you try that blueberry trick on me, you could rob me blind. I’d fall for it every time. Mmmmm, blueberries. So yummy. So yummy.

If there's a problem with the movie, I'd venture to say that it's that the villains Boggis, Bunce and Bean aren't as compelling as the animals. And don’t you think that villains should always be angling for "best in show" honors. My mind flashes to Mrs. Tweedy in Chicken Run, another animals vs. humans stop-motion delight and she was just awesome. The BB&B intro is super, though. I love it when movies stop in their tracks to introduce characters in some theatrical way. And I mean that in both the literal and the style sense. Of course sometimes it's no good. That bit inInglourious Basterds when we learn about Sgt Hugo Stiglitz is just so inorganic... there's no parallels in the movie to make it feel like anything other than a whimsical indulgence that would be more fitting and more enjoyable as a DVD extra. But anyway. I do get a little bored towards the end because there’s just so much of BB&B trying again to kill the Foxes.

But then I forgive all the repetition when Mr Fox speaks French to the wolf.

That said, maybe I do prefer this to UP which didn’t hold up as well to return visits. You can say “told ya so” in the comments if you’re petty like that.

I've already told you how much I love the "Whackbat" sequence. The voicework in this movie is just perfect from top to bottom. Owen Wilson is always best within the Andersonverse. Everything about the scene clicks (and whistles): The incredibly fast complicated rules of the game punctuated with a prefaced "it's simple" and a "got it" finish, the elaborate diagram visualized once in blue print and once in “reality”, and that little bunny changing the scoreboard is love. The cherry on top of the scene is the painful punchline.
Coach Skip: He really is your father's nephew, isn't he?
Ash: Not by blood.
Little Ash = Jason Schwartzman’s best work ever? Discuss.

I find it so hard to pick a favorite character (another sign of an extensively loveable movie) but if you trapped me in a hole and forced me to choose I might go with the dazed and timid possum, Wally Wolodarksy. Is he the one that says "apple juice…apple juice flood" because that kills me. Funniest moment of the movie?! It was late when that scene hit last night and I can't be blamed for mixing up the mangy animal puppets when drunk on apple cider and sleep deprivation.

Do you think Mr Fox is Fantastic? And if so how come and which parts? I feel I've barely scratched the surface. I didn't even get to the part about how Wes Anderson keeps proving to Hollywood that Willem Dafoe (as the rat) should be a comedy star and Hollywood keeps ignoring it... Or what I think about the camera work (brill) or the music.

Laura Linney In Conversation

I had the opportunity to attend “Laura Linney in Conversation” last night at the 92nd Street Y. They often host celebrities in their spacious auditorium and I knew better than to turn down the invite this time around. The last such function I neglected involved Glenn Close. I opted out on the grounds that I had Things To Do and that the night wasn’t about Ms Close (she was the interviewer) but apparently the interviewee convinced her to sing one of her big Sunset Blvd numbers for the crowd. Argh. To think I could have been there!

TLLL's last theatrical outing, Donald Margulie's Time Stands Still

No such impromptu singing erupted from The Lovely Laura Linney though the subject of musicals did come up. She absolutely loves them --- particularly big dance numbers -- but doesn’t have those gifts, can’t sing at all. The evening was a bit awkward with the moderator, theatrical producer Jordan Roth, occassionally waiting long stretches after Linney was done with an answer to move on, in which she would be forced to meander through a reiteration of what she’d just said. But for those who enjoy actorspeak and talk about “the craft” and the importance of art and culture, it was a totally engaging evening. I am one of those people. Duh.

Linney isn’t a celebrity that we know a lot about in terms of her personal life. I wasn’t aware, though maybe I should have been, that she is an absolute hard core stage actor. It’s how she defines herself. It’s clear that she wants to be treading the boards till she drops. (Mysteriously, I’ve missed all of her Broadway appearances.) She considers TV & Film to be strange things that happened along the way… she’s grateful for them, but she is all about the stage. She even described film as a medium that sucks things out of you without giving back. Stranger still, she’s scared of cameras and had to conquer that fear to do it. (She still hates to be photographed. Imagine!) She also talked a little about the differences between stage and film in terms of “rehearsal”…getting a laugh when she said that “rehearsal” for film should actually be called “negotiation.” She advised young actors to not get caught up in making choices for their “career” but for the material and the acting itself. There’s only so much control you have over a career.

Let’s see what else did we learn about TLLL? Her favorite costumes for any of her roles are the ones for John Adams – but she also kept her You Can Count On Me jacket. In her first Playbill they misspelled her name “Lavro Linney” and it taught her to not take herself too seriously since she had hundreds of playbills at home and was desperate to see her name in one. This story was very funny and she says her friends still call her “Lavro” if she starts taking herself too seriously. That first gig was an understudy for the younger female roles in Six Degrees of Separation and she watched Stockard Channing perform it every night for a year, completely enraptured. Every time she thought that Stockard couldn't take the role any deeper, she would.

That’s enough trivia!

She has zero interest in directing but she recently moved into the exciting world of producing for her new Showtime Series The Big C (see previous post) and she thinks she’ll be good at it. She talked a lot about understanding actors well enough to be very smart about call times, set environment and especially casting ‘No, cast this person. They have more range. It’ll inspire the writers and the show will be better.’ She also shared a theory on why when some actors emote you feel nothing and others will make you go all puddly (she believes the difference is that some actors knit their emotions specifically to the material whereas others are just accessing their own stuff... which is less thrilling.) More than anything else when the night ended, I wanted a private “Conversation With Laura Linney.” Which actors are which for you LAVRO? Spill. Show me your personal Oscar ballots!!!

First and Last (The Picture Really Isn't This Wet)

first image after the opening credits and the last image before the credits roll...

Can you guess the movie? I never think of rain when I think of this movie. Not that I often think of this movie.

Highlight for the answer: This is the Oscar loved David Lean film A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984) ...for all first and last puzzles, click the label below

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Nobody's going to keep me from working in this town!"

Every once in a while I miss Kathleen Turner so much I could spit. I don't even care that my infrequent posts about her fall on mostly deaf ears. Her superstardom was shortlived but she remains one of my all time favorites.

I accidentally ended up watching that old Steve Martin silliness The Man With Two Brains (1983) the other day and I marvelled first at how funny it still was (I think I had assumed it was more sketch funny than movie-length funny but I was laughing throughout) and then how it accidentally foretold the entire Kathleen Turner Story when the Kathleen Turner Story had only barely begun. The Man With Two Brains was just her second feature, a comic twist if you will of her debut in Body Heat.

In this comedy she is introduced as a murderous femme fatale (Body Heat. Check). She's barely been introduced when she's hospitalized (Kathleen's health troubles have plagued her career). She sells SEX with capital letters and laughs about it (Entire First Half of Career. Check). She gleefully commits acts of violence (Serial Mom. Check). She horrifies her lover by trying to feed him something he loves. (The War of the Roses. Check). She upsets her husband by exploiting her body (Crimes of Passion fallout. Check). She makes a weird reference to her balls (Friends cameo. Check) She gets wet and muddy when Steve Martin kicks her out of his house "Into the mud, scum queen!" (Romancing the Stone, Undercover Blues, VI Warshawski. Check!) She is maddeningly difficult (Entire Career. or so some people have said. Check).

And then she gets fat.

"I never told him I was a compulsive eater."

I love her so much and I wish someone would give her a role worthy of her gifts again. I'm still pulling for the Mattie Fae Akin role in August: Osage County should they ever film it. From "Matty" (Body Heat) to "Mattie"... what a brilliant final plot twist that would be.

Link and Response

Neill Cameron the A to Z of Awesomeness. This is so fun
Sunset Gun Kim Morgan recalls her time on the now departed At the Movies
Twitpic Tom Hanks tweets the casting of his new film. He's reuniting with Julia Roberts for Larry's Crowne. Let's hope it's better than Charlie Wilson's War
Empire Bryan Singer will oversee but not direct X-Men: First Class. I haven't seen this much craziness for "young" versions of things since the Muppet Babies craze in the 80s
popbytes Dennis Hopper gets his Walk of Fame star

Celebitchy on Jude Law's hair and the "naughty Adonis" vibe
CHUD announces the best back-to-back filming news I've heard in years and years: Viggo & Cronenberg will follow filming of Talking Cure with Eastern Promises 2. Yay!
The Awl Clash of the Titans "Adventures in Mimicry"

Here's the trailer for The Lovely Laura Linney's Showtime series The Big C which co-stars Gabourey Sidibe and Oliver Platt. They seem to be attempting to jam all the TLLL trademarks into one series...

Acerbic wit, sympathetic mortality drama, half-assed romance and of course... the sister act. It's all there. And nobody does the sister act better you must admit.

he said / he said
Salon on the continued might of French cinema and...
.......The Guardian responds. Do Brits measure up?
Todd Alcott details A Serious Man's true protagonist and...
.......Scanners responds to this reading and more
New York Times sings the praises of Greta Gerwig and...
.......My New Plaid Pants joins in for the chorus

uh, I guess I should see a Greta Gerwig movie right quick. I'm still a Gerwirgin and I hate being late to actress parties. I'm used to starting them!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day of Rest (Avec Ludivine Sagnier)

Shhhhhhhhh. Ludivine Sagnier finds ennui and romantic confusion exhausting. She's sleeping it off. (She probably shouldn't be sleeping though. She should wake up and get her ass out of that apartment, double quick. Nobody ever leaves that apartment!).

We'll be back tomorrow with more blog fodder. In truth there's not actually much resting going on chez moi. There's spreadsheets and websites and IMDb pages all over my screen. I'm researching 2010 and 2011 for next week's launch of the new Oscar predictions. Yes, it starts all over again very soon. Stay tuned.

In the meantime... talk amongst yourself, give me clues to what you think will happen this coming Oscar year in the comments right here, or continue conversations that are already in play further down the page. There's even continued conversation to enjoy on that 'this decade's actresses' and the post on Oliver! from last Monday.

First and Last, 3.5

the first and last images before the opening and closing credits

Can you guess the movie?
Hint: This 1990s film starred two very recent Oscar winners.

Highlight for the answer if you're still stumped: THE VANISHING with Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges for all first and last puzzles, click the label below

Friday, March 26, 2010

Honk If You Like Greenberg

Adam of Club Silencio with a post as aimless as Roger Greenberg, and as soured as as he would be by the L.A. Starbucks in which I write this.

"Are you going to let me in?" A response to L.A. traffic that becomes an oft-repeated anthem for the lovelorn and aimless, and the perfect intro to Noah Baumbach's latest, Greenberg.

Florence (Greta Gerwig) runs errands with some direction as a personal assistant, but is stuck with the same small errands of life offered to Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller); a by-choice drifter and house guest who's freed from the shackles of his self-induced stint in an asylum. He's taken to building dog houses and writing angry posts on Pakistan and commercialized coffee in aims of doing absolutely nothing, admirably. Roger and Florence come together with that same anthem - "Are you going to let me in?" - as love and connection springs from their occasional psychosis, awkwardness, indifference, and general dread of that very same love and connection.

Greenberg seems often of a familiar mold. A downtrodden and dismal male character falls for a forlorn woman who's still bafflingly out of his league; she's persistently "just gotten out of a long relationship," while his relationships consist of certifiable anxiety and outlashings of lust that are appropriately confused with verbal abuse. The film even finds a similar (albeit more sour) finale to Alexander Payne's Sideways; a means for our sadsack male's direction without significant signposts. The difference here is that Baumbach's indifference is so astutely fixated and his characters so brittle and weary that love isn't necessarily the destination we want for these people. A goal, a hint of whimsy, the glimmers of passion they've resigned themselves from; any change is a good change. It's a caustic piece steeped in its detailed dialogue and a strong sense of place. It's almost Baumbach's trademark at this point: to throw himself into human flaws and frailties, and hope to find charm in what remains. It's offputting, funny and filled with novelistic precision, even while the film's arc is small enough to seem straightforward.

An auto shop's streetside windbag becomes a startlingly adept image of Greenberg's own flailing. It tosses about amidst the traffic, human-like arms outstretched in outrage or confusion: basically Roger's full time job whilst unemployed. Roger can't drive and he can't swim, but boy can he complain about both with remarkable skill. He's like someone from Baumbach's last film, Margot at the Wedding, with an unknowing ability to wound because he's wounded. "Hurt people hurt people," so says another of the film's key anthems, spoken by the harmlessly wounded Florence. Gerwig's goofy, nervously sexy self is a charm here, complimenting Stiller's cold but compelling Roger in ways that make the union the believable detour for these characters. In Baumbach's world misery not only loves company, it needs it to thrive and provide more fodder for the misery. Thankfully, this time the company's feelings are mutual.

Open Thread

What's on your mind cinematically speaking? Any movie plans this weekend?

In Space No One Can Hear You Link

Godxillary Alien vs. Pooh. Ohhh, that's just so wrong.
People celebrates Why We Love Julia Roberts. They have 20 reasons but forget to mention numero uno "she boosts our sales / pageviews when we display her thusly"
First Showing Michael Bay sounds intelligent (gasp) when he expresses concerns about 3D. But, frankly, I don't understand why he's having the meetings at all about 3D conversion. Transformers 3 hasn't started filming yet, so why not do it for real rather than worry about that post-production shortcut that Clash of The Titans went with?

"Stroobs" a collage of Meryl Streep cleavage (via jazzt). haha. The internet is a delightful place
Monkey See terrific piece on film criticism and the eternal confusion about what it's supposed to be
Screen Rant Angela Bassett joins the Green Lantern cast in potentially lucrative role for her. I'm all about Bassett getting more work, however that can happen. So, tentative "yay!" even though I still think Green Lantern woulda worked better as a television series with a complex sci-fi allegory bent (a la Battlestar Galactica)

Fun video from Film in Focus: Karina Longworth of LA Weekly on the Coen Bros classic, The Big Lebowski

The Dude abides.

First and Last, 3.4

the first image (well before the title credit) and the last image before the closing credits...

Can you guess the movie?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Eliza Mulligan-Doolittle

...Just you wait Henry Higgins. Just you wait.
You'll be sorry but your tears'll be too late.....>>>......

Audrey Hepburn and the latest "new Audrey Hepburn" Carey Mulligan

So it looks like the remake of 1964's Best Picture My Fair Lady is going to happen after all. Carey Mulligan will be playing Eliza Doolittle instead of Keira Knightley as previously reported. Now, this is why I don't spend hundreds of posts tracking every pre-production film the way most sites do -- well, that and the time and the lack of staff and the preference for actual movies rather than movies no one will see for another year or three -- because things are always in flux. The Carey Mulligan news is also a handy illustration of why I never trust either rumors or denials. It was less than a month ago that Mulligan said there was zero truth to the rumor.

This seems like a risky move to me. Mulligan's already got the 'new Audrey Hepburn' tag as she worked the fashions with stick thin elegance all awards season. Maybe her agents aren't worried. After all every young actress must suffer the "new so and so" thing as they come into their stardom. [tangent: There was even a time --shudder with me now -- that Entertainment Weekly tried to call Julianne Moore the new Julia Roberts. I'm like an elephant. I never forget. Could any two actresses be more different?] But it's one thing to be labelled "the next so and so". It's quite another to be labelled so and then sign up to take on one of their signature roles. It's risking direct comparison. And who wants to risk comparison to one of the greatest movie stars of all time?

I don't exactly object to My Fair Lady being remade (though I assumed it would be a non-musical version when I first heard the news) and I'm thrilled that Emma Thompson is involved. That's a sure sign that the book inbetween the classic score will be witty. In truth I'm just happy that any musical is still getting made after Nine's bombing. See, Hollywood has a way of assuming that one thing equals every other thing ("Avatar made billions. Therefore ALL movies will make billions if we convert them to 3D!") so I feared Nine's financial blood bath would spell the end of the musical resurgence despite all the musical hits that directly preceded it.

Carey & Anne & Keira, Doolittle Triplets

I have no idea if Carey Mulligan can sing or not but this is yet another situation where we have a movie musical happening and Anne Hathaway is not starring in it. What is going on here? If any single actress from Young Hollywood should be doing musicals, it's her. She's the only one who has made it completely obvious that she was born for it. And yet nothing. Still. (And I don't think they'll let her do her own singing as Judy Garland in that biopic, you know?) And you'd think Hathaway would be a total fit for Eliza. Hollywood loves to see actors repeating themselves and Hathaway has had a lot of training at Pygmalian-esque screen make-overs (The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada).

If the movie does happen (we're still early in the process mind you), I will die with curiousity waiting for Oscar to react. The original My Fair Lady was a huge Oscar sensation but for Audrey herself who wasn't even nominated, despite it being one of her three signature roles (the others obviously being "Holly Golightly" and "Princess Ann"). It's widely believed she was snubbed as misplaced karmic punishment for winning the role when the producers deemed Julie Andrews (who originated it on Broadway) unfit to sell a movie, having no previous film experience. Andrews got the last laugh becoming a huge film star that same year, winning the Oscar for Mary Poppins and chasing it with The Sound of Music, one of the biggest box office behemoths of all time.

Modern Maestros: David Cronenberg

Robert here, continuing my series on important contemporary directors. I'm glad Nathaniel posted his list of favorite characters of the 2000's earlier today, and even gladder that Tom Stall, protagonist of A History of Violence made the cut. He's a fantastically layered character. Also it's a nice segway into my director of choice this week. Though before we start, let's get this one bit of sad business out of the way: Yes, we'll never be able to talk about Cronenberg's Crash without having to say "No, not that Crash, the other Crash. Yes there's another movie called Crash." Le sigh.

Maestro: David Cronenberg
Known For: sci-fi, thriller, or generally disturbing takes on violent people.
Influences: plenty of great cerebral or sci-fi writers. Philip Dick, Ray Bradbury, Franz Kafka. Cinematically? According to Cronenberg, he grew up liking westerns.
Masterpieces: I respect a lot of his work. For me Eastern Promises and Dead Ringers are at the top.
Disasters: Oh eXistenZ really does kinda sUcK.
Better than you remember: I can't blame anyone for reacting with abhorrence to Crash. But it's really not that bad.
Box Office: over 40 mil for The Fly
Favorite Actor: When Cronenberg's next film is released (next year) Viggo Mortensen will be the #1 man with three showings. Right now there are a few actors who've starred in two Cronenberg films, including Ian Holm and Jeremy Irons.

Not many directors can work handily for over three decades and still be considered a "modern maestro." David Cronenberg is not only still making movies, but he's at the top of his game. He's reached a point in his career where a new Cronenberg film is greeted by movie lovers as a slightly out of the mainstream event and my guess is this is exactly where he wants to be. Through the past thirty years as we've watched his career go from horror in the late 70's to science fiction in the early 80's to psychological dramas with surreal elements in the 90's to straight thrillers this century (and for the sake of modernness, we'll try to stick to those here), his top interest has always been the same: violence. We've discussed directors who explore violence before. Tarantino loves the excitement of it. For Von Trier it's a social weapon. But for David Cronenberg, violence is simple and intimate. His movies ponder how we come to violence and how it comes to us. He examines how it alters our identity. After all, our bodies are our identities and when parts of those bodies are punctured, cut open, amputated or scarred, it alters who we are and what we are, if even just a little bit.

But all this about what violence does to us is just half of the equation (usually presented for our own musing in graphic detail). Once we understand the extent of what violence can do to a body, we can ask the other half. What kind of man can do such violence? For this, Cronenberg has any number of answers. It could be someone mentally scarred, someone in the pursuit of good, or even someone a lot more like you and I than you'd expect. It is the psyche of this individual that is at the very heart of what a Cronenberg movie is. But why stop there? Cronenberg movies always seem simple when they're fantastically layered. Where there's violence, sex isn't far behind. In an industry where most sex scenes are used as either shallow titillation or trailer teasing, Cronenberg's have always been immediate and necessary. When was the last time sex scenes were used to demonstrate the evolution of a relationship as successfully as those in A History of Violence?

Life is good. What could go wrong?

Even though Cronenberg started off as a horror director (saying that sounds so reductive doesn't it? I really don't mean it pejoratively) his style has always defied the easy tricks of that genre. Cronenberg's horrors aren't about the startle, they're about the slow build. While watching one of his films, you're never worried that something will jump out at you around the next corner. In fact you're certain that nothing will. But you know that what's around the next corner will be worse than what was around the last corner. And what's around the corner after that will be worse still. And you can't escape it. Although Cronenberg has departed the genre of supernatural horror (for good?), he's kept this method of building slow terror and it continues to serve him well.

After saying all of that I feel I haven't even come close to doing David Cronenberg justice, though if I wrote ten more paragraphs I still may not get close. One probably needs to take a psychology class and a philosophy class (and possibly be stabbed a few times, and have kinky sex, maybe simultaneously) to really get all the way through the depth of Cronenberg's canon. Excitement is already building for his next film, which will deal with a theme that while not violence (not directly at least) has been prevalent in all his work. Psychoanalysis, and the relationship between Freud and Jung (starring Viggo again and Michael Fassbender, what a cast!) Talk about things being worse around the next corner.