Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sad Time

Just a heads up to my wonderful highly valued readers. Updates will be non-existent or very sporadic over the next week or so as I will be travelling. (I do have some things half written that I'll try to throw up if time permits) I have an unexpected situation with a lifelong friend to attend to.

These next two weeks are huge in movie news and import but real life is more important than reel life, even for crazy cinephiles like me. If you find yourself missing the daily dose of the Film Experience please consider continuing any of the fun discussions below. Also, spread the word about the Vampire Blog-a-Thon on your own site or blog (if ya got one) with a link --the more the merrier on October 30th. The conclusion to the massive Moulin Rouge piece will be coming in late October or November instead of right now as planned. Can't be helped. Anyone who believes in Truth!Beauty! Freedom!and Love! will understand.

I'll write more when I'm able. Peace.

Blogosphere Multiplex: Jay Lassiter

It's been a loooong time since the last blogosphere interview. So, let's hop back on that horse. This time we're jumping on the PATH Train to New Jersey to speak with Jay Lassiter. He runs Lassiter Space, a personal blog which leans heavily on the political, and an all-politics blog BlueJersey which "covers New Jersey like a rug."

He's true blue -- just the way we like 'em. I think you'll find him fun to read as well. Here's the interview:

10 questions with Jay Lassiter

Nathaniel:How often do you go the movies?

Jay: Not that often. Once a month at most. I had been in a full leg cast for about 6 months and that kinda made it tough to get around and to get comfy at the cinema. I got my cast off in May --just in time for the lousy summer movie line up. Now that I am bipedal again, I have eagerly been reclaiming the bits of my life that I enjoyed before my injury. In fact, I'm going to see Little Miss Sunshine tonite. I will never again take for granted the capacity to get up and fetch my own popcorn.

Nathaniel: I'm glad you're better. But I have to know. During your convalescence did you feel more like James Caan Misery or Jimmy Stewart Rear Window ?

Jay: Definitely James Caan in Misery. Caan's character, Paul Sheldon suffered a horrible foot injury (much like my ruptured Achilles) which was the handiwork of someone who was "helping" him convalesce from a car crash.

My surgeon fucked up my operation and the recovery time went front the normal 3 months to over a year. In fact, if a movie was made of my movie, my orthopedic surgeon could be played by Kathy Bates. So Caan without a doubt (if i had to choose) with a pinch of Mia Farrow from Rosemary's Baby since the doc kept telling me that I am fine and the complications are "normal" and "all in my head."

Nathaniel: Ha. Oh, that's terrible. I shouldn't laugh. But it is the best medicine. What movie(s) makes you laugh the hardest?

Jay: Anything by John Waters, with Polyester and Pecker standing out for some reason. Like the venerable Waters, I am a Maryland boy with a twisted brand of humor, morbid fascinations and a heart of gold. I relate to the humanity and I love the characters he dreams up.

That being said, Nine to Five still rocked the kasbah for me as well. Funny as hell, with or without bonghits.

Nathaniel: Right? Such a classic trio. My personal favorite from the bunch is Jane Fonda. If she wants to do 'M & M's --you can't stop her! Who are your favorite actresses ever?

Jay: ok. well we could take our pick from and of the 9-to-5 gang i reckon. In fact, i'll go ahead and choose Jane Fonda A) because of her progressive activism and B) for her amazing canon or work. I met Jane Fonda at a book signing a few months ago. After her talk there was a Q-n-A and I got a chance to ask her what's on my mind. You can read more about our encounter here on my blog.

The fact is, there are so many amazing actresses who have done stuff that blows my mind. I choose Jane because of the off-the-screen intangibles which she embodies and I admire. In other words, I love Jane Fonda (actress) and Jane Fonda (in words and deeds.)

Honorable mention: Divine, Audrey Hepburn

Nathaniel:Good choice on Jane. She's so frequently inspired onscreen --Klute being one of my favorite performances ever. I'm also a known fan of Coming Home and I love They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.

As for politics -- the most frequent subject of your blog -- what do you think of the booming documentary genre? Seems like it's one of the only areas where progressive thought is winning out: An Inconvenient Truth, The Corporation, Fahrenheit 9/11, etc... Any feelings on this --do you think it'll make a difference or is it just preaching to the converted?

Jay: Hmmm, this is the first one that an answer isn't coming to me quickly. (long contemplative pause) First of all, yes I do believe that the movies you cite are making a difference on some level. Probably not a lot, but some for sure.

I guess anyone can make a documentary, but the key is (still, ultimately) to entertain. What made Fahrenheit 9/11 so special is that it was damn clever. Whether or not you agreed with the subject matter, it's undeniable that Michael Moore is a master craftsman with film. It's worth noting that Fahrenheit made an astronomical amount of $$ at the box office, further testament to the movies wide appeal.

SO the most compelling ideas will always benefit from good, solid filmmaking. Progressive ideas are better than the alternative. And thus far, the success and appeal of the movies you cite is a testament that --at this point in the game-- we are way more passionate about our values than they are. After all, where is the republican version of Michael Moore? There is none.

Nathaniel: Whats your favorite foreign film?

Jay: My favorite foreign film of all time is Goodbye Lenin. Have you seen it? I have always been fascinated with the Cold War and particularly how it played out in Germany. Goodbye Lenin was an interesting take on the German struggle to evolve after the Wall fell.

Nathaniel: I have seen it. Thought it was very good --a fascinating take on the political as personal, which is a topic I greatly enjoy. That's another reason I love Angels in America --there are so many reasons to love it but that's one of the chief reasons I find it brilliant.

In addition to your own blog you also run another New Jersey blog, right? Are there any specific films that you feel really capture New Jersey whether in a true-to-life or exaggerated way?

Jay: I have two blogs, one called Lassiter Space and the other (bigger) site is BlueJersey. BlueJersey is pretty much all politics all the time. Seeing the garden state through a political lens is quite a show. Go figure. It seems like a lot of films use NJ is a character in the movie, much like John Waters used Baltimore. Most examples get the Jersey zetgeist pretty well: Clerks and Mallrats come to mind. I also think Harold and Kumar go to White Castle is a real gem which makes great use of New Jersey in its plotline.

Nathaniel: I love the photo of you and your nephew on your blog (pictured left). It always makes me think of my nephews. One of my favorite movie memories is of taking them to see Babe when they were little. We all loved it and they quoted it forever thereafter. Do you have any favorite moviegoing memories?

Jay: Some of my favorite childhood memories center around movies: Superman 2, Karate Kid, Splash and Ferris Bueller's Day Off were all seen with my Aunt Debbie and her kids (my cousins) Doug Jr. and David. The scene in Splash where Daryl Hannah's mermaid character "Madison" was drying off her fin with a hairdryer still makes me chuckle to this day. And Superman 2, well, that's just a classic.

Nathaniel: What's the most bizarre thing that's ever happened to you at a movie?

Jay: I was 14 and drank an entire bottle of Robotussin before going to see Weekend at Bernie's. It was my first and last Robo-trip and it was horrifying. I don't recommend.

Half way through the movie, I had to pee and realized that I was paralyzed. When I finally pulled it together to stagger to the bathroom I heard a little girl saying "Mommy, mommy, what's wrong with that kid? Is he retarded??"

Nathaniel: oh so embarrassing. LAST QUESTION: They make a movie of your life. Who plays you? Who directs? What's the title? Rating?

Jay: In the movie about my life, I'll be played by someone handsome like Jude Law. Pam Grier would play my alter ego "Cookie Puss Johnston." No I'm not a drag queen, maybe just a teensy bit schizophrenic. Spike Lee would direct and the movie would be called "Cracker with a Heart of Gold."

Nathaniel: Thank you so much for sharing all of this with me. It's been fun. Now, readers (particularly those in the Tri-State area) head on over to Jay's blogs and get yourself politically aware and active.

If you're new to this blog, look around...
There's other interviews, exhaustive looks at favorite films, occassional video mixology, much ado about Far From Heaven & Brokeback Mountain, blog-a-thon delights and lots and lots of Oscars & personal Awardage and sometimes there's even politics too... albeit usually in movie form.

Tags: movies, cinema, jane fonda, New Jersey, documentary,film, progressive, politics

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"I don't mind if I don't have any lines as long as I get to wear the crown."

This lovely photo is taken by Robert Maxwell. That quippy quote in the title line is ascribed to Dame Helen Mirren herself. They are both featured in the "Profiles" section of the October 2nd New Yorker (not available online currently). If the media keeps fawning on Mirren like this it's going to be hard for anyone else to get competitive traction in the Best Actress Oscar race.

It's a great profile by John Lahr with some really fine quotes from Mirren enthusiasts and Mirren herself. Like the following:
You know that kind of ensemble feeling -'We're all in this together.' No, actually, we're not all in this together. I am the queen. I am the star, and you know, suck it up.
Hee. I love it. The Queen hits the big cities on October 6th, which is shaping up to be the most exciting Friday of the year: Shortbus, Little Children, and The Departed are all experiencing their opening weekends together. If you live in one of the major markets you better splurge for a jumbo popcorn with free refills.

Smell Like Skank

I am without words.

I have been without words for weeks in regards to this ad (pictured left), torn from the NY Times and placed lovingly on my desk by the boyfriend.

It was rather like the time when I laid down in bed in college only to discover that my friends had decorated my ceiling with a veritable shrine to Melanie Griffith, my most hated actress of the time. So thoughtful of them!

But, my personal feelings aside, is Hilary Swank an actress that screams "fragrant"? I do not get it. I guess her agent works hard for his money. But he's been handsomely paid, has he not?

And naming a perfume "insolence", too?!? Hmmm. I guess she is the perfect spokeswoman for that.

tags: saks, gossip,celebrities, Hilary Swank, perfume

Monday, September 25, 2006

TV and Me

Many of you know that I am suspicious of the small screen. It is true that I don't watch much of it and far prefer heading to the multiplex. But I've been sick again. (My nurse friend thinks I have asthma! yikes. Meanwhile, my best friend thinks I have indoor allergies but he is a skin-cancer-be-damned sun worshipper so that probably plays into his "you spend too much time in your apartment" advice.) This has been like "summer of sick" for me. Never been so frequently sick in my life. So I'm super glad it's Fall. Oh but the point: Sick = TV for me. Very brief thoughts on a few things I've watched this past week:

Grey's Anatomy
Other than the undebatable talents and charm of the ex Mrs. Alexander Payne (Sandra Oh) I can't understand why anybody watches this show. I am forced to "listen" to it regularly and its writing grates on my very last nerve. Perhaps its the delivery by the extremely annoying "sad blonde girl" --that's what my friends call her (they watch it religiously). I think they mean Ellen Pompeo who is just like Renee Zellweger minus the comic gift ( can imagine my loathing). I am also sick to death of TV shows that rely on overly precious life lessons learned narration. These shows are not difficult to understand. Do they really need to tell us their obvious metaphors and lessons while showing them?

Six Degrees
I watched this out of curiousity at what they'd do with the concept but I'm not sure they even understand the concept. For instance: Jay Hernandez (me love) meets Erika Christensen (me hate) and falls instantly in love. He spends the rest of the episode trying to find her and at the end he does --they see each other on the subway. That's no degrees of separation. Both times they meet they are face to face and nobody they're connected to is serving as a connection between them. It would have been smarter to call this Six People because essentially all of the characters are connected but in different ways. But that's not what the concept of six degrees of separation is. Plus: boring and obvious. I love about half the actors but I probably wouldn't watch this again.

Desperate Housewives
So. Um. I guess they listened to all the complaints about the second season. The Housewives did slapstick, ate lunch together, had sex (not together. sorry), and seemed a lot more like the season one girls. I "get" the appeal of this show but I'm not a regular viewer and I thought what I saw of last season was almost unforgiveably shoddy in terms of writing. I love Alfre Woodard but that Emmy nomination she received had to be among the worst choices they've made recently (which is saying a lot given that the Emmys are often the most laughable of the big ticket awards shows)

Survivor and The Amazing Race
Other than Project Runway (excellent. genius. addictive) and America's Next Top Model (hilarious, carcrash fascinating) I generally have to wear crosses and cloves of garlic when approaching reality television as it always saps my will to live. I hate the constant redundancy. Scene A: we show you something Scene B: We talk about what we just showed you, Scene C:(after commercial) we talk about what we were just talking about. Scene D: we show you something (and repeat). All the while the editing is so frantic that if you are anything like a discerning viewer you realize that you should never ever ever ever view this genre as anything other than a fascinating case study in film editing as mind control. No conclusion you could ever draw is your own. You haven't seen enough. You've been shown a tiny snippet. Then you've heard several minutes of commentary on that tiny snippet.

But all that said: Yul (on Survivor) is my new imaginary boyfriend. And every single person on Amazing Race I hate because this show somehow beats Runway to the Emmy every year even though it sucks by comparison.

Design Star
An interior design contest. I watched a marathon and I only mention it because it stars my other new imaginary boyfriend (pictured right). Yum.

Brothers & Sisters
I watched this primarily for the return of Calista Flockhart, freed from both Ally McBeal and Harrison Ford apparently. I was surprised to find a whole boatload of watchable actors including double Oscar winner Sally Field and Tom Skerritt, reprising their Steel Magnolias marital act which was somewhat fitting since the other characters called theirs an "iconic romance." I was super happy to see a glimpse of the great Patricia Wettig (of thirtysomething fame) back on television. Sadly, Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Hilary & Jackie), another superb talent was saddled with the clunkiest exposition heavy subplot. B&S is basically a family drama. We haven't seen much of that genre on television lately given the ubiquity of hospitals, crime scenes, and reality programming. It's about a large wealthy and politically split family (half liberal blue / half right-wing red) and it was pretty intense. Some of it felt a bit forced but I was left with the overall feeling that this has a lot of potential as a dramatic series if it finds its groove quickly enough. I'll definitely give it a few weeks to find out.

Links, Episode #189

Gatochy's Blog "If they mated..." (a funny series)
Hollywood Bitchslap on the hot potato doc Jesus Camp
Boing Boing makes me hate Disney more than I currently do.
Hollywood Elsewhere Wells doesn't warm to The Queen.
NYT Stephen Holden on Audra McDonald's new CD.
Just Jared displays many purty Flags of Our Fathers pics.

As Little As Possible "All for one brief touch of Venus"
Now, I know I've been linking to As Little As Possible a lot lately. But honestly, he's been on such a roll. That's one fine cinema blog. Bookmark it. Subscribe. Etcetera.

Monologue Mondays -"Susie Diamond"

I may start doing this regularly. Great and/or interesting monologues to start the week off daydreaming 'bout the movies. Let me know what you think. We begin with La Pfeiffer. Surprise.

You know, I saw you guys once. You and Frank. At the Roosevelt. Soap convention.

Yeah, they got a convention for everything. This guy was some big roller in suds. At least he was clean. Some of the guys I met through the service, you wouldn't believe. The older ones, they were okay. Nice. Polite. Pulled the chair out for you. But the younger ones...

It wasn't so bad, though. I'd get a nice piece of steak, flowers, sometimes even a gift. Usually whatever the guy was into. Got a set of socket wrenches once. Believe it? The guy looked like he'd just given me four dozen roses.

But I stayed at the Hartford once. You should see the rooms. All satin and velvet. And the bed. Royal blue, trimmed in lace clean as snow. Hard to believe sleeping in a room like that don't change your life. But it don't. The bed may be magic, but the mirror isn't. You wake up the same old Susie.

"Susie Diamond" as played by Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989). Written and directed by Steve Kloves . Mr. Kloves made one great film --this one right here with a radiant award-winning Pfeiffer and the best collaboration of those Fabulous Bridges Boys --then followed it up with a solid sophomore effort Flesh and Bone (1993), which featured Meg Ryan stretching, Dennis Quaid scowling, and Gwyneth Paltrow stealing the show (in what is still one of her best performances). Unfortunately, Kloves hasn't directed since though I'm sure he's handsomely paid for those Harry Potter adaptations.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

They Want to Suck Your Blood!



Announcing a Vampire Blog-A-Thon Monday October 30th, 2006.

Any vampiric topic will do: favorite cinematic bloodsucker, dracula film, truly batty performance, best spin on the mythos, etc... A post on your blog or site that's both fanged and filmic. Be creative and follow your muse. Let me know if you'll be joining in. I will be linking up to all bloggers who participate in order of the arrival of their link on October 30th. All bloggers are welcome, no matter the standard topic of their blog. Let's have a diverse pool of blood links.

Q: Why isn't this on Halloween?
A: Because I'm from Detroit. We start early on "Devil's Night", October 30th.

The first blog-a-thon hosted here, the Pfeiffer fest was a big hit back in April with 30+ blogs joining in. Most film centric blog-a-thons are director focused but I thought I'd go for a topic that would be appropriate for the upcoming holiday, Halloween being a favorite. For those who love reading blog-a-thons (like myself) here is a good list of other upcoming group topics around the film blogosphere.

Tags: blogging, dracula, vampire, Nosferatu, vampires, horror, film, movies, Buffy, blogs, Halloween

Oscar's Foreign Film: BIG UPDATE


With 25 countries making it official, we have approximately half our list for Oscar consideration (it's usually around 50 competitors that end up screening for AMPAS voters, trying to nab one of those highly coveted spots on a shortlist of 5)

Algeria to Finland -12 submissions so far
France to the Netherlands -8 submissions so far
Philippines to Venezuela -5 submissions so far

Among the first half of the submissions, I'd watch out for these in particular:

Germany -The Lives of Others Qualitatively speaking, it's said to be a threat for the win. Entertainment Weekly calls it "utterly riveting".
Denmark -After the Wedding (trailer). Susanne Bier's dramas might be a bit tough for Oscar but they also jerk tears, which sometimes translates to votes.
Canada -Water. Already a hit here in the US --usually a good sign. If you want to get a jumpstart on this category, this film is now available on DVD.
South Korea - The King and the Clown. A festival hit about a gay love triangle in the Chosun Dynasty. If it can be an enormous controversial success in its conservative home country, it could conceivably win over Oscar's often timid voting body, too.
Switzerland - Vitus. Familiar faces can be comforting to voters and the enduring, internationally employed Bruno Ganz (The Downfall) leads this cast as a grandfather with high piano-prodigy hopes for his grandson. This category has a history of really enjoying 'senior citizen goes on emotional journey with young child' dramas (See also: Kolya, Central Station, etc...)

Say What? Gangster

I asked you to supply the funny to this pic of Russell and Denzel on the set of American Gangster. The winner is Burbanked.

[img src]
Cuz they do look like they just blew off their audition for Miami Vice.

And just for perverse amusement, I almost went w/ Ralch's imagined grrrltalk between Tina and Mary Russell and Denzel. But, I don't want Russell to come looking for me so I held back. You read me right?

Thanks for playing!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

How Much Will Volver Make?

I don't usually go in for box office prognostication (though I'm happy I did call The Devil Wears Prada's big hit status early -despite many naysayers) but I've become curious about how Pedro Almodovar's Volver, starring the Oscar buzzing Penelope Cruz will fare at the box office. It opens in just over a month.

Now, as part of my Foreign Film Oscar Coverage section, I used to keep a chart on how foreign films did at the box office here in the States. I quit this past year because it was too much work for too little reward --plus it was depressing. Who wants to know that an excellent feature like last year's Kings and Queen (TFE top ten list) made in its entire run what The Covenant made yesterday. But last night, while preparing for a Podcast I was guest-starring on (more on that later when it comes out) I got sidetracked looking at Pedro's Box Office history.

Pedro Almodovar is one of the most consistently successful world cinema directors but he has yet to have a film crossover quite to the extent that something like, say, Amelie did, which made $33 million. Assuming my math is correct (and I claim no real talent in that area) Pedro's biggest hit, adjusted for inflation, is All About My Mother (approx $13). To put that into recent perspective that's about the popularity level of an Y Tu Mama Tambien or a Monsoon Wedding and a shade more popular than say, a City of God or a Run Lola Run, all films with substantial urban market popularity but no real mall crowd action.

That Oscar winner is followed closely, very closely, by Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988, approx $12) which functioned as his international breakthrough. Talk to Her is in third with $10ish and, had it managed that best picture nomination it was probably close to getting, I believe it could have finally broken his $13 ceiling. All three of those films were released in November which seems to work for Sony Pictures Classics & Almodovar. So it makes sense that Volver is following suit.

[For those who are way too curious about this (like me) Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and Bad Education complete his American top five (though they're further behind)]

People seem shocked by my Volver Best Picture prediction. I am being a little fanciful but it could happen. If you ignore the 60s and 70s (for which I don't really have numbers and in which foreign films were more widely consumed by Americans) the lowest box office for a foreign language Best Picture nominee comes from, I believe, Il Postino which made about $33 (adjusted for inflation): an Amelie size hit.

So, for Volver to happen in a multiple nomination way, it probably needs to pull in more than the previous Almodovar films. It's not so much the $$ number as making a big enough wave to do so (which is reflected in the money to a degree, you follow). English language films have been nominated with less pre-Oscar nomination box office than Almodovar's previous hits have had but they're operating at an advantage since they're homegrown and get far more media coverage. Capote is the most recent example. After four months in release it had made $15 million. Post nominations it nearly matched that number again.

Any Box-Office inclined readers out there? How well do you think Volver will fare? Will it turn into Pedro's biggest hit yet?

Tags: Pedro Almodovar, movies, Spain, Volver, film, box office, Penelope Cruz, Oscars, Academy Awards

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thank God It's Linkday

Mainly Movies has seen Children of Men!
NewNowNext Bjork reuniting with the Sugarcubes. Buy your tickets.
Reel Fanatic Hollywood's Perotta love-in (Little Children, Election, etc)
Reverse Shot says don't believe the negative For Your Consideration buzz.
popbytes on the new series Six Degrees about which I say: "what he said"
In Contention on Last King... and Little Miss.... Where will Fox Searchlight put their campaign dollars?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Oscar Prediction Update: Complete

I'm such a contrarian. I know I'm SUPPOSED to say Dreamgirls, Babel, Bobby, Flags of Our Fathers, and The Good Shepherd. But you know how I do. If I ever just pick all the baitiest on paper stuff: shoot me. I'm trying to imagine scenarios and shifts of opinion that occur in a few months from now, so until things get serious: a bit of wishful thinking mixed with actual plausibility. It's only September ~ still having fun with the shuffling.

It's very important to remember that we no one knows as much as they think they do yet --we still haven't been able to factor in public reaction (box office & word of mouth), media reaction (they do pick favorites and they faun all over them. They also pick scapegoats), and even critical reaction (we've only heard from a few long lead people and the cinephiles who attend festivals. That's not entirely representative you know...

I know that I'm still "out there" on a few things but I enjoy offering things to chew on. Until the films premiere and the precursors begin it's wildly up in the air. The category I feel i'm terribly wrong in is Best Actor. But I gave up. It could go anywhere still. Good lord, Robin Williams could even be back.

New Predictions in Full

Read them over and discuss hot topics:
1. Will there be more than one Hispanic director nominated? There are at least four with strong films in the mix.
2. Which "sure thing(s)" will falter? Dreamgirls, Bobby, Flags of Our Fathers, the Good films?
3. Will either of the "Good" films (Shepherd & German) live up to hype? Nobody has seen either.
4. Does Universal Children of Men Christmas move mean they're clueless about how to sell it? Or might the shortlist hype be bonafide.
5. Will Little Children win them over despite it's non heartwarming nature? It'll be tough for the members who like "cozy".
6. Will Volver make Almodovar the new Kurosawa / Bergman/ Fellini? They use to give frequent love to favored foreign masters.
7. What currently hyped person or film is a total red herring? Not all buzz endures.

Poor Unfortunate Souls

What's that old saying "They don't make them like they use to" That so applies to me. In my day animated films were grand. Musical. Plus they had voices. And now look at them --wasting away with flimsy celebrity voice-work (Monster House excepted --I do love that pretty little Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the grand dames Catherine O'Hara and Kathleen Turner --what voices!)

I see your dumbfounded looks. Now, you think I died? How sweet and naive. I live (as do my pets Flotsam & Jetsam who sent this message your way). Yes, the great characters live forever. Those deaths? --that's all done with movie magic. I love the magic and the movies. Californias right on the water, i'nn't? Don't think this sea witch doesn't appreciate Hollywood, a town full of fame and fortune. A town overflowing with poor unfortunates, like yourself, longing to be princes and princesses? My dear friends, Hollywood's what I do. It's what I liiiive for.

Now I admit that in the past I've been a nasty but I've reformed. I don't steal voices anymore. I am a honest spellcaster. People know exactly what they're getting. If they want to trade me their life force for a little thinspiration ..they've still got their pretty faces! I need all the power I can get for my big comeback. (Pity that those with the most life force to give won't make these deals. Bah!) But yesssss princesses, this town will soon belong to me.


Monster House, movies, film, animation, Disney, Anorexia, The Little Mermaid

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hump Day Hottie: James McAvoy

Mmmm, James McAvoy. James M--well, you know... the faun "Mr. Tumnus" from The Chronicles of Narnia. Not that I'm a furry (or whatever they're called) but that's when I, personally, first took notice of this Scottish charmer. Post-Narnia it's getting hard not noticing him. His name is popping up with deserved frequency in casting rumors. I say deserved because if you've caught any of his work you'll undoubtedly want to see more of him.

And you will. You'll see lots more of him, in fact, in The Last King of Scotland. That buzzing film, opening September 27th, will certainly make an Oscar nominee of Forest Whitaker who kills in the role of brutal Idi Amin, the infamous Ugandan president. But McAvoy also gets quite a workout onscreen as Amin's personal doctor. And I don't just mean in his scenes with Whitaker which have a completely charged physicality to them: even when the two men are just talking, no moment is ever played safe, every hug or back slap feels like it could go horribly wrong. McAvoy's doctor is also seen running around, firing a gun, practicing extreme medicine, playing sports with Ugandan children, and rutting like a damn fool every chance he gets. And the rutting is often very very foolish. You'll see.

McAvoy has such an easy physicality in this picture that I wasn't surprised at all to read that he is abundantly physical in real life. He's a trained gymnast and boxer. I never saw the Children of Dune miniseries but apparently that role was also athletic. And shirtless.

McAvoy might well be the sexiest Scotsman since Ewan Macgregor. Or maybe he's the sexy Scottish version of Tobey Maguire. Not altogether ungeeky, but still potently erotic: a pleasing combo.

After Scotland you'll be able to catch McAvoy in the Christina Ricci film Penelope and next year he'll be seen opposite Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane, a biopic of Jane Austen, and Keira Knightley in the adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement.

Previous HDH Entries:
Naomie Harris the pretty chameleon: from Pirates to Miami Vice
Hot on TV a countdown from "Agent Dale Cooper" to "Faith"
Channing Tatum steppin' up and out.
Hugh Jackman dancer, fighter, lover, father, actor, singer, god.
Uma Thurman from Dangerous Liaisons to now: 18 years of hotness.
Cheyenne Jackson from Broadway to Hollywood.
Season One of HDH Gyllenhaal, Gong Li, Bernal, and more...

James McAvoy, movies, film, Oscars

A Lulu of a Birthday

A big shout out to me pal Stinkylulu on this, his birthday. He shares it with The Thief of Natalie Wood's Oscar who you may know as Sophia Loren. Fancy that. Although methinks she's an inappropriate soul sister for my Supporting Actress loving Stinky given that she hardly 'actresses from the edges' --Sophia and Sophia's are always front and center don't you find?

Happy Birthday StinkyLulu!

If Blogger's image function were working I would gift you a virtual grilled cheese sandwich (with birthday candles!) as part of this post. Since it's not, I won't...but it's the thought that counts.

Gong Li vs. Ziyi Zhang

Given that official news is coming in fast and furious regarding this year's Foreign Film Oscar Race, this news may be outdated as soon as you read it. Israel and Spain have picked finalists but not their representative films. China hasn't announced finalists but there's a potential battle of screen icons brewing.

A few years back China's greatest movie goddess Gong Li seemed to be abdicating her crown to upstart Ziyi Zhang. She had all but disappeared from the screen as Ziyi performed the deja vu trick of playing muse to Zhang Yimou (The Road Home, Hero, House of Flying Daggers) and launching herself into international fame (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). If perception is reality than Gong definitely wants the crown back. Since Ziyi's rapid ascendance, Gong Li is acting frequently again and branching out into American films. Most recently she danced and romanced Colin Farrell in Miami Vice and, perhaps to underline her point, blew Ziyi off the screen in Memoirs of a Geisha .

Now they're battling for Oscar consideration again --or, rather, their films are. Zhang Yimou reunites with his original muse Gong Li in the upcoming Curse of the Golden Flower , another martial arts epic and Xiaogang Feng directs Zhang Ziyi in the upcoming The Banquet which is loosely based on Hamlet. And both of these directors want to represent their country at the Oscars.

[editors note: I'm aware I'm supposed to call Gong Li "Li Gong" now but I refuse. I've been saying it this way for 15 years. I'll compromise on Ziyi since she's new.]

In other 'Foreign Movie Star' news...

German thespian Sebastian Koch (pictured to your right) is having a great decade. He's already proved himself an awards magnet in Germany over the past few years. Now, he's starring in not one but two official submissions for Oscar's international screen outreach program... better known as the Best Foreign Language Film category. He is the top billed male in Paul Verhoeven's Dutch submission Black Book (which is said to be as outre as Verhoeven usually is despite the deceptively Oscar-friendly setting of WW II) and the lead of the ecstatically received German film The Lives of Others, which some folks are saying could even win the prize this year (...well, if Almodovar's Volver isn't submitted by Spain. And it might not be.)

For more on the first 15 official submissions...
Australia, Bosnia, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland
France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Netherlands
Phillipines, Romania, Slovenia, Venezuela

The European Films site also keeps a frequently updated list here.

Related Posts
UPDATED OSCAR PREDICTIONS --for September in All Categories
Mexico and Korea which amazing films will they choose? * Verhoeven for the Gold re: Black Book * The Race Begins re: Ten Canoes * Yimou and Gong Li an epic reunion.

foreign films, , , , Oscars, Academy Awards, cinema, Film...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Some Guys Have All The Luck


For the bored and obsessive film experience readers... a puzzlement:

What do Matthew Modine, Jeff Goldblum, Jeff Bridges, Rupert Everett, and Dennis Haysbert all have in common that no other actors can brag about?

They've all romanced both Julianne Moore and Michelle Pfeiffer. Or rather their characters have romanced Moore & Pfeiffer's characters ;)

The are shown in chronological order of their completion the achievement.
Modine dated Pfeiffer in Married to the Mob and was married to Moore in ShortCuts.
Goldblum romanced Pfeiffer in Into the Nite and was Moore's boyfriend in The Lost World
Bridges did it the most explicity. He seduced Pfeiffer with a wandering hands backrub in The Fabulous Baker Boysand then memorably bedded Moore in The Big Lebowski.
Everett is a bit of a red herring. He was King to Pfeiffer's Queen in A Midsummer Nights Dream but his engagement with Moore in An Ideal Husband took place before the events that the movie depicts and was already severed.
Haysbert had one night of forbidden consummated love with Pfeiffer in Love Field and then a long stretch of forbidden but unconsummated love with Moore in Far From Heaven.

The five luckiest guys in Hollywood.

"that which nourishes me also destroys me"

It's not just a quote from Angelina Jolie's yummy tummy tatoo. It's also a handy way to describe the pitfalls of some fairly solid movies, now playing at theaters near you.

(note: if you found this looking for Angelina Jolie stuff, click here)

Half Nelson
The Good: Ryan Gosling's performance. The film's welcome abundance of ideas and concern about problematic systems and our willing compliance in them -- not that these ideas are explored but at least they show up to class.
The Bad: Too much like its junkie lead. Half Nelson seems to sleepwalk when it should be alert, always searching for the next Gosling-centric high and missing other good stuff: something of a typical trap for small films with big talent actors at the center.
The Verdict: As a character portrait I'd give this a higher grade but considering the larger ambitions it holds, I'll settle on a B- Worth seeing, though, don't get me wrong. Not pleasant or cathartic despite it's good intentions. It raises a lot of issues only to throw up its hands in despair.

House of Sand
The Good: Fernanda Montenegro (but you knew that already, didn't you smarty) and it’s slowly shifting daughter-mother-daughter narrative. The setting: Like a tan version of Fargo’s blank white canvases, it gets a lot of gravitas and atmosphere from its endless grains of sand.
The Bad: Too much like its setting. Hypnotic gives way to monotonous, and the whole thing is a little obvious in its symbolism.
The Verdict: B- but I enjoyed Montenegro's effortless performance and I liked its confidence in the time structure.

The Illusionist
The Good: This film about a magician in Vienna has an absolutely refreshing modesty to it. It doesn't try too hard at all. For most of the running time, The Illusionist is content to be quiet and intriguing.
The Bad: But then there's the ending. And you realized this magician needed to spend more time dazzling in specific ways (as opposed to being vaguely fascinating) in order to pull off the intended grand sleight of hand. The trick ending feels like a bit of a cheat.
The Verdict: B-

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Good: Me: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl had it all: adventure, fun, great production values, memorable characters, and a legendary performance by Johnny Depp."
The Bad: Studio Executive: "So in the sequel, we're going to just point the camera at those same things again. Every last one of those things. You'll love it. Particularly Johnny Depp! He's so funny we didn't even bother giving him any jokes. But don't you just love him?!? Oh, and you liked it because of the setpieces last time right? Right? Well, whatever. We've added several --these will make really awesome levels of a video game that will double our profits. Aren't you excited to see what happens in 2007?"
The Verdict: C Me: "Um, I guess. Since nothing happened in 2006." Honestly, I can't imagine ever watching this again because everything I love about it is in pure form in the original. If they trimmed about 45-60 minutes, I'd go back. In my mind this is the longest commercial ever made. The Kill Bill Volume splitting in 2003 brought out many naysayers complaining about a crass budget-covering move. Why wasn't their more outrage at this film? This is a far more obvious case of numbers doing the creative thinking: It's like a collection of scenes with no rhthym or narrative import that exist merely to take you from Black Pearl to At World's End. There's not enough story to justify a trilogy. A plain old sequel would've been fine.

A Prairie Home Companion
The Good: Wonderful music, a jovial relaxed ensemble, and plenty of sunset warmth.
The Bad: In some ways, it's like a very pretty person who doesn't have to develop a personality to get attention. The film's general mood is so cozy, and its team comes with so much of a back catalogue of audience love that the film doesn't have to break a sweat at all to achieve its swansong like grace. I imagine that if I didn't love Altman and the cast so much from previous work, this would not have been so satisfying.
The Verdict: B+ Probably should've been tighter and more controlled. But who wants to quibble when everyone is having a ball, including the audience. Not I.

Related Posts:
What Did Fernanda Do To Deserve This? (House of Sand) * Addicted to Addiction (Half Nelson) * A Sure Sign of the Apocalypse (The Illusionist) * John Christopher Depp (Pirates) *

Monday, September 18, 2006

reel diversions / real despair

In case you're computer isn't on 24-7 like mine, here's some goodies you may have missed.

Cinemarati's Dan Meyer on The Last Kiss
Nick on the actressy ups and downs of The Hours.
NY Times' AO Scott on the always divisive DePalma.
TIFF passes out its awards. Peoples Choice went to Bella. The Peoples Choice has done wonders for other films but Bella doesn't have a release date.
Music is My Boyfriend on James Bond theme songs and Casino Royale
As Little As Possible on the ravishment of Birth
EW Popwatch on the Saw III poster. I agree.

Warning: Politics and Religion ahead...
I've been in a horrid mood these past few days. The current downward spiral of the world is a contributing factor. So I was reading about movies to distract myself and came across this old news regarding the film version of The Golden Compass. I'm not sure how it escaped my attention before. When I was reading the Phillip Pulman trilogy, His Dark Materials, I kept thinking to myself: How will they get away with this pro-humanity anti-religion message on film? I guess they're not trying to. Hearing that they're neutering it has me losing interest. If you take out the progressive worldview of His Dark Materials, you're left with cool magic bits, talking animals, and action setpieces: fairly normal elements of fantasy. But the story itself no longer has deeper meaning. It's disposable. We've already had a religious film fantasy (Narnia) so why can't we have a secular one, too?

Religion has been a major part of my entire life: embracing it, questioning it, moving away from it, searching for it, leaving it behind --lots of soul searching. I've run the whole gamut. I've read several blog entries lately about the pope's speech and Islamic fundamentalism and though I tried not to go here I feel like I need to get this off my chest.

It comes down to this: I really can't tell the difference from one religious radical to another. It's the same mindset. Since religion does not pretend rational critical thinking it's super dangerous as a worldview (unless you're an inherently peaceful person like, say, Jesus Christ and unlike, say, his followers) since you need critical thinking skills in the real world. So it's out of the frying pan into the fire if Americans continue to vote for candidates who want to abolish our separation of Church and State (i.e. Republicans). Maybe I'm wrong --god, I hope I'm wrong --but I assume the only thing that keeps radical Christians from devolving into the violent atrocities of radical Islam is that they mostly live in countries which are not officially controlled by their own religious views and in which, though it's not exactly encouraged, diversity of opinion and freedom to express the same, is very much allowed and par for the course. In modern countries the less rational impulses of religious types are kept in check by civilized secular laws. This way people can enjoy their religions and the non-religious or otherwise-religious can enjoy freedom from religious opression.

Maybe I shouldn't brain vomit like this but I figure the more non-fundamentalist voices we hear the better because it comes down to this: I've seen very little evidence that organized religion is healthy for mankind. Certainly spirituality can benefit people. But religion? I don't see the positive effects. It closes minds, even those of good people whose kindness you can see in their actions otherwise. I don't care if people are Jewish, Scientologists, Muslim, Christian, whatever. When it comes to the process of zeroing in on absolute stated beliefs and joining those beliefs with other people there are inherent traps: demonization of others (who think, live, or feel differently) and rigidity of thought (due to echo chamber socializing) being the two most noticeable. I fail to see how organized religion does anything but diminish our capacity for peace, love, and understanding. Ironic, isn't it?

This may read as enormously naive but the only religious concept needed for a good life is also a secular one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That's a pretty easy law to remember, pretty adaptable to everyone's particulars, and pretty hard to misinterpret. Imagine if everyone just lived by that. Peace is what you'd get. Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Finally. But we'd have to leave religion behind to get there. Which sucks because nobody will. Which means we're all doomed.

(Told ya I was in a bad mood.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

New Oscar Predix: The Men

Previous Updates: The Women
Post Toronto, it's time to rethink Oscar Predix.

BEST ACTOR [full page o' details]
If the Toronto buzz holds, a soon-to-be legendary performance by Forrest Whitaker will be duking it out with the legendary actor who has never won: Peter O'Toole. Which means (if the buzz holds) that it may be something like 1992 again when Oscar had to make it up to the legendary Al Pacino allowing him to beat the still ascending Denzel Washington for the gold.

new predictions:
Matt Damon The Good Shepherd or The Departed
Richard Griffiths History Boys
Peter O'Toole Venus
Brad Pitt Babel
Forest Whitaker The Last King of Scotland

If this race stays as weak as it seems right now, Ben Affleck's Hollywoodland handlers might want to think about shifting him over here (although they'd have a better chance of winning in supporting).

Speaking of...

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR [full page o' details]
I still think that when we get closer to Dreamgirls release that the men are going to start getting attention. This could come down to comeback (Murphy) vs. comeback (Affleck). Or its entirely possible we haven't a clue... Supporting clears up last after all.

new predictions:
Ben Affleck Hollywoodland
Brian Cox Running With Scissors
Tobey Maguire The Good German
Eddie Murphy Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson The Departed

Earlier Related Posts: Hollywoodland * Favorites (so far): Actor * Favorites (so far): Supporting Actor * Top 100 Actors of the Aughts *

Tags: Jack Nicholson, Ben Affleck, Eddie Murphy, Oscars, films, Academy Awards, movies

Happy Birthday Baz!

This photo [src] is of auteur Baz Luhrmann and his lifelong mate and creative partner Craig Pearce performing in high school many many years ago. They did Shakespeare and apparently Guys and Dolls, too (Baz as 'Nathan Detroit' and Craig as 'Sky Masterton').

How cute! I'm feeling all nostalgic and I wasn't even there. Baz turns 44 today. He's made three pictures: Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge!. If these movies had been my classmates, I'da been passing them all secret love notes.

If you are Baz Luhrmann:
Please celebrate your birthday by working on that new movie to star Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. We've waited long enough for a 4th movie. And don't even think about splitting it into two like ol' Quentin his 4th time around. Give me a full motion picture. I need it like you need that L'Amour sign, splashy visuals, and abundant musicality...even when your films aren't technically musicals.

If you are not Baz Luhrmann:
Please celebrate his birthday by popping in one of his DVDs or go read the first half of my insane Moulin Rouge! celebration/viewthrough if you haven't yet.


Tags: Moulin Rouge, , , cinema, DVD, Film, moviemusicals

Saturday, September 16, 2006

From the Set of Stardust

I just found a blog by the actor Adam Buxton. He is appearing in the upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Curiously it's not listed on his his filmography. This recent post is worth checking out: It's about auditioning for Stardust and working with Rupert Everett (mmm, Rupert) on set. He doesn't mention La Pfeiffer (pity) but it's a fun read.

Previous Stardust Posts: Catch that Wave -Pfeiffer's comeback * Stardust (Again) -1st movie still * "beautiful... and very scary" Pfeiffer as "Lamia"

New Oscar Predix: The Women

Post Toronto, it's time to rethink Oscar Predix. For some reason, even though it's boring and you sell papers and magazines with excitement, the media likes to confer "lock" and "no one can beat this!" status early in the race for each acting prize. Sometimes these memes take serious root and the Oscar contest becomes completely anticlimactic. Sometimes it doesn't.

BEST ACTRESS [full page o' details]
I like a bloody brawl for the statue, so I hope everyone ignores Mirren's supposed dominance. It's only mid-September. It's still anyone's game with the right box office, critical reaction, and (especially) Oscar campaign and networking.

new predictions:
Annette Bening Running With Scissors
Penelope Cruz Volver
Helen Mirren The Queen
Meryl Streep The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet Little Children

Streep and Mirren feel like sure things. The others? Not so much. I've swapped Ashley Judd out for Cruz because Bug (as much as I love the play) will probably be too challenging for them if its great and too genre for them if it's not. So it might be a lose/lose thing either way. Obviously Cruz will need Sony Pictures Classics to front a killer campaign for Volver to keep the Toronto momentum.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS [full page o' details]
I've completely reworked the field of contenders. I don't think we really know anything in this category just yet. (Apart from Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls but that was obvious (to me) long ago)

new predictions:
Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine
Jill Clayburgh Running With Scissors
Jennifer Hudson Dreamgirls
Carmen Maura Volver
Emily Watson Miss Potter

I'm figuring it's impossible to root against Abigail Breslin ... unless your name is Dakota Fanning. And, ohmygod, I'd suggest being at least 20 miles away from her on Oscar nomination morning if Little Miss Sunshine really takes hold. j.k. luv ya Dakota!!! (My bodyguard told me to say that). Another thing working in Breslin's favor: This is the category that most favors young children. Next time Breslin races to a beauty pageant it'll be in a limo rather than a yellow van. And this pageant is held in Hollywood.

There's also some wishful thinking in this new lineup too (i.e. Carmen Maura) --I ain't gonna pretend that doesn't figure in. I'd suggest looking at the whole page. It's a mess. This category is cloudy.

Earlier Related Posts: From Emmy to Oscar: The Queen(s) * Mrs. Beatty * The Little Children Trailer * My Kate. My Self * A History of... Dakota Fanning * A Heavenly Creature: Kate Winslet * And I Am Telling You... I Want Credit * "That's All" * Favorites (so far): Actress * Favorites (so far): Supporting Actress * Top 100 Actresses of the Aughts *

Tags: Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning,Oscars, films, Academy Awards, movies

Friday, September 15, 2006

link it up, baby... link it up

Cinephilia on "New Media Absurdism" Arden has a way with coining a phrase. I wanna be a part of it new media, new media...
Daily Gut Samantha Morton kicked out of Elton John's house!
Cinematical on "The Avengers" movie. My thoughts: Marvel is making too many movies. Gluts in the marketplace eventually mean deterioting quality (Daredevil & Elektra cases in point) and collapse of the entire genre.
popbytes with a sneak peek at Tori Amos's new one... (which is an old one)
Fame Tracker my boy Joe Reid keeps getting closer to the big time: He wrote this great piece on Matthew McConaughey.
Glitterati on Whitney's divorce. I just hope a career revival doesn't include a return to the silver screen. 'Hell to the no' on Whitney as a movie star. Can I get an amen?
GreenCine Daily Blog-a-thons for the Fall. Should I join in?

Desperately Apeing Jennifer Connelly

Jared Leto won millions of hearts but no Emmys as locker leaning Jordan Catalano in My So Called Life. Then, despite blatant Oscar-bait pandering --going gay (Alexander), playing the junkie (Requiem for a Dream), risking the weight gain (Lonelyhearts) --movie respect proved elusive. Poon tang has been easier to come by. He's had more starlet tail than anyone post-Warren Beatty: Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Diaz, Lindsay Lohan, etc... the list is long. But, that's a subject for another time.

In his quest for acclaim, Leto made a tragic miscalculation. He forgot the one surefire Oscar gimmick: Play another famous person. Nothing polishes the Academy's gold man like a little Bio-Pic action. Mmmm celeb-on-celeb action. Oscar voters get hot just thinking about it.

For Jared's next trick, may I suggest the role he was born to play.

"Jared Leto IS Jennifer Connelly"


Directed by some hack or another doesn't matter. (Though a Gus Van Sant style shot-for-shot recreation of Jennifer's classic double dildo prostitution scene in Requiem would certainly sell tickets.)

If that doesn't win Oscar votes, it's time for Jared to hang it up, leave Hollywood and its megawatt ladies behind for full time rock n roll.


If you need medication more of wacky Jared Leto you can find him @ Go Fug Yourself, The Deli, Open All Night, Hollyscoop, and The Gilded Moose among other fine celeb blogs...

tags: Jared Leto, movies, cinema, Jennifer Connelly, Lindsay Lohan, music, cinema, gossip, film, entertainment,celebrities, Academy Awards

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hump Day Hottie: Naomie Harris

It's time for Hump Day H-- What? Some people work Tuesday through Saturday schedules. They do. Actually this post is not just a day late. It's one week and a day late since I was going to post it for Ms. Harris's birthday last Wednesday.

I'll start by confessing that I almost never think of Naomie Harris. You've probably never read her name on this blog. But as I was watching Miami Vice a few weeks ago and she climbed into the shower with Jamie Foxx, their naked bodies pressing against each other, I thought to myself: Wait, is this Naomie Harris...the same Naomie Harris who was so fierce and masculine as a zombie killer opposite Cillian Murphy (another HDH'er) in 28 Days Later? And that zombie killer was played by the same actress that also transformed the potentially racist scary-voodoo-woman role in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest into such a showcase that you were anxious to see more of her in the sequel?

And then I decided I was becoming a fan because I had problems reconciling those very different roles with this unassuming pretty actress. And, because my mind wanders like this, I decided that I would love to see her play "Lhel" if they ever make a movie of this one fantasy book I love called The Bone Doll's Twin (not that they ever would) on account of said ability to subvert the racism inherent in the subcategory of "creepy magical roles meant for black women."

Plus, to state the painfully obvious: Pierce Brosnan wants to hit that.

Previous HDH Entries:
Hot on TV a countdown from "Agent Dale Cooper" to "Faith"
Channing Tatum steppin' up and out.
Hugh Jackman dancer, fighter, lover, father, actor, singer, god.
Uma Thurman from Liaisons to now: 18 years of hotness.
Cheyenne Jackson from Broadway to Hollywood.
Season One of HDH Jake Gyllenhaal, Thandie Newton, and more...

naomie harris, movies, Miami Vice, film, voodoo