Monday, December 31, 2007

Overheard "Reel" New Years Resolutions

Briony: I promise to stop embellishing the truth.

Sweeney Todd: I will have vengeance

Robert Graysmith: I will stop obsessing on serial killers ... or, to be more specific I will stop obsessing on serial killers as soon as I finish this book.
and all the other ones I borrowed from the library. Really I will.
OK and the ones I ordered from Amazon. After that I will stop. I swear.

Leonidas: I vow to schedule that appointment with the otolaryngologist.

Agnes: I will no longer let the men in my life define me!

Plainview: I will drink all of your milkshakes
If you've overheard any new years resolutions from the stars this year, please share them in the comments. Maybe we'll add few to this list.

Oops, I'm Dissing Again

Oops. A couple of things I forgot in my rush to post the stinkiest filmthings in 07 movies. Pretend I’ve added them already to the cinematic shame pages

<--- Careless use of indescribable hotness. Why is smoking Emily Blunt, memorably descending a staircase in nothing but dress shirt bra and panties, immediately dumped from Charlie Wilson’s War thereafter? Amy Adams (sorry) and Julia Roberts and the “jailbait” employees (Charlie’s words not mine) weren’t doing it for me. Emily sure the hell was. B-Side careless use: Oceans 13 wisely cast Ellen Barkin but damned if it gives her anything worth doing once she’s onscreen.

That comic relief witness in The Brave One who waxes hornily on Jodie “lockdown” Foster’s great ass. She was seated the entire scene. He never saw it.

Plot point K-Holes. Too much repetition and the movie gets trapped: Georgia Rule (Lindsay admits to abuse. denies it. admits to it. denies it. Repeat) Pirates & Spider-Man 3s (still reworking earlier conflicts. Why? We’re several hours into the story)

Reductivity. Becoming Jane, as enjoyable as it may be in parts, still spins from a central conceit that is wrongheaded at best and demeaning at worst: the great writer Jane Austen had no imagination whatsoever: she just stole all the plot points and characters from her own life!

Last chance: Purge your negative 2007 feelings in the comments

Happy New Link

Happy New Year
Sunset Gun offers up "Auld Lang Scene", a neat look at New Year's Eve scenes in movies. So on that subject HAPPY NEW YEAR people: May your 2008 be great. These 'out with the old / in with the new' celebrations are always so frought with bizarrely mixed emotions, though, aren't they?

2007 is a wrap
Cinephiliac posts a lovely visual countdown of his top 30 of the year
Electronic Cerebectomy
25 favorite film things
Peter Nellhaus various best of film 2007
Antagony & Ecstacy an FYC list for Oscar without regard for what they'd actually vote for. Which, to my mind, is the most honest way to do an FYC list
Like Anna Karina's Sweater best and best undistributed features
The Guardian Unlimited has best film blog moments
Not Coming to a Theater Near You multiple voices wrapping up

if you're going out tonight, have fun and be safe. If you're staying in, there's still plenty o' ways to get crazy...

And Now.... A Brief Music Video Break

The deeper I sink into cinephilia the less room I have for other things in my life like music. I can't do a top ten list of favorite songs or CDs since I haven't been paying much attention. But I do occassionally get into something or am convinced to love a song/artist by pleading friends. A close friend of mine --who some of you will know from the comments as 'kristoferrobbin'-- is in town and he's making cinematic concentration difficult. Damn him! So herewith a semi random assortment of 10 videos/songs I dug this year. Enjoy whilst I work on the movie stuff.

Jay Brannan (Shortbus) official video for "Body is a Temple". You should also be reading his blog --good stuff. And I'm sure you've seen Alanis Morrisette's Fergie spoof "My Humps" --it's still the funniest few minutes of film I've seen all year. With the possible exception of The Landlord.

Jackie Beat's "Filthy Whore" [NSFW] which is a spoof/response to Britney Spears lame ass "Gimme More" video. I f***ing love Jackie Beat. One of the only drag queens that still understands the old John Waters school of thinking. Quoth he 'I think a drag queen should horrify a family. I think families should run up the street in fear at a drag queen and not want to invite him home for dinner.' Jackie is terrifying. and genius. Let's pair Jackie with adorable and tiny Mika and "Grace Kelly" --she'd eat both of them alive.

Rihanna's "Umbrella" ella ella ay ay ay and Pink's "U + Ur Hand" because who doesn't love these songs? Pink's CD came out ages ago but it hangs on.

Björk's Volta CD only really scored media wise with the lead single "Earth Intruders" but I actually prefer the second release "Innocence" which has a triptastic beat. If a hip hop artist had thought that one up, they'd be bragging about it for the rest of the CD it's so hot. And let's pair Björk with another legendary crazy gal, Dolly Parton. Her new single is called "Better Get to Living" and her video stars the one and only Amy Sedaris. I mean... why not?

Behold: Charlotte Gainsbourg's "Songs That We Sing" I'm having the crush this year on account of this but mostly her spin on the jilted wife role in Todd Haynes's Dylan dissertation I'm Not There. And in every music post I must spread the gospel of Rufus Wainwright. This is "Rules and Regulations" His music hits me right there.

Finally, these aren't from 2007 but the Ian Curtis biopic Control is and its still haunting me around the edges a week after seeing it. So with Joy Division in my brain, I thought I'd throw up two covers for your consideration. First is Agent Provocateur and Siobhan Fahey (of Bananarama / Shakespeare Sister / ex Mrs. Dave Stewart fame --It makes me crazy that she never records a CD) doing "She's Lost Control" [NSFW] and then there's Swedish singer/songwriter José González with a cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Such a flexible classic.

Any music recommendations you'd like to share? You know what to do.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Overappreciated. Unseen. Unfortunate. Obnoxious

Don't hate me because I'm (film) bitchy. Before we get to the best of the year it's time to take a two page tour of the less laudable sort. I'm sure there were worse films and performances but I can't see everything and these were my personal cinematic trials

Overappreciated and Unseen
Movies I Can't Love Like You Do. Movies I Skipped and Why

Unfortunate and Obnoxious
The Worst Performances and a 10 Screen Multiplex From Hell

Read and discuss. Throw your own tomatoes in the comments. Share the movies and moments that made you cringe @ the movies in 2007

No Country's March Towards Oscar

Just something that's on my mind. Is No Country heading toward Oscar gold or will it be unceremoniously snuffed out in the final act. What do you think the next couple of months hold?

Vote and discuss

Friday, December 28, 2007

Now Playing: Delusional Oscar Hopefuls

It's here, the last weekend of the year. Or as I like to call it "the annual slaughtering of the movie lambs"... a bunch of random movies inexplicably surface in an already flooded marketplace in some delusional bid at Oscar glory. Meanwhile everyone ignores them in favor of watching Nicolas Cage do his blockbuster shtick (really America? Yeesh) or discussing real Oscar contenders that have already started expanding.

exception to the rule
There Will Be Blood -Paul Thomas Anderson's latest intimatepic is a real deal PICTURE though this might not go as far as people hope with Oscar. Even if AMPAS voters embrace it, it seems like a likely Best Picture shut out --something along the lines of a They Shoot Horses Don't They? or a Hud or even a Children of Men... pictures that they'll recognize as great (who wouldn't?) but that they can't quite go all the way with because they have this hangup about "warm" movies. Which it's not. Plus, Paramount probably erred slightly here opening it up so long after No Country For Old Men giving that film ample time to cement itself as the consensus critical darling. We might have had a real war for that crown if this had entered the popular discussion earlier. Oscar ballots are, remember, just delivered.

Magnolia (1999), P.T. Anderson's last conceivably Oscar-bound piece, also tried its hands at the late December game (though a bit earlier, premiering before Christmas). It drew some "masterpiece" citations but had to settle for 3 nominations (screenplay, supporting actor, original song). There Will Be Blood could follow suit with something like (screenplay, lead actor, original score) but we'll hope that it's more of a force. The technical elements are quite attention grabbing.

non contenders in contenders clothing
The Bucket List and The Great Debaters sweet talked their way into Oscar-punditry consciousness with NBR and Globes mentions, but it's probably game over in both cases now that they're in full view. And, again, the field is already set. That happened a few weeks back.

the delusionals
Honeydripper -Gee... way to bury a John Sayles film, Emerging Pictures. December 28th. Sure you wanna do that?
The Orphanage
-This is the Spanish horror film that they want you to think is Pan's Labyrinth Two. I really was going to see this today. The last time I tried (at the NYFF) I had some sort of unusual rush hour train delay and missed out. Today I had a complete and total train stoppage (rare) on my second attempt. I'm not a superstitious person by nature: I'll walk under a ladder or smile if a black cat crosses my path (so cute!) but two strange train incidents on the way to the same movie. I'm giving up. I have too many other movies to get through before my 'year in review' rundown.

other stuff
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem -no comment
Water Horse: Legend of the Deep -no thanks

A Blurb Whore is Born

For all the fun I make of people like Peter Travers who seem to be paid solely to phrase each and every review in such a way as to be highly quotable for posters and advertisements, I can't say that it isn't a tiny bit exciting to see one's name on a movie poster.

Check me out...

That's that minuscule indie Jones I wrote about a while ago, which played in Manhattan last week at The Pioneer. (In the interest of full disclosure I did know that I'd probably be quoted since I'd met the filmmaker at the first showing a few months ago and he asked if I'd be reviewing it). But still: weird seeing my name on a poster. It's the very first time, to my knowledge.

Next stop: plagiarizing press packets in place of actual reviews... [lump in throat] "Mama, I've made it!"

You'll note the sarcasm. I'd be terrible at blurb whoring. Aside from my unfortunate love for the exclamation point, I'm really sort of sedate. I'm stingy with the "A"s and I hate all reviews by anyone --even critics I love -- that claim something new is "the greatest of all time..." or "the greatest [insert type of movie] since [insert ancient classic here]" because they strike me as either insincere, over-caffeinated or ignorant. Has no one seen anything older than ten years? I can't tell you the amount of dry heaving I did when people were comparing the pedestrian film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to The Wizard of Oz. Or when I saw Stephen Holden's blurb on the poster of La Vie En Rose. Stephen do you really want to claim that Marion Cotillard is giving the best performance of a performer ever in one hundred plus years of cinema? Because that's what it sounds like...

Here are but a few choice examples of blurbs I can offer some movies this year.

[click to enlarge]

...Mama, I'm never gonna make it.

Angelina Jolie did not get the memo

...that all movie villains this year were supposed to be using GREEN cgi magics.

Angie, ever the rebel, swaths herself in gold sorcery whenever she emerges from the blue waters of her vagi ... uh, "cave", in Beowulf (review) This is like that time when Cher showed up to a black & white Hollywood party in The Player (1992) wearing fire engine red --attention grabbing star mojo playfully veiled under "who, me?" innocence. One might say that Imelda Staunton's Dolores Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix also willfully ignored the green memo but some people are just exempt from dress codes (magical and otherwise). Umbridge's pink fetish is so overpowering it's rather like Tom Cruise's Xenu-loving grin or Goldie Hawn's heavy banged hairdo. Immune to changing times, public perception and style, they will outlast us all.

But back to the new emerald city. Is all this green wickedness a visual embodiment of Hollywood's self-loathing over its own insatiable greed and/or its endless faux liberalism? Discuss.

Distribution Quandary

Does anyone know a surefire way of finding out if a movie was released theatrically in a given calendar year in the US? If so please share. I find that IMDB has too many errors to trust in this regard (and also: absolutely no specifics as to the where it might be a festival rather than a regular release). Sites like movieweb and coming soon and others do seem a little vague too, particularly when it comes to indies or foreign films with tiny distributors.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

20:07 ("Zodiac") and the 8th Annual FB Awards

Screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie.
Can't guarantee the same results at home. I use a VLC

It might be perverse to end a fun series like 20:07 on as sick and somber a note as Zodiac (2007) but the obsessive detailing of this particular blogging experiment does dovetail nicely with Fincher's lengthy minutae-loving procedural. So here we go, the final installment *sniffle*

Zodiac: Get on your stomach so I can tie your feet.
Victim #?: It gets really cold out here at night. We could freeze. You all done? You know, just because people are going to ask... was that thing even loaded?
And then a rather gruesome double homicide begins (again). One of the things that's most disturbing about Zodiac is that almost every single man in it (even this soon-to-expire one) shares one particular psychosis of the killer's: an absolute fascination with detail. This guy is being trussed up like a turkey and he's asking questions calmly, wanting to know the killer's history, correcting his own girlfriend, thinking about the temperature of the Bay area at night, and wondering about the practical aspects of how the masked man is committing his crimes. If this man weren't about to be killed, you could totally see him joining Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffallo and Anthony Edwards in their downward spirals of crime solving.

Creepy as hell this sequence is. And it doesn't even bother with typical violent filmmaking impulses. David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) isn't concerned this time with making you jump or scream. He doesn't offer up lazy quick cutting to disorient you. The psychosis is disorienting enough. It's easy to make an audience jump out of their seats. Suddenly loud sound cues and quick edits with threatening blocking do the trick every time. It's hard to make a film that disturbs well beyond its running time. David Fincher, my hat is off.

So, um...(trying to shake it off) "HAPPY NEW YEAR" (?)
If you wanna keep me typing through 2008 and through another year of the Film Bitch Awards, it's as simple as this:

2008: I already have some ideas brewing (even a couple of rough drafts written) so hopefully you'll stick around. I've successfully become more than an awards man in the past few years but my traffic still paints the picture that many of you are only here for the circus that is Oscar season and my own awards. Where the hell do half of you go thereafter? Some of the best stuff @ the film experience is in the off season. That's when it gets more creatively random, more rangey in tone and topic, less "now" focused and more series driven: I've got more original content weekly (not just news regurgitation) than most blogs even attempt in patches. So I hope you'll reward me with your continued patronage --and tell your friends to read -- once the last movie award for 2007 is handed out. To keep the Oscar junkies in a perpetual high, I've decided to keep sunday's "naked gold man" series on a weekly basis... even once awards season wraps. We'll cover Oscar news as it develops every Sunday or revisit past Oscar years. But only on Sundays. There's more to the movies than the red carpet.

But speaking of awards... the tentative calendar
12/30 Cinematic Shame ~ Worst of the Year
12/31 Oscar Updates. Year in Review Best of Begins...
01/01 Underrated and Honorable Mentions
01/02 The Film Experience's Top Ten of 2007
01/02 The 8th Annual FiLM BiTCH Awards Begin This site's singular awards-giving jamboree, all January long. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in so many categories you'll beg me to quit. Here's a sneak peek...

If you have any FYCs now would be the time. You can see previous years here

There Will Be Linking

ModFab chooses the heroes of 2007. There will be watery eyes [...and there will be less "there will be"s very soon. Promise. Just a temporary tic on account of There Will Be Blood taking up so much space in me noggin -ed.]
Eddie Copeland joins me in the war against mimicry as the pinnacle of acting
Hollywood Elsewhere "best" pictures as world views
I Watch Stuff has a 40 second Coraline preview. I loved that book. Pfeiffer pfans will remember that it was originally to star Michelle Pfeiffer as Mother / Other Mother but the project was switched to animation while in development
Out in Hollywood
celebrates James Marsden's miracle year

Man About Town loves Atonement
Paramount Vantage lets you read their Oscar hopefuls -screenplays for all five
LA Times 7 reasons to hate year end lists
Zoom-In I'm offering up rental suggestions for those longing to wipe the memories of modern day Nicolas Cage from their brain, replacing them with sojourns back to his good old days
Reports from the Edge witness the horrifying world of 'if the Oscars were determined by box office receipts' ...don't say I didn't warn you about the horrifying part

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

There Will Be Praying

Today is the day. Oscar ballots have been dropped into the postal system and are speeding their way to AMPAS homes even as I type. Now's the time to beg your higher power to do what it takes for... [insert your favorite Oscar hopeful here]! That is, if you feel like your higher power cares about the movies. I know mine does.

This then is the week for all predictive-types to let their overanalytic side run wild. What is happening right now to influence the ballots (most AMPAS voters return their ballots within the first few days)? What names are stuck in their memories. Which screeners did they just watch?

There Will Be Whining

I just got back from There Will Be Blood and it's still sinking in. See, P.T. Anderson movies aren't the sort that you can (or at least should) have a fully developed opinion of the second you walk out of the theater. I'm totally suspicious of "masterpiece!" reviews from any critics about any film that they've written within a day of the screening. And from my limited experience with other film critics I can tell you that they usually are. Which means that all reviews are suspect. I wish that I were joking. My apologies if that offends anyone.

Instant overstatements we can blame on the "first!" thing with the self-employed and the deadline thing with the corporate worker bees but it amounts to the same thing: rushed opinion-making. My point is this: There Will Be Blood isn't Enchanted... or, even um Rescue Dawn (which, unless I missed something, is a pretty bare bones and straightforward war drama). Ambitious movies are meant to be grappled with, not flushed out of your system before any nutrients have entered the bloodstream. I still find my opinion of Magnolia shifting slightly on occasion and that came out eight Decembers ago.

This is why I always bitch about awards entities throwing prizes around the second they're done with their last screening. That said, I'm going to have to be a hypocrite and start giving out awards this weekend on account of ... it's almost 2008. Arrrrgh. The year got away from me. The dreaded December deluge defeated me ...again.

a portrait of life as it should be in regards to popular movie culture

Witness: Large groups of people huddled around screens showing only Michelle Pfeiffer.

As it should be.

P.S. Have you read the Best & Worst 2007 Entertainment Weekly issue? I am h-o-r-r-i-f-i-e-d that on a poorly photoshopped cover featuring over 60 personalities signifying the year in movies, tv, dvds, music, books and stage that they couldn't squeeze the blond goddess on the cover. What's wrong with them? Her comeback did make their 70+ "ultimate pop culture moment of 2007" readers poll. But the company she had to share... yikes. It wasn't so much EW as ewww.

Monday, December 24, 2007


So I've been in Boston for over 24 hours now for Christmas festivities and there have been no Affleck spottings whatsoever. It's so unfair. Ben, Jennifer, Casey, Matt: hidden from view! I regret to inform that despite the lack of starpower to be seen Amy Ryan as "Helene McCready" in Gone Baby Gone types have wandered into view.

What sights have you been seeing on your holiday break?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

All I Want For Christmas Is...

  • that Michelle Pfeiffer will stay now that she's back
  • for next year to have some grade A movies, no reservations just plenty o' masterpiece. Not that this cinematic year wasn't very rewarding
  • more time to write and create, less time in the other daily grind
  • more days like the one I'm having today with my dearest friends. It's merry!
  • a successful launch of my first podcast (coming your way this week)
  • for There Will Be Blood to be as good as I'm hearing. Wednesday...
I'll quit there. Don't wanna be greedy. I'm away from the computer (mostly) for Christmas but I'll try to check in once or twice over the next few days. What are you wishing for this holiday season?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Linking Out in the Evening

IndieWire critics polling. There Will Be Blood dominates
Guardian John Patterson reshoots this year's cinema history. I love this post.
Towleroad Channing Tatum and the surge of fight movies
Deep Focus says that There Will Be Blood is a flat out masterpiece, although Boogie Nights is dissed in the process. Which...well, that just ain't right.
The Reeler ...speaking of PTA. He's only in his 30s and he's getting a retrospective in NYC next month. So is his contemporary Apitchatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul
Jim Emerson's Scanners really interesting "guess the top ten list" I can only figure out the top 5.
OMG Kevin Spacey's full moon. omg it's hilarious
Being Boring greatest things about 2007 in no particular order
Lazy Eye Theatre
a Christmas wish list
Hollywood Elsewhere on audience shock when Sweeney Todd starts singing. I've long since given up hope on American audiences but it's not like the studios aren't partially to blame. They encourage the ignorance.

I was gazing at this 1948 Life Cover on Flickr "New Male Movie Stars Montgomery Clift". It made me smile and made me curious. That was a plural. Who was on the inside? Didn't anyone know who they were by 1955? And then I got a little sad. And it reminded me of the Vanity Fair series I'm doing... everything that's new today will be yesterday's news will one day be classic and then will one day be gone. *sniffle* This is hardly revelatory news. Just a reminder. god, what is it about holidays that bring out less than totally joyous feelings?

Actress Psychic -Point Distribution Frenzy!

Early bird Actress Psychic Oscar Contest --updated point totals here. We last updated on December 5th when Juno was opening and the NBR had just barely kicked off the "best" blather. Much awardage has happened since. Points are flying everywhere finally...

TFE reader Vincent S overtakes longtime leader Victor S (for now). The V boys have been neck and neck the whole time. Yours truly (who couldn't win anyway as the host, falls out of the top ten. Ouch) Stephen G, lodged far below for months suddenly joins the leaderswith a wicked combo of Blanchett/ Christie/ Cotillard/ HB-C December point gobbling. Stéphane L and Thomas V round out the top five but boy did this month scatter the players about. Where do you stand now?

major point gains since last update
+ 31 nominated for Globe, SAG (+2 first nom other than ensemble), BFCA and won the NYFCC and several minor critics awards (point top out at + 3 there) Julie Christie (Away From Her)
+ 31 nominated for Globe (+2 first nod), SAG (+2 foreign language), BFCA and won the LAFCA. + 1 one minor critics award (Boston) Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
+ 21 nominated for Globe, SAG and BFCA Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)
+18 nominatd for Globe (deductions for 6th nom), SAG and BFCA Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth the Golden Age)
+ 13 nominated for Globe (+2 first nod), BFCA nominee (young actress) Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray)
+11 nominated for Globe and film opened Helena Bonham-Carter (Sweeney Todd) and Keira Knightley (Atonement)

minor points since last update
+8 nominated for Globe and SAG (deductions since it wasn't for lead) Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)
+7 nominated for Globe (deductions for 6th nom) Jodie Foster (The Brave One)
+3 film opened plus a shared EW cover Julia Roberts (Charlie Wilsons War)
+3 film opened and box office points Nicole Kidman (The Golden Compass)
+1 film made the AFI Top Ten list: Laura Linney (The Savages) --she's the only one, can you believe it?
+1 film opened Vanessa Redgrave and Romola Garai (Atonement)

point oddities:
Julia Roberts got no points for her Globe nomination due to the formula of +10 Globe nod, -7 if it's supporting instead and -3 if it's the candidates sixth nomination or higher. so nuthin' for Ms. Roberts because the HFPA is just too sweet on her. Ellen Page and Amy Adams got lots of points but nobody picked them last March so there you go... nuthin. Awards gobbler Cate Blanchett reached both her 5th and 6th nomination at the Globes this year so I opted to deduct the points for The Golden Age rather than I'm Not There --editor's executive decision since she's more of a frontrunner for I'm Not There in supporting.

All that's left is one big critics prize (NSFC), a few media point possibilities, the film bitch nominations, box office of the things that are just opening, rotten tomatoes scores and then ...da dum... The Nominations themselves. Do you you have a shot at winning?

Speaking of Next Year...
(Workable) suggestions on how to improve the game are welcome. if you are scratching your noggin in a "what the hell is going on?" fashion that means you weren't around in March when we started playing this game. To get the fullest film experience you have to stick with the site after the last Oscar statue is handed out in February. There's daily hijinx here ...just a friendly reminder from your hardworking film bitch. [Best Actress Predix -last updated 12/16 prior to the SAG news]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd

For the legion of hardcore fans of composer Stephen, the wait for the film version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has been excruciatingly long. There have been precious few true Sondheim musicals that have made the transfer to the screen and this grand guignol piece has been a long time in coming. Earlier this decade Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) was to direct and numerous names were bandied about for the infamous roles of the demon barber and his accomplice Mrs. Lovett. The wait for the film version has also been more than a little frightening (who would direct? Who would star? Who could possibly due it justice?) as perhaps befits the horrific tale of a man who slits multiple throats in gory unfocused vengeance and the woman who bakes the bodies into meat pies to dispose of the evidence.

Once Tim Burton took over the reigns, auditions continued for reasons unbeknownst to many who found it impossibly obvious (in retrospect) which way the casting would go. The famously whimsical and gothic-loving auteur settled on the two actors he always settles on: Sweeney would inhabited by Johnny Depp (his six-time leading man and friend) and Mrs Lovett would be played by Helena Bonham-Carter (his five-time co-star and lady love). That neither could sing didn’t seem to worry the director though it worried Sondheim disciples not a little.

"The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," the glorious choral number that opens the original stage show foreshadows the narrative while painting a rather thrilling shrieking picture of the man in question (Sondheim has acknowledged the influence of Bernard Hermann, of Psycho fame, on his most acclaimed score). Burton’s first move is to slash "The Ballad" from the film version (it’s the cut that will be most obvious to Todd fanatics) in favor of a slower reveal of this bloody man through expository dialogue, general close up visualization --you can't get that on stage -- and sung through flashbacks, perhaps to surprise the uninitiated. To quote the tale end of the original number
What happened then, well that’s the play,
and he wouldn’t want us to give it away…

Not Sweeney
Not Sweeney Todd
The demon barber of Fleet
Thankfully the number remains in spirit and is used admirably well in the underscoring. Though it’s my personal favorite song in the show I found that I hadn’t really missed it once the tale was told.

Read my full review @ Zoom In

Have you seen the movie?
I'd love to hear whether it met your expectations as well.

Jane Fonda: Awesome Then, Awesome Now

Happy birthday to the "Arguably Most Deserving Actual Double Best Actress Oscar® Winner Ever "

whew, that's quite a title. But it's so (maybe) true. I mean I love Bette Davis, Liz Taylor, Olivia DeHavilland, Ingrid Bergman, etcetera... Oh, yes. OK, OK. Vivien Leigh trumps her... Gone With the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire = probably impossible to beat from here until the apocalypse. But still... Coming Home and Klute? Yes please!

Jane, enough with the Georgias and Monster In-Laws. Please go win #3. You know you have (at least) one more classic in you.

20:07 (When Marie Met Louis)

Screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie
I can't guarantee the same results at home. I use a VLC

Marie: please, please don’t. don’t be unhappy. I’m terribly sorry
Louis: You won’t say anything will you -- to the king or that woman?
Marie: I won’t say a word to anyone.
Louis: You promise?
Marie: I promise faithfully whatever happens.
These two were a lot more chatty and forthcoming in 1938 than they turned out to be in 2006. Times have changed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Sometimes you just gotta back slowly away from Oscar... (it's good for you)
NewNowNext likes the actress comedy odds of 2008
popbytes Jake Shears meets Dolly Parton. How special
Drawn! spotlights that absolutely adorable RankinBass style Mac ad. Lurve it
A.V. Club -worst of the year. Enjoy the drubbings
Acidemic -great piece on Last Tango In Paris. I don't even like the film and this made me eager to see it again. Which is a mark of great film writing I think
Forbes -25 biggest web celebs. ModFab and I do not appear. We're too niche or sexy or genius to be understood and powerful in our time. They'll be all "modfab" this and "Nathanielesque" that after we die though. We'll get our own adjectives! That's what I'm telling myself through the crying jags

OK a teeny bit of Oscar
Film Otaku
-on France's probable strong showing with Oscar. Viva le France
HotBlog Poland makes some interesting correlations to previous SAG races and wonders, like I always do, about why movies wait so long to lauch. We're talking to you Atonement (held back from American viewers for so long)

One danger of loving musicals too much that you end up with show tunes playing constantly in your head. There are worse things to be lodged in the brain than masterful Sondheim ditties but still...

More annoying yet is that I just have one line of the classic "A Little Priest" on repeat, not the whole song. For about 5 days now. I've tried listening to the entire Broadway cast recording (both). I've tried listening to other music: Amy Winehouse, Tom Waits, Madonna, Christmas compilations. I even tried Hairspray's catchiest showstoppers. And still all I hear and all I hum is one single line (in bold below)

Sweeney Todd:
For what's the sound of the world out there?

Mrs. Lovett:
What, Mr. Todd?
What, Mr. Todd?
What is that sound?

Those crunching noises pervading the air!

Yes, Mr. Todd!
Yes, Mr. Todd!
Yes, all around!

It's man devouring man, my dear!

And who are we to deny it in here?
I blame the TV commercial which lets that one line sing out louise
...oh please make the stop. I heart Sweeney Todd but this is too much. Your medical/mental recommendations are most appreciated. How can I escape?

My Sweeney Todd Review

Screen Actors Guild Nominations

Updated Post The SAG Nominations have now been announced. Guild nominations are essentially the final and most telling pieces of pre-Oscar prediction puzzles so once they announce you have the bulk of clues you're going to get before the Academy has its say names its nominees... Just how does this affect the predictions?

Cate Blanchett -Elizabeth the Golden Age
Julie Christie -Away From Her
Marion Cotillard -La Vie En Rose
Angelina Jolie -A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page -Juno

This is probably your Oscar line up. But it's disappointing that actors, who use their imagination so frequently in their day jobs, have such poor imaginations when it comes time to judging acting. Blanchett's cartoon performance (Elizabeth) is not superior to Amy Adams cartoon performance (Enchanted) if you know what I mean... And that's just for starters. Cate's hurricane strips awards groups bare apparently. Even when they have other places to honor her in deserving ways (see: supporting)

George Clooney -Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis -There Will Be Blood
Ryan Gosling -Lars and the Real Girl
Emile Hirsch -Into the Wild
Viggo Mortensen -Eastern Promises
The surprise snub here is Johnny Depp as the demon barber in Sweeney Todd. But starpower for Depp and/or Washington (American Gangster) could still knock someone out of this interesting and respectable lineup (sigh) It's not my five but I'd be fine with this as the Oscar shortlist. Not a bad performance or even a truly mediocre one here.

Cate Blanchett -I'm Not There
Ruby Dee -American Gangster
Catherine Keener -Into the Wild
Amy Ryan -Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton -Michael Clayton
Supporting Actress has been a question mark all year in one way or another and continues to be with this SAG announcement. Only Blanchett, Ryan and Swinton are named every time out. Those 4th and 5th slots are still highly competitive...We can now officially worry for little Saorsie Ronan (Atonement): typically SAG is even kinder to the young ones than Oscar itself. Not good news for her or Atonement today. Fighting for two volatile spots with Oscar: Ruby Dee, Kelly Macdonald, Saorsie Ronan, Vanessa Redgrave and Catherine Keener. Jennifer Jason Leigh (see: my interview) , Jennifer Garner and Marisa Tomei probably saw their last hopes dashed here with the SAG snubs.

Casey Affleck -The Assassination of Jesse James
Javier Bardem -No Country For Old Men
Hal Holbrook -Into the Wild
Tommy Lee Jones -No Country For Old Men
Tom Wilkinson -Michael Clayton
This indicates end game for John Travolta in Hairspray (if it was going to happen, wouldn't SAG have played along?) But I still wouldn't count out Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War) giving the boot to one of these superior performances. If there's a surprise coming --occassionally things that don't get any precursor love do end up in the Oscar shortlists-- your options are but two: Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) and Max von Sydow (The Diving Bell and Butterfly)

3:10 to Yuma
American Gangster
Into the Wild
No Country For Old Men

These don't look so bad as ensemble choices. I'm happy to see them think about what constitutes an ensemble as opposed to what means "Best Picture"
* Updates to Oscar pages later tonight. For now, have it out in the comments.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vanity Fair's Hollywood ~Episode 3 (1997)

Playing the Hollywood Historian...

The third year of "Vanity Fair's Hollywood" led us to believe that they'd be alternating the all girl / all boy lineups forever. They'd soon disrupt the formula but it was back to a 10 girl lineup for 97. This time they were christened "The Next Wave" At the time I wasn't terribly wild about this cover. It's hard to remember why but every year when the cover premieres you have someone in particular that you feel is overlooked. I should have written it down. Now...who knows who was snubbed? 1997 isn't that clear. Looking back, though, it's the first cover that really coheres. Isn't this a beautiful color palette? Plus, nobody is pulling too much focus from anyone else either, or dressed in such a way that they don't quite fit (Hello Gwyneth Paltrow in 1995).

The collaborating cover girls were...

Cameron Diaz, who heading towards 25, still had residual heat from her successful debut in The Mask (1994) with Jim Carrey. Subsequent films hadn't achieved any impact but My Best Friend's Wedding was about to open. People were stunned that she dared a charisma-off with Julia Roberts and even more dazzled that that blinding Julia star wattage didn't burn the young upstart to a crisp on the spot. Instead it lit her up and onto the A list. Heady days of worshipful Golden Globe nominations, audience pleasing rump-shaking (Charlie's Angels) and endless Justin Timberlake carousing were just ahead. But doesn't it seem like things have gotten awfully quiet since 2002? She's only 35... where's the second act surge?

Kate Winslet was already going places at 22. She had revealed to us the brilliance of Peter Jackson (casting this particular unknown in Heavenly Creatures was his first masterstroke, don't you think?) and was the only Oscar nominee on the cover (Sense & Sensibility). You'll notice that she also had red hair. Which means, Titanic was filming. That's probably all you need to know about what happened next. Although I think it bears repeating (after the discussion of the peaks and valleys of one Ms. Kidman) that people tend to forget the valleys in tremendous careers. Nobody would ever admit to this now but there were people back in the day that felt her choice to do Hideous Kinky after Titanic was a "career killer", that she was too fat for Hollywood, etcetera. People have always been trying to tear great actresses down, particularly when they've embraced acting above the demands of being a sex symbol.

Claire Danes specialized in making me cry like a baby in the 90s. She was turning 18 here and she had already jerked my tears around in My So Called Life, Little Women, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday and Romeo + Juliet. To virtually anyone paying attention she looked like the next big thing. Ten years later the fame persists but the career is disappointing. Mileage may vary but I think there are two problems. 1) Choice of roles. 2) She hasn't rid herself of those formerly endearing fidgety mannerisms (and nearing 30, they're distracting. Maybe it's just me but I want to see a mature actress emerge from the memories of the A list teenager.

Renée Zellweger -that's right I said the name. We're time travelling remember? This was long before she became one of my arch enemies... She Who Must Not Be Named. She was but 28 and had won many hearts and probably came thisclose to her first Oscar nomination just months before, having "completed" Tom Cruise's Jerry Maguire (1996). Previously she had also starred in The Whole Wide World (1996) and was one of several rising stars to be seen in the very funny 70s high school comedy Dazed and Confused (1993). Major stardom followed and strange things eventually began to happen... A couple of quiet years may have sufficiently doused the raging backlash that was occurring but can she regain control over those calcified mannerisms? Let's hope she's Bridget Jones squinty and not Miss Potter squinched in Leatherheads with George Clooney. (That's right, I'm calling truce. Win me back Renée... or at least don't get in the The Clooney's way. I love him best in comedies.)

Alison Elliott, 27, might be the lone member of this cover you didn't recognize. 1997 remains her biggest year. She was fresh off the Sundance surprise The Spitfire Grill (1996) but it underperformed once regular audiences got a hold of it. Later in 1997 she was in fine form as Helena Bonham-Carter's kind rival in The Wings of the Dove. Some critics called for an Oscar nomination. That didn't pan out and very strangely, Wings of the Dove was her last high profile film role.

Minnie Driver, 27 and reclining awkwardly on one elbow--Ouch Minnie-- was about to win Matt Damon's troubled heart both onscreen and off Good Will Hunting --though it'd shortly be off off. She won an Oscar nomination for her efforts as 'the girl'. At the time of this cover she was surfing good buzz from her performance in Circle of Friends. Lately she's been singing and starring on the critically acclaimed The Riches on TV.

Jada Pinkett was not yet Jada Pinkett Smith at 25 but almost. Will Smith and she made it official at the tail end of this very year. Her acting career had taken off round about 1993 with the one two punch of Menace II Society and her recurring role on television's A Different World. The previous year had been a big one for her in the movies, arguably her peak, starring in The Nutty Professor and Set it Off with Queen Latifah and this year she was in the first kill position (hi Drew Barrymore!) in Scream 2. You'll mostly see her in supporting roles these days and on the red carpet, usually in stunning metallic colors.

Jennifer Lopez was nearing 28 and Selena and Anaconda were opening, making her an instant star. She had famously been paid 1 million for Selena making her the best paid Latina actress ever at the time (if I recall correctly). She was on her way to mega stardom and becoming so famous you only needed two syllables ~ "JLo" Next up: Out of Sight (1998) which remains her best performance by so wide a margin one wishes Steven Soderbergh would cast her again.

Charlize Theron was only 21. My god, that seems like it must have been 10 years ago. oh... um... She had made a big splash in Two Days in the Valley (1996). The film wasn' t a big hit but people were really talking about her. Mostly about her hotness. It was very Jessica Alba a few years ago. Theron proved her acting chops were on par with her beauty, quickly surprising people with her intensity and believability in the otherwise ludicrous The Devil's Advocate which came out in the fall of '97. She is one of only two eventual Oscar winners (thus far) on this cover --the other being She Who Must Not Be Named. Coincidentally, they both won on the same night in 2004, seven years after this cover shoot saw the light of day --the next wave, indeed.

Fairuza Balk -had been a child actor in Return to Oz (1985) and showed a lot of maturing promise in the under seen indie Gas, Food, Lodging (1992) but was still transitioning to adult roles at 23. The year previous she had been an overcooked hoot as a witch in The Craft (still what she's most remembered for) and she would soon co-star in American History X (1998) with Ed Norton. She's been effective in some notable films or roles like Almost Famous (2000) and Personal Velocity (2002) but stardom didn't really materialize save for devoted cult pockets and she isn't in many pictures these days.

median age: 24, youngest: Claire. oldest: Renée
collective Oscar nominations before this cover:
Just 1... Kate Winslet in Sense & Sensibility
collective Oscar nominations after this cover: 10 nominations with 2 wins: Charlize's Monster and Renée on Cold Mountain
fame levels in 2007, according to famousr, from most to least: Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, Jada Pinkett Smith, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Fairuza Balk and Alison Elliott. * famousr proved very unreliable this time around. No listings for Kate, Jennifer or Renée. That's some major snubbage there given the household name status.
see also: 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001