Friday, December 29, 2006
What a fun year. Whether I was writing about movies (or my big-screen stories as I fondly refer to’em sometimes), music (oh-so-t-t-t-t-t-tasty, tasty in 2006), or TV (I heart TiVo), one thing remained a constant this year: There was plenty to keep me busy – and that’s always a good thing.
So here’s a review of the year that was. Happy 2007, everyone!
Best 2005 Leftovers: Little Fish and The World’s Fastest Indian
Best Action Sequence: The foot chase in Casino Royale
Best Butt-kicking Babe: Keri Russell (Mission: Impossible III)
Best Chemistry: Daniel Craig and Eva Green (Casino Royale)
Best Hair and Costumes: Marie Antoinette
Best Movie Line: Samuel L. Jackson’s “I have had it with these motherf---ing snakes on this motherf---ing plane!” in Snakes on a Plane
Best Poster: Nacho Libre
Best Soundtrack: Marie Antoinette
Best Trailer: Marie Antoinette
Best Prop: Little Miss Sunshine’s broken-down yellow VW bus
Best Use of Magical Thinking: The Illusionist and The Prestige
Best Use of Lindsay Lohan: A Prairie Home Companion, Bobby
Worst Use of Lindsay Lohan: Just My Luck
Biggest Scene-stealer: The Devil Wears Prada’s Emily Blunt
Can't Get Enough – Female: Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy)
Can't Get Enough – Male: Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Little Children)
Sexiest Female(s): Women of a certain age (American Dreamz’s Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Last Kiss’ Blythe Danner, The Queen’s Helen Mirren)
Sexiest Male: Casino Royale's Daniel Craig
Guiltiest Pleasures: Luke (My Super Ex-Girlfriend) and Owen (You, Me and Dupree) Wilson
Most Committed: Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) and Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy)
Most Devilish: Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)
Most Disappointing: Miami Vice
Most Disturbingly Hilarious: The hairy naked wrestling in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Most Impressive Ensemble in an Otherwise Unimpressive Film: Bobby's Harry Belafonte, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, and Elijah Wood, among others
Most Original: Stranger Than Fiction
Most Photogenic Duo: Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker (Failure to Launch)
Most Polarizing Crowd-pleasers: Summer Blockbusters (X-Men: The Last Stand, The Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Superman Returns)
Most Promising: J.J. Abrams (director of Mission: Impossible III)
Most Revelatory: Penélope Cruz (Volver)
Most Surprising Star of the Year: Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth)
Most Underrated: The Break-Up
Breakthrough Performance – Female: Ellen Page (Hard Candy, X-Men: The Last Stand)
Breakthrough Performance – Male: Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Thanks – I’ll Never Look at an Egg the Same Way: Shortbus
Best Supporting Actresses: Adriana Barraza (Babel), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration)
Best Supporting Actors: Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland), Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls), Jack Nicholson (The Departed), Michael Sheen (The Queen)
Best Actresses: Annette Bening (Running with Scissors), Penélope Cruz (Volver), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), Kate Winslet (Little Children)
Best Actors: Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan), Daniel Craig (Casino Royale), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed), Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking), Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness)
Best Directors: Todd Field (Little Children), Stephen Frears (The Queen), Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu (Babel), Paul Greengrass (United 93), Martin Scorsese (The Departed)
10 Best Films of the Year: (in alphabetical order)
A Prairie Home Companion
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Little Miss Sunshine
Thank You for Smoking
Photos: MGM/Columbia Pictures (Casino Royale); Fox Searchlight Pictures (Little Miss Sunshine); DreamWorks Pictures (The Last Kiss); Paramount Pictures (Failure to Launch); 20th Century Fox (The Devil Wears Prada); Paramount Vantage (Babel).
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Has anyone heard of Mika?
EW.com has, and they are wondering if this 23-year-old Londoner could be "music’s next big thing.”
From the sounds of it, I’d say it’s rather possible. Earlier this month, his track "Relax, Take It Easy" earned him his first chart ink at No. 44 on the Hot Dance Club Play (check out the story Billboard.com ran on the singer-songwriter on the occasion of that break).
Mika’s forthcoming CD, Life in Cartoon Motion, is due March 30. Talk about having something to look forward to in 2007, huh.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
What are you doing this New Year's Eve?
It has been announced that ABC Family – my new favorite cable channel since it allowed me to catch up with Gilmore Girls and discover Everwood – is treating us non-Ugly Betty watchers to an all-day marathon of the most watched new comedy of the 2006 TV season, on Sunday, Dec. 31, starting at 9 a.m.
How cute is that?
Uh…so cute it's Ugly. And I love it.
“Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!”
“I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”
“Hope that was an empty bottle George! You can't afford to waste good liquor, not on your salary!”
“You had me at hello.”
“I wish I knew how to quit you.”
Dozens of memorable and quotable lines from motion pictures such as these share with Oscar the official 79th Academy Awards poster canvas, which was unveiled last week.
“They are the unforgettable lines that you hear in everyday conversations, in meetings, at parties, or walking down the street,” said Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “They tap into what we think and give us great shorthand ways to express how we feel about those things. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then each quote is worth at least 500.”
All of the lines showcased in the poster except one are from films that have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Writing, or both, from 1936-2005. (Finding the exception should be the first of many trivia contests the Academy expects the poster to generate.)
The 27"x40" poster, printed on premium recycled paper, uses a black canvas and highlights the quotes in gold metallic ink, each in a distinctive typeface to reflect the movie it represents. It is available for purchase here through March 12.
The Oscars will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and will air live on ABC at 8 p.m. EST.Photo: Oscar.org.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I almost forgot to tell you I saw The Pursuit of Happyness this weekend.
In the movie, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a bright and talented but marginally employed salesman struggling to make ends meet in 1980s San Francisco, who finds himself and his five-year-old son, Christopher (played by Smith’s own son, Jaden), evicted from their San Francisco apartment with nowhere to go and nothing but a few belongings to call their own and a dream of a better life so palpable he can touch it.
The Pursuit of Happyness is a very conventional movie based on the true story of a man whose rags-to-serious-riches story attracted the interest of movie producers after he was featured on 20/20 a few years ago.
However, it also a movie that represents a departure for Smith, who delivers a formidable performance that should cement his status as an actor and not just a movie star.
Smith allows you to see the hope and want in his eye when he lands an internship at a prestigious stock brokerage firm, and feel the dignified heartbreak of the many hardships through which fathers puts son (including living in shelters), and the love Gardner has for Christopher.
I predict another Oscar nomination for Smith, although not for the movie (never mind that its game is greatly elevated by the onetime Fresh Prin…sorry, by the actor).
My Rating ***
Photo: Columbia Pictures.
I’ll admit that when I heard Michael (Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor) Bay was going to bring the Transformers to the big screen I was…skeptical (I’m being nice).
Not because I didn't think he could step up to the plate, action-wise, but because I couldn't help but wonder what kind of story Hollywood would conceive to pull this off. After all, the Transformers are nothing short of an institution.
In the movie, Earth is caught in the middle of an intergalactic war between two races of robots, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, which are able to change into a variety of objects, including cars, trucks, planes, and other technological creations.
So, on July 4, at the theater nearest me, I will be ready…to see this go down (I’m humming the theme song already!).
Photo: Paramount Pictures.
Because I Said So.
That’s the name of the movie (due out Feb. 2) I'm talking about, not a command, although with a cast that features Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Lauren Graham, Piper Perabo, Stephen Collins, Colin Ferguson (SciFi's Eureka), and Tom Everett Scott (TNT’s Saved), it might as well be a command.
Check out the trailer here.
Photo: Universal Pictures.
Monday, December 25, 2006
I know I risk being the black sheep of the Dreamgirls-loving herd (much like I was last year when I didn’t hop on the Brokeback Mountain train), but here I go again: I saw the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical about the very Supremes-like trio of black female soul singers that crosses over to the pop charts in the early 1960s – and I didn’t care for it all that much.
Hold the phone, hold the phone – let me explain: I thought Dreamgirls was a fine musical. Slightly uneven and a bit long, but fine nevertheless.
Stylistically, it mirrored Chicago a great deal – especially in the beginning (not a surprise since Dreamgirls writer-director Bill Condon wrote both). Thematically, there was a lot going on, especially in the first act, what with the introductions and the attention paid to Eddie Murphy’s character, the James Brown-esque James "Thunder" Early. But ultimately I felt that where Chicago oozed sass, Dreamgirls lacked soul and heart at the most unfortunate of times.
That was a problem for me because I didn’t develop a feel for the characters. The story is another matter because it’s a fairly universal story about the dreams that we have all have, how life isn’t fair sometimes, and how eventually we all learn what really matters.
Also, since the material has purely coincidental (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) similarities to actual Motown stars, I thought it was odd that Dreamgirls felt like two movies – one about a man (Early) at the dusk of his career, one about a group at the dawn of theirs – that didn’t quite fit together.
In any case, once the movie started to focus on Effie White (American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles), and Lorrell Robinson (Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose), a.k.a. The Dreamettes, it actually started to get good.
I got to follow these ladies from rags to riches – which is always a fascinating journey. I got to see ambitious manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) fail to keep all of his promises as he transformed The Dreamettes into the more mainstream Dreams. And I got to see rivalries boil as lead singer Effie was replaced by the more attractive Deena and eventually dropped from the trio.
But what I didn’t get to see was what made these ladies tick, really; I felt as though I never got to know them all that well. And that’s just fine, just not Best Movie of the Year fine. Even the musical sequences left me wanting more; they were dazzling, but they seldom revealed the characters’ drive, their emotion (please note that I did say seldom).
The acting was good, though.
Knowles lost herself in a role that required she take center stage and be a star. It may not sound like a stretch, but somehow it was, and I bought her turn wholeheartedly. But it was Hudson who stole the show – and this was reportedly quite fine with Ms. Destiny Child.
Earlier this month, the singer told reporters, “I'm already a star. I already have nine Grammys. Everyone knows I can sing. "I did this because I wanted people to know that I can act and I can play someone so different from myself."
I don’t know about “different” per se, but by playing Deena Jones, Knowles has proven to yours truly that she has the acting chops to accompany and complement her many other talents. But of course, buzz-talk has also given way to on-set-jealousy-toward Hudson-talk – which is typical and, evidently, uncalled for.
“It's really unfortunate that everyone is saying I'm jealous of Jennifer. It hurts my heart because it's so clichéd,” Knowles said. “They're saying that I'm mad when I knew going into this that I was playing Deena."
The R&B star did admit she would have liked to have sung Effie's show-stopping number song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
But she didn’t; Hudson did, and it was just part of the reason why she owned Dreamgirls.
Hudson was a beacon of light, of fresh energy, in an otherwise ambitious attempt at commercial success that wasn’t all that original or as terrifically executed as everyone would like you to believe. So see Dreamgirls for what it is, but love it because you will be watching a star being born.
My Rating **1/2
Photo: DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures.
Friday, December 22, 2006
And that’s a damn shame because classic filmmaking was an art form to be reckoned with; faux classic filmmaking not so much.
I believe The Good German falls in the latter category, unfortunately, for director Steven Soderbergh, as able as he is, is not a classic filmmaker – he is a thoroughly modern maven. Thus I wish Soderbergh‘s latest offering had been a little less ostentatious and a little more proficient, a salute rather than whack at recreating a seemingly lost craft.
According to IMDb.com, The Good German was shot in black and white as if it had been made in 1945, exclusively on studio back lots, sets, and Los Angeles area locations. It was lit with only incandescent lights, which provided harsh, unnatural light, and shot using period lenses on the cameras. No wireless body microphones were used, and sound was recorded the old-fashioned way, with a hand-operated boom mic held above the actors’ heads, and the actors were directed to perform in a presentational, stage style.
It’s all very nice and dandy, but it’s too much style over substance.
As you can probably deduce, I was greatly disappointed in The Good German, an adaptation of Joseph Kanon's post-WWII novel (a thriller about star-crossed lovers George Clooney, a military journalist, and Cate Blanchett, the wife of a Nazi scientist, caught up in a conspiracy and a murder mystery).
I will say, however, that the movie gets better in the back half, which is rather unusual. But it’s almost a case of too little, too late, given that for the first 20 minutes I found myself wondering what was going on with these people, why Clooney kept getting beaten around, and why Tobey Maguire felt terribly wrong as a morally bankrupt marketer.
Once the all the pieces had been introduced, though, it was somewhat engrossing to try and sort through the intrigue and put them together, and not just admire how beautiful they made The Good German look.
That, and Blanchett, of who I am in an increasing state of awe, is glorious. But that’s as good as it gets with this movie.
My Rating **
Photo: Warner Bros.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I think by now it has been well established that if it's on TV then it must be something TVGuide.com and I would remember.
As another year goes the way of many before it, the magazine’s website published today their “most stellar TV moments of 2006.”
I wasn’t going to write anything about this sort of thing, but the article got me thinking about my No. 1 most stellar TV moment of 2006, which has got to be the (hot!) head-butt seen ‘round the world, and came courtesy of Zinédine Zidane during the final match (France vs. Italy) of the World Cup – in front of, like, 284 million global viewers, no less.
I know…sports? Well, what can I say.
Anyway, as you may remember, Zidane head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi in the chest, after the Italian soccer player reportedly insulted his sister, and was consequently tossed from the game – costing the French the championship. The Italians went on to win their fourth title in a penalty shootout, 5-3, and the incident easily made for, I believe, the most dramatic, exhilaratingly did-that-just-happen?, and strangely entertaining TV moment of year.
Mon dieu, Barbara Walters, you didn't find this fascinating?!
Now, if I had to pick a runner-up moment, I’d pick the stellar post-Super Bowl episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which was light-hearted yet pulsing drama of the first rate.
Coming in at third would have to be the broadcast of Madonna's "Confessions Tour," which, in spite of its airing with plenty of commercial interruption and without this little number (or this one), was completely fun and something I still watch every other morning on TiVo.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Can you feel nostalgia for something you only found rather recently?
Maybe you can’t, but you most certainly can feel it for what it once meant – and in the case of Madonna, you can feel it for the last time she was shown any respect for her acting ability.
Say what you may about’er, Madonna's Golden Globe-winning performance in 1996’s Evita, a film I only saw this year (I know, I know…bad fan), was truly something that said, “Stand back – you ought to know what you're gonna get in me: Just a little touch of star quality!”
And stand back we did. Heck, some of us continue to do so to this day (in spite of Swept Away). That is star quality.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Shrek and Co. are making their fun- and pun-filled way back to a theater near you.
Slated to join them in Shrek the Third next May 18 are Captain Hook! Sir Lancelot! And…Artie, a teen version of King Arthur voiced by Justin Timberlake.
Check out the movie’s trailer here. Do we love it?
Photo: DreamWorks Animation.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
All hail The Queen.
That’s pretty much what seems to be the consensus among film critics this year, as The Queen’s Helen Mirren finds herself crowned Best Actress by several critics associations (Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco are just but a few of the cities showing her some awards love).
Mirren can add a nod from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which announced the nominations for the 64th Annual Golden Globe Awards today (you can find the complete list here). Among the highlights are nods to Babel’s Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, Sherrybaby’s Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Thank You for Smoking and its Aaron Eckhart.
On the TV side, there was much love shown to all my favorites – 24, Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, Lost, The Closer, The Office, and Scrubs – yet none (seriously?!) to Gilmore Girls or Veronica Mars.
If this awards people continue to ignore the sheer genius that are these two shows – and if I ever get to wield any power – I will tell'em one day that if they keep this up, they might go home with a black eye.
Photo: Miramax Films (The Queen).
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Do you remember last month I told you that Irish troubadour/god – yes, I said god! – Damien Rice was releasing his latest CD, 9, and that he was going to tour in America this holiday season?
Well, I’ve just returned from New York City, where last night I caught the first of his two-night engagement at the Beacon Theater, and I’ve only got one word to sum up the experience: exquisite. Oh, and totally worth the trip.
Not only does Rice put on a great show – he puts on an experience. He started, surprisingly enough, with a harder sound than I expected, very rock, and quickly moved on to his signature, heart-tugging ballads. The highlight of the night had to be his completely stripped down rendition of “Cannonball” (done completely unplugged...even sans mic). And “The Blower's Daughter.” And “Volcano.”
I know these are tracks off his first CD, O, but I like what I know and I know what I like – which isn’t to take anything away from newer songs like “9 Crimes,” “Elephant,” and “Rootless Tree.”
I was a little disappointed that he didn’t play “Delicate,” which is the song that first introduced me to the Rice, or “Unplayed Piano," one of the many beautiful duets he sings with the gorgeous vocalist Lisa Hannigan. But I don’t want to come off as greedy – it was an awesome evening.
(By the way, The Swell Season opened the show. Check them out sometime, too.)
So do yourself a favor and pick up some Damien Rice this holiday season. Then try to imagine him live. Trust me when I tell you it is quite something.
Let me know if you get jealous. Because I so would be if I’d missed this concert.
P.S.: While in the Big Apple, I finally – finally! – saw Casino Royale, which I found extremely entertaining; it's really one of the best action films I’ve seen this year. Daniel Craig is a total star, and with him wearing the Bond tux for the foreseeable future, I shall continue to sing the praises of this new 007 for years to come.
Monday, December 11, 2006
The often tough-to-watch-yet-beautifully-shot Blood Diamond, set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in 1990s Sierra Leone, finds Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a South African mercenary, and Solomon Vandy (In America's Djimon Hounsou), a Mende fisherman, joined in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond that could transform their lives.
While in prison for smuggling, Archer learns that Solomon – who has been taken from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields, and consequently thought a rebel and captured – has found and hidden the extraordinary rough stone.
With the help of Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist whose idealism is tempered by a deepening connection with Archer, the two men embark on a trek through rebel territory – a journey that could save Solomon's family and give Archer the second chance he thought he would never have.
Blood Diamond is as effective an action thriller as it is a message-movie about the horrific realities that have tarnished the African landscape in recent years – something that most of us have very little understanding of due to a lack of active political intervention from established governments and, yes, news reporting.
It does not, however, pack the emotional wallop that, say, Hotel Rwanda did because it wants us to follow the adventure that Archer and Solomon have taken on – the message is just gravy.
It's a great bonus that Hounsou is on screen to raise the humanity of Blood Diamond, to make us root for him, to tug at our hearts. DiCaprio's character has already been lost (plus, the actor can't stick to one accent for the entirety of the movie), but not Hounsou's – and he's the reason the movie ultimately works...not as a cheap guilt trip but an important awakening (that also entertains).
Photo: Warner Bros.
My Rating ***
Friday, December 08, 2006
The holiday entry The Holiday follows the trials and tribulations of…
Oh, who do I want to kid. The Holiday is director Nancy (Something’s Gotta Give) Meyers’ latest confection about pretty people with real problems.
Parts cute (really cute), parts happenstance, the movie wants us to buy into the possibility that Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet could be – gasp! – sooo unlucky in love, that they would swap houses for the holiday season in order to get away from their sorrows.
It just dawned on me that this movie is about…denial. And, wait for it…wait for it…it’s about what can happen when you are in denial – you just might meet Jude Law or Jack Black and live happily ever after. And isn’t that just so...cute?
Anyway, Winslet – in her first foray into a romantic comedy arena – plays Iris, an Englishwoman in love with a man who is about to marry another woman. For her part, Diaz – in a turn for which she hand-acts (that’s acting with her hands…a lot) – plays Amanda, a woman who has discovered the man she lives with has been unfaithful. And, jeez, isn’t this something: The two women, who have never met and live an ocean apart, find themselves in the exact same place.
They meet on a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for two weeks (Iris moves into Amanda's L.A. house in sunny California, and Amanda arrives in the snow covered English countryside), where they both meet the men who just might restore their faith in romance and love. Again – cute, huh.
The Holiday is, indeed, a very cute movie. But it’s also uneven and almost derivative. Meyers needs to roughen up her work a little, if anything just to make it a little bit less storybook-like and a little bit more real. Good cameos, though (one of which took me by surprise – and had me hoping a darker-material-perhaps? reunion might be in the works).
My Rating ** 1/2
Photo: Columbia Pictures.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
In an exclusive interview with TVGuide.com, Buffyverse mastermind Joss Whedon has announced that he is currently preparing an eight season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer…which will be arriving in comic book stores next March.
Obviously, I’d much prefer to see Sarah Michelle Gellar and Co. sink their teeth into this project as brilliantly as they did during the show’s seven-year run, but I’ll take my Buffy fix however Whedon opts to give it.
There’s something about this that really just screams phenomenal late Christmas present. That is a hint.
Nominations for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards were announced today by The Recording Academy, reflecting a year in which multiple genres were represented in top categories, new up-and-comers were nominated alongside established artists, and a diverse array of producers and other creative professionals garnered multiple nominations.
Yawn – press releases can sound so stiff sometimes.
All I wanted to know this morning was whether Madonna was gonna get snubbed – and she didn’t (that much).
Mary J. Blige topped the nominations with eight. The Red Hot Chili Peppers garnered six. James Blunt, the Dixie Chicks, John Mayer, and Prince each earned five nods. Beyoncé, Gnarls Barkley, and Justin Timberlake received four each. Christina Aguilera got two.
In the general field, nominees for Album of the Year are Taking The Long Way by the Dixie Chicks, St. Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley, Continuum by John Mayer, Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake.
Nominees for Record of The Year are "Be Without You" (Mary J. Blige), "You're Beautiful" (James Blunt), "Not Ready To Make Nice" (Dixie Chicks), "Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley), and "Put Your Records On" (Corinne Bailey Rae).
The Best New Artist nominees are James Blunt, Chris Brown, Imogen Heap, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Carrie Underwood.
This year's Song of the Year nominees are "Be Without You" (performed by Mary J. Blige), "Jesus, Take The Wheel" (performed by Carrie Underwood), "Not Ready To Make Nice" (performed by the Dixie Chicks), "Put Your Records On" (performed by Corinne Bailey Rae), and "You're Beautiful" (performed by James Blunt).
You can find the complete list of nominees here.
Now, on to what I wanted to know: Was the Queen of Pop snubbed?
Nope, she wasn’t. Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor was nominated in the Best Electronic/Dance Album, while the album’s second track, “Get Together” got a nod in the Best Dance Recording category. The singer’s documentary, I’m Going to Tell You a Secret, is up for Best Long Form Music Video.
It would’ve been great to see her get more Grammy love in the main categories; after all, she did have a massively successful worldwide tour to complement an album that was quite the crowd-pleasing smash hit.
But that would be asking too much of an industry that loves to ignore her while secretly wishing she were their BFF.
The Grammys will be held on Sunday, Feb. 11, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, and broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m.
Photo: Barnes & Noble.com.
The National Board of Review kick-started awards season yesterday with the announcement of their Best of 2006 List. These are the honorees (you can find a complete list here):
Film: Letters From Iwo Jima, followed by, in alphabetical order, Babel, Blood Diamond, The Departed, The Devil Wears Prada, Flags of Our Fathers, The History Boys, Little Miss Sunshine, Notes on a Scandal, and The Painted Veil
Actor: Forrest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Supporting Actress: Catherine O’Hara, For Your Consideration
Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Adapted Screenplay: The Painted Veil
Original Screenplay: Stranger Than Fiction
Ensemble Acting: The Departed
Breakthrough Performance – Actor: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Breakthrough Performance – Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls, and Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Photo: Warner Independent Pictures (The Painted Veil).
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
My, it’s time to remind you that the sixth season premiere of 24 is but a little more than a month away.
EW.com has an awesome preview you can check out here. There you will learn what the premise of Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) latest busy day is, and who the season’s main players will be.
Time goes by so slowly when one is waiting for 24. Oh, but it is worth it.
And already my head’s hurting with the news that Break-Up couple Vaughniston have…well, broken up; that Lost is moving to 10 p.m. when it comes back on Feb. 7 (whatever this will do to my TiVo queue remains TBD at this point); and that I had better brace myself for a possible Madonna-snub at tomorrow’s announcement of the nominations for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards.
Guess which one has me more worked up (no...the picture is not a tell – I just like the movie).
I know, I know...very predictable. What can I do...
Photo: The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Director Christopher (Best in Show, A Might Wind) Guest’s latest, For Your Consideration, is a biting and knowing parody focusing on the making of the (film within the) film Home for Purim, a drama set in the mid-1940s American South – and the soul-stripping buzz that sends its cast members into a would-be career-rejuvenating frenzy after one of the actors hears her name being tossed around as a likely Oscar nominee.
As someone who isn’t entirely familiar with Guest’s oeuvre, I will keep this simple: I enjoyed For Your Consideration, very much, but I can see why some people might not.
Guest and his troupe – which includes co-writer Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, and the magnificent Catherine O'Hara – are known for diving into the pool safeguarded by nothing but armfuls of dedication and talent.
This no-holds-barred approach ensures that the film will bring the funny, but also that Joe and Jane Doe from around the corner might be puzzled by the fascination with dog shows, folk singers, or in the case of this film, the behind-the-scenes wackiness that takes over Hollywood come awards season.
When O’Hara’s Marilyn Hack, a veteran actress, hears that her turn in Home Purim is being considered for Oscar gold, it sends her looking, solemnly, of course, for the adoration of her peers and of an industry that has long forgotten about her.
And when this buzz reaches her co-stars Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer), an actor now know for “playing” a wiener in TV commercials, and reluctant up-and-comer Callie Webb (Posey), it soon becomes evident that this little indie that could shall become something else entirely: a ravenous beast chasing after its own tale.
I think that’s what Guest seems to be saying – that Hollywood is a land where your dreams can render you prime for the plucking, or, in this case, the mocking.
I just wish he had been able to get his point across in a more inclusive way. I counted six people walking out of the movie theater, two in the first 10 minutes, which was too bad because they missed Jane Lynch and Fred Willard’s mordant amalgam of TV’s entertainment news show hosts.
A shame, really, because I know Guest and Co. didn't want their audience to consider that option.
My Rating **1/2Photo: Warner Independent Pictures.
Friday, December 01, 2006
"It's like, Yeah, motherf---er, I'm fine."
That’s what Lindsay Lohan told Vanity Fair almost year ago after being hospitalized in Miami to be treated for asthma following her New Year’s Eve partying in South Beach (which, I know for a fact, was tamer – if that’s saying anything – than it was made out to be).
Well, it has been reported – conveniently, late on Friday afternoon – that La Lohan is, indeed, in Alcoholics Anonymous.
And according to this report on E! Online, the Bobby actress’ mother/manager says “a lot of people she hangs out with go, and it's a positive thing.”
Well, as long as all the cool kids are doin’ it…
Just get better, OK, Linds.
Photo: Vanity Fair.
Well, the holidays are here – like you haven’t you noticed – and so I thought I should let you know what’s coming up to a theater near you, starting with The Nativity Story (out today), starring Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), a drama focusing on Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.
Then there’s next week’s Apocalypto (Mel Gibson’s in-Mayan latest concept-feature); The Holiday (in which down-on-their-love-luck Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swap houses for the holidays); Blood Diamond, a drama set against a backdrop of civil war in 1990's Sierra Leone, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, and Djimon Honsou; and The Good German (in which American journalist George Clooney looks for former mistress Cate Blanchett in post-war Berlin, while being lured into a murder mystery.
Mid-December brings Arthur and the Minimoys, The Painted Veil, starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, and Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness. The following week it’s all about Charlotte’s Web (starring Dakota Fanning), The Good Shepherd (a Matt Damon-Angelina Jolie vehicle about the early history of the CIA directed by Robert De Niro), Night at the Museum, and We Are Marshall.
Opening on Christmas Day are Children of Men, Dreamgirls, and Notes on a Scandal (in which not-all-there teacher Judi Dench mercilessly blackmails adulterous teacher Blanchett), while Sienna Miller’s Factory Girl and Renée Zellweger’s Miss Potter will open closer to New Year’s.
So, to borrow a line from “Sleigh Ride,” let's take that road before us and sing a chorus or two because it's lovely weather for…a movie…together with...whomever you want.
And remember to "be adequite" this season.
Photo: 20th Century Fox (Night at the Musem).
Today is World AIDS Day.
Take a little time to reflect on what this means in this day and age, to remember those we have lost, and to make a donation (amfAR would be a good place to check out) and support AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy (yeah…that’s their company line – and a mighty good one at that).
Meanwhile, today also marks the opening of 3 Needles, a drama that visits rural China, a plantation in South Africa, and Montreal's porn industry, to tell three separate yet universal stories, rooted to struggles with the HIV pandemic, starring Lucy Liu, Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: The Last Stand), and Chloë Sevigny.
I cannot urge you strongly enough to feel the love today, to feel just as one with everyone else in order to help heal the world. We can’t have 950 people die each day in South Africa because of HIV/AIDS, can we?
Thursday, November 30, 2006
I don’t need to see that!
And by that I mean people getting outed (when did it become OK to pressure people out of the closet, anyway?):
What led to Lance Bass’s coming out was a terrible low point in news reporting history, I think, and proof that anyone with a computer – yes, any blogger (I will not name names) – can be a bully. I don’t care if Reichen Lehmkuhl (Bass’ boyfriend, with whom I talked earlier in November) seems to be cool with it because it is anything but. The same blogger went after Neil Patrick Harris, relentlessly, and Doogie Howser had to put out a press release and shut up the rumor mill – and now, he's trying to get Jodie Foster to fess up. Who cares!
By that I also mean young starlets’ nether regions:
It’s just, like, eww much? It used to be that actresses couldn’t show so much as the hint of a knee, and while I’m not saying we ought to go back to that backward mentality, we should reclaim good taste. I can shrug off Paris Hilton dancing on a table while going commando – that’s her shtick and it’ll be her undoing. But somebody needs to tell Lindsay Lohan that getting photographed not once but several times stepping out of a car, va-jay-jay to the wind, does not scream “serious actress” – and you know I live for La Lohan. And don't get me started on Britney Spears! As if hanging out with Hilton wasn’t bad enough, she has made it a habit to show us her everything this week (you can get on the Google and look up these pictures up yourself if you want). So much for a comeback.
Finally, by that I also mean people getting offended oh-so easily:
It is one thing to be offended by Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic rant, or by Michael Richards’ strangely racist stand-up routine, but by Kelly Ripa? To say that Ripa is a “homophobe” because she tells Clay Aiken she doesn’t want him putting his hand (in a rather abusive and hostile way, mind you) over her mouth, live on the air, because she doesn’t “know where that hand’s been, honey,” is "outrageous," Rosie O’Donnell. I love you to death, but you should know better. And while we’re at it, and coming back full circle, when did it become OK for O’Donnell to (inadvertently?) out Aiken – and how come no one is saying anything about that?
Whatever happened to class?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The TV season now in full swing, I have decided that the best show on the air right now is…CBS News Sunday Morning.
Hosted by the invaluable Charles Osgood, Sunday Morning features a winning mix of news and feature and commentary pieces that are as fascinating as they are informative.
Don't get me wrong: I'm still living for 24, Everwood (on ABC Family – check it out!), Gilmore Girls, Heroes, Veronica Mars, Jericho, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and The Office as much as I ever did, but there’s something special about Sunday Morning.
There are many – many – shows in my weekly list of shows to watch. Yes, I love me my stories...and while some have even earned a Season Pass into my TiVo, few have earned an all-seasons pass into my heart.
Go ahead. Make fun.
It’s hard to believe that one of the most successful English rock bands of the mid-1990s, Oasis, hasn’t had a hit song in the United States in like, forever, but they haven’t – which only adds an extra layer of looking-back-fondlyness to the fact that their massively successful (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? came out 11 years ago!
Now, the band has come out with Stop the Clocks, its first ever, retrospective "best of" album. (The accompanying DVD features a live performance of fan favorite “Champagne Supernova.”)
You can watch exclusive documentary footage, and watch the trailer and the first 10 minutes of Stop the Clocks here.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Robert F. Kennedy once said “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”
In a way, RFK never was – from what little I know about the man, it would be safe to say that was a real shame – and now, nearly 30 years after his assassination in L.A.'s Ambassador Hotel, writer-director Emilio Estevez has delivered an ambitious and slightly uneven fictional drama in which 22 characters walk through the doors of this now-gone landmark and into “history.”
The film weaves these people’s stories, but doesn’t manage to make us care enough – partly because there’s just too many of’em, and partly because it is RFK that we’re really meant to care for.
Yet in spite of its arrested development, Bobby affords some of Hollywood’s MVPs – particularly Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez (HBO’s Six Feet Under), Christian Slater, and Sharon Stone – the chance to knock one out of the park.
It also stays firmly on message: RFK should have been. So why wasn’t he?
I didn’t think the film came alive until the last 20 minutes, but once it did, it was something to behold and take to heart.
My Rating ***
Photo: The Weinstein Company.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Why, it’s on NBC…tomorow...at 8 p.m. Madonna’s hosting.
And I’m going to be there because she is who she is, and I…wouldn’t want her to change a thing.
So don’t ask where’s the party unless you want to free your soul…lose control.
Robert Altman, the prolific director of M*A*S*H, Nashville, Gosford Park, and this summer’s A Prairie Home Companion, passed away today at age 81.
Actors loved him (Altman preferred to work with large ensembles in which there were no stars per se), as did audiences and critics who enjoyed – and got – his irreverence. He will be missed.
Photo: Picturehouse (A Prairie Home Companion).
Monday, November 20, 2006
Gwen Stefani has a new album coming Dec. 5 called The Sweet Escape; its first single, “Wind It Up,” is already out, and my initial reaction to it has been, “Where’s the melody, Gwen?”
The song features yodeling and contains a sample of "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music – and in true Stefani Style the lyrics talk about her clothing line, L.A.M.B., and how boys just love to stare at her and her girls.
I’m not crazy about it (yet?), but I’m hoping her sophomore effort as whole will live up to the promise of her debut album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., otherwise, I’m gonna go B-A-N-A-N-A-S with disappointment.
You can catch Stefani’s performing “Wind It Up” tomorrow at the American Music Awards on ABC.
I have never been accused of being a tease – alright, maybe once or twice – so I have to start the week by saying that I didn’t see Casino Royale this weekend, after all. Shameful, I know, considering how I plugged the film like it was going out of style, but I did make the effort (every show I tried was sold out – good going, people!).
I did, however, see Todd Field’s Little Children, which finally opened in my neck of the woods.
Starring Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, and Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), the film centers on a group of young married couples, and pays special attention to the affair that develops between Winslet’s unhappy Sarah, a stay-at-home mom whose husband has become obsessed with an Internet porn star, and Wilson’s unfulfilled Brad, an ex-jock stay-at-home dad frustrated by his filmmaker wife's wishes that he become a big-bucks lawyer.
As Sarah and Brad’s seemingly happy suburban Massachusetts lives intersect on the playgrounds and community pools of their small town in surprising and potentially dangerous ways, it becomes more and more evident that what lies beneath the surface of their beautiful lives is the thing of pain.
Little Children is a little bit of a satire, a little bit of a thrilling noir (there’s a seemingly pivotal sex offender character – played hauntingly by Jackie Earle Haley – who sends the tightly knit community into a tailspin), yet the more I think about it, the film’s also a little bit unfinished…unpolished.
The performances are fantastic: Winslet owns the film with her quiet longing and disquietingly expressed desire and rage, while Wilson reveals enough vulnerability to be truthful to his part – not to mention, if MTV still gave out the Most Desirable Male award at its Movie Awards it would be his to lose. But there are two stories to this film – and I didn’t think they gelled all that well.
Both Sarah and Brad feel trapped in their marriages, but the film never allows them to interact with their respective spouses (hers played by Greg Edelman, his by Connelly) long enough to explore in a meaningful way the root of their married lives’ problems.
Yes, they seem to get each other and should probably run away together – but why, really? The stakes are quite high when the possibility of ending a marriage is tossed around, but just how high are they in Sarah and Brad’s case? They make a fine naughty affair, but will they make a fine something else?
That is the question the film justly raises: It is Sarah and Brad who are the titular little children because they act like it. She starts off a strong, if disenchanted woman who essentially becomes a girl with a crush at the prospect of having a go with the handsome man dubbed The Prom King by three other playground moms. He becomes rejuvenated by Sarah’s enthusiasm over him.
And while I understand the thread of Haley’s story line, I didn’t quite get how it tied in, emotionally and tonally, with the main characters’. His presence is meant to pose a threat to these families’ lives, but then again they do a fine job of inviting danger in all on their own.
With so much on the line, it is best not to think of any of this, I suppose, and enjoy Little Children for what it is: A fantastically acted, often disturbing and humorous look at the trials and tribulations of suburbia.
My Rating ***
Photo: New Line Cinema.
Friday, November 17, 2006
I’ve never been a hardcore James Bond movie fan, I’ll admit, so I couldn’t help but wonder – all year long, if you can believe – why it is that I’ve been anticipating today’s opening of Casino Royale oh-so very much.
The answer lies in Daniel Craig – I am definitely a fan of his.
We all pretty much have heard a beep or two about the controversy that followed his being chosen to take over the Bond franchise. Many critics and fans hated his casting as 007, but I’m happy to report this recently changed – dramatically.
I believe this 180 is in great part due to the man himself. Craig is a force to be reckoned with on screen: He's charismatic and magnetic, devastatingly handsome, and, more importantly, brilliantly memorable in every turn (like in Road to Perdition, Sylvia, Enduring Love, and Layer Cake).
I am sooo taking a gamble on Casino Royale this weekend. With Craig on screen, I am guaranteed a win.
Photo: MGM/Columbia Pictures.
Perennial about-to-make-it-big-in-America pop sensation Robbie Williams has a new album out called Rudebox, which, from what I understand, is a return to his roots featuring plenty of Eurodance and Britpop tracks.
Williams collaborated extensively with the Pet Shop Boys, William Orbit, and Mark Ronson, just to name a few, on the album. The end product is said to be a smash hit.
I’ve only heard one track – “She’s Madonna,” a tribute (of sorts) to, well…you know – and I gotta say it is quite groovy. Go, Robbie, indeed!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Buzz worthy Dreamgirls co-star Jennifer Hudson (a former American Idol contestant) is some kind of wonderful – and thanks to this fine film I finally know this (I’m not much of an Idol fan).
Girlfriend can sing! And she’s rather beautiful, too, in an accessibly stunning kind of way – no fuss, no muss.
In short, she’s just a dream. Just you wait until you see her steal the show as Effie White in the aforementioned musical next month. Just you wait.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I guess Carrie Bradshaw was right when she said that George Clooney was like “a Chanel suit. He’ll always be in style” because today, the Syriana Oscar winner was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2006 – joining BFF Brad Pitt in the two-time honoree sexy club.
The magazine’s annual list also singled out Patrick Dempsey (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy), Ashton Kutcher, Taye Diggs (TV’s Day Break), Pitt, and John Krasinski (TV’s The Office) as just a few of the hottest men in Hollywood – and highlighted Jamie Bamber’s tantalizing towel dance as a something “everyone’s talking about.”
Sure – a month ago much? Perhaps next year they will highlight Eric Dane's steamy entrance earlier this fall on Grey's Anatomy.
Oh, well. What do you think of Clooney's choice: Yay or nay?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Mark your calendars for July 27, 2007, because that’s when the long-awaited Simpsons Movie will arrive in theaters everywhere.
You can watch the hilarious trailer here. It is laugh-out-loud funny, so you might want to put that donut down lest you want to go all “D’oh!” on yourself.
Mmmm, donuts…I mean, funny stuff – but donuts worked better with that Mmmm.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Two films opening this weekend – an existential comedy (Stranger Than Fiction) in which a man finds his life slipping out of his control, and a far-reaching drama interconnecting several people (Babel) – pose what I believe to be a very important question: What’s in a life?
Each arrives at the same conclusion: Life is what you make of it, so make something of it.
I could go on and on and tell you about how much I enjoyed both films (which I really did), but I won’t. It is a holiday, after all, and today’s post is already tragically late.
I’ll say this much, though: Stranger Than Fiction is lovelier than reality, which should make for terrific escapist fun. The film’s star, Will Ferrell, delivers what has got to be his finest performance to date; he was revelatory.
Babel, meanwhile, is decidedly heavier in tone; its all-star cast – led by Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael García Bernal – shines (thanks to Guillermo Arriaga’s accomplished screenplay) under the direction of Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, particularly co-stars Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza.
So, see these films, don’t see these films – just make sure you do something.
My Rating ***½ (Babel); *** (Stranger Than Fiction).
Photo: Columbia Pictures (Stranger Than Fiction).
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I finally saw The Queen last night, and all I can say – all I will say at this moment – is I found the film to be quite stunning.
It is a fascinating and fictional account of the real events that followed following the death of Princess Diana in 1997, and it is easily one of the best-told stories I have seen so far this year.
From the tightly contained, tradition-bound world of the Queen of England through the clashes with the slick modernity of the country's brand new, image-conscious Prime Minister, Tony Blair, The Queen is a revealing and witty portrait of the British royal family in crisis.
Alright, the moment to gush may have past, but the sentiment remains, for director Stephen Frears’ intriguing take on modern British monarchy is marked by subtlety and poignancy and a surprisingly even-handed approach to all its subjects, which only makes it all the more impressive.
It is stunning, I tell ya – stunning – and such a treat, really.
The film is an intimate, yet thematically epic battle of the first order – thanks, in no small measure to the gorgeous screenplay by Peter Morgan – between private and public, responsibility and emotion, and custom and action, as a grieving nation waits to see what its leaders will do.
Helen Mirren, as Queen Elizabeth II, is magnificent – the actress imbues her performance with the poise that the role requires at first glance, and with the humanity that it needs to be a well-achieved character study – while Michael Sheen is equally fantastic in an accomplished turn as Blair.
Stunning, in one word.
My Rating ****
Photo: Miramax Films.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have something to tell you all: IMDb.com reported yesterday that a Sex and the City movie project is back on track.
Oh, my Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda – what a fun, sexy time that would be.
First round of Cosmopolitans on me if it happens, OK!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
And I’m a TVaholic.
I can’t help it.
And I’m just glad I’m not alone.
Now, in other news, some man is trying to bump Britney Spears off the headlines!
I kid, I kid.
Photo: ABC (Lost).
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
And they were right.
I’m not talking about Reese and Ryan – actually, I’d rather not talk about them just yet (the wound’s still fresh). I’m talking about Britney Spears, who, showing she has gotten her smart back on, has – finally! – cast her ballot and elected to file for divorce from her husband Kevin Federline, citing irreconcilable differences.
The reasoning is not very original, but hey – at least this means there’s hope that oops, she’ll do it again.
I mean something like this, not marriage.
See you on the Surreal Life, K-Fed – don't let the door hit ya on your way out because, and to quote Beyoncé, "To the left / To the left."