Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Maybe he wants to get closer to Mrs. Featherbottom

Bonnie Hunt, whom I adore, is writing a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. What could possibly happen? Why would the Robin Williams character need to re-don the Scottish drag? Perhaps Scotland Yard needs him to infiltrate a nursing home to wiretap the phone in room 212, where a notorious crime lord is spending the autumn of his life. Now it's your turn. What could possibly be the premise of Mrs. Doubtfire 2?

Monday, December 19, 2005

I just got around to Mad Hot Ballroom...

...and it's shockingly bland. Kids saying the darndest things does not make a documentary. I know they're only 10, but they're just grabassing while being reprimanded by teachers who wield their power with an iciness hardened no doubt by a crumbled dancing career ("...and those who can't teach gym teach ballroom dancing"). The film builds to a citywide competition. One team wins, the rest dissolve into tears. Then the film ends. In life, there are winners and losers, OK 10-year-old dancers and not-so-OK 10-year-old dancers. In the end, we all die. This is perhaps my worst post ever -- such a harmless film doesn't deserve the vitriol -- but I'm angry for spending 100 minutes watching New Yorkers' tax dollars spiral down the shitter. Oh, the rumba saved Johnny from a life of crime? Please. The only thing it saved him from was math class.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Stoners, Transsexuals, Dreamers

1. The Family Stone sucks.

2. Transamerica doesn't. It's simpler, shallower, and funnier than you'd think. Felicity Huffman deserves the plaudits -- the role of Bree Osborne is an actor's dream: Huffman, a woman, plays a man who is becoming a fully transgendered woman. Fine. One question: Why wasn't a biological male cast? The Weinstein Co. was "brave" enough to commission the film, but not brave enough to cast it with a transgendered actor? I guess we can fall back on the "gender is a construct" argument. Why shouldn't a biological woman play the part of a biological man living as a woman? But part of me thinks about that transgendered female actor out there who could've made a mark with this once-in-a-lifetime role. Ah well. The movie is cute without being maudlin or depressing, and Huffman is expert enough to keep the whole operation classy. (And Fionnula Flanagan, Elizabeth Peña, Graham Greene, and Burt Young are in it!)

3. The premise of American Dreamz seems better than the trailer, so here's hoping. If there's any two things worth skewering, it's the U.S. government's image and the culture of "American Idol."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Heaving bosom versus kvetching cad

Today the academy released the, uh, disparate list of 42 tracks eligible to be nominated for the best song Oscar. I hate this category. [Let's go back to 2004, when Annie Lennox's "Into the West" won over Micheal McKean and Annette O'Toole's "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow." "West" played over the end credits of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. "Kiss" was an integral part of A Mighty Wind; indeed, it provided one of the year's great memories -- Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, excavating an old romance as aged folk singers. They did their own singing and playing, of course, and performed at the Oscars in character. And it's a beautiful song. This was the perfect opportunity to honor a deserving song from a movie about music, plus give an Oscar to a respected industry couple. But the Oscar went to exit music. This has happened countless times.]

Anyway, if anything, there should be an original song score Oscar, given to the composer of a set of songs for, say, an original movie musical (like A Mighty Wind). But whatever. The academy needs five hip artists to draw music lovers to the telecast (even though eradicating the category would shave 30 minutes off the show, thereby retaining more viewers). Here are the five I expect to be nominated, none of which are very hip:

"Dicholo," The Constant Gardener (performed by Oyub Ogada)
"Hustle & Flow (It Ain't Over)," Hustle & Flow (performed by Terrence Howard)
"In the Deep," Crash (by Bird York)
"There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway," The Producers (by Mel Brooks)
"Travelin' Thru," Transamerica (by Dolly Parton)

It'll be Mel (who won a screenplay Oscar for the original Producers) against Dolly (whose last song nomination was in 1981).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Three thoughts on the Globes

1. In case it's not apparent year after year, the Golden Globes is a silly exercise, providing categories for both drama and comedy films and performances but not for their directors or supporting actors or screenwriters. So there was the usual shafting (no Cronenberg or Frears despite best pic nominations for A History of Violence and Mrs. Henderson Presents), plus the usual ridiculous inclusions prompted by a lukewarm movie year (Sarah Jessica Parker is terrible in The Family Stone, and must we always include Johnny Depp?), plus the genre juggling to fit everyone in (if The Squid and the Whale is a comedy, then the Hollywood Foreign Press is an association of sadists). Everyone better be good and liquored up for the ceremony so we can have some good TV.

2. This is the year of Clooney. George is nominated for directing and writing Good Night, and Good Luck and supporting actor for Syriana -- identical (and deserved) Oscar nominations will follow, which would make him, I think, the first person ever to be nominated for both a performance and direction (for different movies) in the same year. Correct me if I'm wrong.

3. Brokeback Mountain, which continued its awards-season dominance yesterday with a best pic/director/actor trifecta from the New York critics, has a leading seven nominations, including one for best song, which I didn't know it had (further evidence this category should be eradicated across the board). Some might say there is plenty of time for Brokeback to lose momentum (Oscars are conferred March 5), but what film would take its place? ... You see? It played in five screens last weekend and made a half million dollars total, a phenomenal ratio. And when it opens wide this weekend, it'll hit the mother lode. Glowing reviews, stellar box office, no Million Dollar Baby type in sight -- looks virtually unbeatable from here.

P.S. Zero nominations for "Arrested Development" in the TV categories. You're telling me that Charlie Sheen is doing better work than Jason Bateman, whose sublime performance on "AD" should be starmaking? I'm done trying to figure this out.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Boston throws Giamatti in the ring

Paul Giamatti, to whom Oscar is allergic, has his first notice of the year -- for supporting actor in Cinderella Man. The Boston critics have seconded Brokeback for picture/director, and Capote for actor, supporting actress, and screenplay. Again, what's the deal with Keener? She has no good scenes or lines. Perhaps she is being feted for her camouflage technique. Baffling. Also, welcome Witherspoon.

L.A. crix push Vera into mix

Start your engines. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced its awards yesterday (click on the post title for the list), and the big splash is the naming of Vera Farmiga (left) as best actress for Down to the Bone. I've never heard of her or the film, and no prognosticator has tossed about her name, but she is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, so this isn't completely out of the blue. Otherwise, Brokeback Mountain has the early mandate, with best picture and director and a runner-up award for Heath Ledger (behind PSH). Catherine Keener grabbed supporting actress via that critics awards loophole: she had four movies out this year, so she won for omnipresence -- Capote (a minimal, crap role), The Ballad of Jack & Rose (haven't seen it), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (not bad), and The Interpreter (a throwaway role). Don't get me wrong, I love Keener, but come on. Where were the awards for Lovely & Amazing, when she had something to work with? Also, a strong showing for A History of Violence, which took runner-ups for picture/director and won supporting actor for William Hurt, who's onscreen for five ridiculous minutes. And Grizzly Man, cut from the Oscar shortlist, took best documentary. Several biggies were shut out: Walk the Line, L.A.'s own Crash, and the three that haven't been released but people are buzzing about anyway -- Munich, King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha. Take that, PR spin doctors.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Might as well continue to blame the government for the second item

Item 1. Syriana is a masterwork, impressive in its scope and detail. It is an appropriate consummation to a year of topical, eloquent films that have something on their minds besides dollars: The Constant Gardener's illustration of the drug industry's exploitation of the Third World. Lord of War's caustic rollercoaster ride through international arms dealing. Good Night, and Good Luck's plaintive meditation on the cost of liberty. And now Syriana's resounding indictment of oil-slicked greed, brought to you by writer-director Stephen Gaghan (at right), who, with his Traffic script, is proving (slowly) to be one hell of a maverick. It's nice to have some movies with teeth.

Item 2. Notice how I didn't link to The Internet Movie Database via the titles. It seems IMDb, that essential movie research tool, has fallen prey to some sort of adware operation. When I click on "trivia" or "external reviews," for example, I am directed to a mostly blank page with a small ad tucked into one of the corners. The only way to get to where I want to go is to click back and click again. I find this troubling.

No, I don't want to download new Smileys. No, I don't want to find people with whom I graduated from high school. Does this happen to anyone else?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The other side of Brokeback Mountain

What I am really looking forward to is the scene where Jake and Heath throw each other all over the room and nearly break several bones in the process -- anticipating it makes me giggle.
So quotes the prurient New York Post from Jolie in NYC, the blog of a self-described "pop culture-obsessed (former) beauty editor," aged 25. Girlie, you're in for a surprise.

You see, there is no such scene. This is a 134-minute movie with two minutes of gay sex and/or gay-sex-related activity (snogging, cuddling, awkward goodbyes). Understand this. Ledge 'n' Gyll don't throw each other all over the room. They scrape the toe of their craggy boots in the dirt and squint under the brim of their cowboy hats. They thumb their belts and suckle beer bottles. They don't hurl each other over furniture.

The media torrent has spun Brokeback Mountain into, by turns, a gay Western and a sexually explicit romp on the range. There is nothing gay, explicit, or even particularly Western about the movie. But you'll find out soon enough, Ms. Blogger, when you're on your fourth Diet Coke and getting antsy for porn-tastic aerobics.

Back on Earth, Brokeback finally opens tomorrow, trailing a heap of hype that's been piling up since Venice in September, when the film snagged the fest's top award. At this weekend's box office, The Chronicles of Narnia will win, but Brokeback will have staying power. It has locks on Oscar noms for picture, director, actor (Ledge), screenplay, score and cinematography.

Finally: Anthony Lane is spot-on with his review and J. Hoberman is right to call it the "straightest" love story since Titanic. If the movie leaves you unsatisfied, supplement with Annie Proulx's short story, over which every movie executive has admitted to weeping.
"Love is a force of nature" vs. "Nothing on Earth could come between them"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Reasons to see Night Moves

Gene Hackman with a '70s power-stache. A 28-year-old James Woods as a feisty grease monkey. An 18-year-old and oft-nude Melanie Griffith in her film debut.

Then again, this is the first movie I've seen with no acting, no direction, and no point. But there's a riotous laugh around minute 90.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I waited more than a decade for the X-Men movie. It was terrible. X2 redeemed the franchise. It was spectacular. The X3 teaser trailer is tantalizing, and even though that means nothing for the actual movie, I can't wait. Kelsey Grammar looks badass as Beast. Shohreh Aghdashloo is a villain. Archangel shows up. Lalo Schifrin does the music. The one potential problem?

The director, Brett Ratner, Hollywood dude.

This is the guy who directed the Rush Hours, After the Sunset, and sundry music videos. In short, I worry that the story's social allegory factor will be played down in favor of cleavage and noise. I mean, yeah, there is cleavage and noise in any X-Men manifestation, be it comic books or TV shows. But it musn't be only that.

Monday, December 05, 2005

If you're a Nielsen family...

...we need you to watch "Arrested Development" tonight at 8 on Fox. Even if you're downstairs playing Sorry! with the kids or out to dinner with your book club, at least turn on your TV so it gets counted.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Kilmer + Downey Jr. = perfection

The most fun I've had in a movie theater in years. With any luck, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang will pop up in the comedy categories when the Globe noms are announced Dec. 13. Robert Downey Jr. -- with luscious comic timing -- is a precious commodity in the movies. (Hey guy: keep off the smack for good.) Critics slapped KK,BB with lukewarm reviews because it's hopelessly meta, but they are vaccinated against enjoyment by virtue of their vocation. But I dare say Pauline Kael might've tee-hee'd.

Friday, December 02, 2005

For Your Consideration: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

He might have less to lose than Ledger & Gyllenhaal, but Gordon-Levitt does heavier lifting as Neil McCormick in Mysterious Skin, a tantalizing and tender tragedy about two guys destroyed by a shared childhood experience of sexual abuse. Gordon-Levitt's hypersexual-yet-somehow-underplayed performance got no love from the Indie Spirit Awards, which chose decidedly non-indie best-actor nominees (Ledger, the Clooney-backed David Strathairn), but his might be the acting feat of the year -- no role was as potentially disastrous and no performance is as comparatively triumphant. Due credit goes to his co-star Brady Corbet, whose character is Neil's inverse, and writer-director Gregg Araki, who wrangles Scott Heim's helical novel into visual grace.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mark's poverty-chic scarf was wrapped too tight

The Reliable Source shows how one man's sincere musical dream has deteriorated into someone else's obnoxious film snobbery.