Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 Emmy Awards Post-Mortem

Was it just me, or were the Emmy’s almost actually fun this year? I mean, an awards show will always be an awards show, and that means inflated egos, rambling speeches, and a lot of self-congratulatory behavior from admitted attention whores. But all the stuff that comes in between was actually entertaining. Jimmy Fallon did well as host, and absolutely killed it in the over-the-top Glee-inspired opening musical number. And most importantly, there wasn’t a whole lot of lagging and lingering on unnecessary filler. Awards were handed out at a quick pace, there were occasional pauses for some pageantry and to remember the deceased, then things got rolling again. As far as awards show go, it was a fun night.

As usual, my winner predictions were about half-and-half (Kyra Sedgwick wins for The Closer…uh, OK?). With the exception of Jane Lynch’s predictable win for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, Glee was pretty much shut out, which made me happy, since I sometimes wonder if I’m the only person who sees that show as entertaining, but knows it isn’t actually good. Both of the Mad Men ladies lost Best Supporting Actress in a Drama to Archie Panjabi from The Good Wife, which took me by surprise. I’ve never seen The Good Wife, but could anything in that show be better than Joan or Peggy? I have trouble believing that.

You can see the full list of winners here, and here are some random observations I had from the night:

* As I said before, the opening musical number was great. I could have done without Kate Gosselin making an appearance (quit putting her in the spotlight and maybe she’ll go away!), but I did chuckle at how the singing and dancing posse tried to shun her. Having Jon Hamm and Joel McHale participate was hilarious (and swoon-worthy), and I even temporarily forgot about my annoyance at the Betty White oversaturation thanks to her scene with Hamm. And I loved how Jane Lynch didn’t change out of her track suit for their grand finale.

* I enjoyed the questions that were posed to the non-actor nominees. It was a fun way to let those behind-the-scenes people show a little bit of their personality. Or lack thereof, as the case may be.

* Both of George Clooney’s appearances were great. First in a series of hypothetical plotlines for Modern Family where he winds up hooking up with nearly all of the characters, and again when he was presented the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award and talked about doing more for various crises and disasters long after they’ve faded from being front page news.

* January Jones, you are rich, gorgeous, and on one of the best TV shows currently running. Would it have killed you to run a comb through your hair and maybe crack a smile once in a while? Once Mad Med is over, you’ll probably have trouble finding other stiff, wooden characters that you can play by non-acting, so try to enjoy yourself now.

* Jane Lynch, you are rich, gorgeous, and on one of the most popular TV shows currently running. And you looked amazing. See if the Glee costume department can get Sue Sylvester some purple track suits.

* Aaron Paul won for his role in Breaking Bad. Finally!

* The Tony Awards won for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special. Me and that other guy who watched the Tony’s are thrilled.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Trailer Review: Tamara Drewe

Release Date: October 8, 2010

Website: Official Tamara Drewe site

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Luke Evans, Tamsin Greig

My Review: Ah, the English countryside. It’s so peaceful and serene; the perfect place to get away, relax, and be free of distractions. Until the local ugly duckling-turned sex goddess arrives, of course.

In Tamara Drewe, a collection of pompous and stodgy artists travel to an isolated country town that promises peace and quiet, looking forward to being able to let their creative juices flow. Unfortunately, with all this peace and quiet comes a lack of inspiration, and the problems they tried to leave at home refuse to go away.

Enter Tamara to shake things up. Ms. Drewe—once plain and homely—spent her childhood in this town, and she returns—now sexy and desirable—to see her old home being prepared for sale. From the moment she appears, the town comes to life thanks to her youthful vibrancy and overt sexuality. Floundering relationships find new life, creative blocks are freed, and a fresh appreciation for life is born.

Does Tamara Drewe appear to be anything but a bit of fluffy British fun? Not really. But when it comes to pastoral whimsy, no one does it better than the Brits.

Would I Pay For It?: No, but I’d rent it to giddily enjoy in my own home, like I do whenever Calendar Girls or The Full Monty is on.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Trailer Review: Black Swan

Release Date: December 1, 2010

Website: Official Black Swan site

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey

My Review: After watching the trailer for Black Swan, I had a reaction similar to the one I had to the trailer for Never Let Me Go: “I have to know what’s going on in this crazy movie!” Which, in a nutshell, is exactly the reaction a movie trailer is meant to elicit, so, well done, Black Swan movie trailer editors!

When I first heard that director Darren Aronofsky was setting a thriller in the world of professional ballet, I was a bit perplexed. I enjoy movies about the performing arts, but I realize that I’m in the minority with that opinion. And ballet isn’t really what I would consider prime thriller fodder. So how was he going to make a movie like this and have it be appealing to anyone?

By getting two young, talented, and gorgeous actresses to star, and have a whole bunch of crazy crap happen, that’s how.

Natalie Portman is Nina, a hardworking veteran dancer in a professional ballet company in NYC who is looking forward to finally being featured in some more prominent roles; specifically, the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. Enter Mila Kunis as Lilly, a newcomer who catches the eye of the company’s director (Vincent Cassel), who notes her natural and seemingly effortless talent. Nina is shaken to her core as she sees what she’s been working toward for years slipping away, and her panicked paranoia is helped along by her overbearing stage mother (Barbara Hershey) and some bizarrely sinister, Single White Female-esque behavior from Lilly. As Nina’s fears of losing her roles to Lilly escalate, her whole world starts to fall apart, from losing her footing in rehearsal to mysterious changes in her physical appearance.

Creating a captivating psychological thriller is never an easy task, and creating one in the world of ballet even more so. But if done well, this could be a fascinating movie. Professional dancers put themselves through inordinate amounts of stress, both mentally and physically, and there is a relatively small window of time that one can actually work as a dancer, so I can see how even the slightest notion of a threat could cause a dancer to go a little insane. And seeing how in The Wrestler Aronofsky managed to both create a touching drama about professional wrestling and re-launch Mickey Rourke’s acting career, I have to assume that if anyone can make a crazed ballerina movie compelling, it would be him.

Would I Pay For It?: Black Swan will most likely be a rental, unless I hear fantastic reports about it. Or I find that I really can’t wait to find out what’s going on in this crazy movie.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trailer Review: Little Fockers

Release Date: December 22, 2010

Website: Official Little Fockers site

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner

My Review: Just when you thought you were free from unnecessary movie sequels, they pull you back in!

Hey, if the trailer for Little Fockers can rip off The Godfather, then so can I.

I know I saw both Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers at some point in my life, but I can barely remember anything that happened in either of them. I remember that Robert De Niro hates Ben Stiller, and Stiller’s parents are new age-y free spirits of some sort. And I think Stiller sets a house on fire in one of them, but I’m not sure.

Clearly I don’t really care about this movie franchise, and now there’s a whole new addition for me to not care about! Little Fockers continues the story of this mismatched blended family, and this time there are kids involved. (Did they have kids in the second movie?) De Niro’s patriarch is apparently looking for his successor as head of the family (do any families that aren’t mafia families actually do this?), and after two movies together, he still doesn’t think Stiller is man enough for the job. So the two grown men have to slap each other around a bit to prove…something. What it is, I certainly don’t know.

The trailer is full of the typical movie nonsense that makes me concerned for the future of the craft: projectile vomiting, a dismemberment gag, rip-offs of better movies, and groan-inducing word play (do you know what word “Fockers” sounds like???). And perhaps most upsetting of all is the cast. Ben Stiller has proven time and again that he’ll do nearly anything for a paycheck (with various degrees of success), but what are Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner and Laura Dern doing? Other than making me weep for humanity, that is.

Would I Pay For It?: *Snort* Would you?!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trailer Review: Who Killed Nancy?

Release Date: Available on DVD August 24, 2010

Website: Official Who Killed Nancy? Site

Starring: A whole bunch of people (it’s a documentary)

My Review: Confession: I know next to nothing about Sid and Nancy; I’ve never even seen the Gary Oldman-starring movie about them. I know they are two people who were once alive, but now are dead, and that’s it.

OK, maybe I know a bit more about them than that (you can’t live in NYC and not hear stories about the Chelsea Hotel), but the documentary Who Killed Nancy? is aiming to know more about this crazy couple than anyone, as it tries to uncover new information about Nancy’s untimely death.

Sex Pistols' bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen had a unique relationship (to put it delicately), that seemed to be fueled by intense passion, lots of anger, and heavy drug use. On October 12, 1978, Nancy was found stabbed to death in a room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Sid was arrested and charged for her murder, but never stood trial as he died from a heroin overdose just a couple of months later.

The story of Sid and Nancy’s manic relationship, and tragic deaths, has been a mysterious point of fascination for many people in the 30+ years since it happened. Some see it as an open-and-shut case: Sid killed Nancy, then committed suicide before he could be convicted. Some claim that there’s no way Sid was responsible for her death, and his overdose was an accident. Some say Sid and Nancy had a suicide pact and it was all planned out. And some say that there were so many people in the hotel room the night of Nancy’s death that any number of things could have happened. Who Killed Nancy? attempts to uncover new information that has been long buried and shed some light on what may, or may not, have happened that night in 1978.

Would I Pay For It?: Well, no, since it’s coming out on DVD soon. But I doubt I’ll even rent this. For those who are fascinated by this story, I’m sure it’s a must-see; for the rest of us, there are so many other things to watch.

Monday, August 9, 2010

‘Time Out New York’ and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Career Advice

Being the old-fashioned gal that I am, I still subscribe to magazines. Yes, as in the kind made of paper that you can actually hold and touch and page through. I can throw it in my bag and whip it out at any time, for a lengthy read or a quick check on something, and I never have to wait for a gadget to boot up. The photos are all there in all their brilliant, actual size glory for me to enjoy, and after spending most of my days in front of a computer screen, I don’t have to strain my eyes to read the text on yet another digital platform. And best of all, if my magazine gets lost or stolen, I’ve only lost a dollar or two, as compared to a couple hundred if my hypothetical e-reader disappeared.

But this is not a post about the magnificence of paper magazines. This is a post about one particular paper magazine that pissed me off this week.

This past week the latest issue of Time Out New York arrived in my mailbox with a cover touting “The Coolest Jobs (And How To Get Them),” which I ignored at first since in these problematic economic times, you can’t find a magazine or website that isn’t claiming to tell you how to get a great new job. But then I saw that TONY was highlighting some media industry companies that I was actually interested in, like Gawker Media and Tumblr. And like a sucker, I thought they might actually offer useful tips on how to score jobs at these companies.

They offer tantalizing details of how awesome it is to work at these companies straight from current employees’ mouths; “You can directly see the impact you have on the company every day,” “Our archives are fantastic, our library is fantastic, our office environment is beautiful,” etc. They offer photos of their spectacular offices; No cubicles! Accessories closet! Rooftop deck! It’s like career porn for those of us who work in media. And to top it all off, there’s the promise that these companies have job openings, and TONY will tell you how to get them! Here’s how:

Check Tumblr’s website for openings. The only current opening? An unpaid internship.

Check Gawker Media’s various sites for openings. Social networking with the staff may help, too.

Get to know the staff at Elle.

Get a job at MoMA, because (this is a direct quote), “The best way to get a job at MoMA is to have one.”

Holy crap, TONY, thanks for these hot tips! So if I continue to check their websites for openings (like I always do, along with the rest of the city), social network with people who don’t already know me and therefore have no interest in talking to me (like I’ve already tried to do), and happen to stumble into a job (so I can get another job?) I can land a gig at one of these great places? With these crackerjack strategies, I should be able to get my dream job in no time at all. Thanks again, Time Out New York, you are a prince among paper magazines. Keep this up, and you'll have that pesky unemployment problem solved in no time.

(P.S. Call me, Gawker Media, I love you.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Trailer Review: Heartbreaker

Release Date: September 10, 2010 (limited)

Website: Official Heartbreaker site

Starring: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Andrew Lincoln, Jacques Frantz

My Review: Considering how much respect Americans tend to give French cinema, I was surprised at how formulaic and predictable this French romantic comedy comes across. Then I remembered that France was the country that still adored Jerry Lewis long after the rest of the world was so over him, and I felt slightly less surprised, but still a bit disappointed.

The titular Heartbreaker here is Alex, a suave Frenchman who makes his living breaking up couples. Yes, people pay him (handsomely) to cause rifts in the relationships they disapprove of. His latest job is to break up the impending marriage between Juliette, a wealthy businessman’s daughter, and her British fiancée. And the wedding is only 10 days away, so he better get to work!

The rest of the movie’s plot is pretty much handed to you on a silver platter in the trailer, though anyone who’s ever seen a romantic comedy at any time in their life can see where it will go. Alex puts his patented moves on Juliette, but she won’t fall for them, so he has to find another route. They eventually bond over cheesy American ‘80s movies and pop music (complete with a car ride sing-along), and Juliette starts to have doubts about her wedding, while Alex starts to see her as more than just another job.

Will Juliette marry the Brit, or will Alex succeed in breaking them up? And how will Alex cope with having real feelings for another person? And will Juliette find out about his job and refuse to believe that he actually cares for her (until some grand gesture made in the eleventh hour)? And which hit of the ‘80s will choreograph the climatic final moment when they inevitably come together? Is it too much to hope for “Rock Me Amadeus”?

I admit that Heartbreaker doesn’t look completely awful—it at least looks more entertaining and charming than most American romantic comedies being released these days (though that’s not saying a whole lot). I just wonder if this is a sign that the world has run out of unique ways to tell a love story. Because if anyone could still do it, I would have guessed it would be the French.

Would I Pay For It?: Je suis désolé, mais non.