Friday, January 23, 2009

One of my favourite days of the year

One of my favourite days of the year is the day the Oscar nominations come out. True the Golden Globes are done so you sort of get a hint of what could happen, but the Oscars are the true barometer of movie awards.

Before getting into the actual awards, a couple of immediate reactions. Firstly, The Dark Knight was shut out of the major awards (ie Best Picture, Best Director). This is a shock. Easily one of the best films of the year, the idea that it got shunned but yet another Holocaust film (The Reader) is among the nominees shows that Academy voters have no guts. Secondly, Kate Winslet won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for Revolutionary Road and won a Supporting Actress Golden Globe for The Reader. However, in the Oscars, she only got nominated for one...and that was for Best Actress...for The Reader. And finally, Bruce Springsteen did not get nominated for Best Song with The Wrestler...even though he won a Golden Globe for that. And there were only three nominees for Best Song when the category usually has five! Let's get to the categories.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams – Doubt
Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis – Doubt
Taraji P. Henson – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler

Even though Woody Allen films have a history of garnering Oscars for Actresses (Dianne Weist, Diane Keaton) I don't think Penelope Cruz has a shot. My pick will go to Amy Adams for Doubt. Doubt is one of those talky films that the Academy loves. Amy Adams, cute, white, multi-talented, stage-trained is the perfect candidate. Personally, Marisa Tomei had the best performance of this category as a bitter, aging stripper in The Wrestler was perfect. But considering she has already won an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny and got nominated for a pretty nothing role in In The Bedroom, she has already got enough recognition.

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin – Milk
Robert Downey Jr. – Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight (posthumous)
Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road

We could talk about the greatness of Downey's amazing comedic performance in Tropic Thunder. He may be one of the most intriguing actors or our generation. We could talk about Josh Brolin and his amazing comeback. But really this award is going to Heath Ledger and his groundbreaking performance The Dark Knight. The kind of performance like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington or Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind that will still be discussed 50 years from now. Him winning this award was finalized upon his death almost one year ago from today.

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie – Changeling
Melissa Leo – Frozen River
Meryl Streep – Doubt
Kate Winslet – The Reader

Angelina Jolie or Meryl Streep "yawn". So take those two out of the mix. Homicide: Life On The Street's Melissa Leo is a perfect example of "It was just a pleasure to be nominated". Anne Hathaway, really? Does anyone think she should have win an Academy Award before Glenn Close ever does? This is Winslet's category to lose. As stated earlier, she has already won two Golden Globes this year...that should be good enough for one win in the Oscars.

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins – The Visitor
Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn – Milk
Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler

Like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, this Oscar was predetermined months ago. Mickey Rourke, originally the heir apparent to Robert DeNiro in the late 70s/early 80s fell off the cinematic map with bad films, an entrance into boxing and serious drug abuse. If he does not win this will be the most shocking Oscar loss since Denzel Washington (Malcolm X) lost to Al Pacino (A Scent Of A Woman).

Best Director
Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry – The Reader
David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard – Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant – Milk

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

I still don't understand how these are two seperate categories. The director is directly involved in the overall look of the film. How can a film be good enough to win best picture but not best director. But that is a conversation for another day. To me this is a pick 'em. It will probably go to Slumdog Millionaire as they won Golden Globes in that category. The winners should be the unnominated The Dark Knight along with director Christopher Nolan. Darren Aranofsky and The Wrestler should also be among the nominees.

Top 5 Mickey Rourke films
1. Diner
2. The Wrestler
3. Body Heat
4. Angel Heart
5. Sin City


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why am I still watching House?

Here is every single episode in the history of House (apologies if I gave away the ending of an episode that you have yet to see).

9:00 An interesting scene unrelated to a hospital drama. Someone looks like they could be sick, so it is probably the other person in the scene. Either way, one of them will be "Patient Of The Week" (hereby known as POTW).

9:03 The opening credits, decent song by Massive Attack but it is the exact same credits since day 1 of this show. Have the producers not been watching the show? These credits prominently feature Jesse Spencer and Jennifer Morrison who play Dr. Robert Chase and Dr. Allison Cameron and those characters are in the show about as much as John Travolta was in Welcome Back Kotter after the second season. No love for the new actors Olivia Wilde, Peter Jacobson and Kal Penn?

9:05 First round table meeting of the doctors. Can you believe this hospital has this department of 5 doctors spending a week to help diagnose one patient? I believe the Princeton-Plainston Teaching Hospital may be the sole reason for the decline in the US economy.

9:08 Round table meeting ends with three possible theories. None will end up being the actual diagnosis as there are still 42 minutes left in the show. Dr. Eric Foreman (played by Omar Epps) will raise his right eyebrow for the first of three times in the episode.

9:12 Lead actor Hugh Laurie (who plays Dr. Gregory House) will have his first scene with the Head of Encology, Dr. James Wilson (played by Robert Sean Leanord). This scene hints to the real focus of the show, it isn't to diagonosis patients who have weird diseases that would only really occur on tv. It is non-sexual love story between Wilson and House. The sooner the show admits this, the sooner we can move on.

9:20 The first theory of what the patiant is sick with falls through. In their investigation of said theory, it causes another sympton which disproves their original diagnoses and sets the team off on two new theories. Foreman raises his right eyebrow for the second time in the episode.

9:21 House has a conversation with one of the doctors on his team to remind you that he is "the most complex character on televsion". He pretends to be a little sensitive or interesting and then by the end of the episode will still prove that he is a dick. Makes you wonder if there is actually a Human Resources department at this hospital that these other doctors can complain to. Must be the same inept HR departments that you see at Dunder Mifflin in the show The Office and CTU on the show 24.

9:32 Some wacky, crazy procedure is attempted on the POTW in order to save them. Dr. House's boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy (played by Lisa Edelstein) is not happy about the procedure so she has a yelling fit with Dr. House in her office. He deflects by mentioning something sexual or embarrasing about her.

9:41 A conversation occurs that will hint to the ending of that episode. Someone could say something offhand talking about playing golf in the mountains of Arizona and only using their irons or that a certain character only wears the colour blue...but this conversation will set in motion the correct theory of what disease the POTW has.

9:47 Things are looking bleak for the POTW. They are probably going to die or at least have a terminal disease. And as an audience member, you see the time, they are cutting things close...CSI Miami starts in 13 minutes.

9:51 House remembers that offhand topic earlier...he has figured out what is wrong with the patient. That person just has something rather benign that they are sick with...they are not going to die. Foreman raises his right eyebrow for a third time, possibly with a little head shake added.

9:56 Patient is dismissed. And Dr. House has one more scene to make you like him enough to watch next week. Perhaps he will be home alone playing guitar, or have something nice to say to one of the doctors on his team, or to either one of his pseudo life partners Dr. Wilson or Dr. Cuddy.

There! I have saved you an hour of your life every week. Simply make your cheques payable to Your Faithful Narrator.

Top 5 acting performances on US televison by British Actors.
1. Idris Elba as Russell "Stringer" Bell (The Wire)
2. Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews (Life)
3. Hugh Laurie as Gregory House (House)
4. Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Vivian Johnson (Without A Trace)
5. Dominic West as Jimmy McNulty (The Wire)


Friday, October 10, 2008

My new favourite comedic actor

I have always been aware of Nathan Fillion. But his resume had been filled with things I've never watched. The first time I ever heard of him was when he was in a sci-fi series called Firefly, the follow up film to Firefly, Serenity. Watch this trailer...he is the heroe and there is something honest, tough and self depricating about him.

His career has also included appearances on One Life To Live, Desperate Housewives and a short lived FOX series called Drive.

But this past summer has been the "Summer of Nathan Fillion". It started with the direct-to-internet series of shorts called Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Check out the trailer below. The series itself can be found throughout the internet include youtube, Itunes and Hula. It also features Neil Patrick Harris and has some pretty good music.

The latest short to feature Fillion is a new series by director James Gunn entitled PG Porn. Basically, all the stuff you like from porn except the sex. It will be a series of shorts featuring a real actor and a porn actress. I wouldn't quite say it is safe to look at when you are work...things are hinted at but there is no nudity. And Fillion's performance may be the funniest thing ever in porn.

Top 5 Porn Actresses

1. Really, are you still reading expecting a list? Please, my mother reads this blog.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mad Men Moments

To get me back into writing on this blog again, I thought I would briefly talk about my current favourite show on television called Mad Men. If you are not aware, it is currently in its second season on AMC. That's right, AMC. A channel you probably only watch for old movies.

Mad Men takes places during the early 60s inside an advertising agency called Sterling Cooper. It provides interesting insight into what was going on in the advertising world at that time with the smoking, drinking and blatant sexism that prevailed at the time. It also provides an interesting comparison to what is going on in the world today.

Mad Men was created by Matthew Weiner who used to be one of the writers and producer of the hugely successful show The Sopranos. He had actually written it prior to working on the Sopranos. Soprano creator David Chase actually hired him based on the script he wrote for what would end up being the pilot for the Mad Men.

After the Sopranos ended its run, Weiner offered the show to HBO. Despite needing a new hit how with no Sopranos and no more episodes of The Wire, they turned it down. Possibly due to the excessive smoking and alcohol. Showtime also turned it down so he offered it to AMC who made it their first original series. If you are a fan of the show, you probably already know this. Here is a list of the top 10 great moments from the series in the first season.

10. What kind of man are you? Don Draper sees there is a chance that the secret of who he really is could come out. In a cold sweat he runs to the arms of the woman he has been seeing on the side Rachel Menken. He asks her to drop everything in their lives and run away with him. As Rachel realizes Don is not suggesting a vacation but leaving their families to go start a life on their own, she comes to now what kind of person Don Draper really is. With tears in her eyes, she says the words "what kind of man are you" and those words cut like daggers through the heart of both Don and the audience.

9. Beatniks and the Man After spending the evening debating the importance of advertising, flashing back to his days growing up on a farm and smoking up with his girlfriend Midge Daniels and her beatnik friends, Don decides to leave their apartment. One of the beatniks, referring to the police outside, says "Man, you can't go out there!" Don looks at him, straightens his tie and says, "No YOU can't go out there". Walks out of the apartment, past a police officer arresting a neighbour, puts on his hat and calmly walks out.

8. Choo Choo Cha Cha Joan at her best. Offering advice to other women at Sterling Cooper and then seductively dancing with her old fling Paul Kinsey. Watch the look on her face as she sees her co-workers watch her dance.

7. Salvatore's big scene. One of my favourite charactors on the show is Salvatore Romano. He is clearly hiding or at pretending to ignore his homosexuality to be one of the boys at Sterling Cooper. He almost works as the show's comic relief as everything he says has a double meaning. But there was no comic relief when he met up with an executive from a cosmetic company. Over dinner and drinks, it becomes clear that the cosmetics exec is interested in more than good food and good company. To which Salvatore heartbreakingly replies "Are you joking?"

6. Shopping smackdown Betty Draper's neighbour Helen Bishop confronts Betty about her relationship with her yound son Glen. Like what Rachel said to Don later, "what kind of person are you?"

5. Helen Bishop tells it like it is During a birthday party, single mom Helen Bishop is talking to Carlton Hanson. Carlton offers to be of service to her and her child. He suggests if she ever needs him to play catch with her son or take him to the beach, he would be willing. Helen sees through Carlton's suggestion and hints at the fact that he is looking for a little something on the side. The look on Carlton's face as he says "I don't want you suggesting something I didn't say is priceless.

4. For Openers The very first scene of the show. It does a great job of simultaneously showing the period and explaining the main charactor Don Draper.

3. I Wish I Was Older In the first season's final episode, Betty finally opens up about all the things that she is upset about. The problem is that the person is her neighbours' 8 year old son. Drama had already occured earlier in the season when Betty gave the kid a lock of her hair. This led to the son's mother Helen to confront Betty while shopping. After verbally accosting Betty about her relationship with her son, Betty slapped her and walked out. How heartbreaking is it when Glen says at the end of this scene, "I don't know how long 20 minutes is."

2. Betty's Got A Gun After losing her chance at getting back into modeling. Don's wife Betty is just trying to forget it while doing some laundrey. Hearing the neighbours' pigeon's flying around outside, she grabs a BB gun, steps out the door and calmly with almost no emotion, just starts shooting at them.

1. And The Emmy Goes To... Maybe one of the greatest single scenes in the history of television. Listen to the speech Don Draper gives to the people from Kodak as an idea for the slide carousel. He isn't just talking to them, he is talking to himself about the importance of family. How John Hamm lost the Emmy for Best Actor to Bryan Cranston is one of the greatest award show mysteries ever.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

...And Dennis Dugan owes me 13 hours and 23 minutes

I am just having the worst of luck with movies. However, this is clearly self inflicted pain because I can't imagine what I was thinking in seeing the "comedy" I Know Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.

Where do I start? Lets go with the director Dennis Dugan. This guy has never! NEVER! Never made a funny movie. It started with Problem Child and never got better. His career is littered with crap like Beverly Hills Ninja, The Benchwarmers and the upcoming You Don't Mess With Zohan. Take a look at the trailer and ask yourself, does this really look funny? Is there a real possibility of humour in the films' obvious storyline?

I hate to blame an actor for a movie, since there are so many others involved (screenwriters, producer, director etc.) but clearly Sandler just doesn't get it. He has no interest in being in quality films, he'd rather be in ones with the easy laughs. Anytime he is in a film that doesn't go for the easy laughs, they are usually good films. The three I have in mind are Punch Drunk Love, Spanglish and Reign Over Me. None of these films are all that taxing for Sandler, they are certainly in his range...but his resume is still littered with too many Anger Managements, Little Nickys and 50 First Dates.

My next issue is regarding Sandler's co-star in the film Kevin James (you know him from King Of Queens). Once again, he is the best part of a film that spends too much time with a more famous co-star. His first big movie was Hitch, starring Will Smith. James' character is a hapless loser who uses a romance coach in order to woo a sexy society woman. THAT storyline is interesting and was funny. But we also are forcefed Smith's story about having to woo Eva Mendes complete with physical humour such as him accidentally kicking her off a Sea-Doo and him having a ridiculous reaction to a seafood allergy.

With Chuck & Larry, James' storyline is about a widowed father of two who is forced to extreme methods in order to have insurance to protect his kids if anything happens to him in the line of duty (he is a fireman). All the while still mourning his wife, keeping all of her clothes and not wanting anyone to sleep on her side of the bed. THAT storyline is interesting. But instead, we get a movie that mainly focuses on Sandler as a womanizing fireman forced to pretend to be married to James in order to help James with his insurance issues.

The most disarming aspect of the movie is that one of the writers listed is Alexander Payne (you know his scripts for Election, Sideways and About Schmidt). His contribution was actually an early screenplay for Chuck & Larry. According to some websites, Payne has since criticized the film calling it "Sandler-ized".

A note on two of the secondary characters, first Jessica Biel as the couple's lawyer Alex McDonough. Her character is supposed to be smart enough to be a lawyer but dumb enough to ask Sandler's character (who she believes to be gay) to touch her breasts to convince him they are real.

Even worse, Rob Schneider as a japanese minister who marries Chuck and Larry. Why the asian community is not storming the production company that made this film is shocking. Schneider, who is part filipino, gives the most embarrassingly racist performance since Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany's.

Wow, I forgot Ving Rhames is in it as well. Clearly he owes a lot of people money and that was the only reason he would take on this film. His performance as a large firefighter who decides to come out of the closet because of Chuck & Larry is just uncomfortable for anyone to watch.

Top 5 Ving Rhames films
1. Out Of Sight
2. Pulp Fiction
3. Mission: Impossible
4. Rosewood
5. Dave


Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Not that I have been paying attention this season, but since American Idol was doing Neil Diamond week, I decided to watch. Wanting to see these amateur singers taking on Neil Diamond's greatest hit would be a complete train wreck as Neil Diamond is one of those singers who makes it look easy but would be tough to sing like.

But instead of some 21 year old warbling to Love On The Rocks...we got the gift that keeps on giving in drunken (?) judge Paula Abdul. The singers took on a song each and the show decided to have the judges discuss how they all did the first time around. A confused and freaky haired Paula Abdul commented on one of the contestants two songs. When the audience started laughing and Randy Jackson was looking lost, they finally explained to Paula that, in fact, they had only done one song each. Enjoy the footage of a completely lost Paula Abdul trying to cover up.

This is not as good as her meltdown on a local FOX affiliate from a couple of years ago...that is still my favourite.

Sometimes I wonder whether Paula and FOX is in on the joke regarding her demeanor or not. Take a look at this commercial spoof featuring characters from another FOX show The Simpsons on American Idol. Take a look at Lisa Simpson's version of Paula Abdul.

And since it was Neil Diamond week on American are the Top 5 covers of Neil Diamond songs.

1. Red Red Wine (UB40)
2. Kentucky Woman (Deep Purple)
3. I'm A Believer (The Monkees)
4. Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon (Urge Overkill)
5. Solitary Man (Johnny Cash)

If you are a Neil Diamond fan, you may be shocked to know he is NOT in the rock and roll hall of fame. That's right, one hit wonders like Percy Sledge and Gene Vincent are in, but Neil Diamond is not. There is currently a push to get him elected in. Feel free to sign the petition here.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why Micheal Bay Now Owes Me 12 And A Half Hours Of My Life

So I rented Transformers this weekend. Why, because I am an idiot. Yet again, I rent a movie directed by Michael Bay, yet again I hate it.

The title of this blog entry is that Michael Bay owes me 12 and a half hours of my life because he still hasn't paid me back for Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, Bad Boys II and The Island. But Transformers just put me over the edge. It is boring, silly, ridiculous and features a career embarrasing performance by John Turturro.

I used to compare all bad movies to Independance Day. "Hey faithful narrator, did you see Saw III? Oh yeah, I'd reply, it's bad but its not Independance Day bad". Or, hey faithful narrator did you see that lame comedy with Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck? Yes, it is like the Independance Day of comedies."

I will know change that to Transformers-bad.

Admittedly, I was not in on the Transformers-wave. I think I was a touch too old when they were popular. Just sort of at the cusp of my teenage-hood. The biggest problem with the film is the same problem as was with the Alien versus Predator movies and The X-Men franchise (especially the first one). You have these alien life forms...and there are good ones and there are bad ones. And they are fighting each other. And regular humans are caught in the middle. This does not allow any empathy to be given to our human heroes by the audience. It just amps up the level of ridiculousness so that you just don't care about the people and who wins and who loses.

And why Jon Voight decided to do another Michael Bay film after he was already in the god-awful Pearl Harbour is beyond me. Actually, I just answered my own question. Jon Voight stopped caring years ago. He was in the sequel, THE SEQUEL to Baby Geniuses called Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. A film so bad that it actually received a 0% from film critics on the website Rotten Tomatoes. And he was in the film version of Bratz. No need to say more about that.

Top 5 Jon Voight films
1. Midnight Cowboy
2. Deliverence
3. Mission: Impossible
4. Runaway Train
5. Rosewood

I get that Michael Bay really doesn't care what I think about his movies. His first film, Bad Boys, I love. I own the DVD. It's funny, it has cool action scenes and a top notch bad guy. His second film, The Rock, has a lot of what prevents Bay from making a good film. Stupid, silly, over-the-top action scenes. However, Nicolas Cage saves the movie with a really bizarre performance that seems out of place in an action movie but actually works. But everything after is just loud, noisy, vain and trite.

About the best thing Michael Bay has been involved with in the last 10 years is this Verizon commercial from last year.