February 27, 2007

Snoozefest 2007

Oh what have they done to my beloved Oscar telecast? They have ruined it, I tell you!

This year was just unbelievably long, mostly dull, and full of too many unpleasant surprises. It wasn't all bad, though. Certainly many moments to celebrate. And despite the sometimes agony that ScottE, Joyous and I were going through, I found some hilarious people on EW's live blogging page to snark with.

So let me proceed with my thoughts on this year's show.

The Fashion

I don't know if all the ladies were afraid to try something daring, or they thought what they chose actually could be called daring. By the end of the red carpet, I was so ready for Top Model to premiere so I can really see some pretty girls workin' it!

Best dressed by a long shot for me was Kate Winslet. She was divine in a simple and elegant Valentino in mint green. I'm telling you, ladies - you can't go wrong in Valentino.

Honorable mentions go to Cate Blanchett for her interesting metallic number, and to Emily Blunt in a midnight blue strapless dress. And how about a shout-out for Diane Keaton? Not only was she not wearing a man's suit with gloves, she looked great!

Worst dressed? Eva Green from Casino Royale. Her dress looked like saran wrap, and her makeup looks like it was designed by Tammy Faye's goth child. Runners-up for this dubious distinction go to Nicole Kidman (I did not want to unwrap that present) and Penelope Cruz (for wearing a nude-colored ostrich to keep her legs warm).

Split decision on Gwyneth Paltrow. I think her dress would have been great had it been in a bold color, like purple or emerald green. The coral just wasn't working for me.

As for the men, I was partial to Djimon Hounsou, who stepped outside the box in a dark chocolate tuxedo. Yum!

Worst dressed? Phillip Seymour Hoffman. There was nothing wrong with his tux, per se - but comb your hair, man - it's the Oscars!

Split decision on Clive Owen's shirt - no collar...odd.

The saddest of all was seeing Jennifer Hudson wearing a perfectly lovely dress ruined by...a shrug? Bolero jacket? Whatever that thing was, thank heaven she ditched it when she got inside the theater.

The Production

The opening montage of nominees was very clever and enjoyable. What a great way to get faces (both famous and not) out there for us to enjoy.

Ellen as a host? Not my favorite. Which pains me to say. I love her, but it just didn't work as a whole. She had some brilliant moments (the picture with Clint - hilarious), but others just fell flat (the vacuum?). I'm glad she got to live her dream, but I fear her career as Oscar host is going to be very brief.

Please put an end to the clip montages! Can I lobby my congressmen about this? All they do is drag out an already long show (which really needs to start earlier to begin with), and remind us that in the past there were a helluva lot of better movies than we get today.

Pilobolus, I think you're a great dance company. But this was just bizarre. With the exception of Snakes on a Plane - it was painful.

Someone shoot Chris Connelly backstage, seriously.

Best presenters of the night were Abigail Breslin and Jaden Smith. So cute, and so funny. Put them in a movie together!

Loved the Jack Black song - saying Helen Mirren is hot is so 2007! (And blessedly, she has the type of sense of humor where she got the joke and embraced it.) Also really liked the bit with the Prada women. Hee!

Far too late into the evening, we finally got to see the Dreamgirls song montage. It was great, but damn if my best friend Anika Noni Rose didn't steal the show both with those pipes and that dress!

Don't get me started on Celine!

The Awards

On the plus side, I'm thrilled to see Jennifer Hudson and Helen Mirren toting golden statuettes. Two short films I loved also won (West Bank Story and The Danish Poet).

And how about the night of Al Gore? He was not only polished and witty, but his film won both awards it was up for. Awesome.

Speaking of which, although I was bitter that Dreamgirls only won one award all night and lost Best Original Song, at least it went to the wonderful Melissa Etheridge. She got to kiss her woman on international TV!

Beyond that I was pretty bitter. Wasn't happy to see Eddie Murphy lose. VERY unhappy to see The Departed win so much.

And as for my picks, let's not discuss it. Ugh.

At the very late hour the show ended, I was so ready for bed. Thank goodness I have Heroes to entertain me tonight!

February 25, 2007

Cinematic bon-bons

Once again this year, I had the pleasure of taking in the Oscar-nominated short films playing at the National Archives. A good time was had by all (Stef, Onyah, Joyous and ScottE)! This year's crop was heavy on the comedy and light on the terminal geriatric Scandanvian drama. Here are some highlights.

Live Action Short Films

All five pieces turned out to be funny this year, which was a nice surprise. The Saviour was clever but wasn't my favorite. Both the Spanish All We Needed and the Norwegian Helmer & Son provided witty twists on parents' aging. But the two best films were at the beginning and end.

West Bank Story was an uproarious send-up of the musical classic, but set in Israel, with the Muslim-owned Hummus Hut facing off against the Jewish-owned Kosher Shack. It's hard to describe, but it's incredibly zany and well worth downloading if you can find it!

That being said, my favorite (and my Oscar vote) is Binta and the Great Idea. It's a funny and poignant story set in Senegal, as told through the voice of a precocious young girl. The film fires the imagination and shares an important message about the march of progress for women in Africa. Sponsored by UNICEF, this one is a winner. Bank on it!

Animated Short Films

This year there was a little (heh) something for everyone. Enjoy funny computer animation? Then you'll have fun with either Pixar's Lifted (about a trainee in alien abduction), or Ice Age's Scrat making a return appearance in No Room For Nuts (a new twist on time travel).

Or perhaps you prefer classic 2D animation based on a children's tale. Then you might like The Little Matchgirl (although this one bored me).

For a real short charmer that you'll find yourself trying to puzzle out, don't miss Maestro - very clever with some complex animation.

But my favorite has to be The Danish Poet. Simple Schoolhouse Rock!-style animation accompanies a convoluted but witty story about how the narrator's parents met. Delightfully narrated by famed Ingmar Bergman actress Liv Ullmann, this one is a real charmer. It faces some stiff competition, but this is the one I'll be voting for tomorrow night. (Surprising trivia - the story referenced in the film - Kristin Lavransdatter - was turned into a screenplay written by...Liv Ullmann herself.)

One other note - you can download and watch 9 of these on iTunes. (The only one you can't is Pixar's Lifted, for some reason.) You can also check out some past nominees, including the excellent Badgered, the creepy Ausreisser and the affore-mentioned depressing Icelandic The Last Farm.

February 22, 2007

And the winners will be...

OK, here they are - my Oscar picks for 2007. I'm only going to discuss the "big" categories in detail. The rest I'll cast as part of my official ballot which I'll be emailing to Sterfanie, so she can verify I'm telling the truth after the show airs! (In particular I still need time on the shorts, as I plan on seeing them the Saturday before.) Also this year I decided to follow an old EW model, and talk about who I think will win, and who should. (My official ballot will have the "wills" not the "shoulds.")

Best Actor
Should win - Ryan Gosling
Will win - Forest Whitaker

OK, I admit I've only seen one performance in this category, so I'm a bit biased. But the quiet, understated performances are rarely rewarded, and it's about time they were. Still, all the momentum is around Forest. Run, Forest, run!

Best Actress
Should & will win - Helen Mirren

The biggest challenge in a biopic is emulating the person you're portraying without doing a straight-on impression. Considering how little we really know about Queen Elizabeth's private life, it's impressive how Helen Mirren was able to imagine it for us. Still I'll give kudos to incredibly strong performances from Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz. (Meryl Streep was terrific, but the character doesn't get much range.)

Best Supporting Actor
Should & will win - Eddie Murphy

If there's one thing the Oscars love, it's an actor doing something very different from their past work. And although those horrible ads for Norbit are everywhere, I still think the Academy will reward Eddie Murphy as a comeback kid.

Best Supporting Actress
Should & will win - Jennifer Hudson

The other thing the Oscars love is a breakout performance from a newcomer. Despite the apparent Dreamgirls backlash simmering in Hollywood, I think the vast majority still agree that Hudson rules the movie. The darkhorse will most certainly be Cate Blanchett. (The Babel babes may have impressed, but will split the vote - had either of them been nominated alone, I bet she could have won.)

Best Director
Should win - Alejandro González Iñárritu
Will win - Martin Scorsese

Juggling very different plots across the globe is an impressive feat, and is perhaps the one thing in Babel that truly deserves recognition. Also he had the challenge of working with children, through interpreters, no less. But Hollywood will want to reward Scorsese so he'll quit making movies in major New England cities with all men where everyone dies.

Best Picture
Should win - The Queen
Will win - Little Miss Sunshine

Setting Iwo Jima aside (didn't see it), the only one of these films I walked out thinking, "Loved it!" was The Queen. It really satisfied, and did what it set out to do, without going on too long. But considering the Academy is mostly full of actors, and they (for some reason) have this dumb love affair with Sunshine (which was good, but not incredible), I predict that it will come out on top and we'll be left scratching our heads the next day. Still, there is a good chance that Babel will win for its overall scope, which I would find to be a more satisfactory conclusion. (Never mind that the true winner should be Dreamgirls.)

Best Original Screenplay
Should win - Pan's Labyrinth
Will win - Little Miss Sunshine

In this category I really think the award should go to something very different and creative. And although Sunshine was certainly different, I think Labyrinth was the most inventive of the 5 nominees.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Should win - Children of Men
Will win - The Departed

This is my need to reward what I thought actually could have been a Best Picture contender. Having read the novel, I can attest that Men was adapted really well, losing none of the book's power, but keeping the audience's interest. Instead, I'm going to bank that the Academy will give the only other award here for The Departed.

Just one more


Wrapping up my Oscar watch for 2006, I rented this one yesterday.

I liked the movie. Best movie of the year? Not in my book. Much of the criticism you may have read about the film is accurate. It's too long. The relationship between the various stories are slight (and in the case of the Japanese story, not even believable).

That being said, there is a lot to appreciate. Rinko Kikuchi is engrossing as a Japanese deaf-mute teenager who finds the only way she can cope with her isolation is through overt sexuality. (Frankly I'd rather have seen a whole film about her, and forgotten the rest.)

And Adriana Barraza makes a simple woman heartbreaking in her final scenes.

I just wish some of the lingering questions had been answered. How did Chieko's mother really die? Where did Richard "go" after his son's death?

Filmed in beautiful detail, Babel is a movie worth watching. Just enjoy it for what it is, and forget the hype.

February 19, 2007

Lost and back again

After that (if I can be honest) most disappointing season start for Lost, it's finally back. And the first two episodes have been decent.

First we learned that Juliet hasn't always been an Other. And her speciality is something to do with fertility treatments, including impregnating male mice. Curious, no? And she's basically a prisoner as well. And most importantly, we learned that she looks way better with straight hair.

But the really mind-twister was last week with Desmond's...flashpresent? Is he living his own version of Groundhog Day? Is he really a hero? And how do you just ditch a beautiful woman like Penelope?

Of course the big "Whoa!" came at the end, when we learned that Charlie has the Grim Reaper sniffing over his shoulder. But does the fact that he's escaped death so many times explain his miraculous survival from Ethan hanging him? And more importantly, what if Desmond is wrong? My guess is we'll be watching all season waiting for Charlie to kick the bucket, and instead it will be someone else first. (Please let it be Paulo and what's-her-butt!)

And the odd coincidence of the week - Fionnula Flanagan (the time-space continuum guide or whatever she was) was seen in a movie you might have heard of - The Others. As if that's not enough, that movie also featured one Christopher Eccleston - who's now on that other great show wrapped in mysteries - Heroes!

Catching up with Grey's

OK, let's review where things stand with romantic entanglements at Seattle Grace, shall we?

Addison and McDreamy are kaput for good. Addison is also finished with McSteamy. Except for sex. Can you blame her? And then she did it with Alex, but he doesn't want to admit that he has a thing for her. Also it should be noted that Addie is just incredibly sexy standing around doing nothing.

Meanwhile McDreamy and Meredith are together and facing the big challenges all couples do - like snoring.

Christina and Burke have forgiven each other or whatever and are now engaged. And practically everyone knows except Meredith. And why that even matters, I don't know.

Over in kneejerk land, George freaked over his father's untimely demise, and ran off to wed Callie in Vegas. Also, Callie O'Malley is also the funniest name for a doctor in a very long time. And is there anyone that thinks they'll actually stay together? Doubtful - George seems to be a magnet for relationship angst.

Izzy's fiancee is dead (I think it's weird she even calls him that, but whatev), and she finally cashes the enormous check and opens a free clinic with Dr. Bailey.

And the Chief discovered that his wife (Loretta Divine) is singing the same tune she did in Dreamgirls - they're through. So he becomes the poster dude for Just For Men. And no, it does not look good on him.

Amidst all this chaos, it appears it's only Dr. Bailey that's actually learning anything at this "teaching hospital."

Now that you're all caught up, let's talk about the present issue. Meredith - wanted? WANTED! DEAD OR ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!!!!!!! Sorry, couldn't resist. But seriously, is she gone? Can a person actually survive that without brain damage? My guess is no, but in the magic world of February sweeps, she will. After all, she's the name of the show. What are they going to do, rename it O'Malley's Anatomy? Wow, that makes me think of something completely different...

The Amazing Race - All-Notables

photo couresty of CBS.com

Yeah, let's face it. When a reality show does an "all-stars" edition, it's not like sports where they pick the best players. No, in TV it's the best personalities. And that's what we saw last night on The Amazing Race. Rob & Amber? Uchenna & Joyce? The Guidos? Sure. I mean, they were all top 3 finishers in their seasons. But as much as I loved David & Mary, they finished a ways back.

Still, if you want to see some old friends, you're rewarded. Hey - it's the Frats! (Older, married and fatter, apparently.) Jon Vito & Jill! (What do you MEAN they aren't dating anymore?)

And of course the most ridiculous team is Eric & Danielle, who didn't race on the same team originally, but "fell in love" after their season. Uh huh. I give it 3 legs in this season. One needle-in-the-haystack Roadblock and they're toast.

As for the show itself, I just really wish it had been 2 hours. When the premiere races by (no pun intended), it's hard to get a handle on the teams when there are so many of them. I wanted a bit more time to ease into things, and see how these teams that know each other previously would react now that they were competing.

That aside, kudos to Romber for winning the leg. They were efficient as usual, but I could really do without all the self-promoting mugging. A little humility goes a long way, kids. Take a tip from Danny & Oswald, who raced really well and still have retained all their season 2 charm. LOVE THEM! I want them to win.

Most surprising? Not loathing Teri & Ian yet. He was...normal? It was very confusing.

Also, Uchenna & Joyce? It's called ADOPTION. Look into it. You have a million bucks, for pity's sake.

And let's all weep over the far-too-early exit of team JVJ. I adored them in their season, and was most looking forward to seeing them again in All-Stars. Damn those massive Ecuadorian parks with entrances that are miles away from each other!

Next week, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Charla will say that people underestimate her.

February 18, 2007

3 Oscar nominees

Catching up to my viewing history, here are 3 videos I rented this week. Did they live up to the accolades put on them?

Jesus Camp

This is the only one of the feature-length documentaries I saw this year, and it didn't do it for me. The premise is simple - fundamentally evangelist parents raise their children the same way. And there will always be some manical preacher out there to lead them. The film definitely keeps an emotional distance so you're aware the filmmakers think these people are way out there. But we also feel no connection (positive or negative) for the people contained therein. Mostly I just found myself angry that parents would put children through camps like this where the kids are made to feel deep sobbing ANGUISH at the tender age of 9. The one plus was seeing Ted Haggard, who is seen leading a mega-church. He was recently caught in a gay escort sex scandal, so hearing him say, "That's fabulous!" in this documentary is just too funny for words.

Half Nelson

I'm still not sure where the movie title comes from. But that aside, it was enjoyable. It's a new twist on the "white teacher goes into the inner-city school to change kids' minds" genre. In this case, said teacher is also a crack addict. When he's caught in the act by a student (Shareeka Epps, no relation to Omar), he isn't told on and fired. Instead they form an unlikely friendship. Ryan Gosling definitely deserves his Oscar nomination, doing more acting with his eyes than a lot of his contemporaries can achieve speaking. It's not a perfect movie (I felt like the ending was a bit abrupt), but the overall message the teacher tries to impart to his students is well refelcted in the plot.

The Departed

Maybe I'm just not a Scorsese person. But this overly-long epic felt like a snooze-fest to me. What could have been a tight and interesting cop caper/thriller gets dragged out for two and a half hours into something about honor, retribution, blah, blah, SNORE. It's too bad, because there were moments I liked. Like who knew text messaging was so essential to being an FBI informant? As for best picture of the year? I certainly hope not. As for the lone acting nomination, Mark Wahlberg is indeed good, although his part is short. I think the nod from the Academy is more a recognition that he has really matured as an actor and has left his rapping underwear model days far, far behind. Good for you, Marky. Just don't bother writing a speech.

I'm starting to craft my Oscar picks, but still have one more film to see this week (Babel) before I solidify things. So stay tuned!

February 17, 2007

I want my WB!

A moment of silence for Reba McEntire. Her TV show (Reba) is coming to an end this Sunday.

It's a shame that a show which was often genuinely funny couldn't find a place on the new CW. Then again, it's never been as funny since Barbara Jean lost all that weight and started looking a bit freakish.

Anyway, join me in a last hurrah by tuning in this Sunday at 7 pm ET to give her a final send-off. And then we'll wish Reba well as she focuses back on her music career.

Cinema en espanol

Hello, faithful readers. I know at least a few of you have been patiently waiting for more posts from me. Fortunately I will now be getting back into the swing of posting, as my work has passed its zenith for the year. And with the winter TV season back on track and Oscar time nearly here - I've got some writing to do! First up, some movie reviews. I've been furiously trying to get caught up on some Oscar nominees.

This post will focus on a couple of Spanish-language films - one an Oscar nominee this year, and another I discovered at the video store.

Pan's Labyrinth

This film sets a child living out a fantasy against the horrors of real-life war. Although very creative with some wonderful cinematography, I didn't feel this one lived up to the hype around it. It was certainly enjoyable and I admired that it was so different than your average movie. But it's not one that really stayed with me. It's been a few weeks since I saw it, and I don't feel that sense of nostalgia. Still, it's worth a rental. Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize that the housekeeper is Maribel Verdu, who starred in Y Tu Mama Tambien.

20 centímetros

Well, the only way to describe this one is that it was the "feel-good Spanish transgender narcoleptic prostitute musical of 2005!" Seriously! That's about all you need to know. It has fun music (Madonna, Queen), zombies and a dwarf! I won't say much more about it, except that it is very creative, very different and has some naughty sex scenes if you're so inclined. Rent this one, and you won't be disappointed! Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize that the prostitute named Ice Box is played by Rossy de Palma, who had some sleepy-time trouble herself as Marisa in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Thanks for stopping by! Coming up this week, I'll catch up with what's been happening on Lost and Grey's Anatomy. I'll also post my Oscar picks (after I watch a few more videos).

And don't forget this Sunday is the premiere for The Amazing Race: All-Stars! We'll see who has gotten better with age (come on, Danny & Oswald), and who just stinks (my money is on Teri & Ian). Also we can weep that Jon Vito & Jill are no longer an item. *sob*