Monday, February 23, 2009

7 Questions I Have About the This Year's Academy Awards

1. Why were all the tween stars invited to participate? - Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Miley Cyrus, Robert Pattinson...sounds like I'm listing the nominees for the Teen Choice Awards, but no they all participated in the Academy Awards (actually I don't remember seeing Miley on stage...did she actually have a purpose for being there?). I realize the Academy is trying to entice younger viewers to watch the show, but in the end I think they just embarrassed themselves and the teens that love them. Case in point: 1. Vanessa Hudgens refers to herself as a "young Audrey Hepburn" when asked about her dress - Um, keep dreaming honey. Besides the fact that she is in no way resembling the icon, I believe she meant to say "a modern Audrey Hepburn." 2. Miley Cyrus says that she wants to meet Angelina Jolie because "Angelina is my favorite person of all history". She is also delusional enough to believe that she could get a nomination for her performance in the upcoming Hannah Montana movie. These are the role models of thousands of teens around the world. Are you as scared as I am?

2. Why were all the women dressed for their wedding day? - Penelope Cruz, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Beil, Jennifer Aniston, Marissa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Nicole Kidman...I'm sure the list is even longer...ALL wore white/neutral dresses. Penelope Cruz was the most offensive because she looked like she belonged directly on top of a wedding cake. What happened to the WOW factor, setting trends and trying to stand out in a crowd of beautiful women? The 2 best dressed women were Amy Adams (that necklace!) & Halle Berry and even their dresses were kinda bland. What happened? Even Reese Witherspoon (the usual trendsetter at these events) looked absolutely horrid and SJP (although usually looks horrid, but at least surprises us) in her "barely mint" dress looked like an aged princess whose breasts had to be in an extreme amount of pain. I do appreciate that the actresses seem to be going by way of Nicole Kidman and that is extremely pale. I know everyone says a nice tan makes you look healthy, but I completely disagree. Anne Hathaway, Evan Rachel Wood and Amy Adams looked divine with their milky complexions. I am envious.

3. Why was E!'s Live from the red carpet so boring? - I appreciate all that Ryan Seacrest does for entertainment, but why does he feel it necessary to host this event? I agree that he is better than Giuliana DePandi at doing interviews. Giuliana's interview with Brad and Angie at the SAG Awards was proof she needs to be fired already! (and on a side-note: was she supposed to look like a bland version of Kiera Knightly?) Back to my point: Ryan is sooo blah. At least back in the day Joan & Melissa Rivers provided some controversy even though they were completely obnoxious. Is it that hard to find someone charming, entertaining and knowledgeable to do these interviews? Obviously Ryan is way to busy to even do his homework - he asked Marisa Tomei how it feels to be at the Oscars because she hasn't been there since 1993 (she was nominated for 2001's In the Bedroom). And they didn't even give worthy screen time to worthy nominees - Melissa Leo's interview was shoved to the corner of the screen to show Robert Pattinson arriving. Last year he got lucky with Gary Busey's attack, but this year there was nothing worthy to talk about.

4. Why did the show feel so long? - The show was revamped this year and the changes were refreshing, but I found myself yawning by the middle of the show. Hugh Jackman was full of energy in the beginning, but then seemed to loose his mojo by the middle. I enjoyed the opening number, although the lyrics weren't very imaginative - the energy was there and bringing Anne Hathaway on stage was delightful. That being said, the other musical number was absolutely horrific and LONG! Hugh, Beyonce, Zanessa, Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper claim the "musical is back" although this year musicals compared inferior to the musicals of recent years (Dreamgirls, Chicago, Moulin Rouge). They were box office successes no doubt, but High School Musical & Mamma Mia garnered mixed reviews and certainly did not deserve any recognition during the Academy Awards! You could tell they were expecting a standing ovation - how sad. After this ridiculous and unnecessary performance the show just seemed to drag on forever. They should have saved the funny stuff for later in the show (Tina Fey & Steve Martin "nobody wants to hear about our religion -that we made up" and the Apatow clip - but why didn't they show the funniest movie of the year Baby Mamma during the comedy's of 2008?).

5. Why didn't they think of these changes before? Every year, the Academy promises some sort of change to entice the audience, but this year they went extreme. The stage was small and cozy, the nominations for acting were presented by 5 previous winners and each nominee was introduced with a reason for why there were nominated to begin with. The other categories were clumped together (pre-production, post-production, music, etc) and presented by the same person which cut time on introducing presenters and gave each presenter more stage time (Will Smith - "Yes, they still have me here". ) They also cut the individual musical performances and combined them into one number, which I appreciate (It's not the Grammy's!).

6. Why were there no surprises? - Usually there is one "oh my god!" win - usually in the Supporting Actress category, but this year everything seemed to go according to plan. Slumdog walked away with Best Picture along with 7 other awards, Benjamin Button won a few in the "other" categories (Makeup, Art Direction), Penn beat out Rourke in the Best Actor category (He deserved it...and I love his comment "I know how hard I make it to appreciate me..often"), Wall-E won Best Animated Feature, Milk won Best Original Screenplay (and Dustin Lance Black's speech is the only that brought tears to my eyes.), and of course Ledger won for Supporting Actor.

7. Who's coming with me to see "The Proposal"? - Seriously. I am a huge Sandra Bullock fan.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

3 Things That Would Have Made "Confessions of a Shopaholic" a Better Movie

I saw "Confessions of a Shopaholic" this weekend with great anticipation. As much as I adore Isla Fischer and am a bit of a shopaholic myself (although I go crazy for the cheap yet trendy clothes at Target), I admit the movie was only so-so. Here are some things that would have made it better.

1. More Laugh-Out-Loud Moments - I admit that I was mildly entertained for the entire movie, but I only laughed a mere 3 times. The rest of the audience laughed a few more times than I did, but mostly at scenes that were shown in previews (and therefore not really funny anymore). I blame this solely on the writing, simply because Isla Fischer is friggin' HILARIOUS when she is given great material that she so deserves (i.e - Wedding Crashers).

2. A Better Male Lead - Hugh Dancy is not the next Hugh Grant. He is not the charming, funny, vulnerable leading man that Grant has perfected in his (many!) romantic comedy roles. Instead, Dancy was actually rather bland and forgettable - certainly not a match for Fischer's vivacious Rebecca Bloomwood.

3. A Different Release Date - A perfect example of bad timing for a film - who wants to see a young woman struggling with credit card debt during the current economical crisis that our country is enduring? Films like these are supposed to be escapist but instead it hit a little to close to home. Though most are struggling with affording food, not an over-priced green scarf -which causes resentment instead of sympathy for our main character.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

4 Reasons Why I Should Have Liked "Blindness"

I was really disappointed that I missed seeing "Blindness" in the theaters, I was sure it would be one of my favorite films of the year. I was finally able to watch it yesterday on DVD and was incredibly disappointed. Here is why I should have loved it:

1. Jose Saramago's masterful book - The book is obviously a masterpiece (it won the Nobel Prize for Literature) but more than that - it is an emotionally stirring look at humanity, morality and civilization. It disgusts me because it is true. There were several moments in reading it where I just had to put the book down because it made me physically ill. I questioned a film version because it was horrific enough to read - is a visual really necessary? However, it's a book that will stick with me forever and I thought it would be just as affecting as a film.

2. Fernando Meirelles makes beautiful films - The Constant Gardner and City of God - need I say more?

3. Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore and Gael Garcia Bernal - Who doesn't love Mark Ruffalo? He is an outstanding actor and he is super adorable (he can even do rom-coms like 13 Going on 30 although a bit awkwardly). Julianne Moore is also well-respected and talented. However both have made some poor choices (Rumor Has It.. and Laws of Attraction, respectively). But, Gael Garcia Bernal is an actor I really trust. I've never seen him in a bad film, so I assumed Blindness would be as incredible as his past work.

4. It's an epic, imaginative and thought-provoking story. What would you do if you suddenly went blind? Or if everyone went blind but you? Would civilization survive? or the strongest of that civilization? Would we help each other or look out for ourselves? It's an outstanding concept that can be extended to so many different levels. I have never been this grateful for the ability to see and be seen.

Unfortunately the film turned out to be bleak and somehow boring. The acting was mediocre and the story was drawn out. It wasn't exactly bad, just not as amazing as it could have been. How unfortunate.

6 New Shows To Look Forward To

It's time for mid-season pilots to begin and there are a few good prospects. Here are the shows that I am hopeful for.

1. In the Motherhood, ABC 3/26 - Megan Mullally will always be Karen Walker to me, but I am hopeful she can pull off something new. Her talk show was supremely awful, so I am a little nervous for her- however, she is joined by the brilliant comedian Jessica St. Claire (a regular on VH1's Best Week Ever - the only funny one) and Cheryl Hines. It's supposed to be a comedic look at the struggles that women have with balancing children, work and love. Should be entertaining...

2. Cupid, ABC 3/31 - I remember the original with Jeremy Piven and I didn't think it deserved to be cancelled so quickly, so I am glad it is being given another chance. Plus with another Will & Grace alum, Bobby Cannavale (love him!), and the adorable Sarah Paulson (who was brilliant in the otherwise mediocre show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) you can't go wrong - right? I mean it has to be better than the similarly themed (and cancelled) CW's Valentine.

3. Southland, NBC 4/9 - Described as a "raw and authentic look at the police unit in Los Angeles" and produced by the same producers as E.R and Westwing - it looks promising. Although I admit that the only reason my interest is peaked is because of Benjamin McKenzie (Hello! The O.C is one of the greatest shows ever!) and Tom Everett Scott (once hailed as the next Tom Hanks). It's about time Ben appears in something (88 Minutes doesn't count), I promise you he will not disappoint. I look forward to a great drama that is a little more straightforward yet emotionally stirring (my current dramas just take sooo much energy to watch...I'm talking to you Lost and Heroes), hopefully this will fill the void.

4. The Unusuals, ABC 4/8 - Another police drama, although this one takes place in NYC. However this one seems to be more about the quirky personalities of each police officer, rather than solving crimes which sounds promising (one of the officers refuses to take off his bulletproof vest - that has to be amusing - right?). Plus Jeremy Renner is a great actor who deserves some time in the spotlight.

5. Dollhouse, aired FOX 2/13 - The first episode aired this past Friday and I admit that I was pretty disappointed. The idea is brilliant and Eliza Dushku is delightful, but for some reason the show just didn't work for me. It was a little dull and had no character development. However, I had such high hopes so I will continue to watch a few more episodes.

6. Parks and Recreation, NBC tbd - I am always looking for great comedy shows and hopefully this won't disappoint! Although the plot of this show doesn't actually sound very funny - it has the always funny AMY POEHLER!! Hopefully she will give Tina Fey a run for her money....

5 Reasons Why "Slumdog Millionaire" Shouldn't Win Best Picture

So I finally saw the much acclaimed "Slumdog Millionaire" and now I can say with confidence it should not win Best Picture. Here is why:

*WARNING - Spoiler Alert*

1. The contrived plot - Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the film. It was entertaining, well-paced and imaginative. The plot however, lost it's novelty after the first 1/2 hour. Once you understand that Jamal knows every question because of some previous life experience, you know the rest of the film. Each question seemed to be written exactly for him, which then feels somewhat forced. Are the questions really that simple on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I doubt it. I like the idea of "book smart vs. street smart", however he admittedly isn't smart at all, he was just lucky or "destined" if you believe in that sort of thing.

2. It didn't pull at my heart strings - I'm pretty sure it was supposed to. Watching little children surviving the slums of India is pretty horrific, yet HE WINS A MILLION DOLLARS and GETS THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS. So, any sympathy I had left me by the end of the film. There are so many people living in those conditions who die in those conditions - I don't think a happy ending served those people justice. I guess the more cynical aspect of the film was showcased by the brother, but his character was just aggravating and not fully developed. Sometimes he was a horrendous human being and other times he was a caring, loyal brother. There was no motivation behind his actions, so him dying did not affect me at all.

3. It gave me a headache - The unsteady, hand-held camera technique works in films like The Bourne ultimatum and Cloverfield. I didn't like it in this film, I found it distracting. It almost felt like I was watching 2 separate films, because the camera work was so different between the present scenes and the flashback scenes.

4. It deservedly was shut-out of the acting categories - It's pretty rare for a film to be nominated for Best Picture without any of it's actors nominated. But I now see why - the star of the film - Dev Patel really didn't have much acting to do, besides maybe the first scene. And the female lead, Freida Pinto, had even less to do. The real acting came from the children in the flash-back scenes, who were decent as far as children actors go. Overall, the films acting was far from memorable - which in my opinion is what makes an outstanding film.

5. Milk was a better film - It was superior in every way.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

4 Reasons Why Woody Allen is Slowly Becoming One of My Favorite Directors.

I know Woody Allen has been around forever, I've never really cared for him. After watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I realized I am now a big fan. Here are my reasons why I have changed my mind...

1. His 90's films sucked -I saw Everyone Says I Love You, Deconstructing Harry and Celebrity. They were boring, pretentious and aimless. However, I saw these films as a teenager- maybe I was just too young to understand the brilliance behind it? The only film I saw from his earlier work was Manhattan which I thought was decent, not spectacular. However, now I am questioning my own opinions - I've added all of his earlier work to my Netflix queue and am considering re-watching his 90's work.

2. Cassandra's Dream - Out of his 5 latest films (the other 4 being Vicky Christina Barcelona, Scoop, Match Point & Melinda and Melinda) I enjoyed this film the most. Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell play brothers who take desperate measures in order to gain financial success. While one brother becomes wrought with guilt, the other questions his own morality - How far will he go to protect himself and the life he has dreamed about? It was a brilliant film- the writing was sharp, the acting was fresh and the story was done plenty of times before yet it felt new.

3. He directs bad actors to good performances - From what I have read, Allen is known for not over-directing his actors - letting them have freedom to interpret their own characters. This could go horribly wrong, however it seems to work for him. Scarlett Johansson is supremely awful in every movie I have seen her in (don't get me started on Lost in Translation - one of those love-it or hate-it films that I absolutely loathed), with the exception of her 3 collaborations with Allen. Somehow Allen turns her painfully dull expressions and annoyingly monotone voice into an emotionally inspiring character with a super sexy voice. Also look at Will Ferrell's performance in Melinda and Melinda - completely different than the actor we see in Blades of Glory.

4. He has a clear aesthetic - You can watch any of his films and know that they are "Woody Allen films" even when they have completely different subject matter. I guess it helps that he writes his own films. In his latest films he deals with love, murder, ambiguity, morality, guilt, monogamy, destiny and so much more. Yet his voice is clear that there is no answer to any of it. The dialogue is heavy, the plots are twisted and the characters are flawed. I can't wait for his next film Whatever Works.