Monthly Archives: February 2009

Quote of the Day: Clint Eastwood is the Coolest/Most Sane 78-Year-Old Ever

“In former times we constantly made jokes about different races.  You can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth otherwise you will be insulted as a racist. I find that ridiculous. In those earlier days every friendly clique had a “Sam the Jew” or “José the Mexican” – but we didn’t think anything of it or have a racist thought.”

-Clint Eastwood, on why people should lighten up and stop trying to be so politically correct (yes that means you…Sharpton)

Quote of the Day: Oscars/ Movies are Art Edition

“I stay up to watch the show and I always felt that this was, this ceremony was a moment of unity for the world because art, in any form, is and has been and will always be our universal language and we should do everything we can, everything we can, to protect its survival.”

-Penelope Cruz upon winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” 
And, just for the hell of it:

The Oscars: "Millionaire" is Golden

Unless you live under a rock, you know that tonight was the 81st annual Academy Awards. The winner, as predicted (and deserved), was “Slumdog Millionaire.” “Slumdog” took home an astounding 7 Oscars. In addition it took home awards for director Danny Boyle, screenplay, sound, original song (“Jai Ho”), original score, editing, and cinematography. 

All well deserved. I know that this season “Slumdog” turned into the little indie that could that soon became cool to rip on. But, I said it was the best film of the year, and I stand by it. Nothing captured my emotions like it in quite some time. I still consider my experience seeing “Slumdog” for the first time as one of the best movie going experiences I’ve ever had. I further fully condemn all of those in India who are protesting the film’s title as offensive. Like the film’s creators brought up in their speeches, this film is made for the people of India and not against them. Maybe if the protestors had actually seen the film and realized it contained a message of hope and progress they wouldn’t have protested it in the first place. The Academy is known sometimes for making mistakes but this year, in the Best Picture category, they made none.
As expected, Penelope Cruz won for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” It was an award well deserved. She brought a dark shade of passion, torture, and humor into Woody Allen’s film. Also expected as a winner was Heath Ledger. I may sound like a horrible person for saying this, but I still feel like Robert Downey Jr. was most deserving for his performance as “Tropic Thunder.” Nevertheless, Ledger was still a deserving winner, and the win was a much needed way to honor the tremendous actor who died too soon. He is without a doubt this generation’s James Dean.
One of the bigger wins was Kate Winslet (predicted that!). I didn’t see “The Reader” so can’t comment on whether she deserved it, but after so many nominations, it was time for a Winslet win already.
Unfortunately, Mickey Rourke didn’t get the Oscar he so badly deserved for his awe-inspiring turn in “The Wrestler.” While Sean Penn had archival footage to look back at, Rourke created Randy The Ram from scratch. Or really, from his own soul. I do hope Mickey gets his day someday soon, even if it wasn’t for his incredible comeback.
However, I was still satisfied with Penn’s win. He really captured Harvey Milk in a way few actors could. And he gave an acceptance speech like no other. Who knew the same Sean Penn that four years ago scolded Chris Rock for making a joke about Jude Law could be this funny? Him thanking the “gay commie loving Academy” was the line of the night. 
The speech of the night went hands down to Dustin Lance Black, scribe of “Milk.” Black gave a tearful, totally non-phony speech. “Milk” tells the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk; Black himself is gay. Black gave a moving speech reassuring hope to the gay community (especially in the face of Prop 8). 
“Most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours,” said Black.
The awards for “Milk” were certainly a representation of a growing backlash against Prop 8. And I hope that backlash spreads. Mike Huckabee and Pastor Rick Warren were probably not too thrilled by Black’s speech. And for some reason that makes me smile very, very much.
This is about movies, not politics, but just one more note. The loss for “Waltz with Bashir” may just show the spreading hatred against Israel amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially in very liberal minded Hollywood. This, just makes me very sad.
But back to the show. Let’s discuss the show itself. How was Hugh Jackman as a host? Ehhhhhh. I saw promise in his highly entertaining opening number. It went downhill from there. That musical number he said to prove the musical was back did not. It was just minutes of my life I won’t get back, filler that should’ve been filled with something better. The Academy should never hire a “song-and-dance man” to host ever again. They should stick to comedians. Jon Stewart would’ve been fine for a second year in a row. But during this ceremony, I saw three different possibilities for the host of next year’s show. Those possibilities are a pairing of Tina Fey and Steve Martin for their witty banter on Scientology (Scientologists and Mormons were having a pretty crappy night), Ben Stiller for his brilliant Joaquin Phoenix impression, or a pairing of Seth Rogen and James Franco who all but stole the show with their short film (the Judd Apatow directed short further proves that he is God). Hugh, I’d rather see you in Wolverine claws. Hosting the Oscars just isn’t your thing.
Until now, see you next year (but keep reading this blog everyday!). What did you all think of the winners? Was Hugh Jackman actually a better host than I think?
A few notes from the after party:
-Robert Pattinson kind of looked like a creepy pedophile while on stage. I know every girl reading this hates me right now but, I speak the truth.
- Jonah Hill makes an E! reporter feel awkward on the Red Carpet. Awesome.
- No one will shutup about Sean Penn’s speech. No offense against his speech, but the real speech everyone should be talking about is Dustin Lance Black’s speech.
- Zac Efron says he hopes to return to the Oscars one day when he gets nominated. Zac Efron, I now hate you slightly more.
- You may have predicted all all of the winners correctly Ben Lyons, but you’re still the biggest hack in Hollywood.
- Cheers to Robert De Niro for being so funny during the Oscars. Your performances can make me cry, but I had no idea you could make me laugh.
- I usually hate children, but the sight of those adorable little Indian children from “Slumdog Millionaire” (or “slumpuppies,” as FilmDrunk calls them) are slightly making me change my mind. Or at least proving that little Asian children are cuter than little American children.
- Ben Lyons, I still hate you.

Movie Review: Frozen River

The first few shots and most of the rest of “Frozen River” brought “Fargo” immediately to mind. Those shots evoke an empty, frozen wasteland. It seems so empty that it could even take place on the surface of Pluto. But no, it is here on Earth. And it’s not in a small town on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota, but rather a small town on the border of New York and Canada.

“Frozen River” tells a story of immigration problems in the United States. However, it tells a story about illegal immigration that few would ever see. Rather than taking place on America’s southern border, it takes place on America’s northern border. By now we already see one thing that makes “Frozen River” a great movie: it tells the kind of story you’d rarely hear on a typical day. It shows a side of life you didn’t know you wanted to see.
Immigration isn’t the total focus of the story. The real focus is on Ray (Melissa Leo), a nearly broke single mother trying to raise two kids after her drug addicted husband runs off. Ray’s current job barely pays anything so as an act of desperation, she teams up with a Native American woman (Misty Upham) to smuggle in immigrants from Canada through a reservation on the border.
“Frozen River” isn’t nearly as much of a heated political story as this year’s other film about illegal immigration, “The Visitor.” Instead, “Frozen River” uses immigration as a way to further characterize Ray’s struggle for survival in a very harsh, unforgiving world. A world almost as harsh as the bleak winter in which Ray transfers the new immigrants through. 
This film is the very first writing and directorial effort by Courtney Hunt, but she works like a pro. The empty snow covered landscapes are filmed meticulously like the empty deserts of the southwestern US or, as mentioned earlier, the Minnesota/North Dakota landscape of “Fargo.” And this leads me to believe Hunt was influenced largely by the Coen Brothers. Ray’s story reminds me of an even darker version of a typical Coen Brothers’ story: the kind of character who will resort to literally anything in order to pay the bills.
“Frozen River” has been most praised for the lead performance by Melissa Leo, and for good reason. She earned the Oscar nomination she received. Leo plays Ray naturally and turns her into a natural human being. You’d think someone would portray a character living in this horrible a way of life by yelling and overacting. Even during some of Ray’s worst moments, Leo still manages to play her with a calm demeanor that never the less is extremely stressed out throughout the film’s entire 97 minute running time. It is possible that the best acting comes when it doesn’t feel like the actor is acting at all. In this case, you could barely tell Leo was acting. All I could see was a good-hearted, washed up woman named Ray and not a Hollywood actress named Melissa Leo.
The one thing that bothered me most about “Frozen River” wasn’t about the movie itself, but the MPAA rating it was given. “Frozen River” is rated R for “some language.” That some language is a mere two uses of the f-word. That’s right, only two. However, one of those uses was in the verb form which by the MPAA’s standards automatically merits an R rating. I don’t think this should deter anyone from letting anyone under 17 see this movie. I doubt those two uses of the f-word will make any child want to participate in an orgy or shoot-up the nearest elementary school. No, the only reason these words are used is because these are the words people actually say, especially in tough situations portrayed in this movie. To not allow the characters to curse would be in a way censoring reality. 
And this is exactly what “Frozen River”‘s R rating is doing: censoring reality. I know it’s not a happy film but I guarantee anyone who sees this in the end will feel maybe not like a better person but like a slightly more enlightened person. It will give you an understanding of what it’s like to live with only $5 in your pocket. Isn’t this what movies are supposed to do? Aren’t they supposed to make us face reality, enlighten us, and put us into the shoes of another character for a brief amount of time before taking us back out to face our own lives again?
Recommended for Fans of: Fargo, The Visitor, No Country for Old Men, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada 

When "Push" Comes to Shove: The "Push" Title Confusion

In January, I blogged about an absolutely superb movie I saw at Sundance entitled “Push.” Not long after that movie swept the Sundance Awards, another movie entitled “Push” hit theaters. This movie wasn’t a realistic story of an inner city teen trying to break free from her horrible home. No, it was a pretty dumb fantasy about a bunch of teenagers with superpowers.

I worried that the far superior Sundance “Push” would hit confusion with the other “Push.” Indeed, it did. But who would get to keep the title of “Push.” Thanks to an earlier release date (not to mention, a big studio backer), the FX laden, Dakota Fanning version of “Push” gets to keep the title of “Push.” And what about the Sundance “Push?” Well, that has to change its name to “Precious.” This makes sense, because Precious is the name of the film’s main character. However, they should’ve kept the original title as “Push.” Why’s that? Because changing the title to “Precious” from “Push” takes away the original meaning. While “Precious” only expresses the name of the character, “Push” is meant to be symbolic to how Precious pushes herself to break free and succeed. How she pushes through abuse and poverty to get an education. Also, as one website points out, changing the title to “Precious” might give the movie a more positive feel. This is leading me to believe that studios are tampering with the original product to make it more uplifting and therefore, more unrealistic.
I believe changing the name of “Push” to “Precious” is wrong. Director Lee Daniels shouldn’t be forced to; Daniels could also cite the fact that the novel the movie is based on is called “Push.” Therefore, the “Push” released just a few weeks ago is actually ripping off the title of the novel and therefore has no right to the name “Push.” Plus, two of the biggest backers of “Push” (excuse me, “Precious”) are Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. They have money and power. So my only wish is that they fight for the film they so fell in love with. Because a title is more important than you might think.

Your Last Chance to Watch: Late Night With Conan O’Brien

Don’t worry, Conan O’Brien’s not leaving the late night talkosphere forever, just his “Late Night” show. Tonight is Conan’s last night on “Late Night,” he’ll be taking over “The Tonight Show” for Jay Leno on June 1.

This is your last chance everyone to see Conan at his very best. I’m not saying that Conan won’t do well on “Tonight Show,” but he definitely won’t be able to display some of his best routines that he could with a 12:37 time slot. 
That being said, tonight is the last night ever we get to see Conan at 12:37. It’ll be a sad night, but at least Conan’s not gone for good. Unfortunately, I now have to choose between two shows to watch at 11:35: Conan or Colbert. And believe me, it’s not an easy decision.
Soon, Jimmy Fallon will be taking over Conan’s slot on “Late Night.” Will he be good? I can already say he won’t be as good as Conan, but I’m keeping hope alive and wishing him success. Fallon has proved he’s good at zingers and punchlines with his stint on Weekend Update on “SNL.” So Jimmy, do Conan well. I hope you do.
Below is a clip of one of Conan’s very best shows. All I can say is, I hope Triumph’s coming to LA, also:

The Oscars: The (Predicted) Winners List

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Mickey Rouke, The Wrestler
Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Original Screenplay: Milk
Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Animated Feature: WALL-E
Best Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Costume Design: The Duchess
Best Makeup: The Dark Knight
Best Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Song: Jai Ho
Best Achievement in Sound: WALL-E
Best Achievement in Sound Editing: The Dark Knight
Best Visual Effects: The Dark Knight
Best Foreign Film: Waltz with Bashir
Best Documentary: Man on Wire

Oscars: Who Got Robbed

Josh Brolin: “W.”

Sure, he deserved to be nominated for his creepy turn as Harvey Milk’s assassin, Dan White, but his best performance of the year was as former commander-in-chief George W. Bush. Brolin’s performance was more than just an imitation; it was a re-creation. Brolin brought out all of the small mannerisms of Bush from his Texas accent to the way he moves his hands. Most importantly, he brought a surprising layer of sympathy; portraying him as something deeper than just a man famous for uttering “is our children learning?”

“The Wrestler” By Bruce Springstein

 Some say that music can make a movie. In “The Wrestler,” this song, that played over the closing credits, encapsulated the entire movie in about three minutes. It’s a beautiful song about redemption that should have been a shoo-in in the Best Song category. For now, Springsteen will just have to live with his Golden Globe, victorious Super Bowl halftime show, and the Oscar he won in 1993.

“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”  

Despite approaching his mid 70s, Woody Allen still manages to make at least two movies a year. “Vicky Christina”’s story about two different kinds of love paid close attention to character and balanced a sense of humor without overdoing the drama. For achieving this, the “Annie Hall” scribe should’ve earned his 15th Best Screenplay nomination.

“Gran Torino” 

Now, this is just perplexing. At the age of 78, Eastwood makes one of the best films of his career, and the Academy totally overlooks it. “Torino” is similar in theme to “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby” as it tells the story of a man coming to terms with old age and the idea of death looming around the corner. Eastwood deserved a nomination for his grunt filled performance as well as his dark directing, and the screenplay deserved a nod as well for managing to turn a dark concept into something surprisingly funny.

 The Songs of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” 

A few months ago, I wrote a For Your Consideration column for the songs of “Sarah Marshall”: “Inside of You,” “Do Something,” and “Dracula’s Lament.” Of course, the Academy didn’t listen. These three hilarious songs are easily the most singable of any original song in a movie this year, and “Inside of You” even manages to outwit “J**z In My Pants” in ridiculous sexual innuendos. The Academy has never been too nice towards comedies. However, this year they were nice enough to recognize “Tropic Thunder.” Why couldn’t they go a little further and nominate another great example of comedy. I mean, there are still two empty spots in the Best Song category. Why keep them vacant?

The "Saturday Night Live" Experience: A Night in the Cold

This weekend, I was lucky enough to attend “Saturday Night Live.” Yes, I waited for an entire night in brutal cold weather so I could see a two hour show. Was it worth it? Despite a few poor sketches, yes it was.

The host was Alec Baldwin. The musical guest was (blech) Jonas Brothers. It was a night to remember. It wasn’t just the show that was great, but the events that surrounded it.
SNL doesn’t give out tickets to most long before the show starts. The only way to get in is to wait on a standby line all night Friday night until they hand out passes at 7 am. You then come back that night and if you’re lucky enough, you get in. I was lucky enough.
But before we get to the show, lets back it up. This was the kind of event that was worth waiting in line on a freezing winter night all night long for. The bitter cold was warmed up by many surprise guest appearances outside. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow walked by. Both stopped for a few minutes to talk. Maddow joked about her lack of makeup, while Olbermann wished us good luck. The usually angry Olbermann was surprisingly mild-mannered. Earlier in the night, the legendary Tom Brokaw stood about five feet away from me, and Brian Williams ran by as well. 
But the real best appearances were from the people who were the reason I was there. Lorne Michaels, the genius who started SNL 34 years ago, came by. Twice. The first time, he was so impressed with our shouts and cheers to him, that he sent out some chefs to bring us out hot soup. It was his way of saying thank you for waiting all night. What a nice guy. He came by again later. Even though he was in a hurry, he still stopped for a few moments to sign autographs and take a picture. At some point, I also encountered newcomer Abby Elliot (probably best known for her hilarious Angelina Jolie impression) and Bill Hader. Hader spoke with us for a few minutes. He answered questions and took photos. He was somewhat awkward yet lively and kind. Those five minutes with him certainly were not enough.
Well, onto the show itself. I did not go to the live show, but rather the dress rehearsal. In fact this might’ve been even better. I was able to see a few good sketches that were cut from the live show. Also, Michaela Watkins performance as the obnoxious blogger was much funnier in the dress rehearsal. In the dress rehearsal, she was much more serious while in the live show, she was on the verge of hysterical laughter and breaking character.
The show itself was mixed, yet overall hilarious. The cold open left me feeling a little cold, but the rest of the show went uphill from there. I am still no fan of Jonas Brothers,  but their performances in their two sketches managed to be quite funny. Their Digital Short nearly stole the show. I still hate Jonas Brothers as musicians, but it is good to see that they can take and make a joke about themselves. It shows that they are not only funny, but human too. 
Other highlights of the show included the Wii sketch, the TV land/Vincent Price parody, and a Sarah McLachlan/dog commercial skit that didn’t make it to the live show.
Maybe what was so great about going to SNL was seeing how it all works. Seeing how quickly they have to get everything together before the commercial break ends. Hating on SNL has become a popular practice nowadays. However, people don’t give the cast/crew of SNL enough credit. Doing what they do every week is probably the hardest job on Earth. Getting out of costume that quickly seems like a nearly impossible feat, but somehow they pull it off. Sometimes of course, it doesn’t turn out that well. But that’s what SNL is, it’s a hit-or-miss sketch comedy show. When a sketch is a hit, it’s classic. When a sketch is a miss, it’s painful. But just being in the audience, with Kristen Wiig and Alec Baldwin within shouting distance, it felt like every skit was a hit. And that whole two hour moment, was classic.