Tuesday, January 30, 2007

City Mouse, Suburb Mouse

So I've been thinking about this Long Island-New Jersey rivalry and I've realized what is so amusing/ridiculous about the whole thing.

I was thinking it reminds me of the Washington D.C. area rivalry between Virginia and Maryland. I used to be so amused by the disdain that would creep into my Maryland friends' voices when they spoke of an acquaintance: "She lives in -- VirGINia!" Then again, when I was there opening the new Borders in Silver Spring, MD, we were driving along the beltway and you could just tell when you'd crossed over into Virginia. Suddenly the cars all had U.S. flag bumper stickers. But, despite my issues with the state (which are decidedly farther southeast, along the coast) some of my best friends are in Virginia! True! All along that Fairfax orange line, even as far as Manassas...

The point is that the Virginia-Maryland rivalry is kind of silly, too. Just like the Long Island-New Jersey rivalry. And here's why.

Really, all that insecurity comes from the fact that they just aren't as cool as D.C.! Or New York City!

The rivalry, the jibes aimed at another land of suburbia and parkways, the traded insults -- they all just mask the fact that, let's face it, you aren't cosmopolitan enough to just Live. In. The. City.

So I was thinking about this in terms of my former home of Los Angeles (a city that knows a thing or two about cool, not to mention insecurity). And the way it goes down out there just makes so much more sense. Of course there's rivalry. In fact, there are two. First of all, there's The Valley. As in, "like, omigod, i'm totally a valley girl." People who live in the San Fernando Valley talk of going "over the hill" into the city of L.A. And people in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Silverlake, Echo Park, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and so on make all kinds of fun of The Valley. Even the Valley's AREA CODE (818) was seen as having a lesser status than the decidedly cooler area codes (213) and (310), although then (323) came along and that was pretty good too...

The catch, of course, is that "the Valley" is part of the incoporated city of Los Angeles! Whereas Santa Monica, for example, is not. (It has its own city government that is actually often referred to as the "people's republic of santa monica.") But every few elections the secession issue comes up on the ballot for the Valley to just secede from the Los Angeles and become its own city of San Fernando. Because really, you're just either a City Mouse or a Valley Mouse.

There's a SECOND rivalry, though, to the south: L.A. vs. Orange County. And sorry, generation next, but it just sounds dumb to say "The O.C." no matter how much you enjoyed your little steamy teen soap. Anyway, there are definitely Orange County people, and they are definitely not like Angelenos. For one thing, they vote more overwhelmingly Republican. Even the Valley doesn't do that.

But what you don't find is a bunch of jackasses in Orange County trashing the Valley, nor a bunch of Encino/Sherman Oaks/Northridge fools prattling on about Irvine, or Newport Beach, or San Clemente. Instead, everyone focuses their competition and thinly veiled insults on the real matter at hand: "Am I as cool as the L.A. city people?" (Answer: no.)

So, why oh why can't these Long Island/New Jersey (and those Maryland/Virginia people) just realize the truth of it all: you suck, you wish you lived in the City, and that's why we people from outside of your little tri-state or multi-county area look at you like you're crazy when you passionately assure us how much cooler you are than your rival land of strip malls.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Briefly, Oscar...

VERY briefly, because I have to go to class, to be expanded later...

  • Leo got a best actor nomination, and it's for Blood Diamond! I know everyone is agog and aghast he didn't get nominated for The Departed, but I'm not! I was just saying last night, even, that his performance in Blood Diamond was remarkable. Yay!
  • Speaking of Blood Diamond, I'm thrilled about Djimon Hounsou as well, and also for sound editing...who cares if that's "minor."
  • Just in general, delighted about all things Babel and Little Miss Sunshine.
  • My Dreamgirls backlash worked! Sort of. I've been kidding that I was going to start my own personal backlash against it because while it was great spectacle with great performances, I don't think it was a great film. And the Academy saw the light, bestowing the expected supporting acting nods on Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy, plus nominating it for song, art direction, costume, sound mixing...but rightfully withholding Best Picture and Best Director nominations...
  • And giving them to Clint for Letters From Iwo Jima. YES! I'm actually thinking this could give Scorsese a little competition...
  • And frankly, while it makes me happy that Melissa Etheridge is nominated for her song "I Need To Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth -- and I'm so excited she'll be strolling down the red carpet! How fun! And with Ellen hosting, too! You go, ladies -- that was not really a great film either. Important message, great science, good academic lecture -- just not a movie. Also, note to self, must check on how many times has there been a best song nominee from a documentary? Anyway, I love me some Al Gore (I even helped to elect him president once). But if you want to see a far better movie about how we've ruined everything, namely with our oil industry addiction, a film that is engaging, dramatic, and a wonderful documentary, then watch Who Killed the Electric Car? Which totally should have been nominated.
More later! Off to Civil Procedure I go.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hillary, Vincent, and casting things into the sea

It's been bitterly cold this weekend, but a glorious sun shines. What a ridiculously appropriate analogy that is and, I might add, such an obvious one that I'm sure any creative writing professor worth his or her salt would give me a D if I tried to wax poetic about it. "Get original," s/he would scrawl across the top of the poem. And speaking of grades, my grades are in fact part of the reason I feel so glorious right now. At long last, Hofstra has posted our first semester grades and mine don't suck.

Here I pause to recall an editor I used to work with at public radio's Marketplace, a man who is totally in my "Where are they now?" file but who made a lasting impression on me. One particularly amusing moment was an all-staff editorial meeting, which included far-flung bureau chiefs convened for a few days at headquarters in L.A., in which said editor went through the large list of commentators who appeared on the program and the staff came to a consensus about whether each should stay or go. Editor Guy would say the name and everyone would vote either "Fantastic, must keep her" or "Terrible. Get rid of him." He was trying to create a category for mediocrity, commentators that hadn't really shone so brightly but might still have some potential, and at last he settled on the label "Doesn't suck." That has amused me for years since. At that time I was the lowly editorial assistant to the executive producer, and I was basically at the meeting to take notes for three days, so I got to watch, amused, as these brilliant journalist minds would chorus, "Doesn't suck!" Love it.

Speaking of brilliant journalistic minds and not sucking (I realize I've gone astray from the subject of grades, but it'll come back around, fear not) another reason I am SO EXCITED this weekend is that Hillary is in! In fact, Saturday morning, I went online to get my grades from Hofstra's web site (gone are the days of having grades mailed to you...gone the Paper Chase-esque moments of throwing the paper into the sea when you come to realize what truly matters...) I was in a bit of a hurry, so I gave my email no more than a passing glance, and there atop my inbox was an email from Hillary Rodham Clinton to me (and, well, yeah, to thousands of her faithful supporters and newsletter subscribers) and it went like this: "Dear Linda, I'm in." Hurrah! (There's more of course, so feel free to visit her site to get in on the action, or watch the video of her announcement.)

I was already riding high on the first part of my amazing weekend. Friday night I went out in Manhattan and had a jolly good time. The evening began with the Museum of Modern Art, where as you may know one can see the actual Starry Night, painted by my new beloved artist friend epiphany hero, Vincent Van Gogh.

Yes, I admit, it was my first visit to MoMA. There's just so much to do in New York, one can hardly hope to do it all in one's first semester of law school, especially when one is on Long Island and does not get into The City every day. Readers of my blogs will recall that a series of fortuitous events last fall led me to read Irving Stone's Lust for Life, a biographical novel about Van Gogh. It not only awakened me to the brilliance of his art, creativity, talent, genius, madness, desire to save the world, desire to connect with other humans, desire to escape his demons, and more, but it also made me feel a connection-through-time kind of adoration of him, such as I've rarely felt before. I get him so much. I just -- get him. I spent my life being thorougly blase about painting, until quite recently in the scheme of things, and that made me miss out on the sheer creative brilliance of the man. What he did was a veritable revolution in terms of color and artistic frenzy. And other kinds of frenzy.

Much of this was chronicled here and on my so-called literary blog, particularly the day I read the most striking of all of the Lust for Life striking passages, when Vincent tells his doctor friend he had wanted to become a doctor and do some good with his life, and Dr. Gachet responds:

If I had painted just one canvas like this, Vincent, I would consider my life justified. I spent the years curing people's pain -- but they died in the end, anyway -- so what did it matter? These sunflowers of yours -- they will cure the pain in people's hearts -- they will bring people joy for centuries and centuries -- that s why your life is successful -- that is why you should be a happy man.

That passage blew me away. There I was, innocently going to law school, with notions of combining my desire to get an advanced degree with my desire to change the world in the international human rights realm, all the while fretting about my writing and my creative self ... and then I read that. It's beautiful.

In MoMA on Friday night, here's what happened. I strolled through a few fourth floor galleries and then headed to the fifth floor, where I knew The Starry Night was waiting. The minute I stepped into this particular room, greeted by a wall of Cezannes and Gauguins and Seurats and all of Vincent's peeps that he hung out with and argued with and painted with in Paris and sometimes other places, I knew I was in the room where I would see it. And as I walked along, I saw the biggest crowd of people gathered staring at one particular spot on the wall, and I knew that had to be it. The Starry Night. Sure enough, I beheld, at long last, and made all the more profound to my heart by my recent epiphany, this famous Van Gogh painting.

People were taking pictures. (Most respect the rules, but the MoMA staff have to constantly remind others, "No flash. No flash." Sigh.) One guy called someone on his cell phone and said, "What are you doing? Really? Well, tell your husband I'm standing in front of his favorite painting. Yup, right now. I'm in New York..." I was surrounded by conversations in various languages. It was like a little celebrity. The Starry Night.

There was another painting of his next to it, to which I eventually moved on. The Olive Trees. It, too, has beautiful blue. What Vincent did with color was amazing, and this has been duly recognized by the Baby Einstein people. I did not used to pay all that much attention to the Baby Einstein people, other than shelving a great deal of the product at Borders, but now that my sister has two children I'm getting more familiar. My three-year-old nephew loves it, and I just spent three glorious weeks hanging out in Phoenix with my nephew. The second day I was there, we were all at a Mexican restaurant (hello) and I was prattling on about something to do with law school, the fall, my realizations, Vincent Van Gogh. Suddenly my nephew, who had started getting restless in the face of boring adult conversation, sat up and cried, "Vincent Van Goat!" I was like, What? You like him, too? And then I recalled the little Baby Van Gogh character who paints and teaches youngsters about colors and even wears a bandage on his ear. It's totally brilliant. I made my nephew watch it with me at my sister's house -- well, not like he really minded -- but I think I was more excited than he was. I love that he can identify Van Gogh paintings that he's learned from yellow sunflowers and blue skies and so on. I love that he had that excited reaction. I love it I love it I love it.

Anyway, there I was at MoMA on Friday and after walking around the adjoining room for a bit I was headed back to look at The Starry Night again. As I approached from behind the gathered crowd, in its easily formed semi-circle in which everyone had a place to stand and enjoy the painting before moving on, and as I watched the conversations and the smiles and the cell phones and the digital cameras and the couples holding hands and gazing I thought, "Just one canvas, Vincent...bring people joy for centuries...this is why your life is successful..."

Chills rocked my body but my eyes brimmed with hot tears. It was true. There it was, in front of my eyes: just one canvas, and the attendant joy. Furthermore, Dr. Gachet's sunflowers were undoubtedly doing the same thing that day, along with other canvases of Vincent's, in their various places around the world.

So, MoMA, and then some good times with good folks at the Pig n' Whistle on 47th Street, and then coming home at 3 a.m. to encounter in my building lobby euphoric law school classmates who had seen their grades and not failed out of school.

Wow, thought my sated and exhausted 3 a.m. self, grades. Earlier in the day I'd wanted to see them. We've been waiting and waiting and waiting and they were to be posted Friday, but of course in Friday morning's class the rumor went around that they wouldn't be posted until Saturday, and when I'd left campus that afternoon they still hadn't been revealed....and suddenly it was the middle of the night and my friend was hugging me in her "I'm average! I didn't fail!" ecstasy and I clearly had the option to either see what my first semester of law school had wrought, or to go to sleep.

I went to sleep.

It's not quite like throwing the envelope, unopened, into the sea, as Hart does in The Paper Chase. But it is what it is. And then on Saturday after finally persuading myself to cast off the remnants of the Pig n' Whistle and get out of bed, and after a morning run and a big greasy breakfast, I signed on to the computer, and there was Hillary's triumphant "I'm in!" and there were my grades, which don't suck. It was clearly going to be a beautiful Saturday. For the first time in a while I felt a great deal of joy. Just - joy. I love joy.

Hillary went to law school, you know. Yale. (It is in fact where she met Bill.) OK, I am so excited for her presidential run. Those of you who know me already know that; after all, I've been promising for years to work on her 2008 presidential campaign, even when some of you didn't believe it would exist. I wonder what she did when she got her first semester grades. You know, she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life either. In fact, when I read her book, Living History, I was sort of reassured by that, and that is what I told her when I stood in line to shake her hand and have her sign the book. She said, "Absolutely, we just take it one day at a time."

And Vincent didn't know what he wanted to do with his life, and he tried and tried to do "do-gooder" things, but while he was probably meant to show the kindnesses he showed and to try to help the coal miners in ways no one else ever had, he wasn't meant to shirk his art.

Vincent was at best gravely misunderstood and at worst cursed and mocked and hated in his lifetime. It would seem to be in human nature over the centuries, hating what we don't understand but later collectively realizing it was good, and good for us.

Many "pundits" and a whole lot of jackasses have a tendency to present Hillary as "hated." In reality this is a media myth, although a lot of jealous and insecure and far less compassionate public figures would like to make you think that you hate her. She has traveled the world with diplomatic success, befriended people across class boundaries, and been an excellent senator. She's also rather smart and she's going to be a fantastic president. She's already done a great deal with her life, but maybe the White House will be yet another blank canvas, presented to her on which she may leave her mark for centuries.

"Now the paralyzing cold tells her, 'This is it.' But she can't go down on a sinking ship. Now the wind, it's out of breath and the northern gales subside. She gets her first sleep in days under starry skies..." -- Patrick Park, 'Silver Girl'

Monday, January 15, 2007

Golden Globes Day!

Sorry I've had nary a moment to post. I've been pretty out of e-touch for the last couple weeks, just signing on here and there to check in and cover the basics. Besides, as everyone knows, I was very busy watching movies and so on. Surely that takes precedence over regular blogging? I was on a quest, after all! I called it "21 Days, 21 Movies"...

Upon further consideration, I'm wondering if I shouldn't have called it something else. I mean, I flew into Phoenix on Christmas Day, arriving at 5 p.m. and then being whisked away to Christmas presents and dinner with the family. The next day was given over to more Christmasing with other family. And January 14 I flew out of Phoenix as noon, arriving on Long Island circa 9 p.m., so that really didn't count as a moviegoing day either. In the end, what I did do was see 19 movies in 17 days. And here's my report (in, I think I've got it exactly, the order I saw them).

(Prologue: I had seen Thank You for Smoking already; I watched it this past summer in Somerville. I loved it. I thought it was hilarious, plus it packed a political punch and skewered hypocrits on all sides. I was thrilled that it got two Golden Globe nominations. But having been woefully out of the cinematic loop the last few months due to this pesky little thing known as the first semester of law school, I had seen exactly no other nominees! Hence, the winter break quest. How would the others stack up?)

Blood Diamond: I eagerly approached this one, loving all things international -human-rights-do-gooder as I do, and I was not disappointed. It called out everyone, even the crusading journalist, on how little we do to help the situation. Normally Jennifer Connelly gets on my nerves, but I liked her in this role. Djimon Hounsou is fantastic and should get an Oscar nomination. And Leo! Wow! In one of the two roles for which he's nominated for a best actor GG, he blew me away. Absolutely blew me away. There's a scene where rebels cut off villagers' hands (not graphically rendered, more like almost-but-just-off-screen cringe-rendered). Later someone in the film comments that Americans would not continue to buy diamonds if they knew it cost some other human being his hand. I thought, 'Ahh, but they would continue to shop at Wal-Mart, despite any cost to people around the globe.' Perhaps we should just bring some "every day low price" violently acquired diamonds into the W-mart and have it all done in one fell swoop?

The Pursuit of Happyness:: Will Smith and his son, both grand. I laughed, I cried. More so on the crying. Exquisite, and I highly recommend it. A lot of people have never in their lives had to wonder where they'll sleep that night. Those people are lucky, indeed. And no, I won't tell you why "Happyness" is spelled with a 'y' -- you'll just have to go see it for yourself.

Babel: This one was just astonishing. There are so many intertwined themes and issues, and a slew of remarkable performances. It is possibly my most highly recommended because it is just so significant, while also being such phenomenal filmmaking. Adriana Barraza was excellent and I wish she would win the supporting actress award, for which she was nominated, even though she will likely lose to Jennifer Hudson and even though Barraza's was clearly a lead role (about which I rant elsewhere). It was disturbing and brilliant. It is all about the enormity of our mistakes, and also the potential for humankind's redemption.

Dreamgirls: This one was OK. Idly I wonder what I would have thought of Jennifer Hudson's performance had I not endured the onslaught of hype about it for two weeks prior to seeing it. It wasn't bad, though. The thespian in me loved it more than the moviewatcher did.

Cars: Watched this one on DVD at my sister's. Here is where having a three-year-old nephew comes in handy! A free Golden Globe-nominated movie! I'd heard from other friends with children how great and popular this one is and I must say I was impressed. It was all Arizona-Route-66-like! Good message. Some hilarious voice performances, such as George Carlin as the hippie and whatnot.

The Departed:Another victim of uber-hype. It was fun to reminisce about Boston. Leo was astouding again. I can see why he was nominated twice. I thought Martin Sheen was really good, too, actually. Alas, he is not nominated. Lots of violence, lots of undercover action. Whatever. It was what it was. At least it held my interest and I didn't start text messaging as in some others (Dreamgirls, Apocalypto...)

Apocalypto: Yeah, OK, whatEVer! Seriously. Note to Mel: Get over yourself. Note to moviegoers everwyhere: Get over Mel. Violence, slow motion, warriors, running through the jungle, blah blah blah. And, the slow-mo falling drop of The Passion of the Christ was back. UGH. There were points when the audience even laughed out loud, and it wasn't at some witty comment, I'll tell you that. UGH UGH UGH. Furthermore, ugh. I was so irritated after watching it that I stood outside the theatre in the big circular courtyard of the AMC 30 thinking, 'I need to see something else. Right now. Something totally the opposite of that crap Ridiculypto.' Plus it was a Wednesday, so free popcorn for AMC Moviewatchers day, why not catch another? And so I watched the movie starting five minutes later...

The Holiday:...which was BRILLIANT!!! I loved it so much. SO, so much. It was not a GG nominee, so it wasn't really on my to-do list, but I am overjoyed that I watched it. It was funny, charming, splendid, smart, full of good performances by Kate, Jack, Cameron, and Jude...just delightful. It involved heartbreak, travel, art, and love. All the cheaters were shown to be the jerks they are. It made the appropriate fun of Hollywood la-la land while still paying homage to film's greatness. I wanted to stand up and cheer! Also, there was a whole thing going on with the books and I totally commend the set decorator for the brilliant job done there, but I was particularly interested to see on "Jude Law's" shelf The Majic Bus! For those that don't know, that's the book that is pretty much responsible for my being at Hofstra...but in a good way! I'll tell that story later, but Kim D., and others, you know what I'm talking about! Everyone go see The Holiday! I love it, I love it, I love it.

Volver:I loved this one, too. It is my favorite Almodovar. Here's the thing about me and Almodovar: I'm not entirely sure I "get" him in the way most of my film-loving friends do, especially the film-snob friends. They all rave endlessly about him and every time I watch a flick of his, I'm like, "OK." The thing is, I recognize his creative talent and innovation, but it just doesn't do it for me, usually. This time, however, I was enthralled. Particularly by Yohana Cobo, who plays Penelope Cruz' daughter. Cruz was the only one nominated, though. It's up for best foreign-language film, but I doubt it will win. I think either Letters from Iwo Jima or The Lives of Others, neither of which I've seen yet, will win. I would be happy if Volver did win, though. If Acrapalypto wins that category I will throw things.

Notes on a Scandal: This one was good. Cate and Judi going at it. I thought the screenplay was fantastic, and it is nominated for screenplay. I really, really hope it wins, even though it will beat Babel. I loved Babel, but Notes... should win screenplay. How creepy was Judi Dench, seriously? And Cate, too, a little bit. That's the thing. Well done, all.

I was now halfway though my time in Arizona, and rather enjoying my life of leisure watching movies every day. In addition to hitting the theaters, I had my Netflix coming in that I might watch some of the ones already out on DVD. And it was thus I discovered the next film, which may in fact be my favorite favorite of the nominees.

Kinky Boots: SO GOOD. This is really, I think, my favorite "type" of film, if I have a type. (I could never figure out my "type" of person either.) Quirky. Dramatic, yet funny, but witty funny. A moral. Understated performances. Decidedly not an action flick. A good time seems to be had by all as they were making it, and there's a climactic scene that brings tears. I really think sometimes that a movie will not make it into my favorites list if it doesn't make me cry. I am not a comedy/action/blockbuster girl. I'm just not. I LOVED THIS MOVIE. You probably haven't heard much about it. England, traditional shoe factory, working class people, hard times, the chance to make some boots for a drag queen...oh, it's just brilliant. Seek it out. You won't regret it. It's that whole life-can-suck-but-then-there's humankind's-chance-at-redemption thing again. I just adore it.

The Queen:They say it's "Helen Mirren's year." And it well might be. For those still sleeping under a rock, by that I of course mean "Helen Mirren's year to win an Oscar for best actress," in this case for playing the queen of England as Tony Blair the modernizer becomes prime minister, Princess Diana dies, and the royals have to grapple with what all of that means and where they fit in. It was so incredibly well done, and I'm rather sad that there weren't more nominations besides Ms. "It's Her Year." For example, the guy who played Tony Blair. Um...Michael Sheen. I loved the hunting allegory. Jolly good.

Little Miss Sunshine: If something was going to compete with Kinky Boots for my personal best picture award, this just might be it. I knew it would be from the minute I saw the preview last summer, but I just hadn't got around to seeing it. For this one, I borrowed my mom's car on a Sunday and drove to Tempe to see it at the only theater in the Valley at which it still played. I laughed out loud. I loved Abigail Breslin; who wouldn't? I loved the "#1 Proust scholar." I loved them all. I had been warned by a friend who once resided in New Mexico that the geography was a little screwy, and she was right, and that was irritating. Where could you possibly be in Arizona that's 700 miles from Albuquerque, two hours from Redondo Beach, and within an evening's roundtrip to Scottsdale on a motor scooter? Right. Nowhere. But then I thought maybe they weren't really supposed to know what they were talking about, since the family are all a little crazy. But wonderful. So, you suspend your disbelief about that part and then it's pure genius. Just go rent it now, because everyone has told you it's great and everyone is exactly right.

Borat: More uber-hype. I'm sick of hype, and I'm also sick of hyped movies. But I had to see it. And frankly, it was not the astounding! creative! oh my GOD the funniest thing EVER! that everyone made it out to be. Also, everyone seems to be really, really caught up in this Blair Witch-esque fantasy that all those encounters and things that happened to him are real. Um, hello. Not so much. On the other hand, parts of it were funny. Overall, I could do without it. It offered me nothing life-altering. I'm big on the life-altering. Oh, well. One of my law school classmates said his dad said they're speaking Armenian, not Kazakh or even Russian. At the time he told me that a few weeks ago, I said that was further evidence of Sacha Baron Cohen's "the joke is on everybody" cleverness. (This analysis of mine was of course met by blank stares from my classmates.) As I watched it, though, I picked up a few bits of what sounded remarkably like Polish. Now, I do know that a lot of Polish is similar to a lot of Russian, but I distinctly heard some Polish words that I thought were different in Russian (like "thank you.") So, maybe those Polish words are the same as Kazakh...or Armenian...or maybe he mixed in a bunch of Slavic languages, which I would then say is even further futher evidence of "the joke is on everybody" cleverness. And that, my friends, is the strength of this movie. The joke is indeed on all.

Little Children: I wasn't really paying attention to who was responsible for this one, because I was more focused on the Tom Perotta-ness of it and trying to decide whether to bother reading the book first. Glad I didn't waste my time. It was only after watching it I realized that this is the work of Todd Field, who was also responsible for In the Bedroom. Those of you who were around in my life during the In the Bedroom year will surely recall how eagerly I anticipated it and how quickly I was SO OVER it. Talk about your UGHs. Perhaps much like Mel and his ancient languages, Todd Field is going to rear his head every few years with a movie about families facing troubling choices, and everyone will go all loopy about it during awards season, and....blah blah blah. I yawned, and then started text messaging. There was some good acting, though. But, just in general, ugh.

Children of Men:More "children" in the title. More bleak portraits of humanity. This one was much better though. I only wish there hadn't been five big-haired middle-aged dips in the row behind me talking and laughing and "oh my god what's he going to do"-ing. Michael Caine was ALL THAT. Julianne Moore was gone before I knew it, so it's hard to comment on her performance. Clive Owen went a long way toward redeeming himself in my eyes for the ridiculous nightmare of pretentious crap that was Closer (2004's version of In the Bedroom). As did, interestingly, screenwriter Patrick Marber this year. He was responsible for Closer, but this year he churned out Notes on a Scandal. Which just goes to show that humankind can be redeemed! Life imitating art? Anyway, back to Children of Men. Um, it's hard to know what to say about it. But it would make good coffee-talk discussion. If only those five bimbos who also turned up behind me in Starbucks immediately after the film weren't still laughing and cavorting about how WEIRD it was, oh my GOD! I doubt they'd know a philosophical issue if it bit them on the nose. Ugh.

The Devil Wears Prada: So funny! Yea! I love Meryl! She's done it again. Emily Blunt was quite good, too, so yea for her supporting actress nomination. Good times! Another book I didn't bother to read. And another good message. Plus New York and Paris! Arguably two of the world's greatest cities.

The Ron Clark Story: This was a made-for-TV movie. I got it from Netflix. Matthew Perry was nominated for playing the teacher who goes to Harlem and changes some kids' lives, kids whose potential noone had previously bothered to recognize. Nothing earth-shattering in the story, but interesting. He's the "essential 55" guy. Who knew? (Yet ANOTHER book I never bothered to read. But I think he was on Oprah. So he must be inspiring, right?)

Happy Feet: Last but definitely not least. I LOVE PENGUINS. And I loved these penguins. And I loved that it did not kowtow to all the traditional plot devices. And I loved the little gang of penguins he falls in with, and the aquarium scene, and the dancing, and the message! I love Happy Feet so much! I believe it's up there with Kinky Boots. How appropriate.

Now that I'm out of middle America (as it were) and back in New York where all the good movies play, I will be able to eventually see others I've missed such as Bobby and Venus and so on. I'm short on time, so I'll just give a few predictions here for tonight's awards....best pictures will be Babel and Little Miss Sunshine (I hope not Dreamgirls). Actors....Helen and Forest (for sure Leo will split his vote, competing against himself) and then Meryl and I'm thinking maybe Sacha? Maybe! Supporting will be Jennifer and either Jack or Brad. OK, I've got to run. Happy Golden Globing, everyone!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Weird Things That Happen in Phoenix, Hollywood, and some other places

OK, the following has happened twice now during my little winter break in Phoenix. There I am walking down the street (that's not the weird part, although it could be taken as such in this city) or riding the bus (ditto) and someone will spy my cell phone, on which I am undoubtedly sending or receiving a text message. As I am about to tuck it away in my pocket the presumably mobile-less person says, "Excuse me, may I use your phone?"

Now, it's true that there is some sort of automatic sympatico among those of use "on the street" here in the Valley of the Sun, as most people are safely nestled in their cars and have never actually tried out a sidewalk, but even so, I don't get the impression that that's what's really behind the phone borrowing. Also, it's interesting because they don't seem particularly grateful. I mean, it's not that they're not grateful. They don't act rude or anything, but it seems to be sort of taken for granted that because I have a phone, s/he can now use it. Well, of course I have let them both times. I don't really care. That's part of the point. Who cares, right, so why not?

But I have spent a lot of time "on the street" in many cities (multiple countries, even) with a cell phone at hand, and no one has ever so cavalierly asked me if they could use it. Twice.

I don't think that the percentage of people without cell phones could be that much higher here. So maybe it is due mathematically somehow to the fact that a FAR smaller percentage of people are "on the streets" making use of things like their feet, or public transit. But I see plenty of others phoning and texting and such from the bus. I find the phone borrowing phenomenon very interesting.

All right, back to my movie watching. I have now seen a bunch of the Golden Globe nominees, including today's choice, Notes on a Scandal. I thought it was great, and I would love for Cate Blanchett to win an award for her perfomance in her STARRING ROLE. That's right, I said STARRING ROLE. But do you think she is nominated for actress in a lead role?

No. She is nominated for actress in a supporting role for both the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. And I think that's crap. In fact, I think all of the "supporting" actress nominations are crap this year, because they are all lead roles. This is a notoriously troublesome category many years, and I realize this is partly due to the lack of good roles for women, etc. But usually it's just one or two that are infuriating...most famously in my world whenever Renee Zellweger is involved. During the year of Chicago I was so irritated that Ms Thangweger was up for best actress and my beloved Catherine Zeta Jones was deemed supporting. That troubled me, because of course I wanted Catherine Zeta to win, and I was glad she did, and I know that they do that, they "market" them as a supporting actress or actor to increase the chances of their winning an Oscar. But I think that's crap. And I think it was especially crap that year because whatEVer Roxie Hart running around trying to steal the show from the superior Catherine Zeta, life imitating art. Then Renee came back to annoy me again with Cold Mountain, this time pretending she was the supporting actress so she could win, when she was clearly a star in that movie.

This year, it's all of them. Take Babel. Adriana Barraza is simply amazing. She also does quite a bit more in that film than some of her co-stars. But she's nominated for supporting for a Golden Globe and a SAG award. The same goes for Cate Blanchett, who I frankly think had a supporting role in Babel. She's not nominated for Babel, but she's nominated for actres in a supporting role for Notes on a Scandal, in which she STARRED with Judi Dench (who's up for lead actress). And Rinko Kikuchi in Babel, same same. Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls is the only one you could POSSIBLY make a case for, but I still disagree. I consider her a star in that movie; she just wasn't as big a name as Beyonce, or Jamie Foxx. UGH.

After pretending Cate(Notes...), Jennifer(Dreamgirls), and Adriana & Rinko(Babel) are supporting actresses, the SAG and Golden Globe awards differ on their fifth actress choices. The Hollywood Foreign Press nominates Emily Blunt for a Golden Globe for The Devil Wears Prada and SAG nominates Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine. I haven't seen either of those yet (they're at the top of my Netflix queue and will be viewed soon) but I'm pretty sure based on previews alone that once again, it's a starring actress who just isn't famous yet.

If that's what the category's going to be, then why not just call it that? Or why not make a separate newcomer award? Because it's clearly not always a "newcomer" award. Witness the Catherine Zetas...or, witness the times when your Judi Denches are nominated for your brief scenes in your Titanics. That, ladies and gentlemen of the academy, is support. But I think it's dirty pool to be like, Oh, she starred in this movie but she does not quite have the clout to win a Best Actress Oscar, so let's work it so she's "supporting" instead. That's so uncool!

Grr. I really, really liked Cate Blanchett's in Notes...Scandal but SERIOUSLY, it was just not a supporting role by any stretch of the imagination.

And it's happening with men this year, too. Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated for supporting actor by SAG for The Departed. But he's nominated for a LEAD Golden Globe for that same role. Of course, in the Golden Globes, he's competing against himself in that category, whereas in the SAG Awards he's nominated in two different categories for The Departed and Blood Diamond. So theoretically, he could win a SAG Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role for Blood Diamond and another for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Departed and then he could win a Golden Globe for Actor in a Lead Role for The Departed. That's just silly. And don't even get me started about Jack Nicholson being nominated for a supporting Golden Globe for The Departed. Let alone Djimon Hounsou's brilliant starring performance in Blood Diamond for which SAG nominates him as supporting.

What's next? What if I decide Hans Zimmer probably can't win for Best Original Score for The Da Vinci Code so I nominate him for Best Sound instead? After all, music is sound, right? Or what if I thought someone couldn't quite pull off a costume win; can I pretend it's a Visual Effect?

Just - stop twisting things around! If you're in a starring role, accept that you're going to be in the lead category and possibly lose. What is with all the category manipulation? After all, isn't it an honor just to be nominated???

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The past is gone, but...

Here's what I want to know. When did Leonardo DiCaprio become such a fantastic actor? I mean, he's, like, really good. I have recently been impressed by his performances in both The Departed and Blood Diamond. To the point that I can understand his two-fer nomination and everything!
(For those who haven't been paying close attention, Leo was nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for both of those films, so he's competing against himself.)

I guess personally I would choose the Blood Diamond performance, but that might be biased because I liked that movie better overall. I saw The Departed tonight and I had the same problem with it I have with most action-cops-mob-informant-violence etc. movies, even when they're really good like L.A. Confidential, or The Godfather, and that is that it's really hard for me to keep everyone straight and after the inevitable Big Reveal (or two or three) I'm like, wait, what about so-and-so? It's as if there's one last detail I haven't quite solidified in my mind before we're racing off to the next scene with yet another twist. Ugh. I won't spoil the ending here, but if anyone saw that movie and wants to discuss, let me know. Did I mention Leo was great? Seriously. Plus I got to reminisce about Boston while watching it.

So, yeah, I've been trying to catch up on my Golden Globe-nominated films. I am very much enjoying awards season and anticipating the upcoming Oscar nominations. The only problem is that I'm currently hanging out in middle America. This whole plan to see a movie a day for 21 days while here in Arizona on winter break is great, except that Phoenix is regrettably not L.A. or New York, so the movies that aren't in nationwide release yet are not here. Bummer.

But I've seen quite a few, including Babel, which still has a hold on me in some weird way. It was an astounding viewing experience around which I have yet to completely wrap my mind. I really want to discuss that movie, but first I have to sort it out in my head.

Another great thing (ahem) about being in Arizona is the radio station selection. Good thing I like the new "95.1 Latino Vibe" and the country, or I'd be hurting. Even with the country, it's hilarious because it's seriously all like Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, and George Strait, and not their new stuff. They're going through the same playlists as when I was in high school. These Phoenix radio stations never change. Except for the alternative stations, which shrivel up and die (KUKQ...KZON...even The Edge...) Of course, the country stations do manage to throw in a few of the recent crop of "God told me to be a Republican" songs, and then I can't hit the button fast enough.

Speaking of high school, some of the "mix of the 80s and 90s" and such like stations have this tendency to play the hell out of the Gin Blossoms. That's no surprise really as they hail from these parts and are about the biggest act to do so since Alice Cooper, and this time around it is clearly the turn of "Hey Jealousy." If I don't hear it at least once when I borrow my mom's car to go somewhere then something is amiss. The good thing is, I really really like singing along to that song, and so I do, and this trip I'm making it to an empowering New-Year-New-You kind of thing as I belt out, "The past is gone but something might be found to take its place!"

Now, if the radio stations could just get the hang of that concept we'd be all set.