Saturday, March 22, 2003

OSCAR ANTI-PREDICTIONS: I suppose I should make some. But with the exception of Best Documentary Feature, I will make no affirmative predictions, only negative ones.

In other words, I guaran-damn-tee that not one of the following nominees will win tomorrow night. Even though, mathematically, I've got about a 0.5% chance of actually being right. Here goes:

Best Picture: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. If a sci-fi/fantasy movie is ever winning this award, it's the Matrix films next year, not this. This movie has had as much Oscar buzz as Jackass (which, of course, should've been nominated in Best Documentary).

Best Directing: Stephen Daldry, The Hours. Marty could win, Rob Marshall could get swept in on the Chicago wave, Almodovar could win in a We've Always Loved You fluke and Polanski . . . well, even though the Academy hasn't forgiven Leni Riefenstahl yet, he's still got more of a chance than Daldry does.

Best Actor: Nicolas Cage, Adaptation. If Jeremy Irons can't even get nominated for playing twins in Dead Ringers, no way the star of Valley Girl picks up his second Oscar tomorrow. They're still regretting giving an Oscar to someone who went on to make Gone In 60 Seconds and Con Air.

Best Actress: Diane Lane, Unfaithful. If any of the stars of The Outsiders is going to win the award, it's Estevez or Cruise first. Maybe Rob Lowe. Also, no actress has ever won an Oscar for a film that required sleeping with Richard Gere.

Best Supporting Actor: John C. Reilly, Chicago. If "hard working, underappreciated" is going to win this year, it's Chris Cooper, not Chest Rockwell.

Best Supporting Actress: Queen Latifah, Chicago. This may be the toughest one of all, but if someone from Chicago's winning, it's Mrs. Douglas. But any of the five could win this one. Oscar pools get decided here.

Best Adapted Screenplay: About A Boy. Tthe Weitz brothers directed American Pie and wrote Nutty Professor 2. They're just not winning an Oscar. Yet.

Best Original Screenplay: Far From Heaven. Yes, I see even Greek Wedding as more likely. If the Academy liked FFH that much, then it'd have been nominated in Best Picture and Best Director. So it's not winning this.

Best Animated Feature: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Because no one liked it, and because if I blindfolded you, you'd guess the title wrong. "Stallion: Spirit of the Stallion?"

Best Music (Score): Frida. Because nominee Elliot Goldenthal is not "John Williams" or "Philip Glass" or "Elmer Bernstein". Sorry.

Best Music (Song): "Burn It Blue", Frida. A song you've never heard of can't win, and it's up against Em, Bono and Simon. Forget it.

Best Art Direction: Road to Perdition. Because Road's only winning one Oscar, and that's for the late Conrad L. Hall for best cinematography. "Art Direction" covers the general "look and feel" of a movie, but it's often a costume-ish award -- witness recent winners like Moulin Rouge!, Restoration or The Madness of King George. So pick the one with the least funky costumes, and that's Tom Hanks in suits.

Best Cinematography: The Pianist. Conrad L. Hall's picking up his third Oscar for Perdition, albeit while dead. It's a lock. So what won't win? Well, none of my friends left The Pianist saying, "Wow, the sure Ghetto looked great!", so I'll pick on this one.

Best Costume Design: The Pianist. "And man, those SS people sure dressed nice!" Not.

Best Foreign Language Film: Hero. Except for Crouching/Hidden, has gone to a European film every year since 1986. The Chinese film can't win.

Best Documentary Feature: Winged Migration. Because if it's not the Holocaust movie, it's the spelling movie. It ain't the bird movie. Trust me.

Best Documentary Short: Why Can't We Be A Family Again? Competing against Rosa Parks, who'll be in attendance, and a 9/11 movie? Has as much chance winning as Horatio Sanz getting that Best Supporting nod next year for Boat Trip.

Best Editing: The Pianist. In recent years, "fast cutting" has become the standard for winning this category -- Black Hawk Down, Traffic, The Matrix and Saving Private Ryan won the last four. Pianist was anything but.

Best Makeup: The Time Machine Because Frida is the only other nominee, and I'll go with the better film. 50/50 here.

Best Animated Short: Mt. Head. Want to impress your friends by calling another obscure category? "Mike's New Car" features the Monsters, Inc characters. It'll win.

Best Live Action Short: Fait D'Hiver. C'mon -- anyone who's seen these films knows what the class of the competition is. Do I have to draw a map for you?

Best Sound and Best Sound Editing: Road To Perdition. Loud movies win these categories -- Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, etc. So pick the only quiet film.

Best Visual Effects: Spider-Man. Three nominees in the category; Rings won last year, so it'll probably win again. Between Spidey and Anakin, only one movie had Yoda Kicking Ass. That one's got a shot here.

Full Oscar comments after the show airs. If it airs.
A MAN CAN DREAM, RIGHT? Since Eminem won't be appearing at the Oscars to perform his nominated song "Lose Yourself", any chance Robin Williams will be called in to perform?

Friday, March 21, 2003

PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT: Per my vow earlier today, here's the "best" of what I could find from reviews of Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow's new film, View From The Top. Says the SF Examiner:
View from the Top" is such a misfire that you have to wonder what has happened to it during the year or so it has been sitting on Miramax's shelves. Harvey "The Butcher" Weinstein has probably been at it with his infamous scissors once or twice by now, as it only clocks in at 87 minutes.

But believe me, it's the longest 87 minutes in recent memory.

Even if Harvey trimmed it down into a very short film, say, a 30-second TV ad, there's still not enough material to make anything worthwhile. The actual TV ad resorts to using a dance number from the closing credit outtakes, proving that they couldn't find 30 seconds worth of good material in the film itself!

Writes Roger Moore from the Orlando Sentinel:
The script is patronizing and banal and doesn't cover any ground that David Spade didn't explore in those three minute "Buh-bye" "Saturday Night Live" sketches of the early '90s. Droll observations about how the working class live and entertain themselves play as if they were written by an alien. Or by some rich film school kid who's never held a real job in his life.

...

It's not that Paltrow can't play cheesecake. But why on Earth should she want to? The woman has an Oscar, charm to burn and one would hope better opportunities than this. Shame on Miramax for ever arm-twisting her into this, and for not running it straight to video when they realized how bad it turned out.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette chimes in:
That gas mask you just bought for the lovely new war? Take it along and try it out on "View from the Top" -- a real stinkeroo of a romantic comedy from Brazilian director Bruno Barreto.

...

Something's really wrong if you can't get laughs out of Mike Myers.

And Bruce Kirkland from the Toronto Sun continues the war analogy:
View From The Top, Gwyneth Paltrow's gushy airline stewardess fable, should have been declared a no-fly zone and left in the hangar.

Instead, like a wounded mallard duck, this tawdry romantic comedy is trying to take off more than two years after it was first shot. A crash landing is inevitable.

The movie is tired and old -- and now I don't mean the two years of fussing over whether it should have been released. Even though this story is set in the new millennium, View might as well be 50 years old, because it naively and/or stupidly reflects a state of being from another era.

The Newark Star-Ledger, well...
Ladies and gentleman, please fasten your seatbelts. We are about to begin our descent into Hollywood.

And it is not a pleasant trip.

Faked and forced, "View From the Top" is strictly scrapings from the bottom, full of characters who go nowhere and twists that ever happen. Watching it, the pressing question isn't What Happens Next but simply, How On Earth Did This Happen?

The cast itself telegraphs the plot. Gwyneth Paltrow is the Good-Girl Heroine, of course; Christina Applegate is the Bad-Girl Friend. Mark Ruffalo is the Non-Threatening Nice Guy and Rob Lowe the Slightly Dangerous Charmer; Mike Myers is the Comic Relief and Candice Bergen the Slightly Scary Rich Lady.

With actors cast this strictly to type, who even needs a screenplay?

...

Perhaps one day some Hollywood researcher will find the black box to this movie, and the mistakes that led to this disaster can be reconstructed. Because it didn't need to be this bad -- even if the story would make more sense set 30 years ago, and Paltrow is the least likely actress to play a cutely trashy cowgirl. (What, Reese Witherspoon was busy?)

Finally, one last Boat Trip comment, just because I can, from Mr. Cranky:
"Boat Trip" is the kind of movie tailor-made for bilking unsuspecting foreign nationals out of their investment money. You have to feel for the poor fools who ripped the little paper tab from the bottom of the "become a Hollywood mogul!" sign and proceeded to turn over a significant chunk of the retirement fund to have their names listed as "associate producers" of this floating fiasco. There's little hope of legal recourse, however, because technically, a movie got made, right? And technically, it even had an Oscar winner in it, right?
AND IN OTHER NEWS: Mickey Kaus noted on Slate yesterday that Thursday was going to be a good day for publicists to quietly release bad news without anyone noticing, given that everyone's attention was going to be on the war.

So, what else did we learn yesterday?

1. Liza Minnelli is back in rehab. Her PR people announced she'd be spending eight weeks at the Caron Foundation in rural Pennsylvania.

2. Anthony Michael Hall is nuts -- specifically, and more delicately, he's being sued by producers of a television show in which he acted for failing to disclose an alleged pre-existing mental health condition -- "bipolar affective disorder depression with psychotic features."

3. Mena Suvari is working again.

4. Finally, and don't forget this, kids, it remains illegal -- even on Long Island -- to engage in three-way sex with your brother and his wife on a commuter train.
BOYCOTT CUBA: And the laughs just keep on coming. Not from Boat Trip; from the reviews of Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr's latest.

From Roger Ebert:
"Boat Trip" arrives preceded by publicity saying many homosexuals have been outraged by the film. Now that it's in theaters, everybody else has a chance to join them. Not that the film is outrageous. That would be asking too much. It is dim-witted, unfunny, too shallow to be offensive, and way too conventional to use all of those people standing around in the background wearing leather and chains and waiting hopefully for their cues. This is a movie made for nobody, about nothing.

Elvis Mitchell:
"Boat Trip," which opens nationwide today, is a series of flashing semaphores that signal its dreariness. It has the most exhausted collection of song clich├ęs this side of a Time-Life oldies collection, from James Brown's "I Feel Good" all the way to the eventual cover of "I Will Survive." What's missing from this motley medley is a tune by Cuba Gooding Sr.: "Everybody Plays the Fool."

The junior Gooding has shown himself to be a game actor, and he is fearless at throwing his entire being into pictures that seem to exist to prove that he can be in something worse than the last movie you saw him in. If "Boat Trip" were screened on a cruise ship, most of the passengers would be dog-paddling back to shore.

"Boat Trip" is more tiresome and dumb than actually bad.

The Orange County Register:
OK, Mort Nathan, wherever you are, here's the deal: I have about $2,000 in checking, a couple of long-term, high-yield CDs and a brutalized 401k account with roughly the same net worth as Tom Cruise's haircut. It's all yours if you promise never, EVER to step behind a movie camera again.

Then again, maybe I have nothing to worry about. The work offers won't exactly be pouring in once the general public sees what a lowbrow, oversexed, witless bore you've made of "Boat Trip," starring Cuba Gooding Jr. The things you do with the double entrendre are just appalling, pal. If I ever a hear woman tell her masseuse, "I want you to go really deep this time" again, please kill me.

Says the Washington Times:
If Oscar statues were animate, the one belonging to Cuba Gooding Jr. would have jumped off its mantel perch and gone AWOL a long time ago.

Just take a quick look at the guy's post-"Jerry Maguire" resume: the unintentionally funny "Instinct," the maudlin "Men of Honor," the preposterous "Chill Factor." And Disney's "Snow Dogs" — you forgot about that turkey, didn't you?

Enter "Boat Trip," Mr. Gooding's latest vehicle.

The time for diplomacy has passed. The time for action has come.

Someone needs to go on a mission of mercy. Someone needs to stage an intervention and rescue that supporting-actor trophy from a lifetime of shame and ill repute.

As far as View From The Top is concerned . . . well, let The Oregonian's Shawn Levy preview what's to come later today:
If the new I-wanna-be-a-stewardess picture "View From the Top" were an airplane, it would blow up on takeoff. If it were an airline meal, it would infect you with E. coli. If it were a parachute, it would be riddled with holes.

I'm not here to tell you that "View From the Top" is moviemaking at its absolute worst. Any veteran critic knows that there's always a bottom beneath the bottom you think you've hit. But I am here to tell you that this picture comes so close to the absolute worst that I could swear I could feel the bottom with the tip of my big toe while watching it.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

BOMBS AWAY: And as for Boat Trip, Entertainment Weekly strikes first:
I thought Cuba Gooding Jr. couldn't blow his Oscar cred more profligately than he did last year in the pandering black-guy-lost-among-white-folks comedy "Snow Dogs."

I was wrong.

In the titanically bad straight-guy-lost-among-homosexual-folks comedy "Boat Trip," Gooding plays Jerry, a glum galoot recently dumped by his girlfriend (Vivica A. Fox) who realizes only after the boat has sailed that the recuperative cruise he's embarked on with his boorish, skirt-chasing buddy Nick (Horatio Sanz) is for gay men. And had the ghost of Paul Lynde swanned by in a caftan-clad cameo, you couldn't find a more outdated, miscalculated collection of stale, queen-size stereotypes than those trotted out on this ship of fools.

Bless you, Lisa Schwarzbaum.

[Note: Let's be clear: there are plenty of weblogs you can visit to read people's views on the war. This ain't one of them. This place is the E! Channel to everyone else's CNN, and I'd like to keep it that way.]
VIEWS FROM THE BOTTOM: Okay, let's get started. From the Associated Press:
It's hard to imagine what attracted Gwyneth Paltrow to "View from the Top," a sputtering, underfueled slapstick romance in which she stars as an aspiring international flight attendant.

If all she wanted to do was show up and get paid, she probably could have found a bigger-budget movie where phoning it in would have been acceptable.

. . .

The few laughs in this movie are thanks to Myers, but you can feel him straining to make something of a character that's more bizarre than funny. As with Paltrow, you wonder: Why is he in this movie? For whom is he doing a favor?

. . .

First-time writer Eric Wald provides neither a shrewd structure nor a single line of memorable dialogue. "View from the Top" wheezes to a finish in which all of Donna's decisions are affirmed beyond reason.


As for Paltrow's decisions, she's allowed to make a bad one like signing to do this movie — so long as it doesn't become a habit.

From FilmCritic.com:
Assume crash positions, people. We're going down.

. . .

Bashing View, though, is like kicking a puppy for licking your hand too often. The sweet but schizophrenic effort begs to be loved, and takes itself so seriously that you'll question its sincerity. It reaches high levels of camp, packing a vicious cat fight, a Rob Lowe cameo, and a lazy-eyed flight attendant instructor played without wit by Mike Myers. But Barreto is uncomfortable with such juvenile material, so he retreats to the safe trappings of the romantic comedy formula whenever View flirts with legitimate spoof.

Regardless of the intended genre, the horrible dialogue in Roger Kumble and Eric Wald's script makes the air up here awful thin, suffocating all attempts at humor.

. . .

Casting Paltrow is the biggest mystery. Clad head to toe in pretty-girl pink retro costumes stitched from cheap spandex, the rail-thin A-lister parades in skintight flight suits and skimpy bikinis. Can't she play dress up in the comfort of her own mansion? She does lend an ounce of credibility to the underdeveloped romantic angle, but the naturally trashy Applegate makes a better fit for the down-and-out Donna role.

Without Paltrow's presence, though, View would have been issued a one-way, coach class ticket to the nearest cable network. So now we know why Barreto cast Paltrow as Donna. We're still hazy on why she accepted the part.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

GOD BLESS FAMETRACKER.COM: Today's Best Picture Nominees Turned TV Series: 2006-07 feature is just priceless. Here's one of the five speculations on where the next "Fast Times" might come from:
The Hours, starring Geena Davis, Melina Kanakaredes, and Kim Delaney, Saturdays at 9 on ABC

Geena Davis stars as Clarissa Vaughan, a harried New York publishing executive looking to pick up the pieces of her life after the death of a beloved friend. Meanwhile, in the 1950s, Laura Brown (Kim Delaney) contemplates suicide, and what the years ahead may hold for her. And, in 1929, famed author Virginia Woolf (Melina Kanakaredes) stands at the side of a river, considering whether to step into the waters and disappear forever. Then, zap! -- a freak electrical storm hits during all three eras. Each woman is struck by an errant bolt of lightning -- thus uniting them in heaven, under the tutelage of a renegade angel named Hap (Joe Pantoliano). Hap explains the trio's new mission: to travel through time together offering comfort to emotionally stunted women in various eras. In the pilot, Virginia befriends a high-school teacher (Nancy McKeon) in 1970s California -- and convinces her to leave her abusive husband (Tom Berenger) by reading her sections from To The Lighthouse. Meanwhile, Laura and Clarissa lay a trap for the teacher's lascivious boss: a swinging high-school principal (Jeffrey Tambor) who won't take no for an answer. Posing as a lesbian couple, Laura and Clarissa lure the principal to a motel for a promised rendezvous. He slides into the bed in the darkened room, only to find a room full of shocked schoolboard trustees, revealed when Hap "zaps" the lights on! Next stop: ancient Rome, where the trio offers counsel to a washerwoman (Kathy Baker) who's spending so much time helping a blind merchant that she's unable -- or unwilling -- to live a life of her own.

The full article is here.
AN EMBARASSMENT OF RICHES: For those of us who are fans of negative movie reviews, Friday's releases stand before us like a Christmas tree on December 23. We know the gifts are coming; we just have to wait another day or two to open them.

Why? Because among this Friday's releases are a pair of movies from recent Academy Award winners that seem destined for critical whippings. Sometimes, just from watching the ads, or a trailer, you just know. With these two, it's a mortal lock.

In the corner to my right, hailing from A Favor She Owed Harvey Weinstein (I'm Guessing), stands Gwyneth Paltrow's View From The Top. C'mon: a "wacky" stewardess comedy from Miramax (?), one so bad that Mike Myers has had his image erased from the most recent composite print ads I've seen (Sunday's NYT), one so bad that it finished shooting back in March 2001 and has had scheduled release dates of April 19th, 2002, followed by August 16th, 2002; October 18th, 2002; and most recently, January 24th, 2003. All tell-tale signs.

(How long ago was that? Paltrow filmed The Royal Tenenbaums after View From The Top.)

If this movie doesn't suck, then I just don't know what suck is anymore.

In the opposing corner stands a young man who made his film debut as The Kid On The Barber's Chair in Coming To America: Cuba Gooding, Jr., whose Boat Trip leaves port on Friday. Yeah, okay, sure: Gooding as a straight guy who "accidentally" ends up on a gay cruise, where mishaps, misunderstandings and adventures take place? This movie sets off more red flags than a fifteen-car pileup in a NASCAR event, and, wouldn't you know it, gay groups are already up in arms.

(Also, this movie wrapped production back in July 2001. Just saying, is all.)

Perhaps only Kevin Spacey has tarnished his Oscar as much as Gooding has in the six years since his win in Jerry Maguire. The evidence on Cuba, and, no, I haven't skipped anything:
What Dreams May Come (1998) (co-starring Oscar winner Robin Williams)
Instinct (1999) (co-starring Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins)
Chill Factor (1999)
A Murder of Crows (1999) (straight to video)
Men of Honor (2000) (co-starring Oscar winner Robert DeNiro)
Pearl Harbor (2001) (co-starring Oscar winners Jon Voight (acting) and Ben Affleck (screenwriting))
Rat Race (2001) (co-starring Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg)
In The Shadows (2001) (straight to video)
Snow Dogs (2002) (co-starring Oscar winner James Coburn)
Boat Trip (2003)

Even Mira Sorvino has done better than that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

205: I haven't blogged about American Idol since Frenchie went away, and the talent top-to-bottom on Nashville Star is still far superior, but, gosh, after two weeks of finals competition, I think we can safely draw a few lines in the sand:

1. Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard will be the last two men standing. Anyone watching the show knows that as easily as they knew at this point last year that Justin Guarini would outclass the remaining men.

None of the other four remaining men have the charisma or voice of Clay and Ruben; none of them are as consistent. Gracin's too country, Ricky Smith's too goofy, Grigsby's song choices are weird, and Corey Clark just freaked me out with his screaming falsetto take on Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" tonight.

2. On the women's side, only Trenynce is standing out so far. Her "I Have Nothing" tonight was just perfect -- she took on Whitney Houston, and conquered the song. Indeed, the one-two punch of her following Ruben's rendition of "A Whole New World" may have been the best back-to-back segment in Idol history. To paraphrase judge Randy Jackson, dawg, they had it going on tonight.

Beyond her, I still think Kimberly Caldwell's got a chance to rise -- great look, solid voice, but no risk-taking. Julia DeMato has the charisma can't sing well enough; Kimberley Locke's in need of an adrenaline tranfusion, and Carmen Rasmussen . . . oh, there's a reason we call you Goat Girl in the WeinBo residence.

3. If I had to wager, I'd say Corey's gone this week, but Kimberley Locke ought to be nervous too.

4. Free Frenchie!
YOU KNEW THIS, RIGHT? French toast is not French.
THE DAY AFTER: It's March 18, which means that Shamrock Shakes should be leaving McDonald's momentarily.

But fret not, drinkers of the green! You can find the recipe to make your own Shamrock Shakes at home here.

Monday, March 17, 2003

"GREG, I WANT TO SEE YOU IN MY OFFICE. NOW!" Veteran actress Lynne Thigpen passed away last week at the age of 54. Cause of death is still unknown.

Thigpen was known well to younger audiences in her role as The Chief on TV's "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?". And, indeed, she was The Chief -- if you needed a middle-aged black woman to play an authority figure and S. Epatha Merkerson wasn't quite right, Thigpen was.

Thigpen won an Emmy for that role. She also has won a Tony and several Obie awards for her stage work, including a 1997 Tony for her role as oncologist Dr. Judith Kaufman, the black and Jewish best friend to the title character in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter (1997). When the actress reprised the role for a Lifetime movie in 2000, New York Magazine TV critic John Leonard wrote, "For Thigpen's performance alone, the TV movie is worth it."

While she had recurring roles in TV's "thirtysomething" and "L.A. Law", my favorite Thigpen performance was in 1989's Lean on Me. In the Crazy Joe Clark biopic, Thigpen plays Leonna Barrett, welfare mother turned social activist turned school board member and political dealmaker attempting to thwart Principal Clark's (Morgan Freeman) rule-by-dictatorship. It's a heckuva performance. Even though the role is written for Barrett to be The Angry Bitch, up until the end Thigpen imbues the role with a sense of principle and purpose that forces the viewer to acknowledge that she, too, cares about the fate of Newark's children. She just disagrees with Clark as to the best means to save Fair Eastside High.

Thigpen was in the middle of finishing her third season on "The District" when she died. Her final film role was as Judge Daniels in the upcoming Sandler-Nicholson comedy Anger Management.

She will be missed.
NOTHING BEATS ROCK: The World Rock Paper Scissors Society held its Southwestern Pro-Am Invitational this weekend in Healdsburg, California:
Experienced players say winning is not just a matter of luck but strategy. On their first throw, Walker said, novices throw out a fist -- a Rock -- nearly 2 out of 3 times. So any player worth his or her salt knows a flat hand -- Paper -- will beat an amateur.

That's why, said Miguel Frutos, a 39-year-old bartender from Healdsburg, he planned a "Scissor throw" in the first round.

"There's a science to it," he said, adding that he honed his skills settling childhood fights with siblings over who had to mow the lawn. "Everyone here's pretty much not as smart as I am."

You can read all about it here. Learn the latest RPS strategies via this website, then go here and practice.