Saturday, December 31, 2005
New Year's Rockin' Eve also gives us the 2005 Award for Most Unfortunate Juxtaposition in a TV Promo. During an ad for the new ABC Monday night lineup, we get the following unfortunate statement: "The romance is back, Monday January 9, 9/8 Central, after an all-new 'Wife Swap.'" (Second worst unfortunate coincidence on the weekend behind NY Times Magazine editor Daphne Merkin's piece in this week's Magazine--what's next--John Toupay on scalp care?)
As did my nominee for 2005: South Park episode 904, "Best Friends Forever", which first aired March 30, 2005, the night before Terry Schiavo died. Achingly funny, and given the limitations of animation, ridiculously timely.
So go ahead, nominate your Arrested Development and the like. But I plant my flag in Colorado.
Friday, December 30, 2005
- Susan Stroman, in spite of her general talents as a stage director, is simply not a movie director. Her camera almost never moves during the film. Static shot is followed by static shot, and often, the edits are fairly bloody--you can see the cuts. For instance, rather than pulling back to expose the panorama of Little Old Ladies following Bialystock around, we get a close-up on Bialystock running, followed by a cut to the broader shot. It just doesn't work.
- The stage musical is full of meta-theatrical jokes, all of which have been excised with no attempt to replace them with movie in-jokes or other jokes. The absence might not be so great to a viewer who wasn't familiar with the show.
- At the same time, stuff that worked on stage is translated too literally. Particularly painful is Leo and Ulla's coupling behind the couch, which works on stage as a stage moment, but absolutely does not in the film. A joke that hits big on stage (Roger De Bris' dress) misses completely, but there's still the beat for the expected laughter, which turns into a painful silence. Also, the entire film feels like it was shot on sets. Hell, probably half of it feels like it was shot on the stage of the St. James Theatre. Sure, there's some opening up, but that opening up doesn't help, especially in "Along Came Bialy."
- Part of the joy of many of the musical numbers in the stage show is that there's something going on everywhere on stage. Stroman and her cinematographer have chosen to shoot many of the musical numbers in close-up on individual performers, losing that.
That said, the movie's not a complete loss. Will Ferrell in particular is great, and "I Want To Be A Producer" is successfully (and excellently) opened up, at least at the beginning. Make sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits, though, even though the new "There's Nothing Like A Show On Broadway" song is bland, so you can hear Ferrell's power ballad rendition of "Guten Tag Hop Clop" and a closing farewell taken from the show. I'd be interested to see how people unfamiliar with the Broadway show and/or Broderick and Lane's theatrical performance view the movie, but somehow, I expect there won't be a whole lot of those people viewing the film.
Sure, I'll burn a few hundred extra years in purgatory for downloading this on P2P, but what the hell. Fair's fair.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
- Gwen Stefani, Hollaback Girl
- Black Eyed Peas, My Humps
- The Pussycat Dolls, Dontcha
- Rihanna, Pon De Replay
- Daddy Yankee, Gasolina
Note that this category is not for songs that have inane lyrics that actually wind up sounding kind of profound, either because of delivery or wonderful musical work--leaders in that sub-category would be Anna Nalick's Breathe (2 AM) and Natasha Bedingfield's These Words (I Love You, I Love You, I Love You)--but is instead designed for inane lyrics which revel in their inanity. (And, yes, Gwen Stefani's entire album is arguably enough to fill the category.)
- Project Runway, Sarah Morgan, "Girl on The Verge." Let's leave aside the episode's wonderment quotient on the side (Austin Scarlett's runway breakdown and major misstep is part of what makes the show so great), and focus on the ditty which (unaccountably) did not become a hit, with a nice guitar line and clever lyrics.
- Lost, ...In Translation, "Delicate." I love Damien Rice--"The Blower's Daughter" made Closer as a movie, and this song is equally gorgeous, but it's not the song or its lyrics that are why it makes the list. It's the brilliant closure--we pan across the beach where the Lostaways have made something of a home, and the music skips and stops, as Hurley's CD player finally runs out of batteries, reminding us that in spite of all the Lostaways' efforts, they're still lost. (Also, watch David LaChappelle's brilliant Lost promos for UK TV here, which contain equally beautiful moments.)
- Grey's Anatomy, "Such Great Heights." Despite the fact that this song instantly makes you think of the show and leads off the soundtrack album, it's apparently only appeared on the promos for the show. But the use there is so perfect that it belongs here--managing to connect both the frenetic nature of the hospital and the emotions between the doctors and their patients. Brilliant use (as is the entire musical coordination of the show, which is worthy of an award of its own).
- Lost, Man of Science, Man of Faith, "Make Your Own Kind of Music." I know many would pick this as the winner. At the start of Lost's second season we pull into an eye--the universal symbol for flashback. A man gets up out of bed and drops a needle onto a turntable and we hear the bizarre opening chords of Mama Cass' song. We follow the guy around as he goes through his daily routine. Then, we hear a BOOM! and realize that we're not in a flashback--we're in the hatch.
And the winner....
- House, Honeymoon, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Two reasons--first, the brilliant bookending--one of the first lines out of House's mouth in the pilot is a quote from "the Philosopher Jagger--you can't always gets what you want," to which Dr. Cuddy responds "but, if you try sometimes, you can get what you need." Then, in the final scene of the season finale, as House sits at home as his one true love is with her husband, he throws a pill up in the air and it spins in the air--he catches it in his mouth and turns to the camera. The music asks the questions--what does House want? What does House need? Can he get either of them? We don't know, and that's why it's the winner.
Me: I want to see Brokeback Mountain.
Mr. Cosmo: I'm going to see one movie all winter and it's gonna be gay cowboys?
Mr. Cosmo: I want to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Me: I'm going to see one movie all winter and it's gonna be Christian lions?
Mr. Cosmo: Yes. And it's not about Christian lions. Read the damn book.
Mr. Cosmo: So. I guess it's King Kong?
Me: Yup. Let's go.
As conscientious readers may recall, the preview for King Kong had moved me from a meh to a yeah. And seeing the three-hour version -- a rather monumental expansion of the three-minute trailer -- did not disappoint.
Neither Mr. Cosmo nor I had ever seen a prior King Kong iteration. For those of you similarly inexperienced with the genre, the three hours can be divided into three chapters: (1) Depression-era Manhattan, in which filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) finds out-of-work vaudevillean actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and convinces her to join the cast of his new film, which is setting sail that very day for Singapore for filming. But oops, little does anyone involved with the film know, but they are actually filming on ominous secret (2) Skull Island, on which bad things happen to many people, Jackson's brontosauruses kick the snot out of Spielberg's, and King Kong (Andy Serkis, in a role so close but yet so far from Gollum) and Ann meet. Kong is captured as he attempts to keep Ann with him on the island, and he is forcibly removed to (3) Depression-era Manhattan, where Kong proves to be stronger than anyone gave him credit for, and there's a little scene involving Kong, Ann, and the Empire State Building.
- Fastest three hours in a movie theatre ever. It didn't even bother me that it takes 90 minutes to catch a glimpse of an ape. The only area where I might have considered asking for a little extra slicing and dicing was toward the back end of the Skull Island sequence, where an awfully long time was spent lovingly filming all sorts of ooky monstrosities and big bugs and the like munching on various sailors.
- CGI has really become astonishing. The only point at which you notice the artificiality of the process is during the brontosaurus stampede, and even then it's not because the dinosaurs look fake, but because the actors didn't quite nail the running-for-their-lives-while-looking-over-their-shoulders-to-avoid-being-trampled reactions.
- Naomi Watts: Wow. Lovely and heartbreaking and impressively interactive with the giant green or blue or whatever-color-they-use-these-days screen that was her constant and sole companion throughout much of the movie.
- This was my first Adrien Brody experience. He's much more appealing than I previously gave him credit for being. Jack Black was enjoyable too. And Colin Hanks has gotten older since Orange County.
- I hope Peter Jackson is getting a serious kickback from the New Zealand government for the boost he has provided NZ tourism. Gorgeous, gorgeous cinematography. And watching the credits, I found myself wondering what percentage of the NZ population worked on this film. It can't be a small one.
10) "Dendrochronology" is the science of studying what? "Mogigraphia" is the disorder more commonly known as what?
11) Each of these people is better known by his nickname. Name the nicknames. Wilmer David Mizell; Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown; Clement John Dreisewerd; Walter Perry Johnson; Harold Henry Reese.
Answers tomorrow, so give it a shot while you can.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
- Am I the only one who, from time to time, has difficulty remembering whether Jeff Bridges or Jeff Daniels is the lead of a particular movie? I mean, Daniels used to have the more "affable stoner" characters, and then Bridges did Lebowski. Here, Daniels' Squid and the Whale character is a variation on Bridges' excellent performance in last year's underseen The Door in The Floor. Maddening.
- Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates have a very talented child, and must be extraordinarily permissive and understanding parents to allow their child to play the role he plays.
- Perhaps this demonstrates that I am now thoroughly a New Yorker, but isn't there something inherently wrong with an "Angelika Film Center" with state of the art projection and seating setups (including the lack of a train running from time to time behind the screen) and which is playing Rumor Has It... on one of its screens?
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The movie that best captured our conflict over the moral imperatives of violence was—duh—A History of Violence. It essentially frames our national debate: As a citizen of the world, are we Tom Stall or Crazy Joey Cusack—and does it matter as long as we kill the right people? --JIM RIDLEY
Brokeback Mountain wasn't even the first mainstream gay romance of the year. Did no one else see the barely suppressed homoerotic longings beneath the hetero posturing of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers? --NICK SCHAGER
If War of the Worlds' Tom Cruise was the good father, Hayden Christensen was the ultimate bad dad in Star Wars Part the Last. While I'd hesitate to use the word subversive, the movie was more interesting than people gave it credit for. When I was young, we knew who the Empire were; they lived on the other side of the iron curtain. By the end of Revenge of the Sith that presumption has been spun around on its axis; a democracy can lose its way just as easily as a good man can be led to evil. --TOM CHARITY
Hail Keira, hail Heath and Jake, hail Scarlett and Cillian and all the cuties delightfully making good on the dream that stars can also be devoted to serious craft. Never has the schism between Federlinian trash-fame and bona fide talent seemed so pronounced; with yesterday's model short-circuiting on Oprah's couch, maybe it's time for the real actors to stand up. --JOSHUA ROTHKOPF
I propose a truce. Broadway promises to stop making mediocre stage versions of so-so movies, and Hollywood vows to forgo crappy screen adaptations of middling musicals. --JORGE MORALES
Go back to the 2004 poll comments via this link, and we even blogged the 2002 poll over here.
Some interpreted it as a way of dealing with [Freddie Mercury's] personal issues. To this day the band is still protective of the song's secret.
"I have a perfectly clear idea of what was in Freddie's mind," [guitarist Brian] May said. "But it was unwritten law among us in those days that the real core of a song lyric was a private matter for the composer, whoever that might be. So I still respect that."
[Producer Roy] Baker said, with a hearty laugh, "If I tell you, I would have to kill you."
I believe some of the usual suspects around here have some ideas.
(2004 Winner: TAR5's caviar challenge.)
Monday, December 26, 2005
Find out about the Justice for Kirsty campaign, or visit the MacColl website here.
P.S. The Pogues -- yes, Shane McGowan too -- will be touring the East Coast in March 2006.
In the Kelly Clarkson hit "Since U Been Gone," when she sings that "Thanks to you now I get what I want," does 'get' mean 'understand' or 'obtain'? Your detailed responses are welcome.