Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Oscars Recap, A Bit Tardy

Sorry that this is awfully late (husband out of town, sick baby, yada, yada) but I wanted to share some observations about the Oscars this past Sunday.

If you’re like me, watching the pre-show is way more entertaining than the Oscars themselves. And while my heart belongs to that crackpot Joan Rivers and her marionette daughter, who were unceremoniously fired from the TV Guide Channel this year, THANK GOD they replaced them with two ABSOLUTE TWITS, Joey Fatone and Lisa Rinna.

Did you watch them? If you didn’t, try to find them on YouTube, because it is worth every minute. Joey Fatone clearly had no idea who anyone was, and had to be prompted by some bimbo:

BIMBO: “Joey, that’s Helen Mirren.”
JOEY: [drools and looks stricken by dumbness. Searches pockets for a cheeseburger.]
BIMBO: “You know, she won an Oscar last year for playing the Queen.”
JOEY: [horrible drunken lounge singer impersonation] I’m the queen! Here comes the queen!
BIMBO: [actually looks offended, forgets that she is the bimbo]

And then there’s fish-face Rinna, who botched each interview so badly that I couldn’t turn away. It was hilarious. She couldn’t figure out how to use the microphone. No joke! She would ask a question and keep the mic to her mouth so you couldn’t hear the answer, then she’d hold the mic to the celeb’s mouth when she talked so you couldn’t hear her. Brilliant! It was like watching a dog chase its own ass.

She congratulated Amy Adams at least ten times on being nominated even though Adams kept saying, “I’m not nominated tonight.” When Rinna cut to break, she actually said of herself, “I think I just got myself fired.” Please, please, don’t fire her. I beg of you. She is the best unintentional comedy act of the year.

On to the show. Yawn. No big surprises here, right? I haven’t seen No Country for Old Men yet, but even I knew it was going to sweep the big categories. I am intrigued to see a few new movies, especially some of the animated shorts which looked pretty amazing. And I now have a girl-crush on Marion Cotilliard. La Vie en Rose is moving right up my Netflix Queue.

Jon Stewart (heart) was okay in his opening monologue, but I loved his improve as the show went along. Why on earth don’t they let him just introduce each category rather than force us to sit through those awful canned introductions? I hate how stiff and scripted the Oscars are…even the celebs are so tightly laced and watered down these days. I guess I’m saying I miss seeing Cher’s crotch displaying itself on stage.

Thank god for Tilda Swinton though. She stood out – literally – not just for her kooky outfit but also for being the only celebrity who actually behaved like a real human being. None of this “I’m so surprised and thank you Jesus” nonsense for her. Refreshing, wasn’t it?

PS: Did you hear Regis Philbin during his “I’m going to be a man among the people” shtick just before the show started? He was pointing out celebs seated in the front row and called Javiar Bardem “Xavier Bardem.” I actually felt mortified for him. And then I remembered he’s Regis Philbin and I didn’t care.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Week 37: 3:10 to Yuma

Well now, I finally know how the Brits feel when Gwyneth Paltrow and Squinty Zellwegger hop across the pond and steal all their plumb roles. Not great. You don’t loathe them for trying to play your countrymen, but there is something that rings false about it. Just like the two very capable leads of 3:10 to Yuma, Christian Bale playing the rancher Dan Evans and Russell Crowe playing the outlaw Ben Wade.

They’re both fine actors but something ruffled me about seeing a Brit and an Aussie playing Wild West gunslingers. I don’t think of myself as terribly patriotic but I guess I hold the western epic a little closer to my heart than I’d believed. This should be American filmmaking at its best. So every time Russell Crowe slipped a little into his Aussie drawl, I cringed. I really loved this movie, but I think I would have loved it a little more if say, the two leads had been played by Chris Cooper and Edward Norton.

To be fair though, I do go into every movie with a predisposition against Russell Crowe and his over-hyped acting abilities. Every time I see him on screen I feel like he just oozes smug self-satisfaction, like I can read his internal monologue:

“I’m acting this so good. I dunno why these other actors bothered to show up because let’s be honest, I’m pretty much the shit. Look at me right now, I’m pensive. Now I’m angry. Here comes sensitive. Bam. I killed that. I am a master of my CRAFT. They should call this Crowing, not Acting.”

Can’t you just picture him thinking that? C’mon. You know he does. My Crowe distaste aside, don’t let me dissuade you from watching this movie. It’s a terrific film. If you love a great Western and have been longing for something to fill the void left by the masterpiece, Unforgiven, 3:10 to Yuma might fit the bill. It's not the most original or unexpected plot you'll ever encounter, but it still makes for great entertainment. The action is tight, the characters are vivid and most importantly to an outlaw epic, the bad guys are oh-so-bad. This was a great edge-of-your-seat gun-slinging pleasure. Giddyup.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Week 36: Bad Education

What a cool movie. I was very pleasantly surprised after reading the disc jacket, which promised a story about a young man reconnecting with a classmate from their boyhood Catholic school where they had a sexually abusive teacher.

And not that it’s not an interesting story in itself but let’s be honest. It’s not exactly a plot surprise to find that the teacher is fondling all the boys in the chapel, is it? I wasn’t expecting too many surprises, but Bad Education turned out to be a densely complex and intricate story.

At any given time, we’re watching three different versions of the main character, Ignacio/Angel (his name changes a few more times, which should give you an idea of how complex the film is). The trick is trying to figure out which if any of the versions is the real Ignacio. It appears he’s grown up to be a transvestite hustler on one hand – on another; he’s a writer pedaling a script about a transvestite hustler. On yet a third, he’s really his brother pretending to be Ignacio. Whew. It’s a lot to handle.

The movie is written and director by Pedro Almodovar, whom I’ve loved for his other films such as Talk to Her and All About My Mother. He often casts Gael Garcia Bernal, and once again, he plays the lead role in Bad Education.

If I have one big criticism of this film, it’s the ending, in which Almodovar laboriously spells out every detail of the plot, unwinding all the interweaving stories that were so interesting. The result is that the film is stripped of much of its mystery and a fair amount of intelligence. I would have preferred to try to figure out Ignacio’s story on my own.

PS: There is something asunder at the Queue household. Whenever we play a movie with even the hint of a subtitle, Grant becomes distracted and starts busying himself elsewhere. I am slowly becoming convinced that he can’t read. I am going to work on this theory by only communicating to him via post-it notes for the next several days. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Week 36: Big Love Season 2, Final disc

Can words express how much I loved this season of Big Love? Can mere letters explain how incredible the last disc was? They can, but only in the form of Haiku, which you know I only reserve for things that I REALLY THINK YOU SHOULD WATCH. Play along:

I love thee, Big Love
You even make Sopranos
Seem like Charles in Charge

Polygamist wives
Three catty, jealous women
You wear much cotton

When dishes stack up
I wish I had sister wives
To help clean my house

Bill Paxton hottie?
Kinda, but his three wives think
He is sex on wheels

Chloe Sevigny
Want to hate you but can't quite
Please ditch the french braid

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Week 35: Eastern Promises

I’ve been complaining for a long time that nobody makes a good thriller anymore. And while I wouldn’t exactly categorize Eastern Promises as a thriller, it’s in the ballpark, and it’s surprisingly good. To be honest, I had NO IDEA what this movie was about. I had some vague idea it was another drab movie about demure Japanese people trapped in emotionless relationships. Was I confusing this with the Painted Veil? Perhaps. The point is that I was completely misinformed.

Turns out that Easter Promises is about a maternity nurse (Naomi Watts) who gets mixed up with the Russian mafia when she begins to investigate the death of a 14-year-old girl who delivered a baby in her hospital ward. Watts is perhaps underutilized but it doesn't really matter because Viggo Mortensen (insert dreamy sigh here) is the real star of the film, playing the driver for the mafia boss who becomes entangled with Watts as she pursues the girl’s rapist. I won’t spoil the twists and turns involving Viggo’s character, but there are a few whoppers and I didn’t see them coming (how I love to be surprised).

David Cronenberg directs (he and Viggo worked together on a History of Violence) and the vibe between the two movies is much the same. There is a lot of gruesome violence, some of which feels unnecessary. And, oh yes, you might have heard that there is a Viggo full-frontal nudity scene as well. It’s uh…interesting. He happens to be naked while he’s getting the shit kicked out of him in a bath house, so it’s not exactly “good naked" (insert disappointed sigh here).

We thought this was a very enjoyable movie. Good intrigue. Great acting. Almost thrilling. I almost love it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Week 35: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

I never planned on watching this new version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because I AM STILL HAVING FLASHBACKS FROM THAT TRIPPY GENE WILDER VERSION. Are you with me? That was weird, right? The seventies were a strange time, man.

And I only needed to see Johnny Depp’s creepy make-up job in the trailer to the 2005 version to make me want to steer very, very clear of this film. But on the other hand, I adore Tim Burton, so I was torn. Alas, it was playing on TV the other night so we relented, but I’m back to feeling torn again. Let’s review:

Positive: Very limited use of hippie-trippy graphics, although the dragon boat was borderline stupid. And much of the CGI looked incredibly cheap and fake, which is not a positive, but here it is nonetheless.

Negative: Johnny Depp is gray. Why is he gray? We do not know. It is not explained. I did not care for it. Also, Helena Bonham Carter has fake teeth for no apparent reason. Again, I did not care for it.

Positive: Watching the finders discover their Golden Tickets was great fun.

Negative: We all know the story to this film and Burton didn’t press too hard to expand it in new ways or offer many surprises. Nor did he give us much dark humor that I just expect from a Burton film. All in all, I felt like he was just phoning this one in.

Positive: All the scenes with Charlie’s family were completely adorable and filled with the quirky kitsch that I love in a Burton film.

Negative: Most of the movie takes place in the factory and not with Charlie’s family. Also, did I mention that Johnny Depp was gray?

My final tally? I’m pretty disappointed that Tim Burton didn’t give us a Tim Burton film, although the entire fact that we didn’t have to watch any rainbow hippie graphics is nearly enough for me.

My apologies to all of you who love the 1971 version, but I hate it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Week 35: Broken English

Here are two phrases on a movie jacket that virtually guarantee I’ll be renting it:

…a charming indie yarn…
…starring Parker Posey…

For the record, here are two phrases that virtually guarantee I’ll NEVER rent a movie:
…starring Vin Diesel…
…from the brilliant mind of Jerry Bruckheimer…

But I digress.

I love you, Parker Posey, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. True, I was on the fence after your wacky appearance on the season finale of Project Runway – the one in which your whole ensemble and coiffure could only be described as ‘batshit crazy.’ But then again, I remind myself, we have all had days where we woke up thinking that it would just be easier to pull on our grandma’s sunglasses and run our hair through the Kitchenaid mixer.

But I digress again.

Broken English is nearly a perfect Parker Posey vehicle. Playing a desperate, single thirty-something, we get to see Posey’s knack at portraying a woman both charming and repulsive, vulnerable and sharp-edged. And if you’re married and sometimes wax longingly at the memory of your fun single days, this movie will painfully remind you how achingly lonely singlehood could be.

Drea de Matteo stars as Posey’s best friend in the film and, well…what the hell happened to her face?! It appears that her three-pack-a-day habit has finally caught up with her…and run over her…and beat her in the face with a stick...then found a newer, sharper stick and beat her harder. Seriously…she is not looking well. In another couple of years she’s going to closely resemble one of those rawhide dog chews. Or George Hamilton, take your pick.

Dreary de Matteo aside, this movie was sweet and sad and exactly as promised: a charming indie yarn starring Parker Posey. Go rent it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Week 34: Big Love Season 2, Disc 3

Dear Creators of Big Love,
I am very distressed that you have ignored my previous request to immediately end this series. I have learned through a third party that people STILL continue to be riveted by Big Love and that the series only keeps getting better into the second season.

Again, I very respectfully request that you stop airing this series. If you choose to air it in the future, I might suggest you wait until any time after November 4, which again, is just a meaningless date I picked out of a hat.

Also, please discontinue any discussion of p****amists, who again, cannot be verified to actually exist and are largely considered by many people to be just a fictional rumor.

M. Romney

PS: John McCain has seven wives, three of whom are members of Al Qaeda.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Week 34: Sicko

Oh, Michael Moore. Stop bumming me out.

I can’t take it anymore. I really didn’t want to watch this movie. I knew it would make me feel, well --sick-- of our crappy healthcare system and the marionette control of our government by big insurance and big pharmaceuticals.

And no surprise, I was right. Sicko is both infuriating and depressing. The film does a nice job of illuminating how other countries take the stance of preventing illness and improving the health of its citizens while we're focused on denying treatment in lieu of making bigger profits for the healthcare industry. And even though I know Michael Moore painted a very one-sided, utopian view of socialized medicine, I still wish we had it.

So, alas, I am hereby declaring my intention of moving my family to France, where not only do you get excellent healthcare, but you also get a government worker to come watch your baby each week and do your laundry. For anyone with a baby in the house, this is a BIG, BIG deal. Who even cares about getting free medical care when you can get someone to do your laundry?
While I am living out the rest of my days in France, here are the things I will miss most about America:
10. Costco
9. Twizzlers
8. Making fun of SUV drivers
7. Dwight Yoakam
6. Constant updates on Britney Spears’ every move
5. Fad diets
4. Ohio’s immaculate roadside rest stops (if you haven’t peed in one of Ohio’s gloriously clean and plush roadside bathrooms, you haven’t really peed)
3. Fair/carnival food/anything fried, greasy and on a stick
2. Sweat pants
1. Getting to feel justifiably indignant over Michael Moore movies