Monday, August 25, 2008

Early Oscar Predictions--Best Actor

Continuing with my ongoing series of early Oscar predictions, we move on to Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

This category is packed to the brim with potential contenders. And yet, I can't imagine a list that doesn't include...

1. Sean Penn in Milk
This role positively screams Oscar-bait, but in a way that (for once) I mostly approve of. I hate biopics, but I feel like the story of openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk is one that is still relevant today. One that we can still take lessons and cues from. Penn is pretty much a lock for a nod as far as I'm concerned. Oscar loves to reward people playing real people. But Sean Penn is not really well liked, as last year's snubs for Into the Wild can attest. Too gay? It might be. It might prevent Penn from winning his second Oscar, even if he deserves it. Wouldn't it be easier to reward...

2. Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
He's playing Richard Nixon in a film based on an acclaimed play. And it's directed by Opie, who some people seem to think is a good filmmaker. Langella is an aging veteran with no nomination to speak of, even after moderate buzz for his performances in recent films like Good Night and Good Luck and Starting Out in the Evening. It seems like a safe bet on paper. But this may not translate well from stage to film (it happens sometimes). If that happens, it may seem underwhelming in the wake of other performances in films based on plays. Such as...

3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
I don't know why more people aren't predicting Hoffman for a nomination. I understand that there's some grey area about how big this role is and whether it will be placed in supporting or lead. But after his throwaway nomination last year in supporting for Charlie Wilson's War, it feels like Hoffman can be nominated for just about anything. So what if he's playing a child molester? I don't understand this whole "Oscar doesn't like unlikable characters" logic that a lot of people seem to adopt, especially since it doesn't really hold up. Sample some of the roles that Oscar has rewarded in the last ten years. Aileen Wuornos, Idi Amin, Daniel Plainview, Anton Chigurh, Karen Crowder, Alonzo (Training Day), Velma Kelly, Jimmy Markum. These characters are all (in some way or another) murderers, by the way and represent samplings from all four acting categories. Just saying.

4. Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
This small indie opened to very good reviews (both for Jenkins's performance and the film itself). Will the minor buzz sustain until year's end? It might. It will certainly take an aggressive FYC campaign on the part of the studio.

5. Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This trailer is absolutely gorgeous. It's a thing of beauty and should be in a museum. And Fincher has been a force to be reckoned with for a long time (when will the AMPAS finally embrace him?) Pitt hasn't been invited back to the party since his nomination in the supporting category for 12 Monkeys (and that was a long time ago). Will they nominate him this year? The idea of Brad and Angelina both getting Oscar nominations seems like a media frenzy the likes of which the Academy can't pass up...How else do you explain Miley (sp.) Cyrus being a presenter last year?

Don't Count Out...

6. Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road
He has two roles this year. It would probably be smart to put him in the top five, right? Maybe. But Leo's been getting nominated pretty consistently since The Aviator. It's a little bit presumptuous to assume that he'll be nominated every two years, dont'cha think? He has the heavily publicized Titanic-reunion with Kate to build up some buzz. If anything, pairing the two together will show how much both have grown as actors, especially Leo who has improved his craft nearly tenfold. But a domestic drama? Directed by Sam Mendes? Could it feel too "been there, done that?"

7. Leonardo DiCaprio in House of Lies
Ridley Scott is a hack. That's why I put Revolutionary Road first. That is all.

8. Benicio del Toro in Che
This performance will have to be very well received for it to receive some attention. del Toro already has a statue and a subsequent nod, so it's not like they're itching to reward him. He is being directed by the Oscar-winning Soderbergh here and it is a biopic, so it warrants some attention.

9. Viggo Mortensen in The Road
The reception of this film will truly tell if cinema-watchers still have a boner for Cormac McCarthy following the success of No Country for Old Men. But I love me some Viggo and would love to see him back at the plate again after his nomination for Eastern Promises last year. And finally...

10. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Because Warner Bros. studios are riding high off this movie's acclaim, which has reached a ridiculous fevered pitch (I settled on a B+ for The Dark Knight, by the way). This may cause them to commit flagrant category fraud and campaign Ledger in lead since he does "dominate" the film. It's possible, but I doubt it because category fraud usually goes in the other direction (leads placed in supporting).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is like a sumptuous buffet, decadent in more ways than one. The players are sexy beyond the telling of it (even Scarlett Johansson, whose appeal I definitely understand, even if I'm kind of immune to it), the cinematography is gorgeous, taking voracious bites out of Spain's scenery and the music is repetitive and sensuous. You wouldn't think that all of these elements would make for such a cerebral movie-going experience. A question that's going to be lingering in the mind of any attentive movie-goer is "How cerebral is too cerebral? Is this film too cerebral?" I don't think so, but I can definitely understand how people would go there.

Let me back up for a moment to the film's premise, which finds old college buddies Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) vacationing in Spain. The trip serves as an escape mechanism for both women. Cristina recently spent a good chunk of her time making a short film that she ultimately hated and is looking for new direction, while Vicky is engaged to Doug (the very underrated Chris Messina), a man she only has lukewarm feelings for. While on the trip, along comes the almost inhumanly suave Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who offers to take them to the Spanish island of Oviedo where they will make love, drink wine, etc. Vicky is reluctant for obvious reasons, but Cristina wants to go. It's ridiculous, yes. Yet only believable in these circumstances. Who else but Javier Bardem would a stranger have to look like to sweep two women off to a foreign island? Of course, Juan Antonio is still in love with his ex-wife, the fiery and passionate Maria Elena (a phenomenal Penelope Cruz). And you can guess what happens next...

Or maybe you won't. This film (at least for me) was not as much about plot and narrative structure as it was about watching these gorgeous people fall in and out of lust, climb in and out of bed with one another. Say what you will about Woody Allen (and people often do) but he always crafts incredibly interesting characters--especially female characters. I cannot think of another male writer/director who consistently creates interesting female characters. One of the film's weaknesses (?) is that it is weighed down by very ponderous narration, which at times feels intrusive. Narration is a tricky device, one that should be used carefully and precisely. Here, the narration is very akin to that in Little Children. You wonder if the film can stand without it, and you're almost certain that it can. Scarlett Johansson continues to occupy her position as Woody Allen's muse-du-jour. She was fine here. Much as she is just fine in most of her roles (I think she's incredibly overrated in general). Regarding relative newcomer Rebecca Hall, I'd have to see more before I can decide whether I'm passing. There was something grating and obnoxiously self-aware about this performance, and I can't decide if Hall is to blame, or the way the character is written, or some combination of the two. Finally, Penelope Cruz proves once again (after All About My Mother and Volver) that she truly shines when acting in her own language. But although many of her lines are spoken in Spanish, even those delivered in English carry the bite and sharpness of Maria Elena's insanity and passion. Consider a scene in which Maria Elena calls Cristina on the fact that she's been vacationing in Spain for some time, yet still speaks virtually no Spanish. She's intimidating, forceful. And, when she hears Cristina speaking in Chinese, she is very unimpressed, all of which Cruz plays beautifully.

Woody Allen has created another well-written comedy-drama, rife with witty, verbose dialogue and characters who like to live in their heads (well, most of them anyway). Will VCB go down in history as the most memorable Allen film? Probably not. But it's a nice addition to the pantheon anyway.

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Top Ten--Things I Wish

I wish...

10. ...Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi all the happiness in the world. They seem very good together. While I'm somewhat offended by the notion that it should take two lovely, high-profile celebs to convince this country that everyone is entitled to marriage rights and (by extension) love and happiness, the sentiment remains. A toast to them and to love, in all of its fetching, beautiful complexities.

9. ...That John McCain would stop pandering to Conservative Christians. "I will chase Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell if I have to in order to bring him to justice." People who say that he's different than George W. Bush may be right. But when it comes to simple, reductive language like this, that positions righteous and evil extremes and is designed to impress and appease simpletons, they are two of the same.

8...That black people would be more wary of Barack Obama. Yes, he looks like you. But before everything else, the man is still a politician. A politician who managed to win the nomination of a major political party for President of the United States. Thus, he should be approached (at best) with cautious optimism.

7. ...That black people would be more wary of John McCain. It's not a done deal. McCain can still win. Obama doesn't have a double-digit lead. In order for McCain to lose, Obama needs to win every state that Kerry and Gore won, plus a few others. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's not a done deal. McCain may still win. Stop acting like we've made it to the mountaintop.

6...That black people would be more wary in general. And of the right things...

5. ...That Tyler Perry would come out of the closet. The man's films have camp value of epic proportions. I'm not a fan, but if he were honest with himself, he could totally redefine his fanbase, becoming a sort of black John Waters. Wouldn't that be (at the very least) fun to watch?

4. ...That Eddie Murphy would stay in the closet. Forever. Gay people already have crazy Tom Cruise and crazy/disgusting Larry Craig forever tarnishing the good name. Why have another lunatic bringing down the cause?

3. ...That there were more interesting black filmmakers. Spike Lee's great, but he's pretty much all we have to look up to. It's really disheartening trying to break into an industry where it seems like the road isn't paved for you simply because of the color of your skin.

2. ...That Jane Campion would make a comeback. I believe she's got another masterpiece in her. The Piano was so beautiful and we need more great women directors

1. ...That people were more considerate of others in general.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Early Oscar Predictions--Best Actress

If you haven't figured out by now, I have a weird obsession with the Oscars that borders on pathological. I'll be posting a few thoughts on the state of the race (as I see it) in all four of the acting categories, as well as directing and best picture. At this point, much of it is speculation and we won't really have some concrete answers until at least September. There are some I feel confident about already, but when it comes to the sport of predicting Oscars, you never know what will happen and everything is for sale. This is true before the nominations are announced right up until the winners are announced.

Best Actress

If this were my personal wishlist, it'd comprise of...nevermind. I have to forget about my personal tastes, and consider those of the big O. Because we rarely see eye-to-eye, especially in the Best Actress category. In the past ten years, when I think about my ballot versus who Oscar nominates, the most we've ever had was a 3/5 match. But alas, the past is the past. Looking forward to the rest of 2008, I have a very hard time foreseeing a list that doesn't include at least one (if not more) of the following (in this order)

1. Meryl Streep in Doubt
Conventional wisdom says that if you have Streep in a lead role (one that isn't in an adaptation of a stage musical comprised of ABBA music) that Oscar prognosticators should pay attention. Both this performance and the project in show a lot of promise. Adapted from John Patrick Shanley's (Oscar winner for penning the screenplay for Moonstruck, dontcha know) award-winning Broadway play, some are predicting that Doubt will not only bring Streep's nomination total to 15, but will bring the actress her third statue. If the film's good enough, fine. Love the Streep. But I'd kind of like to see Winslet win her first, before Meryl gets three. Especially if she's more deserving.

2. Angelina Jolie in The Changeling or The Exchange
I almost didn't include Jolie, but the fact remains that the buzz for this performance and this film are deafening at this point. And it's directed by Clint Eastwood, a man who has taken (wait for it) five performers to Oscar wins, and another two to nominations (three if you include himself). Plus, she's having a good personal year and who doesn't want to see her up on podiums, gushing happily about Brad and the kids (I mean, I personally don't, but there are a lot of people who eat up that sort of thing.) Plus, people seem to forget that beneath the media frenzy and the world treks and the huge harem that Angelina Jolie is ultimately a talented actress. More talented than she receives credit for. And she was on the cusp of a nomination last year for A Mighty Heart. All of this makes the possibility for a nod for Ms. Jolie very good.

3. Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road
Yeah, yeah. It's been years since American Beauty. Sam Mendes has lost the magic. Depending on who you talk to, he never had it. But it's Winslet as a troubled housewife (something she does very well) based on a book that's beloved in certain circles. She's also being directed by her hubby and it reunites her with Titanic cast-mates Leonardo DiCaprio and Kathy Bates. Hopefully the Titanic connection will help overcome the fact that adult dramas about marital strife are a little elevated and not exactly rife for mass public consumption. But Winslet, a five-time nominee already, will probably be sitting pretty with a sixth, regardless of whether the film itself goes all the way to the final five. Consider that back in 2006, it seemed that Little Children was the film that time forgot. Heavily hyped as Todd Field's follow-up to his taught, intelligent debut In the Bedroom, this film puttered. It got a paltry release, and even though the Globes nominated it for best picture, they didn't even show a clip for it like they did for the other nominees! Yet despite all this, Winslet's name never left people's lips as a lock for a nomination...she's that good (though, to be fair, all the nominees that year were locks and had been for several months leading into the ceremony). Though, like Little Children, I see few people being enthusiastic about this film to the point that they'll give Winslet the statue. Where's the gimmick? She's not ugly-ing herself up. She's not playing a famous, recently deceased person. She's playing an attractive fictional character, and if the incredible Julie Christie-tease of 2007 is any indication, the Academy is done with that sort of thing...for now.

4. Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria
Follow my insane logic here. They will nominate either Emily Blunt or they will nominate Keira Knightley for The Duchess, or they will nominate neither. They won't nominate both. There's usually only room for one uptight, corset-y period piece in best actress these days (and honestly, it's kind of a category the AMPAS has been shying away from, save Cate Blanchett's inexplicable throwaway nomination for Elizabeth: The Golden Age). I'm predicting Blunt because she's been on the radar as one to watch since My Summer of Love, and she's the type of rising star who is bound to get herself a nomination one day.

5. Dakota Fanning in The Secret Life of Bees
Okay. This is my total, out-of-left-field prediction, but hear me out. Fanning, like Blunt, is totally headed for a nomination one day and we all know it. The film is based on a kind of beloved (though somewhat facile and digestible) novel. The material is certainly there for the makings of the type of child performance the AMPAS usually nominates (when they do nominate children). Beyond that, I don't really have any other reason for this prediction (but those are pretty good reasons, right?) And to everyone who always predicts lineups at the beginning of the season full of already nominated (or winning) stars in big-bait roles, remember the Ellen Pages, the Keisha Castle Hughes's, the Catalina Sandino Morenos and the (God, I can barely type it) Helen Hunts (*shudder*). They aren't your usual Oscar-fare, yet they do get nominated...and sometimes they win.

Also in Contention:

6. Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
There are a lot of reasons why I didn't include Ms. Hathaway in the top five. Although things are kind of changing, the ratio of comedic performances to dramatic performances among Oscar nominees is still relatively low. Jonathan Demme may be an Oscar-winning director, but for every Silence of the Lambs, there are four or five Manchurian Candidates and The Truth About Charlies in his filmography. Translation: he doesn't have the best track record for getting actors nominated, both of late and in the grand scheme of thing. Why the title change? Dancing with Shiva was a great title! Finally, I really REALLY love Anne Hathaway and (in my twisted mind) I don't want to jinx her by putting her in the top five this prematurely. That being said, the trailer looks fantastic and the cast is a character-actor's dream (Anna Deavere Smith? I'm so there...) Plus, I'm really excited about the potential comeback of Debra Winger. Please return to us...

7. Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky
Two potential comedic nods in one year (Hawkins and Hathaway)? It could happen. It happened last year (Laura Linney and Ellen Page). Sally Hawkins is enjoying some very good early buzz for her performance. Plus, director Mike Leigh has a fairly good track record for getting nominations for his leading ladies (Brenda Blethyn and Imelda Staunton). There are obvious obstacles in place. She has to overcome the lack of name recognition and it's a small film. But stranger things have happened. We'll have to see how the year progresses, but honestly, Hawkins feels like a very likely bet.

8. Melissa Leo in Frozen River
I think this can happen if Sony Pictures Classics runs a thorough and aggressive campaign. Melissa Leo has a lot of hurdles to overcome. Often times, there are small releases early to mid-year with perceived strong lead performances that garner mumblings of Oscar buzz. And then, by year's end, they've all but faded from consideration. Case in point, Keri Russell in Waitress (a performance I wouldn't have nominated in a film I didn't particularly enjoy, but it's the same idea). In 2006, Gretchen Mol's very respectable star turn in The Notorious Bettie Page went wildly unnoticed. This could very well happen to Leo if the studio doesn't play its cards right. The iron is pretty hot right now, with Ebert giving the performance and the film his seal of approval (I have a feeling it'll end up on his top ten list). But it's an uphill battle for a (mostly) unknown actress.

8. Nicole Kidman in Australia
A nomination for her wouldn't surprise me for obvious reasons. Baz Luhrmann took her to her first Oscar-nominated role. But Academy hasn't revisited Kidman since her win for The Hours back in 2002. After her egregious snub last year for Margot at the Wedding, it doesn't look like they're too eager to rekindle their love affair with her. Unless Australia really impresses in a big way (and I'm hoping that it does--love Luhrmann) Kidman is not a safe pony to bet on.

9. Kerry Washington in Lakeview Terrace
I don't know why I read the synopsis for this film and thought it could hold Oscar possibilities for Washington, one of my favorite actresses. The trailer is ridiculous and it seems to be the Samuel L. Jackson show anyway. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. But who knows...the film may be a huge breakthrough for her and bring her to her first nomination...I can dream, right?

10. Julianne Moore in Blindness
The new Fernando Meirelles film didn't get the best buzz when it opened at Cannes earlier this year. This may leave Julianne Moore's chances dead in the water, unless the film sees some kind of resurgence. Remember that Babel opened to fairly mixed reviews initially, but had its awards flame reignited pretty much because of the Golden Globes. Plus, who doesn't want to see Moore finally win an Oscar?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rant Time...Amy Winehouse

I feel a bit like Chris Crocker here, defending a troubled pop icon. But I honestly feel like the public scrutiny of Amy Winehouse has gotten out of hand. Am I a huge fan? No. Hardly, in fact. But I feel like people need to just acknowledge the fact that Amy Winehouse is messed up, accept it and move on. It didn't start with Perez Hilton, but I would be pretty confident in saying that the blogger features at least a dozen weekly posts about Winehouse's (or Wino as he "cleverly" calls her) misadventures, complete with unflattering photos.

This is an aside, and I could actually do an entire post on the subject if I wanted to: I'll admit that I sometimes find myself perusing his blog (so I guess I'm part of the problem), but seriously, Perez Hilton is completely ridiculous. And not in the fun "John Waters" way. I am not one of those "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all," people. I love my Kathy Griffin, who is known for making disparaging remarks about celebs. But at least she does it with a modicum of wit and timing. Plus, being somewhat of a Hollywood insider, Griffin sort of has insight into these things. Hilton is just...ridiculous. He constantly calls TR Knight a pervert, because he is in a committed relationship with a man who happens much younger than him. Then he turns around and talks (repeatedly) about how sexy Zac Efron and the Jonas Brothers are (Perez Hilton is 30, by the way. And the youngest Jonas Brother is 15.) He has this completely irrational hatred of Rumer Willis, constantly talking about how ugly she is, as if she were some pop culture figure being rammed down our throats and not an unassuming and (by all accounts) level-headed young woman who just happens to have famous parents. Hilton (who himself is gay) constantly makes disparaging and borderline hateful comments when speculating about Lindsay Lohan's supposed lesbian relationship, and he constantly refers to Miley Cyrus as a slut. "Slutty Cyrus" is what he calls her. Clever, Perez. Does it feel good to be a thirty-year-old man calling Miley Cyrus a slut? Let's hope so, for your sake. Perez Hilton rant over.

Back to Amy Winehouse. Yes, she's a drug user. Yes, she smokes and drinks heavily, is in and out of rehab and the hospital and shows no signs of stopping. But I'm so sick of hearing people dealing with Winehouse like she's a punching bag, rather than a human being who's obviously very troubled. To all the entertainment magazines, blogs, gossip columns, and you Winehouse-critics at home, get over it already. Amy Winehouse is a popular singer who has sold a lot of records, and thus, has acquired some measure of wealth (I'm assuming) and celebrity. She chose to use the advantages of said lifestyle not to better, but to worsen herself. Fine. That's her choice. Get over it. I'm so sick of the way that Winehouse is constantly taken to task for her drug use and other issues. How many of us can honestly say that we've never engaged in behavior that we knew could be harmful to ourselves or (God forbid) others? Whether it's smoking that cigarette or eating that cheeseburger. Most people engage in some kind of harmful excessive behavior on a daily basis. Amy Winehouse happens to take it to the extreme, but again that's her decision. Get over it and stop trying to moral majority everyone.

Margaret Cho is Amazing...And other Thoughts

Hello to the three people who read this blog (seriously, there have been like three comment posts in the entire history of this blog, so that's what I'm assuming the readership is) still plan to post a full review of Pineapple Express within the next couple of days. I've just been really busy shooting a movie (which has been going very well, btw.) I don't want to just slap together a quick review, free of any real insight into the film, ya know? These things take time. At any rate, I'm leaning towards a B-/B grade for the film...I plan to address the subtle, yet rampant homophobia at work in the Apatow-brand comedy once I've decided exactly how I feel about it.

Regarding the title of this post, I was at Outwrite Books today in Atlanta and I picked up a copy of "I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight" by Margaret Cho. I began skimming through it and I was unable to put it down. So much so that I bought it right on the spot (and I and NOT an impulse shopper at all) and I almost read through the whole thing in one sitting. As a comedienne, Cho is generally kind of hit or miss with me (though her bit about Gwen washing her vagina is hilarious) but damned if her book isn't bursting with brilliance on nearly every page. Margaret Cho really explains the frustration of being a minority (any minority) into words that I've been searching for almost all my life. It's that feeling of walking through a world where everything you do or say is filtered through a "minority lens." And all the while reading this book, I kept thinking, "Wow. You know who would really benefit from reading this? Elisabeth Hasselbeck." I know a lot of people hate her (I'm not too fond of her sometimes) but I do believe that Elisabeth Hasselbeck is generally a good person who means well (as far as conservatives go). I'm just really sick of this whole "I know racism is bad, and I GET that it's difficult for minorities, but..." thing that she has going on. It annoys me because as well meaning as she is, she neither "knows" nor "understands." And this book puts it in plain calm language for people like her.
I especially love the section where Cho calls Ann Coulter on her bullshit. So great and totally the typical "liberal" rant you'd expect on the subject. She comes at everything from such a fresh unique perspective and I'm loving it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pineapple Express

I suppose Pineapple Express is yards away from being a terrible movie. But it's not one to get terribly excited about either, even when you compare it to other films in the Apatow-crowd catalogue. From things I've been hearing from critics and average movie goers alike, I was expecting a sort of stoner-film renaissance, but was left surprisingly underwhelmed. Not to say that the film isn't funny. But there are a few things I'd like to address here.

First of all, David Gordon Green, the film's director. I've loved him since 2003 when he made the quietly affecting All the Real Girls. It prompted me to go back and watch his 2000 debut, George Washington (great). I plan to revisit the rest of his filmography, and I look forward to seeing Snow Angels (also released this year), though it hasn't made its way to Atlanta yet (to give you an idea of how frustrating it is, Atlanta's official "arthouse" theater only has 8 screens, and four of them are currently dedicated to Pineapple Express, Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight.) I'm totally digressing, my point being that David Gordon Green is about the last person I'd expect to direct a Judd Apatow-produced stoner film.

I can't really describe it any better than to say that, even as far as stoner films go, Pineapple Express feels The film starts off with an opening flashback sequence, which takes place in the late 1930s and involves Bill Hader. The entire scene is unfunny, is a huge miscalculation, and (unless I'm missing something here) is only tangentially related to the plot of the movie. It only serves to bog down the movie, which would have been off to a slow start anyway, even without the ponderous opening scene.

I'm really sick of hearing how James Franco is comic genius in this film and how it's so great to see him playing "against type." Franco's very funny here, sure. But anyone saying that he's playing against type obviously hasn't seen a little show called Freaks and Geeks. Pineapple Express's Saul is more or less an extrapolation of Freaks and Geeks's Daniel Desario.

Also, regarding Judd Apatow and the claims of homophobia in his films...they pretty much hold up. But how forgivable is it? Well, it's the type of homophobia where the audience is asked to laugh at the male camaraderie because the idea of two men loving each other is so bizarre/funny/abhorrent...I could continue with much worse adjectives, but you get the picture. I'm not going to get up on a soapbox about the evils of homophobia and how stupid and dangerous masculinity is in general and how even though femininity is stupid too, it's very much informed negatively by its relationship to masculinity and doesn't stifle forward thinking and encourage aggression and bigotry in the same way that masculinity does (whoops, I guess I just did get up on a soapbox. Oh, well). Here's my verdict about homophobia in Judd Apatow films. It abounds no more or less than it does in most films, which are told from the perspective of the heterosexual male. So I'm not particularly inclined to condemn Judd Apatow. To condemn him is to condemn them all, you know what I mean?

Back to the movie. Seth Rogen doesn't really up his game here, though it's interesting to see him play the straight man to Franco's total stoner/fuckup (or interesting in conception, rather). And Danny McBride, who has been every where this past year. To me, he will always be "Bust-Ass" in All the Real Girls, and I'm not sure how I feel about the manner in which he's becoming famous. But he has a dopey, clueless quality about him that's somewhat endearing.

What of the movie's plot? Well it's needlessly intricate in a manner that borders on tedious. The action sequences provide some laughs along the way (a particularly lengthy fight scene between Rogen, Franco and McBride is one of the funniest things I've seen at the movies this year) but there sure is a lack of connectivity between the chuckles, which are mostly modest at best. And this film is violent...very violent. Seriously, not that it offended me. I was just surprised at the gruesome way in which a lot of character bite the bullet.

Overall, Pineapple Express is fun, if completely missable summer fare. You could do a lot worse, but you could do a whole lot better too.

Grade: B-

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Random Thoughts...Again

I'll be coming with a longer post pretty soon. Just a few talking points:

  • In my spare time (which admittedly hasn't been in abundance since I started working/filming my movie) I've been obsessively watching "Jon & Kate Plus 8." I find it utterly and completely fascinating. It should be called "People Aspiring to Be Young Parents: Beware." (An ungainly title, yes. But the sentiment still stands). I don't say that I'll never have children simply because I don't know how I'll feel ten/fifteen/twenty years down the road. But watching this show makes me appreciate my life free of that kind of responsibility. Though I must say, if the show was just about Aaden (the tuplet with the glasses) I'd still watch the show. He's awesome.
  • I saw Pineapple Express last night and will talk about it later.
  • Maybe it's just that I'm getting older and more cynical, but I truly believe that with each Presidential election, America loses more of its ability to engage in critical discussion and debate. Fox News has always been a joke...but it's not so bad, because I think (in a really twisted way) they almost own it. You can practically see them winking at the screen when they say "Fair and Balanced." But CNN is getting (has been) pretty ridiculous as well. My feelings about BOTH presidential candidates on a given day range from annoyance to disgust and I'm just ready to fast forward to November so this whole thing can be over.
  • More to come. Peace, love and pretension.