Monday, April 30, 2007

Breakout Supporting Roles and Best Picture Winners

I just noticed this pattern as i was strolling through some best picture winners. They usually feature either great supporting roles, breakout actors in supporting roles, or actors in supporting roles before they broke-out:

Titanic:
pre-Fantastic Four Ioan Gufford (if i spelt his name wrong, i don't care)
pre-Alias Viktor Garber
Kathy Bates

Shakespeare in Love:
pre-Love Actually Colin Firth
pre-Vera Drake Imadela Staunton
pre-In the Bedroom Tom Wilkinson

American Beauty:
pre-Star Trek: Enterprise Scott Bakula
pre-Seabiscuit Chris Cooper
pre-Ghost World Thora Birch
pre-West Wing Allison Janey
pre-O.C. Peter Gallagher

Gladiator:
pre-In America Djimon Hotsou
pre-Walk the Line Joaquin Pheonix in a breakout role

A Beautiful Mind:
pre-Rent Anthony Rapp
pre-Sweet Home Alabama Josh Lukas
perrenial character actor Adam Goldberg
Judd Hirsch
Ed Harris
pre-Wimbledon Paul Bettany in a Breakout Role

Chicago:
pre-Talladega Nights John C Riley in a Breakout Role
Lucy Lui
Christine Barinski
Queen Latifah

Lord of the Rings:
pre-Pirates Orlando Bloom (sort of)
pre-Hidalgo Virgo Mortgensen in a breakout role
Sean Astin
Christopher Lee
Cate Blanchett
Mirando Otto
Ian McKellan

Million Dollar Baby:
bucks the trend

Crash:
Ryan Phillipe
Thandie Newton
pre-Hustle and Flow (by 3 months) Terrence Howard
Jennifer Esposito
Sandra Bullock
Matt Dillon
Don Cheadle
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges in a breakout role

Departed:
Anthony Anderson, Vera Farminga, Ray Winstone and Mark Wahlberg will break out onto a new level of stardom, I predict
In addition, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin inhabit great small roles in this movie

Million Dollar Baby is the only one which bucks the trend, which is odd because Golden Globe winner of that year Aviator fits that trend better with a supporting cast that include:
Wilhem DeFoe, Jude Law, Gwen Stefani, Kate Beckinsdale, Cate Blanchett, John C. Riley, Ian Holm, Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda

"Twenty Good Years" as NBC's annual fall guy

"Twenty Good Years," the NBC comedy that commericials on NBC advertised as the great new sitcom to come along pairing comedic legends Jeffery Tambour and John Lithgow, brought to you from the creators of Friends and the screenwriters of Will and Grace (or something like that) is not being renewed by NBC. Why am I not surprised? I was fairly sure Twenty Good Years would not make it through a first season when I saw the promotion for the fall season with its line-up of the two new comedies: the above-mentioned sitcom and 30 Rock.

Why? Because NBC does this practically every year. They always bring in some sitcom without a laugh track (i.e. 30 Rock, Scrubs, The Office, My Name is Earl) and one with a laugh track, and the one with the laugh track is pulled by the network and proclaimed as an embarrassment everyone at NBC Headquarters would like to forget about, before anyone's ever seen it. Before the show comes out, every person associated with the network talks about how great the show will be and how it's truly quality programming. People like Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence work into blog chats who lucky his show is to be alongside Twenty Good Years. Than once the ratings are low enough and they back the winner (this year it was 30 Rock), they discard the bad show out the window.

It's so disorienting: one minute Conan O'Brien is lavishing Matt LeBlanc about his new "hit" sitcom Joey during an interview and within a few months Conan is using the show as joke material for his opening monologue. The problem is that the network usually doesn't give the shows a chance to gel to the audience. Over on CBS, they practically never cancel anything. Mediocre shows like Yes, Dear and Still Standing stay on for years and a relatively decent show like Two and a Half Men and New Adventures of Old Christine are considered humongous hits when they are in fact nothing THAT special. The truth is that I prefer CBS's method. There are two things I want when I look for a sitcom: familiar/interesting characters and laughs. If a show is on long enough the characters start to get familiar which can easily replace interesting after a while and there are usually at least a few laughs per episode. So what happens is that when it's one in the afternoon and there's virtually nothing on TV but Yes, Dear and I feel like watching TV at one, then I'll turn on Yes, Dear. I don't particularly like it, but I can live with it and the more I watch it, the more I get accustomed to it and eventually enjoy it. So what I'm essentially saying is: keep something on the air long enough and the audience (at least from the experiences of this audience of one) will grow to it.

That rarely ever happens with NBC. They prop it up to such high expectations and expect it to perform to the level of their classic sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld. NBC is all about quality and they have high standards but the truth is that some of these cancelled sitcoms like Happy Family, Good Morning Miami, Whoopi and Twenty Good Years are easily better than what CBS and ABC offer on the average. It also alienates viewers when programs are cancelled too quickly. Nothing is more frustrating to me as a viewer then when a show I'm liking gets cancelled.

Usually, these shows feature established stars like Jeffery Tambour and John Lithgow in 20 Good Years, John Laroquette and Christine Barinski in Happy Family, Whoopi Goldberg in Whoopi, Michael Richards and Tim Meadows in The Michael Richards Show, John Goodman in Father of the Pride, Nathan Lane in Encore! Encore!, Christina Applegate in Jessee, etc. The good news is that these short-lived failed sitcoms are treated as something equivalent to a stint in rehab and referenced to as an example of self-deprecating wit when the stars need to poke fun at themselves (aka "remember when I did Encore! Encore! hahaha).




Thursday, April 19, 2007

What exactly was the point of Good Night and Good Luck

In retrospect, I think Good Night and Good Luck got nominated because of the novelty factors: Black and White, it had some innovative artistic decicions, etc, as well as the surging popularity of George Clooney at the time.

In truth, it wasn't that much of a film aside from David Strathain's performance and the jazz numbers. It was a film I would describe as narratively bare.

What's more, I don't really agree with this whole "good journalism is dead" theme. Look at Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams. Those guys are thoughtful, inquisitive, highly intelligent, compassionate to the issues that are troubling Americans and I feel highly professional. They've displayed intelligent viewpoints on Iraq long before the rest of the nation did and have continually donated their time to travel away from the anchor desk and cover Katrina to ensure that the nation does not forget that. Brian Williams flew to Virginia Tech within a day of the shootings (either the day of or the day after). Cooper travelled to Iraq and Katrina multiple times. Another great news journalist, Tom Brokaw, had an excellent sense of professionalism and wrote a couple excellent books

The media also did an excellent job on the whole in covering the tsunami disasters that marked the beginning of 2005. I was personally touched with the way the media led our nation to care so deeply for people halfway around the world.

And whose to say that they wouldn't have stood up to Eugene McCarthy if they were around back then. If anything, journalists back then were dumber, because they didn't call out the HUAC sooner, and if everyone EXCEPT for Edward R Murrow bowed to McCarthy, then it doesn't sound like a respectful era.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Brokeback Mountain Controvoursey

Last year, Brokeback Mountain lost the academy award in what many imagine to have been a close vote against the film Crash. I was personally rooting for Munich or the snubbed Constant Gardener. Many in the gay community has protested that it was some sort of a discrimination, which I would disagree to.

I personally think that for those championing gay rights, going after the academy's decision to vote against Brokeback Mountain would be one of the lowest of your priorities. If you want to prevent gay discrimination, why don't you go target Southern Baptist Churches, KKK rallies, frat culture, sports organizations, and other organizations that are truly discriminating against you. That's all I'm saying. I really don't see the point in going after the Academy or the film industry because they are not discriminatory, at least not on a level that's worth worrying about. That is purely based on what I see, and if I am incorrect, I don't mind being corrected.

Voting for Brokeback Mountain for best picture does not conclusively constitute discrimination. I personally don't see discrimination on any major level going on in Hollywood. Feel free to correct me, by the way. I'm throwing out my views and seeing if anyone disagrees. For one thing, there is practically no one in Hollywood who wouldn't work with gay directors like Bryan Singer, Joel Schumaker, and Bill Condon nor does it appear that anyone is expressing concern for working with Ian McKellan. There might be an occasional homophobe, for all we know, but I think the concern with discrimination like in the old days would be that "being gay keeps you from getting work," which really isn't the case. I even imagine that a straight guy would even start to feel a sense of isolation and discomfort working on Broadway although hopefully not discrimination.

Secondly, if you're worried about actual awards discrimination, playing gay (or bi or transsexual) gives you a humongous edge when it comes to the Oscars. Off the top of my head: 2006: Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
2005: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica Jake Gyllenhall, Brokeback Mountain Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
2003: Charlize Theron, Monster
2002: Selma Hayek, Frida Ed Harris, The Hours
2000: Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls Geoffery Rush, Quills
1999: Hillary Swank, Boys Don't Cry Chlose Severeigny, Boys Don't Cry
1997: Greg Kinnear, As Good as It Gets

I don't believe in all these cases that the awards are deserved but it is common knowledge that "going gay" for a role is a way to get noticed and earn or get nominated for an oscar or an oscar nom. This is the academy's way of saying: we are accepting of your choice of lifestyle and we wish to help you tell your story. One can look at Matt Damon's miss for Talented Mr. Ripley or Cillian Murphy for Breakfast on Pluto, but those guys came close and they were encouraged to do those roles because, among other reasons, they were oscar bait and that's because of the pro-gay culture the Oscars have created, so I think the academy has done a lot to advance the image of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals, way more so than it has done for other minorities like Blacks and Asians who continue to get relegated to martial arts movies and really, really bad films (I couldn't think of a word or phrase for the kind of movies that black people are forced to do).

As for Brokeback Mountain, it did get nominated and won three awards including director which basically means it was number 2 for the year and I'd call that very good. MAYBE, just maybe, it didn't win because people were turned off by the material, but there's no way of knowing that. I think you'd have racial activists rightfully thinking that their cause was discriminated against because the voters chose to appease gay advocates by voting for Brokeback Mountain, rather than for the better movie.

I do agree with one thing, though: if people went on record (Ernest Borgnine and Tony Curtis) as saying they haven't seen the film, than I don't think they should be aloud to vote and that might be part of the controversy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I surrender to American Idol

I think I’ve decided to reenter the world of American Idol and start keeping up with it. I once was an American Idol fan as in I actually watched the program (I watched the 03-04 season during the year that I took off school because it was the only thing me and my coworkers all had in common) but the thing is when you stop watching the program, you never really leave American Idol because it’s just inescapable at this point. It’s such a pervasive phenomenon. Just think about it: Every year, American Idol adds 3 or 4 new celebrities to the pop cultural landscape to keep track of. Some of them don’t even do it through singing well. Alternative routes include being really, really bad (William Hung), claiming you slept with a judge (Corey Clark), quitting the show early (I don’t remember that guy’s name, maybe Mario-something). I can just name off the top of my head: Bo Bice, Carrie Underwood, Kimberly Locke, Clay Aiken, Rueben Studdard, Tamyra Gray, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Elliot Yamin, Taylor Hicks, Chris Daughtry, Catherine McPhee, Kelly Pickler, and the following first names: Bucky, Constantine, Ace, Mandisa, and RJ without seeing a single episode of their respective seasons. I could have used that space in my brain to memorize the names of world leaders or something.

Seriously, I would’ve thought American Idol would have run its course by now. It seems like Ryan, Paula, Randy, and Simon just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Every year they do a profile on them in every outlet, because they think this is their year. An example of what I mean by “their year” is that People Magazine runs an annual issue of the 25 most interesting people of the year and Time Magazine has a similar feature. Time has figures such as Kanye West, Stephen Colbert, Lance Armstrong, Bono, Terrence Howard and Steve Carrell under 2005 and Nancy Pelosi, Sacha Baron Cohen and Stephen Colbert on 2006. The four above-mentioned people can be featured in any given year because they keep growing and growing in popularity. They think this is the year that Idol finally arrived, but what happens is that the next year is even bigger.

What I also don’t get is where do they keep getting all these contestants from. I thought the national talent pool of singers would have been drained by now. Logically, I would have assumed that if you sang as well as Carrie Underwood or Taylor Hicks you would have been confident enough to try out the first time. Did it take them four years to work up their confidence? If I was really hopeful about singing, I would have tried out for at least the second season thinking that the show might not be around forever.

So anyway, I’m rejoining the American Idol contingent now not because I feel the need to fit in and join in on American Idol conversations. I just want to know who this Sunjaya character, and I want to know what everything and everyone else on the show is about so it’s not entirely irrelevant to me. When you hear about something often enough, like the Iraq War, for example, you just tend to naturally want to know what the hell all the big fuss is about. And American Idol has pulled me in to that degree.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Musical Parody IV: Meet Me in St. Louis

This is another musical parody in which I try to analyze the subtext of what the characters in musicals really communicate when they're singing to each other. Today I will guide you through the musical numbers of Meet Me in St. Louis

Background: Meet Me in St. Louis was a very famous MGM Musical from 1944 that was influenced by the need to make films honoring homespun-Americana to help with the war effort from World War II. It starred Judy Garland and was said to be the film that allowed her to be seen as a grown-up for the first time (they might have overdone it). It also led to the marriage of Judy Garland and the film's director Vincente Minelli and their offspring Liza Minelli continues to fill the tabloids to this very day, carrying on the Judy Garland tradition of marital dysfunction.


Here are the musical numbers:
Meet Me in St. Louis-
The Smith Family: This movie sponsored by the St. Louis chamber of commerce. Come visit our magnificent city

The Boy Next Door-
Esther Smith: Hi, I'm Judy Garland and I'm all grown-up now. Oh, all the lost time I now have to make up for, missing my teenage years and all. I'm so boy crazy and so sexually repressed by our Victorian societal norms. Boys, boys, boys, look at that boy next door.

Skip to my Lou-
Alonzo: Skip to my, Skip to my, Skip to my Lou
Rose: Alonzo, what's that your singing? Let's make a musical number out of it
Alonzo: It's not even an original song
Rose: Oh don't worry, it's in the public domain and our producer left us short on songs. We'll just throw in some original lyrics on the side and haphazard choreography
Alonzo: Okey dokey
Everyone: Skip to my, Skip to my, Skip to my Lou
Esther: Boys, Boys, Boys! Oooh, look there's Harry and Charlie and Jonny

I Was Drunk Last Night Dear Mother/Under the Bamboo Tree-
Tootie-I'm much less restrained than my syblings. The audience is bound to grow tired of these stiffs and like me more
Esther-You're right, which is why you have to get out of this picture immediately
Tootie-Awww, come on, I might be up for an oscar if I sing another one of these cutsey songs
Esther-OK, but only if I join in.

Over the Bannister-
John-Golly gee, Esther, you're awfully pretty.
Esther-I know we live in this Victorian-like society where we're not supposed to kiss after the 16th date, but we're only a bannister away. It's not really that big. Come on over on the other side of it, and let's get to know each other on a more physical level.
John-Huh? I've never been in the same room alone with a girl before, so I have no idea what you're saying to me. Anyway, I better go, it's getting late.
Esther-Darn!

The Trolly Song-
Citizens of St. Louis-Wow, our city is so great now that we have this exciting public transportation! St. Louis, Missourri is always a great place where new inventions like public transportation are brought to the forefrount. Come visit this great city!
Esther-Oh, trolleys are all good and all, but i'm too depressed to think about anything. My crush Jonny isn't here. Maybe, I'll marry the director of this picture, Vincente Minelli. He is always spending so much time looking at me through his camera, he must be interested in me, and I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that it's his job to film me. I'm so misguided.
Citizens of St. Louis-Weee! This new technology is splendid. Clang, clang, clang. Ding, ding, ding.
Jonny-Hey guys, I missed the train, let me on!
Esther-Oh yay! Jonny is here! Wait up girls, I'm not depressed anymore, Judy Garland is here and is ready to save this lame musical number. I can clang-clang-clang and ding-ding-ding with the best of them.

You and I:
Mrs Smith: I think you screwed over the family but perhaps the economics faciliating our need to move are more complicated than I understand as a woman, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt
Mr. Smith: Thank you
The Smith Kids: Ok, we'll forgive you too


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas-
Tootie-I don't want to move
Esther-Well, it's Christmas time, let's just enjoy that. Christmas makes everything better

Meet me in St. Louis (reprise):
Once again this musical has been sponsored by the city of St. Louis. Not as big of a city as New York makes little girls cry and destroys families. St. Louis is a wholesome place where Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien sing and dance around happily

TV Review: Las Vegas as an example of wish fulfillment

Just for the record i wrote this in early 2005:

Las Vegas can rival Charlie's Angels or Loveboat as highly bankable guilty pleasures. The show this season has embarrassed itself more than last season and I don't seem to mind because of the general fun of the Las Vegas atmosphere, the zoom cams, the guest stars, and the sex appeal, I'm personally attracted to Vanessa Marcill, and between her and her three female costars, i'm sure every guy will find some piece of eye candy they like, so first off, the casting is so effecient at trimming down to the bare essentials, the casting call probably looked like this: New Sitcom casting call, we're looking for: 1. 4 Hot girls 2. 1 Hot guy 3. 1 Token black guy, with a lot of blackness 4. One notorious tough guy, who's recognizeable from the movies I mean, seriously, is there any difference between the 4 girls, they're all hot and they all have some sort of sexual tension with Danny in one form or another. They all seem to have perfectly balanced boundaries of sexuality between guys they're attracted to and not attracted to.

An episode I saw recently had them stranded in the desert and Clint Black, or some country star I don't remember, found them in the middle of nowhere, rescued them, lent them all five-star hotel bathrobes, and played them all music. How the incident was completely devoid of sexuality struck me, the girls were rescued by him, but just wanted to hear his music, didn't repay him in any way, and the country music stars were happy to oblige. What's odd is that the country music stars weren't at all attracted to them at any way, only the people they want the attention from are attracted to them. I think it's the concept of fantasy role models, girls watching Las Vegas want to be those girls, looking good without getting the unwanted side effects of the unnecessary attention.

One other humongous guilty pleasure episode, where any semblance of consistency in character development went out the window, and we were probably OK with it, was when the Black Eyed Peas guest-starred. I mean, this guy was introduced to us last year as a CIA stiff, how embarrassing would it be for that guy they introduced last year for him to exchange "wazuup" greetings with hip-hop artists, and bounce up and down to their music. And of course, for Belinda, Ed's daughter, she was best friends with the members in the group? Yeah, where did that come from?

Daredevil Review (2003)

Whether it lives up to the success of its Marvel predecessor Spiderman with whom this superhero shares several parallels, Daredevil is an undeniably solid film. The advantage for Daredevil's appeal is that unlike human spiders, blind people actually do exist and his struggles add a neat human dimension. The title sequence is done in Braille and the special effects, shown from our blind superhero's point of view, are amazing. The well-balanced story is somewhat dark in tone but not depressing, and gives us a good character portrait. What's best about the film, however, is its cast. Ben Affleck, with his do-good persona has superhero written all over him. Affleck isn't physically intimidating but that never stopped Tobey MaGuire in Spiderman or Michael Keaton in Batman. If you're looking for a love interest who can knock down bad guys in her sleep, no one can top Garner and as for the villains, you'll feel Mike Duncan Clarke and Farrell were practically born into their parts.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Musical Parody III: Singing in the Rain

Here's a guide to the subtext of the musical numbers of Singing in the Rain:
Fit as a Fiddle:
Cosmo and Don: We're two sexually verile men coming up through the industry. Lock up your daughters

All I Do is Dream of You:
Girls: We're naughty girls. As naughty as the Breen Code will allow us to be. Hopefully we'll get better jobs, someday.

Make'em Laugh:
Cosmo: Don, you've gotta sell out. High art is overrated. Take this movie. It probably won't win any oscars, but audiences will eat it up.
The Academy: Right, you are. This film is crap. We won't even nominate it.
The American Film Institute years later: On the contrary, this picture is brilliant. We'll put it #10 on our best pictures list.
Other film critics' organizations: Yes, we love it too.
Cosmo: See my point?

Beautiful Girl:
Singer: I sing well, but I'm old school and soon to be replaced by hipper and more current guys like Gene Kelly over there.


You Were Meant for Me:
Kathy: I like you, Don.
Don Lockwood: Aw shucks, I feel the same way about you too Kathy. But I'm so shy (but not really, based on all my other scenes) that I don't know how to say that outside the confines of a movie set.

Moses Supposes:
Voice Teacher: Ok, pupils, let's go over our pronounciation.
Don Lockwood: How about we don't and say we did.
Voice Teacher: Excuse me?
Don Lockwood: You heard me, old man. I don't need your stupid voice lessons. I'm Gene Kelly and all the ladies love me.
Cosmo: And I'm Donald O'Connor and I'm funny as hell.
Don Lockwood: Yeah, that's right. We don't need you. Now get the hell out of here before I bury you under a pile of your own teaching implements.

Singing in the Rain:
Don Lockwood: I'm so happy. I'm so in love with Kathy, I don't feel the need to tap dance with my usual technical precision to prove to the world how great I am. I'm just going to jump around in puddles. Weee!

Good Morning:
Kathy and Don: We're so happy because not only are we physically compatible, but we also work well together professionally. We're so in love. Being in love is great!
Cosmo: What about me? I feel like a third wheel.
Don: Oh, don't worry, you're the comic relief, and that's just as important. Besides, by being on our side, you're bound to have a happier ending than Lina Lamont.
Cosmo: Good point. Let's sing and dance.

Would You:
Kathy Seldom: Once again, I'm Debbie Reynolds and I can sing.

Broadway Rhythm:
MGM Musical Director Arthur Freed: Just in case people aren't really liking this picture, we'll throw in a long ballet number like the one that won American in Paris the Academy Award last year.
Gene Kelly: Sounds good to me. I'm an attention-whore so if people are staring at me for 14 straight minutes, I can't complain.
Arthur Freed: Also, this film is self-referential. We want to pay a homage to the broadway roots of the musical.
Broadway: That sounds confusing but thanks

You Are My Lucky Star:
Don Lockwood: Sorry, I was an idiot. Maybe, if I jump back into movie musical mode and sing a little bit, you'll forgive me?
Kathy Seldom: Wow Gene, you're finally singing in tune! I'm impressed! Of course, I forgive you.

Review of X-Men 2

Review of X2:
With much of the exposition out of the way, the second installment of the X-Men is much freer to develop its characters and engage in some summer fun along the way. The film benefits from its large and talented ensemble, which includes a number of new heroes and villains entering the scene. New characters include a vanishing monk named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) and a conflicted teenager with firepower named Pyro (Shawn Ashmore). Of course, we're treated to a brand new villain (Bryan Cox), which adds a new dimension to the battle of good vs. evil as the good guys and bad guys are forced to enter into a temporary alliance and some riveting complications result thereafter. Overall, Bryan Singer has the challenging task of navigating the complexities of this comic and showing the appealing side of this band of misfits, and he comes through in flying colors
With much of the exposition out of the way, the second installment of the X-Men is much freer to develop its characters and engage in some summer fun along the way. The film benefits from its large and talented ensemble, which includes a number of new heroes and villains entering the scene. New characters include a vanishing monk named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) and a conflicted teenager with firepower named Pyro (Shawn Ashmore). Of course, we're treated to a brand new villain (Bryan Cox), which adds a new dimension to the battle of good vs. evil as the good guys and bad guys are forced to enter into a temporary alliance and some riveting complications result thereafter. Overall, Bryan Singer has the challenging task of navigating the complexities of this comic and showing the appealing side of this band of misfits, and he comes through in flying colors

Musical Parody II: American in Paris

Here's your guide to what the subtext of all the musical numbers from American in Paris are
(note: I still am a big fan of this film, even if it appears I'm not):

Background: American in Paris was a Vincente Minelli musical which represented the height of MGM's Golden Era of Musicals winning the best picture award at the Oscars in 1951. It starred Gene Kelly and was notable for its all-Gerswhin format, the comic grouchiness of Oscar Levant as the piano player, the newly discovered Leslie Caron, and the unconventional narrative technique of ending a movie on a ballet number rather than through anything happening with the plot.

By Strauss:
Henri: I'm a musical snob. I can't appreciate American art forms like jazz and that's why, audience, you should root for Jerry to get the girl
Jerry: I'm singing along, but this whole bashing-of-American-music number was the Frenchman's idea

I've Got Rhythm:
Jerry: Hey kids, I've got great news! I'm either going to get laid or someone wants to buy my pictures! I don't know which but it's a win-win situation either way! Let's celebrate!

Our Love is Here to Stay:
Jerry: You're beautiful, I'm in love with you. Let's get together.
Lise: What the hell are you doing? I'm in the middle of dancing with someone else
Jerry: I'm sorry, maybe you weren't notified. I'm Gene Kelley, the star of this film and every other MGM film and I hold all the clout here. I even was the one who cast you. So let's get together
Lise: Um, well I appreciate all that, but i don't really like you

Tra-La-La:
Jerry: Adam, I'm in love!
Adam: Shut up, I'm trying to play the piano, here.
Jerry: Adam, I'm in love, Tra-la-la.
Adam: That's just lame, now go away.
Jerry: Hey, do I need to remind you, I'm Gene Kelly?
Adam: Ok, fine, let's just get this song over with.

Our Love is Here to Stay (reprise):
Jerry: Let's try this again. You're beautiful, I'm in love with you. Let's get together.
Lise: Oh, you're THAT Gene Kelley. Fine, whatever, let's get together.
Jerry: That's better.

Stairway to Paradise:
Henri: OK, audience, I've decided to stop becoming a musical stiff and in order to win you over, I've decided to adopt your American music. Then again, I'm butchering this Gerswhin number with my French accent, so I'm not sure if that's a good thing

's Wonderful:
Henri: I'm such a fool in love
Jerry: I'm such a fool in love
Adam: Not only are you fools, you're both complete idiots because you don't know you're singing about the same girl, but at least it moves the plot along. I'll just tuck away, so you two can discover this on your own.

The American in Paris Ballet:
[Lise decides to go with Henri]
Audience: Wow, I thought she'd end up with Gene Kelly because that's how these movies usually end, but Henri's a good guy too, I'm satisfied.
Jerry: Hey, what the hell is going on? I'm Gene Kelly. I'm beautiful and my dancing's unbeatable. This movie's not supposed to end without me getting the girl. I refuse to let this happen. I'm going to keep dancing until something's done about this ending.
[Dances for 13 minutes]
Henri and Lise: Ok, you win.
Audience: That was wierd and didn't make sense.
Critics: Ending a movie on a nonsensical ballet number. Brilliant!

Musical Parody I: West Side Story

As I was watching a musical the other day, I was realizing that people misunderstand musicals. In the "integrated" form, people don't understand why people are spontaneously breaking out into song. The songs actually move the plot along and they also allow the characters to say things that they otherwise wouldn't be able to say very convincingly in spoken word. Sometimes, what they sing about is self-referential too (about their character and where they are in relation to the plot). Here's a handy-dandy key to what the characters are really saying in a film musical like West Side Story:

When You're a Jet, You're a Jet All the Way:
Jets: We're cool cause we're in a gang. Later, we'll learn the invaluable lesson that gang violence is kind of dangerous, but for now in this stage of the story, we're blissfully unaware of it and are having as much fun in our gang-related activity as kids in Disneyworld.

Something's Coming:
Tony: Riff, I'm a lover, not a fighter. Besides, I had a chance to skim a copy of the script and I can't remember exactly what it was, but something good's in store for my character. Maybe, it's a girl or something else, I don't remember what. I don't remember the page number either, but I'm telling you, Riff, something good is coming up for me.

I Feel Pretty:
Maria: Hey girls, I know you all previously knew me as Bernardo's younger sister, but I am becoming more sexually mature and am ready to start competing with you in the dating pool. And may I add, I'm quite a hottie.

Mambo (Dance at the Gymnasium):
Jets: We're young, wild, sexually out-of-control and dangerous.
Sharks: So are we
Both groups: Well, the music is so lively, let's just take our energy out on the dance floor for now

Maria:
Tony: Wow, this Maria girl is hot.

America:
Shark Girls: America is so great. Everything's free and you can do whatever you want
Shark Boys: Actually, not everything's free. We have to work really hard in low-wage jobs and we're discriminated against because we're immigrants and don't have much opportunity
Shark Girls: Oh America is so great, all these bright lights and tall skyscrapers. Oh we have so much pride
Shark Boys: Bitches, are you not listening to us! We're second class citizens here.
Shark Girls: And did we mention how great buying on credit is? America's the best!
Shark Boys: OK, let's just agree to disagree

Officer Krupkee:
Riff: Let's take a break from all this fighting and deliver some socially relevant commentary on how society's failed us
Jets: How is that going to help us?
Riff: It's not, but it will help the songwriter look more intelligent and get higher praise from the critics
Jets: OK, but as long as we can add a catchy tune to it

One Hand, One Heart:
Tony and Maria: These lyrics make no sense, but the sentimental music will let the audience know that this is a sappy music number designed to provide a little filler

Tonight:
Maria and Tony: We're going to be together tonight, we're so in love.
Jets: Tonight, we're going to finally beat the crap out of the Sharks.
Sharks: Tonight, we're going to beat up the Jets
Anita: Oooh Bernardo! I love it when you talk about your knife fights. It turns me on.

Somewhere:
Maria and Tony: There's a better place for us.

A Boy Like That:
Anita: You can't sleep with Tony because I'm a racist.

I Had a Love:
Maria: OK, but I'm not.

Somewhere (reprise):
Maria and Tony: Things didn't work out between us, but maybe they can for you the audience, if you learn from the lesson of our story. Bear with us while we try to figure out a moralistic ending.

Other musical parodies:
American in Paris
Singing in the Rain
Meet me in St. Louis

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The bias behind a bias

I'm sick and tired of people accusing various media outlets of having a "liberal bias" or a "conservative bias."

I'm tired of conservatives using the argument that news stations or newspapers operate under a bias. In this way they seek to invalidate the opinions of those who oppose them rather than engage in a constructive argument. It's true that Washington Post has more liberal opinions ono their editorial section but most of the staff writers and journalists are professional reporters who operate under a set of standards. I don't think people appreciate how good of a job the vast majority of reporters in this world do at abiding by those standards. The way conservatives portray the news media who disagrees with them, they'd have us believe that people take on careers in journalism out of a desire to massively influence public policy through distortions of the truth. In fact, the people doing those are mostly conservative radio pundits. There are probably a few biased liberal pundits too.

The true bias comes from belonging to a party. Liberal and conservative are entirely abstract words that only make sense in the context of American politics within this certain period of American history. They don't really mean anything in absolute terms, but they mean a lot to a lot of people. It ties them to a certain set of principles to fight for, so that's their bias and distortion.

The set of principles I like to abide by is what's good for America and me as a voter. I belong to the "good government" party if that exists. I also am all for the "truth" party. I'd like honest information, and the people who get closest to that are reporters. They're trained in truth-seeking and it's true, us journalists have biases but those have to do with meeting deadlines, making their leads abnormally flashy, making boring people interesting. Maybe in some cases, that produces a distortion, I'll admit but that's so much smaller than the pundits will have you believe.

The truth is that if the vast majority of news agencies are saying things like "War on Iraq is bad" and the pundits are arguing that their all distorted, then pundits and everyone else who cries foul, needs to accept the possibility that the only thing that's distorted is the truth in relation to their own views. I'm not even arguing for or against the war on Iraq. I'm arguing against the innocent smearing of a journalist's name by a pundit for political gain.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Blades of Glory review

Blades of Glory stars John Heder and Will Ferrell as skaters who, due to zany circumstances beyond their control*, are forced to skate together as the sport’s first male-male pair. The comic premise here, as if it needs explaining, is that figure skating, at least in pairs’ form, is all about sex. And no, it’s not implicitly sexual, but you’ll see when you watch this that the nature of the sport is that it just does not work when you stick two definitively heterosexual men** into it. The results will make you cringe. But is it funny? Well, sort of. Another lesson the film reminded me of was that Will Ferrell, hilarious as he is, doesn’t make a good movie by himself. You need to add in the right complements: perferrably a screenwriter like Adam McKay and costars with improvisational ability like John C. Riley, David Koechner, Steve Carrell, and Vince Vaughn. When this happens, the actors get into a zone where jokes bounce off one another in a way that can’t miss and they yield comic classics*** “Old School”, “Talladega Nights”, and “Anchorman.”

This film has its moments but it never really gets into that zone. It has its quotable lines and flashes of brilliance that will make for a good trailer. The film features great performances by some great comic actors who with any luck will be able to use this as a springboard to bigger and better roles. These are Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler and Will Arnett (formerly of Arrested Development) as a rival pair, as well as The Office’s Jenna Fischer as their goody-two-shoes sister.

But still, the film never creates that atmosphere where you’re laughing so hard you can’t focus on anything else. It doesn’t have enough momentum to carry over from scene to scene. It might be because after Dodgeball and Talladega Nights, sports parodies are no longer a novelty. It might be because Ferrell might just be overusing the same macho comic persona a little too much. It might also be John Heder. I’m not sure whether I want him to succeed at something other than Napoleon Dynamite so that people can once and for all move past Napoleon Dynamite (which I thought was decent but nowhere near as deserving of all the praise it received), or if I just want people to just skip the middle step and forget Napoleon Dynamite AND John Heder, period. The point is that if you subscribe to my theory that Napoleon Dynamite was a complete fluke of film popularity as it relates to film quality, than Heder has a lot to prove in your eyes if he wants to share the screen with Ferrell. Whether he delivers is arguable. He does have some range and proves he can be people other than Napoleon Dynamite, but I don’t think he meets the bar set by Will Ferrell’s costars, at least in this particular movie.

*Well, the circumstances aren't REALLY that much beyond their control. It's kind of a weak plot contrivance
**They're both definitively heterosexual in different ways. Ferrell's character is very macho while Heder's character is more of a romantic
***At least in my opinion

Are John Huston films a lost genre?

I just saw Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and all I can say is I love John Huston's movies. Beat the Devil, Key Largo, Man Who Would be King and African Queen are the ones i've seen, and they all are great adventure rides. Part of the fun of the story is being taken off to some far exotic land (The Florida Keys were more exotic back then) and seeing it in a way that you wouldn't have otherwise seen it.

Like Alfred Hitchkock, John Huston could be said to have been in a genre of his own (although nowhere near as prolific or as well-received by academics, of course).

I don't know if that genre of films still exists. We had Indiana Jones though or Romancing the Stone and that might have been the closest that we have had in the blockbuster era to John Huston. Maybe, the era is lost or maybe with the world having become more and more global
in the last 20 years, exotic places no longer exist. Still we can do that movie in a retro era.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My opinions on the Alberto Gonzales trial

I'm not Mr. Politics and am not a political expert, but i felt somewhat strongly on this, and wanted to hear other people's opinions. If I'm wrong, i wouldn't mind that either and than I could learn:

I am against Bush's policies and am generally anti-Bush but i don't believe we should fire Alberto Gonzales because i don't think someone's employment should be taken away from them without due process. Just like I trusted that eventually the American people would come see the light and eventually elect a democratic majority in an orderly way, I think Congress or whomever is in charge of the proceedings will do their job well and i don't see the need for the Press or people like you to call the shots.

I also think, more importantly, firing Gonzales will solve our problems. The administration has the same corrupt guys at the top: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rove, and Bush. Progress was made when we eliminated Rumsfeld. Eliminating guys below Cheney or Bush won't do anything. I just see it as more wrong to encourage the administration to set someone up like Scooter Libby or Alberto Gonzales to be a fall guy. Without knowing too much, it seems obvious Gonzales is acting on behalf of Bush. He's not doing anything self-serving. He's not firing justices who don't agree with his way of thinking, but rather firing justices who don't agree with his superior's way of thinking, so I think he's responding to pressure his superiors. And, honestly, do you think the country wants to go through an impeachment trial and remove a president? If you want to fine, but if you're unwilling to face the instability caused by removing a president from office, then let it go at that, and don't just pick on the fall guy. I imagine that's what they want.