Sunday, September 28, 2008

Iconic female TV characters of the last 25 years

Ages ago I posted a blog on the Famous Female Characters from film, in response to a great post over at Blog Cabins. It's easily the hit on Google that brings the most traffic to my little blog. So I've been thinking about how to bring it back, and since the new season of TV started, here's the top 15 female television characters for the last 20+ years. I'm sure there are many I missed, but these are the ones from shows I actually watched to some degree and so could at least mention a little of why I think they're important. Also, the criteria from my previous post holds - these are not necessarily award winning performances, but are definitely recognizable on their own merit (and not necessarily the fame of the actress, though in most cases that helped). Let me know if I've missed any.

1. Buffy Summers (aired Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1997-2003) – Sarah Michelle Gellar

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an awesome TV show that did all kinds of teenage ansty things set against the back-drop of saving the world (secretly though). Buffy proved you can be girly, California, and still beat the crap out of evil things (dead or alive).

2. Murphy Brown (Murphy Brown 1988-1998) – Candice Bergan

Murphy Brown as a character was inspiring to women, she broke ground by making women seem powerful, in charge, and still sexy. She fought with real-life people, challenged stereotypes, and still didn't make it look easy.

3. Sidney Bristow (Alias 2001-2006) – Jennifer Garner

I loved Alias because Sidney Bristow was smart, kickass, and could wear a wig and jump off a building like nobody's business. She fought against the bad guys (once she realized she was one), and made being a spy seem like a fairy tale job.

4. Betty Suarez (Ugly Betty 2006-present) – America Ferrera

I'm sure I don't have anything to add to the many many many things written about why Ugly Betty is an awesome show, and makes real people feel like they could someday work at Mode. Betty's not perfect, and she knows how to be heard, helpful, and important without being the most beautiful person around.

5. Roseanne (Roseanne 1988-1997) – Roseanne Barr

Roseanne gave a different version of what a family could be like. It doesn't have to be happy all the time, it doesn't have to be rich, and it doesn't have to be particularly functional, but it's still a family. They were happy when good things happened and dealt with the crap just like everyone else.

6. Ally McBeal (Ally McBeal 1997-2002)– Calista Flockhart

She was crazy, she saw babies dancing, and had an unfailing faith in love. Plus, her life always seemed more impossible and crazy than ours. She was an attorney, but practicing law was always the last thing you remember about her.

7. Ellen Morgan (Ellen 1994-1998)– Ellen Degeneres

This show and Ellen Degeneres as the main character probably would be more remembered than the specific character Ellen Morgan, but it's hard to remember the show without the character. Ellen had secrets and wanted to be herself, and thus changed some of the face of TV (also written about as many or more times than Ugly Betty).

8. Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City 1998-2004)– Sarah Jessica Parker

She made all kinds of fashionista ideas household names - Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choos, fashion week, fleet week, etc. She made it okay (if not right) for people to date around (a lot) to find your true love (and it's okay if you nickname him and only call him Mr. Big for years). And that other people will come along and break your heart, but never EVER give up your UES apartment.

9. Joan Giardi (Joan of Arcadia 2003-2005)– Amber Tamblin

My mom watched this show more than I did, but she loved it and anyone else I know who watched it said it was wonderful. Joan could hear God speaking to her, and in turn would do something great to make the world better.

10. The Golden Girls (The Golden Girls 1985-1992) – Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, Betty White, and Bea Arthur

All of the Golden Girls made it clear that people over 50 can still have terrific TV shows without just being the parental sidekick. They were fun, sassy, told stories and ate cheesecake. I watched reruns of this every day after school in 7th grade (can't explain why, but I did).

11. Rory/Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls 2000-2007) – Alexis Bledel, Lauren Graham

Lorelai and Rory Gilmore created new kinds of characters that talked in their own pop culture language, really fast, and basically they were the only people who really understood their world, but they often let funny colorful characters join in. Plus, they are addicted to coffee.

12. Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote 1984-1996) – Angela Lansbury

She wrote mysteries and solved all kinds of problems all over the Maine coast. She was older, single, and had all kinds of adventures. She survived all the evil plots that she managed to get involved with, with the help of lots of local people.

13. Peg Bundy (Married...with Children 1987-1997) – Katey Sagal

She was a terrible mother, a terrible wife, and not particularly good at very much. But that didn't mean we didn't want to watch her yell at the kids, and whine to Al, and basically cause mayhem and keep the family together.

14. Grace Adler (Will & Grace 1998-2006) – Debra Messing

Grace was probably the first beard or fag hag on TV, and openly so. It was her love of Will (and her relationship with Karen) that always made us tune in again. Also, it didn't help that she has the comedic timing of Lucille Ball and could hurt herself, hurt other people, fall down, or break things better than anyone. She's always hysterical.

15. Brenda Lee Johnson (The Closer 2005-present) – Kyra Sedgwick

The Closer is a wonderful show mostly because of the character of Brenda Lee (Thank you so much). She's a steel magnolia of sorts. She uses her southern charm to get criminals to confess their secrets and put them in jail. She disregards most of the rules, bosses everyone around, but she closes all her cases so she rises to the top.

Honorable Mentions – Patty Hewes – Glenn Close, Damages; Meredith Gray – Ellen Pompeo, Gray’s Anatomy; Max Guevera - Jessica Alba, Dark Angel; The Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girls, The ladies of the L Word, Sisters of Charmed, Bones/Temperance Brennan – Emily Deschanal, Bones.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, September 26, 2008

TV season start up week

Many of the TV shows premiered this week and there's a noticeable lack of new shows so far. The returning shows were split in their quality. How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, House, and Grey's Anatomy all returned with excellent premieres. Good fun, excellent stories, and continued quality. Two and a half men, CSI: Miami, and Ugly Betty were all disappointing. Bones started out really disappointing (the whole British story was dumb) but has really picked up . And there have been two new shows that have good pilots and have promising plots - Fringe and The Mentalist. Fringe I already wrote about, and it's gotten better since. It's definitely the worthy successor to The X-files, but it's funnier and by being a little silly is easier to believe their unbelievable stories. The other new show, The Mentalist is a drama, the story of a former fake psychic (like Psych) who goes to work for the cops after a serial killer takes his family for using him as a publicity stunt. Our cop (Something New's Simon Baker) can look at all the things in a family's house and figure out who killed the victim. He's funny, irreverent, and almost the cliche for cop dramas, but still pretty good. Robin Tunney also adds a little bit of the straight man to his loose cannon. We'll keep watching for a bit. Haven't seen Heroes yet, but I'm very hopeful.

Addendum: Oh yeah, I also watched and loved The Office and ER (yes, I'm still watching - I took a break for about 6 years, but I've been watching for a few seasons now). Both had really terrific season openers. Surprising, satisfying, and made me cry.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 1996

Year: 1996
Film: Independence Day
Box Office Gross: $
Awards: 1 Oscar for visual effects
Actors: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsh, Harry Connick, Jr., Jeff Bridges, Vivica A. Fox, Brent Spiner

This is one of my favorite blockbusters, and definitely my favorite Will Smith movie. He was still new as a leading actor, moving away from his TV fame, and still rising as a rap/R&B star (It was a little before Jiggy became a household word, and before it stopped being one). The movie starts with all the communication systems going crazy, our heroic President (Pullman) trying to figure things out, but still doesn't make sense. Jeff Goldblum figures out what's going on, and tries to get to the White House with his father (Judd Hirsh) because his ex-wife works for the President. With the help of Captain Steven Hiller (Smith), they try to attack the large circular UFOs, fail miserably, and have to find another method to get them away. Smith figures out how to fight one of the individual UFOs (smaller little units part of the big ones), and captures it. This reveals that this has happened before (yet another hypothesis of what happened at Area 51) and now that they've returned, the machines are working again and maybe they can fly the old ship into the mother ship and detroy everything. Writing this, it seems even more preposterous than actually watching it. It all makes a little bit of sense in context (with the realm of sci-fi anyway). There's a lot of humor throughout, even while you're unsure who will survive. Lots of people don't, but of course our hero prevails. I still like it, and even with the 12 years since, the technology they use hasn't made it particularly dated yet, though it might someday. Oh yeah, and the whole thing occurs from July 2-4, hence Independence Day! Below, this is one of my favorite scenes - listening to Will Smith yell at the alien.

My Best Friend's Girl is Raunchy

The new movie with Dane Cook, Jason Biggs, and Kate Hudson, My Best Friend's Girl, is not good. Even as a romantic comedy it fails. The weird thing is, most of the acting is actually good, even Dane Cook, really. So the premise is that Dane Cook has a side profession as an asshole. He gets hired by guys who screwed up their relationships, got dumped, and now want the girl back. Cook fits in by being so awful, any guy will look good by comparison. Jason Biggs is in love with his co-worker, Kate Hudson, a monogamy junkie who needs to date around before settling down with nice guy Biggs. So she dates Dane Cook. Fairly obviously from all the commercials, she ends up with Cook. However, you get to watch him be as awful as any human being really can be. Some of it's deliberate, and some is just the writers trying to show off how disgusting and stupid they can be. I actually think this movie could be remade in a way that wasn't disgusting (and I liked the raunchiness of the American Pie series). This movie is over the top and really poorly written. 2 of 5 stars/LAMBS.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A woman of excellent support...

Kathryn Joosten won another Emmy! Now you may be saying "Who exactly is Kathryn Joosten?" Well, she has come in many memorable, supporting characters. She first came to my attention as the sharp-tongued Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing. Though in the scene below she's an incredibly sympathetic mother going to honor her boys at another vet's funeral.

I also saw her on an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she played the spooky housemother of lots of ghosty kids.

And now she's been honored with ANOTHER Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a comedy series! Now that you know who she is, you'll see her everywhere!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two new movies

For a change we actually got two new movies at the local cineplex. So I took in the double feature of Burn After Reading and The Women. First, Burn After Reading, the Coen brothers new comedy, delivered in the style I expected. It was funny, confusing, expertly acted, with new original characters and a decent amount of violence. A basic outline of the plot begins with John Malkovich as a CIA agent being fired. He yells and fights but is still fired and decides to write his "mem-wahs" (memoirs for the rest of you). His wife, Tilda Swinton, is actually sleeping with a really weird, creepy, womanizing US Marshall, George Clooney. This world of Washington insiders eventually gets involved with much of the staff of "Hardbodies" gym when a CD of Malkovich's info is dropped in the ladies room. Brad Pitt, as the greatest character he's ever played - Chad the gym guy, and Frances McDormand (a woman who just wants 4 elective surgeries to improve her appearance) decide to try to blackmail Malkovich to get money out of the deal. Lots of things go wrong as you might expect, but obviously moronic hilarity ensues. Pitt's perforamnce as Chad is still funny to remember. He wears shorts and his uniform all the time, rides his bike, listens to his ipod constantly and has frosted tips. His dancing skills will become iconic (or maybe just funny forever). It wasn't quite up to the standard of Fargo, but the characters were more entertaining. 4.5 of 5 stars/LAMBS.

The Women was a remake of the 1939 movie based on the play by Clare Booth Luce. This version starred the best Meg Ryan we've seen in ages (but that doesn't make her terrific either), with a terrific Annette Benning and great supporting performances by Cloris Leachman, Debra Messing, Candice Bergen, Eva Mendes and Debi Mazar. I liked the movie, but it didn't really go anywhere new. Since it was a remake, it really should have been more unique in taking the themes created by the original work and bringing new things to it. I saw the original very recently too, and it was more interesting for its time, but the new version just took all the cliches that make sense in certain scenes and applied today's version of them. They didn't investigate much beyond the original. There were some interesting questions - what do you do when you find out your husband's cheating?, do you stay or leave?, how far does a friend have to go to end the friendship? and if everyone already knows your business is it worth trying to pretend any more? Ryan and Benning do a great job of being friends, hand working women, and annoying at the same time. I liked the overall story, but wasn't impressed in general. It was interesting to watch a movie that had not a single man anywhere in it (except 1 obvious one). All the scenes were deliberately situated not to be ridiculous without men (a lesbian bar, a woman's luncheon, day spas) but it was still interesting to realize. Definitely a chick flick, but only a 3 of 5.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blog Chain Mail...

I know I usually post about movies, and I will as I've just seen a double feature of "The Women" and "Burn After Reading", but as The Nerdy Fashionista tagged me, and I'm very susceptible to this stuff, I'll just do it.

1. Where were you 10 years ago? I was gearing up to start my sophomore year of college. I don't think I'd even left yet to start the fall semester, we had such a late starting school. Comes from having finals after Christmas.

2. What's on your to-do list today? Well, my already done list included "The Women" and "Burn After Reading" so I've pretty much accomplished all I intended.

3. What if you were a billionaire? I'd probably be really tired from working so hard to escape the authorities after stealing the money. However, if I still had energy to spend my billions, I'd definitely buy back my grandparents house (no sad story, they just don't live there anymore and I love the house). I'd install an amazing movie theater in my house to watch every movie I'd own on DVD. Oh, I'd probably give lots of it away to good charities since I've become pretty good on living on meager incomes.

4. Name 5 places that you have lived?
-Potsdam, NY
-Gamboa, Panama
-Nanyuki, Kenya
-Brooklyn, NY
-New York, NY

5. What are 3 bad habits that you have?
- Interrupting when people talk
-Buying ingredients for recipes I never make
-Always letting someone else do the dishes

6. What kind of snack do you like?
This time of year it's definitely candy corn...lots of it.

Next person tagged is Cat at Catherine and Paul

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rethinking Oscars Past

I heard a piece on NPR the other day about the Oscars of 1968. They discussed the five films up for Best Picture that year, and I was amazed at how wonderful the top five movies were, but I still wondered if the same picture that won would still be considered the best of the five 40 years later. The first film is good, but was never a real contender in my opinion, Doctor Dolittle was a musical version with Rex Harrison of a children's book about a man who could speak to animals and more importantly could understand the animals too. A great film, yes, and probably nominated because musicals had been big winners in the recent past (My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, West Side Story), but those were the last winners until Chicago in 2002. Now the other four movies nominated in 1968 are all incredibly famous and have really stood the test of time. Bonnie and Clyde, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, and the winner In the Heat of the Night. Bonnie and Clyde is a period piece about bank robbers from the early 1930s. The line "We rob banks." - Bonnie Parker lives on in the greatest lines of movie history. The story is huge, violent, based on a true story, and starring two Oscar nominated (and later Oscar winning) actors. Definitely a film ripe for Oscar glory.

However, in a year like 1968, it doesn't make the top 3 (again in my opinion). Actually, one of my other favorite movies from 1968 didn't even get nominated for Best Picture - Cool Hand Luke. What an amazing year. Sidney Poitier wasn't even nominated in an acting category even though he starred in TWO of the nominated films. Guess who's coming to dinner is an amazing look at race relations from a high-brow society perspective in just one family. With superb acting throughout, it was actually a miracle it got made (according to this NPR story). The movie couldn't even be shown in 16 states without riots, and just months before its release laws against miscegenation were ruled unconstitutional. Talk about a timely story being made to put a hollywood face on a public issue. It's a wonderful movie that still holds the test of time, even when few people would be shocked by inter-racial couples, due to the intricate writing and complex family relationships.

More has probably been written about The Graduate than any of the other films. They even made another movie about The Graduate origins (Rumor Has It). "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me." will always be recognized and being Mrs. Robinson was what people used to call "cougars" I think. Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft tear up the screen throughout this movie. I can't possibly due it the justice it deserves, but I'll assume everyone knows the movie, if only from the soundtrack. But I'm not sure it was the best movie.

I do think the best movie of the lot won for Best Picture. In the Heat of the Night is an awesome mystery story with an unlikely hero. Virgil Tibbs, a renowned Philadelphia homicide detective, is wrongly accused of a crime in rural Mississippi. Fighting all kinds of racism, he decides to help the police find the real criminal. Poitier is wonderful playing a character not often seen on film at the time. His simmering hatred for the people who belittle him is carefully controlled with the knowledge he is their superior in every way. It's a terrific suspenseful movie, that might even have grown greater over time for its snapshot of history. I watch it every time it's on. "They call me Mr. Tibbs" - Det. Virgil Tibbs.

Anyway, I sort of wanted to see what other people thought of these 5 films and if they would have chosen a winner differently than the Academy.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Great new TV - "Fringe"

If you know me at all or read this blog regularly, you know I'm pretty much addicted to TV. I look forward to the start of the new seasons and particularly new shows. I've also learned that there is usually a HUGE difference between a "pilot" and the series they create later, so judging a show solely on its pilot is rarely a good idea. The "pilot" is usually created to sell to the network and the advertisers rather than the audience they want to attract. That said, I LOVED the pilot for J.J. Abrams new show on Fox "Fringe". It's sort of like "Bones" meets "The X-Files" with a little bit of the conspiracy mystery of "Alias". Here's what I learned from the premiere, not that it will hold up as the series goes on. Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is an FBI liaison officer investigating a freaky incident on a plane from Hamburg. Basically everyone on the plane liquefied and left only their skeletons. To cover up the really freaky terrorism, they burn the plane, but continue investigating. John Scott (Mark Valley - I went to high school with his youngest sister!) is another FBI agent helping her find the people responsible for the technology/chemistry that caused the terror. He gets blown up when they find the lair of some people possibly responsible. However, he doesn't die, but his skin become see-through (VERY cool effects all the way through the show). Our innocent Agent Dunham does some ruthless things to find the cure - and blackmails Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) into returning to Boston to free his "fringe" scientist father (John Noble) from a mental institution so he can figure out how to save Agent Scott. Lots of action, excitment and all kinds of weird implausible science (that Jackson comments on to hilarious effect). There's a great moment when Dr. Bishop is asking for various things to supply his lab, and one of them is a cow, and he says "The only thing better than a cow is a human. Unless you want milk, then you pretty much need a cow." While it's not a comedic show, Joshua Jackson does a great job being the super-smart ne'erdowell son making fun of his father and the FBI. I really liked it and can't wait for the real season to start!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 2000

Year: 2000
Film: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Box Office Gross: $260,031,035
Awards: 1 Oscar for makeup, nominated for 2 others
Actors: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon, Directed by Ron Howard

I was really surprised that this movie took in the most money for 2000. It was up against quite a few movies that entered our culture and were of much higher quality even for being blockbusters than The Grinch. The next 6 highest grossing films in 2000 included: Castaway, M:I 2, Gladiator, What Women Want, The Perfect Storm, and Meet the Parents. Each of these films is better and more worth watching again than The Grinch. Bringing the classic Dr. Seuss Christmas story to live-action rather than the wonderful cartoon would have been an inc
redible challenge, but extending it by using material from neither the book nor the cartoon was really the downfall. Jim Carrey was terrific, over the top, and scary but actually transforming within that huge costume to become lovable at the end. The rest of the story was more than a little silly, beyond being childish. It was boring for adults and a little creepy for kids. The sets, props, and costumes were also over the top, glitzy, contrived to look like their frozen literary counterparts rather than creating a flowing real world version of Who-ville. Overall, I didn't like this movie and don't seek it out at Christmas, though I'll watch the cartoon nearly every year.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yeah Brett Favre!

Okay, I'll confess, I mostly like Brett Favre because he appeared in There's Something About Mary which I saw with a HUGE audience my freshmen year in college, but I also loved watching him take the Packers as far as he has. So I'm thrilled that he was able to justify his trade to the Jets today by handing them a victory over the Dolphins! I didn't actually see the game as the NFL season sneaked up on me, but am still happy Brett Favre still proves he's the best quarterback ever!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 1993

Year: 1993
Film: Jurassic Park
Box Office Gross: $356,784,000
Awards: 3 Oscars for sound, effects editing and visual effects
Actors: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Sir Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Samuel L. Jackson, and Wayne Knight

In the true spirit of Spielberg, Jurassic Park was full of wonder, mystery, lots of special effects and a fantastic story that has become part of our culture. I know I'd never heard the cry of the velociraptor before this movie. As for background: Two paleobiologists (one studying plants, the other dinosaurs - Dern and Neill, respectively) are brought to authenticate a new theme park on an island. Attenborough brings them, along with a mathematician (Goldblum) and his own grandchildren to check out the "fully automated" island now covered in dinosaurs. With a bit of scientific hand waving, we find out you can now grow your own dinosaurs and they'll be available as a tourist attraction. However, of course things go horribly wrong and our heroes have to save everyone (although Newman doesn't make it thanks to the little bitty spitting dino) and use their knowledge of what the dinosaurs might have been like to escape and survive. It's got awesome special effects and the wonder that that characters experience seeing a field of dinosaurs holds up every time I see the movie. The terrifying dino-hide and seek scenes scared the bejeezus out of me in the theater in my teens not knowing who would escape and who the dinosaurs would eat. It's great for kids (not little ones, but most kids can be entertained rather than scared) and was a lot of fun rewatching over the years. There are a lot of scenes I enjoy, but my favorite still has to be watching Neill lay against a triceratops and feel her breathe in and out. You really got the sense that these jaded biologists were finding the wonder again. I never saw the sequels, or read the books of sequels. I'm happy in my ignorance that all ended fine and the dinosaurs lived happily ever after on their island alone.

Large Association of Movie Blogs