Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscar nominations review: Doubt

The most nominated film for acting awards this season is Doubt. Meryl Streep (Best Actress), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Supporting Actor), Amy Adams and Viola Davis (Best Supporting Actress) all give terrific performances adding depth and nuance to the plot. Streep's principal nun, accuses Hoffman's priest, indirectly, of behaving inappropriately towards a little boy (Davis' son). The majority of the movie deals with how a person's character gives credence to whether or not they are capable or able to commit horrible acts. Streep's sister Aloysius is mean, a dragon of a teacher, very much of the old-school church. She's suspicious of Hoffmans' new ideas and enthusiasm which she eventually taints with a possible crimes and sees all his behaviors as suspicious. Adams is the young nun who has more optimism than maturity and faith in the goodness of people rather than the suspicious nature that comes with experience (as Streep's character has in spades). About half the people I know think he did it, but I'm still on the he didn't do it (he did something in the past that's still following him, but not this). The acting is supurb throughout and was worthy of all it's nominations. I'd love to see Viola Davis win, and would be fine with Meryl taking another one (Even if means Winslet doesn't win again). 4.5 Lambs/Stars overall too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oscar nominees on DVD: Vicky Christina Barcelona

I'll start with the fact that I don't really enjoy Woody Allen films. There are often good scenes, usually great acting, but rarely a story worth remembering. I found this to be true again with Vicky Christina Barcelona, for which Penelope Cruz is nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Quick plot summary: Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Christina (Scarlett Johansson) go to Barcelona for the summer. They are picked up one night by Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a Spanish painter and taken away for the weekend. Vicky is engaged to be married and more straight-laced than Christina who seeks adventure and true love, but they still decide to go away with him. Christina puts the moves on him, but ultimately gets sick and Vicky sleeps with him. They get back to Barcelona and Juan Antonio and Christina move in together and Vicky gets married, but can't forget her romantic night with a stranger. Then returns Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) Juan Antonio's crazy ex-wife. She moves in with the couple and the tragic, sprited, love affair she and Juan Antonio always had (she once stabbed him out of love) is tempered into nomalcy by Christina's presence. Ultimately, Christina realizes she's a little more normal than she thought and Vicky realizes she wants no part of the crazy, courageous life of Juan Antonio after all.
While Penelope Cruz is good, I don't think it deserved a nomination, let alone an award. Javier Bardem was very good at the carefree artist, without being a careless jackass. He seemed humbled by his failed marriage, but whimsical enough to have fun with two American tourists. The scenery and musical score are terrific, but don't really connect with the story very well. Overall 3 LAMBS/stars

Saturday, February 14, 2009

TV/ movie Couples

There were a bunch of lists of good and bad media couples and I mostly didn't find any I liked or agreed with, so I figured I'd start my own list. Here are the couples I admire usually both from an acting and a writing perspective. The reason I think these characters appeal to me more than movie couples is that we get to see them through a whole relationship spectrum, whereas most movies give a situation and watch them deal with it (like "The Notebook" - we watch Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams fall in love and eventually work things out and then see them as adults much, much later but we don't get to see how they argued or changed as people and together as a couple.) .

Eric and Tammy Taylor ("Friday Night Lights") - Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton

They're the football coach and now principal at the school, so they have to debate both the policies of having the boosters pay for a Jumbotron while teachers are being laid off, and whether their daughter is old enough for her own car. They're friends, lovers, parents, and partners and while they don't always agree, they always have each other's back. The united front they present is both good TV and a great couple.

President and Dr. Abigail Bartlett ("The West Wing") - Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing

Rising to the top of their respective fields (politics and medicine) makes for an intimidating couple. They balance their own rights as people with the larger rights of the people they represent. They fight religion, politics, medicine, health and power and how they and their family falls in between. There's a great scene in the second or third season where they've been fighting and Abby arrives in the West Wing and starts right into their fight and Jed stops and says "no, first we do, how are you, how was the flight?" They try to keep their relationship above the stresses they deal with as a power couple.

Admiral Adama and President Laura Roslin ("Battlestar Galactica") - Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell

They literally lead the entire human race, from a military and civilian perspective. Their methods often differ, but their mutual respect makes at least the fight for their own way reasonable. They've only recently developed an intimate relationship, but it hasn't cramped their leadership. They know what's right and that sometimes you have to fight like hell to make sure it happens. It seems that when they each have a crisis of faith, they other is there to support them through it to a better place.

Marshall Eriksen and Lily Aldrin ("How I Met Your Mother") - Jason Segel and Allyson Hannigan

They've been in love since college and eventually broke up and got back together and got married. They worked together to create a life and be friends to each other as well as other people. They share jokes and personal moments, but they're hardly perfect - keeping secrets from each other and trying to still be the best person they each can be.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Milk review

It's been quite a few days since I've seen Milk, but I wasn't sure I had anything new to say except to expose my own ignorance about events that preceded my birth. First, I loved the movie. It's a great biographical history of Harvey Milk, as well as some of the first major events of the gay rights movement (pre-AIDS, which was interesting historically, certain arguments weren't used or brought out that prevailed after AIDS became prevalent). Sean Penn was wonderful. From the trailers I expected him to be playing a character very similar to his in I Am Sam, but the trailers do him a disservice. He's much more up and down in energy, politics, and relationships than the snapshot shown quickly in trailers. The supporting cast is also pretty amazing (though I don't think Josh Brolin deserved his nomination this year - perhaps it's a make-up for last year). Given how the move through Milk's life in different ways and we barely hear their names, it was remarkably easy to keep track because they just made an impression. Emile Hirsh, James Franco, Diego Luna, and Alison Pill (the oldest daughter in Dan in Real Life which I just saw again) were all good, individual characters that helped Harvey fight for what was right. I had a lot of trouble watching all the hate that they battled for equal rights, and can't really believe we're still fighting some of the same battles, but at least the people fighting today have a little more info on how far they have come. 5 LAMBS/stars

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Heroes, so far

So this is what I think is going on this season on "Heroes". You can watch ALL of season 3 on Netflix watch instantly. The episodes are up on Netflix about a day after they air live - also I'm sure you can get much of it on

There are two sets of good guys/bad guys this season - one belongs to The Company which is where most of the previous good guys worked to get really bad guys off the street. Now there's another set of peeps at "Pinehearst" another group working to figure out how the special powers people have can be duplicated or controlled. A long time ago, a formula was put to paper that would create powers in people. This formula was torn in half and given to Hiro's father who wants Hiro to guard it and to Angela and Arthur Petrelli. Now Pinehearst is trying to put the formula together and enlisted Daphne (a super fast runner) to steal it. However, even after the get the whole thing together it turns out they need some extra catalyst which turns out was stored in Hiro's mother. Arthur (who was presumed dead) steals all his son Peter's powers and Nathan takes his side on having to round up all the Superheroes and take away their powers. Then, I think another eclipse happens and everyon realises what it would be like to go back to living without powers and think it sucks. Somehow during this Hiro looses his time traveling powers AFTER he's gone back to his own childhood and figured out about the catalyst. Arthur seems all powerful and steals the catalyst from Hiro (who got it from his mom in a very sweet moment). They use the catalyst to soup up the formula and start injecting soldiers to give them powers. It goes crazy with lots of violence I didn't really follow. Eventually, Peter defeats both his father and Nathan (who has become a NY senator) and destroys all the formula. They burn down Pinehearst and all the people we like escape. Oh, and Ando got powers, but still seems to be a good guy, and Suresh got powers, but turned into a bad bug-like guy (he was gross). That's the end of the 3rd Volume - so basically it was "find and destory the formula or all people will become crazy superheroes" - doesn't have the same ring as "save the cheerleader, save the world". But alas, the world has been saved again - from whom and for whom I'm not quite sure.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Romantic movies

These are my picks for romantic movies, that make you think a little bit too or just make you smile and want to hug a sweetie or a friend.
Out of Africa - this 1985 Oscar winner stars the incomparable Meryl Streep and Robert Redford at his most ruggedly sexy. Streep is real-life Karen Blixen, a woman who arrived in Kenya to marry and escape her European background. She figures out the boys network of colonial Kenya is incredibly difficult for women to navigate, and that colonizing the local people, Kikuyu in her case, isn't always possible or necessary. She meets Redford's Denis Finch-Hatten and he sees that daring in her, but the constraints her background put upon her. He has no constraints and they have an amazing affair, that of course ends tragically, but appropriately - especially given they're real people. Definitely an escape - plus you can wash your sweetie's hair afterward.

50 First Dates - Another Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore movie, where he plays a bit of scum and she helps him figure out how to be a better guy. But it's so much better than that. Drew had a head injury and can't retain memories beyond what she had the day of the accident. Then she meets and hits it off with Sandler, but can't really remember him the next day. So they work on things that help her relearn new things every day - a video, a diary, etc. Where's the romance you might ask - how about getting the girl of your dreams to fall in love with you every day, and then being the girl who gets to live every day with that sense of new love.
Sense and Sensibility - This is just one of those old fashioned love stories. Boy meets girl, can't be with girl, they try to move on, life conspires to eventually bring them back together. Oh yeah, and Kate Winslet plays the girl's sister who falls for the wrong guy before finding the right guy. Not so much with the guys, but girls will love it.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - This one covers most of the stages of a relationship, ups downs, highs, lows, happy, rage, and then the wonderful nostalgia that hits right after you've ended a relationship and can't really remember why it had to be over. Plus, there's the added fun of fate forcing you to fall in love with the same person over and over. Most people do that by dating lots of different people who are really variations on a theme, but our heros, Joel and Clementine, do it by falling for each other after their memories are erased.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Men are jerks and women are crazy...

The theme of He's Just Not That Into You is pretty clear and straightforward - if a guy wants to date you, he'll try to date you. If a married couple isn't sleeping together, one or both of them are sleeping with someone else. Most guys, or all guys, don't plan every detail of their interactions with a woman, thus women shouldn't pay that much attention to the details. This movie is a crazy amalgam of stories of twenty to thirty somethings in various stages of relationships and how men and women react differently to relationships. There were no revelations about the modern status of relationships, though they tried to say something about how new technologies makes us always available and yet there are hidden meanings (supposedly) to all the different types of interactions (e-mail vs voicemail, eharmony vs myspace vs facebook). The acting was pretty good by everyone, particularly Ginnifer Goodwin (Walk the Line and "Big Love") and Justin Long. I didn't like Bradley Cooper's character at all (though he was REALLY funny on Saturday Night Live last week) and Scarlett Johanssen was just annoying. Overall, not a great reflection on society, dating or men or women. 2 Lambs/stars

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gran Torino Review

I've read lots of reviews of this movie, and I'm pretty far behind the curve on seeing it, but as the only non-horror/kiddie comedy available yesterday I finally got to see it. It was terrific. Clint Eastwood was definitely overlooked when it came to the acting nominations. I'm guessing he's #6 in the list, with only 5 getting nominated. Clint plays a retired blue-collar worker in the mid-west living in a neighborhood that has transformed into an area of mainly immigrant families around him. He's the curmudgeon who thinks kids don't respect their elders or themselves. The movie starts with his wife's funeral and his grandchildren arrive in a Lions jersey, a midriff baring shirt and texting during the funeral. Clint spends much of the movie growling at the disrespect and unraveling of society he sees around him. One night he wakes up to find the neighbor kid, Thao, trying to steal his beloved Gran Torino. Clint chases him and the gang off with one of his many guns. In return, Thao comes to work for him, because in his Hmong family he's dishonored the family with his actions. Clint gets him to do all kinds of things, both for him, and for the neighborhood. Thao's father recently passed away, and the exposure to a strong male role model helps transform Thao a bit, but in return Clint also has to let go of some of his racism.

Overall, this movie has lots of funny bits, which surprised me. Clint's character, Walt Kowalski, is incredibly racist, but he's a fairly equal-opportunity racist. Everyone he meets, black, white, asian, etc. are subjected to some sort of racial slur. There were so many, I'll admit I'd never heard some of them. Eventually, he's able to use some of the stereotypes and racial slurs as jokes with Thao's sister, Sue. Between them, humor takes the sting and insult out of some of what Walt says - Sue does a good job of turning around Walt's racism into ignorance with humor. He's such an ornery character that it seems he only uses slurs, not because he necessarily believes them, but to get a rise out of the other person so he can be tough and manly. There's a lot of humor in that.

Ultimately, it's a story of sacrifice and standing up for yourself and for what's right, and I really liked it. There were a few moments of strange direction/cinematography, but hardly worth mentioning. 4.5 stars/LAMBS.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Wrestler, Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen won the Golden Globe for his song, "The Wrestler" from the movie of the same name, that also appears on The Boss' new album, "Working on a Dream". This LA Times article describes how this travesty could have happened, but I still don't believe anyone who heard it wouldn't want it to win something. Hopefully the grammys will award him next year for the entire album.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lamb devours the Oscars: Best Make-up

It's my turn. Check out the review I wrote for Best Achievement in Make-up for the LAMB event.