Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Odds and Ends

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. I've been busy with work, TV-watching catchup, finally getting to see all of the Oscar contenders that are just now coming to London and doing some writing that isn't related to blogging. Yes, that's right, all of those writing projects I "haven't had the time to work on" are now actually being worked on. My novel about the futuristic theme park filled with genetically-created dinosaurs is almost complete! All I need now is a title. I'm thinking of 'The Da Vinci Code.'

Oh, and I've also been wasting time in a capital manner. This goddamn website (Sporcle.com) is addictive to someone like me who has a headfull of useless information. I nearly had a nervous breakdown on the 'list every American League MVP' question. Who would've thought that Jeff Burroughs' 1974 season would one day nearly drive me to a murderous rage?

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In today's edition of I Can't Believe My Brother And I Are Related, we take a look at the fact that Matt was only just recently made aware of the fact that 'Bill' is a short form for William.

"I can see 'Bob' from 'Robert' because there's a B in there, okay. But the short forms of William are Will or Liam. Where does the 'Bill' come from?"
"It doesn't matter if it makes sense or not. If you've been on this earth in the last 400 years, you should know that Bill comes from William!"
"So someone could walk up to Will Smith and say, 'Hey, it's Bill Smith' and he'd have to correct them?"

This went on for about 10 minutes.

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Two Amazing Race-related items as we're a week and a half away from the new season premiere. First, apparently there's a London-based version of the Race where you run around the city in some type of manner raising money for charity. I would've signed up for this in a virtual split-second, but unfortunately, it's being held the same day as a TFC game. Consarnit!

Second, one of the contestants on Amazing Race this season is none other than screenwriter Mike White. You may remember him from such films as Orange County (he's the English teacher who thinks 'Chocolat' is a Shakespeare adaptation) and The School Of Rock (he plays Jack Black's teacher roommate who spends his time under Sarah Silverman's thumb). He's a very funny guy and to make things better, he's running the Race with his 68-year-old gay father and, according to his CBS bio, has adopted Charla and Mirna as his Race inspirations. Comedy will....ensue.

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There are certain film genres that, unless you get a movie that really twists things in a totally fresh direction, I'm done with. Gangster movies. Con man movies (which are predictable to the point that I called the twist ending from Matchstick Men just from watching the trailer). And, now, after Revolutionary Road, I think I can add 'suburban melodrama' to the list as well.

I can buy that Richard Yates' original novel was a real eye-opener in its deconstruction of modern American suburban life when it was released in 1961. But....it's 2009. We've seen Ordinary People, Mad Men, American Beauty, The Ice Storm, Little Children, Edward Scissorhands, half of Ingmar Bergman's movies, Donnie Darko, The Stepford Wives and a hundred other films and TV shows that I'm forgetting about. By this point, a lot of people have traveled down the road paved by Revolutionary Road. As taut as the drama was in RR, I just could not get into it without feeling like I had seen it all before. Frank and April, as played by Leo "I'm slowly turning into Jack Nicholson" DiCaprio and Kate "Mark's Imaginary Girlfriend" Winslet, are simply not interesting enough for me to care about them bemoaning their lot in life. It's a shame since I expect more from DiCaprio and especially Kate. They both just seemed a little off throughout the whole picture. Their only really brilliant scene was their breakfast together when Frank is outlining his firm's new gizmo and April just stares at him with a mixture of disgust, horror and total loss. That scene alone is almost good enough to act as a payoff to the previous two hours of average build-up, but I just feel like the feelings created in that scene could've (should've?) been spread more evenly throughout the film to really set up the stakes in their relationship.

Oscar nominee Michael Shannon gives a very interesting performance as an alleged mental patient who calls Frank and April on their hypocrisy. This might sound like an odd observation and trust me, it's not just because The Dark Knight's Oscar snub is still weighing on my mind, but Shannon's character reminded me quite a bit of the Joker. Seriously, you could put Shannon in white facepaint and green hair and he's basically Heath Ledger's character except not quite pushed far enough that he turns to terrorism and mass murder. Obviously there wasn't any copying going on given that RR and Dark Knight were being shot at roughly the same time, but it's just odd how two seemingly totally different performances could be so similar in tone. Here's a strange coincidence; this year's Supporting Actor nominees include a killer disrupting social order (Josh Brolin), a guy in facepaint (Robert Downey Jr.), a prophet whose smile may hide something more sinister (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a man disgusted with the fraudulence of society (Shannon). The fifth nominee is of course Ledger's Joker, who is essentially a sum of all those parts.

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And finally, with Conan O'Brien in his last couple of weeks on Late Night and pitchers and catchers just over a week from reporting to spring training, I give you the mash-up of both that was one of Conan's best-ever filmed segments. I guess I could've waited to post this until next week when both of these events are actually in the forefront, but I subscribe to Ted Moseby's credo: don't postpone joy. That credo may/may not have led to Ted riding a tricycle, so it's good advice.

No matter how many times I see this, I still can't believe that girl at the end of the bench wasn't a plant.

2 comments:

Hal Incandenza said...

I kind of liked RR, but I agree there was something off about it. Notably, it struck me as very theatrical (as the guys on the /Film podcast noted, nobody actually argues the way Leo and Kate do in movie--Leo's "don't make me laugh" very early on, followed by him actually enunciating each "ha," was quite distracting).

Michael Shannon (one of the few things I actually like about Lucky You was his smarmy performance) was very good, but slightly too over-the-top for my liking. As Will Leitch has noted (yeah, he's reviewing movies now, and he's kind of awesome at it: "It’s a hammy role, and a bit of a cheat — he appears to be watching the movie along with us, commenting, rather than being an actual character — but does he ever give a kick in the pants right when the film needs it" (emphasis added).

Anyway, I'd put it in my, say, top 15 for the year, but I'm glad it was overlooked for Best Pic.

Peter Lynn said...

I've always loved that Conan segment. The bit with him charging the mound really makes me the sketch on SNL when he played old-time boxer James "The Gentleman Masher" Corcoran. As for the girl at the end of the bench, I never knew whether she was a plant or just in a league of her own when it came to staying in character -- just that she was incredibly cute. But now we know she's not a plant.