Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I loved Lady in The Water. Just hear me out.

As some of my more faithful blog subscribers will remember, I defended M. Night Shyamalan when his much-maligned film, Lady in The Water, came out over the summer. Thanks to the good people at Time Warner Cable, I got to see the movie in the privacy of my own home without having to endure the judgment of video store employees. Did I like it? No.
I loved it!!

Are you still reading? Good. I am still in full possession of my reasoning and taste, so I understand why some people would have trouble sitting through this movie. It is a fantasy film with mystical creatures, and it has a very childlike tone to it (the story is taken from one that Shyamalan tells his kids at bedtime). Because of films like Lord of the Rings, fantasy films have found a huge modern audience, but Lady in the Water is fairly different from other fantasy fare. The movie's primary characters are a young female narf (sea nymph) and a middle-aged handyman (Paul Giamatti, in an un-nymph-like performance), which apparently isn't nearly as cool as a movie about two hobbits that secretly love each other. The gender differences are worth mentioning, though. Lady in the Water has several significant women's roles, while female characters in other fantasy films are often relegated to being the love interest. Nothing against Liv Tyler--I'm just saying.

Another significant difference between Shyamalan's film and more popular fantasy films is the lack of emphasis on special effects. This, I believe, is where the director lost a lot of people (especially critics). Some of the creatures look a little cheesy, but they are seen only briefly. This actually reminded me of Jaws, which relied on characters' fears of the shark to instill fear in the audience, as opposed to the shark's actual appearance. Here the characters' dialogue is used as a form of storytelling in order to guide the viewers' reactions. So while The Tartutic didn't hold a candle to the Balrog of Morgoth, they got the job done.

The best way to approach Lady in the Water is with the belief and fascination of a child. This movie is not a Sixth Sense-type thriller written for cynical adults. While it is not action-packed, some amazing things happen. The dialogue is simple, but the complete story is beautiful and dreamlike. By no means would I recommend this film to everyone I know, but I think a lot of people are capable of appreciating it on its own level. I certainly plan on watching it again.

Speaking of movies, the movie I'm "Currently Watching" (see MySpace blog), Idiocracy, is excellent. It's made by Mike Judge, the man who made Office Space, but uses a very different kind of humor from that movie. Watch it when you're in a weird mood and willing to laugh at phrases like "your shit's all retarded."

Also, remember that Lost is starting February 7th, and I will be posting regular recaps and blogs for TV Squad (http://www.tvsquad.com/bloggers/erin-martell).

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Favorite Bad Lifetime Movie

I suppose the title should read "One of My Favorite Bad Lifetime Movies," because I loves me some bad Lifetime movies. When my sister, Kelley, told me that she doesn't own any of the Rocky movies (her faves), it got me thinking about all the lame movies that I love to watch but, for some reason, do not own. Note: Please don't send me any long-winded messages about how Rocky is awesome and not a bad movie. This means you, Kelley.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those hipsters who watches bad movies out of some misguided sense of irony, like I'm "in on the joke" or something. There are, however, some movies that I deeply enjoy but know that I shouldn't be caught watching. The Lifetime classic Sex & Mrs. X is one of those. Featuring seasoned actresses Linda Hamilton and Jacqueline Bisset, the movie sounds provocative and titillating, but contains many staples of the "female empowerment" genre. Consider it Legally Blonde in reverse: a serious businesswoman loses her man and needs to make herself sexier in order to win him back.

Where does a woman go to feel sexy, you ask? Why, Paris, silly! Everyone knows that going to Europe makes a woman prettier, smarter, more experienced, and alluring. That's a basic rule of these movies. Fired? Go to Europe. Dog died? Go to Europe. Brutal paper cut? Europe.

In a nutshell, Linda Hamilton plays a no-nonsense journalist named Joanna Scott who goes to Paris to write a feature story on Madame Simone, a woman who trains "promising" young women (read: lower class hot chicks) to court and marry middle-aged rich guys. It sounds creepy, but is packaged beautifully. The women learn about wine, lingerie, clothes, etc., at Madame Simone's gorgeous French home. Fresh off a separation from her lamewad husband, Joanna is naturally skeptical of this fairly tale arrangement. She was recently made into a cliche by her unfaithful spouse, and is well aware of the harsh side of romance. My favorite line of Joanna's is as follows: "He didn't even have the decency to leave me for a younger woman; she's my age!" I can totally identify with this. If my husband ever left me, it would have to be for someone significantly better than me, not just a different version of me. One should at least trade up when destroying another person's life, no? I've always liked that line because it seems to mirror Linda Hamilton's own life. She was married to Titanic director James Cameron, who divorced her and married Suzy Amis, a glorified extra in said film.

Madame Simone, in all her accented badassness, senses Joanna's negative vibes, aching heart, and low self-esteem, and makes her a proposition. Joanna will get Madame Simone's version of a sexy makeover, complete with striptease training videos and a book on kissing. There is, of course, a clothes shopping and salon montage, and it is glorious. Out with the turtlenecks and sensible shoes! In with the highlights and evening gowns!

But wait! What about that other signature plot point, the hot younger man who ignites a passion in our heroine that she never knew existed? Oh, he's there. And he's Italian. Joanna gets her groove back courtesy of Francesco, a flirtatious young photographer assigned to work with Joanna. In the fashion of films like As Good As It Gets and Titanic (I'm sensing a pattern here), Joanna must pose naked for Francesco--and sleep with him afterwards--before her confident sexiness is entirely restored. This is Lifetime, however, so all you ever see is Linda Hamilton's back. But hey, she bagged a young Italian guy, got the story, and learned a valuable lesson...about seduction (raises eyebrow suggestively).

What do you think happens in the end? Linda Hamilton returns from Paris hotter than ever, wins over her dorky middle-aged husband, and drops him like a bad habit. She uses tons of product in her hair and wears pashmina wraps, which translates into happiness. I love everything about this movie, particularly that it doesn't take itself too seriously. There are several good laughs, including the part where Joanna breaks a lamp during striptease practice, and when she gets caught watching soft core porn for "tips." Linda Hamilton stands in for the viewer in the latter scene, because I act the same way whenever someone walks in on me watching Sex & Mrs. X: the remote cannot work fast enough.

Feel free to check this movie out, or to share some of your guilty pleasure films in the comments section.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Golden Globe Nominations: Part Four

We've reached the end, at last--Part Four of my four-part blog on the Golden Globe nominations, which were announced on Thursday. For nominations in the film categories, see Parts One and Two; for the television comedy and drama categories, see Part Three. Part Four consists of the nominations for miniseries and for supporting actor/actress. Enjoy!

Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
Bleak House
Broken Trail
Elizabeth I
Mrs. Harris
Prime Suspect: The Final Act

If you needed more proof of Helen Mirren's dominance over all things award-related, here it is. Not only has she received three nominations this year, but just about every project with which she was connected has been recognized by the HFPA. I won't even pretend that my personal favorite in this category, Bleak House, has a fighting chance. Elizabeth I basically swept the Emmys earlier this year, and I have every reason to expect a repeat. It's the Mirren Factor, baby.

Best Actress - Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
Gillian Anderson, Bleak House
Annette Bening, Mrs. Harris
Helen Mirren, Elizabeth I
Helen Mirren, Prime Suspect: The Final Act
Sophie Okonedo, Tsunami, The Aftermath

This is such an impressive group of actresses, you have to wonder what went wrong in the Best Comedic Actress (TV) category. There are certainly plenty of talented women on television, so why is Marcia Cross nominated exactly? I'd count Annette Bening out right away, since she's nominated in another category and because Mrs. Harris has been mostly ignored at awards shows. Gillian Anderson was wonderful in Bleak House, but hers was a supporting role; I would have liked to see the series' lead actress, Anna Maxwell Martin, nominated this year. Having just finished Part One of Tsunami, The Aftermath, I must say that Sophie Okonedo would be my hands-down favorite in any other year. She gives a heartbreaking, understated performance as a mother who goes mad with grief and takes another person's child after her own daughter goes missing and is presumed dead in a tsunami. Many actresses would overplay this role in a Lifetime-movie fashion, but Okonedo gives the character dignity. This is Helen Mirren's year, however, and there's no stopping her transition into the Galactic Emperor of Dramatic Acting. Coincidentally, Ian McDarmid appeared in Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren. This woman is the new Kevin Bacon. Normally I'd predict that Mirren would split her own vote, but in this case, the HFPA will probably just declare a tie between her performances and give her two awards. Just watch and see if I'm wrong.

Best Actor - Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
Andre Braugher, Thief
Robert Duvall, Broken Trail
Michael Ealy, Sleeper Cell: American Terror
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tsunami, The Aftermath
Ben Kingsley, Mrs. Harris
Bill Nighy, Gideon's Daughter
Matthew Perry, The Ron Clark Story

Is there some reason that seven actors made it into this category, but only three non-Mirren actresses made it into the Best Actress category? I call BS. With so many nominees, it's hard to predict how this one will go. Andre Braugher, one of my all-time faves, justly won the Emmy this year for his performance in Thief, and he has a fighting chance for the Golden Globe. I've heard that Sleeper Cell is insanely awesome, though, so Michael Ealy could pop up and take the award. After watching the first part of Tsunami, The Aftermath, I owe Chiwetel Ejiofor a huge apology. The man is a tremendous actor, and I'm a lamewad for not knowing who he was. He plays Sophie Okonedo's husband in the miniseries, and he has an impeccable scene when he realizes that his wife has gone batshit crazy and has replaced his possibly dead daughter with another little girl. He doesn't say a word, but the expression on his face is deserving of several awards right there, apart from the rest of his amazing performance. If Chandler from Friends beats him, I will swear off the Globes forever. By the way, I frequently make idle threats.

Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television
Emily Blunt, Gideon's Daughter
Toni Collette, Tsunami, The Aftermath
Katherine Heigl, Grey's Anatomy
Sarah Paulson, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds

The HFPA needs to divide this category up, if only to give it a shorter name. It's difficult to say if the nominees even give comparable performances, which doesn't mean they aren't great at what they do. How do you choose between a charity worker from a super-serious tsunami miniseries and a suburban mom from a TV show about pot-dealing? To use the same criteria to evaluate performances on completely different planes is well, silly. I'll be rooting for either Emily Blunt or Toni Collette, since neither actress is going to win in the film categories in which they are also nominated. Try diagramming that sentence.

Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television
Thomas Haden Church, Broken Trail
Jeremy Irons, Elizabeth I
Justin Kirk, Weeds
Masi Oka, Heroes
Jeremy Piven, Entourage

Yata!! Hiro did it! I'm thrilled that my favorite part of Heroes (besides Adrian Pasdar's chest, teeth, and voice) got some love from the HFPA. I'd be floored if Masi Oka won, but the nomination is a nice acknowledgment of his work. This category is another weird grab bag of performances, and it's a tough call. Jeremy Irons, due to his proximity to Helen Mirren, won the Emmy for Elizabeth I earlier this year, and I'd say he's the front runner. Jeremy Piven's coming off of his own Emmy win, however, and he's been nominated for a Golden Globe for the previous two years, so this might be his turn. I'm just curious to see what sort of bizarre cravat he wears this time.

See you on January 15th, suckas!!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Golden Globe Nominations: Part Three

Now we come to Part Three of my ginormous four-part blog about the Golden Globe nominations, which were announced yesterday. Check out Parts One and Two for the film nominations. Today's blogs are all about the nominations for Television, which I was more than happy with (for the most part, Housewives excluded). Let's start things off with the drama and comedy awards, shall we?

Best Drama Series
24
Big Love
Grey's Anatomy
Heroes
Lost

While it's fantastic that my new favorite drama, Heroes, got a nod, I'm less than thrilled about the other nominees. A bunch of doctors freaking out about how many people they've slept with at work isn't so much dramatic as it is pathetic. Every time I catch a snippet of Grey's Anatomy, someone is looking mopey or oversharing with a co-worker. Not compelling television. Big Love is a well-made and well-acted show, but I can think of several HBO shows that deserved the nomination more. The Wire and Deadwood are complex, gutwrenching dramas that are in a class apart from just about every show on this list. Show Omar some love, you feel me? I'm betting that the HFPA will either reward the novelty of Heroes or the old mainstay, 24.

Best Actress, Drama
Patricia Arquette, Medium
Edie Falco, The Sopranos
Evangeline Lilly, Lost
Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Awards shows do not know how to spot the truly kickass actresses on TV, and this category proves it. Instead of picking actresses like Deadwood's Robin Weigert, who add new layers to their characters with each episode, the Globes acknowledged the work of Evangeline Lilly and Ellen Pompeo, two actresses who can barely master the pouty extressions that their characters require. Both Lilly and Pompeo's characters provide only the most superficial of conflicts to their shows: which hot guy do I want to sleep with? Kate and Meredith Grey aren't exactly Lady Macbeth and Blanche DuBois, if you know what I mean. Patricia Arquette's consistent nominations still confuse me--when is her show even on? The two real contenders are Edie Falco and Kyra Sedgwick. As I was watching the second and third episodes of The Sopranos' most recent season, I knew Edie Falco would be nominated. She's had the best scenes in an otherwise lackluster season. The award will likely go to fresher face Kyra Sedgwick, however, and I don't mind one bit. I want to see the cutaway shots to her adorable husband, Kevin Bacon, when she makes her acceptance speech.

Best Actor, Drama
Patrick Dempsey, Grey's Anatomy
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House, M.D.
Bill Paxton, Big Love
Kiefer Sutherland, 24

Michael C. Hall's nomination notwithstanding, meh. How hard can it be to play McDreamy, honestly? Ditto Bill Paxton's polygamist character in Big Love. The brilliant Hugh Laurie won last year, but he's stuck with a character that says and does the exact same things in every episode: belittle everyone, make snarky comments, and occasionally depict a weakness for pain medication. Laurie does a wonderful job with his character, but there isn't much for him to add to Gregory House in each episode. Past winner Keifer Sutherland is the front runner, but I'm hoping that Michael C. Hall stages an upset. I can't describe how awesome Dexter is, and how perfectly Hall plays Dexter Morgan. How many actors could make a serial killer sympathetic, funny, and relatable? Start watching this show ASAP.

Best Comedy Series
Desperate Housewives
Entourage
The Office
Ugly Betty
Weeds

It's never a good sign when I both groan and cheer at the announcement of a category. Entourage is one of those comedies that is funny in the moment, but doesn't hold up to repeat viewing. Perhaps I don't find it funny because I'm not a spoiled, lazy young man with a bogus sense of entitlement--you know, like the characters on the show? Word has it that Weeds is very deserving, but Desperate Housewives has never belonged on this list of nominees. Call me crazy, but the frozen, plastic faces of Marcia Cross and Teri Hatcher don't inspire laughter, at least not in a comedic sense. Choosing between The Office and Ugly Betty is like choosing between Chips Ahoy and Oreos, and I can't bear to do it. I'll be ecstatic if either one wins.

Best Actress, Comedy
Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

I can't believe that we haven't moved on from this Desperate Housewives trend already. The first person who can give me a decent explanation why these women are funny will get a million dollars'...worth of free blogging advice. Mary-Louise Parker gives off this huffy "too cool for school" vibe, which looks even worse next to the humility and gratitude of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Find me one actress who's more thankful to have steady work, seriously. That said, America Ferrera has to win. The sweet, slightly goofy tone of Ugly Betty is totally dependent on Ferrera's performance, and she delivers like Domino's.

Best Actor, Comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Zach Braff, Scrubs
Steve Carell, The Office
Jason Lee, My Name is Earl
Tony Shalhoub, Monk

That's what I'm talkin' about!! 4 out of 5 nominees actually belong here. I'm still a little miffed about Tony Shalhoub beating Steve Carell at last year's Emmys, so he's out. If Best Comedy was like choosing a cookie, this category is more like choosing between different types of chocolate. I don't think Zach Braff's ever won an award for his portrayal of J.D., and it would be nice if Scrubs got the teensiest bit of kudos. Jason Lee brings a lot to the dopey role of Earl Hickey, but I don't see it happening. 30 Rock lacks the popularity or exposure of The Office, and Steve Carell's just too hilarious to pass up. Perhaps Carell will celebrate his win Michael Scott-style, with dinner at Chili's and drinks at Hooters.

Part Four--coming soon!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Golden Globe Nominations: Part Two

This blog entry is Part Two of a four-part series on the Golden Globe nominations, which were announced early this morning. Part One, containing the nominees for film directing and acting, can be found here. Parts Three and Four concerning television will follow. Now we get to the second batch of film nominees: those recognized for Best Original Song, Best Original Score, Screenplay, and Best Picture. Here we go!

Best Original Song
"A Father's Way," from The Pursuit of Happyness, Seal & Christopher Bruce
"Listen," from Dreamgirls, Henry Krieger, Anne Preven, Scott Cutler, & Beyonce Knowles
"Never Gonna Break My Faith," from Bobby, Bryan Adams, Eliot Kennedy & Andrew Remanda
"The Song of the Heart," from Happy Feet, Prince
"Try Not to Remember," from The Painted Veil, Sheryl Crow

I didn't realize that Bryan Adams had resurfaced! Good for him. He's been nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his soundtrack work, but never won. I think he could use the career boost, but it's a competitive category. This award often goes to a celebrity nominee, but there are several this year. Of all the nominated songs, I've only heard Prince's contribution to Happy Feet, and it's nothing to sing home about. Dreamgirls has popularity on its side, so I'm choosing Beyonce and company over Seal and Cheryl Crow. Not that I would mind seeing Seal for an extended period of time...

Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, The Painted Veil
Carlo Siliotto, Nomad
Clint Mansell, The Fountain
Gustavo Santaolalla, Babel
Hans Zimmer, The Da Vinci Code

Rather than pretend I'm familiar with a majority of the nominees, I'll come right out and pick Gustavo Santaolalla for Babel. He won last year in the same category, and won an Oscar for Best Original Score for Brokeback Mountain. The man knows how to set the mood, and setting the mood for a Ledger-Gyllenhaal love scene is a precarious task. Seriously, the man is talented, and deserves to beat Hans Zimmer's Ron Howard-loving ass. Loyal readers will recall my intense hatred of all things Da Vinci.

Best Screenplay
Guillermo Arriaga, Babel
Patrick Marber, Notes on a Scandal
William Monahan, The Departed
Peter Morgan, The Queen
Todd Field & Tom Perotta, Little Children

I'm ashamed that I haven't seen any of these movies, all of which have great reputations. Movies like The Departed seem especially reliant on building suspense and believable plot twists, which a good screenwriter would have to provide. Previous winners indicate that the HFPA likes emotional, dialogue-centered films, which means that The Queen and Babel are strong contenders. I'll go with Babel, if only for the way Guillermo Arriaga skillfully handled four overlapping international storylines.

Best Animated Feature Film
Cars
Happy Feet
Monster House

If I've learned anything from my two-year-old nephew, it's that Cars was the best animated movie of the year. There's no arguing with a two-year-old. Besides, penguins are so 2005.

Best Foreign Language Film
Apocalypto
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pan's Labyrinth
The Lives of Others
Volver

This is a very interesting category. Volver was a Golden Palm nominee at the Cannes Film Festival, and Letters From Iwo Jima has gotten lots of critical recognition. The third big name, Apocalypto, is doing well at the moment, but the HFPA may not have completely forgotten about Mel Gibson's drunken ramblings. Part of me wants Mel Gibson's movie to win, but it's the part of me that picked Apocalypto in my Fantasy Moguls league. I'm going with Volver, since the gifted Pedro Almodovar got snubbed for Best Director. Maybe the Hollywood Foreign Press will throw him a bone.

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Dreamgirls
Little Miss Sunshine
Thank You For Smoking
The Devil Wears Prada

I don't think enough people over the age of 18 liked Borat enough to give it the Golden Globe. The Devil Wears Prada was entirely owned by Meryl Streep, and the movie will be recognized via her win. Hopefully TomKat's reach won't extend to the awards circuit (Thank You for Smoking), because I don't think I could take it if Katie Holmes continued to get everything she wants. Little Miss Sunshine would be a fitting choice, since it 1) was hilarious, 2) had an incredible ensemble cast, and 3) had a family striptease number. Classic.

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Babel
Bobby
Little Children
The Departed
The Queen

Bobby and Little Children are in over their heads. I'm sorry, but there's no way an Emilio Estevez picture wins anything. Did you see Men At Work? Case. Rested. The Departed and The Queen will probably get more acting awards than anything else, so look for Babel to be the winner.

Parts Three and Four Coming Soon!