Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My Future Guilty Pleasure?

I'm not sure what this says about me, but I still want to see M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water. All of the reviews that I've read (both professional and amateur) have been not merely bad, but scathing. For some reason, this only makes me more intrigued. Perhaps I'm in the mood for bad movies after seeing some of the promos for Snakes on a Plane, or maybe I've been so bored with this year's set of summer movies that I don't know what I like anymore. Shyamalan's film couldn't possibly be as bad as V For Vendetta. Or could it? (Raises eyebrow suggestively) I still plan on giving the movie a chance, for the following reasons:

M. Night's Overall Track Record: Shyamalan (I've typed it 3 times now without misspelling it; I rule!) has made some amazing films over the years, with only one notable exception. The Village was a total ripoff and a waste of time, so much so that I will waste no more time discussing it. The Sixth Sense was the movie of its year, although I find it holds up poorly to multiple viewings. Signs was exciting and thought-provoking at times, although you had to get over the fact that the aliens looked lame. Then again, when haven't movie aliens been disappointing? I'd be willing to bet that real aliens don't even live up to the hype. At this point, how could they? Finally, Unbreakable (my clear favorite) was much darker and less of a popcorn flick. That movie proved that Samuel L. Jackson can successfully portray a non-badass character.

A New Theme: Shyamalan (that's 4 in a row, although I just misspelled the word "that") has never done a strictly fantasy film before. The script is based on a bedtime story that he created for his children. Shyamalan's use of this theme has been heavily criticized. Writers have shown contempt for the magical creatures presented in the movie, but I don't think this is much of a flaw. This is simply the first time the director has featured fictional creatures of his own invention, so it's unexpected. It's like if Jerry Bruckheimer hired an actress under the age of 25 to play a character other than someone's mother. People just wouldn't see it coming. I think M. Night deserves a break; he's trying something new, unlike many other directors who go with whatever genre keeps their Hummers' gas tanks full. He may not be Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, but I'm curious to see what Shyamalan does with the fantasy genre. I've had to sit through more than my share of hobbit scenes, so I think I can handle a scrunt or two.

The Cast: I'm impressed that Shyamalan was able to get such an amazing array of actors signed up for this movie after the colossal failure of The Village. He must have crazy powers of persuasion. Perhaps he neglected to tell them that he would be acting in the film as well. I love Paul Giamatti (Cleveland Heep), and haven't seen anything new of his since Sideways (I skipped out on Cinderella Man because of the Crowe-Zellweger factor). He, at least, has escaped the critics' scorn. Having recently seen Syriana and Broken Flowers, I am convinced that Jeffrey Wright (Mr. Dury) has an Oscar coming to him sometime in the future. The cast also includes Bob Balaban (as a movie critic, of all things) and Freddy Rodriguez (as Reggie) from Six Feet Under. That's a hard cast to ignore, especially since I haven't seen a movie with hard core actors all summer (Stephen Colbert in Strangers with Candy doesn't count, unfortunately). It's at least worth a look.

I'll be sure to review the movie whenever I see/rent it! If anyone else has seen it, let me know.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is Head-Butting An Act of Chivalry?

First of all, I never thought in a million years that I would blog about a sports-related topic. It's almost as unlikely as the guys at Progressive America admitting that Republicans have souls. I have, however, gotten fairly invested in World Cup matters over the last several weeks, since I inexplicably won 1st place in a Yahoo! FIFA World Cup Fantasy League against some friends. In case you're like me and frantically change the channel if you accidentally stumble onto one of those cable sports stations, let me fill you in on the recent controversy.

Toward the close of the Championship World Cup match between France and Italy, France's captain, Zinedine Zidane, head-butted Marco Materazzi after the Italian player allegedly insulted him in some way. Zidane was red-carded, or thrown out of the match, which was a big deal for two reasons. First, this was Zidane's last game and last World Cup match ever, as the idolized soccer legend was retiring. Second, France ended up losing the match during the penalty kick phase. Whether or not the loss was Zidane's fault is not what concerns me, although I would suspect that the Ralph Wiggum-like French goalie had more to do with the defeat (seriously, the guy was like a deer in headlights).

The foul has been condemned as a disgraceful, classless and senseless act; a shame, since sports announcers had been lining up to kiss Zidane's boots (that's soccer language for shoes, FYI) throughout the tournament. It's also unfortunate that Zidane's amazing career had to end in that way. Nevertheless, Materazzi reportedly either used ethnic slurs or (according to Zidane's official story) insulted his mother and sister.

The American media's collective reaction to this incident has been fairly predictable, but a particular story on MSNBC had me scratching my head a bit. Essentially, the story's "contributor," who I will call Zeke due to his boorish ideas, has this to say:

As for the claim that Materazzi insulted Zidane's mother, well, on most professional fields of play in the U.S., it's more of a news bulletin if someone isn't insulting your mother. In fact, at times insults to your mother are considered terms of endearment, depending on the tone of who's delivering them. Not to mention his size.

OK, what? Contributor Zeke goes on to belittle Zidane, calling his behavior a "temper tantrum" and employing a fake quote by Zidane that mocks his accent and nationality. He also rather sarcastically calls soccer "a more genteel sporting endeavor" and states that American athletes have tougher skin, therefore making them superior in some way. Later he contradicts himself by making a Sonny Corleone/Michael Corleone comparison. If you haven't seen "The Godfather" by now, you're on your own. Contributor Zeke mistakenly reverses the comparisons, identifying Zidane's head-butt as a Sonny move. If Zeke really thinks European soccer players are pantywastes, shouldn't he liken them to an early, weaker Michael? Zidane can't be a rash thug and an effete girlyman.

If anything, the American sports scene is full of violent, crude Sonnys and ineffective early Michaels. As Contributor Zeke puts it, "..."I do not like your Mama'' pales in comparison to [an Ozzie] Guillen insult on his least profane day." Athletes give and receive insults about their mothers, wives, and girlfriends like it's all business. As a wife, this is disappointing. It's sad that the act of denigrating women is taken with a grain of salt, and that defending women is viewed as unwise strategy on the part of athletes. The most that an American athlete would do in Zidane's situation is wait until the opponent had his back turned and shove him. Zidane had his back to Materazzi, heard a disparagement he could not abide, then turned and faced the man before he got satisfaction.

Would he head-butt him in a different setting? Probably not, but soccer is a visceral, physical sport, and Zidane reacted in a way consistent with his surroundings. If the men had been in a restuarant, Zidane probably would have verbally head-butted the guy instead of literally doing so. The same sentiment would be there, however, and that sentiment was just. Zidane put his mother's and sister's honor ahead of any glory or acclaim he would have received had he "shaken off" the insult and kept playing. Chicks before kicks. If only more athletes would follow suit.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Best & Worst of the Emmys, part two.

This morning's Emmy nominations have given us reasons to celebrate (see previous blog), but they've fortunately given us plenty of reasons to complain as well. Below are my current grievances for your perusal.

I said, My Name is Earl!!: The Emmy folks seem to have forgotten that My Name is Earl is one of the best new comedies out there. I think it's great that The Office got recognition, but its Thursday night counterpart deserved some Emmy face-time as well. Earl's spot was taken by Two and a Half Men, a show that no single person that I know has seen. The show's so-called stars, Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer, also stole actor/supporting actor spots from Jason Lee and the adorably goofy Ethan Suplee, respectively. The line "Earl, should I have my chicken grilled or McNuggeted?" speaks for itself. Earl makes me laugh. Hard. Keep in mind that I have an embarrassing, dorky laugh, so I don't like to use it that often. This show is worth it.

Lead Actors Getting Upstaged: It's always a shame to see lead actors getting overlooked at awards shows, while the supporting cast gets acknowledged. Jason Lee is probably thinking of ways to sabotage Jaime Pressly's makeup, and Jason Bateman of Arrested Development will have to give one of those insincere "congratulations" calls that we all hate to give our pregnant/promoted/fabulously-lucky relatives and friends. What about Anna Maxwell Martin, of the Bleak House miniseries? She was the main character, carried the series, and had to wear smallpox makeup, for heaven's sake! Can I get a "Hello!"? This rule does not apply to the Desperate Housewives, however. Those vile cats can drown in their own collagen as far as I'm concerned.

They call it CBS because that's all you see, BS: Enough with the CBS sitcoms, already!! Kevin James for King of Queens? Maybe in the earlier seasons, when that show hadn't exhausted all of its plotlines. Seriously, does anyone actually watch Two and a Half Men?

Go Away. Now: Who still watches West Wing, for real? The show was cutting edge and exciting many moons ago, back when there was hope for an articulate President. The show may as well have talking dolls and mermaids on it like Passions. Those actors shouldn't be taking up space in their categories when there are tons of talented actors doing new things with their roles. Same goes for you, Will and Grace cast members. Nobody wants you here. Nobody! Sean Hayes' spot in the Supporting Actor category should have gone to Michael Cera of Arrested Development. Seven words: "What a fun, sexy time for you." Enough said.

The Network of Far, Far, Away: I will never get Showtime, ever. Why tease me with these make-believe shows like Huff and Weeds? For every hour of these shows, I'm sure Showtime still airs about 10 hours of straight-to-DVD movies. No thanks.

Something's Missing Here: Will someone please nominate Lauren Graham for Gilmore Girls before the show ends, if for no other reason than to wipe that bitter look off of her face? Any why no Kristen Bell, aka Veronica Mars? Get on the trolley, people. That show rules! And I understand that Lost took itself out of the running due to its overall suckiness this year, but Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje kept me watching. Let's get some new blood in there, please.
Overall, I'm really excited for the Emmys, because there's really nothing else on TV right now. Even the World Cup will be ending soon. Plus, Conan will be hosting! Perhaps there's hope after all.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Best & Worst of the Emmy Nominations, part one.

OK, the Emmy nominations were announced this morning, which is breaking news for someone like me who was stuck working at 7am. Plus I'm a TV nerd, so it's exciting either way. There were some surprises, both good and bad, and some boring nominations as well (West Wing, anyone?). Here's a rundown of my favorite noms, as well as my inevitable criticisms:

George-Michael Will Rise Again: With the exception of Two and a Half Men, the Outstanding Comedy category is like a rundown of my husband's and my favorite shows. We recently started familiarizing ourselves with the delightful Scrubs, (To buddies!) as well as the American version of The Office (Happy Birthday, Jesus, Sorry Your Party Was Lame). We've watched the painfully funny Curb Your Enthusiasm for a long time now, and I've begun using the profane Susie Greene as an assertiveness role model. The best, and most unexpected, nomination is for the recently-cancelled Arrested Development. I glared at people for weeks when this show ended, based on the reasoning that they looked like CBS viewers and, consequently, deserved my contempt. Best of luck to AD on August 27th, even if it is the underdog. TBA! TBA!

The House Always Wins: Of the nominees for Outstanding Miniseries, I've only seen Bleak House, but I highly recommend it. Congrats to Gillian Anderson, Charles Dance, and Denis Lawson (aka Wedge Antilles from Star Wars) for their respective nominations as well. If you like British miniseries, I also recommend The Forsyte Saga, which I am in the middle of watching.

Six Feet Under, Resurrected: Although its series finale aired a while ago, I'm glad 6FU got some recognition as the actors move on to other roles. Peter Krause was excellent as the chest-baring man-whore and focal point of the show, Nate Fisher. He also brought the term NARM! into the American lexicon. Television Without Pity even created a shirt for it! Good luck also to Frances Conroy, a brilliant actress who proves that, while slow and dangerous behind the wheel, senior citizens still serve a purpose. Way to go, Frances! Just kidding--she's actually only in her 50's, but played an ostensibly older character on 6FU.

Back in The Magician's Alliance: How awesome is it that Will Arnett, better known as G.O.B. to Arrested Development fans, got nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy? His only decent competition is Jeremy Piven from Entourage, so he really has a chance of going home with an Emmy. The only concern is who his date will be. Marta 1, 2, or 3? Perhaps Franklin? Franklin would give a killer acceptance speech.

Christofuh!!: Michael Imperioli was the only Sopranos cast member to be nominated this year, and with good reason. His hilarious delivery of outrageous lines like "T-Rex in the Garden of Eden? The Bible says it was paradise..." earned him the nod. One-liners like that carried the show through an otherwise lackluster first half-season.

Housewives Shut-out: I love it, I love it, I love it! The fearsome five were nowhere to be seen on the Best Actress in a Comedy category. I'm willing to bet that most, if not all, of them were sitting in their dark, cobwebbed lairs this morning gleefully imagining that the others were left out of the nominations this year. Alfre Woodard earned a nom, but she hasn't annoyed me with her sharp collarbones or interviews concerning her desire to date and/or produce stick-figure offspring.

Oh, snap!: Yay! Jaime Pressly gets a nod for convincing me that hot chicks can actually be funny with her role as Joy on My Name is Earl. Everyone on this show makes me laugh for real, so that fact that her character stands out is a testament to her comedic abilities. Joy is so deliciously nasty, and Pressly wallows in white-trashiness. She reminds me of some of the girls I went to high school with. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the episode where she beats up Juliette Lewis. Good viewing.

Promotion to C-List?: Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List got nominated for Outstanding Reality Program, which will hopefully make Star Jones-Reynolds' face pucker just a little bit more. I still think Griffin should be the next co-host on The View, but she may be too good for the show if she wins an Emmy, unlike the rest of those hacks.

Cartoon Trifecta: I love that the Emmys pitted Family Guy, South Park, and The Simpsons against each other, since each show has taken shots at the others in the recent past. I'll be rooting for South Park, for its memorable Chef-killing and Scientology-bashing episode alone. The hybrid car episode was pretty good, too.
The Worst picks will be coming along shortly. I know, I can't wait either.