Archive | February 2010

21 supporting tv ladies i love

In honor of those wonderfully hilarious sidekicks in television, I give you some of my all-time favorite supporting actresses in comedy (from top left): Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Megan Mullally (Will and Grace), Rebecca Schull (Wings), Estelle Getty (The Golden Girls), Khandi Alexander (NewsRadio), Becki Newton (Ugly Betty), Vivian Vance (I Love Lucy), Peri Gilpin (Frasier), Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons), Faith Ford (Murphy Brown), Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Jessica Walter (Arrested Development), Keshia Knight-Pulliam (The Cosby Show), Angela Kinsey (The Office), Lucy Liu (Ally McBeal), Alice Ghostley (Designing Women), Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Amy Pietz (Caroline in the City), and Simbi Khali (3rd Rock from the Sun).

Who are the hilarious ladies of the small screen that you love?

merylfest: MAMMA MIA! (2008)

Perhaps best known as the scourge on an otherwise stellar career, there is much to say both good and bad (but mostly bad) about the outlandish, over-the-top movie musical Mamma Mia! Loaded with a soundtrack of Swedish pop music from the likes of supergroup ABBA, Ms. Streep finds herself singing and dancing, something that typically serves as pleasant surprise in her films. Though her vocals are rather good, it’s hard to transcend the ridiculous plot, which clearly has been haphazardly strung together through the lyrics of unrelated ABBA songs. But before I get ahead of myself and start discussing the quality of the movie itself, let’s first take a look at the performance within the mess. The best way to describe Streep’s Donna Sheridan, the former wild child whose daughter is desperately seeking her biological father from the crop of paramours her mother bedded through the years, is amiable. You can see the desperation on Streep’s face throughout the movie – she realizes it’s a disaster, but she’s giving every ounce of energy she’s got to attempt to rescue it.

Exhibit A – no other person in the cast seems to have been screened for vocal talent before shooting (except for maybe Christine Baranski), so Meryl manages to be the stand-out vocalist by default. Exhibit B – the whole randy fiftysomethings vibe is a little too wacky for words. While Meryl’s busy with dialogue about euphemistic “drilling” and what have you, her pals are busy desperately begging for love from strange men and hitting on youngsters that could be their grandchildren. Exhibit C – perhaps the biggest travesty, Streep is relegated to overalls for the former half of the flick. Oh, and then there’s the 60s/70s, platform-shoed getup she dons for her daughter’s bachelorette party. Honestly, if it weren’t for “The Winner Takes it All,” it’d be a complete waste of Streep’s talent.

As for the movie, aside from Streep and Amanda Seyfried (who’s at least enjoyable to watch for the most part), the duration amounts to a bunch of older gents and gals parading around like wild teenagers and warbling uncomfortably. If you want a true ABBA tribute movie, check out Muriel’s Wedding instead. I understand that it’s harmless fun, but there’s something to be said for at least trying to find actors with a modicum of vocal ability. I’m all for Meryl finding herself in musical films, just so long as the script is a lot more cohesive and a lot less hammy.

Meryl’s Performance: C+
The Film: C-

25 critical clunkers I secretly enjoyed

The other day a technically bad but otherwise undeniably entertaining film came on AMC (remember when they showed actual American movie classics?), and I got to thinking about the greatness of guilty pleasure movies. Those flicks that you have to decry publicly because they’re critically reviled, but secretly get the urge to watch on occasion. As far as ranking these 25, I found it difficult to think of criteria on which to judge (how does one measure guiltiness?), so I went chronologically. Forgive me for my poor taste, but take a look first at your guilty pleasures before you judge…

Harry and the Hendersons (1987) – Overboard (1987) – Tremors (1990)
Toys (1992) – Casper (1995)

Cutthroat Island (1995) – Jumanji (1995) – The Net (1995)
Conspiracy Theory (1997) – Dante’s Peak (1997)

Gone Fishin’ (1997) – Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) – Hope Floats (1998)
Blast from the Past (1999) – Drive Me Crazy (1999)

Heartbreakers (2001) – Rush Hour 2 (2001) – The Mummy Returns (2001)
High Crimes (2002) – Two Weeks Notice (2002)

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) – Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
Van Helsing (2004) – Vanity Fair (2004) – Orphan (2009)

best films: #45: LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006)

Thanks to a great ensemble indie cast and a delightful little script, Little Miss Sunshine is an enduring comedy that sets itself apart from the seemingly endless flow of quirky Sundance fare of late. With a typically comical Steve Carell as the unstable uncle, an always-wonderful Toni Collette as the well-meaning mom, a surprisingly poised performance from little Abigail Breslin as the pageant-queen daughter Olive, an obnoxiously perky Greg Kinnear as the motivational speaker dad, a moody Paul Dano as the self-muted brother, and a top-form Alan Arkin as the foul-mouthed grandpa, it’s a wonderful ensemble. It was a well-deserved entrant in the Academy Awards running in 2006, though it seemed its acting should’ve been more noted by awards groups. Now there’s just the matter of getting screenwriter Michael Arndt to work more often. At least he’s got Toy Story 3 coming up.

Standout Performance: Though it was Arkin who managed to Oscar win, it was Breslin’s Rick James dance routine that stole the show, in one of filmdom’s future iconic scenes.

reel weddings: FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991)

Sara here, and I am so honored to be guest blogging on Journalistic Skepticism! While I don’t know a lot about movies, I’d like to think that I’ve become somewhat of a wedding expert while planning my own wedding, which is quickly approaching this summer. So over the next few weeks, Luke has asked me to chat a little about movie weddings, and what exactly makes them so magical. I decided to begin with (literally) my favorite film of all time – Father of the Bride (1991).

In this remake of the Spencer Tracy classic, Steve Martin’s portrayal of George Banks manifested the typical father of the bride character. George Banks struggled to squelch his Papa Bear protective instincts, as displayed by A) throwing his in-laws’ bank deposit book into the pool, then falling into the pool himself; B) suggesting that his daughter Annie and her intended, Bryan, “call up Gabe at the Steak Pit” and have him cater the wedding; and C) getting arrested for disrupting the supermarket by refusing to pay “for the superfluous [hot dog] buns.” He’s manic, he’s desperate, and yet, he’s lovable.

Another character that warmed my heart from the instant I met him is none other than Martin Short’s brilliant portrayal of the wedding coordinator. Short’s interpretation of Franck Eggelhoffer is witty, passionate, confident, meticulous, and brilliant, everything a wedding planner should be. The accent that Short takes up in the film kills me every time I hear “nuffy blue tuxado.” Brilliant, that Martin Short. [I would argue that Short’s character is even more lovable in the sequel, Father of the Bride – Part II (1995), but I consider Father of the Bride to be an endearingly perfect introduction to the Franck character.]

Now on to the (budget-crushing, jealousy-inducing, freaking gorgeous) part: the wedding! Annie’s long sleeved, vintage-inspired lace gown and cathedral length veil literally gave me goosebumps as a little girl. I love the scene in the movie right before George and Annie head to the church; George knocks on Annie’s bedroom door, and Annie turns around in her wedding gown and veil, just beaming. Annie then shows off her kicks (bedazzled sneakers that would even make Joan Rivers jealous), and the two take off for the church.

When imagining the quintessential American wedding, I instantly think pink, violins, chicken or beef, “The Way You Look Tonight,” and a bouquet toss, all things that Annie’s wedding to Bryan had. However, this wedding had something that all other movie weddings didn’t have (for me): completely sweet and honest vows. As Annie and Bryan exchanged rings, the words they uttered will forever be cemented in my brain (and, truthfully, these words will also be recited at my own wedding this summer): “With this ring, as a token of my love and affection, I thee wed.” So simple, so perfect, and (literally) the only way I could think of to slip my love for this film into my own wedding ceremony. And yes, as a little girl, I knew that in some way, I needed to pay tribute to this film on my own wedding day; it shaped me that much!

Apart from the majestic tent set up in the Banks’ backyard, which was stuffed full of flowers, grand crystal chandeliers and buzzing conversation, it’s the honesty and the heart of the film that makes it one of my favorite movies of all time. Take, for example, these words from George Banks, as he prepares to give Annie away. I’m certain my father (and every father, for that matter) will have some of these thoughts as he walks me down the aisle. “Who presents this woman? This woman? But she’s not a woman. She’s just a kid. And she’s leaving us. I realized at that moment that I was never going to come home again and see Annie at the top of the stairs. Never going to see her again at our breakfast table in her nightgown and socks. I suddenly realized what was happening. Annie was all grown up and was leaving us, and something inside began to hurt.”

best of the decade: the movies (#10-#1)

10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Warner Bros. Pictures / 1492 Pictures / Heyday Films
dir. Alfonso Cuaron
with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, & Emma Thompson

9. Spirited Away (2002)
Studio Ghibli / Walt Disney Pictures
dir. Hayao Miyazaki
with Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, & Susan Egan

8. Being Julia (2004)
Sony Pictures Classics / Serendipity Point Films / First Choice Films
dir. Istvan Szabo
with Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, & Michael Gambon

7. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studio
dir. Pete Docter & David Silverman
with Billy Crystal, John Goodman, & Steve Buscemi

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
New Line Cinema / WingNut Films / Saul Zaentz Company
dir. Peter Jackson
with Viggo Mortensen, Andy Serkis, & Ian McKellen

5. WALL-E (2008)
Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studio
dir. Andrew Stanton
with Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, & John Ratzenburger

4. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Focus Features / Paramount Pictures / River Road Entertainment
dir. Ang Lee
with Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, & Michelle Williams

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
New Line Cinema / WingNut Films / Saul Zaentz Company
dir. Peter Jackson
with Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, & Viggo Mortensen

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Sony Pictures Classics / Asia Union Film / EDKO Film
dir. Ang Lee
with Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, & Chow-Yun Fat

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
New Line Cinema / WingNut Films / Saul Zaentz Company
dir. Peter Jackson
with Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, & Andy Serkis

best of the decade: the movies (#20-#11)

20. Finding Nemo (2003)
Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios
dir. Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich
with Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, & Alexander Gould

19. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
20th Century Fox / Angel Studios / Bazmark Films
dir. Baz Luhrmann
with Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, & Jim Broadbent

18. Chicago (2002)
Miramax Films / Producers Circle / Storyline Entertainment
dir. Rob Marshall
with Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, & Richard Gere

17. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Fox Searchlight Pictures / Big Beach Films / Bona Fide Productions
dir. Jonathon Dayton & Valerie Faris
with Toni Collette, Steve Carell, & Abigail Breslin

16. Once (2007)
Fox Searchlight Pictures / Samson Films / Summit Entertainment
dir. John Carney
with Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, & Bill Hodnett

15. Closer (2004)
Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia Pictures
dir. Mike Nichols
with Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, & Natalie Portman

14. The Departed (2006)
Warner Bros. Pictures / Plan B Entertainment / Vertigo Entertainment
dir. Martin Scorsese
with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, & Jack Nicholson

13. Up (2009)
Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios
dir. Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
with Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, & Christopher Plummer

12. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
Miramax Films / A Band Apart / Super Cool ManChu
dir. Quentin Tarantino
with Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, & Darryl Hannah

11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Focus Features / Anonymous Content / This is That Productions
dir. Michel Gondry
with Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, & Mark Ruffalo