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).
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-
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…
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.
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).