australia

I feel like I'm way behind this year. In the last few years, I've taken pride in the fact that I tended to see prestigious or award-winning movies right away. I was always right on top of the conversation.

This year, things are different. It may have something to do with my decision to drop my subscription to Entertainment Weekly.* It may also have to do with my recent negligence in following my favorite movie blogs. But I think the main reason I'm a bad, bad movie geek this year is that I've got two jobs, and a desire to crash and do nothing on my rare night off.

So last night I took a step in rectifying this sad state of affairs... I actually went to a movie in the theater.** I'd wanted to see Australia ever since I heard it was coming out, mostly because I adore director Baz Luhrmann and believe he can do no wrong.

I was not disappointed last night. I know it's gotten mixed reviews, but I have to believe they came from people who don't understand the genius that is my Baz.

If you're not familiar with Luhrmann's work, he's known for his Red Curtain Trilogy, which includes Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge! His movies tend to be visually stunning (and a bit head-spinning); they're unique for their over-the-top characters, intense cinematography, and wildly avant-garde style.

Interestingly, Australia had more in common with classic epic romances like Gone With the Wind and Titanic than with any of the Red Curtain films. There's still a bit of the trademark Baz Luhrmann stuff (those of us who love him most will recognize it), but this film is by far more mainstream. The setting is lush, wild 1930's Australia, and our story comes complete with a swashbuckling, mysterious hero and a refined-but-feisty heroine.

Truly, it's just fun to watch (how often does that happen at the movies anymore?), but what really knocked me on my booty was the ROMANCE. Oh, Lord, it was romantic. I'm actually feeling kind of swoony right now thinking about it. The kissing. And the Hugh Jackman. And the guy who can't declare his love at all till it may be much too late. (God knows I've got experience with that.) And the rescues. And more kissing. And more Hugh Jackman.

OK, yeah, I gotta go cool off.

*It was getting WAY too expensive. Why don't they offer renewal rates that are as low as the rates for new subscribers? No worries. My card's in the mail.
**This used to happen 2 or 3 times a week... but last night was my first time since W. In October.
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the "one" meme

This one I picked up from my bud David Bishop over at Hoping For Something To Hope For. Here goes:

1. One movie that made you laugh: Juno

2. One movie that made you cry: Dances With Wolves

3. One movie you loved when you were a child: The Neverending Story

4. One movie that you have seen more than 10 times:  The Princess Bride

5. One movie you've seen multiple times in the theater: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (A bit of a backstory here: this one came out when Greg and I were newly married. When we would get into a fight, I would cool off by spending 3 hours in Middle Earth. I must have seen it in the theater 7 or 8 times.)

6. One movie you walked out on: I honestly can't remember one. I tend to stick it out, even through the dreck.

7. One movie that you can and do quote from:
Star Wars

8. One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it: Crossroads. The key word there is "were"... as many of you know, I have come to embrace the humiliation that comes with loving the Britney Spears movie. I can't help it. I want to be on a road trip with those girls.

9. One movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't gotten around to watching yet: The Deer Hunter. I've had it from Netflix for the past month or so.

10. One movie you hated: Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. Pistola and I discussed this once.

11. One movie that scared you: Enemy Mine, when I was 5. I tend to avoid scary now.

12. One movie that made you happy: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I left the theater with an actual spring in my step.

13. One movie that made you miserable: Taxi to the Dark Side

14. One movie musical for which you know all the lyrics to all the songs: The Sound of Music

15. One movie that you have been known to sing along with:
Moulin Rouge!

16. One movie you would recommend that everyone see: Casablanca. I admit I stole this one from David, but he's right on.

17. One movie character you’ve fallen in love with: Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

18. One actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie: Edward Norton.

19. One actor that would make you less likely to see a movie:
Steven Seagal.

20. One of the last movies you saw:
Once

21. One of the next movies you hope to see: Australia
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once

This is really weird.

I've loved this movie from the moment I first saw it. I've since seen it many times, bought the DVD, acquired the soundtrack, gone to see Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in concert, and discussed them numerous times on this blog and others. So how is it that I haven't written a freaking review?

I think I've said this before: the movies that I love the most are the hardest for me to write about. It's true. It's perfectly simple to gush endlessly about them to those around me... but somehow that just doesn't translate to a blog post.

So here's the deal: Once is what all movies, in my oh-so-humble opinion, should aspire to be. It's a very simple story (we don't even ever learn the names of the main characters) with great music and real emotion. It was created for next to nothing in a couple of weeks with a couple of cameras and a couple of non-actors. So instead of commercial polish, we get substance. And instead of formulas, we get originality.

Once is almost a romance, but it's not really about that. It's really about the magic that happens when two compatible musicians sit down and create together. It's not something most people get to see every day, but I'm telling you: when the Guy and the Girl sit down and sing together for the first time, it's almost like there's a chemical reaction in the air. Now there's a special effect you can't create on a computer.
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sid & nancy

This is one crazy-ass movie.

That sounds simplistic, and it is. But it's really hard to start writing about Sid & Nancy in any other way.


In truth, it's a crazy-ass movie because Sid and Nancy lived crazy-ass lives. For those of you who don't know, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen were lovers, losers, junkies, and geniuses. Nowadays I'm sure they'd both go to rehab, get clean, and start living quasi-productive lives sometime in their forties. Heroin addiction just isn't as cool as it used to be.

A few decades ago, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find the successful musical prodigy that didn't have some mind-altering chemical or another polluting his veins. That's, unfortunately, what deprived us of more amazing talent than I really want to think about: Presley, Hendrix, Joplin... and Vicious, I guess.

It's depressing stuff. Not really that fun to watch. What kept me watching Sid & Nancy, though, was this: in spite of being completely drugged out and fucked up, these people managed to actually love each other. The whole story is a downward spiral... genius being diluted by smack... lost opportunities... lost lives... but through it all, the two of them never let go of one another. Now of course you could say that Sid and Nancy stayed together because of the drugs; that they were co-dependent and the relationship was part of the addiction. But there's a puny, struggling remnant of romanticism within me that just wants to believe love can conquer all.

Oh, yeah... and Gary Oldman can act.
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the alphabet meme

It's not that I don't like memes... it's just that (like everything else lately) it seems like it takes me forever to get around to them. So, fellow bloggy peeps, continue to tag me. And once in a while, though it may be really, really late... I'll do it. Here goes. (Fletch tagged me on this one, by the way.)

The Rules

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.

2. The letter "A" and the word "The" do not count as the beginning of a film's title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don't know of any films with those titles.

3. Return of the Jedi belongs under "R," not "S" as in Star Wars Episode IV: Return of the Jedi. This rule applies to all films in the original Star Wars trilogy; all that followed start with "S." Similarly, Raiders of the Lost Ark belongs under "R," not "I" as in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Conversely, all films in the LOTR series belong under "L" and all films in the Chronicles of Narnia series belong under "C," as that's what those filmmakers called their films from the start. In other words, movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release. Use your better judgment to apply the above rule to any series/films not mentioned.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number's word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under "T."

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type "alphabet meme" into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you're selected, you have to then select 5 more people (I didn't do this. Everyone I love seems to have been tagged already. If you haven't been tagged, and you're now weeping on the floor because you think I don't love you... get over it and post your own. I do love you. Really. --Nayana).

Now, Fletch didn't specifically say it had to be our favorite film starting with that letter... but I'm going to try to do that anyway.

So.... My list.

Across the Universe
Before Sunrise
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The
Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The
Elf
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Garden State
High Fidelity
Into the Wild
Juno
Knocked Up
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Moulin Rouge!
No Country for Old Men
Once
Persepolis
Quick and the Dead, The
Rain Man
Schindler's List
Taxi to the Dark Side
Untamed Heart
Volver
William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet
X-Men
Y tu mamá también
Zoolander
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postlet #19

So Captain Crash is off living with his mommy in Arizona. Greg is doing who knows what somewhere with a high school girl*. And Nathaniel and I broke up on Wednesday**. So it's back to just me and Zoe the putty tat. Ah, well. Maybe now I'll have time to catch a movie here and there.

*Don't really know, don't care to know.
**I hold him in the highest respect; we just couldn't agree on a deal-breaking issue.
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oliver stone's thoughts on his portrayal of george w. bush

I've had quite a few interesting political discussions with friends since I posted my review of W. yesterday. So of course, when I found this piece on Slate, I just had to share it. Click here to read Oliver Stone's thoughts on the players, decisions, and fuckups in the Bush administration (and, of course, the dramatic license he had to take).
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w.

Tina Fey said something really insightful on some talk show or other last week. I'm paraphrasing: "The thing I've realized about Sarah Palin is that she's exactly as smart as me. And I'm certainly not qualified to be the vice-president." It's true, right? I don't know about you, but I want someone in office who's way smarter than me, and who can comprehend all these complicated issues a whole lot better than I can. Seriously. Y'all are not ready for President Nayana.

That seemed to be the overriding message in Oliver Stone's new biopic about President Bush II. I think a lot of people saw Stone's name and thought, "Oh. Liberal Bush-bashing. Cool." But really, that's not what it was about. Obviously "Bushie" (as Laura calls him) is not the best president ever. Probably not even in the top 80%. But the message of the movie was that here's a regular guy, with a good heart and good intentions, who got in way over his head. Now you all know where I stand on this little election we're having (it's emblazoned on my sidebar), but I wonder... Obama gets slammed a lot for being elitist and intellectual. Now exactly what is the objection to that? I want someone who knows his ass from his elbow to represent me on the world stage. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

Back to the movie... it was really well done. The casting was fantastic, with the possible exception of Thandie Newton as Condie Rice (a tad caricaturish). Elizabeth Banks disappeared into the role of Laura Bush, Jeffrey Wright couldn't have been more compelling as Colin Powell... and Richard Dreyfuss was INSANE as Dick Cheney. That guy knows how to portray eeeeevil.

I guess it comes down to this: no matter what side of the political fence you're on, I recommend this movie as a reminder of what we want to avoid in our government. Maybe catch it before November 4. Call it election prep.
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rushmore

There are the Wes Anderson lovers, and there are the Wes Anderson haters, and then there are those of us in the middle--the moderate majority--who can enjoy a Wes Anderson film if we just get ourselves into a very Wes Anderson place beforehand.

I think that was my mistake last year when I went to see The Darjeeling Limited... not enough W.A. prep. But I was ready last night... and so Rushmore knocked my socks off.

Rushmore is the story of Max Fischer, an eccentric fifteen-year-old who, though adventurous and charismatic to the point of absurdity, happens to suck at academics. Enter the sweet first-grade teacher with the British accent, and of course Max falls hard for her. But then so does an equally eccentric Bill Murray... and hilarity ensues.

I hate to say that I may be a product of a Lifetime Movie world, but I kept expecting a little Mary Kay Letourneau action to go down. Thankfully, it didn't, everything worked out, and the film left me with a smile on my face.


One thing struck me as exceptional, however. This is one of those movies in which there is a play within the film; Max happens to be a talented playwright, and we are treated to portions of many of his productions. Recently I've seen quite a few films that fall into this drama-within-the-drama category--Waiting for Guffman, Hamlet 2, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall immediately spring to mind--but the plays in Rushmore are actually really, really great. That seems to be an exception to the rule, as crappy-ass productions provide better comedy fodder.

Oh... you're right. The Dracula puppet musical was sublime, too, wasn't it? All right, never mind.
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taxi driver

---Spoilers ahead, for anyone who hasn't seen this 32-year-old movie*---

About three months ago, I took a part time job in order to help maintain my lavish (ha!) lifestyle. One big advantage of the job is that I get all kinds of time to watch movies on my portable DVD player; a glaring disadvantage is that I get a lot less theater time, and a whole lot less blogging time. Oh, well. I gots to pay the bills somehow.

In the course of my moonlighting, I get to sit in my car for hours at a time, next to an alley in a really seedy part of town. So I get to see all kinds of exciting things. Like the drug addict who passed out in the alley and was revived by police this last Saturday night. Or the haggard homeless lady who took it upon herself to do a complete wardrobe change in broad daylight, sans underclothes, in the middle of a parking lot.

Travis Bickle saw a lot of interesting shit on his job, too. For those of you who don't know, he was a cabbie who worked some of the shadier parts of New York City in the seventies... Granted, he was also a RAVING LUNATIC... but here's hoping my vocational experiences don't ever lead me to practice whipping out my gun in front of a mirror.

One of the things about having decided only recently to dive headlong into my movie obsession is that I still have not seen many cinematic essentials. Actually, Saturday night was my first ever viewing of Taxi Driver. And so I've seen all kinds of movies which have obviously been influenced by Scorsese's masterpiece, before I saw the original work. For example, when DeNiro's cabbie shaved his head into that mohawk as he was preparing to go medieval on politicians and pimps, I saw blinding flashes of Ed Norton's hardened, murderous skinhead from American History X. I'm sure this happened in reverse for everyone who saw these movies in the order they were released, but for me it was like seeing a prequel and having the pieces finally fall into place.

Also, I bet a lot of people see Jodie Foster in grown-up roles and have flashes of the little twelve-year-old hooker in Taxi Driver... for me, again, it was the opposite. She was so precocious at that young age, I just saw the adult Foster in her little face. Young Harvey Keitel weirded me out... young Albert Brooks weirded me out, too... and of course young DeNiro was weird. But smokin' hot.**

I've been really remiss in my blogging lately, but I have done my best to keep up with the "Viewed But Not Reviewed" list on the sidebar. So if any of you have been following that, you can see that I've been doing my best lately to catch up on must-sees that I've missed till now. At home now I've got Rushmore, Sophie's Choice, and Dr. Strangelove. Any suggestions as to which one I should see on my shift tonight?



*Like me, as of three days ago.
**Rowr. Yes, I'm talking to you, Bobby.
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before sunrise (and before sunset)

Lately I've been whining to anyone who would listen that Hollywood seems to be incapable of portraying human relationships, specifically romantic relationships. I alluded to that a little bit on this blog last week.

But I'm good now. Late last Tuesday night, in a deserted parking lot, I lost myself in Before Sunrise. I had seen it ages ago when it was relatively new, but my reacquaintance with this masterpiece was long overdue.

If you're unfamiliar, Before Sunrise is an extremely unique movie: it follows two strangers (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train and impulsively decide to spend an evening together in Vienna. The whole movie is dialogue. Just talking. No chase scenes, no gratuitous sex, no washed-up comedians playing multiple obese characters. I know, it's revolutionary, right?

What Before Sunrise did so well for me was that it perfectly captured the dynamic of a brand-new relationship. You know, how it's all awkward when you know he's looking at you and you just can't meet his gaze or you'll turn tomato-red... or when you're not sure if it's ok to touch him... or that breathtaking moment when you know for sure he's about to kiss you. And at first you have this weird guardedness, but after a few hours you're suddenly telling him stuff you don't usually admit to family.


Another fantastic thing about this movie is that it was made in 1995... but it's not dated. It feels like it could be happening right now. Before Sunrise effectively ignores all the easy tricks that films use to convince us of their cleverness; it just portrays real humans, behaving in a realistic fashion, in a real city, in a situation that is absolutely believable. But for all this realism, the movie is still entirely magical.

Before Sunrise is one of those films that is entirely loved by those of us who love movies... and unappreciated by everyone else. It has a 100% Tomatometer rating... and it grossed only 5.5 million in the U.S. But this brings me to one of the things I love about independent filmmakers: they made the sequel, Before Sunset, anyway.

Granted, it did come nine years later, but it was so cool to see those two characters still alive and doing what they do. It did provide a bit of closure, although the ending of Sunset was nearly as maddening as the ending of the original movie...

But to find out what I mean by that, you've gotta watch 'em.
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two bright spots in a dreary 60th emmy awards

Is it just me, or have awards shows completely lost their magic? The Emmys last night were just depressing. It could have been the lame humor, the five(!) hosts, or the fact that The Office and Weeds got completely jacked. It could also be that I'm a movie girl, so the TV thing didn't really speak to me.

Whatever. It was a crappy show. Except for two things:
  1. Josh Groban's TV-theme medley. It had the potential to be corny--OK, I guess it really was corny. But I lurved it.
  2. Mr. Sexalicious Paul Giamatti won his first Emmy for his masterful portrayal of John Adams in the HBO miniseries of the same name. So well deserved. (Everyone else connected with John Adams seemed to rake 'em in as well, but I only had eyes for Paul.)
Even so, I'm skipping the Emmys next year. Unless Justin Kirk gets nominated. (I met him last week, by the way. More on that to come.)
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city of angels

This post is part of a larger feature on my friend Fletch's site, Blog Cabins, entitled "Cagefest: The Nic Cage Film Festival". For a selection of Mr. Cage's films, Fletch had a blogger present either a PRO or a CON argument. This is my PRO review for City of Angels. You should definitely head over to Cagefest to read some of the other reviews when you get a chance.

I've had a growing impatience lately with movies that depict love unrealistically. Like, most of them.

You know what I'm talking about: the couple sees each other, has a few furtive conversations, and suddenly they're "in love" and are willing to move heaven and earth for each other. That is SO NOT how it works. In real life, love is immensely complicated, hard to come by, and requires effort, time, and sacrifice.

So why do I love City of Angels so much, given that it's the textbook example of this "instant love" phenomenon? Easy. I don't accept love as the turning point of the story.

If you don't know the movie, here's a big fat SPOILER ALERT... and now I'll fill you in. The premise of City of Angels is that an angel (Nicolas Cage) falls so deeply in love with a surgeon (Meg Ryan) that he chooses to forsake his immortal life and become a human, just so that he can be with her.

It's a sweet idea, if that was what really happened in the movie. Oh, they definitely feel lust for one another. Longing, too. But I think the real draw for our angel is not love, but life.

Let me explain. There's a lot of imagery in City of Angels of the simple, sensual pleasures of being human: the way a pear tastes; sunlight filtering through trees; the bracing ecstasy of a really hot shower. I get that stuff completely, because as anybody who knows me well can tell you, Nayana is all about the sensual pleasures*. I find it really easy to lose myself in things like dazzling sunsets, light reflecting on water, kickass thunderstorms, cherry cheesecake... So if I were in Seth the angel's position, would I give up immortality and the ability to sit on overhead freeway signs in order to experience all these things? Hells yeah.

I guess my point is that the real romance of this movie is not the Nic Cage/Meg Ryan slobberfest, but the romance between a human being and life itself. Get it?


*OK, perv, that's not what I mean. Sensual. We could talk about the other thing too, but that's not the topic of the day.
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what can i say? i'm a sucker for nicholas sparks weepers.

I read Nights in Rodanthe when it first came out, and loved it.

Does this mean that the movie, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, will also be good? Probably not.

But do I plan to be in the theater to see it the first chance I get? Absolutely I do.
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friends won't let friends see... bangkok dangerous

Top 5 reasons to skip this one...

5. That title. Ugh. I can't even type it without a little bile coming up.

4. Have you seen Nic Cage's hair in this one? It's like Billy Mitchell's Jesus hair got together with Tom Hanks' Da Vinci Code mop and made sweet, sweet hair love. In a big puddle of jerry curl.

3. Apparently the Thai movie on which it's based wasn't that good either.

2. They won't screen it for critics. Always a bad sign.

1. This trailer.

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hamlet 2

Truthfully, if Hamlet 2 had come out two months ago, or two months from now, I (and many others) probably would have waited for the DVD. But fortunately for Steve Coogan's quirky little film, it's out in late August/early September, aka Where Bad Movies Go To Die. Seriously, my other choices this weekend included Disaster Movie, The House Bunny, and Babylon A.D. Yeah. I went for the goofy indie flick.

The basic premise of Hamlet 2 is that a God-awful out-of-work actor becomes a God-awful acting teacher who tries to save his school's drama program with a God-awful original play, a sequel to Shakespeare's classic work. Hey, remember how pretty much everyone dies at the end of Hamlet? Not a big deal. Hamlet 2 has a time machine. Which explains the cameos by Jesus Christ and Albert Einstein.

Sounds awful, right? The movie itself is ok; I did chuckle here and there. Supporting performances by Catherine Keener and David Arquette were delicious, although they were drowned out by Steve Coogan's scenery chewing. But to be honest, I wasn't really sold until we finally got to see some of that atrocious play (which, in my opinion, is actually pretty freaking awesome.)


Oh yeah, and Elizabeth Shue plays herself. Exquisitely.
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hackers are people too

Are they?

Of course they are. They're people, like any brand of geeks. Kind of like movie geeks, really.

Hackers Are People Too is actually a documentary produced by hackers; it premiered at this year's DefCon in Las Vegas.

As I'm not very familiar with that particular subculture, the movie appealed to the Discovery Channel in me. It was interesting... and educational... but perhaps a hazard of a movie produced by its subject is that it came off as a little self-serving. I'm thinking the goal of the film was to humanize hackers to the general public, but in all honesty, hackers would probably enjoy it more than any other group of people.

Still, it's fairly interesting, and less than an hour. If you swing that way, you can get it for $10 here.
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friends won't let friends see... babylon a.d.

I hadn't heard much about this action/adventure/sci-fi/ *yawn*/thriller until reading this post by Fox over at Lazy Eye Theatre... not good.

It's generally a really bad sign if both the director and the lead actor of a movie brutally trash it during promotion season. Bad, bad sign.
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you've got mail from the shop around the corner

I've known David Bishop for about a year and a half. He is officially one of my favorite "Internet people". He also, by virtue of his impeccable (read: similar to my) taste in movies, is one of the three or so people on the planet who can be called my Movie Muse. About 90% of his recommendations make it onto my Netflix queue.

It was at David's suggestion that I rented The Shop Around the Corner, a 1940 film starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. I've been a fan of You've Got Mail since it first came out, and The Shop Around the Corner is the chief inspiration (along with AOL, I guess) for You've Got Mail.

Both films center around a man and woman who correspond with each other as mystery pen pals, and who coincidentally know (and hate) one another in real life. Of course, eventually the jig is up, they discover the identity of the other, and fall madly in love.

Yeah. This could never, ever happen. So why do I like the idea so much?

Aside from these basic plot points, the two movies really aren't that similar. Really, how could they be? One is set in a leather goods shop in 1940's Budapest while the other is set in New York City, half a decade later, with the disembodied voice of America Online ("You've got mail!") as the third lead character.


Let's start with The Shop Around the Corner. Like I said, I enjoy the basic premise, unrealistic as it may be. But somehow Stewart and Sullavan never muster enough chemistry to convince the viewer that they like each other after all. It just seems clunky, abrupt, and absolutely un-romantic. Even the subplot of an affair with the boss' wife comes off as superfluous and, frankly, boring.

In You've Got Mail, on the other hand, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan knock it out of the park. Come on, we all knew they were fantastic every time they share screen space. I've loved them in everything they've done. (What's that? Even Joe vs. the Volcano, you ask? Especially Joe vs. the Volcano.) I think the plot could be crafted by Mary Higgins Clark, and these two would still sell it. I should point out, though that this script was very well crafted. The dialogue is superb (remember Tom Hanks' character relating every life problem to something from The Godfather?)--and in the subplot department: Meg Ryan's little shop being driven out of business by Tom Hanks' Barnes & Noble-esque leviathan was topical and touching.


All that having been said, it is a little distracting watching the workings of the Internet circa 1999, but that was inevitable given how heavily the film relied on a fleeting technological gimmick.

So this is why I let David influence me so much. The Shop Around the Corner was not nearly as entertaining as my pick, You've Got Mail, but I'm really glad I saw it. My appreciation of this fluffy little romantic comedy is greatly enhanced by having seen its predecessor.

Next up on the Netflix queue, at David's (and Nathaniel's) urging: Memento.
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vicky cristina barcelona

This is a fantastic date movie. I saw it on a date with myself last night. That sounds pathetic, doesn't it? It really wasn't. I don't get nearly enough me-time anymore. I caught Vicky Cristina Barcelona, then headed to Panera for a turkey-artichoke panini, copious amounts of herbal tea, and free wi-fi. Couldn't have been a more perfect evening. Gotta do it more.

Do you like Woody Allen movies? I mean the really good, older ones? If you do, then you'll enjoy this movie. It's an exquisitely crafted story, full of dynamic characters (who make crazy-ass choices), stunning Barcelona cityscapes (I want to go! I so want to go), and yummy Spanish accents.


Vicky Cristina Barcelona's cast is a big part of what makes it so enjoyable. Javier Bardem is so natural in his native surroundings. He's very sensual, but his obvious comfort in that setting put me at ease, too. I reacted with a lot more "Rowwrrr" than "Run, he's got a weird air-gun thingie!!!" this time. Kind of refreshing. Penelope Cruz is also much easier to stomach when she's speaking Spanish. (Exhibit A: Volver. If you haven't seen it, do.) Scarlet Johansson was surprisingly non-annoying, and I have to say I love this new actress, Rebecca Hall. She reminded me of Anna Popplewell (Susan in the Narnia movies), but ten years older and sexualized.

What really works in this movie is the narration. It's the main vehicle for moving the plot along, it adds a great stylistic element, but my favorite thing is that it gives the viewer a feeling of reading the movie, like it's a novel.

If you like interesting, thought-provoking films, then I highly recommend this one. If, on the other hand, you prefer vanilla Lifetime Originals with no loose ends, see something else. Honestly, I wish I could go back in time and explain this to the group of cranky biddies sitting behind me last night. Just because it's not Danielle Steele doesn't make it a bad movie. Quite the contrary, actually.
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nonreview: man on wire

I massively enjoyed Man On Wire, a documentary about a guy who walked a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I shit you not.

Click on the links below to read some reviews by two of my favorite movie men.

Fletch at Blog Cabins
Daniel G at Getafilm
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postlet #18

Reason #57,483 why I love living alone: the freedom to weep loudly and shamelessly in my living room while watching sappy girl movies. (I saw Stepmom and The Notebook last night.)
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friends won't let friends see... star wars: the clone wars

Remember when Star Wars used to be cool? Groundbreaking, even. But that was like 25 years ago. I was a cute little cherub in pigtails.

I've moved on, and so should George Lucas. MSN critic Jim Emerson agrees.

On the Tomatometer: 23%. It's not pretty.

Update: Click the link for another great reason NOT to see this one, presented by the brilliant Piper of Lazy Eye Theater.
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american teen

I hated high school.

It just wasn't for me. I think I'm too much of a non-conformist. As a result, I got made fun of and usually ate lunch at a table by myself, with a book to help pass the 25 minutes. I dated the choir dork (with a voice like a sick mule) and the Star Trek geek (you don't even understand--he wore Star Trek t-shirts to school every day). I did exceptionally well in my classes without really trying, which also added to my social troubles. And I was chubby. So, not a fun four years.

Watching American Teen last weekend was like sitting in the visitors' SUV at Jurassic Park if all had gone well. You sit in the comfort of your protected environment, watch the Tyrannosaurus munch on the goat, you feel a bit of empathy for the goat, but then you also thank your lucky stars that the T-Rex's paddock is electrified.

I remained in the (relative) comfort of Uptown Theatre, watching the carnage (the Tyrannosaurus in this case is blonde, athletic, and goes by the name of Megan Krizmanich), and remembered. The movie depicts a world just like mine 15-odd years ago, sans the texting, instant messaging, and other scary new ways kids can hurt each other.

I would so have been friends with Hannah Bailey in real life.

American Teen's realism is startling, but it's also a very entertaining documentary. I found myself rooting for these adolescent underdogs at least as much as I did for The King of Kong. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack kicks ass. Definitely worth seeing.

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the dark knight

Yeah. I know. I'm massively late.

That tends to happen when I see a movie and can't bring myself to talk about it. Sometimes that's because my love for the movie runs so deeply (see: Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and sometimes it has more to do with a sense of disappointment, which ends up morphing into indifference.

That's the case here.

Before The Dark Knight's debut, buzz was running higher than I've ever seen it in my short tenure as a film geek. I was excited, too, but there was a definite vein of skepticism running through it. Obviously a big cause of that buzz is, of course, Heath Ledger's stunning performance followed by his untimely death. Hey, I was stunned by the trailers, too. I thought it looked great before he died. But then the tragedy came, and people were all jumping on the bandwagon, yelling, "Oscar!" As nice as that sounds, if he gets that Oscar I want it to be for the right reasons (a career-topping performance), not because of sympathy, or regret. That way it can be a real victory, undiminished by legitimate criticism. It's sad that a great performance may have been overshadowed by all this hysteria.

I hate to do it, people, but we need to get real. Heath Ledger was a fantastic actor. One of my favorites of all time. He almost always delivered a stellar, mind-blowing performance, from 10 Things I Hate About You, to A Knight's Tale, to The Dark Knight. But in my opinion, none of that, even his turn as the Joker, even came close to Brokeback Mountain. That performance actually haunted me for a few days. I'm really sorry, but Dark Knight is no Brokeback.

Others have been saying The Dark Knight was the best movie of 2008, or even the GREATEST MOVIE EVER. Not so. Sorry. It's a superhero movie. It's a good superhero movie, but it never reaches beyond the conventions and limitations of that genre. You always know what's coming... you can sit in the theater and say, OK, we're only an hour into it, so there will be about 3 more suspenseful climaxes....

And I'm sorry, but Christian Bale's voice modulation whenever he put that suit on was super-distracting. It's like the second he got in that mask, he needed to get his Darth Vader on too. I think the role would have been far more interesting if he had lost that weird affectation.

Now, I don't want you to think I didn't like this movie. I did. Ledger was great. Gyllenhaal was great. Freeman was great. Eckhart was great. Oldman was great. Bale was great (except for the whole voice thing). Et cetera.

It truly was, by far, better than any of the pre-Batman Begins Batman stuff. But it was not the best movie of 2008. Perspective, people.
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oliver stone's "W": whaddaya think?

Watch the trailer, then let me know what you think by answering the poll on the right.



Update: Upon poll closing, 70% of you answered "Ohmygod, I can't wait!", and 30% of you said you "needed to know more". Nobody said "No freaking way". So the buzz seems to be "for"... we'll have to see what happens. I'll probably check it out.
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postlet #16

Keeping in mind that Pistola is deeply in love with her boyfriend, and that I am fabulously in like with Nathaniel, and hoping that you'll receive this with the self-deprecating and ironic spirit that we intend: Pistola and I have decided that relationships are for bitches.
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romantic gestures in film

Maybe it's because Nathaniel and I had an AMAZING DATE last night, or maybe it's just because I'm intrinsically a big giant sap... but EW's list of 25 Most Romantic Gestures in Film got me all gushy today.

My favorite romantic gestures on EW's list are the ones from Moulin Rouge!, Brokeback Mountain, Once, and The Wedding Singer... but I felt there were several glaring omissions from my own romantic movie canon:
  1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Peter retrieves the topless photo of Rachel from the men's bathroom at the bar, knowing full well that in doing so he'll get the crap beaten out of him.
  2. Never Been Kissed: Sam publicly forgives Josie and demonstrates his love with a full makeout session on the pitcher's mound of a packed baseball stadium.
  3. Love Actually: Jamie learns to speak Portuguese... poorly... and flies to Portugal to propose to Aurelia, with whom he's never actually had a real conversation. (Meanwhile, she's also learned to speak English... poorly.)
  4. Somewhere In Time: Richard falls in love with a woman in an old painting... and goes back in time to woo her.
  5. Walk the Line: Johnny proposes to June on stage, mid-song, and won't take no for an answer.
  6. City of Angels: Seth renounces his immortality and becomes human so that he can be with Maggie.
Your turn...
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friends won't let friends see... beverly hills chihuahua

So I was watching Freaky Friday on "The Wonderful World of Disney" tonight* and the Disney people took the opportunity to relentlessly plug their upcoming film, Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Unfortunately, it only confirmed my initial instinct about this movie... it's just a big vapid animal stunt. 100 dogs manipulated by CGI + tired, exploitative jokes + the voices of George Lopez and Drew Barrymore = a big fat WHO CARES?

With all respect to costars Barrymore, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Piper Perabo (all of whom I love), I'm thinking that if you're over the age of six, you really need to find something better to do with your $9. There's a recession on. Use the cash for something worthwhile... if you're taking the kids out, go see WALL-E again.

*Yeah. In my pj's. With a big bowl of mac and cheese. That's how I roll.
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hype attacking! evasive maneuvers...

Remember when you were a little kid, and you got in an argument with a playground rival, and there came a point when you resorted to sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling "La, la, la, la, la..." at the top of your lungs?

I'm nearly 30, and I've found myself doing that repeatedly over the last week or so.

This is the problem. Nathaniel. He's so great. We're going to see The Dark Knight on Sunday at noon. Now, those of you who know me even a little bit can see right away how much I like this guy... otherwise, there's no way in hell I'd wait so long to see a movie that's so highly anticipated, and so much of a sure thing, on top of essentially being Heath Ledger's swan song. But I am waiting--and I don't mind--except...

Except that The Dark Knight is EVERYWHERE. A quick search of my Google Reader reveals no less than 121 Batman-related items. That's thanks, in large part, to Big Mike's Movie Blog, which has been running a Batman Blogathon (if you're not at a Batman overload stage, you really should check him out; he's a fantastic blogger), though everyone's been hyping it up, from Slate to EW. (I'm actually adding to the hype too, huh? Irony. Hm.)

I'm one of those people who would prefer to have absolutely no information prior to a movie viewing; too much hype can kill my enjoyment of a film. So I've been avoiding Batman like he's the Ebola virus, but since this is such a monstrous story, that's damn near impossible.

Yesterday I was watching "The Today Show" in bed, as per my usual routine, when they announced they were going to review The Dark Knight in the next segment. Groaning, I dragged my ass out of bed and went into the bathroom. I turned on my radio, and my favorite morning people were--you guessed it--discussing The Dark Knight. Ugh. I got ready for work in silence. It was maddening, to say the least.

So it's Friday, and The Dark Knight is actually in theaters. Now I have to avoid friends as well as media, and all my favorite bloggers... until Sunday. I suppose I could sneak into a theater and see it early... but, no, I can't do that. Nathaniel reads this blog (hi, cutie), so he would know. And I really am looking forward to seeing a fantastic movie with an equally fantastic guy. I don't know, maybe a little self-denial is good for me?

And of course you know as soon as I've seen it, Batman will be splashed all over this blog too. So I don't know what my point is. Maybe I just needed to whine a bit.
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wall-e is... a fascist???

A friend of mine forwarded this to me today. Apparently WALL-E has pissed off some right-wingers with its environmental message (how awful!) and "fascist elements" (like EVE getting in touch with her emotions).

Good God. I'm honestly having a hard time figuring out how these people think they have a leg to stand on.

Give me strength.
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the wackness: on the passage of time and scary relationships

I've heard a few people wonder about the validity of nostalgia for the mid-1990s. It doesn't seem all that long ago. I was in high school. I'm not so much older than that now, am I? In reality, 1994 (when The Wackness takes place) was a full fourteen years ago. I've long since figured out that as I get older, time will pass at an increasingly freakish rate. Seriously. Think about this: September 11, 2001 was almost 7 years ago. There are tee-ball players and cookie-selling Girl Scouts (ok, Brownies) who weren't even around when the towers fell.

Right. Enough with the random rambling.

The Wackness is a passable movie with a few really sweet spots. When it wasn't busy relying on "remember when" moments (remember Forrest Gump? remember Giuliani? remember when we didn't all have cell phones?), it reminded me what it really felt like to be a teenager in (puppy) love for the first time. The film very effectively recalls the alternating feelings of head-spinning exhilaration, and terror of rejection.

I suppose it was more powerful for me, as I'm in a new relationship at the moment. Like the kids in the movie, I've got all these crazy feelings swirling around... crippling fear, blinding hope, constant curiosity, delightful discovery... you get the picture. And The Wackness does a great job of playing on those feelings, contrasting the dead marriage of Ben Kingsley and Famke Janssen with the heady infatuation of Josh Peck and Olivia Thirlby. I've been in both those situations, and I've experienced that whole range of feelings: depressing lows and dizzying highs. Frankly, thinking about it makes me want to take a nap.

Here's hoping I wake up somewhere in the middle.
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great movie endings

As we all know, a movie's ending is critical. There's nothing worse than being captured by a seemingly fantastic movie, only to be let down in the end by a major cop-out of a finale.

So Entertainment Weekly (aka The Keepers of the Lists) came out with this slideshow, "20 Movie Endings We Love." I'm thinking certain filmmakers should be rounded up and forced to watch these selections. Anyone know who I'm thinking of?

My favorites are The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Lost in Translation. Comments, please.
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this is gonna be sweet

Generally, when a trailer is overplayed on TV, it makes my teeth hurt. And the spot for Pineapple Express, Judd Apatow's new stoner flick, has certainly been running ad nauseum. So why is it that every time I see it, I start vibrating in anticipation?

Check it out. It's set to open August 8.

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the stone angel

The Stone Angel opens tomorrow in six theaters around the country. So if you don't live within movie-watching distance of Edina, MN; Los Angeles, CA; Encino, CA; Pasadena, CA; New York, NY; or Bethesda, MD... I guess you're out of luck. No word yet on a wide release.

I do think it's one to keep your eye on, though... I'll lay down modest odds that we'll see an Oscar nod for Ellen Burstyn. More on that in a bit.

First, the movie. I was lucky enough to score an advance screening last night; in all honesty, I kept flashing back to Fried Green Tomatoes. The formula is familiar: Meet old person. Old person has dithering family. Old person has dismal living situation. Oh, but look at this flashback. Old person used to be young and feisty. Old person used to have lots of sex.

Overall, it was pretty depressing, and a bit predictable. I did enjoy Fried Green Tomatoes once upon a time; unfortunately, The Stone Angel substitutes empty sexuality for true warmth, and pithy wit in the place of genuine joy.

The one redeeming factor in this movie is Ellen Burstyn, the aforementioned old person. She gets all the great lines (some of them really are fantastic), and it's obviously intended as an Oscar vehicle for her. Nothing wrong with that. Her performance is impeccable, and I'd be surprised to see her snubbed.

It's just... I forget... entertainment is supposed to be entertaining, right?
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friends won't let friends see... fly me to the moon

Two posts on the same feature, in the same day. Not my usual M.O., but this festering turd couldn't be ignored. A big thank you to Fletch for tipping me off on this stunner, coming to a not-so-discriminating theater near you this August. The premise: three flies become stowaways on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. *Yawn* Oh, sorry.

Among the myriad reasons you should skip this one:
  1. As many have noted, the three flies seem to be Alvin and the Chipmunks reincarnated, complete with Simon's round glasses. People, the actual Alvin and the Chipmunks movie sucked donkey balls. What makes you think a ripoff of our favorite trio of singing rodents will do any better?
  2. The dialogue is atrocious. It seems aimed at your average six-year-old. Simple sentences. Formulaic "hooray!" reactions. Nothing stimulating whatsoever. (I've got nothing against six-year-olds, but the best animated films appeal to all members of the audience.)
  3. The quality of the animation...well, is it just me, or did I see this stuff on a straight-to-video release that came free with a Pizza Hut Pepperoni Lovers', circa 1999?
  4. It's showing only in 3D. That's going to set you back about $15, folks. Don't do it.
Here's the trailer:

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friends won't let friends see... space chimps

I actually mulled this one over for a while. The premise had promise, in an absurdist kind of way. I guess I thought there was the chance that it could end up being campy and cool.

So today I watched the trailer and... yeah. It's vapid slapstick. Doesn't seem to be worth the film stock it's shot on.

Decide for yourself (trailer after the jump), but I vote "no".

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downs and ups

Isn't it crazy how life can suck one minute and then be amazing the next?

I had a crappy day yesterday. All kinds of things (budget woes, hair woes, work woes, dating woes) were dragging me down. But in the space of 24 hours...

I'm just so frickin' happy to be alive today:
  • As of last night, I'm officially in a bonafide, albeit fledgling, exclusive romantic relationship (I'm sure you'll read more about Nathaniel in future posts).
  • As of this morning, work is getting under control.
  • As of five minutes ago, I was overwhelmed by some spontaneous raves about this here blog from a respected colleague.
The budget woes and hair woes are still right here looking at me... they're just not so woeful. It's amazing how when a few things go well, all the other stuff doesn't seem so bad.
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postlet #15

Captain Crash is leaving me. Good for the swinging bachelorette pad... bad for the swinging bachelorette's budget. I gotta get me one of those part-time job thingies.

Oh, and I suppose I'll miss the big lug...
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friends won't let friends see... disaster movie


From the geniuses who brought you Date Movie and Meet the Spartans...

America, wake up! You're making these idiots rich! Stop it! Stop it now!!!
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nonreview: wall-e

Everyone else is reviewing this one, so I won't. I'll just add my voice to the throng: it was awesome.

Some great WALL-E reviews from my posse:

Film Arcade
John's Movie Blog
The Dark of the Matinee
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postlet #14

Note to all Minnesota movie-goers: the folks at the Brookdale 8 Cinema have stopped trying. The place is falling apart. There's a funky smell. The boors who frequent this establishment have loud conversations mid-movie, unchecked by management. It can't even be called a dollar theater anymore, as the ticket price has been raised to $3. For the same price, the Riverview is a much better option.
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forgetting sarah marshall

I've wanted to write about Forgetting Sarah Marshall for quite some time.

I first saw it when it first came out, months ago. Then, a few Fridays back, I escaped from some tiresome company to see it again at the Riverview. Last night, I saw it for a third time.

I'm not sure why it was so hard for me to just sit down and blog about this movie. For one thing... I love it. Maybe I love it so much that I'm terrified I won't do it justice.

At the same time, it may be hard to tell you what's so great about this movie without revealing too many of its delightful little nuggets of realism, comedy, genuine heart, singing puppets, naked guys... you know.

This is what I can tell you. Forgetting Sarah Marshall holds up to repeat viewings. Every time I've seen it, there's more stuff that just makes me laugh out loud. The humor is a bit raunchy... most of it's sexually based... but to be honest, I'm good with that. (This is the girl that reviewed Kinky Kong, remember, people?) It's not for kids. There's plenty of nudity, of all kinds. The F-Bomb is dropped indiscriminately (you know... like in life).

But beyond the sex, the nudity, the cussing, at the heart of the movie... it's real. The characters feel like real people, the emotional ups and downs are real, the romance is real. To be honest, these are people I'd be friends with in real life, with the possible probable exception of the title character, Sarah Marshall. I'm sure it's no big spoiler to tell you she's pretty much a ho-bag.

And how could I forget... the casting of supporting roles is outstanding. This is true in most any Judd Apatow movie, but it's especially true in this case. Jack McBrayer is awkward and hilarious, Mila Kunis is lovely, Russell Brand steals the show. Paul Rudd is brilliant as always (he could easily play the pretty boy in every movie, but he eschews that in favor of interesting, unique characters. I respect him so much for that.) Oh yeah, and Jason Segel is officially now one of my favorite people in film.


Anyway... my worst fears have come true. I have come nowhere close to doing this fantastic movie justice. But let me just say... 5 stars out of 5. Absolutely fantastic. The best (in my opinion) of all Judd Apatow's movies. And... perhaps the most telling... I actually plan to buy this movie on DVD*.

Please see it.

*Not a common occurrence.
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pistola whipped: time to shack up?

My girl Pistola waxes philosophical on the prospect of moving in with her (entirely cool) boyfriend.

At what point in a relationship is it okay to throw romance, passion and the beauty and solace of one’s apartment or house for a shared living space?

I’m not exactly sure, but I have been thinking about it lately. And not just for fun but because it may be time. Yep, time to co-habitate with the boyfriend.

We’ve been dating roughly seven months, haven’t known each other even a year and here we are: I’m forwarding him house listings from MLS. We’re emailing about yards, square footage, mortgages and central air conditioning. And it’s fun…right now. Speculating about our future, dreaming of barbecues in the backyard with all of our perfect couple friends. Decorating to each of our own tastes, satisfying both of our odd collections. I can see myself now, shaking my head and fighting a smile as I re-wash the dishes that my boyfriend carelessly rinsed and threw in a pile next to the sink. Oh, good times. And I’m sure we can still maintain our interesting and exciting sex life after taking out the trash, weeding the garden, painting over the weird kitchen borders the previous owner chose to hang, paying bills and sending off the errant solicitor. I’m sure we won’t disagree or grow sick of each other. I’m sure we’re the exception to the rule.

So, why should we carry on the way we are? I mean what’s great about having a safe, solo haven where I can drink a bottle of Cabernet and listen to stupid songs and air sing at the top of my lungs and fall over and break my own stuff without having to feel guilty about it the next day? I actually don’t like standing in front of the open fridge door in my underwear dipping sweet and sour pickles into a jar of crunchy peanut butter. Well, I don’t actually like doing it in front of others. And I mean, I hate going on the annual weekend-long garage sale tour with my friends and picking up the grossest paintings I can find and hanging them on my walls immediately after getting home. I hate that.

And what do I do when the boyfriend and I get in a fight? It’s nice to go home and fling myself dramatically in my bed and shamelessly pound on the pillows with nobody watching except for the movie audience I am acting for in my mind. What bed can I do that in if he’s already done it in ours?

I guess I’m struggling with a battle against the unknown. I know things right now are fantastic, awesome, and truly fabulous. I still get smug when one of my imperfect couple friends (scratch them off the backyard barbecue list) complains about their boyfriend’s showering habits. Like that he doesn’t shower. And I know that mine does, because he has time alone in his own apartment where he showers and writes songs about me and emails all his friends about the super cool chick he is thinking about buying a house with. I can still imagine him doing all this independent stuff and that warm feeling surges through me. But is that warm feeling true affection or is it because he is doing stuff I don’t get to know about and do with him?

I imagine we’ll end up living together. It seems like the natural progression of this thing that I like to call a relationship. I suppose we’ll just end up being another couple, buying a house and playing at being adults. Perhaps we’ll fail? Maybe we’ll succeed. What if he comes home one night and I’m on my knees, earnestly singing along to Bob Seger’s ‘We Got Tonight’ and he likes me for it? Even loves me for it? And what if he likes doing that too? Then we could listen to the Kenny Rogers/Sheena Easton duet version instead and fall down and accidentally break each other’s stuff (I’ve never liked his Ikea chairs anyway). Maybe it’s too jaded to think too far ahead in the future and assume that all the day-to-day stuff can get in the way of the cool thing we have. I think Bob sums it up the best, ‘We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow, we’ve got tonight babe, why don’t we stay?’
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entertainment weekly new classics: best 100 movies of the past 25 years

If you've been reading this blog o' mine for a while, you know about my love affair with lists. (If you haven't, you can go here, here, and especially here.)

So imagine my delight when I got home yesterday, and waiting in my mailbox was the 1,000th issue of Entertainment Weekly. The cover boldly proclaimed: "The New Classics: The 1000 best movies, TV shows, albums, books, and more of the past 25 years". Did I wait to read it till I got inside? Silly blogosphere. You know me better than that. Of course I ripped it open right there in the apartment lobby.

And now you get to be treated to the movie portion of the list. This is EW's 100 best movies of the past 25 years... basically, anything that's come out since 1983. The ones I've seen are in bold; also, because I'm eminently proud of my own top 100, my ranking appears next to the title of any movies that happened to make my list.

  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1,2,3)
  3. Titanic (77)
  4. Blue Velvet
  5. Toy Story
  6. Saving Private Ryan
  7. Hannah and Her Sisters
  8. The Silence of the Lambs
  9. Die Hard
  10. Moulin Rouge (4)
  11. This Is Spinal Tap
  12. The Matrix (21)
  13. GoodFellas
  14. Crumb
  15. Edward Scissorhands (40)
  16. Boogie Nights
  17. Jerry Maguire
  18. Do the Right Thing
  19. Casino Royale
  20. The Lion King
  21. Schindler's List (7)
  22. Rushmore
  23. Memento
  24. A Room With a View
  25. Shrek
  26. Hoop Dreams
  27. Aliens
  28. Wings of Desire
  29. The Bourne Supremacy
  30. When Harry Met Sally...
  31. Brokeback Mountain
  32. Fight Club
  33. The Breakfast Club
  34. Fargo (34)
  35. The Incredibles
  36. Spider-Man 2
  37. Pretty Woman
  38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (72)
  39. The Sixth Sense
  40. Speed
  41. Dazed and Confused
  42. Clueless (59)
  43. Gladiator
  44. The Player
  45. Rain Man (86)
  46. Children of Men
  47. Men in Black
  48. Scarface
  49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  50. The Piano
  51. There Will Be Blood
  52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
  53. The Truman Show
  54. Fatal Attraction
  55. Risky Business
  56. The Lives of Others
  57. There’s Something About Mary
  58. Ghostbusters
  59. L.A. Confidential
  60. Scream
  61. Beverly Hills Cop
  62. sex, lies and videotape
  63. Big
  64. No Country For Old Men (41)
  65. Dirty Dancing
  66. Natural Born Killers
  67. Donnie Brasco
  68. Witness
  69. All About My Mother
  70. Broadcast News
  71. Unforgiven
  72. Thelma & Louise
  73. Office Space
  74. Drugstore Cowboy
  75. Out of Africa
  76. The Departed
  77. Sid and Nancy
  78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  79. Waiting for Guffman
  80. Michael Clayton (60)
  81. Moonstruck
  82. Lost in Translation
  83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
  84. Sideways
  85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin
  86. Y Tu Mamá También
  87. Swingers
  88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  89. Breaking the Waves
  90. Napoleon Dynamite (81)
  91. Back to the Future
  92. Menace II Society
  93. Ed Wood
  94. Full Metal Jacket
  95. In the Mood for Love
  96. Far From Heaven
  97. Glory
  98. The Talented Mr. Ripley
  99. The Blair Witch Project
  100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut
There you have it. I've seen 61/100, and 15 of my favorite 100 movies made their list. I've done much better with this list than either the IMDB 250 or the AFI 100, probably because EW picked so many mainstream movies.

So now it's your turn. How many have you seen on this list? Do you have any thoughts on EW's choices?
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friends won't let friends see... meet dave

I honestly don't think Eddie Murphy actually reads the scripts anymore. Makes me sad, really.

This one looks god-awful. If you're not convinced, watch the trailer after the jump. But don't say I didn't warn you.

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new feature: friends won't let friends see...


As someone who takes cinema a titch more seriously than the average duck, I get a lot of requests for recommendations. This ranges from Dad calling me right before heading to the theater a few weeks ago, to my coworker Virgin Mother sitting in my office this morning until I emailed her a list of DVD recommendations.

It's always cool when someone respects your opinion. Often, though, I have to break out the anti- recommendations; it occasionally becomes necessary to talk my loved ones out of seeing a stinker. They don't always heed the warning, but at least they can never say I didn't warn them.

And with this in mind*, I'm starting a new feature: Friends Won't Let Friends See... It will be based on my solely objective estimation of a movie's potential putridity. Most of the time, I'll anti-recommend something I haven't (and won't) see**, based on what I've read, and my opinion of the trailer. On the occasion I did see something absolutely cruddy, I'll certainly include it.

One more thing... I don't really have an objective rating system for movies I've actually seen... so I will also not implement one here. Just take my advice, or leave it.

*I admit I was also inspired by the trailer for Meet Dave this weekend.
**No one has yet offered to pay me to see the dreck.
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sir ian, sir ian, sir ian

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the promotion

The Promotion belongs in that category of movie that has everything going for it (respectable cast, interesting idea, potential for uproarious comedic moments) but just doesn't amount to anything.

If you've not heard of this movie, the premise is this:
  • Hard-working, decent assistant grocery store manager wants promotion.
  • Another, equally hard-working, decent assistant manager wants same promotion.
  • Hilarity ensues.

Here's the problem: hilarity never actually ensues. I kept waiting for the comedy to skyrocket, but it never sputtered past "mildly amusing".


At first glance, the cast seems outstanding: the two competitors are played by Seann William Scott (Stifler from American Pie) and John C. Reilly (Acadamy Award nominee for Chicago), and the cast is rounded out by Jenna Fischer (Pam on "The Office"), Lili Taylor, Fred Armisen (brings the funny on "Saturday Night Live"), and Gil Bellows (remember him from "Ally McBeal"? Hang on while my heart stops fluttering).

So why couldn't a great cast like that nudge this movie into more than a bland blob of blech?

Well... they are a great cast. They weren't so great in this, though. I was pleased to see no trace of the obnoxious, moronic Stifler in Seann William Scott's performance... but honestly, there was no trace of anything in Scott's performance. Bo-ring.

I was also expecting a lot from Armisen, being a big "SNL" fan, but his role wasn't even one-note; it was more like a quarter-note. Tired.

So, yeah. I left the theater bored. And tired.
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the big lebowski

I had never seen The Big Lebowski before last night. Honestly, that's (in part) why I nominated it for LAMB's new feature, Movie of the Month. It's been on my list for so long; everyone (including you, probably) has told me it's a must-watch. And this way, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep on procrastinating.

So that was a really long, wordy way of telling you that I've now seen "the first cult film of the Internet era." I'm now in the club. If you look at me, nod your head, and murmur "The Dude Abides"... I will not only know what you're talking about, I'll feel warm and fuzzy knowing that it's true.

Here's the real question, though: with all that build-up, buzz, hype, what have you... could I actually enjoy the film? Does the Dude live up to his cult-leader status?


Uh... yeah.

The Big Lebowski is a perfect example of why I love the Coen brothers. The crazy camera shots, absurdist humor, whimsical storylines and infectious music will hypnotize you (you may be apt to forget what time it is)... and the boys aren't afraid to get all trippy, either. It's hard to pick a favorite scene, but I immensely enjoyed the Dude's two acid flashbacks/dream sequences. And I can't get over the milk in the mustache.

I also fully get why this is considered such a quotable movie. If I were a bit more familiar, I'd likely be right there with the other freaks at the Lebowski Fest every year. Truth be told, I'll probably watch it again tonight.


Best dialogue (feel free to present your own favorites):
Jesus: You ready to be fucked, man? I see you rolled your way into the semis. Dios mio, man. Liam and me, we're gonna fuck you up.

The Dude: Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

***
UPDATE: Check out the other LAMBs' reviews of The Big Lebowski here.
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the princess bride

The Princess Bride is one of the most beloved movies for those of us who were precious little girls (or boys too, I guess) in the 80's. One catch: because of my limited exposure to then-current movies as a kid, this particular film geek didn't see it till she was eighteen.

Still. Totally. Amazing.

The great thing about The Princess Bride is... oh, who am I kidding? There are so many great things about The Princess Bride. I spent some time working through this with my friend Virgin Mother, and this is what we came up with:
  1. "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
    Somehow Mandy Patinkin (who is totally not Spanish) brought this Castilian character impeccably to life on the screen. There was so much potential for cheeseballishness* with Inigo; on the contrary, Patinkin treats him with reverence, heart, and wit. The result is that we actually care about the guy instead of just laughing at his antics.

  2. The Fire Swamp.
    It's the reconciliation scene for Westley and Buttercup, but there's plenty of humor and action (as well as story exposition), so it's never in danger of sinking in its own sappiness.

  3. Andre the Giant.
    He was so sweet. And so huge. And so funny ("Anybody want a peanut?") And so perfect for the part. Also, I was just old enough at the time of his death to realize how tragic it was. So watching The Princess Bride is, in part, like looking at pictures of an old, dear friend.

  4. The score.
    If you've never noticed this, next time you see The Princess Bride, listen to the music during the sword fights. It's freaking awesome.

  5. The Bishop at the wedding.
    Mawwwaige. This was our toast at my little sis' first wedding.

  6. Billy Crystal as Miracle Max.
    Seriously, an MLT doesn't sound like a bad idea for lunch. I wonder if you can get one of those anywhere in Minneapolis?

  7. The interplay between the Grandfather (Peter Falk) and the Grandson (Fred Savage).
    It gave the movie a little bit of boy-cred, especially when the kid would balk at the "kissing parts". Plus, Savage is 2 ½ years older than me... so watching this movie always reminds me of how young I used to be. Sure, I didn't see it until I was a young adult, but whenever it comes on I somehow get tossed back into my eight-year-old self. And how often do you get to be eight again?
OK, so what did I miss? This is my official comment call for your favorite Princess Bride moment.

Oh, and did I mention? The Princess Bride is #20 on the 2008 Nayana's Top 100.

* It's my blog. Cheeseballishness is absolutely a word in the Center Seat universe.
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guest critic: the strangers

I am a bonafide horror movie wuss. I will never, EVER see The Strangers. So imagine my delight when Pistola Whipped agreed to review it for The Center Seat! You mean I get to post the review, but don't actually have to sit through it? Yippee!!! Thank God for friends (at least ones that are a bit more hardass than myself). Enjoy.

I do not question Nayana’s love and respect for movies. She has written about movies and we’ve discussed movies that I wouldn’t dream of seeing. And not because I’m a snob, but because…. well, yeah because I’m a snob. I appreciate that kind of dedication, whether it is to movie watching or classifying moss found only in temperate climate forest beds.

However, her love of movies does not encompass the horror/slasher flick genre. I usually don’t like them either. However, my friends had a different idea. They agreed to see Sex and the City with me, and then sneakily tricked me into seeing The Strangers instead. And since Nayana is definitely not going to see this one, I thought I would take it upon myself (I am so busy not doing my actual day job) to review it here: in the blog-a-go-go.

Let me start off by saying that I think that this movie was inaccurately portrayed as a horror/slasher flick in the previews. It actually played out as more of a psychological/psychopath movie along the lines of Silence of the Lambs or Seven. And that, to me, is a big distinction. I watched the first 20 minutes of this movie through my hands because I was expecting that weird tentacled thing in Carol Anne’s closet in Poltergeist to appear. After all, I’m old enough that I have to get out of bed at least once during the night to pee, but young enough to believe that a monster could still hang out under my bed. I watched it through my hands because movies about ghosts, oversized bugs loitering in the mist, crop circles and angry aliens freak me out. Your average roaming group of masked killers doesn’t. That being said, there were parts of this movie that did scare me.



So let’s start with a little plot familiarization. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play lovers who have hit a bit of a snag. They attend a wedding, return late in the evening to Speedman’s parents’ comfy summerhouse, and try to make the most of the night by drinking and listening to Sad Bastard music (see Jeff Tweedy, Richard Buckner and Don Gibson). They are startled by a knock on the door. It’s a strange girl covered in shadows asking where Tamara is (how did the writer know that the name Tamara is the creepiest name ever?) They inform her that Tamara doesn’t live there and instead of going away she stands at the end of the driveway, swings on the swing set, stands listlessly amongst the pine trees in an attempt to scare the viewer. At this point, naturally, Liv runs out of cigarettes and Scott runs out in the deep, dark night to fetch her some.

Enter the other two creepy, shadowy figures and let the madness unfold…

This is when my hands came down from my face and rested obstinately atop of each other. Over the next hour the viewer is exposed to sinister encounters with the three masked marauders who torture Liv and Scott for no other reason than ‘you [they] were home’. Bryan Bertino, writer and director, did a few interesting things to make this a creepfest. He would cut to shots of the house, which looked calm and kinda gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling like when you’d see a shot of the ‘Golden Girls’ house after a commercial break. One would never assume that any horrors other than floral-patterned wicker furniture were taking place within the walls of that solidly built 70’s rambler. And Bertino did kind of play on that whole Manson cult killing spree idea that kind of freaks me out too (side note: the Manson thing took place in the sixties--I don’t understand the sixties, and am therefore afraid of them), but overall there were too many token horror flick tricks and plot holes to make this a sincerely terrifying experience. Truly the scariest scene had to be before the movie even started, when the new Nic Cage ego-driven movie was previewed. Yep, it’s called Bangkok Dangerous. Chills literally just ran down my spine.

Liv and Scott get ups for decent acting and I think Bertino could go on to make a downright scary movie. However, the phony ‘based on real events’ beginning to the ‘it will be easier next time’ end line, as well as the casting of Franchise Queen Liv suggests that Bertino could get stalled out making even un-scarier sequels. So, my advice is to see this one…just skip the previews.
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