Thursday, July 24, 2008

Can you guess who this is?

This is very random, but...

...I was just reading an IMDB thread (bad habit of mine) about how it's ridiculous that people think Maggie Gyllenhaal is ugly, cause she's actually quite attractive. And I came across this money quote:

"Honestly, she's a very attractive woman. She just has the misfortune of having a brother who's prettier than her."

WOW, so true.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Top Ten: Mamma Mia songs

Despite my general indifference toward the actual film, I fell in love with the soundtrack instantly. Thank god I had an iTunes gift certificate ready and waiting to be used. NOTE: This post is best read while listening to Mamma Mia. I wanted to embed the song files in the post, but I don't know how. Sorry.

Now, a note about my choices: though this list is about individual songs and is mostly in reference to their aesthetic quality as perceived by moi upon repeated listening, memories of their staging in the film still linger in my mind. I'd be lying if I said the dance numbers, visuals, etc. didn't factor into my thinking. But I think that's as it should be. For what is music anyway without elaborate dances, Meryl doing splits and shirtless men on the beach? Nothing, says I.

Now, first of all, I give an honorable mention to "SOS" for being so bad it's good. It's not even that Pierce Brosnan's singing is so bad over audio - it's not, really - it's that pained look on his face in the film each time he opens his mouth, implying that if he had to sustain a note longer than a second or two, he might die. And also, the actual song just has that wonderful 80s George Michael so-bad-its-good thing going. Bonus points for the amazing awkwardness of the obviously superior Meryl singing a duet with Pierce.

Now on to the list...

#10: "I Have a Dream"
This sweet bookending song made the cut but sits parked here at #10, by virtue of its being a little dull compared to all the tunes yet to come. I can't say I've listened to it all that many times. But it's essential to the film, and wins bonus points for the whole bookending thing, and for showing off Amanda Seyfried's surprisingly good voice. It's just very classic and soothing and worthy of a spot in the top ten (considering there are only 18 songs on the CD). So there you go.

#9: "Thank You for the Music"
I'm not sure when, or even if, this song made its appearance in the film. Maybe over the end credits? Or maybe it's just some sort of bonus track? Regardless, it's a really lovely little ditty that has nothing to do with the narrative but is immensely charming nonetheless. Alas, given that I couldn't even remember whether it was in the film, I couldn't justify I higher placement than this.

#8: "Money, Money, Money"
This plays as sort of a more disposable, more tempered, and less impressive preview of the super-fun ensemble numbers that come later, both in the film and in this list. It also feels like it might have been inserted out of some sense of misplaced obligation to have something in Mamma Mia that can pass as "important" social commentary... and following that train of thought to its natural conclusion, the song suffers badly in its inevitable comparison to the similarly titled "Money" number in Cabaret. Unlike Cabaret, this show is at its best when it's at its most breezy, fun, and silly. BUT that said, this song is actually quite fun, especially in the context of the film (enjoyable choreography, etc.). And as I said, it foreshadows the orgasmic silly-highs that come later in the film. Bonus points for that. But it's surely one of the more debatable inclusions in this list. Purely an opinion thing... plus I wanted an excuse to write about it ; )

#7: "Honey, Honey"
Honey rhymes with money! Yay. Anyway, this one earns its spot by virtue of its having officially (or at least temporarily) replaced The Devil Wears Prada's "Suddenly I See" as my preferred get-up-and-face-the-world-like-the-secretly-girly-little-gay-boy-I-am song. You know what I mean. That song you keep on your iPod and play on the bus, train, sidewalk, or whatever on your way to what is sure to be a boring day at work, to keep your spirits up. Or that you just play early in the morning to help wake you up. Coffee for those who'd rather not be addicted to caffeine. Bonus points for the way Amanda Seyfried spits out "...THING!" and "...BEAST!" She has goosebumps! And who wouldn't when singing about Dominic Cooper? Which brings me to...

#6: "Lay All Your Love On Me"
OK, you got me: the main reason this song is here (and this high) is that in the film, it features the beautiful, British, bare-chested Dominic Cooper strutting around a beach while singing it. Plus, it's actually a rather sexy song. It's like the sister song of "SOS" in terms of 80s badness, except it's actually sort of good at the same time. And it evolves into a rather elaborate dance number with lots of other hot, shirtless dancers in addition to Dominic Cooper, who by the way, gets very randy with Amanda during this song. Did I mention he's gorgeous? And British? And he sings this song? On the beach? Half naked? Cause he does. And he is. And he alone was enough to get this song almost into the top five.

Alright, now a slight pause for emphasis... because, it must be said, the disparity in quality between #6 and #5 is rather startling. The top five are all extremely fun (in some cases exceptional) songs to which I expect to listen constantly for at least the next few weeks. The cream of the crop are...

#5: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" and...
#4: "Voulez-Vous"
A double dose of dance extravaganzas! These two were extremely hard to separate, since they're so similar in general vibe and dance-club-iness. I thought of just letting them tie for 4th, but I decided "Voulez-Vous" had the edge, cause it's better integrated into the film, whereas the other was more of a separate studio thing that was never featured in the film in its entirety, as I recall. Plus, I just think "Voulez-Vous" is more exciting. And I'd never heard it before seeing the film, so it surprised me. It certainly puts most contemporary "dance music" to shame. Sounds right outta Moulin Rouge!. Rawr.

#3: "The Winner Takes It All"
Meryl's one big solo showstopper, and the only non-ensemble song in the top five. In truth, I flirted with the idea of letting it top the list, but I couldn't deny either of the two following songs their coveted spots. Ultimately, Meryl dancing around joyfully beat out Meryl belting out her heartbreak. But boy does she BELT it. This one lets Goddess Meryl bring it like she's never brought it before in the movies. Musically, I mean. My personal favorite song of hers will always be "You Don't Know Me" from Postcards, but this one gave it a run for its money. Great, great stuff. Bonus points for the way Meryl oscillates from sweet talk-singing to true belting. Did I mention BELTING? I just can't get enough of Meryl belting. It's brilliant.

#2: "Dancing Queen"
You know what else I can't get enough of Meryl doing? Dancing. She may be much better at singing than at dancing, but as I said before, there's something so magical about watching her dance with such abandon. She just continues to surprise. Bless her heart. This song did lose a few points, though, on this particular list, for being so ubiquitous beforehand. It was the song I'd always associated with ABBA (ever since Muriel's Wedding) and the only one I really new well. So there was not much new going on here, except Meryl. With that in mind, I had to give the top spot to...

#1: "Mamma Mia!"
A rather obvious choice, I know. But I really do think it's the strongest song. What I just realized is that "Mamma Mia" combines the drama queen pathos of "The Winner Takes It All" with the buoyant jubilance of "Dancing Queen" to create a "best of both worlds" musical orgasm. Meryl gets to exorcise her demons and rediscover lost love through song and dance, for us all to enjoy. Cinematic heaven. Hence its place atop this list.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

If Meryl tells me I can dance, it must be true.

There's something uniquely magical about watching the woman who made Sophie's Choice (pun intended) dance around buoyantly while singing ABBA. Despite Mamma Mia's hit-and-miss, kamikaze comedy, whenever Streep starts singing, the film takes flight. This is not just because her voice is so gorgeous and expressive (though it is); it's also because we as viewers (or I at least) naturally tend to project all of Streep's previous perfs and career moves onto each new perfomance. I mean that in the best way. I think that is part of her legend. Just knowing that the same actress can play Joanna Kramer, Sophie Zawistowski, Karen Silkwood, Suzanne Vale, Miranda Priestly, etc. and then bust out with the sheer bubble-gum bliss of ABBA, and then seeing her do it... well, it does something very special for me. Something about it is very moving. It actually gives this material resonance. And that's pretty awesome.

As for the film as a whole... it's basically just another in the ever-lengthening list of Streep's middlingly reviewed mainstream comedies - She-Devil, Death Becomes Her, and Prime are other examples - all of which are far more fun than they would have been without her divine presence (though ftr, I think Death Becomes Her is much better than it gets credit for). This one, thankfully, has music. And super-fun music, at that. But the mixed reviews, and it's general dismissal as a mere trifle, are mostly deserved. I can't say I disagree with either assessment. But it's still probably the most pure fun I've had at the movies this year (despite being technically getting my worst grade... hee). In terms of quality, it doesn't hit the same highs as Devil Wears Prada (the exception to the rule in the reception of Streep's comedies), but it doesn't stoop to the lows of She-Devil either. One never gets the impression that Streep is slumming. On the contrary, she's having the time of her life. As is the whole joyous troupe around her. With the possible exception of poor Pierce Brosnan. Sigh.

Just a little anecdote now... my Mamma Mia experience was definitely made more memorable by external factors. I'd planned to go with my mom and sister today to the matinée showing. Unfortunately, once we got there, it was sold out, which really surprised me. But I guess it's the kind of thing most people seeing it would wanna see on a Sunday afternoon. Anyway, I convinced my mom and sister to see WALL*E instead. Since it's actually, you know, better. But mom was pretty set on Mamma Mia, so what did she do? She spontaneously decided we should sneak into the Mamma Mia screening and sit in the very front row (which they apparently don't count when calling a screening as "sold out"). So that was pretty awesome. My mom is ridiculous. And we got to see every wrinkle! Hee.

Meryl Streep singing ABBA: A
Dominic Cooper singing shirtless: A
The soundtrack in general: A-
The film as a whole: B-/C+

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another Meryl Streep interview!

And this one's British! I love British things.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My 5 favorite 20-something actors

Can anyone guess who they are? Let's see who was paying attention to all that junk on my sidebar before I took it down.

I'll be doing a series in the next few days/weeks, with a post on each of them. Stay tuned.

(no, the man in the towel below is not one of them... he's 35!)


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I had never seen this particular towel pic before!

I love it.

Whoever had the idea to do this photo shoot has my undying love.



Sunday, July 06, 2008

OK, so I apparently missed the Mamma Mia! world premiere in London by less than a week.

If I'd just stayed one week longer, I could've been there for THIS:

This is SOOO not fair!!! I was in that very spot more than a dozen times!!!

As it is, I happened upon the crappy Hancock premiere a couple weeks before, while on my way to see Brief Encounter. My comrades were hypnotized by Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and the avalanche of media and bullshit mutual admiration. But I was having none of it. I had a show to see.

But why couldn't I have been there for THIS one??? This combined with the Emily Blunt near-miss just makes me feel... makes me feel... GAAAAAAAH


The List: Voyage to the Moon
(dir. George Méliès, 1902)

Yeah... this one's the very first on the list. It's quite primitive.

I'm watching it right now on YouTube. So I guess this is sort of a liveblog? Méliès basically set up a camera and had people walk and flail around in front of it... which I guess is still fundamentally what filmmaking's about anyway. There's lots of discontinuous editing (not sure if that's the correct term... I should know that). Eventually, the people board a little spaceship, as the French narrator man is telling me now. Then they fly up to the moon and the spaceship hits it in the eye, and looks like a bullet. The moon looks mad (it has a face, btw). Now they're on the moon. And the audio track for the second segment has changed from french narrator man into this bizarre techno/Philip Glass score. I kind of like it. French narrator man was getting boring. The sets are actually very elaborate. I wasn't noticing that before, because the actual filmmaking is so nonexistent. But I guess this qualified as "spectacle" back in 1902. It actually resembles a sort of filmed ballet. That's kind of cool. Yay, I'm appreciating it. Now there are all these primitive-looking moon natives with spears (to expound on the "primitive" theme). And the techno score is kicking serious ass. Oh my, they're on a cliff! Somebody's gonna fall. Oh wow, the whole spaceship fell. But they got away from the natives. That's good. And it landed in the ocean. Which I'm assuming is back on Earth. But who knows. This movie is trippy.

I'm now watching it again with a different audiotrack. This time there's a narrator AND a musical score. Awesome. The audiotracks MAKE this thing. I'm definitely appreciating it more now. It's like sci-fi meets vaudeville. And they made it over 100 years ago. Awesome.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

time for a change

Alright. So I really haven't been doing much film commentary here lately. And I'd like to get back into that. So hopefully you'll see more of that soon... at least during the summer months, before I start having to work on my thesis, lots of classes, TAing, etc.

And since it seems to actually be causing more confusion and headache than it's worth, I'm gonna phase out of this "non-grade" grading system I've been in. It just isn't working. It's much easier, logistically speaking, to just type a film's name with a grade next to it. What I've been doing is the same thing, but with more of a headache. And with letter grades, it's much better to be indecisive and put two grades separated by a slash. I'll be needing to do that.

I think I've made my point about not believing in grades. At least to myself. And, while the creative/productive/actor/director/whatever part of me will never believe in grades as a proper distillation of a film's worth, the critic part of me needs them in order to function. So back they are. There's a new (short) list of 2008 films on the sidebar now. The older ones will be filtered out of their current placements and into some other new area soon enough.

There will also be more Streepathon soon, I PROMISE. I refuse to quit that project. And now that I'm really into summer, it'll happen... eventually.

Mmmmm, Trucco...

Can you believe Michael Trucco is almost 40? I'll have died and gone to heaven if me and/or my boyfriend look like that at 40. The seemingly shaved chest forces me to deduct a couple of points, but it really doesn't matter. I love this man.