Archive | December 2012

Five Non-Traditional Holiday Films

While I have a standard list of go-to holiday flicks, sometimes it’s nice to watch a movie where the plot doesn’t revolve around shoving Christmas cheer and/or drama into every scene. A nice Christmas-tangential film is perfect for just the perfect amount of holiday awareness without causing you to OD on the big Christmas chill. This list doesn’t include Die Hard (because it is a gaping hole in my pop culture canon) but you know, some people may find that to be a good option as well.

Gremlins

A mogwai can make the perfect surprise Christmas gift. But if you accidentally get him wet, and subsequently feed your mogwai brood after midnight, your town will be in for a Christmas it will never forget! (Also, violence and death.)

Bridget Jones’ Diary

I can watch this year round but so much of its timeline is tied to the Christmas season that it makes for the perfect holiday movie.

Better Off Dead

Who can resist endless microwave meals wrapped up as presents? Or a picture of your host family’s creepy son? Or this movie in general because of its hilarity? I always think of this movie when I see a tiny teddy bear.

“Look Beth, I gotta go. The Christmas tree’s on fire.”

Rent

While I would recommend the live on Broadway edition of the show, the movie will also do in a pinch. Rent begins and ends its story on Christmas Eve, which it doesn’t let you forget due to its aggressive notation of the passing year. But the characters and their lives are far more interesting than the holiday itself.

American Psycho

There must be a point for everyone in American Psycho where you either fully get behind what is being presented, or don’t. I’d like to think that process begins when Patrick Bateman makes plans with Paul Allen at the work Christmas party to meet up. Also, “mistletoe alert” is the most abrupt/hilarious/creepy thing.

Award Season Thoughts: Golden Globes and SAG Noms

Excited for this

If we are all being honest, a Golden Globe nomination is little more than a chance for the real Oscar contenders to continue their campaign, and for some of the kookier nominees to enjoy in the randomness of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The SAG awards can be telling of Oscar contenders as well but it’s really all about “actors celebrating actors” and a really nice party, I’d imagine (and more campaigning). But things are looking good for some deserving folks, and I feel way more committed to this awards season than last year (ugh). Also, I can’t help but be excited for the Amy Poehler/Tina Fey power hour.

To recap, I LOVED Argo and despised The Master. Ben Affleck got a very deserving nod for a Golden Globe in the Best Director category. Alan Arkin was the only actor nominated, in a supporting role. The movie as a whole was nominated for both Best Drama and Best Screenplay, as well as Best Score. Argo is also nominated for Best Ensemble Cast at the SAGs, and I gotta say, it is tough to beat. On the other hand, while voters seem to be in agreement that The Master is not great, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman are still getting acting nominations. Which is okay, I guess. They did good work.

While I am championing Argo, I am full-on obsessed with Silver Linings Playbook (Golden Globe Best Comedy/Musical, SAG Best Ensemble). Bradley Cooper: best role I have ever seen him in (GG Best Actor Comedy/Musical, SAG Best Actor). Jennifer Lawrence is as fantastic as she is crazy and fragile (GG Best Actress Comedy/Musical, SAG Best Actress). And as the cleverest sort-of rom-com I’ve seen in years, it is very deserving of its GG Best Screenplay nod. However, it is shocking that the Golden Globes bypassed Robert De Niro, who gave his best performance in years; he was nominated for a SAG award, which hopefully keeps his Oscar nomination chances afloat.

The early praise for Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty is being supported by multiple nominations for both films. Where they fit in with Argo and Silver Linings Playbook, in my opinion, is yet to be determined but I am excited to check them out. Both are nominated in the Best Drama category for the Golden Globes and both directors, Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino, are nominated. They also both received noms for Best Screenplay. For Django, one of my favorite people in the world, Christoph Waltz, is nominated alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. Meanwhile, another one of my favorite people, Jessica Chastain is nominated for Zero Dark Thirty, at the Golden Globes and the SAGs.

SURPRISE: For some reason, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association really felt the need to recognize Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, with a nod for Best Comedy/Musical, and acting nominations for Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. I don’t have anything against the film, I actually own it. (I am contractually obligated by myself to own every Ewan McGregor movie so this hardly counts either). It is just one of those bizarre instances when a little talked about film from months ago pops for a run at gold. But I would much rather have Ewan nominated for his work in The Impossible at the Oscars.

Other notables:

  • I have not seen The Sessions but I will never not be ecstatic over recognizing John Hawkes, which the HFPA and SAG both do. People claim that The Sessions is pure Oscar bait and I see where they are coming from, but John Hawkes has so many more unrecognized performances that this makes sense to me.
  • Not wholly unexpected, but still surprising: Rachel Weisz snags a Best Drama Actress nod for The Deep Blue Sea. It is always nice to see her recognized (I love her) and I did like the performance (and the presence of Tom Hiddleston, naturally).
  • My poor beloved Cloud Atlas is nominated for Best Score. As well it should!
  • The Hour is nominated for Best Miniseries (?), hooray!! Sherlock is not; but Benedict Cumberbatch is nominated for Best Actor in a miniseries. Weird.

‘The Hour’ Returns with New Freddie, New Faces

“I went somewhere…America. And you know what? Being a nobody in a country where everybody thinks they can be a somebody, that’s infectious. It’s exciting. I want that, for me. Keep up, Hector.”

Final papers, the holidays, and general end-of-semester concerns have really put a damper on my blogging. Which is sad, but has not stopped the ideas from flowing. So, what I have wanted to say for about three weeks now is…I am really enjoying the new season of The Hour. I’m not completely convinced it got away from its missteps of last season, but it is still very intriguing. And looks gorgeous in HD. And it’s a good way to fill that post-Cloud Atlas, post-Skyfall Ben Whishaw void. (I am more concerned about the world after The Hour ends…next Ben project?!) It premiered last Wednesday on BBC America and will be airing its fourth episode on the BBC this week. Here’s a few reasons why the characters on The Hour have returned rejuvenated:

Freddie: Fresh off touring the world, Freddie returns to The Hour with new confidence and closer than ever to the job he has always wanted. After losing the lead anchor position to Hector early in the first season, Freddie has been called back to co-anchor by the new Head of News (Peter Capaldi). He is not the Mr. Lyon of yesteryear and it reinvigorates the show. Oh, and when Bel decides to show up and “rekindle” her emotional dependency on Freddie, what does she find? Freddie has married a French woman he met on his travels. Yikes. But from his lingering glances at Bel and his new wife’s mood swings, will we soon see Freddie revert to old ways?

Bel: She’s grappling not only with ITV competitors, who want to steal Hector, but also with Bill Kendal of ITV, who wants to steal her heart (maybe). Which is certainly a relief after that embarrassing moment with Freddie. She still cares for Hector, but has clearly lost that loving feeling, as he has slowly descended into his worst drunken tendencies.

Hector: Talk about a reversal of fortunes. Freddie is the confident newsman and Hector can’t be bothered to show up for work. He no longer even keeps up an act with his wife. (She’s even booked her own cooking show, which prompts her to maintain the marriage for outside appearances only.) He is close to being fired and starts off this season’s other dramatic storyline by being accused of assault by a local showgirl.

The strength of The Hour, in my opinion, is with the character work the writers put into the last season. I love spending time with Freddie, Bel, Hector and the rest of the team. It falters more on cultivating its season-long “mysteries” as they tend to start off very broad and tangential before eventually being revealed as tied to our characters. Whereas last season’s tied to Freddie, this season our entry into the seedy El Paradis is brought to us by Hector. Bel (and eventually Freddie) set out to discover why Hector was framed for assault and find a dark underbelly at the club, fueled by police corruption. It is hard to determine how effective this storyline will be before the end, but for now, it suffices.

Meanwhile, dealing with immigrant racism and sexuality issues circulating at the time, as well as the looming figure of Sputnik, are much more adept at fitting in with the character arcs.

New faces: Bill Kendal (Tom Burke), wooing both Hector and Bel at the same time for various reasons. Kiki (Hannah Tointon), the showgirl that’s in a little too deep. Commander Laurence Stern (Peter Sullivan), who has close ties to both Hector (as an informant) and the club. Camille (Lizzie Brocher√©), as Freddie’s new wife. And Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi), tired of Hector’s antics and harboring a secret past with Anna Chancellor’s Lix Storm.

The bottom line: The Hour is back and better than ever in the field it does best (characters) and consistent in its ability to drum up some late 1950s mystery.