Monday, February 20, 2012

Big Miracle

In the footsteps (fin strokes?) of movies like "Free Willy" comes this "inspired by a true story" tale of three California gray whales trapped by ice in upper Alaska.

Yes, it's largely predictable as far as outcome. Yes, the all-star cast (John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, Stephen Root, Time Blake Nelson, Dermot Mulroney and more) and the varied storylines (environmentalism, professional aspirations, tribal allegiance, mass media, unbridled capitalism, cold war politics--oh, and the aforementioned trapped whales) muddy the water, but all in all this was one of the more satisfying movie-going experiences I had lately.

There's plenty of tearjerking potential (this time I was prepared with tissues--yay!) and while a (somewhat) happy ending was a forgone conclusion, there were enough twists and obstacles to keep me engaged in the unfolding drama. Although the true story this film was based on didn't have the solid, upbeat resolution that its movie version did--but then that's Hollywood for ya.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Artist

This film by French director Michel Hazanavicius starring French actors Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo is up for Best Picture as well as nine other Academy Awards. It's a black and white silent movie about a silent movie idol.

Talk about meta.

Those who have fallen under the spell of the recreation of this long past era are effusive in praising the film (see TEN Academy Award nominations). And then there are those who aren't impressed--like film critic Jeffrey Wells who said of the movie:

"The Artist is all about re-creation, backward visitation and reflective surfaces. It possesses and radiates nothing that is truly its own, except for a desire to give entertainment-seekers a nice pleasant time."

I wouldn't be quite as dismissive of The Artist's charms as Mr. Wells--but he certainly has a good point. There's nothing new in the film: its plot borrows heavily from the far superior and more charming depiction of the advent of talkies, Singing in the Rain as well as the already multiply-remade A Star is Born. Indeed, one of the minor characters in The Artist is a definite Lina Lamont ripoff.

As baffled as I am about all the buzz surrounding this "re-creation" (Gus Van Sant did a shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's Psycho some years back which definitely did NOT receive the adulation afforded The Artist...), I'm more puzzled by the why of it all.

Why would protagonist George Valentin jeopardize his thriving career by refusing to do talkies? Did he think his French accent would put off the audience ('cuz we all know that American women are completely immune to sexy accents...)?

What was the point of having a stellar supporting cast including John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell and James Cromwell whose combined screen time was less than Uggie the dog?

Why the need to tell this story--to recreate a bygone film genre--at all? Mel Brooks did it over 30 years ago--and far more successfully and charmingly than this venture.

The movie felt long and at 100 minutes it's certainly no Lord of the Rings endurance test, but it's a good fifteen minutes longer than the films it's trying to emulate. And while the acting in silent films focuses on emotive facial expressions, Bérénice Bejo crosses the line into the realm of "mugging" for the camera. As the plucky heroine, she's perky and spunky and completely lives up to her aptly annoying name, Peppy Miller. She reminds me of the forced exuberance of Shelly Hack in Charlie perfume commercials.

Bejo did have a nice moment in the film when she crashed Valentin's dressing room and pantomimed caressing herself via his jacket. But overall she gave off a smug vibe and I wanted to smack her. I thought it would have been more entertaining if the beauty mark Valentin gave her to make her stand out among the competition moved around her face--maybe jumping from the right side to the left or something.

Like Hugo, The Artist is a love letter to the film industry. But while it's a lovely little film, it falls in the "Good, not great" category for me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Can't Believe It's Not Battlestar Galactica

I'm newly addicted to the sci-fi series compliments of its playing on BBC America (that channel has also got me hooked on the British version of "Being Human"). We're up to season four now and I'm totally engrossed in the tale of the 30+ thousand survivors of the Cyclon wars searching for Earth.

But this post isn't about Starbuck, Apollo, Admiral Adama or President Roslin. It's about this commercial for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter:

Does the narrator's voice sound familiar to you? I could swear it's James Callis aka Dr. Gaius Baltar.

Anyone know for sure?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Signs of the Impending Apocalypse

2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar and I appropriately rang in the new year watching a marathon of The Walking Dead.

Okay, I'm not one to put stock in apocalyptic superstitions -- after all, by all accounts the world was supposed to end in the year 1000 according to Rodulfus Glaber, in 1843 according to William Miller, in 2000 (according to Prince...), twice in 2011 according to Harold Camping and now in 2012 according to the Mayans (although to be fair, they weren't accurate in predicting their own end--why should we trust them to predict the end of mankind?).

Even though Isaac Newton gives us a reprieve until 2060, Jezebel has pulled together a list of apocalyptic signs

To which I would add this:

The "LazySuit." This appeared on a late night infomercial and I was sure it was really a SNL sketch. Taking the Snuggie one step further is this one piece sweat suit with strategically placed zippered opening for easy access.

Living in L.A. where everything is California casual, it's typical to see people wearing Juicy Couture track suits or pajama bottoms--but this bit of fashion takes the cake. The commercial showed grown men and women hanging out in their LazySuits while tailgating.

I can't imagine anyone wearing these out in public--even if they came in NFL-approved team colors instead of lagoon blue, plum, half lagoon blue and half plum, light gray and white striped, fuchsia, sage and berry.

According to the site: "LAZYSUIT is all about a comfy and loose fit, and it is perfect for both genders. When you put your LAZYSUIT on, you will feel how soft and comfortable the material is, so you would want to keep it on at all times."

If you're interested in a one piece sweatsuit, they're on sale for $69.50 with free shipping!

Bring on the apocalypse!