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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tony Snow moves in

If there was ever any doubt that about the symbiotic relationship between Fox (Faux) News and the Bush White House, it has now been made completely plain, with the appointment of a prominent Fox News personality as the Bush press secretary. Why does no one think this is inappropiate???

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Wedding Date

This movie has a lot going for it -- charming lead actors portraying characters who you root for, amusing secondary characters, excellent use of gorgeous English locales, some witty and funny dialogue. However, the movie is hobbled by overlooking a basic plot development -- explaining how and why these two people fall in love. This should be unforgivable, but fortunately it's not -- the movie is watchable even though it's deeply flawed. Will and Grace's Debra Messing acquits herself nicely as an Everywoman stuck in the unenviable situation of having no date for her spoiled half-sister's lavish wedding, and Dermott Mulroney, well, he nearly sizzles with sex appeal and suave charm. There is an excess of plot machinations, some amusing and some less so, and of course all is settled satisfactorily in the end. A less than perfect movie, but not a complete waste of 90 minutes.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Topher Grace is the new Brendan Fraser

Why is he making such a lot of crap??? His next film is Cockblockers with Sean William Scott (who only plays one character). After that he'll be appearing as one of the two villians in Spiderman 3 (for crying out loud).

On the other hand, Brendan (who showed early dramatic promise in films like School Ties, but then appeared in a string of silly movies like George of the Jungle) actually has some decent stuff coming out -- check out the cast (and the plot!) of this one (The Air I Breathe): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0485851/
and this one (Journey to the End of Night): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454879/
and this one (The Last Time): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0469689/


Monday, April 17, 2006

A word on "trailers"

My friend Suzanne's (gradgirl) very excellent rant about movie previews:

If I'm not looking forward to a film, the previews/trailers are a fun way to pass a few minutes (Mission Impossible III?). Or after I’ve seen a movie, it is occasionally fun to watch and recall its highlights on the
DVD commercials.

But for frequent movie-goers like myself, previews are spoiler-infested ads that make the joke stale or the emotional moment empty when you see the movie itself – the real experience we pay for. I concede that previews are how most people learn about what to see. But all we really need to know is who the big stars are - do they look good? And, what’s the mood and tone? That’s it. Weddding Crashers was clearly irreverent,
fast-talking fun with two good-looking guys. Enough for me! Inside Man stars Denzel, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Spike directs, so it’s interesting and suspenseful but not dark. I’m there! People go to promising movies they’re in the mood for. Previews tell us the look & feel. More than enough.

Alas that’s not enough for the marketing department. In last year's Rumor Has It Jennifer Aniston sleeps with Kevin Costner, the guy seduced by her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine), she figures it all out but is attracted
to him anyway & disgusted, and the grandmother tells off Kevin Costner. No, I haven’t seen the movie. Rom-coms are perhaps the worst offenders: previews for both Bewitched (2005) and A Lot Like Love (2005) show the meet-cute, the misunderstanding/insult, and the make-up. What's left, I ask you? The finale of A Lot Like Love shows him serenading her with a guitar on the balcony because she could only ever love a guy who plays guitar, even though Ashton does this badly. No, I haven’t seen the movie.

A quick theory. The worse the movie, the longer the preview and more intense the marketing campaign. Don’t believe me? Think about the Star Wars trilogy. One preview was a black screen and only Darth Vader’s breathing in the background. Perfect. My kind of marketing team.

If A = the preview and B = film-going experience --- anything that enhances A diminishes B. I’m all about B. I'm greedy for the whole experience. Don’t ruin it for me! The preview for Reindeer Games (2000) reveals the woman Ben Affleck runs away with is the sister of the ex-con who’s chasing him. Major plot point. Why would director John Frankenheimer go along with this? Answer, he probably didn’t. Previews belong to the marketing dept, movies to directors. I’m sure really feisty directors have more say. For his lastest movie, Ang Lee did a brilliant job of showing sheep ambling along the mountain path and showed Health Ledger standing in front of a firework display. Perfect: mood, tone, scenery. That’s all we need. Isn’t it???

Movies used to build an audience and stay in theaters for many weeks. There seems to be no time for that now. Opening weekend is what counts and the preview is the tool to make this happen. The preview = get
butts in seats, not optimize the film-going experience. Why do we have this opening weekend dilemma?

Yes, I do love movies. Let’s show them in the theaters!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Donnie Darko really is that good

I finally watched this film after hearing about it forever (well, it seemed like forever, it really came out in 2001), especially from "Gyllenhaalics" who always mention it. It was stranger and more interesting than I expected, and much more substantial -- I'd had the impression that it was a standard (if well-made) tale of disaffected youth, but instead it's a complex meditation on fate and spirituality and responsibility. Jake spends a bit too much time staring crazily into space a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but that's a minor complaint. I can totally understand why it's a "cult" favorite, since it virtually demands repeated viewings to sort out all the elements and portents. Besides Jake, there are tons of interesting performers in the cast, including Drew Barrymore, who executive produced, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wylie (of ER fame), Mary McDonnell (best known for Dances with Wolves), and Katherine Ross (who was a fixture in the 1970s, appearing in classics like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Graduate, and the original Stepford Wives). Great fun.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Flight 93

I've seen several previews for this movie, in theaters and on TV, and I've heard a lot of discussion about whether it's appropriate to make this film and show it in theaters barely five years after the event. I don't know that I think it's "too soon," but I do wonder why anyone would want to watch a movie about this. It seems too maudlin to me, sort of like deliberately watching a train wreck -- it's just not entertainment (who finds this entertaining??? and you know how it ends . . .)

ADDENDUM, 5/8/2006

The movie is getting raves, both from critics and those who've gone to see it. It clearly avoids the Movie of the Week cliches and presents a moving and thought-provoking film experience. Not that I'm anxious to have that experience, but I believe the filmmakers have ably acquitted themselves.


Friday, April 14, 2006

What would King Solomon do???

I heard this story several times last week and it just broke my heart. This African-American boy's foster family (who is white) tried to adopt him, but they had already adopted a young niece and adoptions are limited to one per year. The boy (who lived with his original foster family for two years) was moved to an African-American family which plans to adopt him. We favor the second family for obvious reasons, but the first family is devastated. Who can say what is best for this boy???

Ire over boy's removal from foster home
By Benjamin Y. Lowe and Kathleen Brady Shea
Philadelphia Inquirer
Two days ahead of schedule, Chester County officials removed a tearful, 3-year-old child yesterday from his Downingtown-area foster home so he could be placed with a family who is adopting him in central Pennsylvania.
The county's original plan was for the child to meet his new family yesterday and then leave his current Uwchlan Township home for good tomorrow, said his foster parents, Randall and Susan Borelly. They cared for the child for nearly two years but were prevented from adopting him.
Susan Borelly said later that she told Kevin that the county "wanted him to meet his new mom and dad. He said, 'I'll be scared. Mommy and Daddy are here'."
They said they bid their final good-byes to Kevin as Susan Borelly fastened him into a carseat in a county vehicle.
Last year, the Borellys sought to adopt a niece, Danielle. But the county told the department that they could adopt only one because the county restricts families from adopting more than one child per year, unless the children are related. The Borellys adopted the girl, with the hope of reapplying to adopt Kevin in a year.
But last week, the Borellys were told that Kevin was being adopted by a family in Central Pennsylvania and that the new family would visit yesterday before returning to collect him tomorrow.
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare said it reviewed the Borelly family's case but is powerless to intervene. Adoption policies are set at the county level.
"We understand from the county this was a difficult decision to make," said Stacey Ward, the spokeswoman. "After reviewing their policies and procedures, we were able to determine that they followed everything correctly. There is no action we at this level can take to overturn their decision."
A psychologist who examined Kevin and the Borelly family in December at the family's request said it was unnecessary to move Kevin, who is black, from the white family because he had become acclimated.
Not only had Kevin bonded to the parents, Bruce E. Mapes, of Exton, said in a written report, but he bonded to Danielle, 11, and the father's stepchildren, David, 15 and Emily, 12.
But the Borellys said that they believe the county preferred to put Kevin, who is black, with a black family. It is illegal to guide adoptions according to race.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What to do about climate change

I heard this award-winning journalist, Andrew Revkin, who's an expert on climate change, interviewed on NPR the other day. He made two (IMO) contradictory points:

1) The average person needs to learn about how their day-to-day choices can impact greenhouse gases (e.g., take public transportation or choose to work closer to where they live)


2) The media is currently reporting somewhat hysterically on this topic and implying connections among events (e.g., the tsunami) and climate change that do not exist.

My question -- how to motivate the average person to participate in reducing climate change without the hysterical reporting???

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The 15th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival

Our fine local film festival is totally under-rated and under-the-radar, but it ROCKS. Due to my family obligations, I was only able to get to 5 feature length films during the 11 day festival, but they were all terrific:

* The Boynton Beach Club -- with the help of her mom, who executive produced, Susan Seidelman, famous for Desparately Seeking Susan, created a delightful romantic comedy set in an "active senior" housing development in Florida, with Joseph Bologna, Len Cariou, Brenda Vaccaro, Dyan Cannon, Michael Nouri, and Sally Kellerman.

* Our Brand is Crisis -- James Carville's political consulting group has repeatedly worked internationally (see the film Spinning Boris for another example); this documentary follows the group's work on the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.

* Romeo and Juliet Get Married -- utterly adorable reworking of the classic Shakespeare tale (though no one dies!) from Brazil, with the lovers coming from families who root for competing local soccer teams

* This Film is Not Yet Rated -- if you care about movies you should see this searing yet humorous documentary about the MPAA film rating system (the film is actually rated NC-17 for graphic sexual content); includes interviews with (among others) David Ansen (film critic for Newsweek), Allison Anders (Gas, Food Lodging), Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry), Kevin Smith (Clerks), and John Waters.

* Tapas -- fun Spanish film about how love conquers all at any age; a festival favorite that I saw at an added showing on the final night of the festival


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Thank You for Smoking

I enjoyed this movie, and it is quite funny, but it wasn't quite as satisfying as I had expected. Like many movies, the parts were better than the whole -- some of the scenes were crisp and fresh and delightful. But some were a bit clunky, and at the end, I had a bit of the feeling of, "that's it?"

I didn't notice myself, but read somewhere that although the entire movie is about the smoking lobby, absolutely no one in the movie is ever shown smoking. I also repeatedly read that the movie "doesn't take sides." If that means that *all* the characters have compromised their principles (if they ever had any), I can almost buy it. However, everyone involved with the smoking industry is portrayed as utterly amoral, cynical and singleminded, so the net result is that the whole enterprise seems completely disgusting. That seems like a "side" to me, but maybe I'm especially naive.