Mary, Walter and “The Muppets”
Like any sane person who came out of The Muppets, I ended up singing the infectiously unforgettable line ‘I got everything that I nee-eed right in-front o-me’ on the streetcar home. Hats off to Bret McKenzie. But the sugar rush ended because of three grating yet forgivable flaws.
First is vintage store-clad (this is a good thing) Mary (Amy Adams), Gary’s (Jason Segel) girlfriend who si frustrated by her man’s undivided attention towards his Muppets-loving Muppet brother, Walter. Adams sings and dances feverishly, only bringing half of the joy that her scene partners, both human and Muppet, effortlessly produce. She’s more convincing when she’s playing against type than she is as an adorable love interest. It’s not entirely her fault, her face seemingly colourless and lit sloppily. She’s also one of three major female characters who, in a script co-written by Segel, are ‘attention seeking shrews’ ‘distracting men from work.’ An Oscar-nominated actress can’t save badly written characters like hers.
Chris Cooper rapping made me wince in my seat. And the characters’ self-awareness after singing their songs are a bit distracting.
And can I declare a fatwa against the premise in movies that the world is ‘cynical?’ Sure, as the movie shows, broken relationships and sketchy characters and greedy oilmen like Tex Richman (Cooper) and power-hungry executives like Veronica (Rashida Jones) do exist. But the world has its equal share of revisionist, retro-living, overgrown children. Our decade-long obsession for cute old anthropomorphic things is the reason Pixar gets awards. Cute is definitely why this movie exists.
James Bobin‘s movie epitomizes cute with the other Muppets whom this unconventional family is trying to reunite. The group find themselves on a mission to stop Richman from destroying the Muppet studio to build an oil well. Richman also wants to acquire the Muppets name to skew the well-known brand from its original content and form. Sound familiar?
The joyful aura is good enough to sustain itself for most of the movie. Despite the mushy middle, let’s remind ourselves that the movie begins with the postwar nostalgia of Smalltown, USA and we fell for it. Then we see the physical comedy, signature Muppets flailing, celebrity cameos like Emily Blunt and Leslie Feist and loved it. Then it sets up Gonzo as Chekhov’s gun and we smiled. And Kermit, the movie’s undisputed star, sings the old tunes as well as new songs and we cried and we loved the movie a bit more. 3.5/5
- Amy Adams on filming The Muppets: ‘It took a lot of energy’ (arts.nationalpost.com)
Drop Dead Gorgeous
I’ve seen some movies and fewer great ones in the past week but the word love is for Drop Dead Gorgeous. I don’t even know why because most critics think that it doesn’t deserve that word. It forces us to believe that the overdeveloped Denise Richards is the same age as the film’s star Kirsten Dunst. The equally overdeveloped Amy Adams makes her début here too and, as a cheerleader, is playing a personally relatable character, if you catch my drift. It also seems humiliating to watch Will Sasso‘s character be repeatedly called a ‘retard.’ That Amber Atkins’ (Dunst) tap dance number wasn’t as electrifying as it was the first time I saw it. And her ascent to the national beauty pageant is just as suspicious as Rebecca ‘Becky’ Ann Lehman’s (Richards) win at the town-wide level, the latter competition of course rigged by Becky’s mother Gladys (Kirstie Alley). Of course Amber’s innocent but even the good girl never deserves the ‘great’ level that she achieves.
But it’s still enjoyable to watch Dunst in her signature glee, making every movie of hers watchable. But her Amber also has a mean streak towards Becky and ever her own idol Diane Sawyer so she won’t seem insipid. Or Alley, at the time relegated to supporting work for the Olsen twins, comes with her venomous performance and over-the-top accent that of course, the rest of the female-dominated cast has. Tony winning talent like Allison Janney and Ellen Barkin also howl their way into the film, being featured in a movie that doesn’t deserve them, only to prove that they can go to the extreme without seeming smug. And this film was part of my ‘indie’ upbringing, one of those movies playing on cable in the early 2000’s. Richly nihilistic, mean-spirited, campy and excessive, it’s confident and defiant in its badness.
- Song of the Day: Paul Oakenfold (featuring Brittany Murphy) – Faster Kill Pussycat (canaussiegirl.wordpress.com)
A contrarian’s 2010 movie couples
Five of the movie couples here will appear ad nauseam in my other lists. I’m really worried and sorry about that, being derivative and all. I just have a compulsion to make these lists. Then in like, three days, I’ll tell you what I really think of the new Harry Potter movie. Not on this list.
Noah Baumbach creates two characters so real and on the surface, kinda boring. Florence and Greenberg (Greta Gerwig and Ben Stiller) are half a generation apart, and they come to blows sometimes with that. Florence sometimes talks and acts with irony that she doesn’t make a good impression on Greenberg. He’s an impulsive slacker but he blows his lid when her immature side pops up. Nonetheless they’re there for each other in times of need, belonging in Noah Baumbach’s world of under-dramatic characters. Thankfully, they don’t need speeches to reconcile neither!
The hero of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Michael Cera) and his heart eventually sets itself for the almost unattainable Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but I really thought Scott and Knives (Ellen Wong) could have worked it out. They’d go to the arcade or Sonic Boom and it doesn’t even feel like she’s dragging him. Then peer pressure kicks in, understandably because it isn’t cool for a twenty year old to date high school girls. They end their relationship with Knives complementing Scott’s hair, a perfect Annie Hall ending. They can be good friends after all.
The obligatory LGBT couple could have either been Cherie and Joan, Eames and Arthur (I can see you write the gay fan fiction now, LJ) or the ployamorous relationships in Heartbeats or FUBAR, but it goes to Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) from the Kids are All Right. Marriage is hard, as Jules says. Despite some flaws in the film, writer/director Lisa Cholodenko creates people, not symbolic entities, who have their own quirks and desires. Sleeping under a big comforter, ridiculous in LA standards, you can feel them snuggle in. Please adopt me!
They’re on this list because I felt really bad omitting Rabbit Hole on my top ten – the ‘revelation scene’ was kinda weird – but Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) make for a great couple. Yes, most of the film equally captures Becca’s relationship with her family, and Howie’s questionable friendships, but underneath that grief, anger and resentment is repressed passion and a will to reintroduce themselves into the Yonkers community where they normally belong. They help each other move on despite of the tragedy that kills the other marriages in the movie.
Representing puppy love are Lina and Leco from Modra, where the first time actors improvise their way into Lina’s titular home town in Slovakia. Instead of barraging each other with questions, they walk around the bucolic town. Leco jumps on top of Lina at least once. They find out the nice and not so nice things about them. Will this summer decide if they’re gonna stay together, even if the town elders bet that they will? This is showing at the Lightbox as the better parts of the apparently stupid best Canadian movie list. This movie’s so cool and obscure, it doesn’t have an IMDb page!
Some of you might think that the least conflicted part of Easy A is Olive (Emma Stone) getting swept off her feet by a Prince Woodchuck (Penn Badgely), which is true. So we’ll go for the bets parents ever (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci), and I remind myself that they were part of the me generation, as the mother intimately reveals, which is why they can give such great advice for their own daughter coming to terms with her sexuality. Again, Clarkson and Tucci have such great chemistry and humour, making jokes when they’re actually worried about their children’s well-being.
Here comes another odd, unattractive couple from another indie movie. It’s mean, I know. Jack and Connie (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan) in Jack Goes Boating decide to embark on love despite of cynicism they receive from their married friends. They’re learning the physical taps of love, not lust, as Connie tells him to overpower her without sound like she’s over-directing. In the end, while Fleet Foxes’ pastoral folk music is playing strangely on a New York City backdrop, the only thing more fitting is to see these two put their arms on each other’s shoulders.
I’d be sadistic enough if I put Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) on this list with either of his first two wives (Rachelle LeFevre and Minnie Driver), but author Mordecai Richler is sadistic enough to let Barney meet his third wife Miriam (Rosamund Pike) in his first wedding. In Barney’s Version, he tries to work it out with this Myrna Loy-esque image of perfection they try to work it out and do for almost twenty years, then he cheats on her. He tries to win her back, prankster that he is, by giving her new husband (Bruce Greenwood) a heart attack. But they’ve remained good friends.
‘You’re used to getting women drunk, aren’t you?’ Carlos and Madga (Edgar Ramirez and Nora von Waldstatten) are the definition of the sexy couple. In their first meeting, both test each other and that goes for the rest of their relationship when they have children and both have to go on terrorist missions. Nonetheless, they get on each other’s nerves, she does everything for him while he calls her a ‘petit bourgeoisie’ to his mistress. Like most of the women in the miniseries, she’s attracted to the man who makes things explode, but she can’t love the man who loves himself.
The reason this list even exists is because of Micky Ward and Charlene (Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams) from The Fighter. From their first date you can hear the rhythm of their banter already, might as well sounding like a couple twice their age. Micky admits later that they’re going in a nice part of town to hide, but only will he show this uptown side of his with a girl he really trusts. Director David O. Russell helps create that picture, showing Micky’s new support system as both, with little good reputation under their names, try something new and something with a great payoff.
Badass females of 2010
Hey, it’s a trend! Besides, I promised Norman Wilner over Twitter to make a bazillion stupid lists for 2010 before they stop being cool. This was the dumbest, most shallow and most sexist idea I could come up with, second to ‘Greatest uses of the word ‘fuck’ and other curses in movies in 2010.’ Not that he’ll remember any of this. Anyway, all the women are listed by when the first time I saw them on-screen. All women also get the January Jones/Betty Draper Award nomination for the most violent female character in 2010. You decide the winner.
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), for redefining vengeance and investigating those who hate women. May your shoes be filled well.
Jenny the Great White Buffalo (Lyndsy Fonseca) stabs Adam (John Cusack) with a plastic fork. That’s what he gets for telling a girl she’s fat.
Mal (Marion Cotilliard), who shoots and stabs you in your subconscious.
Knives Chau, the toughest Canadian. Don’t mess with us Asians, especially actress Ellen Wong with a breakthrough performance.
Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) who, after being dethroned as the prima ballerina, stabs herself in the face screaming ‘I’m perfect!’ ‘I’m perfect!’ ‘I’m perfect!’
Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), a Mossad Agent sparring with her partners, trying to find the Surgeon of Birkenau (Jasper Christensen).
Abby, in this remake, with a soulful protrayal by young Chloe Moretz, still hungry for her daily subsistence.
Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who will tell you that you’re employed by her and she will capture and kill Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).
Charlene (Amy Adams), who will rip your hair out if you call her a skank. You’re crazy.
Bellatrix (Helena Bonham-Carter), who makes Hermione (Emma Watson) scream for her oblviated parents.
Now Sally, go play.
The Fighter‘s first sequence places the camera behind Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), as his brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) throws fake punches behind him. They play fight as Dicky welcomes a documentary crew to his hood at Lowell, Massachusetts. You see the brothers, the crew, the neighbors yet the neighborhood feels uninhabited and thus, artificial. The rest of the film feels that way, the small city, both depicted with interior and exterior space, feels sunny bot not vibrant. The camera then zooms out with the same speedy feel as director David O. Russell’s earlier work Three Kings or the opposite yet reminiscent of, dare I blaspheme, a shot in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.
Lowell, Massachusetts, where everyone wears a size too small except for Dicky, who, despite revealing musculature later in the film, has an emaciated face floating above ratty oversize t-shirts, and for a while, Micky, better dressed than his brother, who tries to hide that he’s getting fat for lack of exercise. When they’re physically in shape, Micky and his girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) would have their enviable three percent body fat sticking out on top of their boxing shorts or cutoff jeans.
The movie also makes Micky look short (in reality Wahlberg is 5’9″), since no one that jacked could weigh 145 pounds. I’m not saying that the clothing nor the physicality does all the characterization – I’ll have a lot to say later about those aspects of the movie. I just like those details within the costume or mise-en-scene popping up once in a while.
I’ve previously said that I can’t relate to trashy characters. How many times do I have to say that I hung out with a bad crowd in high school or work with the working class now before it sounds like I’m appropriating something that isn’t mine culturally? I don’t feel comfortable in saying that I can relate to the characters and the situations they get into. It has already thrown and turned off some audiences against the film. But I feel like I can relate to these characters.
The playacting violence that for some reason is associated with both fun and survivalist thinking more than performed working-class masculinity. Their gestures. Dysfunctional families and in-laws. Women who are tough and foul-mouthed. Trouble with the law. Characters who are oblivious to the self-serving nature of their actions. I especially like scene when Dicky realizes that he’s hours late to train his brother. Of course he’s late. I can assume, consuming drugs in his level, that if he starts a session at 8 o’ clock, he’ll be lucky to realize that he had to get out.
Or like mother Alice (Melissa Leo) booking Micky into one badly matched HBO fight after losing another, not realizing she’s hurting and exploiting a son who may not wanna continue into this career. Expecting different results. O. Russell shows how poverty can induce insanity without harshly labeling these characters as insane. If any of us does the latter, then that’s our fault.
Harsh verbal and physical confrontations. Terrible ideas of trying to unsuccessfully scam people out of their money. Any of these things can be a subject for one movie. And it all feels real coming from these actors.
Like movies with trashy characters, we see a substantial amount of physical antics, bad decisions and yelling here, but none of those three things take the forefront in the film. Or at least we aren’t welcomed into the storm, as the film’s continues that with the family explaining which of their members are Eklunds and which are Wards, treating this fact of their lives matter-of-factly and without shame. And then two bar fights happen, one between Micky and another guy and another between two women. O. Russell knows how to stir the pot at the right time.
Another instance showing the character of the Eklund-Wards is when they’re watching a documentary about Dicky’s crack addiction – they’re bravely confronting the reality of their situations. The only time they’re hesitant about the material is when Alice tells Dicky’s son to stay upstairs or when Dicky, now in jail, unplugs the big TV set to stop the schadenfreude from the other inmates. If anything they’re prouder to watch this than to watch the first rounds of Micky’s fights. While that doc is playing on HBO, Micky’s college dropout girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), instead of avoiding ‘white trash,’ knocks at his door and slowly, like a human being, reaches for his hand.
It also helps that Charlene has the best lines of the film and steals the show. From contending with pretentious film patrons on a better side of town while on a date with Micky as well as confronting his family members, she sure knows how to stand her ground. A scene with her in the lions’ den of Micky’s sisters and another when Dicky makes an impromptu visit to her house make her an integral part of the best ensemble acting this year. Even in a scene when Alice tries to explain to her why he’s not sitting on a stool. Yes, that was Alice’s moment but it says a lot about her character that they have made peace that way.
There are negative effects and connotations to the film’s ‘team effort’ feel. From the first sound of the film – hearing Dicky’s voice as he talks both about his career and his brother’s, the audience knows that this isn’t Micky’s film. Charlene and Alice dissuade Micky from giving up, which would be encouraged even by a different peer group within the town. Micky’s dependence towards other characters shows how weakly written his character is, and that can be said about the rest of the characters too. The script then, despite its wonderful cadence, serves to be a impressionistic work on characters grinding against each other’s nerves. The characters then, have to have these fights and verbal exchanges a hundred times to grow as human beings.
So is this movie trying to say that what happens about the characters are more important within the characters? And it is true that it takes a long time for people to grow, and that evolution gets slowed down by poverty, lack of education and drugs. Although those things allow perseverance.
I didn’t have those questions while watching the movie. If you sat in the same theatre as me, you’d think I was watching the best movie ever. 4/5 rating because of the arguably shabby script, but it created characters I’ll love and cherish until another charismatic ‘hillbilly’ comes along.
Julie and Julia
Am I the only one who thinks that Amy Adams wasn’t that bad in Julie and Julia? Other critics get reductive when talking about her performance, pronouncing it as one nail in the coffin of her career – the other would be “Leap Year.”
It looks as if some of the critics were just watching the trailer. An actress’s look pigeonholes her, so she’s gonna look cute until she reaches an age. Her performance wasn’t aiming for cute, she was aiming for outright misery bathed with obsession and narcissism. I’m projecting a bit yes, since she’s part of the lost generation. You have no idea how many married people I see who are twice my age yet dress like freshmen skateboarders. Just like her.
Julie belongs in that cover of New York Magazine. She is the face of her generation, a carte blanche that has assigned herself to live up to the archetypes of a previous generation. She aspires to become a great cook like Julia Child, who has already made a mark on an already over-saturated American culture. Julie can only fawns and sighs at this unattainable perfect vision. How can she top that? She also covets what she sees every week – her suit wearing, phone call interrupting bitch friends. The only redeeming part of this table of friends is that Casey Wilson is a good character actress and is funnier here than she was in SNL.
You know who else is awkward, Julia Child (Meryl Streep). So much has already been said about her part and performance on the movie. I’m also the only person who thinks her accent goes in and out, but the stature and mannerisms are there. I still feel the same sentiments when this movie came out, that having Streep in a movie is almost lazy casting. That I don’t know if, say, a more deserving Kathy Bates too on the role and would have gotten the same nomination.
There are so many parallels with the characters Julie and Julia. Both are fish out of water in the recovery periods of tumultuous eras. Both were miserable at the things they were doing before they found their paths. Both adopt the American frontiersman attitude. Julie wasn’t the first blogger nor Julia was the first cook, but they were the right persons at the right time. Some critics just wanted to drop the Julie thing altogether, but Julie makes Julia more human and relatable by showing that Julia was at one point lost like we are lost now.
Also, Jane Lynch and Stanley Tucci steal their own slices of the show from Meryl. Fun movie.