Wednesday, December 31, 2008

trailers: upcoming animated films

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! This is just your friendly neighborhood reminder to be safe tonight. And if you're being super safe by staying in tonight, be on the lookout for Comedy Central to go off the air at 12:01... Today I bring you the trailers for some upcoming 2009 animated features, all of which look entertaining and artful (as opposed to the ghastly Delgo). I'm glad children's movies are becoming more mindful of fully grown children and incorporating solid storylines. As beautiful as Meet the Robinsons (based off of my favorite childhood book) was, the blatant moral almost killed me. (Did they have to repeat it in such a flashy manner so many times?) So here are the trailers and my following thoughts on them.

This film may be animated, but I don't think it's a children's movie. Director/Writer Shane Acker's post-apocalyptic narrative involving rag dolls as they try to survive is not exactly a heartwarming family affair, but I wouldn't consider most stop-motion films (sans Wallace and Gromit) to be children's movies (not that 9 is stop-motion, because it's not). The Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas are freaky movies. This trailer is close to perfect, from the regretful voiceover at the beginning to the Coheed and Cambria song that matches the look of this dark parallel world. Not to mention the HAL9000 glowing red eye throughout. The only fault I have with this trailer is that it spends too much time listing the voice actors. I've said this before, and I will say it until my face turns blue -- I do not see animated films for the actors. In fact, there are very few actors that I will see anything they're in. But still, having an impressive cast will not deter me from seeing this film (that would be a silly reason to not see a movie). And remember the clever campaign; this film comes out 9.9.09.

First of all, Stephen Colbert plays the PRESIDENT? Brilliant. Seriously, that's amazing. Secondly, I don't think Seth Rogen should do any more animated films (he was also in Kung Fu Panda) because I cannot separate the distinctive gruffy voice from the actor. But he does offer up the best line in the trailer: "I think that jello gave me a fake phone number." Rogen's Bob the Blob would be the best reason for anyone over the age of 15 to see this movie because it definitely is targeted to children. My money is on the moral being comfortable in your own skin -- a la the star-bellied Sneetches -- and that everyone is special and unique... and can fight off invading aliens. Which brings me to my last point... if I were invading a planet, I would hope to say something as awesome as "I come in peace, but most of you will not survive the next twenty-four hours."

I'm not going to lie. This trailer creeped me out... before, that is, I found out it was from the mind of author Neil Gaiman. Don't get me wrong, the trailer still creeps me out (see my stop-motion comment from earlier), but I know I'll be treated to a fantastic story if I go see it. But the best thing about this movie is not the trailer but the website. It's an interactive exploration of Coraline's house! In the living room, you can find some really amazing images involving buttons, and elsewhere you can upload your own photo and "button your eyes" (button, of course, being a verb). This will certainly make for an interesting experience, especially for those select few who received The Coraline Boxes as part of their campaign (box holder #3 has the best photos). I don't think this film will make a lot of money, which is unfortunate because money equals success in Hollywood, but I think that the people who see this movie will love it.

I saved the best for last. You know you're in for a good time (of unbearable adorableness) with Pixar, and their upcoming feature is no exception. Up is about a cranky old Walter Matthau type who travels the world via a ballooned house. This is just a teaser trailer, but so much is packed into it. I don't know what's funnier -- the boy scout being denied admittance to the house, or the sound of his clanking pack as he runs to safety. Luckily for us, we don't have to wait too long for this film because it opens in May. I've noticed the annoying trend of trailers being broadcast way ahead of time (Terminator 4 and the new Star Trek film are some particularly obnoxious examples), so it's nice to know we don't have to wait a whole year and a half to enjoy this visual feast.

just watch the cat

I have a few animal-loving friends who might enjoy this. Don't take your eyes off the cat...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

best of 2008 lists

Kristin over at E! has posted polls concerning the best TV of 2008 and the worst TV of 2008 (so go vote!). Below, I've listed some of the categories for "Best of...", with my picks in bold.

Best Chemistry
Jack & Liz, 30 Rock
Chuck & Sarah, Chuck*
Blair & Chuck, Gossip Girl
Pam & Jim, The Office
Ned & Chuck, Pushing Daisies

Best Baddie
Benjamin Linus, Lost
(he allowed his daughter to die!)
Dave Williams, Desperate Housewives
The Devil, Reaper
Sylar, Heroes
Dexter Morgan, Dexter

Best "OMG!" Moment
Phyllis walks in on Dwangela, The Office
Ben moves the Island, Lost
Rita is pregnant, Dexter
Sookie and Bill do the deed, True Blood
Lily is Chuck's mom, Pushing Daisies

Best Foreign Import
Simon Brenner, ER
Bret & Jermaine, Flight of the Conchords
Sadie Harris, Grey's Anatomy
Desmond Hume, Lost
Belle, Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Best Drama of 2008
Gossip Girl
Friday Night Lights
True Blood
One Tree Hill
Mad Men (of course)

Best Comedy of 2008
The Office
30 Rock
Pushing Daisies
Flight of the Conchords
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
How I Met Your Mother
The Big Bang Theory

* Let's be honest, Jim and Pam haven't had the same opportunities this season to show us their adorableness, whereas the consistent they-should-but-can't B-storyline for Chuck and Sarah has been a wonderful showcase for a plethora of emotions. So although I love Jam, I have to go with Charah... or Suck... hmm, that doesn't work.
** Again, I should defend my love for Chuck. While 30 Rock, The Office, and How I Met Your Mother are all really fantastic shows, Chuck has delivered the most laughs, surprises, and heartfelt honesty (which is ironic considering it's parodic comedy) of all the shows. And as a side note, I don't think I would classify Weeds or Californication as comedies...

Film School Rejects offers the Ten Best Foreign Films of 2008, and I think it's a good, albeit predictable, list. The important thing is who's in the number one spot.

10. Son of Rambow (UK)
9. JCVD (Belgium)
8. The Fall (Earth -- the film was shot in something like 18 countries)
7. Boy A (UK)
6. The Chaser (South Korea)
5. Tokyo Gore Police (Japan)
4. Tell No One (France)
3. The Good, The Bad, and the Weird (South Korea)
2. Let the Right One In
1. In Bruges
Film Junk had a poll recently asking its viewers what was the best of 2008. The results are found in their Reader's Choice Awards.

Best Comedy - Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Best Horror - Cloverfield (obviously high school males were the predominant pollers, though, to be fair, the nominees selection wasn't that great)
Best Thriller - Transsiberian
Best Action - Rambo
Best Animated - WALL-E
Best Comic Book - The Dark Knight
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (umm, what?? do people not remember the god-awful ending or the "nuke the fridge" disaster?? but again, the nominees were not so great. and as a detour, would you really even call the civilization a kingdom?)
Best Documentary - Man on Wire (Religulous got the runner-up position)
Best Indie - Synecdoche, New York (whoo!)
Best Foreign - Let the Right One In
Best Drama - Milk
Best Film of the Year - The Dark Knight
Biggest Disappointment - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (that's right - explain this paradox to me...)
And, of course, we have a few lists from Cinematical, one of my favorite (and most updated) websites on film. Here're their Cinematical Seven lists for Best Ensemble Casts, Worst MPAA Ratings, and, though it's not 2008-themed it's still a clever and funny list, Christmas Movies that Demand an R-Rated Remake.

Best Ensemble Casts
7. Valkyrie - Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, and Eddie Izzard
6. W. - Josh Brolin, Ioan Gruffold, Elizabeth Banks, Thandie Newton, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss
5. RochnRolla - Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, Jeremy Piven, Thandie Newton, Tom Wilkinson
4. Appapaloosa - Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons and Renee Zellweger
3. Burn After Reading - Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins
2. Iron Man - Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Jon Favreau
1. Tropic Thunder - Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Nick Nolte, Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan, Brandon T. Jackson, Bill Hader, Christine Taylor... and let's not forget the best part of the WHOLE movie, Tobey Maguire's cameo
Worst MPAA Ratings
7. The Love Guru (rated PG-13 for "crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references").
6. Frozen River (rated R for "some language").
5. 5. Frost/Nixon (rated R for "some language"). Two mother-f***ers and two other f-bombs.
4. Slumdog Millionaire (rated R for "some violence, disturbing images and language"). Suggestions of rape, murder, and maiming, and yet The Dark Knight got a PG-13 rating.
3. The Fall (rated R for "some violent images").
2. Son of Rambow (rated PG-13 for "some violence and reckless behavior"). Because kids making homemade bombs is "suggestive."
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (rated PG for "epic battle action and violence"). The MPAA says, "The ratings are intended to provide parents with advance information so they can decide for themselves which films are appropriate for viewing by their own children." It's all about parents looking out for their kids. So how in the name of C.S. Lewis did this film -- rife with stabbing, throat-slitting, decapitating, and large-scale slaughter, much of it perpetrated by teenage characters -- get a PG? Does the fact that most of the violence is bloodless (and therefore not realistic) somehow make it family-friendly? Had there been even one sexual reference, it would have gotten a PG-13. Thank goodness Disney only packed the film with killing instead!
Christmas Movies that Demand an R-Rated Remake

Judd Apatow's Elf
40 year-old Buddy (Will Ferrell) learns that he is in fact a human, not an elf, and he has been kept from human experiences for his entire life. Buddy returns to Earth eager to make up for lost time, with the help of some wisecracking friends, played by Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd ("You know how I know you're gay? You're wearing yellow tights!"). They are more than willing to help him out, and so begins an epic quest to get Buddy laid -- though what Buddy really wants is love. He eventually finds it with the kind of girl who would totally go for an average-looking man/child in the Apatow universe -- Jessica Alba.

Michael Moore's A Christmas Carol
In Michael Moore's return to narrative filmmaking, George W. Bush plays with his shiny new train set, sets out cookies for Santa Claus, and falls asleep in his footie pajamas while watching Power Rangers. He is awoken in the middle of the night by The Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes Georgie through his days of frat parties, draft dodging, drunk driving, and cocaine abuse. Even faced with hard evidence, Bush denies any involvement. The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Bush deep into a post-Katrina New Orleans, where Bush cracks jokes and enjoys some caramel corn. Stunned by Bush's lack of feeling, the ghost takes him to Iraq, where he sees what Christmas is like for U.S. soldiers. Bush yawns. He is sleepy. The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Bush a world ravaged by the effects of global warming and America hated by countries all across the globe. "Not real concerned about my legacy, Future Dude" chuckles Bush, and he falls asleep safe in his bed. Bush wakes up twelve hours later, having learned absolutely nothing. As the movie ends, he runs over a homosexual couple with his truck and kicks a sick orphan in the face.

Mel Gibson's How the Jews Stole Christmas
Mel Gibson's take on the beloved holiday classic loses the Grinch angle and finds Christmas being stolen by a legion of angry Jews. "Resistance is futile! Don't you know we're responsible for all the wars in the world?!" yells their leader (played by Jerry Seinfeld) as he sets fire to Christmas trees and manger scenes, replacing them with menorahs and dradels. The film concludes with an astoundingly graphic and lengthy scene of the Jewish people crucifying Santa Claus.

It's a Wonderful Life
This is about as close to perfection as movies get, and I pray they never remake it. But if they do, adding this scene [link no longer works, but it's of SNL's Dana Carvey as George Bailey beating up Mr. Potter] is a great idea. Enjoy.

John Woo's A Christmas Story
All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun, but his parents are worried he'll shoot his eye out. Everyone agrees, and Ralphie's frustrations build. Come Christmas morning, Ralphie does not receive the gift he asked for. He is pissed, and unleashes a foul-mouthed tirade on his family. Ralphie's mother reaches for a bar of soap to wash his mouth out, but Ralphie gives her a roundhouse kick to the stomach. Ralphie pulls two Red Ryders from behind the couch. "Who's shooting eyes out now, bitches?" yells Ralphie as he leaps over the sofa whilst firing both weapons simultaneously. His parents wounded, Ralphie takes to the streets and wreaks bloody vengeance on the town as BBs and white doves fly through the air in extreme slow-motion. Hours later, the entire town hospitalized with infections from BB wounds, Ralphie finds himself alone in the house and feeling randy. He chugs a huge glass of spiked Ovaltine and makes love to his father's sexy leg lamp as the credits roll.

Darren Lynn Bousman's Home Alone
Professional burglars Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) break into the house of little Kevin McCallister, unaware that Kevin is totally prepared to make them pay for their life of crime. Harry and Marv slip on some Micro Machines in the hallway and hit their heads. When they regain consciousness an hour later, Harry is ball gagged and suspended over a pit of razor blades by a padlocked chain. Marv has the only key to the padlock surgically implanted behind his right eye. Home Alone enters the age of Saw and Hostel, and oh yes...there will be blood.

Martin Scorsese's Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
In its original version, Home Alone 2 found young Kevin alone in Manhattan -- enjoying a fantasy world of luxurious hotels and fancy toy stores. In the remake, directed by Martin Scorsese, Kevin is shown what life is really like in New York City. That homeless lady with all the pigeons gives Kevin a scorching case of bird flu, an elderly man exposes his genitals to Kevin on the subway, and things go really wrong when Kevin befriends a young prostitute, shaves his head, and faces off with a terrifying pimp played by Harvey Keitel. Joe Pesci returns as a heavily mobbed up Harry, and the only thing on his Christmas list this year is Kevin's head in a box. Kevin is literally lost in New York, but Paul Schrader's script uses that setup to explore the ways in which we are all "lost" -- spiritually, emotionally, and sexually. fifty years of songs condensed into one sentence

This is a Mcsweeney's post back from November, but I'll be darned if I don't laugh every time I read it. From the mind of Mark Haynes comes Fifty Popular Songs Condensed into Single Sentences (only a select few are included below, so click on the link for the full list).

The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
I want to do it with you.

James Blunt, "You're Beautiful"
I want to do it with you.

Sir Mix-a-Lot, "Baby Got Back"
I want to do it.

Elvis Presley, "Hound Dog"
You're doing it with everyone.

Patsy Cline, "Crazy"
I want to do it with you so much I'm going fucking nuts.

Frank Sinatra, "Strangers in the Night"
I'm drunk and I want to do it with you.

Carly Simon, "You're So Vain"
We used to do it, but then you did it with someone else, and now I'm not going to do it with you, although I wish we were still doing it.

Radiohead, "Creep"
I'm filled with self-loathing, and, though outwardly I hate everything you represent, I want to do it with you.

Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind"
The Man is currently doing it to you.

Céline Dion, "My Heart Will Go On"
Even your death has not stopped me wanting to do it with you.

AC/DC, "You Shook Me All Night Long"
We did it yesterday.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"how to irritate people" with john cleese

Pepperpots at the cinema.

My favorite lines:
"His hat is green!"
"It's a fire station! That's why the door was red!"
"Oooh. Well, I'd never."

Irritation by pretending to be considerate.

Airplane pilots having a bit of fun

Favorite lines:
"I spy with my little eye... something beginning with the letter S." "Sky?" "Mmm-hmm."
"The wings are NOT on fire."
"...but do not unfasten your safety belts."

The pepperpot wants the battleship...

Favorite lines:
"I'm 92! ... I'm 96! ... I'm 103! Today!"
"What do horses eat?" "Meat!" "No." "Other horses."
"I'm 943!"

And, because I'm in a generous mood, here's my favorite Monty Python sketch (from Flying Circus).

"He's not pining!"

Saturday, December 27, 2008

it's a wonderful life

People sometimes dismiss It's a Wonderful Life as only a Christmas classic, merely an NBC Christmas Eve staple, without really reflecting upon it's message. And if one hasn't grown up watching the film every Christmas Eve like I have, then one might not even be able to recognize why this gem has a place in everyone's heart. For instance, one IMDB poster called it "sentimental hogwash," and someone I know once called it "trite conservative propaganda." But these people are clearly caught up in the spectacle and popularity of the film, and they're not really paying attention to the brilliant script (it's funnier than most people remember) and the fantastic performances by James Stewart (in arguably his greatest role), Lionel Barrymore, and Henry Travers. Does the film have its flaws? Of course -- Mary would have married Sam Wainwright before becoming an old maid, and if Harry hadn't saved the lives of everyone on that transport, someone else would have. But the flaws in the "what ifs" are so minor when compared to the overall message that they can (and should) be overlooked.

It's no secret that this movie is my favorite film of all time. I grew up watching this film, and I identified and related to George Bailey, a young subscriber of National Geographic who wanted to travel and see the world. And the underlying reminder of my mortality resonated with me even as a child to the point that, as rash or abrupt as they may be, I determine most of my choices based on the idea that I could be gone tomorrow. Is the movie conservative? Of course, it emphasizes family values and the need to preserve small business (as to escape the inevitable globalized Pottersville metaphor). Is the movie sappy? Of course, but being sentimental doesn't have to be a bad thing. So here, below, I've listed just some of the reasons why It's a Wonderful Life is more than just a Christmas movie and why it should be everyone's favorite film.

10 Reasons to Love It's a Wonderful Life

10. Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

Okay, this line is kind of corny, and director Frank Capra certainly made sure to get the most adorable little girl to play Zuzu. But the reason why this line is so effective is not because of Zuzu but because of George's response. He says softly, "That's right, that's right. Attaboy, Clarence," and he winks to the heavens. One of the smartest things this film did was portray God and the other angels as stars (as opposed to men in white robes hanging out on fluffy white clouds) because it allows the viewer to feel like someone is always watching over them, that stars can hear their prayers. Stars represent a physical means for believing in angels, and I think, as sappy as it is, that's such a wonderful representation. So when George winks to the ceiling (remember, it's nighttime outside), we know that he's really winking to the stars, and to one star in particular who now has his wings. And the above line is quoted so often not because people believe every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings, but because we're grown accustomed to the angel Clarence, and, like George, we are proud that he was recognized for the world he showed us.

9. I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long.

George gives this wonderful speech to Mary after his throws a rock at the old Granville house. And this speech is a lot more meaningful than people realize. George is talking about seeing the world, and it's not just that he wants to leave Bedford Falls, it's that he knows there's an entire world out there that he wants to see. This becomes relevant at the end of the movie when -- as hokey as it sounds -- Bedford Falls, his family, and his friends become his world. No, George doesn't get to build airfields and skyscrapers, but he does get to build Bailey Park, a residential area for families (such as the Gowers) to rest. And the brilliant part about this speech is that it's right outside of the Granville house, which they later move into, and while George is building scale models of buildings and bridges, Mary is the one who is refurbishing that building into a home. George's mind is constantly outside of Bedford Falls, and all he can think about is what he didn't do rather than all that he's accomplished. This speech is so uplifting in the moment that you almost forget how trapped he will feel later, but this speech is a reminder that sometimes your reality is just as good as your dreams.

8. Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be.

Here's another one of Jimmy Stewart's fantastic speeches (see also: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Harvey). I can honestly say there will never be another Jimmy Stewart, though Hollywood likes to cast Tom Hanks in that role. There will be other Clark Gables and Cary Grants, but there won't be another actor like Jimmy Stewart with his aw-shucks charm and boy-next-door demeanor. Stewart doesn't play this speech with anger but with honesty. Potter is a crooked old man, and with repeat viewings, you will find yourself cheering during this speech. (I'm not going to lie; I sometimes clap when watching this scene.) And, of course, the final line ties back into the larger motif of the film; like his father, George will grow to be "the richest man in town."

7. Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death? Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people.

This entire scene (see previous post for the video) makes you believe in love again. At 38, I don't know if Stewart quite passes off realistically as college-aged, but that's no matter. Donna Reed is absolutely glowing in this scene (thanks to a soft focus), but why wouldn't she be when opposite the most charming man in the world? There are plenty of fantastic lines in this scene, the least of which is "This is a very interesting situation!" There's just something about the way Stewart delivers that line that makes me crack up, and the following dialogue is quite hilarious. After Mary drops her robe and hides behind the hydrangea bushes, George considers selling tickets to the spectacle. "George Bailey, I'm ashamed of you! I'm going to tell your mother." "Oh, she's way down the street." But the line that everyone remembers is the cranky old neighbor who scoffs at their flirtation. He doesn't seem like the romantic type himself, which is what makes his delivery of "youth is wasted on the wrong people" so funny, but it's George's defensive response that really sells the scene: "You want me to kiss her? Hey, come back here. I'll show you some kissing that'll make your head spin!"

6. The kiss.

Watch the scene above. Then remind yourself to breathe. Then repeat. Famously, this scene actually had a lot left out. As the story goes, Stewart and Reed were so caught up in the scene that they skipped over eight pages of dialogue, and to the screenwriter's dismay, Capra accepted this scene in only one take, and it's the final version you see in the film. This kiss is intense -- for 1946 and 2008 -- because it's impassioned and frightening and romantic all at the same time. It's hot and cold, dangerous and safe, scary but rewarding. Mary's been waiting for this moment, and it comes just after George declares he never wants to get married. Most people list this as one of the most romantic kisses in cinema, and I certainly wouldn't argue against that, but there's also a darkness to this scene that I think indicates the troubles ahead for George. He's not settling for Mary and I don't believe he's giving up on himself, but I do think George is well-aware of the conflicts inherent in his decision to be with her.

5. Is this the ear you can't hear in? George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die.

Okay, this scene just makes me happy. Young Mary is adorable. This scene also brings us the oft-quoted (as least for me) line, "You don't like coconut? Say brainless, don't you know where coconuts come from?" You'd be surprised how applicable that line is to many situations.

4. My mouth's bleeding, Bert! My mouth's bleeding! Zuzu's petals... Zuzu...

This scene is really fantastic because George isn't just happy to be alive, and it's not until he's running through Bedford Falls that he's thankful that Pottersville is no more. This scene is actually about the family, and like so much of this film, there are layers that allude and reference other parts of the film. George is happy because Bert recognizes him, that his old and dear friend remembers him. He's happy because he still has Zuzu's petals, even though those petals represent Zuzu's sickness and the earlier altercation between George and Zuzu's teacher's husband. Those petals symbolize George's life -- decaying and with a hint of sadness and bitterness, and yet they're so beautiful. And Zuzu loves those petals. And thus George loves those petals because he loves Zuzu. And again, this is a really strong performance from Stewart. He is genuinely ecstatic to come home to his family, even if it means going to jail, because they are the bridges and skyscrapers that make up his life's greatest work.

3. Every man on that transport died! Harry wasn't there to save them, because you weren't there to save Harry.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, there are some flaws in the "what if" scenarios that Clarence constructs. If Harry hadn't lived, someone else probably would have been the hero and saved the people on the transport. But still, this scene has the greatest lesson from the entire movie. It's not necessarily about family or having friends (although that's certainly part of it), but that on a much smaller, almost always overlooked note, it's the little things that we do that make up the narrative of humanity. George saved Harry from the broken ice because Harry was his brother. He didn't even think twice about it. And this is an idea that escapes me much too often, that people think of me when I'm not around, that I somehow make a dent in someone else's life. It may be small, and it may be minor, but my very existence -- just walking around, just having conversations -- makes a difference. I think people generally like to see change instantly, rewarded instantly for their efforts. But sometimes our biggest moments are actually small ones, and we might never know how we changed the world just by being in it.

2. Clarence Oddbody, AS2.

Clarence Oddbody, Angel Second Class, doesn't appear until almost thirty minutes are left in the film, and yet Henry Travers's presence is so memorable that you'd think he was in the entire film. Not only is Travers hysterically simple-minded (thank God Capra didn't make Clarence an omnipotent or arrogant goody-goody), but some of the film's best lines involve him. I, for one, love sarcastic George Bailey. "Well, you look about the kind of angel I'd get. Sort of a fallen angel, aren't you," he asks when he first meets Clarence. And then when they're walking back to his car, he tells Clarence, "We'll stroll up to my car and get... Oh, I'm sorry. I'll stroll. You fly." And of course, the funniest Clarence gag is when George calls him Gabriel. There's such an honesty in their relationship that when Clarence does weird things (like order an old-time drink), George still defends him despite his peculiarity. And by the end of the movie, I think everyone wants a Clarence of their own.

1. A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.

There are just some scenes from movies that make me cry without even needing to have seen the rest of the film, and this is at the top of that list. I can't even hear this line without misting up. And what makes this scene so magical and truly wonderful is that when Harry says this line, everyone in the room roars in a communal love. They know, just as well as we know, that Harry's not talking about money, and George's reaction is one of heartfelt sincerity. Scenes like this just aren't made anymore. Now, if a movie is trying to be profound or thought-provoking, it tells you. But this scene just unfolds so naturally, and it truly becomes a celebration for life. This scene -- and this movie -- reminds us that, even with all of its hardships and struggles and compromises, it really is a wonderful life.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2009 TV schedule

It's that time of year again! You know, the time that we all lose our winter weight by sitting in front of the television. Via Kristin from E!, here are the return dates of some of your favorite television shows. (Asterisks denote geek-worthy premieres.)

Sunday, Jan. 4: Brothers & Sisters (ABC), Desperate Housewives (ABC)

Tuesday, Jan. 6: Scrubs (ABC)

Thursday, Jan. 8: 30 Rock (NBC)***, Grey's Anatomy (ABC), My Name Is Earl (NBC), The Office (NBC), Private Practice (ABC), Ugly Betty (ABC)

Friday, Jan. 9: Monk (USA), Psych (USA)

Sunday, Jan. 11: 24 (Fox)

Monday, Jan. 12: The Big Bang Theory (CBS)***, How I Met Your Mother (CBS), Samantha Who? (ABC)

Tuesday, Jan. 13: American Idol (Fox -- dear God...)

Thursday, Jan. 15: Bones (Fox -- remember, Bones moves to THURSDAYS), CSI (CBS)

Friday, Jan. 16: Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi)***, Friday Night Lights (NBC)

Sunday, Jan. 18: Big Love (HBO), Family Guy (Fox), Flight of the Conchords (HBO)***, King of the Hill (Fox), Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Showtime), The Simpsons (Fox), United States of Tara (Showtime)

Monday, Jan. 19: House (Fox -- remember, House moves to MONDAYS)

Tuesday, Jan. 20: Fringe (Fox)

Wednesday, Jan. 21: Lost (ABC -- two-hour premiere)***

Monday, Feb. 2: Chuck (NBC -- 3-D episode, say what?)***, Heroes, Vol. IV: Fugitives (NBC)

Friday, Feb. 13: Dollhouse (Fox -- solution for you Sci-Fi fans, watch Dollhouse but TiVo BSG because you'll want to rewatch those episodes)***, Terminator (Fox)

Sunday, March 8: Breaking Bad (AMC)

Tuesday, March 24: Cupid (ABC -- Rob Marshall of Veronica Mars fame)

To Be Determined:
Amy Poehler, Beyond Thunderdome premieres on NBC in April.
Life returns to NBC in February.
My Boys returns to TBS in the spring.
Prison Break and 'Til Death return to Fox in the spring.
Rescue Me returns to FX in March or April.
The Tudors returns to Showtime in April.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

in the spirit of christmas

In the spirit of Christmas, I'm posting scenes from my favorite Christmas movies -- It's a Wonderful Life, Elf, and A Christmas Story -- all of which keep me company on Christmas Eve. Enjoy, and happy holidays, everyone!

One of my favorite scenes. Ever. "This is a very interesting situation!"

"My mouf's bleeding, Burt! My mouf's bleeding!" I cry every time.

"He's an angry elf..."

"You sit on a throne of lies!"

"I triple-dog dare you!"

"Fragile. Hmm, it must be Italian."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

golden globe nominations

Golden Globe nominations were announced last week, so here is the complete list. I've commented where necessary. My predicted winners (rather, people I would like to win) are in bold.

Best Picture - Drama: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire
** I haven't seen any of these movies yet, and although a friend has highly recommended Slumdog Millionaire as the best movie of the year, I think I have to go with the old-world Frost/Nixon.
Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road)

Best Actor - Drama: Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Best Actress - Drama: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (The Changeling), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Kristin Scott Thomas (I've Loved You So Long), Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)
** I do love Kate Winslet in, oh, absolutely everything, but I don't know if RR is her award-winning vehicle. Plus, Hathaway's been getting so much praise.
Best Picture - Musical/Comedy: Burn After Reading, Happy Go Lucky, In Bruges, Mama Mia!, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
** For the love of all that is holy, please let In Bruges win. This was hands-down the most underappreciated movie of the year, and Colin Farrell was just amazing in it. Also, Mama Mia!?? SERIOUSLY?!?
Best Actor - Musical/Comedy: Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Colin Farrell (In Bruges), James Franco (Pineapple Express), Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges), Dustin Hoffman (Last Chance Harvey)

Best Actress - Musical/Comedy: Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky), Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading), Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia), Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey)

Best Supporting Actor: Tom Cruise (Tropic Thunder), Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Ralph Fiennes (The Duchess), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
** Anyone but Tom Cruise. Anyone but Tom Cruise.
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler), Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Best Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), David Hare (The Reader), Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), John Patrick Shanley (Doubt)

Best Television Drama: Dexter, House, In Treatment, Mad Men, True Blood
** No contest. Mad Men should win everything. Including Best Animation. It's that good. And -- True Blood?!? What?
Best Actor - Television Drama: Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Hugh Laurie (House), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors)
** Jon Hamm. Jon Hamm. Jon Hamm.
Best Actress - Television Drama: Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters), Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), January Jones (Mad Men), Anna Paquin (True Blood), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
** I don't really care who wins this category, but, as much as I love Mad Men, I'm still not entirely comfortable with January Jones's performance as Betty Draper (though she is certainly getting better). Let me just say -- anyone but Anna Paquin. She is one of the most annoying actresses ever. She may be my female version of Nicolas Cage.
Best Television Musical/Comedy: 30 Rock, Californication, Entourage, The Office, Weeds
** This award will probably go to 30 Rock, though I don't think that Season 3 is nearly as stellar as the first two. Do the 2009 Golden Globes honor the fall seasons or the last completed seasons? Because where would Mad Men (which finished a couple of months ago) fit into that schedule? If it's about last season, my vote goes to 30 Rock, but if it's about current seasons, my vote goes to Californication. I thought the parallels of Hank and Lou Ashby were really top-notch, and I thoroughly enjoyed the second season shenanigans.
Best Actor - Television Musical/Comedy: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Steve Carell (The Office), Kevin Connolly (Entourage), David Duchovny (Californication), Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
** Wait, didn't Alec Baldwin already win two Emmys for his performance on 30 Rock? Doesn't that assume that he's also been up twice for the Golden Globes? Thus, aren't these awards promoting the current season? In that case, my vote goes for David Duchovny. I think his performance is highly underrated.
Best Actress - Television Musical/Comedy: Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Debra Messing (The Starter Wife), Mary Louise Parker (Weeds)
** Let me explain: I love Tina Fey and I think she's amazing, but I don't consider her a comedic actress. I don't feel like she works to create her character; most of her character's development is on the page (such as her constant confessions and her biting wit), whereas Applegate's character, though existing on the worst show ever, is truly a Lucille Ball kind of character. She's fantastic.
Best Supporting Actor - Television: Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Denis Leary (Recount), Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Blair Underwood (In Treatment), Tom Wilkinson (John Adams)

Best Supporting Actress - Television: Eileen Atkins (Cranford), Laura Dern (Recount), Melissa George (In Treatment), Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters), Dianne Wiest (In Treatment)
** Anyone but Melissa George. She's like the opposite of King Midas -- any show she touches turns to crap.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

episode: the office, "moroccan christmas" (5.10)

I haven't posted on The Office in a while (possibly since the premiere?), but that's because I've been fairly unimpressed this season. This past Thursday's Christmas episode, however, almost makes up for it. The Office tends to do Christmas episodes correctly (unlike, say, 30 Rock), and this episode offered us three really strong storylines to follow. The A-story was Phyllis's creation of a Moroccan Christmas, which shows that she is capable of throwing a good party. The B-story, however false or inappropriate, had Michael staging an intervention for Meredith. When he tricks her into going to a rehab center, Michael offered my favorite line: "I'm here to make a deposit... Alcoholic." The C-story followed Dwight's capitalist Grinchness by looking up what this season's most sought-after will be -- Princess Unicorn -- then buying all of them and selling them out of his office at $200 a pop.

The reason this episode succeeded is because it focused less on narrative drama and more on character drama. Jim has reverted back to his pranks on Dwight (how long do you think it took him to create an identical desk out of paper?). Angela finally stood up to Phyllis, only to have her reveal Angela's secret affair with Dwight. (And Dwight's smirk was priceless. "Well, don't look so surprised.") But poor Andy. They made an obnoxious character pathetic and sympathetic without making him lose his obnoxiousness. His sitar song was annoying, but also sweet at the same time. His relentless, although misguided, adoration of Angela has been endearing. But now that the secret has been revealed to everyone but him, I wonder who will be the one in the office to break the news? Oh, and how cute were Jim and Pam at the end. "I knew." "You didn't know." "I knew." "She knew."

Good (non-quotable) moments include the father appearing at the office and making the official "Princess Unicorn" signal for Dwight; Jim's reaction to Michael thinking Bob Hope was an alcoholic; Phyllis making Angela put away her Christmas tree (at a Christmas party); Creed offering up that he can get a fire permit in an hour; Meredith naming off every bar in Scranton; Toby paying Daryl $400 for a black Princess Unicorn doll

Memorable quotes from "Moroccan Christmas":

Angela: (after Phyllis removes her nativity scene from her desk because it doesn't match the Moroccan theme) I am not going to judge Phyllis for desecrating Christmas. There is one person who will, though, and she just stuffed him into a drawer.

Jim: Oh, you brought in your doll collection.
Dwight: These are not dolls. They are commodities, just like gold or oil.

Michael: (acting as bartender) This is equal parts scotch, absinthe, rum, gin, vermouth, triple sec, and two packs of Splenda.
[The best part of this scene is that Michael has no idea what kind of a drink he just offered Meredith, and he's genuinely thrilled that she likes it.]

Angela: Really, Andy? It's Christmas, and you're singing about nudity. And France.

Dwight: (after selling one of the dolls) Fa-la-la-la-la-la-ka-ching!

Michael: An intervention, it's really hard to describe... it's really a coming together... it's a surprise party for people who have addictions and you get in their face and scream at them and make them feel really bad about themselves. And then they stop.

Kevin: (after Meredith's hair catches fire) FIRE GIRL!
[This, of course, is in the same vein as his nicknames for Ryan -- Fire Guy, Fired Guy, and Hired Guy. Kevin's creative process is hilarious.]

Michael: Okay, we're going to have a quick intervention and then get back to the party.

Dwight: In the Shrute family, we believe in the five-finger invention. Awareness. Education. Control. Acceptance. And Punching.

Meredith: I don't mind telling you I have an addiction. To porn.
Michael: That image, I think we can agree, is disgusting.

Michael: What happens if you come in to work tomorrow... and you're dead?
Dwight: (cut to Dwight's talking head) I'd stab her in the brain with a wooden stick. There are several ways to kill a zombie, but the most satisfying way is stabbing in the brain with a wooden stick.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

robot chicken: just the good parts

I know, I know. It's been a while... and yes, I have another video to show you. But in my defense, I just finished grading 100 term papers and am currently in the process of writing a 20-page paper on Vertigo (in all its representation/re-presentation goodness). And I will most likely disappear this weekend while I grade 100 final exams. (I'm estimating that my brain will explode by Friday evening.) BUT in the meantime, I want to share with you the funniest thing I've seen all week. The movie geek in me erupted in excitement. The following Robot Chicken clip shows "just the good parts" of movies and TV shows. The beginning of it makes fun of game shows building false intensity, but then it picks up to make fun of Philadelphia, Lawrence of Arabia, The Wizard of Oz, There Will Be Blood, King Kong, and -- my personal favorites -- The Shining and Battlestar Galactica. Seriously, The Shining spoof is amazing, and the BSG spoof includes a special cameo by Ron Moore (how did they even make that action figure?!?) who wears a "Let's Frak" t-shirt.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

dear tracy jordan

I saw Synecdoche, New York over the weekend, and perhaps I will get around to reviewing it -- but I seriously would need to see it 2-3 more times to wrap my mind around everything -- but know, right now, that it's one of the most amazing films I've ever seen. I may be slightly biased because I am obsessed with simulacra and mortality, and this film is a combination of the two. At any rate, in the meantime... here is a short that NBC made called "Dear Tracy Jordan." I know that Tracy annoys a lot of viewers, but I think he's one of the funniest parts of 30 Rock. His character is so outlandish and ridiculous that I can't help but laugh. Case in point, check out his answer to the question, "If you were to invent your own Crayola crayon, what color would it be and what would you name it?" The way he reads the questions reminds me of Ask a Ninja, also very funny. Enjoy!