Tag Archives: Stanley Tucci

In Praise of The Closer

Tonight brings us the return of The Closer on TNT.

The show has been a rousing success, nabbing the best ratings on cable TV and bringing adulation and awards to Kyra Sedgwick for her lead role as Brenda Leigh Johnson. And while I agree that her mannered Southern belle with a whip-crack mind is a fun character to watch, she’s also blessed to have a deep and solid ensemble cast that elevates the show from good to great.

Raymond Cruz, Michael Paul Chan, Jon Tenney, Corey Reynolds and Robert Gossett usually get a couple of strong minutes within each episode and the occasional featured sub-plot to flex their muscles. They’re all seasoned actors who quickly defined their characters during the first season, so it’s not necessary to waste time constantly redefining their motivation. Special kudos to Cruz for the episode about his brother’s death, and Gossett for his character’s arc from jealous adversary to admiring and supportive team player.

Even the recurring roles and guest stars are very well-cast, avoiding the “sweeps week” false notes that many other shows employ (where the guest actor is a big name draw but hopelessly mismatched with the pulse of the show). Barry Corbin is perfect as Brenda’s father, as is the electric Mary McDonnell’s recurring role as Captain Raydor, the Internal Affairs officer who is Johnson’s nemesis and intellectual equal.

But I have to admit I have favorites – three guys I’d watch every day and twice on Sundays.

Anthony John Denison and G.W. Bailey as Lieutenants Flynn and Provenza are the show’s comic relief; a wonderfully funny tandem act but far from buffoons. Bailey hasn’t had a role this good since Rizzo on M*A*S*H, and he plays the cantankerous vet with a heart of gold to perfection. And I’ve been a Denison fan since I first saw his magnetic turn as criminal Ray Luca on Crime Story; he also wowed me as the pensive and flawed John Henry Raglin on Wiseguy, filling in for an ailing Ken Wahl in a story arc featuring Stanley Tucci, Ron Silver and Jerry Lewis. (Needless to say, you must grab both those shows on DVD!)

And when you have J.K. Simmons in your cast, you raise the whole project one notch. Looks like this season his prior relationship with Sedgwick’s character will come back into focus as he jockeys for political position. Which will only give us more opportunities to enjoy watching him juggle frustration, respect, authority and anger as the conflicted and righteous Chief Pope. In recent years he’s received kudos for his work in Juno and Spiderman, and his turn as the fired employee in Up In The Air was the best thing in that movie. Hard to believe he once gave me chills as the racist homophobe prisoner Vern Schillinger on Oz.

Summer television is no longer a wasteland. Tune in tonight.

Season Six episode guide courtesy TV.COM

***

And today we celebrate the birthday of a few very funny gentlemen…Bill Cosby, Milton Berle, Jay Thomas and hell,  even Curly Joe DeRita! Also my crush from the 70s, Christine McVie.

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Award Weekend Redux

The Hurt Locker. And James Cameron was shoved into it.

Lame. Tame. And almost predictable

That’s the story of Award Weekend, where despite the stellar comedic talents of Eddie Izzard, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, jokes fell flatter than a pancake. Or in other words, as tired as that analogy. No, this isn’t sour grapes because I only went 6-for-10 on my predictions (more on that later) but it’s a little sad when the biggest event of the film year isn’t…well, big

First, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards 

I watched the show with my daughter; she Tweeted while I scribbled notes on the back of a nominee ballot. From her laughter, it seemed like the jokes on Twitter were funnier than the ones on the telecast. 

At the end of the show I used the power of my mind to read James Cameron‘s thoughts… “I wonder how drunk I can get for two billion dollars?” (Which at least will clear his mind of his prior thought – “Why did I dump Kathryn Bigelow to hook up with Skeletor?“) 

I start to wonder whether the Oscar crew does know who’s going to win when I see them do things like have Barbara Streisand present the Best Director Award; how ironic that she didn’t win for Yentl, yet gets to be part of the breakthrough moment. (How uncomfortable a comment would she have dared utter if Bigelow lost? And if Lee Daniels had won…would Spike Lee be pissed that he was snubbed for that sweet presenter slot?) When Streisand tried to milk the moment by stating “the time has come“, poor Daniels looked like Stephen Boyd during the climactic scene from The Oscar.

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Mo’Nique gave an awesome performance and deservedly took home the award (why are people still shocked that stand-up comics can be great dramatic actors?) and I appreciate that she wore a blue dress and flower in her hair to match Hattie McDaniel. But when the speeches started flowing about following in Hattie’s footsteps and how after so many years it was time, I so wanted to slip her a note to remind her that Halle Berry already cashed that chip several years ago

How ironic that Chris Pine had to introduce a groundbreaking science fiction film, when Star Trek wasn’t even nominated after the category was expanded to ten movies? 

After watching the music from Crazy Heart win so many awards, I realize just how much better it would if Steven Bruton was still around. 

Did Robert Downey Jr. actually pronounce the word specificity? Proof positive that his rehab problems are behind him. Finally a moment of humor as he and Tina Fey exchanged writer/actor barbs, but he won by calling writers “sickly little mole people” (a line, of course,  that has Tina Fey’s hand print all over it). 

Nice John Hughes tribute until Judd Nelson creeped me out visually with his almost-Downey look. Molly Ringwald would have scared me worse, but she was brought out previously, and slower. 

Not to kick a dog when it’s down, but how does a move that is about eighty percent animated win for Best Cinematography? Just sayin’. 

Ever want to run to see a movie two seconds into the trailer? Must, must, must go see Logorama ASAP. And how funny was Nicolas Schmerkin‘s acceptance speech thanking his “three thousand unofficial sponsors” and saying “no logos were harmed in the making of this film”? Then closes with a knockout punch: “It took, like, six years to make this sixteen minutes, so I hope to come back here with a long feature film, in about…thirty-six years.”  So a Frenchman with a thick accent not only has better comic timing than our hosts – but better writers, too? 

And why was Kanye West dressed up like a fat drunk woman in a bad Snuggie when he interrupted poor Roger Ross Wilson‘s acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short? (Yes, I know it wasn’t Kanye, but to mention the real name of that boorish cow would only extend her Warholian fifteen minutes. I’m hoping that the Japanese fishermen from The Cove watched the exchange, mistook her for a dolphin, and fileted the bitch backstage.) 

Better hosts would have jumped on that horribly rude moment and ridden it like a pony for the rest of the night. Billy Crystal would, and I know that Ricky Gervais would have had a field day. Are you telling me no one in that stable of writers could come up with a smack-down? Maybe they should have been tweeting for help

Ben Stiller needs to be involved in every awards show. And while James Cameron seemed to be grimacing like Stiller somehow didn’t have the Na’Vi language down perfectly, he should at least have appreciated Stiller’s close: “After I announce the winner I will stand as far away as possible so I don’t demean their moment of triumph“. (Seriously – how could Avatar not be nominated for Best Makeup? Hollywood really hates someone.) 

Star Trek won more Oscars than Avatar last night. Ouch

Was it me, or did the ceremony at the Governor’s Ball featuring Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman look like waaaay more fun that the main ceremony? The jokes were funnier and the tributes more sincere. 

Robin Williams, check. Testicle joke, check

Rude moment number two – The Costume Bitch starting off her acceptance speech by saying “I already have two of these” and then somehow getting more derogatory from there. Last. Nomination. Ever. 

My first thought upon seeing Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart come out to introduce the tribute to horror films: “Bite each other and die“. No montage is ever going to be perfect, but there were many startling omissions and a few (Edward Scissorhands??) that were head-shakingly out of place. Not to mention that the promo for Happy Town that aired during the commercial break looked scarier than anything in that clip reel. 

Sound Editing – any time we get to see more of The Dark Knight is OK by me. Tell me again how that movie did not even get nominated for Best Picture

In Memorium: I love James Taylor, but this is a tribute that deserves silence or a best a subtle orchestral score. Especially when you sing lyrics like “some are dead and some are living” as the montage of clips slides by. (What does James know that we don’t?) 

Late in the show I’m wondering whether Alec Baldwin is offstage yelling at his daughter’s voicemail, because it sure seemed like Steve Martin was soloing for almost an hour. 

Unfortunately for the producers, one of the highlights of the evening was shown during the commercial break. 

I finally aligned with the world of Twitter when I let out an audible “WTF?” when Dancing With No Stars came out to misinterpret the Best Score nominees. According to daughter Eli, that was the white-hot Tweet of the moment. (For the record, the biggest score in Oscar history was Adrien Brody bending Halle Berry over for a deep dive smooch at the 2003 ceremony.) 

More proof the writers don’t know a good joke, nor did audience: When El Secreto de sus Ojos won for Best Foreign Film, the producer opened with this gem: “”I want to thank the Academy for not considering Na’Vi a foreign language“. Dead silence. Come on, people! 

I get it, Sean Penn. You’re a rebel. Yawn

Best Actor and Best Actress gimmick: hate, hate, hate the one-on-one tributes to the nominees. Besides the fact that the show is already dreadfully long and the back story for each nominee has been rehashed a thousand times, what does the fact that this actor is a humanitarian or this actress is a good mother have to do with their performance? Or are you finally admitting, Hollywood, that it is about politics and favoritism rather than the best performance of the year? At least it produced a couple of good lines, thanks to Stanley Tucci and Tim Robbins (“It is Ted, isn’t it?“). 

No big shock on the four major acting awards. Jeff Bridges (has it really been almost forty years since his nomination for The Last Picture Show?) proved once again that The Dude abides. Sandra Bullock disappointed me by not getting all Sally Field on us and Christoph Waltz finally made an acceptance speech I could understand (his prior speeches sounded more like ideas for future Quentin Tarantino movies). 

I was surprised that Hollywood was able to ignore a movie that has already grossed two and a half billion dollars (and still selling) in favor of a movie that struggled to get financing, distribution and promotion and tackled a controversial subject. But I couldn’t be happier for director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal

Spirits? Many were served.

The less said about Friday’s 25th Annual Independent Spirit Awards, the better. Maybe it was the decision to move the event from a beach tent to…well, a tent in a parking lot. Maybe the booze started flowing earlier. But when Eddie Izzard bombs so badly that he has to start improvising with props and free-stlying in the audience to wake up the seated corpses, that’s a sad day for what used to be the most lively and raucous awards of them all. 

Then again, Izzard refused to let his “God is Dead” joke die, insisting on reviving it every time he came back on stage if for nothing else than to punish the audience. There were very few funny moments, but thankfully Will Arnett and Ed Helms saved the day when presenting the John Cassavetes Award, as did Ben Stiller’s speech and the clip reel of Roger Ebert viciously panning movies. (I was thrilled to see that Ebert was present for the event, as was the crowd that gave him an extended standing ovation.) 

Sorry, but Laura Dern being one of the original fourteen people present when the Independent Spirit Awards was founded makes me feel really old. If it was Bruce Dern, maybe I’d feel better. 

As for the winners, it was a big night for Precious. I’m sorry…I meant to say Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire©®™ 

(Someone should tell the producers that every movie is based on something, which is why we have Original and Adapted screenplay nominations, but I guess that wasn’t good enough for the author. Or would that have screwed up the tie-in to Oprah’s Book Club?) 

Lynn Shelton wins for Humpday. Yes


And I was thrilled that Anvil won for Best Documentary, and anyone who has seen that movie – a real, live Spinal Tap – had to be moved when stunned band member Steve “Lips” Kudlow came back onstage and hugged the filmmaker, thanking him for changing his life. I still cannot believe that Anvil was not even nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar. 

And now it starts all over again! 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Oscar Predictions

Picking the Oscar winners…not whom I want to win, but whom I think will win, along with the reasoning for my selection. Enjoy the show Sunday night, and I’ll have the results and the feedback on Monday.

And don’t forget to tune into the 25th Annual Independent Spirit Awards tonight at 11pm Eastern Time on IFC; – certainly a looser, more fun-filled event with many quotable moments from actors who have been hitting the sauce under a beach tent all day (yes,  I mean you, Mickey Rourke! ) Eddie Izzard should prove to be a great host (although Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin should also make the Oscars worth watching!)

So let me get these out of the way with a weekend to spare; here are my Internet dollars placed down on ten important categories

01. Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight) Hollywood loves to reward those who have done a good body of work but not gotten the glory; there’s also no lead male performance in this group that will become iconic.
  • George Clooney in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
  • Colin Firth in “A Single Man” (The Weinstein Company)
  • Morgan Freeman in “Invictus” (Warner Bros.)
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment)

 

02. Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Matt Damon in “Invictus” (Warner Bros.)
  • Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
  • Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones” (DreamWorks in association with Film4, Distributed by Paramount)
  • Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Any other year Tucci would win this – or even Christian McKay, who got snubbed here – but Waltz is the latest to seize a Tarantino character and ride it like an express train.

 

03. Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side” (Warner Bros.) Bullock in a squeaker getting the Sally Field treatment, although I wouldn’t be shocked if Streep’s note-perfect Child or Sidibe’s raw debut won, either. But the coin goes here.
  • Helen Mirren in “The Last Station” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Carey Mulligan in “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate)
  • Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia” (Sony Pictures Releasing)

 

04. Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Penélope Cruz in “Nine” (The Weinstein Company)
  • Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight)
  • Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
  • Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) This performance is just so powerful it has to win; people actually hated her leaving the theatre. Remember Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched?

 

05. Adapted screenplay

  • “District 9” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
  • “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics) Screenplay by Nick Hornby
  • “In the Loop” (IFC Films) Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
  • “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
  • Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) Consolation prize; when your three main actors are nominated the writing must have been good, yes? Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

 

06. Original screenplay

  • “The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment) Written by Mark Boal
  • Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Written by Quentin Tarantino

    Another “we can’t give you Best Picture” consolation prize; the man does write great dialogue and his movies are never boring.

  • “The Messenger” (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
  • “A Serious Man” (Focus Features) Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • “Up” (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
    Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

 

07. Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Coraline” (Focus Features) Henry Selick
  • “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (20th Century Fox) Wes Anderson
    “The Princess and the Frog” (Walt Disney) John Musker and Ron Clements
  • “The Secret of Kells” (GKIDS) Tomm Moore
  • Up” (Walt Disney) Pete Docter

    The opening sequence to this film nailed the win.

 

08. Best documentary feature

  • “Burma VJ” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
    A Magic Hour Films Production
    Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
  • “The Cove” (Roadside Attractions)
    An Oceanic Preservation Society Production
    Nominees to be determined
  • Food, Inc.” (Magnolia Pictures)
    A Robert Kenner Films Production
    Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein

    As always with documentaries, a hunch bet. What no Anvil?

  • “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
    A Kovno Communications Production
    Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
  • “Which Way Home”
    A Mr. Mudd Production
    Rebecca Cammisa

 

09. Achievement in directing

  • “Avatar” (20th Century Fox) James Cameron
  • The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment) Kathryn Bigelow

    I think when your work is based in the real world you get more credit, and I think people are still remembering how brash Cameron was after Titanic…

  • “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Quentin Tarantino
  • “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) Lee Daniels
  • “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) Jason Reitman

 

10. Best motion picture of the year

  • Avatar” (20th Century Fox) A Lightstorm Entertainment Production James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers

    …but I don’t think Hollywood can overlook a film that outgrosses Titanic. It’s not the best movie of the year – it’s a pretty cliché story – but it was a global juggernaut.

  • “The Blind Side” (Warner Bros.)
    An Alcon Entertainment Production
    Nominees to be determined
  • “District 9” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
    A Block/Hanson Production
    Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
  • “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics)
    A Finola Dwyer/Wildgaze Films Production
    Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
  • The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment)
    A Voltage Pictures Production
    Nominees to be determined
  • “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company)
    A Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures/A Band Apart/Zehnte Babelsberg Production
    Lawrence Bender, Producer
  • “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate)
    A Lee Daniels Entertainment/Smokewood Entertainment Production
    Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
  • “A Serious Man” (Focus Features)
    A Working Title Films Production
    Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
  • “Up” (Walt Disney)
    A Pixar Production
    Jonas Rivera, Producer
  • “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
    A Montecito Picture Company Production
    Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Check in Monday for my recap of Award Weekend.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Globe Guesses

But before we get to the prognostication…and just to keep the teakettle whistling – here are the latest clips from the late night talk show hosts on the Tonight Show debacle, courtesy Gawker. Jimmy Kimmel bitch-slaps Jay Leno on his own show, and if you aren’t a Craig Ferguson fan after his clip…well, you might just be an NBC executive

So here are ten guesses for who will win at Sunday’s award show. I’ve limited this group to films; I always wonder why they even vote on American television programming anyway.

The Globes are always a crapshoot, since the voters are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who (1) may not have seen all of the nominees, (2) might not get the context of American humor and cultural references and (3) tend to vote for their favorite people – those who play the schmooze game – regardless of merit. But what the hell, it’s only internet money.

Tune in to NBCif it’s still broadcasting – this Sunday night at 8:00pm EST to find out for yourself. (Even if you don’t care about the minor categories, watch or record the program; I wager that Ricky Gervais will make this an evening to remember).

Best Motion Picture – Drama:  There’s a lot of George Clooney love right now, but as much as I liked Up In The Air I think it’s been a wee bit overrated and it won’t hold up. Even those who don’t normally like war films are praising The Hurt Locker and I think it will resonate here as well

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama:  The HFPA loves Sandra Bullock. Lovvvvvvve her. And since this is being hailed as her “greatest performance” they are all but being directed to strike while the iron is hot. I thought she was great in Crash but she makes too many cheesey comedies (not that it stopped the HFPA for nominating her for that also).

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama: Did I mention how they love George Clooney? Caution spoiler: Morgan Freeman did play Nelson Mandela…

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical – This is a horrible category. Of the films, I liked the flawed The Hangover the best, but the all-star cast suggests It’s Compicated is probably more up their alley.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical: This category tells you all you need to know about the HFPA – Bullock chewing the scenery, Julia Roberts automatic nod and two Meryl Streep roles. The only way Streep loses is if she splits her own votes, but since HFPA also loves people playing real characters, it’s Streep for Julia and Julia.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical: That Sherlock Holmes is a comedy tells you a lot about why I hate the very concept of the movie, but not enough people appreciate that Joesph Gordon-Levitt is the best young actor in Hollywood and not enough people cared about The Informant. So I’ll wager it’s Robert Downey Jr.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: As intense and worthy as Mo’Nique was in Precious, and as revered as Penelope Cruz is in general, I just have a gut feeling that Vera Farmiga will benefit from being in the most likeable film in the group. Not that she isn’t worthy – tough crowd here.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – This is quite possibly the best group of nominees on the whole show (and they didn’t even nominate Christian McKay for Me and Orson Welles!) Any other year Stanley Tucci walks away with this for his chilling performance in The Lovely Bones, but Christoph Waltz probably gave a performence for the ages in Inglorious Basterds.

Best Director – Motion Picture – It makes no sense that someone could helm the Best Picture and not win as Best Director, but Avatar is a tidal wave and James Cameron gets rewarded for the sheer scope of the film.

Best Screenplay- Motion Picture – I think this is where the HFPA again gets to reward a feel-good picture (even though it was anything but feel-good) by Globing Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air.

The full slate of categories and nominees can be found here. I’ll post links to the results, along with my reactions, on Monday January 18th.

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