Tag Archives: Up in the Air

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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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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Up in the Air

Flight of Fancy

Maybe it’s the big screen TV, maybe it’s life’s complications, but I don’t get out to the movie theatres much anymore. I usually get to see films right after they hit the DVD market, in the comfort of my own home. It’s more convenient, the food is better, the bathrooms are cleaner and if anyone does dare to talk or let their cell phone blurt out an obnoxious ringtone, I can pan back and replay what I missed.

But I sacrificed all that to catch Up in the Air the other day (no food, no bathroom need, some talking and yes, an idiot’s ringtone). I like George Clooney – he’s the Cary Grant of his era – and the cast was peppered with the likes of Jason Bateman (wonderfully smarmy again), J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Zach Galifanakis and Danny McBride. It was entertaining and thankfully didn’t follow the typical Hollywood plot paths, but I’m not certain it was anything more than just a good day at the movies.

The plot centers on Clooney, whose character is a corporate terminator, hired by firms to downsize their employees. Comfortable in his non-existence, his Ryan Bingham is happy to eschew the real world as he pursues his singular goal of racking up a million air miles, with the occasional speaking engagement and harmless fling along the way. He’s very good at handling people one-on-one but we quickly learn that his script for these encounters is as pat as his presentation for his yet-unwritten self-help book “What’s in Your Backpack”.

Life then decides to intervene. He meets a woman who might be his soul mate (a wonderful Vera Farmiga), his company is about to use web conferencing to replace personal travel, and he’s about to get in a little deeper with a family he’s all but ignored during his adult life. Most of the events find him hitting the road with the new business school graduate (Anna Kendrick) to show her the ropes in an effort to convince her that technology can’t replace human contact. Ironic, since the only human contact Bingham has is with the people he’s firing.

Without spoiling the plot, these diversions are played well for the most part, avoiding the usual clichés and in some cases surprising you with the turns taken. By the end of the picture, each of the three major characters is affected in some way, but perhaps not changed. As a viewer, I felt the same emotional distance; I observed behavior but never felt like a participant.

Interestingly, director Jason Reitman interviewed unemployed people about their reactions and feelings – reportedly more than one of the cameo interviewees is a real person – in an effort to shine a light on what is a tough time in the nation’s economy. Not certain he succeeded there; while some segments are powerfully poignant, others are played for almost comic relief. And I think that might be my overall problem with the picture, too – what is he shooting for?

Up in the Air isn’t a feel-good picture, but then again it is in a way. It’s a drama with comedic elements, but also a comedy with some very pensive relationships and scenes. But does it ever…I dunno…move me in a big way? I was entertained, but I don’t think anything resonated after I left the theatre

Best Picture? Boy, I don’t know. I’d like to think the best picture of any year is more important, grander, more epic. (Then again, American Beauty wasn’t exactly Citizen Kane.) And when I look back at their respective years, I still think his most recent directorial efforts (Juno and Thank You for Smoking) hold up pretty damn well. Stranger things have happened.

Up In The Air at IMDB.com

National Society of Film Critics Awards

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