Sunday, January 21, 2007

so nice that the 2006 movie season has some redemption

I'm not exactly surprised that Notes on a Scandal rocked my world. It's basically a story about a lonely old woman who tends to get obsessive with her younger and hotter female cohorts. But don't let that poor pitch stand in your way; this is a seething melodrama with teeth, and perhaps one of the best dual-actress showcases seen in recent movie history.

No, I haven't seen The Queen. Yes, Helen Mirren will win her Oscar for it. I've moved on. People tire of Judi Dench because they think she locks up nominations left and right simply for showing up to work.... but compare the stately Judi Dench with her roles in the recent James Bond flicks and something like last year's Mrs. Henderson Presents up against the monster of a character she's got in Notes on a Scandal. This woman so much deserves a nomination (and a win? Why not?) just in the nuance and ferocity of her performance.... she becomes someone else while still maintaining her Judi Dench-ness, and is all the more terrifying for it. She underplays her desperation until she can make it pounce like some kind of feral cat, and there are some tense scenes where you can see the balance of power tipping in her favor that make you feel creepy all over.

The object of Dench's affection in this film? Cate Blanchett. I've read many places that people feel she's miscast here.... I would tend to disagree. Blanchett plays a young-ish school teacher who just happens to fall in with a 15-year old student of hers.... and by "fall in" I mean have dirty sex on abandoned train tracks. But her character's life is so fully wrought and displayed in a such a cool and subtle manner that I never become totally unconvinced of her character's actions. She's got a happy marriage (I guess, I suppose this is up to debate) and two children she loves with all of her heart.... but she gets swept up and accidentally (or something like that) falls in love with the kid, silly to forget that he's just 15 and will easily toss her aside like kleenex. There comes an awesome and very-filmic and somewhat creepy/beautiful scene where we see Blanchett try to go back to her teenage youth by slapping on some harloty makeup. All throughout the movie, too, she's screaming hot.... very downplayed, very sexy, and it works. Certainly in the vein that Judi Dench's character gets a little bit (okay, a lot) attached, and likes to play a kinky arm-stroking game with her too.

Bottom line: Cate Blanchett, for all I care, can step up to the podium and claim her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this. I feel for her, felt sorry for her, and loved the explosive energy she eviscerates from herself toward the end when she gets to confront Judi Dench and then go ape-shit in front of the reporters waiting for her outside.... I bought it, and I can imagine this character losing it like that. This scene, particularly with Dench, is some tight and tense moviemaking.... well-written, well-acted, well-enjoyed by me.

What stands in Blanchett's way of swiping a second Oscar for herself? The unevenly reviewed musical and Beyoncé-wardrobe showcase that is Dreamgirls. I have not seen the movie, but likely will.... if only because my interest is piqued that Eddie Murphy can actually recover from the recent career lows of wasting away in unfunny family comedies. For some reason ex-"American Idol" alumnus Jennifer Hudson has all the Oscar buzz wrapped around every one of her digits for Best Supporting Actress. To my knowledge, this is all because she knocks it out of the park because of some solo she has in the middle of the movie. Okay.... but can she act? Don't immediately auction off an Oscar just because the chick can sing. Does her role have any more oomph than just some powerful solo? (Well.... keep in mind that rapper-turned-actress-turned-Pizza Hut spokeswoman Queen Latifah scored an Oscar nomination off a solo song in Chicago.... she must have just off the song, because her role was somewhat nonexistent otherwise.)

So, is Notes on a Scandal my favorite movie of 2006? Let's go with second favorite; I certainly look forward to adding it to my movie shelf. It's totally dark and twisted and hits you with the right amount of sub-campy force and intensity that's necessary for a quality rock-your-socks-off melodrama. The top of the list for the year deserves its own post upon rewatching in the near future. Just to keep you all in drooling suspense.

Friday, January 19, 2007

blogiversary, plus one day

A year ago and a day to this day I inaugurated this blog. I have no plans to be self-reflexive and commemorative about why I started a blog or what I wanted to write about. I just think it's kind of cool that I've had it for a year. Weird to think about where I was and what I was doing a year ago, and although it's not totally different, it's really not the same. That's all, really. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm under house arrest until I finish revising this damn story. It's about a late-summer hurricane. Poignant, consider yesterday was the first time this season that it snowed in Manhattan. Where is the winter?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

Ah, a new year. Never before have I actually felt that a new year is really an opportunity for a new beginning, but after the last three-ish months of a relative veritable hell, I'm ready for a stab in the dark to start anew. Or something like that. I'm not that deep, I swear.

Things to look forward to:

--> The Golden Globes, the annual celebrity fellating that is the head of the class when it comes to Oscar precursors. To be honest, I only watch to see which celebrity gets shit-faced from the Hollywood Foreign Press open bar. I'm curious: who exactly are the Hollywood Foreign Press? Do they sit in an elevated darkened room over the Golden Globe ceremonies, similar to the banker in "Deal or No Deal"? I'd kind of like to see that. Unfortunately, this awards season will provide little shock and awe, only because both Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker have been steamrolling every award they can get their hands on, thus taking the surprise (and thereby fun) of the whole movie-awards season hoopla. I haven't seen The Queen or The Last King of Scotland (oddly both regally-titled films), and I'm not sure if I'll get to them. I'd rather see:

--> Notes on a Scandal. If there was ever a movie that catered to my taste in f-ed up storylines, this one would be it. Besides, Judi Dench (who, admit it, is pretty amazing) looks positively evil. And (despite my loathsomeness toward The Aviator) I rather enjoy Cate Blanchett. I've heard nothing but good things about this movie, and it looks totally twisted. It probably helps that it's written by Patrick Marber, who also penned Closer, also a pretty f-ed up story, which was my favorite film of 2004.

--> A blog post in the near future about my favorite film of 2006. I'll keep all two of you who frequently read this lying in suspense, though. Just know this: it isn't exactly a film I thought would be my favorite of the year.

--> The season premiere of "24". In my mind, the golden heyday of "24" has long been over, and the show has devolved into a steaming pile of predictable crap. Does this mean I won't watch? Of course not. But: if this season starts with the usual jerking-around plotless nonsense that it's started to rely on, I may have to bid this show goodbye. Here's to hoping they do something surprising and complicating to the story for a change. (Notice the sexed-up presence of Chloe, who's eternally safe from character death, and Karen Hayes, who has the potential to do something pretty cool, which, knowing the producers, means she's a goner.)

--> My first blogiversary. Time to break out the balloons and streamers. What the hell, I'll bake a cake.

Happy New Year.