Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Double Feature!

My quest to see as many Oscar-nominated films as possible continues: I saw TWO movies on Sunday. I don't really recommend an in-theater double feature, but more on that later.
I started with Volver, starring Penelope Cruz. This movie was straight-up awesome. It's not often you see a film with so many women in leading roles - or if you do, they're not women, they're girls (Travelling Pants, anyone?). But Volver is comprised almost entirely of women, and they're all fabulous. Penelope Cruz is a vision, and the supporting cast is wonderful, too. This film is touted as a "tragi-dramedy." So yes, it's tragic, but also dramatic and funny. I think all the ladies out there should rush to see this. Men, not so much, but the ladies'll love it! Just about the time I thought it was getting a little long, and I started to get bored, it was over. Nice job, Volver. PS - does anyone know if that's actaully Penelope singing?
Then I saw Notes on a Scandal. This movie was awesome, too, but in a totally different way. It was not funny. Sure, I laughed a few times, but not because a scene was particularly funny. Rather, it was because it was uncomfortable, and the only escape from the uncomfortableness was laughter. My friend Erika Stephanie said "I don't know who was more creepy, Cate, Judi, or the boy." Well, let me tell you - they're all creepy. Everything about this movie is effed up. Judi Dench is a spinster stalker with lesbian tendencies, Cate Blanchett is a privileged teacher trying to "make a difference" but really trying to keep from being bored, and the gorgeous Andrew Simpson plays the young man who throws the whole story out of his control when he begins a naughty affair with Miss Cate. It was fabulous. I was really uncomfortable for pretty much the whole movie, which I think was the point. Oh, Philip Glass wrote the score, and his music always makes me uncomfortable.

About the double feature: I sat through Volver and only thought it was too long right at the end... but the first time I thought "Is this almost over?" during Notes on a Scandal was five minutes into the movie. And the movie was great! I think I was just tired of sitting in a theater. No more double features.

Volver - B+
Notes on a Scandal - A-

Sunday, January 28, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Did you ever think the day would come when I'd say I'm thinking of giving up my car? True story. That's how persuasive An Inconvenient Truth is. More to the point, that's how persuasive Al Gore is. It's been said before, but seriously, if Al had been this funny and intelligent and not so stiff when he was running for president, he could have won. Nay, he WOULD have won!
But back to the movie - Al makes it pretty obvious that we are fucking up our planet. All the bad things we are doing, from burning fossil fuels to not recycling and all the other things that fall in the spectrum of "inconsequential" to "huge," are leading us on the path to destruction. When he shows the projected image of what the Florida, San Francisco and Manhattan will look like if the ocean water level rises due to icecaps melting, it's astounding. And it's not just that it could happen. It WILL happen.
OK, still not really talking about the movie, am I? Al Gore is a fantastic narrator and speaker. He's both witty and forceful, and he has the information to back up his claims. Also, interspersed throughout the film are breaks from the lecture, where the audience gets to see a more personal side of Al Gore. This is very effective - it makes the drama of the global perspective that much more powerful.
I have to go recycle now.

An Inconvenient Truth - A-

Friday, January 26, 2007

Starving Children in Ann Arbor

At the elementary school where I have my bi-weekly cardio class, there are signs everywhere informing people not to bring in certain types of food. Now, I know that food allergies are serious business - I remember the episode of "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" when her friend accidentally ate a peanut and left his EpiPen in his other pair of pants and died right there in the restaurant - but I'm starting to wonder what kids actually eat at school nowadays. In this one school, no milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, or other tree nuts can be brought in to the building. So what do schools serve for lunch, beans and rice? No, that would be too healthy. Taco meat? Fish sticks and french fries?

Plus, you don't EVER see signs at schools saying "allergy alert - no cats allowed." I feel discriminated against.

peanut-free schools - C+

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Queen

On Monday night, I FINALLY saw The Queen. I love when the Oscar nominations are about to come out and someone seems like a sure thing and movie theaters bring back a film that hasn't been playing for a little while. I love it! Thanks, Quality 16!
The Queen was really, really good. I think it's the 2006 version of 2005's Capote - a strong film with a strong central character and good supporting cast but with a standout lead actor. Helen Mirren is just as fantastic as you've heard she is. There is no way she won't win an Oscar. Michael Sheen, who plays Tony Blair, is also superb - I'm a little sad that he didn't get a Best Supporting Actor nom. And James Cromwell is pretty funny as Prince Philip, the Queen's husband, bringing some levity to what could have been cut-and-dry British political piece. I think the actor who played Prince Charles was horribly miscast, because he's tons better looking than the real prince.
As wonderful as Helen Mirren is, this film really belongs to the unsung heroes, the ones who aren't getting the press but contribute so heavily to the film's brilliance. I'm talking about the Welsh Corgis. Apparently, Queen Elizabeth runs around with a herd of Welsh Corgis - and they are completely adorable. I want one real bad. Bravo, Welsh Corgis - you have won the Oscar of my heart.

The Queen - A-
Welsh Corgis - A

Monday, January 22, 2007

Final Oscar Predictions!

UPDATE - well, I did MUCH worse this year than last year. I blame Dreamgirls. I never imagined that it would be snubed for Best Picture and Best Director! I also blame Leonardo DiCaprio. I had him picked for The Departed, not Blood Diamond, so that one doesn't count. Damn.
My percentage of correct nomination prediction in the Big 8 is 77.5%. if you include my runners-up (which I never do), I only made it up to 85%.

Here they are, my final Oscar nomination predictions. Last year, I did pretty well. Let's see how I do this year!

The Departed

Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen
Runner-up – Letters from Iwo Jima

I wish – Children of Men

Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed (for Blood Diamond)
Peter O’Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Runner-up – Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson

I wish – Daniel Craig, Casino Royale

Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Runner-up – as Chargenda says, not really necessary, because this group is so strong
I wish – Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby

Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Michael Sheen, The Queen
Runner-up – Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
I wish – Stanley Tucci, The Devil Wears Prada

Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Runner-up – Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada
I wish – Catherine O’Hara, For Your Consideration

Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Alejandro Gonzales Inarittu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Runner-up – Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, Little Miss Sunshine
I wish – Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men

Little Miss Sunshine
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Queen
United 93
Runner-up – Stranger than Fiction
I wish – For Your Consideration (hey, it’s a wish!)

The Departed
The Devil Wears Prada
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Thank You For Smoking
Runner-up – The Last King of Scotland
I wish – Children of Men
(yay! my wish came true)

For a complete list of Oscar nominees, visit www.oscar.com

Oscar noms - A+

Saturday, January 20, 2007


A new phenomenon has recently come to my attention - SPs. That's what my friend Ashlee calls Stereotype Perpetuators. For example: a few months ago, I was helping plan an event for a Jewish group. When I told them what the expected costs would be, a young man asked me, "Is there anyway we can get that for less?" I cite this example because he followed it up by saying "I'm a Jew, I'm cheap!" so I don't feel bad saying this guy was a stereotype perpetuator, because he said so himself (actually, he was quite funny).
But there are so many more: black people who really are late to everything; gay men who know a lot about fashion or wave their hands around and act nelly; drunk Indians; dumb blondes; Southern racists; the list goes on.
I HATE SPs. They make me feel like a bad person because I instantly think negative things about the stereotype and the person attached to it. I don't want to be prejudiced - can't we all just get along?

SPs - D+ (points for the funny cheap Jewish guy)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Write About the Weather

How much ice does it take to shut down San Antonio, the nation's seventh-largest city?

About this much.

Thanks to my friend Krystal who sent me this picture, which she took at work in SA two days ago.

cities that aren't properly equipped to handle a little freezing rain - B+, 'cause it's funny!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Golden Globes Recap

My prognostication skills are sadly lacking. Out of a total of 25 awards given out last night at the Golden Globes, I correctly predicted eleven. ELEVEN! That's terrible. The TV shows killed me. The only TV categories I got right were Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy and Best Actress in a Miniseries (thank you America and Helen). Obviously, I fared better with the movies, but I totally blew it with Foreign Laguage Film and Best Drama. Well, I have one week until my Oscar nomination predictions are due, so I better buckle down on my research. There are 24 Oscar categories, and I'll be making predictions for the Big Eight. If the Golden Globes are any indication of how I'll do in my nomination predicitions, I'll get all the acting categories right but will bomb in the screenplay, director, and picture categories.

Fashion update: almost everyone looked great. Whether or not you liked what they wore is a matter of personal taste, but no one was wearing anything completely bizarre are inappropriate. My personal favorite was Reese Witherspoon, who dared to wear a yellow cocktail dress with fabulous red shoes. She looked awesome. Also awesome was Vanessa Williams. Yes, she looked kind of like a crazy woman, but she worked it. Big hair, big fur, big fun. Finally, fan favorite Felicity Huffman looked outstanding. What a gorgeous dress!

But then there's sad little Renee Zellweger. The color of this dress is incredible (and so like Felicity's... hmmm...), but I am so done with Renee's pouty mouth and posing and, worst of all, her squnity eyes. Really, how does she see? I noticed a lot of crows' feet on Renee last night - maybe if she opened her eyes to their normal width once in a while, she wouldn't have so many eye wrinkles.

Golden Globes - B

Monday, January 15, 2007


In case you haven't heard, Babel received seven Golden Globe nominations, the most of any film this year. Also, it's a strong contender for Oscar nominations, and I have a slight obsession with the Oscars, so I made the trek to Novi to see it.
And it was OK. Not phenomenal, but not dreadful. At times, the movie made me feel very uncomfortable - which is probably what the director wanted. At other times, the movie was pretty funny, which was a nice counterbalance to the uncomfortableness. But overall, the movie left me feeling unsettled, but not in a way that felt planned. It seems like whatever the director was trying to achieve didn't quite come through. I don't think every story needs a resolution, but rather than leaving the theater thinking, I wonder what's going to happen to that person now, I thought I don't really care what happens to that person now.
Let's talk about Brad Pitt for just a second. He had some decent scenes, but overall, I just didn't buy him. Basically, he just looked and acted haggard, and I never really felt him. How he got a Golden Globe nomination is beyond me. Same for Cate Blanchett (no nom for this film, though), although it must be hard to put on a tremendous performance when you spend the entire movie lying down doped up on home-remedy painkillers. The movie really belongs to Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. They deserve all the accolades they've been receiving. Both of them have incredibly painful story lines, and they're hard to watch, but that's because they're so good. In a season without Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, I'd say either one of them could win an Oscar - and they'll certainly be nominated.

Overall, I'd say Babel is predictable, but worth seeing.

Babel - C+

Friday, January 12, 2007

Novi Town Center 8

In our quest to see as many potentially Oscar-nominated films as possible, Erika Stephanie and I drove to Novi last night to see Babel (which I'll grade tomorrow). Being a mere 30 minutes from Ann Arbor, I thought for sure that the Novi Town Center 8 would be just like any other suburban movie theatre. Boy, was I wrong! To start, NTC8 was like the theater that time forgot, but not in a classy, historic way. No, this theater was dark, dingy, and certainly not up-to-date (anyone from Russ Vegas should instantly envision a pre-renovation Picwood). The whole place had the vibe of leftovers.
But there's more. Novi Town Center 8 has, naturally, eight screens. On five, they show indie films. On the other three, they show INDIAN films. This place is Little Bollywood! I couldn't believe it! There were posters for all kinds of Indian movies, and a banner for an Indian restaurant in Ann Arbor. Best of all, the concession stand serves samosa, a delectable deep-fried Indian appetizer. It was awesome! Last night, in addition to Babel, The Queen, The Departed, Bobby and Apocalypto, the theater was also showing Bhagam Bhag, Babuul (not to be confused with Babel), and Annavarunum. It was an unexpected treat to find something so weird so close to home. Not that India is weird. I suppose I should have known something like this existed in southeast MI, but I never thought I'd go there. It was crazy.

I can't stop thinking about the Novi Town Center 8. It's a dingy little jewel.

Novi Town Center 8 - B-

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Children of Men

I've been thinking for days about what I would say about Children of Men. Then I figured out how to upload from YouTube, and this video says it all for me. I've watched it a few times, and I don't think it gives anything away, but if you're really worried about spoilers, don't watch it.

Instead, read this, Lisa Schwartzbaum's review for Entertainment Weekly. Lisa says everything I want to say, she says it perfectly, and she doesn't spoil anything.

I loved Children of Men. To say more would be to ruin the experience. Just see it.

Children of Men - A+

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Friends With Money

The first movie I got with my new Netflix queue was Friends With Money, which came out about a year ago, but I never got around to seeing it. I like girly movies, but don't often find anyone who'll go see them with me, so now that I have my very own Netflix queue, I imagine I'll see many more chick flick comedies and dramas.

But I digress. All I heard about FWM when it came out was that it wasn't good, so I went into it thinking that maybe I would like it a little but would probably deem it sort of lame. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how good this movie was, and how much I liked it. Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, and especially Frances McDormand are great in FWM. They play the friends with money, in varying degrees of wealth, all with fabulous jobs or so wealthy that they don't work at all. Jenny Aniston, on the other hand, is the pothead former-teacher-turned-maid, and while I appreciate her for breaking out of that "Rachel" mode, she's just not as good as the other three ladies. That doesn't mean she does a terrible job in this film - on the contrary, she's actually pretty good. It's just that Joan, Catherine and Frances are so good that Jen looks pretty bleak in comparison.

What I liked best about FWM is that, even though it's definitely a "chick flick," it's not a romantic comedy - it's a dramedy, with more fun than failure, but with enough low points and intellect that I didn't feel dumber after I was done watching it - and I like that.

Friends With Money - B+

Friday, January 05, 2007

Apples to Apples

Last night I played Apples to Apples, a fun new board game. Here's a blurb that doesn't really do the game justice:
"Apples to Apples® is the wild, award-winning card and party game that provides instant fun for four to ten players! It’s as easy as “comparing apples to apples”…just open the box, deal the cards, and you’re ready to play! Select the card from your hand that you think is best described by a card played by the judge. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. And everyone gets a chance to be the judge!"

Right. Basically, there are adjective cards, and noun cards. Every player has seven noun cards. The judge reads the adjective card - maybe "delicious," or "haughty," or "odd." The players have to decide which word in their hand of seven cards best fits the adjective, whatever that means. It's super fun and really funny. Naivehelga reader TimmyD, his lady pal, and her work buddy and I sat down with some beer and Chex Mix to play Apples to Apples. I love board games, especially trivia games, but this is a clever-with-words game and Timmy is super clever and articulate; so are LadyPal and WorkBuddy. I had NO advantage. But I held my own. One of my best pairings was "melodramatic" and "televangelists." I think I also paired "realistic" with "Cher." Good times!

We all agreed that the game would be more fun with more players, but I can easily see this becoming the new Cranium. Play it... with booze!

Apples to Apples - A-

Thursday, January 04, 2007


There are two types of marathons, and they both suck you dry. The first is footrace marathons - 26.2 miles of running. Those crazy ancient Greeks. Why did they foist this ridiculous sport on modern-day man? Running is stupid anyway, but distance running is just crazy. OK, maybe running isn't entirely stupid - fitness is a good thing, and so is having time to yourself to clear your mind and simply focus on the matter at hand. But come on. Twenty-six miles? That takes normal people about four hours. I can think of a lot better things to do with a nice four hour chunk of time.

Which leads me to the other type of marathons: TV show marathons, where a whole season or multiple seasons of one TV show are shown back to back. Now THIS is a good marathon - if you're fat and lazy like me! Yesterday I watched five hours of the America's Next Top Model marathon on VH1. Yes, five straight hours of television. It was like I was glued to my couch. I couldn't move. It was delightful to have the free time to dedicate to something as mind-numbing as an ANTM marathon, but really, there were so many better things I could have done with my time.

marathons, both kinds - C-

Can I Call In Ugly?

This is not a good-looking day for me. To start, I have two enormous zits on my chin (bad enough to mke me consider Proactiv, no joke). They are big and close together, which makes the left side of my chin swollen. Also, my hair is out of control. I don't know why, but the "baby hairs" around my forehead have turned into "teenage hairs" and are rebelling against the rest of my hair, and nothing can control them.

I either needed to call in "sick" to work today, or wear a cute balaclava like the one pictured here to cover the offending hair and chin. But alas, I am here, worse for the wear. Maybe I'll just stay in my office with the door closed all day.

bad skin, bad hair - F

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Oscar front-runner. Big-budget musical. American Idol contestant. Basically, Dreamgirls had the makings of being a naivehelga top-ten-of-all-time... and that's before I even saw it. But could they pull it off?
Yes and no. Let me start by TELLING YOU that Dreamgirls will win the Academy Award for Achievement in Costume Design, and probably art direction and makeup, too. Looking at this movie was like eating the perfect piece of candy on Easter Sunday after you gave up chocolate for Lent. It was gorgeous. I could watch this movie all day. The costumes are totally amazing - the movie hits some major fashion high points of the '60s and '70s.
But we don't care about the costumes, you say - what about the singing and acting? Well, friends, it's pretty good. I would place bets that Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murhpy, and Beyonce will all get Oscar noms. Jamie Foxx, not so much - he plays a smarmy guy, and he plays him well, but I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe if Jamie concentrated on acting or singing, he'd be fine, but not both. Beyonce will get an Oscar nomination because she's Beyonce - she was decent, and of course perfection to look at and listen to, but her acting chops aren't fulyl developed yet. See statement about Jamie Foxx - Beyonce needs to narrow her focus and excel at one thing, rather than half-ass two things.
But oh, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson. They were great. Eddie Murphy plays an about-to-be washed-up Motown singer, and I could totally feel how hungry he was to stay on top. Nice job, Eddie - how 'bout you quit making stupid kids' movies for a while? But Dreamgirls belongs to Jennifer Hudson. She is fantastic. I had my doubts at first - she's got the singing chops, but I was afraid that she wouldn't be able to act. But she can, and she does. She is magnificent, and she embodies her character through the whole film (unlike Beyonce, who is just sort of worthless in the beginning and then turns it on in the second half). I don't think Jennifer will become a new Hollywood starlet, but she works it so hard in this movie that that doesn't matter. I am so in love with her and her big booty.
But alas, the movie is not perfect. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but after a few days of consideration, I've realized that this was a pretty movie with some damn fine singing but not a whole lot of meat behind it. It will definitely get nominated for about a bazillion Oscars, and win a few, but I predict that it will not win Best Picture, because it is NOT the best picture.
Don't wait for it to hit your video store - see it in the theater, where all the prettiness will shine even brighter, and voices will be even louder.

Dreamgirls - B+

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Here I am, swimming at the YMCA on New Year's Eve.

Just kidding. I love Google because sometimes you get totally awesome pictures like this when you search for something as simple as "new year."

I have many fine things to write about - I'll begin with sharing my New Year's resolutions, which I fully expect to fly out the window by the 12th.

1 - blog at least every other day
2 - move less, eat more... wait, that's not right - eat less, move more! I'm gonna need to work on that one.

resolutions - B