At the very beginning of the silent film era in the United States, it is said women held most of the power. No, they didn't own or run movie studios, but they commanded hefty salaries, sometimes dwarfing those of their male co-stars.
Somewhere along the route things changed. And while there are still women in the film industry who command large paychecks, their numbers are few compared to their male counterparts.
I only bring this up because there seems to be an odd inequity in star power. I think this is most often seen in television where breakout female stars seem to have a harder time crossing over to features, or even other television shows.
For example, the original Not Ready For Prime Time players (the first Saturday Night Live cast) featured an incredibly talented roster of both male, and female actors. Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, John Belushi and Lorraine Newman for instance.
Aykroyd, Chase, and Belushi went on to star is several successful films. Curtain disappeared for a time after SNL but returned with the popular Kate & Allie series, and it is said that Radner was offered a prime time television show, but turned it down instead to focus on her one woman Broadway show. Of course Lorraine Newman was just as funny as the rest but her appearances in television and features have been few and far between. I find it really odd that these three women didn't dominate film the way the the men did.
A more recent listing of SNL talent reflects a similar fate. Will Farrell, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Billy Crystal and, well, you get the idea.
For the life of my I don't know why talent like Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri and Rachel Dratch aren't commanding big bucks for feature or series projects. My hat's off to Tina Fey who parlayed her gig as the first female head writer on SNL into the very funny, very well reviewed, if audience absent, 30 Rock. The truth is I would rather have seen any of the women mentioned above headlining a film before I'd sit through another A Night At The Roxbury, or The Adventures OfPluto Nash.
All this mulled in my head because I came across a Saturday Night Live skit that I had completely forgotten about. Granted, you can't say the pull this off because, well, they don't. But they don't pull it off because Rachel Dratch is so darned funny.
Here is Rachel Dratch, and other members of SNL (along with Ms Lohan) in a very funny clip called "Debbie Downer."
Brad Bird (writer/director) is something of a genius.
He's worked on some pretty impressive animated television shows like Family Dog,The Simpson's, and The Critic to name a few. His feature film credits include Iron Giant (which was good despite it's poor showing at the box office), The Incredible's and now Ratatouille. He's kind of the John Hughes of animation. You know, having a keen insight to what people identify with and enjoy.
Some of my friends raved over The Incredible's even claiming it the best movie of 2004. I don't know that I'd go that far, but I did enjoy it. I thought it was well done, great story, great animation, and great voice talent. But it didn't grab me in the way it had some of my friends.
This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, I did.
Now Ratatouille? That's another story. Do I think it's the best film of 2007? No. But I don't know that I've seen the best film of the year yet, we'd have to wait until the end of the year. But wow did I like this movie.
I'm sure much of it had to do with the storyline. Kinda like (only kind of) Babe, wherein someone is expected to act and be a certain way, and the thought of them living outside of their station in life is viewed as being both heretical and impossible. Ratatouille carries that mantel one step further.
Remy, the rat, is a connoisseur of the finer things in life...well, in food anyway. He loves food, tastes the nuances of cheese, fruit, spices and herbs. And while his father, brother and the whole clan will, and do, eat anything lying around, it is Remy who is cursed with not only enjoying the finer aspects of food. But he has developed an appreciation for cooking.
The story is a simple one, the ending pretty much foregone, pretty much. But it's the execution that is everything. From the truly amazing animation to the wonderful voice actors, Ratatouille is also inventive.
One scene, in particular, was so unique to me that I think I fell in love from that point on. In trying to describe what food tastes like, Remy talks about the melody of flavors, the nuance of texture all while appearing on a black screen while changing colors swirl around him.
It's the most visual way of describing what someone feels, and it could really only have been done with animation. I love that idea. I love that in animation they can do what they want, and they do.
That a movie about talking rats doesn't have to worry about limitations.
A brilliant and nearly unrecognizable cast includes the very talented Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Brian Dennehy, the always amazing and wonderful Peter O'Toole, a very surprising Brad Garret and equally surprising Jeanine Garofalo, as well as a very impressive take on his role by John Ratzenberger.
If you're looking for a movie that doesn't deal with shaky-cameras, giant robots, or gay fireman, then check this out. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, because quite honestly, I loved the heck out of it and plan to see it again!
I have said before, and probably will countless times more, that I wish I could sing. There is something about music that is so profound to me. I also wish I had the discipline to play an instrument. I was taught piano at a young age, but it didn't take.
One of my favorite episodes of The West Wing ... well, just about every episode is a favorite. But one in particular, Noel, stands out for a couple of reasons. One; it sheds a little more of an insight into the relationship between Leo and Josh. And two and perhaps more importantly; it focuses on how Josh has dealt, or not dealt, with almost being killed in the shootout at the end of Season One.
But perhaps one of the greatest elements of Noel was the use of both music by Yo-Yo Ma, and Yo-Yo Ma himself.
On the commentary track for that episode, Aaron Sorkin (creator, writer) talks of how he told Ma that they would pre-record the music so he wouldn't have to constantly replay it. To his surprise, Yo-Yo Ma said he didn't mind and that he would rather play it live each time.
Sorkin gave him another out saying 'each time' could be a lot of times. But Ma was fine with it, and, well, the cast was treated to an extended, albeit one movement, concert by the great Yo-Yo Ma. And we, as audience members, got another chance to see and hear his great talent.
Though this is a round about way, I have another clip I found on YouTube of the great Yo-Yo Ma.
I don't know that I think of Ma in anything but a tuxedo and tails, but here he is, in blue jeans, and jamming to a piece (Libertango) of music that is both surprising in its composition, and incredibly wonderful in its execution.
Sometime in the 80s, a friend had given me a compilation tape (remember those?) of a whole bunch of different music. Included on the tape were selections from a whole bunch of very cool New Wave/Punkish bands.
Among the choices were two songs with the same music but different lyrics. One was in French, the other English.
I would come to learn later that the French version was not actually a translation. The reason being the English version was, at the time, considered too controversial as it dealt with sex between a young male couple.
Now I had heard the English version of the song before and had thought The Damned had written it. Again, some time later would learn that it was actually written by Alan Ward a singer songwriter who wrote and performed under the name Elton Motello.
Long story ... well, longer I guess: Elton's version was covered by a number of bands, notably The Damned where it gained in popularity and then was covered by Belgian singer Roger Marie Francois Jouret, who performed under the moniker Plastic Bertrand.
Anyway, the English version was too risque to Bertrand strung together a number of french words and phrases, and what we have, as a result, is a very catchy tune that doesn't really translate into anything but a catchy tune.
I couldn't find a good The Damned version so you'll just have to scour the net for that. Besides, even some twenty-odd years later, the lyrics are still ... well provocative.
About the version below, I was going to post Bertrand performing the song, but I like this version because it actually allows you to read the lyrics. As nonsensical as they may be.
Ladies and Germs, Plastic Bertrand and Ca Plane Pour Moi!
Oh, and the terrific animation is done by Nick Atvull
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry is about what you might expect. An Adam Sandler movie about two straight guys playing gay. Lot's of gay stereotypes, gay jokes and the like. It isn't a terrible movie, it's just ... well unimaginative.
I actually enjoy Adam Sandler. I'll often find myself plopped in front of the television for the umpteenth showing of 50 First Dates, or Waterboy or Happy Madison. I know his comedy isn't refined, and often times he goes a bit too far. But he makes me laugh.
Chuck and Larry was okay, nothing too offensive really, but it just wasn't as funny as it could have been. The fact that this was a Sandler vehicle reminded me of another project that he produced, but never got off the ground; Gay Robot.
Apparently the idea for Gay Robot began as a bit in Sander's act. Eventually the project was written as a pilot for a sitcom and features the voice of Nick Swardson as Gay Robot and the very talented but can't seem to catch a break Brian Kolodziej.
The difference between these two projects is obvious at the outset. Where Chuck and Larry seem to focus on stereotypes, most especially of the gay characters, Gay Robot does almost the opposite. Opposite in that it parodies everyone. From the gay robot, to the jock frat boys. From the easy girlfriend to ... well, you get the picture.
Again, there's nothing really wrong with Chuck and Larry, it just didn't make me laugh very much. Gay Robot may actually have more wrong with it, but it's that cutting edge wrong that makes it so ... well, right.
How could I not enjoy a film that has Paddy Considine in it?
Next to Crank,The Bourne Ultimatum had, for me, the most satisfying ending shot of any movie in recent history.
Finally, will someone, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, buy Paul Greengrass a freakin' SteadyCam? Either that or get him off the caffeine. The shaky camera "trick" was overdone in NYPD Blue. Now it's just annoying and Greengrass is a better director than that. He doesn't HAVE to shake his camera to make his scenes exciting. They're already spectacular and his shaky, out of focus, oops-almost-missed-the-subject shots are getting old quickly.
I'm not exactly sure why, but I hadn't heard about Sunshine until the other day. I'm usually pretty keyed in to new releases, even though the last couple of weeks have been a little wonky for me with work. But still, I haven't been under a rock ... well, at least I didn't think I was.
The trailer for Sunshine looked interesting; a science fiction story about earth 50 years in the future where our sun is dying. A group of scientists are sent to drop a massive bomb on the sun that will, hopefully, start an chain reaction, and basically create a whole new sun.
I love science fiction. The trailer looked good and it was directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later fame so I figure this should be pretty good.
Well, if I were to believe the majority of reviews, I'd be wrong. But you know what? I did enjoy the movie.
Part 2001: A Space Odyssey,Silent Running and yes, even a little bit (very little) Alien, Sunshine is one of those terrific movies that, almost immediately, has you feeling the movie as much as watching it. Boyle's use of sound is so effectively utilized that as serene as space appears, its easy to see how dangerous a place it truly is. And how disconcerting it can be.
The closer the spaceship Icarus II gets to their destination, the more the crew are transfixed by it's almost mesmerizing power. But as dangerous a mission this is, it's comforting to know that those chosen are specialists in their particular fields. And it is those specialties that make the movie's science aspect seem so believable, and almost comforting.
The cast is top notch and terrific, with the always beautiful and talented Michelle Yeoh to the often overlooked Troy Garity, to Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy and Cliff Curtis, doing a great job of making us believe that science fiction could be science fact.
Writer Alex Garland, who also wrote 28 Days Later, does an effective job of creating a world that is both real and surreal, with characters who are dedicated to the mission, not at the expense of everything else, but because of everything else.
Evans is particularly good and almost comforting in what could be described as the "bad' guy of the group. The person who is so focused on their task that everything else is secondary; as it should be. Even if it seems heartless at times. It's that dedication that makes you want someone like that at your side if times ever get tough. And for the crew of the Icarus II times are tough.
Sunshine isn't an action packed romp with guns and fighting. Though there are guns and fighting. It isn't a cerebral voyage into the inner psyche of man and machine. Though there is that element to it. In the end, this is a movie with a story, or stories. And depending upon your mood, and your view, you may like it, or, as some reviewers have said, maybe you won't like it.
For me, I enjoyed it. In fact, I'd probably see it again. And there aren't a lot of movies I'll see twice anymore.