Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Year in Advance Oscar Predictions 2012

As we officially say good-bye to the films of 2011 with the Oscar ceremony on Sunday, it's time to take a breather from awards and just focus on the movies...Totally kidding! It's time to look ahead to the Oscars celebrating 2012! What's that you say? Too soon? It's never too soon to start thinking about Oscar. Let's see if I can do even better than I did with last year's year-in-advance predictions. We'll have to wait and see if these actors hear their name called early on nomination morning in January 2013 (you know, if the world doesn't end in 2012. Is there a day we're aiming for with that? I'd like to mark my calendar.) On to the nominees! Today is Actor and Actress and tomorrow is the supporting categories:

Murray channels FDR
Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln
John Hawkes The Surrogate
Hugh Jackman Les Misérables
Bill Murray Hyde Park on Hudson
Philip Seymour Hoffman The Master

Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln The Role: Speilberg directs the two time Oscar winner in this biopic about our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln (hence the creative title). Why Him: DDL is one of those people, like Meryl Streep that you always assume will get nominated. He's just that good. And he works so infrequently (only 4 films last decade and he was nominated for half of them) that you have to assume the role is good if he's taking the time to make it. I even predicated he would be nominated for Nine (it sounded good on paper). But a lot of it also has has to do with the fact that he's playing a real, well-known, historical figure and working with Oscar winning director, Steven Speilberg, for the first time. Liam Neeson was attached to this role for years and I believe he would have been nominated as well if he had played it. 
John Hawkes The Surrogate The Role: Based on the true story of a man who lived his life in an iron lung and decides to lose his virginity. Why Him: Hawkes is one of those character actors that has been steadily working for years, but his profile rose to another level when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Winter's Bone (2010). The Surrogate played at Sundance this year (it was his third Sundance hit in a row), where it was meet with huge success winning the Audience Award for Best Drama and a special acting award for the ensemble. And it's based on a true story. And he's playing a person with a disability. If it was set during the Holocaust it'd be a guaranteed Oscar
Hugh Jackman Les Misérables The Role: 'Who am I? 24601!' Jackman takes on the lead role in the film version of the hit Broadway musical based on Victor Hugo's novel. He plays Jean Valjean, a man who is recently released after spending 19 years in prison after stealing a loaf of bread. Why Him: Jackman is one of those people that I feel they've been wanting to nominate. The academy already likes him–he's hosted the ceremony before. He just needed to find the right role and film. Hopefully, director Tom Hopper can strike Oscar gold a second time like he did with The King's Speech. Jackman makes no secret about his love for musical theatre, so it should be a treat to see what he brings to this classic role.
Bill Murray Hyde Park on Hudson The Role: Another president! Murray plays our 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The film is not a biopic of his life but focuses on a weekend in 1939 when he had a brief affair. Why Him: Because he was robbed! Many people expected him to take home the Best Actor Oscar for 2003's Lost in Translation, but he lost to Sean Penn's over-the-top shouting fit in Mystic River. This would be one of those noms to make-up for past mistakes. And the fact that he's playing a real person (in a wheelchair!) sure doesn't hurt his chances. 
Philip Seymour Hoffman The Master The Oscar winner plays a mysterious and charismatic leader of a religious group in 1950's Los Angeles, which may or may not be based on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Why Him: Paul Thomas Anderson has directed 4 actors already to nominations and the Academy already likes Hoffman (how else to explain his noms for Doubt and Charlie Wilson's War. Admit it, you forgot he was nominated for those). There may be some controversy regarding the subject matter, but my guess is that the role is gonna be too meaty not to include. 

'Trust me, John. I've been here before. They just can't wait to give us nominations.'

Best Actress
Helen Hunt The Surrogate
Nicole Kidman My Wild Life
Keira Knightley Anna Karenina
Rachel McAdams Untitled Terrence Malick
Carey Mulligan The Great Gatsby

Helen Hunt The Surrogate The Role: The professional sex surrogate hired by John Hawkes's character Why Her: Is 2012 gonna be the year of a Helen Hunt comeback? The Best Actress winner from the 90's seemed to have disappeared from acting over the past couple of years. Unless, of course, you caught her in such films as Soul Surfer and Then She Found Me. Yeah, didn't think so. I've never really been a fan of Hunt. My main problem with her is that she's always the same in everything.  But she shared that acting ensemble award at Sundance and people that saw the film were predicting that she could win her second Oscar for this performance. We'll have to wait and see.
Nicole Kidman My Wild Life The Role: Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the real-life conservationist who worked with elephants in Kenya. Why Her: It's all very Gorillas in the Mist meets Out of Africa. The film will reunite the Oscar winning actress with director, Phillip Noyce. His film, Dead Calm, introduced the world to the actress. After Kidman won the Oscar for The Hours (2002), it seemed, despite some of her best work in Birth and Dogville, that the academy was over her. She was also deemed box office poison (just like Katharine Hepburn! Ah, she really is Hollywood royalty) after a series of big-budget flops. But, after her nom for Rabbit Hole, it's looking like the Academy is ready to welcome her back. This project sounds like the perfect fit for Oscar.
Keira Knightley Anna Karenina The Role: The title character in Joe Wright's adaptation of Tolstoy's classic. Anna is a Russian aristocrat in the late 1800's who begins a disastrous affair with a Count. Why Her: Joe Wright's first feature film, the adaptation of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice, brought Keira her first (and only) Oscar nomination. The two have collaborated many times since then, creating an artistic relationship. Her work in last year's A Dangerous Method, was seen as many to be her strongest work to date. It seems to be a good time to invite her back. The role has been played by everyone from Greta Garbo to Vivien Leigh and is a showcase for any actress.
Rachel McAdams Untitled Terrence Malick The Role: No one knows exactly. But, rumor has it that she plays the high school sweetheart of a man (Ben Affleck) who returns to his hometown after a divorce and rekindles the old flame. We're talking about Malick, so expect lots of voice overs and gorgeous cinematography. Why Her: McAdams is one of those young actresses that is well-liked in Hollywood, but has never been nominated. She's great in awful films like Morning Glory and can even make the thankless role of a shrewish fiance in Midnight in Paris interesting (my friend lovingly refers to her as a raging bitch in that film). Despite some stellar performances (including a career best from Brad Pitt in last year's The Tree of Life), no actor has ever been nominated for a Malick film. It's more about the visuals. But, McAdams excels in love stories and if she can make dreck like The Notebook and The Vow work, think what she can achieve with a legendary director like Malick.  
Carey Mulligan The Great Gatsby The Role: Daisy Buchanan, the wealthy socialite that is the center of attention of the titular character in Baz Luhrmann's 3-D adaptation. Why Her: The Oscar nominated actress won the role over such contenders as Amanda Seyfried, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively, Abbie Cornish, and Michelle Williams due to the strength of her screen test. That's why she's predicted here– because she's  one of the finest young actresses working today. Last year, she played her best performance to date as the troubled sister in Shame. It brought a new side to her. She is sure to bring something unique to this well-known literary character.
The history-in-the-making screentest

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gwyneth Paltrow Here to Save the Day

Let's be honest, most people that watch the Oscars probably haven't seen the films nominated. It doesn't really matter. The Oscars aren't just a celebration of film, but a chance to see movie stars mingling together and being forced to make awkward banter on stage. But, the main reason most people watch is for the fashion. Chances are you'll never have a custom couture gown made for you, so let's look at pretty people who have! The major trend of the night was white, red, and a lot of heavily beaded/sparkly gowns. But, all anyone can talk about is Angie's leg. (It really was kinda amazing/bizarre.) But, one little body part shouldn't get all the attention. I was gonna do a 5 best dressed list, but I was a little unimpressed with everyone as a whole. Luckily, there was one saving grace to the evening. We'll get to her in a moment (pretend like you didn't already read the title of this post). I'm gonna break down my worst, best, and biggest disappointments.
Worst: Shailene Woodley

Maybe I'm biased because I just really didn't like her in The Descendants. She was getting so much praise for crying underwater, but what else did she bring to that role? It's not that she was Jessica Alba-levels of bad or anything, it's just that anyone else could have given that exact same performance. I guess they had to invite her because her film was nominated, but if she stayed on that ABC Family Channel show where she came from, and I never had to hear about her again– I'd be perfectly okay with that. Anyway, back to the dress...
How old is she trying to look here? I think she's still a teenager, but her white-on-white, bedazzled Valentino makes her look like she took her grandmother's old prom dress out of moth balls and is ready for her 40 year high school reunion. This dress is just so dowdy on her. This dress itself is...adequate, i guess (much like her performance). But, it needs like a Diane Lane wearing it–a woman with more maturity that can bring some sex appeal to it. God, would that even work? The more I look at it the more I feel like it's a hopeless cause.
Biggest Disappointments: Rooney Mara and Emma Stone

Y'all know how I feel about these two ladies' style, so it was a huge disappointment when I saw what they chose to wear to their first Oscar ceremony. We knew Rooney was gonna wear something structural, and there are parts of this Givenchy dress that I do enjoy. The back is interesting and weird and the fabric on the train moved so elegantly. But, the front was not right. She told Seacrest that she just picked it out that morning. Maybe if she had had some time, she could have gotten it tailored to actually fit. The bodice was baggy on the sides and tight on the top. There was a strange business happening with her whole ribcage-cleavage area. And what were those scalloped boob shelf embellishments? What was going on there? And the white just washed her out way too much. 
Why would Emma Stone wear a look so similar to the one Nicole Kidman wore to the Oscars in 2007? And Nicole's red bow gown worked so much better. The bow on Emma's red Giambattista Valli gown threatened to devour the actress's head at any moment. It was larger than life. I do like the idea of it. i just think the proportions were off. The color worked well and I do like the flow of the skirt. I just expected so much more from her.
Best Dressed (by far) and My New Hero: Gwyneth Paltrow
You just know that lady behind her in the sari is pissed that she's pulling off a cape 
Without Tilda, Cate, or Nicole at the ceremony this year, it seemed like no one would bring that high fashion look that stands out from the crowd. But then up in the sky came a beacon of white light, in the form of Gwyneth Paltrow in a Tom Ford dress and...cape. I love that cape. It is so elegant and unexpected and really made a pretty white gown, that would have been fine on its own, something to talk about. She looked so glamorous and regal in it, like a 1930's movie goddess. She (and her cape) single-handedly saved the red carpet from being an underwhelming affair. Angie's leg needs to stop stealing the spotlight from the night's real winner. Someone get started on photoshopping Gwyneth's cape on people...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oh, No. Come On-Why? Her...Again? But, Whatever...

Lay your weary French head on La Streep. Awards season is at an end
Well, last night Meryl Streep joined the ranks of Walter Brennan, Ingrid Bergman, and Jack Nicholson as a three-time Academy Award winning actor. (Kate Hepburn still has them all beat with 4 wins. But, don't you kinda feel like Meryl will join her. She already has 5 more noms than Kate did and she's still working steadily.) Meryl's win was the one real shock of the evening. And as everyone has been saying–is it really a shock when Meryl Streep wins an award for acting? She's pretty much viewed as the greatest actor of all-time. But, as much as she was campaigning for that third Oscar this time around, no one really thought she would win. For one thing, The Iron Lady is just not a very good movie. Especially when you compare it to the fact that her other two wins are for Kramer Vs. Kramer and frickin' Sophie's Choice. And say what you will about The Help, but Viola Davis elevates that movie with her performance and makes it succeed in ways it couldn't with a lesser actress.

More Oscar History was made as Best Supporting Actor winner, Christopher Plummer, became the oldest person to win an acting Oscar (take that, Jessica Tandy). In fact, as Plummer said in his speech, he's only 2 years younger than Oscar...and came out of the womb practicing his acceptance speech.

The Artist took the top prize, as expected, collecting 5 awards in total, including Best Actor winner Jean "I love your country" Dujardin. The last one night stand Oscar had with another effervescent European was with chair-climbing enthusiast, Roberto Benigni. (I bet when he started standing on Speilberg, people were wondering if it was too late to take it back and give it to Ian McKellan. ) I hope we don't regret this choice in ten plus years. At least it wasn't Clooney. Clooney needs another Oscar for acting like I need to hear that damn story about Viola Davis staying at his Italian Villa for her Honeymoon again.

And the ceremony itself? Ah, it was just like 1992 again. But, in a good way. It was so comforting and enjoyable to watch a ceremony that didn't try to change the formula or make it "hip" by adding random young actors to host (Billy Crystal was a soothing balm to heal the rash that was Annie and Franco as hosts). The jokes weren't all great, Billy didn't change a thing for his 9th time hosting, and I couldn't be happier about it. There is definitely something to be said for traditions. And in a year that honored Hugo and The Artist with the most wins, two films that lovingly paid homage to cinema's history, it seemed like a fitting way to celebrate.

Complete Winners and Ceremony Highlights after the jump

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Oscar Sunday!

Well, time got the best of me and I never got to finish my posts on the acting categories. But, I shall be talking about them here tomorrow and this week brings my year in advance Oscar nominees. Enjoy the show tonight! Is it Meryl or Viola? Is The Artist gonna sweep? Too much excitement. I leave you with a recent Oscar highlight:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Look: Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

Focus Feature has just released 4 photos from the set of Joe Wright's third film collaboration with muse, Keira Knightley. You may recall that the film, a new adaption of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, was on my list as one of my most anticipated films of the year. And after seeing these photos, I'm even more excited. Keira was kinda made for period pieces and with this and her summer comedy with Steve Carrell, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, she's looking to have a pretty good year. And after reading this article about the production, it sounds even more intriguing than I initially had anticipated. Apparently, instead of a traditional costume drama the film is being shot on a single stage and using dream-like images and camera techniques to explore the inner lives of the characters. There's toy trains and doll houses and doors that lead to different sets. It all sounds kinda trippy and amazing. I'm a big fan of what Wright did with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement and the cool energy he achieved with Hanna. It'll be interesting to see what he does with this classic.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

'Isn't That A Daytime Emmy?' 'It Still Counts!'

Last week at the Grammys, producer, Scott Rudin, became the 11th person in history to join the EGOT club. For those of you not familiar, the EGOT stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony- the four major awards in the performing arts profession for television, music, film, and theatre. Rudin joins the ranks of actors, Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, and Whoopi Goldberg, composers, Richard Rodgers, Marvin Hamlisch, and Jonathan Tunick (I don't know who that is either), director, Mike Nichols, and comedian/writer/director, Mel Brooks.

Since I'm always looking ahead, I wondered who is one award away from joining the EGOT ranks. But, the task of looking up every single person who's won awards at 4 different ceremonies over the past decades seemed a little daunting. Luckily, I live in 2012 and have the internet. Let someone else do the work! Thanks, internets! (Seriously, how did people find out anything back in the olden days without Wikipedia?) Because I had some time on my hands after not having to personally do the research, I decided to pursue another one of my loves- list making. I present to you the 10 Most Likely People to Receive the EGOT. Some of the people (and the award they need) may surprise you.

10. Ellen Burstyn, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino, Vanessa Redgrave, Geoffrey Rush, Maggie Smith What they need: Grammy
So, say you're a respected actor that has the triple crown of acting awards. You're a respected star of stage and screen. But, the odds of you winning a Grammy for Best Pop Song by a Group or Duo aren't looking very likely. How do you win that Grammy? The answer is simple- Best Spoken Word Album. You think Audrey Hepburn and John Gielgud were recording rap albums? Of course not. It's the surefire way for a respected actor to get that Grammy. Any of these six actors would have a great chance of winning if they did. In fact, Ellen Burstyn has been nominated in this category before. Perhaps all six should get together and record a multi-part collection of The Complete Works of Shakespeare so they can get it done in one shot. Perfect.

9. Cynthia Nixon What she needs: Oscar
Nixon is best known for playing Miranda Hobbs on 'Sex and the City' and won an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Emmy Award for it in 2004. She won a second Emmy in 2008 for her guest-starring role on 'Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit'. But, she's just as active on the stage and even appeared in two Broadway shows at the same time in 1984. In 2006, she won a Tony award for her role in the play Rabbit Hole (the role brought Nicole Kidman an Oscar nomination in the film version). She may even win a second Tony this year for MTC's revival of Wit. And what did she win a Grammy for, you ask? Why, you guessed it, Best Spoken Word Album in 2009 for An Inconvenient Truth. So, hard can it be to win an Oscar? Well, it's not the easiest thing (just ask Glenn Close). But, with the right role in an independent film, I could conceivably see Nixon winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Although she's never even been nominated for an Oscar, she's apt at both comedy and drama and is well respected in the industry. People have won with a lot less.

8. Lily Tomlin What she needs: Oscar
This comic was America's favorite lesbian long before Ellen came along (and also before we knew she officially was gay). And thanks to her Emmy nominated work on 'Laugh-In', she became one of the most famous comediennes in history–paving the way for females in the world of comedy. Her comedy album, 'This Is a Recording', won her a Grammy in 1972 and hit #15 on Billboards Hot 100 that year–the highest ranking a solo female comedy album has ever received. She has won 4 Emmys (out of 16 career nominations) for her comedy specials and a Daytime Emmy for voicing Miss Frizz on the animated show 'The Magic School Bus'. In 1986, she won the Best Lead Actress in a Play Tony Award for her one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. She even received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in her film debut, Robert Altman's Nashville. She still appears in film, most notably in Flirting With Disaster, I Heart Huckabee's, and A Prairie Home Companion. If she can garner another role that highlights her quirky charm, she would have a pretty good shot at an Oscar.

7. Robin Williams What he needs: Tony
The Juilliard trained actor/comedian has always tried to balance both the comedy (his 2 Emmys come from comedy specials and his 5 Grammys were awarded for his comedy albums) and the dramatic (his Oscar win was for playing Matt Damon's shrink in 1997's Good Will Hunting) in his work. Last year, he made his Broadway debut in the play A Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and received good reviews. If he continues to pursue roles on stage, and put that Juilliard training to use, he could very well land himself with a Tony for his efforts.

6. Trey Parker and Matt Stone What they need: Oscar
Who would have thought the duo behind a crudely animated show about four foul-mouthed children would be one award away from the EGOT? But the thing about 'South Park' (which has brought them 4 Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program) and Broadway's The Book of Mormon (which brought them 4 Tonys for Best New Musical, Director, Book, and Score and a recent Grammy for Best Musical Show Album) is that along with the off-color humor is a smartness, wit, and, yes, heart that elevates the material. It's never offensive just for shock value- there's always thought behind it. They've been Oscar nominated before in the Best Song category for 'Blame Canada' from the 'South Park' movie. I think they could very easily win an Oscar, especially if a film version of Mormon ever hits the big screen.

Marty, Mary Poppins, Liza with a 'Z' and Number 1, after the jump

Sunday, February 19, 2012

See, I Told You They Were Fashionable

Just days after I named them the Most Stylish Stars, look who sat in the front row of the Calvin Klein Runway Show:

Looking good, ladies!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Best Actress Candidates for 2013

I was just thinking the other day about when the film version of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winning play, August: Osage County was coming to the big screen. I feel like I saw that show on Broadway ages ago and they've been talking about a film version since 2010. Mainly, I like to think ahead for future Oscar nominations. The play has such great parts for women that whoever they cast to play Violet, the pill-addicted, acid-tongued matriarch would be assured of a Best Actress nom- if not a win. I knew that Meryl was in talks for the role and that the insanely miscast Julia Roberts was being considered for the eldest daughter, Barbara.

Well, last night brought word that The Weinstein Company is finally moving ahead with the project and plans to film this fall. Meryl and Julia are still attached to the roles. Someone named John Wells (apparently he directed the Ben Affleck movie, Company Men, which no one saw more of than the trailer. And directed episodes of 'Shameless' on Showtime. Gross) is directing a script adapted by Tracy Letts.

Is this the best we can do? We can't get a Mike Nichols or a David O. Russell to direct? I thought this was a hot property. I'm also disappointed by the casting so far. It just seems lazy. It seems that if a character calls for an actress over 60, Meryl Streep is the only person they call. Of course, Meryl will be great in the role. I'm not worried about that. But, she just doesn't seem like a natural fit for the part. It needs someone more wiry and abrasive, two words that don't come to mind when describing Meryl. I'm thinking Sissy Spacek or Jane Fonda. And Julia is too...Julia to play such a salt of the earth, put-upon,  real person. It should be played by Amy Ryan or Laura Linney.

There's still a lot of roles still to be cast-the other two sisters and Violet's blowsy sister (a real Brenda Blythen-type) to just name a few. With two such big stars already on board, hopefully they won't be afraid of casting some relatively unknown actors. Or they should go the other way and only cast Oscar winners for every role. I love those prestige pics that attach the moniker, Academy Award winner, before the names of the cast. They've already started off so big might as well go over the top. But, one thing is for sure. Meryl is all but assured of winning that elusive third Oscar for this. Cause it sure isn't gonna happen with Iron Lady.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Give Us Monty!

'White Collar' star, Matt Bomer, came out this past weekend when he thanked his partner at an event. Good for him. But, by far, the most important Matt Bomer related news to come out (see what I did there?) is that he apparently wants to star in a Montgomery Clift biopic. I've never seen his show nor have I seen him act in anything for that matter (Magic Mike is still 4 months away...), so I don't know how good a job we could do. But, I am definitely all for a Monty biopic.

There are two biopics that I've always wanted to see made: one of Vivien Leigh and one of Montgomery Clift. Back in the early 2000's Wes Bentley (American Beauty) was set to star as Clift with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elizabeth Taylor in a movie that would have been about the actor's life from the years 1947 until his death in 1966. But, the production never got off the ground and the career of Wes Bentley seemed to disappear as well. (Wes Bentley was so good in American Beauty. It seemed like he had such a promising career ahead of him. But, every film he was attached to never panned out or he kept dropping out of productions. It turns out, he had a drug problem and is now trying to get his life and career back on track. I forgot he'll be in The Hunger Games movie until I googled his name. It's such a waste. He would have been a great Monty.)

Clift really led a fascinating life. He was great actor who, along with Brando and James Dean, brought about a new style of acting to cinema. He received four Oscar nominations (Best Actor for The Search, A Place in the Sun, and From Here to Eternity and Supporting Actor for Judgement at Nuremberg) and never won. And his personal life was just as interesting, living as a closeted gay man during the Hollywood studio system, he had to hide who he was. But the biggest tragedy in his life was a car crash in 1956, coming home from Elizabeth Taylor's home, that left him nearly dead (Taylor apparently took out a tooth that was lodged in his throat, suffocating him). It left his matinee-idol looks disfigured and he became addicted to pills and alcohol to deal with the pain (see how right Wes Bentley would have been).

So, producers, if you're listening, please bring us a Monty biopic. It would be such an acting showcase for a talented young actor. I don't know if Bomer is the right man (he's certainly handsome enough and it seems he knows a thing or two about being in the closet in Hollywood). But, either way, I need a Monty movie in my life. We can discuss a Vivien Leigh one later...

My Evening With the Cul-De-Sac Crew

Last night brought the Season Three debut of the under-appreciated, but hilariously funny, 'Cougar Town'. (Are you watching? Why aren't you watching? It's so good! It's not even about cougars. I'll explain later.) It's been 9 long months since we've caught up with Jules and the gang. That's right, it's taken as long as the amount of time it takes a human to grow another human being inside of them, and then deliver it to the world, since the show has been on the air. I'd much rather watch the Cul De Sac Crew pound some grape than have another ol' baby in the world anyway. Wouldn't you?

Last night's episode didn't waste anytime in bringing the laughs, with the gang wearing a necklace that comfortably holds your glass of wine around you're neck while leaving your hands free on-deck glass of wine. (Where can I get one?) And the episode ends with the beginning of a whole new chapter in their lives as Grayson (Josh Hopkins) proposes to Jules (Courtney Cox). It's just the right amount of funny and sweet. But, last night was actually my second time seeing the episode as I spent my past Saturday night at a viewing party with the cast of the show here in NYC at the Paley Center.

The show is hardly a ratings winner and has been in danger of being cancelled every year. So, the creator of the show, Bill Lawrence, decided to reward the loyal fans and keep the show alive by word of mouth by throwing viewing parties across the country. We got to watch two episodes of the show and then were joined by Bill (a 43-year-old man with bangs- his words), co-creator Kevin Biegel, and the whole cast (including Michelle Williams BFF, Busy Phillips! Who wasn't initially scheduled to be there!) for an hour long Q and A.

Of course, one of the main topics of conversion was the title of the show and the show's evolution. When the show first aired, it started off being about a 40-something Courtney Cox recently getting out of a divorce and dating. That lasted a couple of episodes until they realized how well the cast worked together and it quickly became the ensemble show about adult friendship (and wine drinking) that we know today. Before the start of the Second Season, there was talk of changing the name of the show as 'Cougar Town' obviously didn't fit with it's current state. Kevin Biegel said that they had decided on 'Sunshine State', but ABC wouldn't allow them because the (short-lived) Matthew Perry show was called 'Mr. Sunshine'. But, the name isn't going anywhere. Bill Lawrence said that it's built a fan base on the name it has and to market the show with a new name would imply that it needs fixing. Also, DVRs wouldn't recognize a new name, so it would lose the fans it has because the show won't record. They've really embraced the absurdity of the name and every episode has a new comment about it during the beginning title card. (Example: It's Okay to Watch a Show Named: 'Cougar Town' or 'Cougar Town'- It's Like Scrubs With Wine)

They also talked about how the characters are written for the actors. Apparently the whole drinking of wine on the show came about because of a visit to Courtney's home. She fills the glass to the brim for guests so they have to slurp it before walking around. Lawrence's wife, Christa Miller, who plays no-nonsense, Ellie, inspires lines from her everyday life for the characters. He writes them down after she says things and they wind up on the show. Everyone's favorite game involving pennies and a can, Penny Can, was an actual game that the writer's invented and it found it's way on to the show. The pop-culture references will also continue this season as an episode is based on Groundhog Day. It's Grayson's favorite movie and Jules has never seen it. Neither has Courtney, it turns out, as she asked Bill why the jokes kept repeating themselves that episode- the writers are smarter than that. (Courtney than said she feels dumber than most people everyday of her life- but she's very street smart.)

The subject of cancellation was also brought up, but the cast and creators remain optimist. Busy talked about how they've all been on brilliant but cancelled shows ('Freaks and Geeks'! Such a great show that never found an audience while it was on) but they hope that this one can continue. So, grab an extra big glass of wine and start watching, America! Tuesday nights at 8:30 on ABC. You don't need to watch that second half of 'Glee' anyway...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Most Stylish Stars

Today is the start of Fashion Week here in New York. And while most of us will never get the chance to sit front row at a runway show, it's just one of the many perks of being a celebrity. (They even get paid to attend!) Mainly because fashion, film, and celebrity are so closely connected. The designers know what the stars wear influence our everyday fashion. When Clark Gable appeared without an undershirt in It Happened One Night, sales of the item plummeted. And when Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire starred in the film wearing just the undershirt by itself, the item found new popularity with a new generation. And the red carpet at the Oscars is a televised runway in which a star can be made. Uma Thurman's lilac Prada at the 1995 ceremony brought a new life to the design house. In 1996, Sharon Stone was the talk of the Oscars. The reason: the Gap turtleneck she wore. Who knew wearing something you could get at the sale rack in the mall could be so chic? Elie Tahari is now a red carpet staple, but it all started because of the designer's burgundy dress that Halle Berry wore when she won Best Actress in 2002.

In honor of Fashion Week, I have compiled a list of who I think are the most stylish actors at the moment. All four have a style that's all their own. It may not make them better actors, (luckily, all four are already pretty good at their day job) but it certainly adds to their persona.

Ryan Gosling
It's hard to make menswear interesting. Try to go classic and it can get boring (oh, another black tux). On the other hand, if you get too creative it can start to look like a costume (Alan Cummings, I'm looking your way). Which, is why it's so amazing that Ryan Gosling is able to pull off what he does. A maroon tuxedo shouldn't work and yet it does on Gosling. Even his casual clothes are interesting. Whether it's a short-sleeved cardigan on the Today show (I've been looking everywhere for one and there's Gosling wearing it like it's no big deal) or a striped tank worn to break up street fights, he always brings a twist to make it unique. 

Rooney Mara
We can thank David Fincher and the role of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo for the emergence of Rooney's new-found style. This time last year, she was sporting long, brown, wavy hair and dressed in a way that no one would call memorable. What a difference a black bob and some goth inspired couture makes. It all may be a little manufactured, but they are doing a damn good job. At every premiere and event that she's attended in the last few months, she's brought a style that is becoming her own. Her clothes are edgy and modern, but in a way that isn't over the top. And unlike her character in the movie, who's punk look can be off-putting, her red carpet looks may be hard, but they still have a femininity to them. 

Emma Stone
You can actually pinpoint the exact moment that Emma Stone became fashion's new one-to-watch. At the 2011 Golden Globes in a simple peach colored Calvin Klein dress and blonde hair pulled back, she made her presence known. It was so simple, yet elegant. And with two hit movies to promote this past year, she continued to show-off the fashionable star she has become. I love that her hair is back to it's signature red color because it just makes her stand out more. She's not afraid of bright colors or trends, but doesn't get upstaged by them. And she always wears items that are flirty and fun, like her 50's influenced Alexander McQueen dress at this year's SAG awards.

Tilda Swinton
There is no one else quite like Tilda. To put it simply, she is a fashion icon. Who else would wear what looked like a garbage bag to accept their Best Supporting Actress Oscar and make it look high fashion? She has a taste for the avant-garde, favoring unconventional designs that challenge our view of how an actress should dress. Her look has even inspired an entire runway collection by Viktor & Rolf in which all the models were made up to look like the actress. Recently she's been doing a David Bowie-inspired androgyny thing that is executed effortlessly in a way only she could pull off. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In Defense of Blake Lively

Blake Lively is gorgeous- no question about it. She's the kind of long-legged, perfectly proportioned blonde that comes along every couple of years that Hollywood seems to be drawn to and anoints with the title of "It". She stars on a hit television show ('Gossip Girl' just aired it's 100th episode last week). She's dated the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Reynolds. She's become a sort of fashion icon- famously stating that she doesn't use a stylist. And counts the likes of Anna Wintour (whom she sits next to in the front row of fashion shows), Karl Lagerfeld (who throws parties in her honor and makes her the face of campaigns), and Christian Louboutin (who named a shoe after her) as friends. So, why would someone who seems to have so much need to be defended? Because all she really wants is to be is taken seriously as an actress.

Not content with just being a pretty face, Blake has sought out great directors and difficult material to collaborate on. Writer/director, Rebecca Miller (daughter of playwright, Arthur Miller, and wife to Oscar winner, Daniel Day-Lewis), was the first to take a chance and cast Blake in her film, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Miller says she wasn't even aware of Blake's television career and felt that she was discovering the next great actress of her generation. She even compared her talent to Oscar winner, Jessica Lange. Blake next worked with actor/director Ben Affleck on The Town, in which she played a gritty character so far removed from what people were accustomed to seeing that audiences and critics started to wonder if there was more to her than originally suspected. This fall brings her work with celebrated director, Oliver Stone. The film, Savages, which takes place in a world of drugs and kidnapping is another far cry from her Park Avenue Princess role on television. It seems that she is determined to challenge herself and grow as an actress. 

But, it seems not everyone is buying it. Blake was set to star in the film, Side Effects, from Oscar-winning director, Steven Soderbergh. The character is a woman addicted to prescription drugs who fears the release of her husband from prison. She was set to start filming this spring, until word came last week that she was out. It turns out, the producers backed out when they found out Blake was involved in the project and only came back on board when she was replaced with Girl With the Dragon Tattoo star (and Best Actress Nominee), Rooney Mara. 

This would have been her first time as the lead in a film. It's hard to show that you are capable of more when someone won't even give you a chance. People are quick to dismiss Blake Lively as an actress, but we have yet to see her potential. So far she has risen to the task in supporting roles, but has yet to be able to carry the responsibility of a drama on her own. She could very easily take the easy way to stardom and appear in brainless rom-coms that ask nothing more of her than to be beautiful. But, she is actually seeking out work that will help her grow as an artist. Soderbergh must have seen something in her to cast her in the first place. Hopefully, she'll be able to showcase what she has to offer so we can accurately judge her abilities as an actress.

When you rise to fame on the success of a teenage soap opera, it can be hard to break out of that mold and be able to portray substantial, adult roles. Luckily Blake has a patron saint; someone who paved the way for what she's attempting. After all, ten years ago, three-time Academy Award nominee, Michelle Williams, was still just that blonde girl from 'Dawson's Creek'.