Monday, March 15, 2010

The Cocktail Conundrum

this past weekend i had a friend in from dallas for my annual participation in the houston AIDS walk. when i see this particular friend it's about the only time i partake of the bar scene anymore.

so friday night... after seeing a very poor paul rudnick play... we hit the bars.

nothing odd in that.

but sunday... after the AIDS walk... one of my houston friends was all "i'm feelin' kinda sexy... let's go out and have some drinks." well, that just kicked in my dallas friend's chicken hawk senses and he was all "yeah, yeah, yeah" - certain to find some willing post-walk-exhausted twink to take back to his swanky hotel room in the galleria.

so..... we went out. on a sunday afternoon. for cocktails. odd for me.

anyway.... we hit the first bar and found some really good seats overlooking the rather small crowd.

and, yes, we enjoyed ourselves. we were laughing and cutting up....

but out of the corner of my eye i thought i saw a guy checking me out. but i wasn't sure... there were four of us. only... i was the only one he could really see.

and he kept looking.

we decided to hit another bar so i thought i'd use the clean, safe bathrooms at the current establishment before trudging over to the less-than-sanitary digs of the other bars.

he followed. i thought i caught him looking at me... IN THE MIRROR! there was no "i'll show you mine if you show me yours."

but i ignored it. i'm not good at this sort of thing... at least, not anymore.

i return to the table and find another round of drinks. so i'm all, "what this? i thought we were leaving." and my friends are all, "this guy bought us a round of drinks." so i'm, like, "what guy?" and they say "that guy" and point out the one that just followed me to the bathroom.

so we all wave and smile and thank him. and we start to drink our cocktails.

(please pause for dramatic effect.)

now... here's my question. because here... we differ.

what should have happened?

one of my friends thinks someone should have gone over to him and personally thanked him. and they all decided it should've been me.

but why me? "because he likes you," was the reply. but how do you know? (i mean, i knew it was me. i saw him checking me out plus.... well.... i was ten times more desirable than the three friends with me... but nevermind!)

so, really! how do we know?

he didn't buy a cocktail just for me... he bought one for all of us. well, not one drink for all of us. four.. one for each of us. (nevermind.)

what if i hadn't noticed him checking me out? or maybe i just caught his eye because he caught me catching him checking out one of my friends? (but, i mean... it was me. trust me.. i'm much hotter than my three friends.)

so i didn't go over there.

my argument was that he should have come over to us and introduced himself and chatted up the one he was interested in. right? besides... he was the aggressor with the proffered cocktails... why shouldn't he follow through?

eventually, after we finished our drinks... we all left and one by one we introduced ourselves to him and thanked him for the cocktails. no indication on his part as to which one he wanted to talk to more. he didn't address one of us anymore than the other. he asked where we were heading to next and that was that.

now, i can't remember if anyone has ever bought me a drink before. i want to say yes. (probably...) but much more likely: they just offered me drugs and got me in the sack that way.

i mean... back when i did drugs and drank like dorothy parker... i would've gone over to him. (or just laid one on him after the initial key-bumps of cocaine in a joint bathroom stall.)

but this is now... i'm not like that anymore. so i was lost.

what should have happened?

it bothered me the rest of the day. from that bar to the next bar. back to the original bar. and then to another bar.

should i have talked to him? i mean, he was attractive... i mean, kinda. i mean... he wasn't a troll.

okay... let me put it this way: neither of us are any longer in our prime.

so the guilt kicked in. and i kept playing it over and over in my head.

what should i have done? what would you have done? and here... i open the floor to you, my loyal readers.



p.s. today the fourth friend with us randomly found a picture of the guy online... dressed as a slave boy complete with horse reigns à la madonna's confessions tour from this past weekend's madonnarama.

and, well, shit... wouldn't'cha know it? my guilt over the whole situation just melted away at the equestrian sight.

but i still want input. for next time. because, well... you know it'll happen again. (i'm hot...)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Picture

happy oscar day, my lovelies! let's get right to the big one...

the nominees for best picture are:

--the blind side
--district 9
--an education
--the hurt locker
--inglourious basterds
--precious: based on the novel 'push' by sapphire
--a serious man
--up in the air

okay.... i'm taking time out from cooking for my big oscar to-do. so i gotta make this short and sweet, my darling readers. it's not that i don't love you... it's just there's spinach & artichoke dip and stuffed mushroom caps to make.

let's begin my knocking out the obvious (and stating the obvious). ten best picture nominees is stupid. take the five without a corresponding director nod out and you have your five REAL best picture nominees left.

so take away up, a serious man, an education, district 9 and the blind side. no directors. no way they're gonna win.

(interesting side note: up is only the second animated film to be nominated for best picture. the first? nope... not snow white & the seven dwarfs. it was 1989's beauty and the beast.)

so let's look at the five remaining best picture nominees.

precious. out. sorry...just not gonna win.

up in the air... i've gone on and on about the loss of momentum for this film. at one time, i really thought it was the winner. and i hated that idea. not that it's a bad film... it's just not best picture material.

inglourious basterds? i think tarantino is still a bit too outside the box for academy voters. he may be a scorsese.... a couple of decades worth of nominations before he and his picture win.

that leaves us with the horse race (kinda).

avatar vs. the hurt locker.

the hurt locker should win... it's the superior film. but an odd new oscar voting system may give avatar a leg up. if a picture does not win over 50% of the first ballot... then the academy moves on to people's second choice. and so on and so on until somebody has over 50%.

it's idiotic. i think i'll change next year.

it gives avatar a chance.

but i still think the hurt locker will take home the big prize tonight. it's already won a string of awards including the biggie: the producers guild for best picture.

keeping it short and sweet, my lovelies.

will win: the hurt locker
should win: the hurt locker


p.s. oscar! everybody loves ya, oscar! everybody wants to get ya, grab ya, hug ya... hold you tight!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Director

the nominees for best director are:

james cameron, avatar
kathryn bigelow, the hurt locker
quentin tarantino, inglourious basterds
lee daniels, precious: based on the novel 'push' by sapphire
jason reitman, up in the air

okay... i don't want to take up a lot of your time here. and i can't even be sly because once i begin using pronouns to dance around my prediction, you'll know...

so let's just say that kathryn bigelow has two... no three.... BIG things going for her this year: 1) she's won the director's guild award (DGA). 2) she'll make history as the first woman to ever win best director and the academy loves to make history. and 3) she deserves to win!

lee daniels is out. let's get that out of the way. yes, precious: based on the novel 'push' by sapphire is very good. but he won't win. a black man can be president... but in this category, a woman can win first.

tarantino needs to win an oscar and will soon.... but he won't here. he is still glorified more for his writing than his directing. but he's superb at both.

jason reitman appeared primed to win for up in the air. he was just nominated recently for juno and it looked as if all momentum was pushing his film to multiple wins... including best picture.

that momentum has flat-lined.

really.... the race is between james cameron and his ex-wife, bigelow. cameron won the oscar for best director for the last feature film he directed: 1997's titanic.

he could win for avatar. but i see everything pushing bigelow into the gold on sunday night.

bigelow becomes only the fourth woman to be nominated for best director..... in over 80 years of best director nominations! sofia coppola was nominated for 2003's lost in translation. italian director lina wertmüller was nominated in 1976 for seven beauties. and new zealand's jane campion was nominated for the piano in 1993.

as i mentioned... the academy loves to make history. and finally crowning a woman as best director would be a HUGE statement.

bigelow also won the DGA. since the DGA was first given out in 1948, only SIX TIMES has the DGA winner differed from the eventual best director oscar winner.

but beyond all that... bigelow deserves to win. the hurt locker is a brilliant study of the tension inherent in a war zone. and bigelow shows an immense patience in telling her story.

most directors today would have a lot of quick edits and shaky, steady-cam shots zooming in and out and around the action. here... bigelow allows her camera to tell the story.... not pump up the story.

take the amazing scene where the soldiers come across snipers in the middle of the desert. there's a fire fight. lives are lost. then all grows quiet. a lesser director cuts away. or only stays briefly.... providing all answers immediately. but that's not war. and that's not what bigelow has shot.

here.... she leaves the camera on the soldiers. waiting. unsure. are the snipers still alive? are we safe? should we even move?

she has the patience to play the scene out. allow the tension to rise. let the soldiers suffer, wonder and fear.... just as we do.

she has made an action movie that is not in a rush to tell the story... but is interested in its characters and the slow revelations of the story. and, yes, of the danger.... and the tension...

it is confident and thrilling filmmaking. and bigelow deserves to take home the oscar as the first woman to ever win best director.

will win: kathryn bigelow, the hurt locker
should win: kathryn bigelow, the hurt locker


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Actress

the nominees for best actress are:

sandra bullock, the blind side
helen mirren, the last station
carey mulligan, an education
gabourey sidibe, precious: based on the novel 'push' by sapphire
meryl streep, julie & julia

this year's best actress category is a two-way race. unfortunately.... that race is between the two wrong women.

the two best performances given this year among these five nominees is between the two new faces: carey mulligan and gabourey sidibe.

sidibe is heartbreaking as precious. but she also shows a strength in the character that always seems to peek through all the abuse, the ignorance and the sadness. in almost any other year she would be my choice for best actress...

but this year there's carey mulligan. her jenny is this year's poppy (sally hawkins in happy-go-lucky) for me. luckily... the academy didn't fuck up this year and nominated mulligan for an education. (yes, i remain bitter over the hawkins snub.)

mulligan's jenny experiences her social, intellectual and sexual awakening on screen before our very eyes...... and we experience and feel every one of those journeys with her. she brings a depth of character rarely accomplished by older actors. joy, pleasure.... the exhilaration of the first-time. not just with sex... but with jazz and paris. it's all there... in mulligan's damn fine performance.

she is both smart and naive. sly but innocent. she is easily my choice for best actress...

but she is not in the race.

neither is helen mirren who seems to have luckily snagged a nomination for her tedious work in the last station. and, mind you, i don't blame mirren... there's only so much you can do with that role.

and let's not forget: mirren just won an oscar for 2006's the queen. so it's also too soon for her to win again.

so who does that leave? oh, yes... the two least deserving winners in the bunch: meryl streep (scoring her 16th nomination) for julie & julia.... a movie that would have been twice as good without the julie. and sandra bullock for the blind side.

(okay... streep would possibly rank third out of these five. before mirren & bullock.... who can fight it out for the bottom slot in my head.)

let me begin by saying streep is not bad as julia childs. in fact, she's quite good. unfortunately, she's in a very unfortunate film. but even without nora ephron's schlock.... streep would not deserve to win here.

and for a long time she appeared poised to win her third oscar (after her best supporting actress win for kramer vs. kramer and her best actress win for sophie's choice).

but then came the broadcast film critics shocking tie between streep and sandra bullock. suddenly, the mediocre film that wouldn't go away was garnering even more oscar talk for bullock.

and then she won the golden globe. and the screen actors guild.

and now bullock scores her first oscar nomination.

bullock has been adored and turned in solid work since she blew audiences (and critics) away in speed. and she has always done well in supporting roles while taking on some truly awful leading roles. but not always awful.

this year also saw a fine performance from bullock in the surprisingly winning the proposal.

so the stars started to align. and now bullock will very likely win what i have termed: "the julia roberts erin brockovich oscar." that is to say... it's not the best performance of the year, but it's a respectable performance. and you know what? gee-golly.... we really like sandra bullock. so let's give her the oscar!

again... bullock's work in the blind side is not awful. it's good, in fact. but it's not oscar-worthy. and vishnu knows the film isn't best picture material (but more on that later).

bullock is much loved. and we love to reward young, beautiful, american actresses the best actress oscar (a long-standing tradition until the last three years).

so here we are... and i have to grit my teeth, try to smile.... and have more wine.

will win: sandra bullock, the blind side
should win: carey mulligan, an education


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Actor

the nominees for best actor are:

jeff bridges, crazy heart
george clooney, up in the air
colin firth, a single man
morgan freeman, invictus
jeremy renner, the hurt locker

this year's best actor winner could be seen as a potential winner for several reasons:

1) with this year's oscar nomination he has five under his belt and the academy loves a nominee who has paid his dues.

2) while he's not terribly old by peter o'toole and christopher plummer standards... he has been in movies for over four decades.

and most of all.... he probably simply deserves the fuckin' thing.

but i want to back track first. let's quickly eliminate two nominees for the sheer fact that they've both recently won. george clooney won best supporting actor for 2005's syriana. and morgan freeman won best supporting actor for 2004's million dollar baby.

is five or six years too soon to reward these actors again? does it make a difference that this year they're nominated for best LEAD actor?

this is freeman's sixth nomination. two of the six have been for supporting. the other four for lead. so can it be argued that freeman is due a best LEAD actor award?

and what of clooney? this is his third nomination in acting (he was also nominated for both directing and writing good night and good luck). and since his win in syriana, i think there's no doubt clooney is a leading man.

and there was a time when up in the air had all the momentum and clooney appeared on his way to another oscar.

but i think the academy is secure in both freeman's and clooney's supporting statuettes.... for now. and time will come for them both again.

then you have two first time nominees in the veritable unknown, jeremy renner, and the always a bridesmaid never the bride, colin firth.

it is too early for renner. despite the paternal world we live in... men have to work harder for their oscars than women. the academy wants a man to EARN his award. pay dues. put in his time.

it is not yet time for renner.

firth has been very good for a very long time... but he's often overlooked by the showier performances in his films. his work in a single man, however, is superb and cannot be overlooked. he has taken the restraint we've come to know from him and used it to weave a deep pathos throughout his character's ups and downs. you always sense some stronger emotion just under george's surface... but firth will not let you in. and the role of george demands it.

yet firth is able to emote everything without saying much of anything. you hurt with him and you laugh with him... you even long with him.

i'm torn between who i think should win the best actor oscar this year...

i lean heavily towards firth. and on any given day i might tell you he is my choice for best actor.

but more often than not... my head tells me to go with the actor i think the academy will also reward this year: jeff bridges.

bridges garnered his first oscar nomination in 1972 with the last picture show... best supporting actor. he has been nominated three more times for thunderbolt and lightfoot (best supporting actor), starman (best actor) and most recently, 2000's the contender (best supporting actor).

here we have his fifth nomination.... once again for best actor. and his bad blake is amazing in crazy heart and has already brought him a golden globe, a los angeles film critics award, a broadcast film critics award and a SAG for best actor.

it's true that the movie, and maybe even the character, is formulaic... but there is nothing ordinary in bridges' performance. he's charming, pathetic, lovable, frustrating.... he is very much.... human.

and on top of all that.... the man can sing.

bridges has long been overlooked and underappreciated in hollywood. he has turned in performance after excellent performance. and he is adored by his peers and the public.

plus... he's the dude!

the big lebowski has endeared bridges into our hearts more than any film i can think of for most any actor.

bridges has paid his dues. he has put in his time.

it's time to give him his oscar.

will win: jeff bridges, crazy heart
should win: jeff bridges, crazy heart (with colin firth just edged out into 2nd place)


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Supporting Actress

the nominees for best supporting actress are:

penélope cruz, nine
vera farmiga, up in the air
maggie gyllenhaal, crazy heart
anna kendrick, up in the air
mo'nique, precious: based on the novel 'push' by sapphire

as i mentioned when discussing best supporting actor, the best supporting actress category appears to be a lock.... possibly even more so than supporting actor.

and many of the old rules can be thrown out quite quickly.

there is no nominee who could be seen as a lifetime achievement winner. but, as discussed, that rarely even holds true for the supporting categories any more.

you have the "give the award to the actress who has been nominated before" award... and that would be penélope cruz. with nine, cruz snags her third nomination. but after winning just last year for vicky cristina barcelona... it's too soon to award her with another oscar (no matter how incredibly sexy she is).

so that brings us to our four, first-time nominees.

maggie gyllenhaal finally joins her brother, jake, in the realm of the oscar nominated with her nod for crazy heart. and she has long been overshadowed by her brother who was nominated in the supporting ranks for brokeback mountain. but gyllenhaal has turned in a string of stunning performances, including her recent role in sherrybaby, which many people thought deserved a nomination.

this year gyllenhaal was more of a surprise nominee, possibly pushing out one-time nomination fave julianne moore for her work in a single man.

but after several films and a number of critics awards for her work in sherrybaby and secretary, this nomination is more of an acknowledgement of gyllenhaal's talent and the promise of an oscar to come.

at this point in the race, up in the air co-stars kendrick and farmiga most likely cancel each other out... for a time, kendrick seemed the talk of the oscar statuette. and both seemed to be strong candidates for the ultimate win. but up in the air seems to have lost most of its momentum.

and then came a movie with the pretentious title: precious: based on the novel 'push' by sapphire.

and then came mo'nique's shocking and horrifying performance as mary, mother to precious.

to my knowledge, nothing prepared us for mo'nique's turn in precious. her performance is bare-knuckled ugly and she holds nothing back. mary is evil and mo'nique embraces it.... and then hurls it at her daughter's head.

mo'nique's performance is brave enough to leave all glamour at the door. and she creates one of the most despicable characters ever to be captured on celluloid. and if you don't believe... be brave enough to watch until the very end. just when you think mary can be no more pathetic, mo'nique is there to peel back another layer... and sink even lower into her character's darkness.

mo'nique, even after a potentially destructive and obnoxious start to an oscar campaign, has gone on to win nearly every critics award... including the golden globe and the screen actor's guild.

there is no stopping mo'nique with this powerhouse performance. it's monstrous. it's sickening. it's the best performance of the year.... and without question, deserving of the win and a lock for the gold.

will win: mo'nique, precious...
should win: mo'nique, precious...


Monday, March 1, 2010

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor

the nominees for best supporting actor are:

matt damon, invictus
woody harrelson, the messenger
christopher plummer, the last station
stanley tucci, the lovely bones
christoph waltz, inglourious basterds

let me begin by saying we should not be in store for many surprises come oscar night. everything seems to have fallen into place with only an odd new voting system for best picture potentially upsetting the givens.

and in no category may this be more true than best supporting actor. okay.... maybe best supporting actress. but that's tomorrow.

christoph waltz's explosive turn as colonel hans landa in inglourious basterds manages to overshadow a film filled with tarantino irreverence. beyond the dialogue. beyond the slickness of production. beyond brad pitt.... waltz raises basterds. he brings nuance. he brings evil. but beyond that.... he brings weight to the story.

waltz has won every major critics award from the new york film critics circle to the los angeles film critics association. he's won the broadcast film critics and the national society of film critics awards. he's taken home the golden globe and the screen actors guild. he even won the gold at cannes.

i mean, seriously... who can stop him?

this is matt damon's first oscar nomination since his oscar nomination for acting and oscar win for writing good will hunting 12 years ago. and in invictus he is overshadowed by morgan freeman's mandela.

this is actually woody harrelson's second oscar nomination. he was nominated back in 1996 for best actor for his work in the people vs. larry flynt. the academy often likes to award prior nominees but the messenger was seen little and i expect harrelson would come in a distant fourth in the final ballot.

then you have stanley tucci garnering his first nod for the lovely bones. unfortunately, bones is such a mess of a movie it might be difficult for academy voters to find any way to stomach rewarding the film. no, tucci's nomination is more, finally, a recognition of his talent.... it also probably helped that he turned in an equally impressive performance in another mess of a film: julie & julia.

and speaking of a long overdue recognition of talent: christopher plummer, at age 80 and after 5 decades of making movies, garners his first nomination this year with the last station. there was a time (not long ago) when the supporting categories were often used more as a lifetime achievement award than an honor bestowed upon the most deserving performance. perhaps in the 70s or the 80s, possibly even the 90s, plummer would have been given the gold simply for his life's work.

but the academy has moved away from that and has, somehow, found a way to honor (more often than not) the most deserving.

perhaps plummer's nomination - which is much deserved, i'd like to add - will be honor enough for him after all these years. and there just may be a lifetime achievement award for him in the near future.

but this year... i think the academy will once again get it right.

will win: christoph waltz, inglourious basterds
should win: christoph waltz, inglourious basterds