Oscar lament: The curse of high expectations

Posted in awards season, chick flick, movies by Diane on January 4, 2010

The worst thing about living so far from L.A.’s big arthouse theaters is that it often takes me a while to catch up with every award season contender. And when I do, some inevitably disappoint.

The last three I’ve seen all fall into that category. The biggest disappointment, which really shouldn’t have been due to the underwhelming early word, was “Nine.” But what can I say: I really WANTED to like it, having bought into the stylish trailer hook, line and sinker. When others pooh-poohed it, I quizzed them on their reaction to “Chicago,” the earlier Rob Marshall musical adaptation, which I found hugely entertaining, but others caviled about. If they were tepid about that, I reasoned, they might also be immune to “Nine’s” charms.

Sadly, everyone else was right: the magic was all too fitful in “Nine.” After a rousing opening set-piece the movie quickly became tedious. So much so that I wanted to stretch out and take a nap during the inert musical numbers and fantasy sequences.

“Crazy Heart” and “The Young Victoria” were both far more entertaining, but didn’t so much scream Oscar movie as possible Oscar vehicles. Both have been mentioned in acting categories, Jeff Bridges as the down and out country singer in the former, and Emily Blunt as the young royal in the latter.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is also very good in “Crazy Heart,” but the story’s a little thin. And “The Young Victoria” is way too goopy — a little more intrigue and less romance would have better served the plot. Blunt’s royal may be spirited but she’s no match for Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth I or Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth II.

Were the filmmakers trying to sugar coat the story for female audiences? I wish they wouldn’t. There’s enough pandering in modern-day romances, most recent example being “It’s Complicated.” (What do women want? Strong writing.)

I still have a few biggies to go, most notably “Avatar” and “The Lovely Bones.” But the good news, I guess, is that I don’t have high expectations for either, given their genres, and the trailers I’ve seen.

I will tell you this: That royal robe unfurled at the start of “The Young Victoria” is to die for. I only wish I could find a photo that does it justice. And that the rest of the movie lived up to its opening splendor.


Telling it like it is: The ugly truth about sexism (and ageism)

Posted in chick flick, journalism trends, media, movies, NYT, studios, Uncategorized by Diane on December 15, 2009

Manohla Dargis’s barbaric yawp about Hollywood went viral yesterday, and for good reason: The NYT critic let loose on rampant sexism in an interview with feminist-leaning Jezebel, spewing four-letter words with abandon. The interview made explicit that which her Sunday NYT essay on female directors suggested: She’s deeply pissed off about studios that repeatedly fail women in their choices of material and talent.

Among the many choice bits:

Working within the system has not worked. It has not helped women filmmakers or, even more important, you and me, women audiences, to have women in the studio system.

and a personal pet peeve — the constant surprise that women like seeing entertaining movies about women:

This, gee whiz, Sex and the City‘s a hit, Twilight, hmm, wonder what’s going on here. Maybe they should not be so surprised. In the trade press, women audiences are considered a niche. How is that even possible? We’re 51 percent of the audience.

It’s not just the trade press, either; this surprise seems to creep into consumer box office reports as well.

Dargis is equally scathing about the suggestion that she take it easy on films directed by women, calling the notion “incredibly insulting.” But mostly she hopes that Kathryn Bigelow (pictured above) wins the Oscar for directing “The Hurt Locker,” a muscular action movie.

Ageism “Up in the Air”…

People like Sandra Bullock movies. Get over it.

Posted in chick flick, movies by Diane on November 24, 2009

Okay, so Sandra Bullock isn’t hip. And she’s definitely middle-aged. But does everyone have to act surprised EVERY SINGLE TIME she’s in a box office hit?

Last weekend, “The Blind Side” did much better than expected, confounding those that expected all women to go to the “Twilight” sequel and/or be turned off by the football and men to steer clear of a tearjerker starring of all things, a middle-aged woman. Guess what? Some women had no interest in seeing “The New Moon” and some men didn’t fear the femme mixed with sports. “The Blind Side” earned $35 million its opening weekend, topping Sandra Bullock’s best, for “The Proposal” earlier this year.

Moviegoers gave it extremely high marks — it received an A+ Cinemascore rating, only the second this year after “Up,” the LA Times noted.

Straining for an explanation…


Meryl 2.0: Seriously great movie star

Posted in chick flick, movies by Diane on August 12, 2009

meryljuliaThe Boston Globe’s Ty Burr uses Meryl Streep’s joyous turn in “Julie & Julia” to make his case that the actress has become a movie star in her AARP years. Yes, she has been considered a great actress for years, but that’s a different beast from movie stardom, Burr points out, citing her boffo turns in “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Mamma Mia!” as evidence of her ability to pull in the crowds. What’s more she’s driving femme-fueled box office at 60, an age when earlier greats were reduced to horror movies or movies skewed to mature auds. “Streep, by contrast, seems to have entered her second childhood as an actress. She’s having fun, even when playing deadly serious,” Burr writes, noting that this transformation has been underway for some time.


‘Julie & Julia’: ‘I need something to do’

Posted in chick flick, movies, NYT by Diane on August 11, 2009


Women my mother’s and Julia Child’s generations followed their husbands wherever their careers led them. In their new cities, wives busied themselves with hobbies, raising children and, if finances dictated, jobs. (Provided their husbands approved.)

Julia Child didn’t have kids, and had abandoned her foreign-service career by the time “Julie & Julia” opens. So she tried hat making and bridge classes in Paris before enrolling at Cordon Bleu. “I need something to do,” Meryl Streep trills over and over as the chef in waiting, and the actress has never been more affecting in conveying a sunny woman’s yearning for purpose.

Amy Adams, meanwhile, plays Julie Powell, a modern woman who has a job, but not satisfaction in it. Also intelligent – she went to Amherst to Childs’s Smith – and married to a sympathetic man, she is toiling away as a Manhattan bureaucrat, her literary ambitions on hold while her contemporaries climb the ladder to success. Cooking is Powell’s release, and, it turns out, her salvation: She rediscovers her voice blogging about her one-year mission to cook all the recipes in Child’s 1961 bestseller, “Mastering the Art of French Cuisine.”

Julie could use a little more Julia…


‘The Proposal’ surpasses ‘Sex and the City’

Posted in box office, chick flick by Diane on August 10, 2009

proposal“G.I. Joe” dominated the weekend box office, and coverage of it, but “The Proposal” passed a marker of its own: It surpassed “Sex and the City’s” domestic BO haul, the NYT points out. “The Proposal,” a movie that reminded Hollywood of Sandra Bullock’s comedic prowess, has racked up $155 million at U.S. theaters, quietly becoming one of the decade’s most successful rom-coms. NYT