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February 2009 Archives

February 23, 2009

Pretending to be famous at the Oscars

Oscars tickets

Oscars wooo!

It was a better show than usual this year, largely because of Hugh Jackman's natural showmanship and unstoppable appeal and charm and talent and handsomeness. Plus Ben Kingsley! And Beyoncé and her red glittery hips! [video] Woo!

If you watched the red carpet interviews and saw the event on TV, you pretty much saw everything there was to see. So here are just a few notes about being there and the whole crazy experience:

  • My buddy Shemrock and I arrived at the Kodak Theater later than planned, on account of the unwavering persecution of pedestrians in LA (see below.) So we had limited mingling time at the pre-show cocktail party. But we did walk the red carpet along with Kate Winslet, Penélope Cruz, Alicia Keys, and Taraji Nelson. I said hi to a very sweetly giddy Dev Patel and told him I dug him in "Skins", like a BBC America nerd.
  • Even when your hotel is only a couple of blocks away, you cannot walk to the Oscars. It might be simpler for everyone involved if you could walk up to the security check point and show your ticket and ID, but instead you have to wait in a really long line of cars, show a special car pass to a series of cops, get your car checked for explosives, and have a valet take it and park it in a huge garage and then get it for you again afterwards. Shemrock figured out that LA must be at the mercy of an all-powerful valet union that calls all the shots in the city.
  • It's true that the academy is largely made up of very elderly people. They were everywhere. The ones sitting next to me momentarily got excited about Eva Marie Saint, and spent the rest of the evening complaining about how long the show was.
  • During commercial breaks, Hugh Jackman kept the crowd entertained. Part way through, he read a note that his wife had passed up to him from out in the audience, which said, "Show's going great, dear. I'm hungry." So he got a plate of cookies, ran out into the audience and gave cookies to his wife, Sam Mendes, and some guy who looked like DJ Qualls.
  • We also got to see a little montage video of various celebrities talking about the Best Picture nominees. You can watch it here. There's Robert Evans, Michael Stipe, Flea, Mike Bloomberg, Mike Nichols, Hugh Hefner, Sarah Silverman, Mickey Rooney, Graydon Carter, Joe Torre, Spike Jonze, and the French guy from Man on Wire.
  • Oddest moment: The guys in front of me at the valet pick-up had their car pulled around. It was a hearse.
  • Funniest moment: Shemrock and I were approaching the theater, driving down Hollywood Blvd through screaming crowds of people behind barricades on the sidewalks who were there to see all the famous people driving by. Shem rolls down the windows and shouts, "I was in The Dark Knight!"

Luckily, I was too busy getting ready to go to the Oscars this year to get into a betting pool, because I would have gotten destroyed. Departures? Did anyone get that one right? Here are all the winners.

Oscar hates America

Sean and Hugo

While we await an on-the-spot report, it's worth pointing out that the US did not fare well in the Oscars. There was an Australian host, almost all of the major categories were dominated by Europeans and Asians, and the only American winners in big categories were a gay screenwriter and notorious Anti-American Sean Penn. I guess Hollywood liberals really do hate America.

Update: As far as I'm concerned Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black are as American as apple pie and Mickey Rourke, but they are somewhat more marginalized than say, Meryl Streep.

February 19, 2009

No Tonya Hardings in competitive yoga

International Yoga Asana Championship

I bet you thought about Neal Pollack a lot more 5 years ago than you do these days. But he's still out there: he had an article on Slate a few days ago about the International Yoga Asana Championship that happened in LA earlier this month. (He's also writing a book about the "weird and circuslike" world of yoga culture.)

In the article, a lot of competitive yogis talk about how strange people think it is to practice yoga like a sport, and the charismatic leader of the competitive yoga circuit, Bikram Choudhury, says wonderful things like, "I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me."

Anyway, to counter the impression that competitive yogis are a bunch of aggressive cutthroats who stomp each other's chakras on their way to the top, the U.S. women's champion says, "The competition gets a lot of flak from a lot of people, but it's not like anyone's trying to crack anyone else's kneecaps."

This Slate article came out the same day that Tonya Harding, the original kneecapper, appeared on HBO's monthly sports show "Real Sports", and said that she's paid her debts for her involvement with the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan and thinks she's suffered enough. She mentions Barack Obama's derisive namecheck during his campaign [video]. Girl, if people as good-natured and benevolent as Barack Obama and the world's greatest yogi are still bad-mouthing you in public, it's probably not ever going to stop.

Tonya Harding does admit that as long as people like Barack Obama keep dropping her name, she'll keep getting more paid gigs, I guess in her new career as a pro boxer. Just give in already and do a season of "The Surreal Life", you'll be fine.

Here's a video of her catching a big catfish, and asking the HBO interviewer, "How much responsibility do you think I need to take?"

February 17, 2009

Swapping spit

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman kiss in Notorious

[composite from Notorious by Solitaire Miles]

One of my favorite hilarious anecdote generators is: What was your all-time worst kiss? Everyone seems to have a good answer to this question, and the story they tell will almost definitely be characterized by some combination of surprise, embarrassment, misunderstanding, and physical repulsion.

And saliva. My research suggests some overlap between the worst kisses and the sloppiest, spittiest kisses, which brings us to an interesting study on Wired.

A Rutgers biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher, spoke at a science conference about kissing as a process of mate selection and the chemistry that partially determines whether we like kissing a certain person or not. Yes, we assess each other by our spit.

And check this out: saliva has testosterone in it. So, Fisher suggests, men tend to like sloppier kisses because they are unconsciously trying to dose their dates with testosterone to get their partners turned on.

OK, hold on a second. While this chemically makes some sense--getting a boost of testosterone will probably get one's mojo running--there should be an urgent warning attached to any suggestion that one's kisses should be as wet and slobbery as possible. You can douse your partner with a bucket full of super-testosterone-spiked drool and your date might not become frenzied with lust.

Fisher talks about this concern:

One male reporter asked, "Should I drool more when I kiss? Are you suggesting men would be more successful if they passed more saliva?" he asked. "People will want to know that."

After Fisher first mistook "drool" said with an English accent for "drill" and asked if it was some sort of British kissing technique, she dodged the question saying she's not in the "should business," about what you should or shouldn't do.

But, she did offer the advice that "you don't want to turn your partner off."

Helen Fisher's other works look good too. She's got articles on the neurobiology of stalking and the science of love, lust, and rejection among college students.

February 12, 2009

Oscar Picks

Preparing for the Oscars

OK everyone, it's time to imagine that you're a member of the Academy. Maybe you were the props master for Big Trouble in Little China, the sound mixer for Tootsie, or Karl Malden. How do you think the Academy will vote? Ballots are due Tuesday.

Here are all the nominees for the Oscars. Our picks of who we think will (not should) win are below.

Here's the NY Times poll, where you can vote for what you want to win even though you know deep down those bastards are going to give the Oscar to Benjamin f'ing Button. They'll score your ballot during the awards on Feb. 22.

Through a miraculous set of circumstances, I am going to attend the Oscars this year. So far, the to-do list includes sitting next to Jack Nicholson (so I'll get on TV all one thousand times the camera cuts to him cackling in the front row), doing keg stands with Wesley Snipes at Prince's afterparty, and making out with any combination of the following: Clive Owen, Amy Adams, Mickey Rourke, and Werner Herzog.

Please add your own picks in the comments.

Nominees are:

Actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor"
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn in "Milk"
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" [Amy] He's had some practice delivering acceptance speeches now, so this one might be less rambling and weird, but I still can't wait to hear it.
[Cushie] I think Mickey should win and probably will, even though he was arguably playing himself and maybe Sean Penn's Milk was a harder role.

Actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in "Milk"
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt"
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" [Amy] This would be a really interesting race if Heath Ledger hadn't died. [Cushie] He can't lose.
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road"

Actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" [Cushie] She deserves it, I think, but might only get it because of strange vote splitting. Awards voters do love Streep and Winslet.
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling"
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep in "Doubt"
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" [Amy] If enough voters bumped her up to Best Actress from Supporting, I think she's got it.

Actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in "Doubt"
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" [Amy] This is a really strong category this year. The Academy loves mentally unstable supporting actresses, so I think she'll get it.
Viola Davis in "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" [Cushie] Tough call but who can resist the stripper with a heart of gold. In an Aronofsky movie. Played by the delightful Marisa Tomei.

Animated feature film
"Kung Fu Panda"
"WALL-E" [Amy] [Cushie] Beauty and the Beast got nominated for Best Picture, and this one didn't?!

Art direction
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" [Amy] Anyone who could remind us all of what Brad Pitt looked like when he was 23 deserves an Oscar as far as I'm concerned.
"The Dark Knight" [Cushie] Doesn't everyone love this crazy dystopian Gotham?
"The Duchess"
"Revolutionary Road"

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight" [Amy]
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire" [Cushie]

Costume design
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" [Amy]
"The Duchess"
"Milk" [Cushie] [Cushie loves tight jeans. -Amy]
"Revolutionary Road"

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" David Fincher
"Frost/Nixon" Ron Howard
"Milk" Gus Van Sant [Amy] Anything that isn't Slumdog is a long shot, but I think the Academy might throw a bone to Gus Van Sant since he won't win Best Picture, and as a sort of Proposition 8 protest
"The Reader" Stephen Daldry
"Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle [Cushie]. This is Danny Boyle's big moment.

Documentary feature
"The Betrayal"
"Encounters at the End of the World"
"The Garden"
"Man on Wire" [Cushie] So the producers don't have to embarrassingly cut to Samuel L. Jackson and Debbie Allen in the audience when the Black Documentary wins.
"Trouble the Water" [Amy] Oh yeah, they're going to cut to Sam Jackson and Lou Gossett, Jr, alright. This one is the popular favorite, though Man On Wire is the best nominee.

Documentary short subject
"The Conscience of Nhem En"
"The Final Inch"
"Smile Pinki"
"The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306" [Amy] I have no idea, but I went to the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis last year, and who's gonna argue with a MLK doc? [Cushie]

Film editing
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Slumdog Millionaire" [Amy] There sure were a lot of cuts in this movie! Remember: for the Academy, "Best Editing" is usually the same as "Most Editing".[Cushie] Since Slumdog gets no acting awards it has to pad its numbers.

Foreign language film
"The Baader Meinhof Complex" Germany
"The Class" France [Cushie] I really don't know.
"Departures" Japan
"Revanche" Austria
"Waltz with Bashir" Israel [Amy] What a great movie.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" [Amy]
"The Dark Knight" [Cushie]
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Music (score)
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Slumdog Millionaire" [Amy][Cushie]

Music (song)
"Down to Earth" from "WALL-E" Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
"Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire" A.R. Rahman and Gulzar
"O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire" A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam [Amy] M.I.A. on stage will be this year's Three 6 Mafia. Especially if she just gave birth a couple of hours earlier! [Cushie] It will be funniest if she is still pregnant.

Best picture
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire" [Amy] I wish it was Milk. Oh well. [Cushie]

Animated short film
"La Maison en Petits Cubes"
"Lavatory - Lovestory" [Cushie] No idea but I had to be different from Amy.
"Presto" [Amy]
"This Way Up"

Live action short film
"Auf der Strecke (On the Line)" [Amy] Got a chance to watch these, and this was the best one. Really great little movie.
"Manon on the Asphalt"
"New Boy"
"The Pig" [Cushie]
"Spielzeugland (Toyland)"

Sound editing
"The Dark Knight" [Amy]
"Iron Man"
"Slumdog Millionaire" [Cushie]

Sound mixing
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Slumdog Millionaire" [Amy][Cushie]

Visual effects
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight" [Amy][Cushie]
"Iron Man"

Adapted screenplay
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Doubt" [Amy]
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire" [Cushie]

Original screenplay
"Frozen River"
"Happy-Go-Lucky" [Amy] Maybe my favorite category this year--I'd be happy for any of these to win. Though the consolation prize that Gus Van Sant wins could be this one instead of Best Director.
"In Bruges"
"Milk" [Cushie]

February 10, 2009

Eva Green's womb

Eva Green

Let me tell you something that Wired is really good at. When they put the first sentence or two from their blog posts up on the front page, they often end the excerpt at exactly the most tantalizing point in the post.

Case in point:

"After playing the only Bond Girl to break 007's heart, actress Eva Green now turns to the future with sci-fi drama Womb.

The sultry French actress will portray a widow who misses her late husband so much she decides to..."

Decides to WHAT? Let's see: dead husband, sci-fi, "Womb". Maybe she steals her husband's body and impregnates herself with his decaying genetic material, resulting in a screwed-up mutated zombie baby? Or coerces his aging parents into having another child using herself as a surrogate or something creepy like that?

When you click through to read the entire post, you learn that, of course, she has the dead husband cloned. Which sounds cool too, and will hopefully bring up all the disturbing, Frankenstein-like implications of cloning, since she will almost definitely treat the cloned guy like she owns him and force him to marry her and basically be her creature. Isn't that the point?

I have to admit that I'm a little in love with Eva Green and the sassy but inscrutable and sort of messed-up sensibility she brought to her characters in The Dreamers and Casino Royale. Hopefully Womb's director will also make good use of her outstanding rack.

The guy who's going to be the new Doctor Who next year, Matt Smith, plays the dead/undead husband.

February 9, 2009

Meet your new overlords

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Thanks to the wonders of a bicameral legislature, where small states get as much power as large states in the Senate, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are pretty much deciding our fates. Together they represent the 1,274,923 people of Maine. That's about the same number as people who live in the Nashville metro area, or Providence, RI.

Thanks to Senate filibuster rules, these two moderate Republican Maine ladies are prime targets to bring the Democrats to the 60 votes they'll need for cloture on all kinds of issues.

Obama knows the importance of winning these two over. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Robert Gibbs said on Friday: "Last month the economy lost 598,000 jobs. That is the equivalent of losing every job in the state of Maine."

Some of us may feel a little hard done by. I voted for Obama, not for Snowe and Collins. This is like a hung parliament where some fringe party holds the balance of power. On the other hand, these two support Obama almost all the time. It's not like all the Democrats will be this supportive (we're looking at you Ben Nelson and Joe the Independent). And Snowe and Collins are both pro-choice.

If I have to go through the next two years with key policy decisions resting on these two people and the foibles of their 1.2 million constituents, I guess I'll just brace myself for lots of pork for the good people of Maine (even though they prefer lobster).

February 6, 2009

She's just not that into this movie

He's just not that into you

This new movie He's Just Not That Into You, based on a book, based on a line of dialogue from a sitcom, looks just awful. I've been trying to figure out what is so loathsome about this movie, and Manohla Dargis's review spells it out: what kind of woman would be at all interested in watching a movie like this? It's ostensibly about the realities of women's dating lives, but the movie sounds like a unreconstructed male dating fantasy: dickheady guys are surrounded with gorgeous, available, and interested women who are also highly insecure and probably crazy. When they want to see these women, they do, and when they don't, the ladies have to go off by themselves and read self-help books to try to cope with the agony of rejection.

The problem here is that the movie is marketed all wrong. The target audience should be single men, not single women. If the writers had thrown in better jokes, some decent male actors, a lot more sex, and replaced all scenes in which women shop or get manicures together with scenes of guys playing video games and doing shots, you'd have a movie that would actually make sense.

Actually, I think the movie I'm envisioning is the last 6 movies produced by Judd Apatow.

Anyway, Manohla's review is great. She envisions what the movie would look like if it were successfully targeted to a female audience, by asking, "What Would Thelma and Louise Do?" after a character goes on a bad date with a drippy guy named Conor:

What would Thelma have done? Well, she might have bedded Conor with gusto (and no marriage plans), as she does a hitchhiker with miles of muscle played by the young Brad Pitt. (Her greatest lament: he rips her off.) And Louise? Given that her lover is played by the gruff and grown-up Michael Madsen, I like to think she wouldn't even have bothered with Conor. (That, or shot him.)

Adult women like Louise might pull a Mrs. Robinson on special occasions, though not if there’s a man like Mr. Madsen steaming up the room. But adults have become something of an endangered species in big studio movies, particularly in romantic comedies, where female desire now largely seems reserved for shoes, wedding bells and babies.

A good anti-HJNTIY is last year's Happy-Go-Lucky, in which a female character actually gets what she wants sometimes without being desperate, pathetic, or insane.

February 4, 2009

Recession hits the Times Dining section

Biggest Loser kitchen

Hard times seem to have arrived all at once at today's Dining section. The main articles include a piece on the desperate measures expensive restaurants are taking to get people to come in; peanut butter as a recession-proof source of protein that everybody loves, salmonella be damned (though I was stunned to learn that smooth far outsells crunchy in American homes. I'm a superchunk girl.)

The other main feature is about NBC's "The Biggest Loser", which appears in the Dining section although the main involvement that the show's contestants have with food is that they don't eat any of it. Also odd that they chose to cover the show now, when it's been on for 7 seasons, but I guess now is a good time to report on a show that encourages viewers to alternately fast and eat nothing but asparagus (which makes you pee your weight off, apparently.)

I've never watched a whole episode of "The Biggest Loser", and the only bits I've seen consisted of overweight people suffering through byzantine and painful-looking physical challenges. The Times focuses on the diet part of the competition, and uncovers all kinds of really freaky relationships with food that contestants have, which are probably intensified by having to lose hundreds of pounds with piles of money at stake, while on national TV.

Some especially crazy highlights from the article:

  • "The first two weeks, you're throwing up so much from working out, you're so tired, the last thing you want to do is eat," said Ed Brantley, a chef in Raleigh, who in the last season lost 139 pounds (more than 40 percent of his body weight). [This is because they work out SIX TO TEN HOURS A DAY.]
  • Soon, food becomes the devil they love to control. Every contestant is required to eat a minimum number of calories each day and is supposed to keep a daily food journal to prove it. But many of them actually eat less. "It gets so you crave that feeling of going to bed with hunger pains in your stomach," said Erik Chopin, a Long Island deli owner who won the show in 2006, going to 193 pounds from 407.
  • During scheduled "temptations," contestants are bribed to eat junk food with prizes like cash and calls home, sometimes while locked in a dark room with mountains of candy. "We want to simulate the real world in there," said Dave Broome, a co-creator of the show. [Mountains of candy? That's a real world I want to live in.]

The upshot of the article is that once they're back in the actual real world, the one with food other than broccoli and kale in it, most contestants put the weight back on.

Though this is definitely the most belt-tightening Dining section I've ever read in the Times, it also features a Frank Bruni review of the Oak Room, "A Waltz of Gilt and Truffles", that contains this: "My fork sank into tender venison in a classically dark, rich, winy sauce as my eyes traveled up, up, up the sculptured oak walls toward a ceiling more than two stories high. That ceiling was framed by yard upon yard of gold molding and trim. If heaven is wood-paneled, it probably looks something like this."

The rest of us will just stick with our peanut butter and carrot sticks.

February 2, 2009

Who'dat?™: child actors, drug traffickers

Today's edition of Who'dat?™ is just about impossible, but you can go ahead and click on the photo below if you think you know who it is before I give it away.


But here's a hint: "Horses Are Pretty".

Yes! It's little Hallie Kate Eisenberg, who played temperamental indie director Christie in IFC's funny ads from the late 90's [watch examples, "You be quiet! No you be quiet!" and "Lili doesn't know her lines today"].

So the real news is here is that Hallie Kate Eisenberg is going to star in a new movie currently being filmed in NYC called Holy Rollers, and it sounds awesome.

The movie is based on a true story about a ring of drug traffickers who brought an insane amount of Ecstasy into the US in the late 90's. The twist: they were all Hasidic Jews. Sean Erez, an Israeli-Canadian in his early 30s, worked with a 17 year-old kid from Brooklyn, Shimon Levita, who recruited his teenage friends to make trips back and forth to Amsterdam carrying tens of thousands of pills at a time. The LA Times has a good pretty story on the case from around the time everyone was sentenced in 2001. Also the NY Times quotes Levita speaking to a New York judge during his sentencing: "I was raised in a real orthodox religious house," he said, hands clasped behind his back. "We didn't have no television and no radio. I didn't know what drugs were. But in nine months in jail, I learned what they can do."

Yesterday's Daily News had a good piece on the movie--they interview director Kevin Asch and actor/producer Danny Abeckaser, who got the idea for the movie while watching a documentary on the real smugglers on Discovery. The article covers a nightclub scene that was shot recently at Marquee, with a great photo of guys in yarmulkes and black suits walking through a crowd of dancing club kids.

The young smugglers are played by Jesse Eisenberg, the older brother in The Squid and the Whale, and Justin Bartha from National Treasure. Cast also features 16 year-old Hallie Kate Eisenberg, and, best of all, Q-Tip as an Ethiopian Jew named Ephraim.

Last year, the real Sean Erez was convicted, again, for trafficking cocaine in Toronto.

About February 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in February 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2009 is the previous archive.

March 2009 is the next archive.

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