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February 2011 Archives

February 28, 2011

Oscars: bad jokes, zero surprises

Oscar winners on stage

It was a slow night at the Oscars. One joke after another fell flat, and the funniest and most exciting moments were when former Oscars host Billy Crystal showed up and introduced a montage of Bob Hope from his many successful years of hosting. He got a standing ovation from a crowd desperately grateful for a minute or two of well-delivered jokes. Please, Billy, just step in and take over!, everybody wished.

There also wasn't a single upset in the major awards. That was good for me--I got 17 out of 24 predictions--but it made for one snooze of a night. Maybe if I'd had some skin in the game it would have been exhilarating instead of utterly predictable. Note to self: gamble more.

Here's the interesting stuff I learned last night, all of which was reported during E!'s red carpet broadcast, which is the first year that the red carpet might actually have been more exciting than the show:

First, Mila Kunis reported that she was on a 1,200 calorie/day diet in preparation for Black Swan. That means two meals per day (based on a typical 1,800 calorie/day diet for women) plus she was doing tons of rigorous training for the ballet scenes.

Then in one of the news ticker headlines that ran along the bottom of the screen, I read that Hugh Jackman is on a 6,000 calorie/day diet in preparation for The Wolverine, which is going to be Darren Aronofsky's next movie. That's like taking everything Mila Kunis ate in a single day, and eating all of it FIVE TIMES, EVERY DAY. Jackman's wife told Ryan Seacrest that every day he basically eats an entire cow. (Or an entire Mila Kunis.)

So if you get cast in a Darren Aronofsky movie, you should know that you're going to find out what it's like to have an eating disorder.

Another bit of news: There's going to be a movie version of the 80's hair metal Broadway musical "Rock of Ages", starring Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, lead singer of fictitious band Arsenal. Adam Shankman, who was last year's Oscars director, is directing the adaptation, and confirms that, in spite what you might think based on the "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" scene from Top Gun, Cruise can sing.

Sure, OK, he can sing, but Tom Cruise is 49 years old. It makes sense to cast Tom Cruise in this role--if it was being made in 1985. As it is, we're going to watch him sing "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "Renegade" in a C.C. DeVille wig, and it's going to be compelling in a delusional, psycho-nostalgic way, and very creepy.

February 22, 2011

I have no idea who's getting an Oscar

The royal family in The King's Speech

Ballots are due today! I'm more perplexed than usual this year about who's going to win. Lots of categories are complete mysteries, even when I apply my standard Oscars prediction algorithm: Hollywood Loves to Feel Good About Hollywood. I've seen just about every movie that got major nominations this year (with the exception of Toy Story 3) but that hasn't helped at all.

The fact is, a mysterious consensus sometimes just magically coalesces around nominees for no apparent reason; as Roger Ebert describes it, "such matters are decided by currents wafting in the air." Sometimes everybody notices those forces at work, like with Colin Firth this year, but sometimes I completely miss them, like when Slumdog Millionaire won like every single damn Oscar that one year.

So here we go. These are our predictions for what will win, not necessarily what we want to win. Here are all the nominees, and the NY Times' online ballot. You can put your own picks in the comments.

Best Picture
"Black Swan"
"The Fighter"
"The Kids Are All Right"
"The King's Speech" (Amy) Hollywood people feel better about rewarding inspiring and sentimental movies like this rather than one about back-stabbing greedy nerds.
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network"
"Toy Story 3"
"True Grit"
"Winter's Bone"

Best Actor
Javier Bardem in "Biutiful"
Jeff Bridges in "True Grit"
Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network"
Colin Firth in "The King's Speech" (Amy) He's really great, as he is in everything. I'd love Jesse Eisenberg to get it, but he's got plenty of time.
James Franco in "127 Hours"

Best Actress
Annette Bening in "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman in "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman in "Black Swan" (Amy) Natalie gets the curse. So much for your new happy life! Annette Bening deserves to win after all these years, but histrionics trump subtlety in actress awards.
Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine"

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale in "The Fighter" (Amy) The least interesting nominee in my favorite category of the year. Still, not half bad.
John Hawkes in "Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner in "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo in "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech"

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams in "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter in "The King's Speech"
Melissa Leo in "The Fighter" (Amy) Not happy about this one, and I usually love Melissa Leo. Hailee Steinfeld's my girl.
Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"
Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom"

Best Director
"Black Swan" Darren Aronofsky
"The Fighter" David O. Russell
"The King's Speech" Tom Hooper (Amy) Really hard category. No way would I predict this guy, but he won DGA, and Best Picture and Best Director are almost always the same. I'd rather see anyone else win, and not just because I'm a patriot.
"The Social Network" David Fincher
"True Grit" Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Adapted Screenplay
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network" (Amy) Here's another one for you, Aaron Sorkin.
"Toy Story 3"
"True Grit"
"Winter's Bone"

Original Screenplay
"Another Year"
"The Fighter"
"The Kids Are All Right"
"The King's Speech" (Amy) But I hope Mike Leigh wins for Another Year. Or at least that Christopher Nolan doesn't for that awful Inception script.

Animated Feature Film
"How to Train Your Dragon"
"The Illusionist"
"Toy Story 3" (Amy) Anyone else think this award is getting tedious?

Art Direction
"Alice in Wonderland" (Amy) Good art direction is what Tim Burton does these days instead of good movies.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1"
"The King's Speech"
"True Grit"

"Black Swan"
"The King's Speech"
"The Social Network"
"True Grit" (Amy) Go Roger Deakins! It's your year!

Costume Design
"Alice in Wonderland"
"I Am Love"
"The King's Speech" (Amy)
"The Tempest"
"True Grit"

"Exit Through the Gift Shop"
"Inside Job" (Amy) Really wish it was Banksy, but it's very important that we punish Wall Street via an entertainment industry awards ceremony.
"Waste Land"

Documentary (Short Subject)
"Killing in the Name"
"Poster Girl"
"Strangers No More" (Amy) Cute refugee children in Tel Aviv. Awww.
"Sun Come Up"
"The Warriors of Qiugang"

Film Editing
"Black Swan"
"The Fighter"
"The King's Speech"
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network" (Amy) Sure are a lot of cuts in this movie! I hope Black Swan wins, but since "Best" is usually synonymous with "Most", this probably will.

Foreign Language Film
"Biutiful" Mexico
"Dogtooth" Greece
"In a Better World" Denmark
"Incendies" Canada (Amy) I hear it's pretty.
"Outside the Law" Algeria

"Barney's Version"
"The Way Back"
"The Wolfman" (Amy) Definitely the hardest makeup, anyway.

Original Score
"How to Train Your Dragon"
"The King's Speech"
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network" (Amy) Not so confident the Academy will bestow its greatest honor on Trent Reznor, but it's possible.

Original Song
"Coming Home" from "Country Strong"
"I See the Light" from "Tangled"
"If I Rise" from "127 Hours"
"We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3" (Amy) I assumed Randy Newman had dozens of Oscars, but he's actually only got one.

Animated Short Film
"Day & Night" (Amy) Pixar always wins. I liked The Gruffalo.
"The Gruffalo"
"Let's Pollute"
"The Lost Thing"
"Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)"

Short Film
"The Confession"
"The Crush" (Amy) I love Alicia Silverstone!
"God of Love"
"Na Wewe"
"Wish 143"

Sound Editing
"Toy Story 3"
"Tron: Legacy"
"True Grit"
"Unstoppable" (Amy) That train and Rosario Dawson both sounded pretty scary in the trailer.

Sound Mixing
"The King's Speech"
"The Social Network" (Amy) Sound Editing and Sound Mixing can have different nominees?
"True Grit"

Visual Effects
"Alice in Wonderland"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1"
"Inception" (Amy) One thing this movie got 100% right.
"Iron Man 2"

February 17, 2011

American "Prime Suspect"

Helen Mirren and Maria Bello, once and future Jane Tennison

I didn't even know that NBC was remaking "Prime Suspect", the British cop-drama show that ran sporadically over 7 seasons from 1991 to 2006. This was the show that starred Helen Mirren as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, one of my favorite TV characters of all time, and was the first time I saw Helen Mirren in anything.

In the first season, Tennison faces hostility from her all-male department when she's brought in to lead a tricky murder investigation. She's also got a lot of personal problems that develop over the seasons as she rises through the ranks, like alcoholism. Plus it's Helen Mirren. She absolutely owns this role, and even though now she's a big movie star who probably won't be doing television anymore, it's still some of the best stuff she's ever done.

So now NBC has cast Maria Bello to play Tennison in the remake. I like her, and she's one hard working actress: she'll regularly do 3 or 4 movies a year, including both indie movies like The Cooler and A History of Violence (which both feature somewhat controversial sex scenes,) and mainstream aging manchild romps like Grown Ups. She's good at playing smart and tough and damaged, and she's beautiful. And she's the right age--mid-40's, though she really doesn't look it. But imagining her as Jane Tennison means comparing her to Helen Mirren, and that's always going to be an unfair fight.

Not that I can think of anyone better. If I had to cast an American Jane Tennison, all I could come up with is Jodie Foster, or maybe if it were being made 10 years from now, Hilary Swank. Neither of whom seem to be doing a lot of TV these days.

A lot has changed since the early '90's in the world of female TV cops: now we have "CSI", "The Closer", "Criminal Minds", and a few of the "Law & Order"s which all have women investigators. As the AV Club says, the new version of "Prime Suspect" will be set in "a New York precinct dominated by men, which exists in an alternate universe not currently flooded with television shows about tough female detectives who tend to routinely make fools of the men who believe they dominate their precincts."

Maria Bello's got an uphill battle, but if she brings some of that boozy, funny, cynical, hard-driving attitude that she had in Thank You For Smoking, when she played the alcohol industry lobbyist and spokesperson for the Moderation Council, she'll be great.

February 16, 2011

Actresses and food

Mila Kunis eats a hotdog

There's an article in today's Times about actresses who gush in interviews about how much they love eating high-calorie, fatty, cellulite-generating foods. It isn't all that original an observation, but I love it anyway. Skinny celebrities--women--whose bodies bear little resemblance to those of basically everyone else on the planet, often make a point that they love to eat bacon. Or spaghetti bolognese with cheese. Fries with ranch sauce. Macaroni and cheese. Or if they're being interviewed by Lynn Hirschberg, truffle fries.

Like the author, I think this is part of a calculated effort to make actresses seem more approachable and easy to relate to, and less like manufactured entertainment products with starved bodies and gigantic heads. As ex-publicist Bumble Ward says, "Don't you feel awfully sorry for actresses? They're so sure that people assume they have an eating disorder that they're forced to wolf down caveman-like portions of 'comfort food' in order to appear normal."

Then the article speculates on male fascination with beautiful women eating greasy food as being a combination of two primal drives. Remember George Costanza shoving a pastrami sandwich into his face and also watching a portable TV while in bed with his girlfriend? Pretty reasonable, I guess.

I think actresses say they love food that makes you fat, which they so obviously do not eat when not doing magazine interviews, in order to allow us non-famous folk (especially women?) to cling to our fantasy that we can eat whatever we want and still look good. If Cameron Diaz can eat ribs and mac and cheese and look the way she does, why can't we? A quick glance at the butts of America tells you why not, but we still want to believe. It's comforting to see that the lithe, willowy Taylor Swift loves hotdogs.

The vegan feminist cultural theorist perspective, provided by Carol Adams in the Times article, is that seeing beautiful women eating crappy food (especially meat) encourages men to consume both women and meat. "These images of women, whether they're ads or they're in magazines, they're all saying the same thing: traditional consumption of women's bodies and animals' bodies is O.K." I see her point, but maybe another idea is that men want to believe that hot girls can eat burgers all the time and still look great. Who wants to think about a sexy girl starving herself and sadly eating a dish of steamed broccoli for dinner?

Remember when Sarah Palin revolted against Michelle Obama's suggestion that we cut back on desserts, defiantly gathering her s'mores ingredients? We want to keep eating our fries and brownies, and we want Keira Knightley to keep eating them, too. But unless bulimia is waaay more prevalent than I realize, I think if actresses really ate the way the rest of us do, they'd look like the rest of us, too.

February 15, 2011

Boxing Scots, with Underworld

Beautiful Burnout, Frantic Assembly

An awesomely intense-sounding play is coming to St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn later this month -- Beautiful Burnout, an import from the National Theatre of Scotland by production company Frantic Assembly. It's not every day you hear about a play where the actors spend months getting in shape, but this one's like that, and I'm psyched for it.

Another cool thing: the soundtrack is all Underworld. In the play's trailer, we hear "Kittens" from their album Beaucoup Fish, a pounding, energetic track that, according to me, is one of the greatest dance tracks ever blasted out of a set of speakers. Another video of the actors training features "Mo Move", the opening track from A Hundred Days Off. And the play's title is taken from a song of the same name from Oblivion With Bells.

Though this is definitely a play with a kick-ass soundtrack, and not a musical, the use of music by a single group makes me wonder what a full-on Underworld jukebox musical would be like. We've already gotten productions based on the music of Johnny Cash, ABBA, Queen, Billy Joel, and Green Day. It's only a matter of time before my generation demands an electronic jukebox musical to relive those wild, drug-fueled club days of the late '90s from $140 seats in orchestra center. Plus, Underworld's songs almost always include vocals.

So why not? Imagine the storyline: an innocent boy arrives in London, meets a sexy cowgirl waitress who's into swimming in the ocean and hard psychedelics. The two of them and a transvestite calling herself Dirty Numb Angel immerse themselves in the underground club scene, where they experience color-drenched hallucinations, transcendental confabs with Albert Einstein, and epic marathons of Bruce Lee movies, all awash in blistering techno. The audience joins in chants of "lager! lager! lager!" during the big finale, while being showered in thousands of pills.

Here's a great video about what the actors went through to get into shape for the play. I love hearing them talk about how they had to "jess keep pooshin' yehself" to "become a buhx-ah". The play was apparently inspired by Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, but the setting has clearly been moved to Glasgow.

February 14, 2011

Good Hair

Like everyone else, I grew up watching the Vidal Sassoon ads of the 80's, like the one above, dreaming of swishing around my long, lustrous, shiny hair. Unfortunately, I had curly hair that never did anything like swishing or swinging, and would just explode into a frizzed-out disaster if I brushed it too much. Products like mousse and volumizing shampoo, which were really desirable in the ads, were clearly made for those who weren't embroiled in a never-ending battle against volume.

So when I went to a Vidal Sassoon salon while living in London as a student in 1994, I was ready to see if the famous "If you don't look good, we don't look good" slogan held up. I volunteered to have one of the stylists cut my hair as part of a demonstration for Japanese hairdressing students. They could do whatever they wanted to my hair, and I got a free Vidal Sassoon cut.

That 1994 haircut was transformative. My stylist was a man named Henrich. He had a shaved head and wore a skirt. He cut my hair dry, which was immediately obviously the best way to cut curly hair, yet no one had ever done it before. He gave me a really cool haircut that made my curls look fantastic -- like they were meant to be there, instead of a genetic accident that I had failed to correct. The Japanese hairdressing students all took pictures of my head.

So when a new documentary about Vidal Sassoon, the man, came out this weekend, with the title Vidal Sassoon: How One Man Changed the World With a Pair of Scissors, that subtitle struck me as a perfectly reasonable assessment of his impact on hair, and the world. In the NY Times review, Stephen Holden writes that statements like "It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of Vidal Sassoon" are "all too much". I totally disagree.

Though I didn't realize it in 1994, Vidal Sassoon essentially liberated women from the weekly beauty parlor visits that were the norm in the mid-20th century. By focusing on the cut as the primary means of styling hair, he made the weekly ritual of curling/straightening, setting, processing, and ironing your hair or sleeping in curlers unnecessary. As described in a Time Out interview with Sassoon, his goal was to "create looks that were tailor-made to a person's features, beautiful shapes that were as eye-catching as they were unique--and, most of all, easy to maintain."

Sassoon's own transformation from a poor Jewish boy raised in a London orphanage to the world's most famous hairdresser is pretty compelling, too. He's still alive, and in his 80's. Here's the trailer.

There's one giant asterisk, here: the Vidal Sassoon architectural method mostly applied to white women, or women with non-kinky hair. Almost all the women swinging their glossy hair around in those 80's ads (or hair products ads today) have swishy white-lady hair.

Which brings us to Chris Rock's 2009 documentary, Good Hair, which is without a doubt the most eye-opening documentary I have ever seen. Post-Sassoon, many black women follow the same kind of weekly hair regimen that white women abandoned in the 60's. Chris Rock made this movie out of concern for the future of processing, straightening, and weaving that probably awaits his own daughters. He interviews dozens of black women who have straightened hair, weaves, and a few with natural hair, and the men who love them (and Al Sharpton!) There's lots of interesting stuff about cultural expectations, economics, racism, and the realities of what women go through when natural hair doesn't fit within the social mainstream.

Once Vidal Sassoon is out on video, that movie and Good Hair would make a great double feature.

February 8, 2011

Status update on The Social Network

Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss Twins

I went to see The Social Network for a second time last night. I saw it on opening weekend at the beginning of October, and loved it, but I tend to forget an awful lot of stuff about movies if I only see them once.

A few observations from the second time around:

  • As an origin story about Facebook, it's not especially compelling or, apparently, even very accurate. But that doesn't matter. It's not really a movie about Facebook any more than Citizen Kane is about newspapers. I've seen some comments on Facebook from people saying they're not interested in seeing it because they don't care about Facebook--those people have nothing to worry about. Aaron Sorkin doesn't care about Facebook, either.
  • Jesse Eisenberg is 100% on the money. He manages to convey feeling totally superior to everyone in the room while needing their acceptance and also hating his own guts, all at the same time. He's incredibly good.
  • Also great is Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins. He's hilarious. Every time he comes on the screen I'm glad to see him. Or them. I don't think it's necessary to be rich, handsome, and privileged in real life in order to play rich, handsome and privileged, but in this case, it doesn't hurt.
  • Justin Timberlake is pretty good at balancing the magnetic rockstar charisma with a streak of calculating slimeball. You see the selfish jerk side come out here and there before the end when he really emerges as the bad guy. Watch this movie and Black Snake Moan and you can see he's got some chops.
  • One part that's less good: Eduardo. The script was largely drawn from the book The Accidental Billionaires that used Eduardo as its main source. The basic story is sympathetic to Eduardo and presents him as the loyal friend that Zuckerberg betrayed. But it's hard to feel that way, even though I guess we're supposed to, because of the long stretch we spend with Mark, et al in Palo Alto when things start heating up for the company, while Eduardo is off in New York riding the subway for 14 hours a day or whatever. When he shows up and eventually gets the shaft, we're meant to sympathize with him, but by then the story has moved in another direction and isn't really about him anymore. It's a structural/emotional flaw. Also, Andrew Garfield seems like he's faking--his acting is opaque and awkward compared with everyone else.
  • About women in the movie: a lot of people have complained that women are presented as peripheral objects for the male characters to play with or insult as they wish. I understand this is probably an accurate representation of how these characters, 20 year-old guys with something to prove, might behave. Sorkin says this is what these guys are really like. Sometimes the movie itself seems to support this viewpoint, though, and women are made to look trivial through camera work and editing, not because of anything a character says. A movie can make female characters human even as male characters dehumanize them (like in "Mad Men") but that doesn't happen very often here. Rooney Mara standing up for herself and telling Zuckerberg off, twice, helps.
  • The Trent Reznor soundtrack is awesome. Especially the music during the Facemash creation, it really makes what could have been a tedious scene about anti-social drunk programmers into an exciting action sequence.
  • My least favorite moment is the song in the final scene: "Baby You're a Rich Man" by the Beatles. It's gaggingly on the nose, and after such great soundtrack choices that are so time-and-place specific, we get The Beatles? David Fincher usually screws something up at the end of his otherwise great movies, so I guess in the scheme of things this isn't that bad.

Best movie of the year? It's up there.

February 6, 2011

The Clock: really cool video art

Christian Marclay's

I went to see Christian Marclay's video art exhibit, "The Clock" at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea. I find a lot of video art to be a ponderous, humorless, overly conceptual snore. Reading the blurb outside the screening room can be more interesting than actually watching it. But this piece is my favorite video art ever. I spent an hour and a half there on Friday night, and if I could have had a pizza delivered to the gallery, probably would have stayed all night.

The piece uses clips of movies that include a shot of a clock or watch or reference to the time, and it's constructed so that the time in the movie clip is the actual time in the real world. I watched it from 11:30 PM until about 1:15 AM, so as you might guess, saw a lot of clips of cops staking out buildings, people getting woken up by a ringing phone, people realizing they'd missed the last bus, and endless clunky 80's clock radios. And a phenomenally cool montage of clocks striking midnight, accompanied by the kinds of scary or explosive things that tend to happen in movies at the stroke of midnight.

The clips are also linked thematically. If someone picks up a ringing phone and says "Hello?", we'll cut to someone in a different movie asking to speak to Walter (there are a lot of ringing phones in "The Clock") or a series of clips of people slowing descending the stairs into a dark, scary basement. We come back to some movies over and over again as the characters watch the hours tick by. We see the same actors again and again--I caught three Steve McQueen movies in just an hour and a half, and Vincent Price appeared in a whole lot of movies with creepy old grandfather clocks in the background.

A lot of the talk about this piece is about the inescapability of time, and the audience's constant awareness of time passing, both in the movie clips and in real life. Movies use the passage of time to create tension or draw out a scene in ways that have become clichés. In the NY Times article about the exhibit, Roberta Smith says, "Moviemakers have developed endless devices to make us aware of time's passage in their films, and to hold us in thrall, or suspense, within that artificial time -- while we forget about the real kind outside the theater." But I see the piece as primarily an exploration and adoration of movies. Time provides the structure and the framework, but the medium is movies.

Trying to identify the movie clips is both fun and aggravating. It's a lot like listening to a Girl Talk album--you'll see a lot of stuff you sort of recognize, but 8 seconds later it's gone, and you'll have that tip-of-your-tongue feeling again and again that will drive you kind of nuts, but keep you wanting more.

Recognizing the movies in "The Clock" isn't necessary, but it sure is fun to watch the incredible variety of movies Marclay found and see some stuff you know. Even if you can't identify the movies, the range of time periods and styles is huge. In just a couple of minutes, he'll use Gone With the Wind, The Crow, The Awful Truth, Sid and Nancy, The Hudsucker Proxy, Gosford Park, Mildred Pierce, What Lies Beneath, Now, Voyager, and Lolita. Plus some TV: "ER", "The X-Files", and (of course!) "24". You get silent movies, foreign movies, action, horror, Woody Allen, and Beverly Hills Cop.

What about sex? Yep! Nudity? Oh, yes! No editing. Also, movies that aren't in English don't have subtitles--what you see is what you get.

My dream for when I'm enormously rich is that I'll buy a copy of "The Clock" and install it in my living room as an actual time-telling device. "What time is it?," I'll ask, look at my video art installation, see DJ Stevie Wayne announcing the next song on her late-night radio show in John Carpenter's The Fog, and go, "Oh, it's 12:35."

You can see part of "The Clock" during regular gallery hours, 10-6 Monday-Thursday, or see the entire thing from 10:00 AM on Friday until 6:00 PM on Saturday for the next two weekends. Note: there will probably be a line if you get there between 11:00 and 12:00 at night. Word seems to have gotten out that midnight is cool.

Here's a BBC TV news story about the exhibit which incorporates some of the piece and some of Marclay's other stuff.

February 3, 2011

Message to the Academy: Save Natalie!

Natalie Portman at the SAG awards

Over the last few Oscars seasons, we've seen anecdotal documentation of the Best Actress Curse: the phenomenon in which a talented actress wins accolades for her work, which triggers the collapse of her personal life. Examples include, incredibly, almost every single Best Actress winner of the past 10 years: Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock most recently, and the special case of Hilary Swank, whose marriage survived her first win in 2000, but not her second in 2005. Only Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard still have their manfolk around.

Some analysis goes back to the 90's and finds even more examples: Helen Hunt, Emma Thompson, and Susan Sarandon (though in that last case, her relationship with Tim Robbins didn't break up until 13 years later.)

There's speculation that male insecurity is the root cause of the Curse. Some assume that, when an actress gets the highest award for her work, her husband, often also in the entertainment industry, can't handle his feelings of inadequacy when comparing his success to hers. In the Halle Berry example, one site asks, "When was the last time you listened to Eric Benet?" It could also be related to Best Actress winners becoming dissatisfied with the losers they married and deciding to make a play for George Clooney.

But now that everyone knows about the Best Actress Curse, and it's been validated by academic research (with a graph!), I think we have to lay the blame elsewhere. If members of the Academy are aware of the fate that will almost surely befall the woman they name Best Actress, shouldn't we be holding them accountable?

Which is why I'm asking members of the Academy, who just received their ballots and are now considering five innocent actresses, to remember that they hold the future happiness of poor little Natalie Portman, and the fate of her unborn child, in their hands.

Natalie is now engaged to her on-screen dancing partner Benjamin Millepied, who seems like a nice enough French ballet dancer, and is neither a scruffy beardy singer-songwriter, nor Moby. We should encourage their young love, even if Millepied ditched his longtime girlfriend a couple of months after meeting Natalie on the set of Black Swan, and even if Natalie's Golden Globes acceptance speech chronicling Benjamin's desire to impregnate her was the creepiest awards speech I've ever heard.

If Natalie loses, I give them two years. But if she wins, I hope the members of the Academy can live with themselves.

The other big contender this year is Annette Bening. How weird is it that her marriage probably stands a good chance of surviving a Best Actress win, when her husband is Warren Beatty?

Just think of the agonizing future Natalie Portman interviews on "Ellen". Aggghh. It would be enough to make me vote for Jennifer Lawrence, who's dating the guy from the British "Skins", so if that breaks up in two months, big whoop.

February 1, 2011

Those adorable Egyptians!

Egyptian protester

Now that the military has sided with the protesters and the whole world is watching with excitement as a quarter of a million Egyptians demand the overthrow of their government, it looks like it's all over for Mubarak. He'll be out in the next day or two, don't you think?

In our own country, it seems like we're sharing in the Egyptian enthusiasm. There's a bunch of photos today on the newswires featuring lots of happy, smiling, adorable Egyptian protesters (like my poster girl of the revolution, above) including several small patriotic children fighting for Democracy with their parents, or waving flags atop the tanks.

Egyptian protester kid,

Egyptian girls on a tank

Egyptian protesters, girl and her dad

All this cuteness suggests something I've been thinking about for a few days. Maybe I'm being wildly optimistic, but the recent protests in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen might help mainstream American sentiments about the Muslim world get a little bit better. In many ways, the protests embody ideals we think of as our own: freedom, democracy, wanting a better life. If Americans look at what's happening in Egypt and see people fighting so passionately for things we believe in, too, maybe we'll stop feeling like Muslims are the enemy.

Well. One can dream.

Of course, if these protests are going to change American minds, we might not want to look too closely at some of their more unsavory aspects. Like this:

Two dummies representing Mubarak dangled from traffic lights. On their chests was written: 'We want to put the murderous president on trial.' Their faces were scrawled with the Star of David, an allusion to many protesters' feeling that Mubarak is a friend of Israel, still seen by most Egyptians as their country's archenemy more than 30 years after the two nations signed a peace treaty.

The other problem: though all kinds of Egyptians agree that Mubarak has got to go, there's zero agreement on what should happen next. The US government just signaled we want Mubarak out, too, so pretty soon we're going to have to figure out who to throw our support behind, i.e. send billions of dollars to.

About February 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in February 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2011 is the previous archive.

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