Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Tricia's Thankful For - 2011

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day to confess what you feel grateful for. I mean, more than anything it’s about celebrating the greatest of the deadly sins and watching football, but traditionally people express feelings that go beyond the tightness of the belt. Not in my family exactly, but I hear people do it all the time…
Rather than list all the things I love in my life right now, and not because I don’t have a whole lot going on, here is my list as pertains to this movie/TV blog, though we update it scarcely, it still has a theme.

This year, I am thankful for…

Hollywood. In the summer of 2009 I saw a total of ten movies. And while they were not all winners, the fact remains that there were ten movies in three months that I wanted to see. In all of 2011 I don’t think I’ve seen half that. So THANK YOU, HOLLYWOOD for helping me save money by putting out complete crap this year.

My DVR. All that money I saved from the cinema went to a worthy cause, don’t worry. I’m a tad behind, but this year I finally got a DVR and it is superb. As bad as big budget movies were this year, TV was exceptional. Speaking of which, let’s get to that…

CHUCK. Thank you, NBC for giving "Chuck" one last season to give us devoted fans an ending we deserve. You don’t always make the best decisions (I’ll get back to you when I write my TV New Years Resolutions list) but we fans notice when you let us have a good thing even if it isn’t the best idea business wise. Also, it helps that "Chuck" has been so great this final season.

Wednesdays. I have something great to watch every night of the week and, make no mistake, Thursday is still my special friend, but Wednesday really stepped up its game this season. I have the awesome ABC comedy line up of "The Middle," "Suburgatory," "Modern Family," and "Happy Endings" – seriously, these shows rock, to start the night. I also do a little recording of NBC’s "Up All Night" (Maya Rudolph = Goddess). Then it’s my favorite new show "Revenge," which just slayed me with this week’s episode. Add on top of that the glorious sixth season of "Psych!" IT’S THE PERFECT NIGHT. Just think how insane it’d be if I was caught up on "Criminal Minds" and "CSI" and was watching those too! Madness, this day, madness!

The return of the Muppets. I’m not a Muppet historian by any means, but like everyone else I grew up watching and laughing with them. I believe I even went as Miss Piggy for Halloween when I was a toddler, so there. The fact that they are everywhere right now does not upset me at all. I honestly can’t wait to see the movie. And I can only hope it beats the new Twilight movie at the box office this weekend.

Maria Bamford. This time of the year, we TV lovers get bombarded with holiday themed commercials. It’s exhausting. But there is one series of commercials I do not wish to fast forward through. I’d like to honestly exclaim my love for the Target ads. Not only do they crack me up, but Maria Bamford, who plays the crazy Black Friday trained shopper, is my absolute favorite comedian. I could watch her go backward on that stairmaster all day; and I do, it’s on every commercial break.

Friends Reruns. It’s been a bazillion years and around this season I get a hankerin’ for those epic Thanksgiving episodes. My absolute favorite? Probably The One with All the Thanksgivings. Joey with a turkey stuck on his head? Yes, please.

I could keep going. In fact this is already longer than I expected, but I must stop somewhere. Feel free to add what you’re thankful for in the comments!

I will leave you with this, one of my favorite SNL Thanksgiving sketches.

Happy Turkey Day!

PS- I promise to have the next installment of my TV Challenge soon, I got behind in my reviews, but do not worry, I have completed the challenge thus far.

Click Here, Nimrods...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tricia's New TV Challenge, Part III

The challenge: I watch and then review each new show’s pilot episode on the big five networks; ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and The CW. This is going to be the year I do it. Check out Part One here and Part Two here.

Let's get to it:

Pan Am, ABC – Sundays, 10/9c

Pan Am premiered last Sunday and can be watched on

As much as I’d like to get into the feminist argument inherent here in this show, I’m going to step aside that and review the show for what it is. And what is it? Simply put, it’s a show that thinks pretty highly of itself. The pilot episode accomplished so much in an hour introducing the characters and their individual storylines as well as establishing the main character that the company itself plays must have been a daunting task. That being said, “Pan Am” did a great job filling the viewer in as well as entertaining them. By the end of the episode you get a pretty good idea of who each character is and what it is they think they want. For the women, of course, it’s to see the world. For the men, it’s mostly about getting laid, with one wanting and not getting a little more. It’s clear here that “Pan Am” was created as an anti-“Mad Men,” one in which women hold the power in their lives (or so they would have it seem) but also get to wear the super cute fashions of the sixties. As much as I’d like to be able to comment on this fully I don’t watch “Mad Man” (which would bring up a whole other feminist argument) but I can say that all the glitz and glamour that this particular show attempts to conjure up isn’t as impressive as they’d like it to be.

During the opening sequence, we see a panic as crew members try to locate their “purser”- a flight attendant named Bridget. She has disappeared and apparently, this flight cannot take off without a purser, so they call a young woman who has been “grounded” due to breaking dress code. If you were wondering what role Christina Ricci played, you’d be right to assume she’d be a rule breaker. Ricci’s character is nowhere near the airport when they call, so they tell her to hurry on to headquarters and she takes a private helicopter to the tarmac. This sequence with the helicopter proved to be the jumping off point as far as how ridiculous this could get in the future. The tone of the show makes it seem as if Pan Am the company changed the world. That these flight attendants were a “new breed of women.” That in the skies of these planes was a world filled with mystery and intrigue. That little girls were seeing for the first time that they didn’t have to grow up to be someone’s wife or mother. And as you watch, you almost believe it. The vibrant colors of the sixties and the pretty faces of these women who are all decent actors are somewhat intoxicating. But then you remember that it’s all just fiction. It’s a TV show. And, as much as I like TV, all of it must be taken with a grain of salt. Can the show keep this up? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Prediction: It has the ability to last, but I can see it going in some pretty dumb places. If it can keep the audience’s attention without getting kooky on us, it could last for a while. Or we could get bored during the first season.

Terra Nova, FOX – Mondays, 8/7c

Terra Nova premiered with a two hour event last week, you can catch up on

I’m sorry? Did you say dinosaurs? I’m in. No, I don’t care what it’s about. There’s dinosaurs.

I seriously considered just leaving that as my review. I’m a nerd, I like dinosaurs. Then add in a futuristic dystopia. Then time travel. Ok, now I’m in. Basically, “Terra Nova” is about a family living in the 22nd century on Earth, where it’s dangerous to breathe the air and the government only allows you two children. Jason O’Mara plays Jim Shannon, a cop who gets put into prison for two years after the powers that be discover he and his wife have a third child and he gets a little aggressive about it. When his wife gets called into the Terra Nova project, he has to break out of prison in order to sneak their third child in. In where, you ask? Well, Terra Nova is a settlement that is 85 Million years in the past, but not in our past, in a different “time stream,” so there’s no chance of disrupting the time space continuum (I may have combined what I understood about the cleverly snuck in explanation with my knowledge of time travel I learned from Doc Brown). Why didn’t they travel to a different time where they might not have to fight off carnivorous lizards every night? They did not create the rip in space/time, they only discovered it. At least that’s what they tell the ordinary folk. There’s a mysterious element to this place that they hint at, heavily, in the pilot episode and I’m sure our main characters will discover parts of it sooner or later.

The show drops us into a strange world but does so in a familiar way; no matter the amount of dinosaurs or the militia presence make no mistake; this show is first and foremost a family drama. Shannon was away from his family for two years and now he must protect them from the world and some unsavory characters. Luckily, each family member is interesting in their own right and as they discover Terra Nova, so will we. Each performance is good, especially if you consider most of their job is probably to look at a tennis ball and look afraid. And the show itself has all the earmarks of a decent science fiction show; we’re not entirely sure who the Shannon family should trust, this world is foreign and dangerous (and gross!), and there are ominous signs everywhere. There is no reason why most of us can’t love this show.

One note about the dinosaurs: I’m always entertained when people complain about when dinosaurs don’t look real, when the truth of the matter is, we don’t really know what they look like. We have skeletons and make judgments about their skins and scales but really don’t know one hundred percent what they were like. That being said, “Terra Nova’s” dinos are clearly animated and perhaps not as good as a Jurassic Park version, but the entire idea of watching a science fiction show is to do so with suspending your disbelief. I mean, if you’re willing to believe for a couple of hours that these people escaped a poisonous Earth by traveling back in time and space, I think you can deal with some CGI dinos.

Prediction: FOX can not keep a show at this timeslot. In fact last season they canceled two shows I loved that shared the 7/8c timeslot. Perhaps they’ll get lucky with this one now that “Chuck” has moved to Fridays and us nerds need something to watch at 7. But the fact is, if this show doesn’t pull in major ratings early, they won’t be able to afford to keep it on the air. It really makes me wish Syfy had picked it up instead. Fingers crossed it’ll stay on at least long enough for me to see a triceratops.

Hart of Dixie, The CW – Mondays, 8/9c

This premiered last week, go to to watch it.

After a few years away from The CW, I can honestly say that I’m impressed with the shows they premiered this season. Sure, there’s only been three, but each has it’s own strengths and are, at the very least, entertaining. “Hart of Dixie” is no exception. It’s completely unrealistic and certainly not original, but it’s cute and gives you plenty of reasons to come back for more.

Rachel Bilson may be the second most adorable star on this new season (second to Zooey of course). She plays the feisty, funny fish out of water Dr. Zoe Hart who inherits part of a practice in Bluebell, Alabama. She sets up shop down there to work on her bedside manner, or lack there of. Get it? Her name is Hart and she has to work on her heart. What this show lacks in subtlety it makes up for with charm. Bilson has never been a great actress, but she has charm for miles. As does every other actor on the show and though the situations will be familiar in just about every episode, they fact remains that these people are likable, even the ones that aren’t.

A show like this hasn’t been around in a while; we’ve been so consumed with gritty realism and offensive materials that “Hart of Dixie” is like a sweet southern drawl calming us into submission. It will share a smile and a sea tea with you if you let it. And I hope you do.

Prediction: With the lead in of “Gossip Girl” I don’t see it not doing well. I hope to get a few seasons out of it.

Suburgatory, ABC – Wednesdays, 7:30/8:30c is the place to find this.

Finally. I’ve been waiting for ABC to find a decent comedy to follow the Heck family. Wednesday’s comedy lineup highlight has always been “Modern Family,” but “The Middle” may be the most underappreciated comedy on television. That being said, the last few shows they’ve tried to pair with it have come up short. “Suburgatory” on the other hand, is a promising comedy featuring yet another untraditional family (dad and teenaged daughter) who are, much like the above’s Dr. Hart, fish out of water when dad moves them to the suburbs after deciding that maybe the big city isn’t the best place to raise a child.

The show is pretty over the top, making out the moms of the suburbs and their kin to be mindless Sugar Free Red Bull drinking robots with blond hair and short skirts, but the jokes work. And you have to assume that some of these stereotypes will be broken down as the series goes on. We’ve already seen chinks in the armor of our lead character Tessa when she discovers what it’s like to own something “pretty,” so it’s only a matter of time before she affects the ‘burbs and it affects her.

Prediction: I don’t really have many complaints about this show, other than the voice over narration, but I can over look that for the time being. If they can prove themselves to be more than just a fish out of water comedy, it can be a great show. Jury is out, but I think it’ll get the full season pick up.

How to be a Gentleman, CBS – Thursdays, 7:30/8:30c

This premiered last week and you can watch it on

I’m all about gender equality, so I’m perfectly ok with CBS premiering a show about two guys’ budding friendship out of being opposites just a week after premiering a show about two women with an almost identical premise. And for some reason, I think I liked this one better. Just a little better, I mean, I’m not going to DVR it or anything, but the lead of David Hornsby (Rickety Cricket for It’s Always Sunny fans) is surprisingly likeable for a guy that’s not really all that in touch with what it means to be a “guy.”
Hornsby’s Andrew is a writer who has to change up his column when the magazine he works for is bought. He can no longer write about manners and when it’s appropriate to wear a vest, he has to appeal to everyday men who really only read box scores. Someway he meets up with his old high school bully, played by Kevin Dillon, and they forge a friendship based on Dillon’s Bert teaching Andrew how to be a real man. Dillon is, well, he’s the same actor he was on “Entourage” so make your own decision there. My favorite part of the cast, however, was Rhys Darby, who plays Andrew’s wuss of a brother-in-law and Mary Lynn Rajkub as his sister Janet, this relationship was at least interesting and unlike most we see on TV, if not completely unhealthy.

Prediction: This show is not going to win any awards, it may not even last a whole season, but it’s better than “$#!* My Dad Says” which premiered to better numbers a year ago. Maybe people will give it a chance. Maybe they won’t. Either way, I’m watching “Parks and Recreation” so what do I care?

So there you go! Stick around for next time. I'm going to do it!

Click Here, Nimrods...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tricia's New TV Challenge, Part II

Here’s what the challenge is all about: I watch and then review each new show’s pilot episode on the big five networks; ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and The CW. This is going to be the year I do it. Check out Part One here.

This past week was the big week. I’ve got eight new shows here for you. Add in all the returning shows I normally watch and I watched 19 premiere episodes of television this week. Not counting the stuff that had premiered previously and I was watching subsequent episodes of or the shows on cable. My apartment is a mess. But I challenged myself. And I can’t let me win.

2 Broke Girls, CBS – Mondays, 8:30/7:30c

You can watch the pilot on

Has anyone else ever noticed that anytime a movie star shows up on a sitcom they appear to be overacting like a fiend? They could be insanely talented on the big screen, but something happens when they set foot on that soundstage. My favorite example of this is Brad Pitt’s appearance on “Friends,” as funny as the guest spot was, it was just painful at parts. Another, more recent example, is Matt Dillon on “Modern Family;” not his best stuff. Kat Dennings is not exactly a movie star, but she’s definitely suffering from this phenomenon. We all know her best from movies like House Bunny and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, and interestingly enough she plays more or less the exact same character in everything she’s ever been in. “2 Broke Girls” is no exception, she still plays a cute snarky girl with an acidic tongue. But somehow on this program she’s less convincing, almost like the live studio audience makes her uncomfortable. And who could blame her? She has to wait those extra beats as they laugh and I imagine nothing could feel more unnatural for an actor who is used to only needing to cater to the camera.

I wish I could say Dennings’ acting is the biggest hurdle this show has to overcome, after all that is something that could be worked on and fixed. But “2 Broke Girls” also has to deal with its predictable writing and repetitive story line. Here’s the breakdown, a former rich girl whose daddy pulled off some pretty heinous white collar crimes ends up in a Brooklyn diner looking for a job out of the way of high society and meets another girl, who is used to being poor and holds down two jobs. They bond despite their differences and ultimately move in together and come up with a plan to open their own bakery shop in a year (there’s even a running total of their savings that will appear throughout the series.) Did I mention that by the end of the show there’s a horse living on the patio of their apartment? Yeah, there’s that too.

Beth Behrs is perhaps the brightest part of the show as Caroline the rich- turned- broke girl. Hopefully, her ease in delivery and confidence will rub off on Dennings who at this point looks to be faking it. Though part of the issue could be just in her character; this show is co-produced by comedian Whitney Cummings (whose own show also premiered this week, see below) and it’s pretty clear Dennings’ Max is based on her own humor and personality and seeing how I find Cummings grating, it only makes sense Max would annoy me as well.

Prediction: This show has all the markings of a CBS comedy and since it’s on between “How I Met Your Mother” and the retooled “2 & a Half Men” there’s no reason why it shouldn’t do well. And if Dennings and the writing staff can figure this whole sitcom thing out, there’s also no reason why it can’t be more than mediocre. Except for that horse. Get rid of the dumb horse. I give it at least a season two pick up.

The Playboy Club, NBC – Mondays, 10/9c

You can watch the pilot episode on or

You know how sometimes you challenge yourself to watch all the pilot episodes of all the new shows of the season? And how this means watching a few shows that you have no interest in and were pretty confident you wouldn’t like? And then one of those shows ends up surprising you? No? Just me? Well, that’s how I ended up feeling about “The Playboy Club.” And, frankly, I’m a little upset about it. How dare NBC make me think I was tuning in to a somewhat brainless, boring, attempt at getting viewers based solely on pretty girls in leotards and bunny ears with a little Eddie Cibrian thrown in for the ladies. Instead, I got a group of interesting characters who I honestly want to know more about.

Sure, it isn’t a perfect show. Cibrian overacts in everything and this is no different. They attempt to grab us with some lame story involving a dead mafia don who put his hands on the wrong new bunny, but what really piqued my interest was the slow unraveling of who these girls are (especially the storyline fronted by Leah Renee Cudmore’s Alice). This show is less about the Club and more about the women behind the ears and fluffy tails. How did they end up here? What are they looking for? What do they have to lose? This is what will keep me tuning in for at least a few more episodes. Not the love triangle. Not the tension supplied by the mafia’s presence. Not the wonder if we’ll ever see Hugh Heffner’s face (he’s pulling a Charlie Townsend thus far). But the girls, which is interesting considering this is what kept the Key Club members coming back as well.

Prediction: I don’t think many people will look past the expected any more than I wanted to, so I don’t think it will be around much longer. Of course I could be wrong, but it is up against “Castle” and “Hawaii Five-0” both of which have pretty dedicated fans who are the target demographic of the show. I don’t expect a full season.

Unforgettable, CBS – Tuesdays, 10/9c

Go to to watch the pilot.

Those bunnies have got nothin’ on Poppy Montgomery. No matter what I thought of this show the fact remains: she is the most attractive person on television. And I’m including the boys from “Supernatural” on this.

This was the last show to be cleared from my DVR this week. Not because I was dreading it, exactly, but because I knew what I was going to get. This is a standard procedural show, only Poppy plays a former cop who has the ability/curse to never forget anything. She has one of those freaky memories where she can conjure up any moment as long as she was there to solve a crime, except the one she really wants to solve; her own sister’s murder. Dun dun dunnnn.

There isn’t anything bad about this show. It was well acted, directed and the storyline was almost believable (you’ll have to excuse me that I don’t totally buy that she can notice new things when going “into” her memories). But all in all it wasn’t really exciting or new. Perfect for the CBS crowd. Boring for me.

Prediction: CBS will have to fight ABC’s “Body of Proof” for the demos they’re looking for. Luckily, it’s CBS and they have loyal viewership (read: old people). If this show was on Fridays it would clean up. But it is possible it’s too ordinary even for the typical crowd. I give it a 40% chance of survival.

The X Factor, FOX - --

Just kidding. I don’t watch reality TV.

Charlie’s Angels, ABC – Thursdays, 8/7c can give you a look at the pilot episode.

Someone please give me the hour I spent on this show back. Can we all just agree that even the original “Charlie’s Angels” show was horrible? The original thrived on hair flips and the intentional cheese factor and the winks and nods this reboot gives to those things are just groan worthy. The only way this could have worked is if they went in a totally different, dark place which they tried, to a certain extent, by making the angels former criminals rather than cops (though one was a dirty cop). And I appreciate how Bosley is not completely useless in this version as a hacker who can hold a gun. And I especially appreciate how this isn’t an extension of the movie versions Drew Barrymore produced a few years back (Barrymore also produces the series, if you couldn’t tell by the number of Cover Girl commercials).

To be fair, there was one good thing about this re-boot. Minka Kelly was convincing as the former gang member out for revenge who in the end joins the agency. Her mixture of toughness and vulnerability was impressive and I found myself wishing ABC had just developed a show around her – one without the rest of this cast, who were clearly trying too hard. She’s going to be a big star one day and ABC is going to wish they treated her better. I guess there’s always next year.

Prediction: I’m not sure how it hasn’t been canceled yet.

Person of Interest, CBS – Thursdays, 8/9c

Go to for the first episode.

A machine was created in order to sift through all the data acquired from the implementation of the Patriot Act. This machine uses the information to determine where significant loss of life will occur. It also determines the “insignificant” deaths but since the government is only interested in terrorist plots those numbers go straight to the trash. The developer of this machine decides to recruit an ex-operative to help save those on that latter list. Basically, this is “Early Edition” – the show where the guy gets tomorrow’s newspaper today- but Jim Caviezel kicks ass and gets out of impossible situations without so much of a blink. Another attempt by CBS to trick us into thinking this is not a typical procedural, “Person of Interest” is adequately performed and written but its attempt to make the audience believe this machine is watching by showing the always on security cameras and giving the feeling of Big Brother is unsettling but also feels cliché. The machine spits out social security numbers and it’s up to Jesus to track down, then protect or take out the owner of that number.

CBS wants me to think this is a different kind of show since it’s produced by JJ Abrams. That’s a good argument since Abrams gave us “Lost” and my personal favorite “Fringe” but “Person of Interest” feels so familiar. And if it was going to give me something new and exciting, don’t you think the pilot episode would be the place to do it?

Prediction: If it keeps it typical, CBS fans will embrace it, but it didn’t give fans of science fiction enough to get behind it right away. It could get good, but I’m not sure it will be around long enough to get to the interesting stuff, like what happens when your number comes up? (Loom of Fate, anyone?)

Whitney, NBC – Thursdays, 8:30/9:30c

You can watch this on, but please, save yourself.

Whitney Cummings’ stand up act is about the differences between men and women. And how women act unreasonably sometimes. And yelling. There’s a lot of yelling into that microphone. So go ahead and guess what her sitcom is about?

I won’t lie, there were a few moments where I laughed or cracked a smile, but I’m still not sure if that was because I found the moment funny or if the studio audience just tricked me into laughing with them. But then that begs the question, who tricked them into laughing?

I’m going to break this down. Each network has a sitcom style and way to produce a comedy program that is uniquely theirs and anytime they venture outside of that, we notice and it’s just distracting. ABC currently has the monopoly on family based, silly, single camera comedies. FOX has a few quirky single camera shows, but really hits on their inappropriate animated shows (we’ll call them sitcoms for the purpose of this). NBC has the workplace type single camera operations that take risks and are the favorites to TV snobs like myself. And then CBS takes the cake on safe, multi-camera shows, with studio audiences/laugh tracks and flat characters. Basically, what I’m saying here, is that “Whitney” should be on CBS and needs to get off my Thursday Night NBC lineup before I lose it.

Honestly, if I talk anymore about this show, I’m going to start getting mean. So let’s just move on.

Prediction: Canceled by midseason.

Prime Suspect, NBC – Thursdays, 9/10c

Find it on

Oh, look! Another procedural! In case you guys were wondering if I liked anything this past week, know that I really enjoyed this one. It feels a little dated at times, because I like to think there are more female detectives out there than this show makes it sound, but that could be because I watch a lot of TV. Maria Bello uglies herself up as the new homicide detective who can’t get any respect in the boys club that is the NYPD. Rumor has it, she slept her way into the department and the fellas aren’t too happy about it. Bello is great as she navigates back and forth from opportunistic ladder climber to astute detective with her own style. Yeah, we’ve seen it before, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done again well. It’s pretty obvious as Jane Timoney works through her first case, (which she got by being insanely pushy after another detective, who stole the case first, dies) that these men she comes up against take issue with how she conducts herself. Meaning, she does things as a man would. Jane doesn’t bring a maternal instinct to the case, she isn’t anyone’s “good cop” and if she were a man, they would have immense respect for her, but because she’s a woman, she doesn’t conduct herself as a lady and therefore is a total bitch. So, naturally, I love her.

NBC has issues with this timeslot, so I’m not sure my liking this show will help it out any, especially seeing as it is just another procedural. Great lead character aside, it’s pretty clear it needs something else to hook a wider audience. Hopefully, we can see the lives of some of her supporting characters. I want to see these men give in and make her feel welcome one cop at a time. And then I want to see her mess up and lose a little of their respect again. We’re led to believe that this woman is not even close to being perfect, so hopefully, that means she’ll continue to be flawed.

Prediction: Your guess is as good as mine. Are audiences sick of procedurals unless they’re on CBS? Maybe. This show may prove that.

A Gifted Man, CBS – Fridays, 8/7c is where you can watch this.

Finally! Something to replace “The Ghost Whisperer.” “A Gifted Man” is about a successful NY surgeon played by Patrick Wilson who is a little self-centered. One night, he runs into his ex-wife, who he clearly still has feelings about, then has a great night catching up. The next day, he finds out his ex is actually expired, as in dead. Being a neurosurgeon he immediately suspects a tumor (though it is a little weird that he had to google it) and then decides he’s crazy. But he isn’t. Turns out she came to him because she needs him to help her finish her work. You see, while he was out making lots of money and cutting open people’s heads, she was making a difference in a free clinic.

Basically, this looks like it’s going to be one of the most predictable shows of all time. He’s going to learn how to care about people who aren’t himself and his sister and nephew (whom he barely cares about at this point) and continue to pine for a dead woman. Seriously, though, that can’t be healthy. Again, this show is well done for what it is. Wilson is convincing and shows us that movie actors can act in dramas. And I’m sure it is appealing to some people out there (read: old people) but not to me.

Prediction: Friday night CBS fans are going to love this.

And that’s finally over. Stay tuned for Part Three next week, which should only have five entries.

Click Here, Nimrods...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tricia's New TV Challenge

Hello! Summer is over and fall premieres have begun! This means one thing, it’s time for my yearly pilot challenge. It’s simple really, every year as the new shows premiere I challenge my TV Obsessed self to watch the first episode of every new scripted network television show. And this year it gets even bigger now that I’ve reinstated The CW into my challenge – they found a loophole in my boycott since canceling “Veronica Mars” by bringing Sarah Michelle Gellar back to TV. And, yes, it’s exhausting being this big of a geek.

If you were wondering, I have yet to actually complete my challenge. I got close last year, but was unable to make myself watch “Law & Order: Los Angeles.” I just couldn’t watch another one of those.

This year, I’m doing it and you’re going to help me stay accountable. So let’s get started with a few previews I got to experience and then a few that premiered this past week.

New Girl, FOX – Tuesdays, 8/9c

“New Girl” has been available to watch OnDemand and on for a few weeks now. It premieres for real on Tuesday.

I think it’s safe to say that FOX’s “New Girl,” is one of the most looked forward to new shows this season. And how could it not be? Have you seen Zooey Deschanel? Luckily, there is more to this show than her adorableness. If you’ve seen the trailer for this show, you may be disappointed in the pilot episode, because you see most of what happens in the trailer. But, fear not, this is a television show, meaning there will be more episodes and more funny moments; it’s not a movie where you sit through it for two hours and wonder why people are laughing hysterically at stuff you saw a hundred times during commercial breaks of Sunday Night Football. There will be more funny moments, each week. Or at least, that’s the understanding of how a sitcom works. And this sitcom certainly works.

The great thing about Deschanel’s character Jess is that while she plays a dork, no one expects us think she’s not an attractive dork. Jess breaks up with her live in boyfriend and needs a place to live, ASAP. So she answers an internet ad and we get the not so original “Odd Couple” plotline. She moves in with three guys who are funny and well developed in their own right. That was my fear watching this episode; would it be three normal guys trying to deal with a girl crying on the couch making Lord of the Rings references? No, it’s three guys with their own quirks and issues, designed to make sure the entire show’s burden doesn’t fall on Deschanel’s shoulders. Unfortunately, Damon Wayans Jr played a pretty great role in the pilot episode that is going to be written out due to his commitment to his other show, ABC’s “Happy Endings.” This sucks mainly because his “Coach,” was perhaps my favorite of the three roommates, as the personal trainer who was told he’d have to work on how he deals with women; his subtlety was well done and I’ll miss it.

Bottom line, “New Girl” is still one of my most looked forward to shows this season. Honestly, I’ve always thought the female dork demographic has been one of the most neglected demos in TV. Women are usually either put together or a total wreck; rarely are they as complex as I expect Jess to be.

Prediction: “New Girl” will do great between “Glee” and “Raising Hope.” I predict it will be renewed for a second season.

Revenge, ABC – Wednesdays, 9/10c

“Revenge” was made available to those who downloaded the pilot script From Kindle via a passcode. It premieres this Wednesday after ABC’s awesome comedies.

I had super low expectations for this show. I’ve found that every year since “Lost” premiered networks have been trying insanely hard to get us wound up about a mystery/thriller show. Trying to recreate the love viewers had for that show is just pointless. You can’t plan something like that. Anyway, I was wrong. For the most part, “Revenge” is very upfront about it’s intentions. Basically, it’s about watching someone take down a group of horrible rich people. I have no idea how this show will keep going for years, but I can say that I’m willing to watch until it turns me off. There’s nothing really great about it; the performances are good and the tension builds well enough. It’s just that it’s a fun show to watch. Easy as that. Watching Emily VanCamp’s character mess with people and enjoy every moment is fantastic and rooting for her is easy. At least it is in Episode 1. I imagine a few wrenches in works in the future, because I’m sure not everyone she goes after will exactly deserve it. I’m also incredibly intrigued about learning more about this lead character; we see her at two different stages in her life – the present and ten years prior. Then, we get a sneak at her life in between, and all you can do is wonder what happened over those ten years, who is this girl? And that will keep me tuning in.

Prediction: I give this show a 50/50 chance of sticking around. It’s really about if anyone will tune into the first episode or not. I can’t imagine how it will attract viewers mid-season. Fingers crossed we at least get an entire season.

Ringer, The CW – Tuesdays, 8/9c

“Ringer” premiered last Tuesday. You can watch it online at

CW, you sneaky, sneaky network. I haven’t watched you since 2008 and didn’t miss you at all. And then you bring Buffy back and I’m just supposed to forgive you? Well, it worked. I watched. And I cautiously enjoyed it. Separated twins where one takes over the other’s life is a hot thing right now. Not sure why, but ABC Family is doing it right now with “The Lying Game,” and now we get a double dose of Sarah Michelle Gellar which is certainly not a bad thing. “Ringer” is slightly darker than the cable network’s version, as one twin thinks she’s taking over her dead sister’s life because she feels she needs to in order to survive a very bad man. Soon enough she finds out that her sister’s life isn’t as perfect as she had initially thought.

The show is pretty good; the performances are just tension filled enough and I especially like Ioan Gruffud’s performance as rich sis’ unhappy husband. And SMG does a great job as Bridget who is desperately just trying to survive; though I’m not too crazy about her turn as Siobhan, who comes off as a typical rich bitch. Hopefully, we’ll see more development between these two characters as the show goes on.

The truth here, is that I’m afraid to get attached to this show. I just don’t trust The CW to be able to produce adult shows. Sure, “Supernatural” is great, as was “Smallville,” but these shows have/had elements that forced it to stay true to science fiction and superhero attributes. “Ringer” could easy become “Gossip Girl.” And if that’s the case, I’ll have no problem turning the channel. Because, honestly, there are few things that I want to see less on television than rich people’s problems.

Prediction: The nerd community is not going to let this go anywhere. But if The CW can cancel “Veronica Mars,” it can cancel anything.

Up All Night, NBC – Wednesdays, 7/8c

This show premiered last Wednesday, catch the first show on

Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph in the same show? Do I even need to review this one? Of course I loved it! The only problem is that it’s not on Thursdays. I mean, does NBC really think “Whitney” fits better into their line up? I haven’t seen that show yet, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of where that one is headed.

Anyway, “Up All Night,” is about a couple who just had a baby. It’s a simple plotline that should lend itself well to a half hour program. Christina Applegate plays working mom to Arnett’s stay at home dad, which is a nice change, especially since they have yet to throw it in our faces. “LOOK! Times are changing! TV is catching up, we swear!” And Rudolph is fantastic as the Oprah to Applegate’s Gayle; the tv host/best friend/boss who doesn’t really understand how having a baby can change someone’s life. So far, it’s a cute show, that made me laugh out loud a few times, but my hopes are pretty high for rest of the episodes.

Prediction: This fall season, half of the new shows are situational comedies. This is not the best, but it’s also not the worst, so it could go either way. Hopefully, it will reach its full potential soon, because we all know network TV is not known for its patience, though NBC did show a full season of “Outsourced,” so anything could happen. Also, I really want Arnett to get a show that lasts and that people watch while it’s on the air. It saddens me every time I hear someone talk about catching the really funny “Running Wilde” after it was already canceled. Have faith, NBC, I do!

Free Agents, NBC – Wednesdays, 7:30/8:30c

This premiered last Wednesday as well, you can also watch it on

I first want to say that I have a soft spot for Kathryn Hahn. She was on my favorite show of all time, “Crossing Jordan,” so I want so badly to see her do well. But this isn’t going to do it for her. “Free Agents” wasn’t a bad show, it was just confusing to me. It doesn’t seem like a show made for Network TV; it’s a bit dark and quirky for NBC.

Hank Azaria plays Alex a middle aged, sad man who just got divorced and is looking to “get back on the horse.” Hahn plays Helen, a sarcastic co-worker who is still grieving the death of her fiancé who died suddenly a year ago. Somehow comedy is supposed to arise when the two have a one night stand.

The two leads pull off the material well; it’s believable that they are attracted to one another, but put off by similar baggage. They have a certain amount of chemistry, but it’s hard to get over the sadness inherent in both of their situations. When Alex breaks down and cries when he thinks about his kids, it’s supposed to be funny, but I have a hard time laughing. Perhaps the issue here is that these situations are so true to life that it’s hard to watch and enjoy. So the writers attempt to off set the heavy with supporting characters that are just plain bad. As much as I love seeing Buffy vet Anthony Stewart Head back on my screen, his oversexed boss character is obvious and off-putting. Then add in an angry assistant and a few guys from around the office looking to get Alex laid and you’ve got a recipe for a sitcom that tries too hard.

Prediction: I may give this one a few more chances, because I know it’s hard to introduce all characters in a pilot episode well, but I’m not expecting to like it much more than I already do. And I don’t expect the rest of the viewing public to like it either. I don’t think it’ll last a full season.

The Secret Circle, The CW- Thursdays, 8/9c

“The Secret Circle” began this past Thursday, catch it on

Note to TV Networks everywhere: if you want to suck me into a show about supernatural forces or whathaveyou, be super creepy in the first ten minutes; it also helps to kill a parent off early so I can feel sympathy and root for the main character – combine the two and I will DVR the Hell out of your show. “The Secret Circle” is a show that I can trust The CW with; it’s about teenagers who discover they are witches and create themselves a coven. Britt Robertson plays Cassie, the new girl in town that the “circle” needs to complete itself and become more powerful. Robertson is good as the lead; she mixes the excitement of this newfound experience with the distrust of the others in the situation very well, probably because she’s not actually sixteen she’s able to play a parentless, confused child with honesty and a convincing pout.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast isn’t as convincing. You could throw a dime at your TV and hit an overactor; but this The CW, so you shouldn’t expect Emmy worthy performances.

This show was created by Kevin Williamson, the man behind “Dawson’s Creek” and the Scream franchise; which is not surprising as “The Secret Circle” could easily be a mixture of the two, a little bit of creepy, a little bit of teen angst, but then add some cool effects and you have an interesting show aimed at teenagers that delivers an enjoyable forty-five minutes of TV.

Prediction: Paired up with “The Vampire Diaries,” I don’t see how this couldn’t do well, besides being on a really busy night of television. I guess we’ll have to wait and see with this one, but I’m hoping for at least a full season before The CW makes a decision either way.

And that’s it this week! Next week will be interesting, as there are a lot of premieres of both new and old shows. Here’s hoping my DVR doesn’t explode.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Girthy Grindhouse Guy Presents: Drive Angry (2011, Patrick Lussier)

One of the greatest things in life is its absurdity and uncertainty that inevitably come with it. My life (since you asked) has been a series of stages. First, I ignored the absurdity. After that I spent a lot of time attempting to understand the uncertainty, which effectively led me to fear it. Ultimately, I decided it was best to embrace the absurdity, ignore the uncertainty, and move on with life in a hilarious way. Fortunately, (or unfortunately for some of you) I’ve never looked back. That happened around 7th grade. Now I know what you’re thinking—“How did a 12 year old boy possibly travel through that much spiritual turmoil and come out a fully formed adult?” The answer is simple. I didn’t. I am now an addict of nonsense and insanity. To me, media is best when it is subversive, absurd, and downright insane.

All three of the aforementioned adjectives apply to Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry (Also known as Drive Angry 3D, but I never saw it that way). I never got a chance to see this film in theatres, and it is something I will regret for the rest of my life. While Drive Angry is most certainly one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) Grindhouse films I’ve ever seen, it is also one of the best films I’ve seen, PERIOD. I bought the film on DVD, and upon watching it once with my roommate and a very close friend, (neither of whom enjoyed the film until I explained the Grindhouse “revival” to them) I had a revelation: all of the absurdity and uncertainty I had processed in my life was validated. All my life I feared death, surrounded myself with it in attempt to figure out how this life would end, and ultimately I was content with shrugging it off, crossing that bridge when I got to it. This film single-handedly solved that crisis and forever cemented my absurdist views.

Drive Angry is the tale of John Milton (played by Nicolas Cage and yes, a literary reference), a man who has broken out of hell to save the life of his kidnapped granddaughter. The little girl faces death; her mother being killed so that this gigantic piece of shit named Jonah King would have no obstacles in offering the child up to Satan. Well that just didn’t sit well with Milton. He comes back and begins rampaging through his old stomping grounds (Earth), exacting all kinds of gruesome revenge on the assholes that took his granddaughter. Milton is described to us as a close friend and a bad husband, but a very good father—one who loved his daughter more than life itself. Essentially, John was a good man (how he ended up in Hell is beyond me), but he got mixed up with some bad people, leading not only to his own demise, but the estrangement and untimely death of his daughter, who tried to find a place to fit in and fill that void left by her father. So, in order to right all of his past wrongs, Milton is fucking bad people up to save the only thing he deems good in this world. Also, this movie definitely serves to prove that Mr. Cage is still one of the best actors ever. People seem to think he has fallen off or that he can’t act. WRONG. Nicolas. Cage. Is. The. Man. However, Cage gets overshadowed by a couple of characters in the film, most notably, Piper.

Piper is going to get a couple paragraphs to herself. She’s that important and that cool. Piper is played by none other than Amber Heard, probably best known as the unbelievably cool girlfriend to Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express, and she owns the hell out of the part. Heard has always been very beautiful, especially in The Informers (the film is a one out of four stars, but Ms. Heard and her body are a ten out of four), and she has actually displayed the ability to act during her career, which is incredibly refreshing, but it's unfathomable how attractive she is in this movie. To be perfectly honest, after seeing Amber Heard in Drive Angry, all other women got downgraded (in terms of that totally arbitrary, entirely unscientific “out-of-ten” system that males (including me apparently) love to use). I’m telling you, it is nearly impossible for me to stay respectful and decent with this, because it LITERALLY exploded a few nerve endings in my head (you get it) when she came into frame. Upon showing my father, he said, “You just like her because she shoots guns and drives cool cars.” Guess what, Dad? YOU’RE EXACTLY RIGHT.

Let’s get past how sinfully gorgeous Ms. Heard is and dive into how awesome she is in the film. Piper is Milton’s side-kick(ass). She is the epitome of an all-star. Piper can drive better than, fight fiercer than, and has bigger “balls” (another non-scientific, arbitrary system men use, but this time it measures courage) than any man alive. She is the victim of an abusive boyfriend, but it ultimately brings her to the point where she doesn’t need one—she is an independent woman, able to take care of herself. Her introduction shows her vice-gripping the testicles of a very “rape-y” boss, beating the shit out of some slut sleeping with her man, and ultimately standing up for herself and fighting back when said man hits her. Then, throughout the course of the film, she bails Milton out, saves his life, cracks skulls, and generally dominates everybody’s ass. By the end of the film we see Piper as a woman who stands up for and helps John Milton save his granddaughter. In summation, Piper does all the best shit: kicks ass, takes names, and does what’s right. AWESOME.

Another part of the film is this ridiculous-but-wicked-cool gun called the “God Killer.” It is a gun that apparently makes you non-existent if you get hit with one of its bullets. No Heaven, no Hell, just GONE. It is employed in the film hilariously and its final use is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in a movie. That’s all I’m saying about it, because you need to see it in action. Words can’t describe how cool it is.

Here is where the film becomes an “Existential Essential” (more on that ALL NEW section later) for me. Milton is from HELL. He breaks out to do what is right, and ultimately goes back to HELL. That seems like a real shitty ending, right? Wrong. What not only justifies that system, but also makes this film totally worthwhile, is a character that has been referenced by some as a potential Oscar contender: The Accountant. Basically an agent of Satan, The Accountant is on a mission to collect anybody who escapes Hell. In this instance he is after John Milton, our not so handsome and wonderful protagonist. He has no problem dishing out death at every turn, but to him it is a business. He is keeping the books on hell. He knows when and where people are going to die, but he has no problems delaying or accelerating that process. He marauds around like a detective on the hunt for Milton, leaving no stone unturned. He is so adamant about getting Milton back, that he drives a giant chemical truck into a police blockade so as to keep them from detaining him. Then, at the end of the film, having all but detained Milton, the Accountant lets him go and exact his revenge on Jonah King and his satanic cult. This is where the movie, for me at least, transcended its goofiness and actually had meaning to me. The Accountant allowed Milton to finish, knowing he would take him back to Hell anyway. Hell has always been portrayed to me as the worst imaginable place, where you suffer endlessly at the hands of evil beasts. In Drive Angry, I was presented a version of Hell where the beasts are merely men and while eternally damned, they are still SOULS. Milton says in one of the closing moments of the film, “even in Hell there is compassion.” For a fat kid who deals with the fear of death daily, this was something for me to get behind. I know its no more correct than any other film produced, but Drive Angry attacked the concepts of damnation, eternal suffering, Satan, and Hell with an absurdity and humor that allow me to deal with them in a safe place. I can laugh and joke about the things that frighten me most. I mean, there is a gun called the “God Killer.” It's totally ridiculous, but it’s also exactly what I needed.

To summarize it neatly for those who skip to the end of these things, Drive Angry is far and away the best film of 2011 thus far. It is also a contender for Best Movie Ever Made. I realize this sounds ridiculous, but I will stand by that conclusion as long as I live. The film allowed me personally to exorcise some serious demons, allowed me to have my mind blown by some cool action sequences (which I purposely didn’t spoil so that you may watch and have the same mind blowing experience), laugh heartily at the send-ups to the genre as well as revel in the lunacy of the whole thing, and last but certainly not least, I got to see the most beautiful woman alive, in tandem with the coolest dude alive, kick the shit out of some poor assholes who desperately deserved it.

Drive Angry is not only a perfect movie in my eyes, but it is the first film to win the Palm D’Gore, an award I am giving to the best Grindhouse movies of all time.
|-|Palm D'Gore|-|

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Minutes or Less (2011, Ruben Fleischer)

Squandering what should have been a breakthrough role, 30 Minutes or Less refuses to provide Aziz Ansari his The Hangover because director Ruben Fleischer is too in love with a strange oxymoron: like his own genre-ignorant Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less is smugly asinine.  Jesse Eisenberg returns as a fake-ass Michael Cera slacker, a character we’re supposed to relate to because he hates his job in pizza delivery.  Fleischer’s habit of casting cartoons masks his inability at characterization.  It’s a film that talks feeling without emotion—our hero “loves” his best friend’s sister which produces a falling out between bros—but Fleischer’s brand of comedy is ground level, so one-liners and rasslin’ stand in the stead of depth.  In a movie of bombs, bank robberies, police standoffs, kidnappings and car collisions, the cheap laugh is the only goal and nothing—emotion or otherwise—is at stake.  30 Minutes or Less is a film that seems undoubtedly influenced by Todd Phillips, but one look at Due Date exposes how small moments of real pain enhance the slapstick while forming a true resonance and depth.  It’s something lacking entirely in Woody Harrelson desiring a Twinkie.

As with his role in this year’s earlier Your Highness, one begins to question the subversive, self-effacing nature of Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers and Fred Simmons. His villain, the unhinged, unchecked Dwayne makes liberal use of the other f-word as well as an uuuuugly Slumdog Millionaire joke as base, bottom-of-the-barrel gags rather than bathos.  I’m not asking for the Lubitsch Touch here, but even Pineapple Express had a love of friendship and a fleshed-out world.  The film’s jokes—always sounding scripted and self-satisfying—exist as in an elementary school diorama: if you throw hard and fast, something might stick.

And the rest of the film follows suit: women are largely absent in this universe and exist only to be objectified.  There are seven credited female characters in the film, and the names of four of them are Juicy (a stripper), Hot Girl, Bikini Girl, and Major Tan Bikini Girl.  Another is given enough screen time to finish up a blowjob.  The beautiful Dilshad Vadsaria plays Kate, Jesse Eisenberg’s love interest and apparent leftover from a rejected Judd Apatow script where a successful, out-of-league woman can’t help but need the nerdy idler.  Of course, as far as “love interest” goes, it mostly just means his character slept with her.  Love has neither drive nor emotion, it is simply a device we’re told to swallow.  Like Zombieland, the slacker aesthetic and passionless momentum is symptomatic of a larger issue: Eisenberg’s Nick tells his boss to fuck off and it’s a rally cry as if he were entitled to something better.  It’s a universe in which Fleischer resides and 30 Minutes or Less lacks a love of film craft and a passion for life’s joys.  It’s a derisive comedy with nothing at its core.

The film doesn’t lack laughs, just ones we rather choke on.  The chemistry between Eisenberg and Ansari is strong despite how little the film gives them to work with.  It’s a wonder we come out bigger Ansari fans: the buddy script is so nonsensically subservient, Ansari's Chet volunteers for bank robbery with nothing to gain and everything to lose.  Racist to boot; it’s a film that takes deliberate care to paint Grand Rapids, Michigan and then brings in a Los Angeles Chicano (Michael Peña) as a dread-inducing thug (heaven help us, if Fleischer’s next project The Gangster Squad turns out to be anything like it sounds).  At worst, the film is a half-hearted attempt at a smug writer’s first screenplay.  No surprise Michael Diliberti hasn’t found his voice, underhandedly (if unintentionally) perpetuating white, male superiority.  What’s disheartening is that, with two films under his belt, it appears Fleischer finds it funny. -- *½ / four stars

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My 30 Favorite Comic Movies

The year is 2011, and the comic book hero has become such a blockbuster staple we're seeing Thor and The Green Lantern get huge-budget releases.  Marvel Studios is underway in producing a starting film for each Avenger, which is funny considering many comic book movies from the past decade follow an identical formula:  Our ordinary man encounters an unfortunate encounter which renders him super, but with great power comes great responsibility.  And a great deal of exposition that bogs down nearly half of each film, though it's usually pretty much the same story.  They encounter some mini-bosses before having to accept a weakness and save the universe.

This isn't to say that minor heroes are all that is left, or that the genre is played out (I have to remind myself we're rapidly approaching the ten-year anniversary of Daredevil), only that I think it's reached its point of saturation and will ebb as far as blockbusters go.  DreamWorks, Disney, Warner Bros., The Weinstein Company and even Marvel Studios' Avengers sat out San Diego's Comic-Con this year, and the less than stellar performances by (honestly dark horse candidates) Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Sucker Punch and even Kick-Ass probably should have studios pumping the brakes a little bit.  Not every 300 will find its cult in college dorms.

Despite these downward tendencies, it has been a very fertile time for the comic book amid this meta culture.  And as someone who has been accused of condescending in favor of older pictures (and hates when other people are guilty of the following), I was a little surprised to see how many of my favorites are from the past ten years.

This is a list of my 30 favorite comic adaptations for the screen: book, strip, or graphic novel.  For the sake of diversity (sorry, Raimi, Nolan and Mamoru Oshii), I have limited each director to one film per franchise.  This does not mean that each world is limited to its definitive film, or that each director is limited to one franchise (congratulations, Bryan Singer and Guillermo del Toro).

30. Annie (1982, John Huston)
John Huston (mis)directs a strange amalgam of things I'm not too convinced he cares about: musicals and Little Orphan Annie.  Carol Burnett steals the show as a selfish wench and FDR even makes a singing appearance, the circumstances I can't remember for the life of me, with a winning song that undermines the depression.  Annie is one of those movies that was a cornerstone of my childhood:  I don't really want to revisit it, but it's something I wouldn't want to do without.

29. Li'l Abner (1940, Albert S. Rogell)
It's hard to even call this an adaptation.  Al Capp's intentions are nowhere in this piece, but the inanity remains highly enjoyable due to the cast.  Nearly forgotten stars of the silent era run a gerbil cage here, and Buster Keaton makes an appearance as Lonesome Polecat.  The plot is best summed up by IMDb user gftbiloxi: "Daisy Mae loves Abner, Cousin Delightful wants him for herself, and Abner prefers pork chops." What more do you want?

28. Art School Confidential (2006, Terry Zwigoff)
A lot of people hate this movie, even more forgot about it.  Zwigoff frustrates the audience to no end with a dramatic shift in tone halfway through in this scathing look at the art world.  Bravo for a film that suggests there is such a thing as objectivity in art.  Also, a pitch perfect wiener joke.

27. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000, Curt Geda)
Of the DC Universe/Warner Bros. Animation collaborations I enjoy (and I enjoy a great deal, including Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and the difficult to adapt All-Star Superman), Return of the Joker is the finest.  Gotham is a dark, dark place and the cartoon isn't afraid to show it.  In a brilliant flashback sequence, we see the Joker (Mark Hamill(!)) at his sadistic best.

26. Kick-Ass (2010, Matthew Vaughn)
For all the comic book adaptations surrounding Nic Cage (he'll never get a shot at his beloved Superman, and instead resorts to things like Ghost Rider), one of his finest roles has him channeling Adam West.  With many of the best comic films (no, any films) Vaughn goes beyond the source material to create a kinetic love letter to John Woo.  Oh yeah, and people are really into a little girl in this also.

25. Blade II (2002, Guillermo del Toro)
Giving Wesley Snipes's Blade a fully realized duality while at the same time never skimping on the FX is what we've learned to love about the Guillermo del Toro touch.  Blade II goes beyond the simple blockbuster with a rare depth in a project from which most people expected none.

24. V for Vendetta (2006, James McTeigue)
Before Natalie Portman was winning awards under Darren Aronofsky, it should be noted that V for Vendetta is what pulled her career out of the dregs of chick flicks, feminine (Anywhere But  Here) and masculine (Garden State) and proved she could act as an adult.  The film is a timely critique that suggests that perhaps people weren't too happy with the Bush Administration.

23. Popeye (1980, Robert Altman)
Robert Altman's Popeye is close to insane.  It bears little resemblance to E. C. Segar's original strip nor Max Fleischer's long-running cartoon, but instead is inspired enough to cast Shelley Duvall as a perfect Olive Oyl and Robin Williams (with leg-of-lamb forearms) in his best-ever performance: a musical.

22. Weird Science (1985, John Hughes)
Weird Science is of the same ilk as those strange coming-of-age adolescent fantasies that tread ground of voyeurism, sexual frustration and social inadequacy (Zapped!, Mannequin) that fueled drive-in theaters for ages.  Only in the hands of an auteur like John Hughes, he respects his characters enough to give us a situation in which our characters understand the dilemma they're in, go further than we know they should (without condescending interference from the director) and somehow has us learning life lessons along the way.  It was the sort of thing Hughes was a master at.

21. Superman II (1980, Richard Lester)
About as close as you can come to breaking my one-film-per-franchise-per-director rule as you can get, Lester's adoption of Richard Donner's Superman II is a fantastic and fantastical romp that should have been a train wreck.  Superman must battle three hilarious, cartoonish villains (Sarah Douglas, Jack O'Halloran and Terence Stamp) set on taking over the world.  Also, time travel.

20. Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence (2004, Mamoru Oshii)
At its core, a film not all too unlike Malick's The Tree of Life in that it explores the weight of adulthood.  And like the trees of both life and the knowledge of good and evil, it explores the costs of both knowing and not knowing.

19. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984, Hayao Miyazaki)
Even more potent after Japan's recent nuclear scare, Nausicaä set the precedent for all Miyazaki's lifelong themes, not the least of which, the struggle between civilized man and pure, majestic, even obscene nature.

18. Josie and the Pussycats (2001, Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan)
Possibly the most unfair entry on the list, 2001's Josie and the Pussycats shares little with its source material outside of its name.  It's a ludicrous movie of subliminal messages and product placement (worlds ahead of Morgan Spurlock) featuring Parker Posey as a villain, Rachel Leigh Cook as our gorgeous lead and one of the best soundtracks (courtesy of Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo and executive production by Babyface) of the least twenty years.

17. Atom Man Vs. Superman (1950, Spencer Gordon Bennet)
This 15-episode, pre-television serial is the best superhero serial I've seen.  Perhaps, this was the truest form to film a comic book in a complete arc with fourteen cliffhangers.  Cinematically, it's a format successful since The Perils of Pauline through "24", and though television took over the Saturday morning trips to the cinema, Atom Man Vs. Superman isn't merely a subject for kids.  The chemistry between Clark and Lois is genuine and truer than many later adaptations.  Luthor's maniacal plan is something only of the comic book, but the serial plays it straight.  Animation is used cleverly and effectively to mask the serial's fiscal constraints.

16. Sin City (2005, Robert Rodriguez)
Frank Miller is credited as a director, and it's only fair.  Rodriguez, normally a director unfairly given wild, free range on every one of his projects, elected to allow every last frame of comic book serve as storyboard.  The results are often a matter of style over substance, but its treatment of the antihero has had me return to it more than anything else.  Note, before Mickey Rourke was winning awards under Darren Aronofsky, it was Sin City that resurrected him from the grave.

15. Persepolis (2007,Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi)
Like Sin City, Persepolis mimics the look of its source material (Marjane Satrapi's autobiography), but to a different end.  Where Sin City's stylization strives to romanticize a mis-remembered era, the overtly simple drawing of Persepolis brings the humanity of a much disdained nation to the Western world.  The film purposely tones down the politics, instead showing us a longing for a free world and a love for Michael Jackson.  Don't sleep on it.

14. Superman (1978, Richard Donner)
I suppose in a decade people will still refer to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but no one really owned a role quite like Christopher Reeve did Superman.  Few films evoke the wide-eyed wonder of being a child, and Superman reminds us of what we loved about superheroes in the first place.

13. Batman Returns (1992, Tim Burton)
Darker and more violent than Burton's original, Batman Returns is something I return to because Burton's two greatest gifts are utilized to their fullest: eccentric characterization and visual atmosphere.  Of the many Batman incarnations, this one seems to strike the balance of humor, depravity, action and loss that is at the heart of Gotham City.

12. Spider-Man 2 (2004, Sam Raimi)
The seminal film in a franchise that disappointed early before growing into its shoes, Spider-Man 2 is rife with real world examples of its cliché: with great power comes great responsibility.  Peter is lost: he loses his job, his girl, his grades.  He must even come to terms with his continual search for a surrogate father.  Spider-Man 2 is a painful movie, but one with great humor (of the Raimi variety) as well.  As a summer blockbuster, it's the complete package.

11. Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park)
Not to unfairly stereotype a nation, but judging from what I've seen over the past ten years, what the hell is going on in South Korea?  Making their presence known on the world stage, Chan-wook Park, Jee-woon Kim and Joon-ho Bong are leading the nation in film innovation, and there's an awful lot of vengeance going on.  Oldboy, the second installment in Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy, comes from the Japanese manga by Nobuaki Minegishi, but I'll be damned if it isn't a little Greek.  Oldboy is a difficult, harrowing picture that strips its characters bare and asks for more.

10. A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969, Bill Melendez)
You know what I hate about goddamn Eeyore?  He doesn't have the humility of Charlie Brown.  Don't get me wrong, Charlie Brown is one mopey dude, but his lovable loser always seems a little bit of a front, because his unblemished optimism is always just beneath the surface.  Here Charlie Brown loses a spelling bee and has to accept that, not only does life go on, but maybe people like him in spite of his failures.  This, the first of four theatrically released Peanuts films, has a spark in the animation that disappeared by some of the lesser television specials.  It is a joy to see the imaginings of day-to-day events through the eyes of childhood:  Schroeder's piano recital of Beethoven's "Pathetique Sonata (2nd movement)", the kids singing "The Star-Spangled Banner", a baseball game: Peanuts isn't an internalized Hundred Acre Wood, it's a beaming, humanistic Americana.

9. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991, Ngai Kai Lam)
Spoiler alert...

Riki-Oh AWESOME Fight scene by MrBeuheuFail

8. Superman Returns (2006, Bryan Singer)
Blasphemy that I consider Bryan Singer's Superman Returns to be the Man of Steel's finest hour?  Possibly.  Granted, I had to forgive Kevin Spacey, but Singer's eye has me returning to a scene over and over again.  The scene-- reminiscent of the best parts of Spider-man 2 and Superman II-- presents Superman with a longing in his eye, but an almost creepy, omniscient one as he must accept Lois making a life of her own.  I can't shake it.

7. X2: X-Men United (2003, Bryan Singer)
If the X-Men have always been a metaphor for homosexuality, X2 forces us to ponder, like Steve Zissou, supposedly everyone is part gay.

6. Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972, Kenji Misumi)
The first installment in the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Kenji Misumi's Sword of Vengeance is the kind of hyperstylized violence it took him years to cut his teeth with in the Zatoichi franchise, but with greater stakes.  Nothing seems mystical about our hired assassin's powers, and the strings of fatherhood avoid cliché in their effective pathos.  It's hard to pick just one film in the series, but this is as strong a starting point as any.

5. A History of Violence (2005, David Cronenberg)
I feel like this is a misunderstood film and, perhaps had more people known the source material of David Cronenberg's A History of Violence was a graphic novel, it would have found its audience.  Perhaps the barbs wouldn't have been so sticky, perhaps the satire more easily digestible.  Perhaps we would have been more willing to root for our tortured, vilified everyman.  Of course, its barbs are the point, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

4. Ghost World (2001, Terry Zwigoff)
Man, the Zwigoff touch is weird.  In Bad Santa, he has Thurman Murman offer the gift of a blood-stained wooden pickle to Willie, since no one gives Santa any presents.  Ghost World gives Zwigoff the Daniel Clowes platform in which he can flourish, giving screentime to an R. Crumb record and making a grotesquely racist poster for Coon's Chicken a plot-changing prop.  Ghost World retains a Zwigoff bite and a Clowes aimlessness, but resonates deeply.

3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008, Guillermo del Toro)
Beyond the "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" sequence from Spider-Man 2, I'd like to point out the single moment of Hellboy II in which Guillermo del Toro had the guts to do something deliberately corny that managed to speak volumes about pathos.  Hellboy and Abe Sapien drink some cheap beer and sing along to Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You".  The moment is perfect in its ache and understanding of what draws people to bad songs (and drinking) in the first place.  And it's pure del Toro.  An instance of a great director understanding the source material so well that he can insert something of his own and doesn't skip a beat.

2. The Dark Knight (2008, Christopher Nolan)
If there's one thing Inception taught me from the nausea that followed every Facebook status in July 2010 which stated "just had my mind blown," it was that I really am a much bigger Batman fan than Christopher Nolan fan.  Accuse Nolan for relying on source material too much (even Inception was an adaptation of a Scrooge McDuck comic, right?), but there's is something to be said for reading it well.  The Dark Knight posed the real threat of the hero becoming the villain in his own moral code better than Spider-Man 3 (which, still, is better than people give credit for), and is possibly the single greatest popcorn thinker.

1. Danger: Diabolik (1968, Mario Bava)
If the movies are (and God knows the comics are) a form of pop-art, you can aspire no higher than Danger: Diabolik.  It's a film daring you to call it tongue-in-cheek, if it weren't so sincere.  It begs to be mod kitsch, but then what does that make of your beloved James Bond?  Danger: Diabolik is made of the things that made us love movies and throws them together in such a nutso fabric we don't have time to catch our breath.  Ennio Morricone's score alone is worth the price of admission.

If there is one thing I hate about "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (though I find myself coming back to it time and time again), it's the cult of condescension it created, allowing lazy, wannabe film buffs access to films predisposed as bad.  Sure, there's The Creeping Terror, but of course This Island Earth is going to suffer when you cut it to pieces and talk over it for 73 minutes.  I know I am just as guilty as this when it comes to comic books, but it turns out sci-fi, superheroes and pulp are important.  Danger: Diabolik is essential viewing.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

My 42 Favorite Woody Allen Movies

For years I held the opinion that Woody Allen’s DreamWorks contract merely enabled him to pump out half-hearted, under-baked nihilist comedies more nihilist in execution than tone -- easy paychecks that could continually make enough overseas to fund the next project and keeping the elusive, sprawling jazz documentary he always hoped to film at bay.  My perception of his post-Sweet and Lowdown pictures as sub-par never allowed me to accept that these were movies he ever wanted to make.  Worse, it perpetuated the opinion that, since Cassandra’s Dream wasn’t my favorite movie, I should be informing the now-75-year-old how to make films.

Then every couple of years a Match Point or a Vicky Cristina Barcelona would come along and purport to be a “return to form,” as if we would want nothing more than a rehash.  Whatever Works excited by claiming to revive a Manhattan-era screenplay.  Only too late did we realize that it was left in the closet for a reason. 

2011 and three-quarters of a century.  Makes a guy think.  Woody Allen releases Midnight in Paris and I refuse to call it a return to form, because that is precisely the point.  That bird has flown.  F. Scott Fitzgerald shows up in the picture as if to undermine Gatsby’s philosophy about repeating the past.  Allen continues to be an uncompromised American voice whether by pioneering psycho-slapstick in 1973’s Sleeper or stubbornly refusing to flesh out characters in Melinda and Melinda.  God, it’s patronizing to refer to Woody Allen as anything like a “national treasure”, but there’s a reason why even You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger can play in New York for eleven months.  Some of us still need the eggs.

(Note: this countdown refers to Allen’s directorial pieces only.  The Front and Play It Again, Sam would rank about 22 and 19, respectively.  Additionally, New York Stories would rank around 25, though it is hampered by weaker efforts by Coppola and Scorsese.  Allen’s third, “Oedipus Wrecks” is easily the highlight of the picture.)

42. Anything Else (2003)
My strong infatuation with Christina Ricci ran from about 1997 through 2000 when a number of atrocious career decisions tainted her legacy.  Sure, I should have thought twice when she claimed “Detachable Penis” was her favorite song, but I didn’t know it would lead to Pumpkin, Miranda and Prozac Nation.  Then she took a job with Woody Allen and things were looking up.  Unfortunately, the title left me wishing for exactly that.

41. Scoop (2006)
Never has Woody Allen looked more like Jack Kevorkian.  Never did I wish his services used on a shuddering, lurching film more.

40. Don’t Drink the Water (1994)
Diane Keaton > Mia Farrow > Scarlett Johansson.  Thank God we didn’t have to add Mayim Bialik to this equation.

39. What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1968)
Plays like a smug episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" in which Allen showcases he can write stand-up material, but never convinces us he cares about his subject matter.  Parody without affection is dead.

38. Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
A 1940’s period piece which isn’t too dissimilar in tone from Small Time Crooks (and not altogether detestable), only much of the jokes seem to be written while Woody Allen looked like this:
37. Whatever Works (2009)
A tried and true Allen premise and an inspired casting of Larry David are floundered by half-assed performances and weak 21st-Century rewrites to force “relevancy”.  Though Larry singing “Happy Birthday to You” while washing his hands is pretty hard to shake.

36. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
In case you didn’t know, Groucho Marx was the first thing listed that makes life worth living for Allen’s Isaac in Manhattan.  Few will find Edward Norton’s singing to rank among their other ten.

35. Take the Money and Run (1969)
"Take the Money and Run has some very funny moments, and you'll laugh a lot, but in the last analysis it isn't a very funny movie. It isn't really a movie at all. I suspect it's a list of a lot of things Woody Allen wanted to do in a movie someday, and the sad thing is he did them all at once.” – Roger Ebert

34. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
A pleasant excuse for Allen’s neuroticism in a film that gives reason to mind your own business, but often feels like you’re watching A&E.

33. Celebrity (1998)
The universal pan of Celebrity is wholly unfair.  The casting of Branagh is a stroke of genius and he weaves in and out of the Allen type in an engaging way relative the subject matter. 

32. Hollywood Ending (2002)
A self-conscious film whose failure is due largely in that we start to disbelieve Allen’s fear of writer’s block when he’s able to put out one of these films a year.  (However, a hilarious conversation about “artistic masturbation” has to have an element of self-parody as well.)

31. Cassandra’s Dream (2007)
Oedipus Wrecks the boat.

30. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
A slight improvement on Whatever Works that doesn’t quite add up to Vicky Cristina Barcelona in a movie that isn’t too dissimilar from either.  Essentially, unhappy people refuse to be happy.

29. Bananas (1971)
Never been the biggest fan of Allen’s most political works, and where this movie fails (despite its great concept) is in ignoring the whole product for the sake of the aside.  Despite its brilliant title the film never really resonates together.  But Woody Allen wears a fake beard and it rules.
28. Small Time Crooks (2000)
Rather than watching privileged characters piddle their lives away into avalanching mistakes, I think the joke in Allen’s meditations of the futility of life resonate more when luck is sometimes, genuinely on your side – not that it makes life any more valuable, but it’s almost disingenuous to take on a worldview where everything is left to chance and never works out.  I like Small Time Crooks because, though slight, it is never glum.

27. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)
Like my issues with Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex is compassless.  However, the film has the decency to play it for what it is: a series of vignettes.  It also never quite resonates together, but Woody Allen is dressed as a sperm and it rules.

26. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
A rare Allen film in which characters make life decisions which are a little more conventional (and a little less psychoanalytical).  A movie full of beautiful people, if not completely engaging characters.

25. Melinda and Melinda (2004)
I dig the 21st-Century Woody Allen films in which he doesn’t try to do more than the film allows.  Melinda and Melinda is effective in sticking to its experiment and draws out one of Will Farrell’s best performances.  Would have preferred to have seen Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr. in the picture, but Allen really got the most out of what he put in here.

24. Deconstructing Harry (1997)
The world rallied behind Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but where is Robin Williams’s Oscar for one of his three most likable performances in his career?

23. Shadows and Fog (1991)
Not quite up to snuff with his Ingmar Bergman pictures, Shadows and Fog is a very atmospheric experiment with much more easy gags than your typical Fellini picture.  It’s a bit of easily-digestible absurdism.

22. Alice (1990)
You know, I never really dug Lewis Carroll, so a Woody Allen psychosomatic take on Through the Looking Glass is never blasphemous and always fair game.  The plot meanders (sometimes to a fault), but so does the source material.  It’s something of a female empowerment picture that feels somehow condescending.  Mia Farrow plays the morose straight, and the colors play for strong effect.

21. Match Point (2005)
As much as I didn’t buy into Match Point being a “return to form” or “Hitchcockian” upon its release, its style is undeniable and its ending really digs into me.  It’s a film of Allen’s typical existential worldview, but one in which people are forced to live their lives with consequences and meaning (or rue for its lack thereof).

20. A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
Woody Allen’s take on Ingmar Bergman’s take on Shakespeare.  Misguided at times, but salvaged by a brilliant Jose Ferrer.

19. September (1987)
At once a recycled Allen problem – couples trapped in unsatisfying relationships – the tone is played winningly in his best “stage” depiction.

18. Another Woman (1988)
A more sincere take on female psyche than Alice, Another Woman speaks strongly not only of Allen’s inherent realization of women on screen, but of a struggle Allen still faces every year: relevance in a changing world hindered by age.

17. Midnight In Paris (2011)
Owen Wilson’s “oh, boy” persona echoes a late-‘70s Woody Allen that allows for more self-effacing than Allen’s intellectual ever could.  A line delivered to T.S. Eliot about “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” seems to fall right out of Annie Hall but, just like the theme of the picture, the laughs aren’t for the sake of nostalgia, but are genuine. 

16. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
If Love and Death jabs Dostoevsky for easy gags, Bullets Over Broadway lets the philosophy brew in one of Allen’s best depictions of moral dilemma.  Jennifer Tilly delivers an Allen performance for the ages.

15. Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Perhaps as straight a rom-com as Allen has delivered since Annie Hall, Mighty Aphrodite succeeds in its oddball Greek asides that beckon to Allen’s early ‘70s anarchism without detracting from the absurd narrative.  Mira Sorvino is great and all the pieces fall together.
14. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
More a chick flick than most Allen fans are willing to admit, it’s a rare Allen picture in which happy endings fall into place despite themselves.  The cast hands out excellent performances (Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest won Academy Awards and who hadn’t loved to see what Woody Allen can do with Max Von Sydow?)  For me, Hannah and Her Sisters works in spite of itself.  The cast carries gaps in rationale and monotonous subplots.  It’s a spectacle of an actors’ picture which Allen bobbles.

13. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Combines some of my favorite parts of Radio Days (nostalgia for a non-filmic form of entertainment) with my favorite parts of Manhattan (glamorizing even the seediest parts of the city with astute black-and-white), but the parts don’t equal as great a whole.  Allen’s performance is subdued, and that is its strength.

12. Sleeper (1973)
The best of Allen’s slapstick farces, Sleeper is the first film in which Allen comes into his own as an auteur.  Yes, the script is often carried by punchlines, but they are among his best punchlines. 

11. Radio Days (1987)
One of the things I respect most about Woody Allen is his interest in things other than film.  He loves his Swedish arthouse, but his movies respect the medium without necessarily idolizing it.  Radio Days is similar in tone to Bogdanovich’s Nickelodeon as a bittersweet picture enamored of a time gone by.  As a cinephile, I almost respect that Allen’s interests are more broad.

Stardust Memories10. Stardust Memories (1980)
It took a lot of guts to do what Woody Allen did in 1980.  Stardust Memories is acerbic and confrontational.  It risks selling his fanbase down the river and doesn’t send them off with so much as a tip of the hat.  Stardust Memories is one of the few, complete works of an artist disillusioned by fame who has the balls to put himself under the microscope at its center. 

The Purple Rose of Cairo9. Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Woody Allen allows many of his pictures to appear economical and uncinematic.  Films like Radio Days and Broadway Danny Rose (and even the standup sequences in Annie Hall) flirt with presenting an Allen who uses film as a medium for a purpose rather than an end.  Purple Rose of Cairo informs us that it was the movies that broke his heart, but what sweet pain. 

Love and Death
8. Love and Death (1975)
The tenderest display of the love between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, Love and Death attempts to wax philosophic about life’s big questions, but it all goes back-burner when we see the vitality and chemistry between the film’s two leads. 

Crimes and Misdemeanors 

7. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Crimes and Misdemeanors may be the most definitive Woody Allen picture: where is the line drawn between comedy and tragedy?  It is more about love and death than Love and Death.  It’s about science and religion and every heavy Allen topic, but handled in a way that refuses to skirt the issues, trivialize them or take them for granted.  It is self-assured, serious and the jokes – among his best – not only hit, but sting. 
6. Zelig (1983)
Zelig is Woody Allen’s greatest achievement in moving beyond the one-liner, meshing his wryest social commentary with one of his best comedies in a film that attempts to use film language so on-target it’s a shame he never attempted it again.

Sweet and Lowdown 

5. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
For all the talk of Allen’s “Bergman era”, little is mentioned of his Fellini takes.  Shadows and Fog, Broadway Danny Rose and here, in a loose-telling of La Strada, Allen displays a tenderness and affection of human drama without its trappings of cinematic weightiness.  Sean Penn delivers one of the two or three best performances of any Woody Allen picture, and its tone resonates deeply.

Annie Hall4. Annie Hall (1977)
Suck it, Star Wars.

Husbands and Wives 

3. Husbands and Wives (1992)
Woody Allen’s breakup masterpiece is, in some ways, a philosophic blueprint for everything he’s made since: Change is inevitable; everyone hates change.  Allen’s neurotics aren’t played for laughs here – they are touching, universally resonating fears.  Part of what bothers me in Allen’s later films is the flippancy of relationships.  Husbands and Wives understands what couples will put up with to avoid goodbye.

2. Interiors (1978)
It’s my suspicion when Woody Allen says of the making of Interiors, "It's always been my fear. I think I'm writing Long Day’s Journey Into Night and it turns into Edge of Night," that a part of him means he dreads losing the comic mask.  To make an intensely personal drama of unknown fears (if Allen’s psychoanalysis record has anything to say about it, maybe even unknown to him), one risks the label of pretentiousness.  But pretension is the antonym of sincerity, and I never question in my viewings of Interiors that Allen is pretending anything.  That’s where the fear hits home.

Manhattan1. Manhattan (1979)
I once had a professor lecture on Tracy’s final lines of Manhattan in which she tries to comfort Isaac by telling him that “not everybody gets corrupted”, but misheard what she said and built the Woody Allen theory that “everybody gets corrupted.”  And in Allen’s work and life since 1979, I can see how he misheard it.  That famous Manhattan sunset was also the sunset of his relationship with muse Diane Keaton.   

To accuse the directorial bulk of Woody Allen’s career of being self-important misunderstands what it is to be an artist and diminishes the gut-wrenching autobiographical nature of his best works.  Life goes on for Allen, and we are lucky enough to see a new picture every year.  His inspiration may ebb and flow, but at its core, not everything gets corrupted.  Not even the bad eggs.

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