Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Brawlers, Bawlers and BASTERDS: The Golden Globe noms are in

Since Jeremy was too much of a pussy to stay up til 6:30 in the morning to see the juicy announcement of the always-curious Golden Globe nominations, I get to take it upon myself to issue a full report. And by "full," I mean "half," since about half of these movies haven't even been released yet. (You know what HAS been released, Hollywood Foreign Press? "You, the Living." Shit yeah it has. And it's foreign, just like you.)

The most deserving honors went to Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," which DID, in fact, get nominated for Best Picture and Best Director despite falling a bit out of the awards-season consciousness in recent weeks. In the process, it settled a gentlemanly wager between myself and Jeremy, which he won. Bravo, Mr. Mathews - your faith in the HFPA served you well. Tarantino's dizzyingly inventive bit of cinematic ecstasy will be going up against expected nominees like James Cameron's "Avatar" (which we'll see Thursday night and review shortly thereafter), the Oscars' newest cuddly favorite, "Up in the Air," Lee Daniels' overwrought but well-acted awards-bait "Precious" (I'm not typing that full fucking title, even if what I'm writing in these parentheses is significantly longer) and Kathryn Bigelow's excellent "The Hurt Locker," which has been cleaning up this awards season. Critics and award-givers just can't get enough of it. It's like a drug or something. (You know what else is like a drug? WAR. WAR IS A DRUG. That's what "The Hurt Locker" told me, anyway. It was very subtle.)

The big wild card coming into December was whether or not Cameron's well-documented risks (financial, technological, etc.) on "Avatar" would pay off, either in box-office receipts or end-of-the-year prestige. We'll see the numbers a few weeks from now, but early acclaim has been rolling in, and the Golden Globes lend added credibility. What will be really interesting to see is whether or not it can break the Academy's unofficial embargo on nominating science-fiction films for Best Picture. You wanna know what the last sci-fi movie to get an Oscar BP nod was?

I'll give you a second to guess.


It was "E.T."

That was 27 years ago. No sci-fi in the top category since then. No "Children of Men." No "Minority Report." No "Brazil." No "Dark City" or "The Matrix." No "Terminator 2." No "Being John Malkovich" or "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." No "The Iron Giant" or "WALL-E" or "Akira." No "Gattaca" or "12 Monkeys" or "Solaris" or "Aliens" or, yeah I'll say it, "Primer." Not even something barely sci-fi like "The Truman Show." (And yes, I'm differentiating between sci-fi - which is science-based - and fantasy/horror like "Lord of the Rings," "Field of Dreams," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "The Sixth Sense," "Benjamin Button," "The Green Mile," "Babe," etc.) With ten nomination slots open this year, you'd have to think "Avatar" could finally end that streak.

Or they could just nominate "Precious" ten times.

Personally, I've been awaiting "Avatar" with equal levels intrigue and apprehension - because, as great and consistent as Cameron was in his sci-fi, pre-"Titanic" days, I wasn't sure if this was going to be an honest-to-God comeback for him, or just two-and-a-half hours of wanking off to his pet technologies. I've been burned by George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis one too many times over the last decade to be blindly optimistic. But let's hope for the best, shall we?

Anyway, back to the task at hand. This year's Globes did not disappoint when it came to a pair of charming traditions. The first - and my favorite Globe tradition - is to always nominate at least one movie for Best Picture that no one particularly likes, or at least that no one loves, but which may come with some imaginary prestige. (Or not.) Often, these are very, very bad movies. It's almost like the HFPA dares itself to fuck with those silly Americans by seeing what random movie they can get away with nominating. Case in point: "Bobby," the recent remake of "The Producers," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Man on the Moon," "Across the Universe" (even though I personally liked it), "Legends of the Fall," and, yes, "Patch fucking Adams."

This year, the HFPA actually outdid itself in this regard, nominating both "Nine" (whose existence I find philosophically absurd considering the source material) - directed by Rob Marshall (ugh) - and Nancy Meyers' "It's Complicated" in the BP Comedy/Musical category. The two movies, unseen by Jeremy and I as of yet, have scored a robust 26 percent and 33 percent, respectively, on the Tomatometer. Other nominees for Best Comedy/Musical are "The Hangover" (though, unfortunately, no supporting actor nod for Zach Galifianakis), "(500) Days of Summer" and "Julie & Julia."

The HFPA, of course, overlooked the most hilarious movie of the year, "Death in Love."

(What? That was a serious drama? Rats!)

The second Globe tradition continuing this year is that, due to an amendment in the HFPA's bylaws, it must give Meryl Streep an acting nomination for every movie in which she appears. (Think I'm kidding? She was nominated for "Mamma fucking Mia.") This year, that means she's going head-to-head against herself in Best Actress - Comedy/Musical for "Julie & Julia" and "It's Complicated" - which also, I must add, beat out the Coen Brothers' "A Serious Man" (among others) for a Best Screenplay nod. Hey, I'm not making a value judgment for a movie I haven't seen - I promise. I'm just presenting the facts here, folks.

Other nominations of note include the great Jeff Bridges for Best Actor in the upcoming "Crazy Heart," Carey Mulligan for lead actress in "An Education," relative unknown Michael Stuhlbarg for Best Actor (Comedy) in the Coens' stunning "A Serious Man" and Matt Damon in one of his most fascinating performances in "The Informant!" - which also features my favorite score of the year, for which Marvin Hamlisch was given a Globe nod as well.

And, as expected, Christoph Waltz is up for supporting actor - and an almost certain win - for his diabolically brilliant performance in "Inglourious Basterds."

And, as if it even needed to be stated, the Golden Globes once again overlooked one of the four greatest dramas in the history of television, LOST, in the Best TV Drama category. But hey, at least a daringly original and rapidly evolving show like "House" got honored. (Man, that crazy doctor keeps me on my toes. I never know what he's going to do next!)

Only 49 more days til LOST!!

Click here for the full slate of Golden Globe nominations.
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SDP 20: Mooning Over New Moon (Maybe—Listen to Find Out!)

Recorded 11/29/09, episode 20 of The Same Dame Podcast sadly focuses too much on a film by the name of "New Moon." But don't fear! There are also reviews of "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "An Education," "Precious" and "2012." And in lieu of any news worth reporting, Jeremy and Chris tell increasingly offensive jokes sure to drive away the few listeners they have.

And if you're wondering why THIS one took so long, Jeremy's belief that he found a workaround to Soundtrack Pro's shittiness proved false.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sundance 2010: What are all These Categories About?

"If you must put me in a box, make sure it's a big box with lots of windows and a door to walk through and a nice high chimney." — Dan Bern

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival is on its way, and to celebrate, new festival director John Cooper* (we'll miss your gloriously over-the-top introductions, Geoff Gilmore!) and his new Cooperesque sidekick, Trevor Groth, have done what Sundance does best—rename and change-around its lesser-known categories. Chris and I will be looking at the other selections in coming weeks, but first let's start with the unfamiliar.

Spotlight: Once there was American Spectrum. Then its components were split into American Spectrum (small indie films that didn't make the competition) and American Spotlight (name directors or actors with non-premieres). Then there was just Spectrum (turns out there are countries besides America—which itself isn't a country but two continents!). Then there was the short-lived Global American Spotlighty Spectrum Extravaganza. Now we have Spotlight and NEXT, which we'll get to, uh, in a minute. This year's selection includes global programs like Rachel Perkins's "Bran Nue Dae" from Australia and therefore starring Geoffrey Rush, controversial Frenchie Gaspar Noé's "Enter the Void," which, sources tell me, is very long, "I Am Love", Luca Guadagnino's Italian film starring Tilda Swinton, and—perhaps most enticing—Jacques Audiard's "Un Prophète,"—which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. They've also thrown in a shorts program highlighting—sorry, spotlighting—the shorts of the New African Cinema. American efforts include "Nine Lives" director Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child", starring Annette Benning and (don't tell Brent Sallay) Naomi Watts, and "Louis C.K.: Hilarious", a concert film of the comedian's brilliant stand-up routine. Seriously, it's fucking funny.

Spotlight: Documentary: Sometimes they just put documentaries in Specturm/American Spectrum/Whateverthefuck, sometimes the documentaries get their own category. Under this new Spotlight, they have their own little sub-category again. The talk of Utah will, of course, be "8: The Mormon Proposition, directed by Reed Cowan, who used to be a reporter at KTVX. (What channel number is KTVX?) I don't know what obscure proposition this film details. Probably something about offering someone a million dollars to sleep with his or her wives.

NEXT: The festival folks hope the new NEXT (or maybe it's "NEXT <=>" but you don't seriously expect me to type that, do you?) selection will shut up all those whiners who go on and on to anyone who'll listen about how the festival isn't really indie anymore. This sidebar features only films that were made on a budget of $5,000 or less. So it could include a masterpiece like "Primer" and/or a two-hour tape of some guy masturbating in front of his shitty digital camera. But you can't say that the programmers didn't try to showcase low-profile films this year. Now the only question is, will all those whiners attend the NEXT screenings, or will they be too busy getting their pictures taken with Ryan Gosling? If you need a celebrity, you can at least see Janel Moloney from "The West Wing" (but more importantly guest spots on "Sports Night" and "30 Rock") in Habib Azar's "Armless." (FYI: Moloney has arms.)

*I hope Mr. Cooper's promotion won't stop him from being so awesome that he pulls over to pick up a lowly film critic as he tries to run through the slushy Park City streets, late to a screening. You rock, John!
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mathews' call to action finally nets 'African Queen'

Call it "The Mathews Effect." Way back in the carefree days of 2007, my dear colleague wrote a now-legendary column (with background assistance from yours truly) about movies that had remained, until that time, conspicuously and unfortunately absent on DVD. The column has been stealthily removed from the In Utah This Week web site - shocking, since the site is usually so reliable and convenient - but rest assured, it was very real. The column has been shrouded in myth in the months since then, mainly because right after its publication, Hollywood immediately took notice and began firing out the titles that had been missing in action.

Among Mathews' calls that were finally heard in the months following were "Hearts of Darkness," "She's Gotta Have It," "The Earrings of Madame De..." (and all those other Max Ophuls films that hadn't been released), "Zabriskie Point," the Patrice Lectone trifecta of "Girl on the Bridge," "The Hairdresser's Husband" (though the transfer is subpar) and "Monsieur Hire," and the two greatest of the bunch, Luis Bunuel's "The Exterminating Angel" and Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad." Even

There was even an announcement about a pending release of "Johnny Guitar," but so far it hasn't happened. What HAS happened - and this appears to be official - is at long last a DVD (and Blu-ray!) version of John Huston's 1950 classic, "The African Queen." Which means you no longer have to go back and forth about whether or not to snag that weird Chinese import version from the Amazon marketplace. My heart began a-fluttering a month or so ago, when I got a long-awaited e-mail from Amazon telling me that the film had been finally announced for release. Then it disappeared again. And now it finally has a street date, and will be arriving in stores, in my mailbox and hopefully in yours on February 23, according to Blu-ray.com. And since it took so long to finally get this fucking movie out, it'll be on Blu-ray, too! (The same thing happened with "Kiss of the Spider Woman" last year.)

This comes on the heels of the disastrous DVD of another Huston classic, his final film, "The Dead." It was finally released a few months back, 22 years after its release, but with 10 minutes - or about 11 percent of the film - just gone. According to this DVD review, Lionsgate issued an apology and re-released a corrected version on November 23. So all appears to be in order.

The only thing more exciting would be a wandering archaeologist-cum-good samaritan traversing some exotic locale and unearthing both the original cut of "The Magnificent Ambersons" and the full 8-hour version of "Greed."

(Hey, a guy can dream, right?)

I'll also still be holding out hope for "Celine and Julie Go Boating," John Sayles' "City of Hope" and Soderbergh's two post-"sex, lies and videotape" films that have all but disappeared, "Kafka" and "King of the Hill" (NOT an animated television program about rednecks, fyi) - because DVD releases of those four will finally give me a chance to see them.

Only then will The Mathews Effect be (nearly) complete.

Then again, I've only mentioned movies in this post - don't even get me started on one of the greatest television shows of all-time, "The Wonder Years," still not being fucking available on fucking DVD because of fucking music rights. I promise, Fox Home Video, if I had a couple million to help you cover all the costs, I'd give it to you. Do you take a check?
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Friday, December 4, 2009

And the fox says...

So we go all year long without a single movie featuring a talking fox, and then in one single month, we get not one, but two talking-fox movies. In keeping with our "let's combine two movies with particular similarities for hilarious results" tradition - which we will examine more deeply in our upcoming podcast - let's consider combining Wes Anderson's wonderful "Fantastic Mr. Fox" with Lars von Trier's Lars von Triers-y "Antichrist." One of the foxes is a mischievous little rascal, the other a harbinger of doom - will they get along? Will they fight to the death? Will they get into zany hijinks with one another? Will chaos, as one fox posits, truly reign?

Oh, and it gets spookier - Willem Dafoe gets to face off against both versions of talking fox. What a lucky fella!

One thing should be said about these foxes, though - unlike in von Trier's "Manderlay" (during which John C. Reilly walked off the movie when he found out a live donkey would be killed on-screen - hmmm, I wonder how much he enjoys Godard's "Week End") - there is no visible cruelty to animals in "Antichrist." (Being in a Lars von Trier movie doesn't legally count.) There is, however, extraordinary cruelty to genitals. Where's the humane association for genitals, and why aren't THEY on the set of every movie? But I digress.

Aside from "Fantastic Mr. Fox" - which really is - and "Antichrist," none of my other new reviews feature talking animals of any kind. But we do have our second postapocalypse of the month, though John Hillcoat's disappointing "The Road" isn't quite the massive upgrade over "2012" you might expect. (OK, fine, it's a major upgrade, but only because "2012" is a piece of shit.)

And in keeping with our "devil" theme, there's Ti West's "House of the Devil," a classically executed throwback horror flick ... well, for about an hour, until it goes off the rails. Finally, there's a surprisingly bland effort from James McTeigue and the Wachowski bro--, er siblings, "Ninja Assassin."
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The young, the restless, the retarded

At this point, my failure to post anything over the last few months is getting too conspicuous. I've been spending too much energy writing for the podcast, and not enough writing for the blog. So what better way to return than with a review for the worst movie of the year? That's right, to echo my dear friend Mr. Mathews' comments (though he gave it a half-star too many), here is my diagnosis of a clear-cut case of stunted emotional growth, the cloying disaster that is "New Moon."

And while we're at it, more releases from what has turned out to be a miserable month in cinema - Roland Emmerich's latest exercise in pseudo-spectacle, "2012," Same Dame favorite and voice-capture pioneer Robert Zemeckis' latest exercise in advanced zombie technology, "A Christmas Carol," the perplexing lie that is "The Fourth Kind" and the half-intriguing, half-laughable "The Box" - which somehow winds up being the best of the bunch.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Could I Maybe Try an Older Moon?

Twilight Saga: New Moon
Directed by Chris Weitz

1/2 star (out of four)

"Little Miss Mopey Picks Her Monster Mate" is a joyless mass of incompetent storytelling, embellished with laughably bad dialogue and a complete lack of wonder. It refuses to offer the slimmest bit of insight into teenage love, and instead indulges in absurd fantasies of despair. As the film began, my patience was tested with a long, drawn-out reveal of the film's title, but that was nothing compared to the 130 minutes that followed.
Kristen Stewart reprises the role of Little Miss Mopey, whom you will no doubt remember from "Googling About Vampires," the first screen adaptation of "author" Stephenie Meyer's obscenely popular book series—sorry, saga. As we rejoin her, she has just turned 18 and is still deeply in love with her vampire boyfriend, Magic Hair (Robert Pattinson), who is forever trapped in a 17-year-old's ice-cold yet oh-so-hot body. "You give me a reason to live just by breathing," he actually says. For real. But Magic Hair soon abandons Little Miss Mopey, which only serves to aggravate her mopiness.

Director Chris Weitz usually shows not even a modicum of excitement for the supernaturally overcast land of Washington state depicted in the film. On the rare occasions when he braves moderately adventurous territory, his insecurities sparkle like a vampire in the sun (?). In his most ambitious shot, the camera circles the room to show the seasons changing out the window while our star moper mopes interminably. Each time the weather changes, a title card appears up to tell us what month it is, as if we'd have otherwise assumed that a fresh coat of snow replaced the autumn leaves while the camera was looking the other way.

The only thing that gives Mopey any energy is danger, presumably because a ghostly vision of Magic Hair appears to tell her to stop doing stupid shit. She says (in the most boring way possible, of course) that she's become an adrenaline junkie. I guess that's one way to make her romanticized suicide attempts more palatable. To help her repair some old motorcycles, she enlists The Shirtless Wonder (Taylor Lautner), her totally ripped childhood friend who happens to be a werewolf.

Considering how glaringly clear it's been that he's a werewolf since the beginning of the first film, it takes a painfully long time for Little Miss Mopey to sort it out. Their relationship is basically the same setup as "Googling About Vampires." Something strange is happening, but damned if Mopey can figure out what it is. Not to be outdone by Magic Hair in the dialogue department, he says things like, "I feel like I'm going to disappear."

The Shirtless Wonder never replaces Magic Hair in Mopey's heart, but at least he's a man and he shows interest in her, and therefore gives her life meaning. Yes, without a man, Little Miss Mopey's life is completely dire. She might as well be dead without someone there to validate her existence. She exists as nothing more than the vessel of convenient plot whims.

The saga's abstinence allegory manifests strongly in this film, as Mopey is desperate for Magic Hair's cock—err…I mean to become a vampire so she can be with Edward forever—but he doesn't want to corrupt her and damn her soul, and tells her to wait. It doesn't make much sense, but results in some shapeless drama. And who can complain about teaching teenage girls to throw themselves at men, who will in turn nobly refuse them? Not I, not I.

You'd expect to find a lot of dramatic tension surrounding a lady who has a werewolf and a vampire after her affection, but no. Mopey never wavers in her love for Magic Hair, and so we know she won't fall too deep for The Shirtless Wonder. And without such inner-turmoil, there's precious little left.

The filmmakers' general inability to inject their story with urgency results in the dullest of villains, Fire Crotch (Rachelle Lefevre), whose continued stalking of Little Miss Mopey marks the cliff-hanger ending of the first film. She is mad because Magic Hair's family killed her boyfriend, who wanted to drink that mopiest of all blood. So now, we learn that she is still on the warpath, and without Magic Hair, Miss Mopey needs The Shirtless Wonder and his wolf pack's protection to be safe.

The plotline goes that far and absolutely no further. The last time we see Fire Crotch, she is coming toward Mopey. Then she disappears in between shots during editing, never to be seen for the rest of the film. Seriously. This first-act gun isn't even mentioned in the third act. I know, I know, this is a serialized story and Fire Crotch will indeed appear next film, mysteriously transformed into Bryce Dallas Howard. But that doesn't give writers and directors free license to establish someone to be of vital importance to the story at hand, then ignore her existence. But when the story itself holds no importance, I suppose it's foolish to expect anything from the characters.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oscar Doc Shortlist Snubs—or Considers and Discards—Big Names

It's hard to say whether certain high-profile films missing from the Best Documentary Oscar shortlist were snubbed or if they received their due consideration. I've only seen six of the 15 shortlisted films, so I'm in no position to judge where the missing big-name docs fit in the quality spectrum. (Of the films that I missed, "Food Inc." is the only one that I had an opportunity to see.)

The omitted titles include: "Tyson," James Toback's one-on-one discussion with the peculiar, emotionally fragile boxer; "Capitalism: A Love Story," Michael Moore's attack on big business's control of the U.S. government; "The September Issue," about the making of an issue of Vogue; the touching "Anvil! The Story of Anvil", about an '80s metal band that never gave up the dream of making it big; and Davis Guggenheim's "It Might Get Loud," a multi-generational character study of three rock guitarists who did make it big. Of course, Moore (for "Bowling for Columbine") and Guggenheim (for "An Inconvenient Truth") already won Oscars in the category, although most people say that Al Gore won Guggenheim's statuette. What's the deal, Al? Two Nobels aren't enough for you?

Anyhow, the films I have seen are all worth watching. Here's a quick rundown:

The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda): The best of the bunch. A beautiful autobiography by French New Wave icon Agnes Varda.

Burma VJ (Anders Ostergaard): An uneven but extremely engaging tale of brave, undercover citizen journalists.

The Cove (Louie Psihoyos): The story of dolphin abuse in Japan distilled into a thrilling heist movie.

Every Little Step (James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo): Explores both the making of "A Chorus Line" and the auditions for the Broadway revival of the famous production. The film loses track of some of its subjects through its ambitious structure, but is nevertheless a touching ode of the drive to perform.

Sergio (Greg Barker): Telling the story of Iraq through one life, Barker's documentary crosscuts between the life story of United Nations Comissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello and the mission to rescue him after the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

Valentino The Last Emperor (Matt Tyrnauer): Along with "The September Issue," "Valentino" is one of two documentaries this year that aim to convince the viewer that they should take fashion more seriously. It might not convince us of that, but it is a great study of the relationship dynamics between the great, egomaniacal fashion designer and his business and life partner.

And then the majority I haven't seen:
Facing Ali (Peter McCormack)
Food, Inc. (Robert Kenner)
Garbage Dreams (Mai Iskander)
Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders (Mark N. Hopkins)
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers (Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith)
Mugabe and the White African (Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey)
Soundtrack for a Revolution (Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman)
Under Our Skin (Andy Abrahams Wilson)
Which Way Home (Rebecca Cammisa)
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SDP 19: At Long Last!

Recorded 10/23/09, episode 19 of The Same Dame Podcast was almost lost to the ages. Yet through the miracle of digital technology Jeremy was finally able to export a version that included his voice, which mysteriously disappeared from the previous 15 attempts. So now you can finally hear our reviews of such brand new releases as "Where the Wild Things Are," "The Invention of Lying," "Bright Star," "Capitalism: A Love Story," "Big Fan" and "Zombieland."

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode, which will hopefully be considerably more timely.
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Monday, October 12, 2009


Recorded 9/30/09, episode 18 of The Same Dame Podcast features our reactions to (1) Roman Polanski getting busted, (2) Tina Fey getting Emmys and (3) new TV shows getting more praise than they deserve. Get it? Also, reviews of "Lorna's Silence," "Surrogates," "The Informant!," "Jennifer's Body" and "9"

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

SDP 17: The Future of Cinema Unveiled

Recorded 8/30/09, episode 17 of The Same Dame Podcast features an exciting interview with one of filmmaking's greatest technological innovators. We can't say who it is, but we can say that he's won an Oscar and will debut the future of special effects—yes, in this episode. You don't want to miss it. If that isn't enough, wait until you hear our collage of interviews with Martin Scorsese's friends as they react to Paramount's treatment of "Shutter Island." And oh yeah, we also review "Inglourious Basterds," "District 9," "Ponyo," and "Cold Souls."

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Friday, August 28, 2009

SDP 16 Finally Makes it Out of a Maze of Intertubes

Recorded 8/13/09 and 8/7/09, episode 16 of The Same Dame Podcast features reviews of "GI Joe," "A Perfect Getaway," "Orphan," "Revanche" and "Departures." Find out what big star may be making a comeback, hear about Nicholas Cage's tax woes, and discover why Timothy Olyphant should be more famous.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

SDP 15: Including the Year's Best Film You've never seen.

Recorded 8/7/09, episode 15 of The Same Dame Podcast features a discussion on John Hughes, a horrifying tale of viewing "Mama Mia!" and reviews of several films, including "(500) Days of Summer," "Funny People," "The Hurt Locker," and our dual choice for favorite film of the year. Yes folks, the podcast is back, and ready to explode in a big ol' orgasm of content.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode (which is coming right on this one's tail).
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Whole Picture

In the Summer 2009 issue of DGA Quarterly, Steven Soderbergh addresses the sad state of 2.35:1 films on 16x9 TVs. As more and more people adopt HDTVs and more and more films receive HD transfers, I'm continually disheartened to see them broadcast in the wrong aspect ratio on so-called premium channels. While some channels do it right, others do it terribly wrong, using the wimpy excuse that people will complain. (Oh no! It's not like anyone's complaining NOW.)

It's worth noting that some channels (although no premiums that I know of) also give 4x3 material the same treatment. What does what gain when they remaster the complete "Seinfeld" in HD, only to crop the top and bottom of the image?

On his handy report card, Soderbergh touches on HBO's hypocrisy by pointing out that the channel's marketing targets the adventurous viewer, yet a different shape in which to view films would just be too much for them. But that doesn't quite capture the despicable level of double-standards that exists on the network.

Back before HDTVs had been widely adopted, HBO insisted on showing original programs like "The Sopranos" in widescreen on their SD channels. I have no problem with this decision on its own merits. Sure, the shows' makers knew that most of their viewers would be watching it on a 4:3 TV screen, but they picked a ratio and stuck with it. What gets me is HBO's apparent belief that their own original programming is worthy of special treatment—if the viewers don't like it, tough—yet real films that were made for actual cinema screens get chopped because viewers would complain if they were shown correctly. What the fuck?
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

SDP 14: Boy Wizards and Dancing Penises

Recorded 7/18/09, episode 14 of The Same Dame Podcast includes an in-depth discussion of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" along with reviews of "Brüno," "Moon" and "Death in Love." Plus, a special guest joins us in honor of the Emmy nominations. Also in case you're wondering, The Potter-related story that Jeremy thought sounded fake, was, indeed, fake. But the Huffington Post and other real-news organizations picked it up.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dark Times at Hogwarts

In six films, the Harry Potter series has transformed from a wondrous tale of magic and adventure to a depiction of adolescents struggling to persevere in a terrorist state. David Yates's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is still extremely entertaining and at times quite funny, but it exists in an atmosphere of fear. Voldemort's band of Death Eaters are now out in the open, ready to appear at any moment and destroy lives and livelihoods.[bxA]

One of the film's first scenes, depicting an attack on London's Millennium Bridge, opens with a shot of ordinary businessmen in an office, looking out of their skyscraper window. We've seen the Muggle world before in Potter films, but it always held a bit of whimsy, serving as a slightly old-fashioned portal to the realm of magic in which the main story lives. By reminding us of banal, modern times, Yates immediately creates a feeling of disturbance in our everyday routine, a feeling shared by the kids at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

We've seen Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger—along with the actors who play them, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson—grow up over the past six films. And if you thought dealing with teenage love and hormones was difficult, imagine what it must be like when dark magical forces are assaulting your school. Harry's longtime rival, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has been enlisted to perform some sort of mysterious, sinister task for the Death Eaters, and Harry and friends can't quite get to the bottom of it.

In some ways, the teenage love angle feels a bit superfluous in a story with such high stakes. But we've been following these characters for some time, and it's important to remember who they are and where they are in their lives. These are kids, after all, trying to complete the equivalent of their junior year in high school. That they may need to save the world as they know it is a hard pill to swallow.

Jim Broadbent plays the teacher of the year, a potions master named Horace Slughorn who has always had an inclination for befriending—or "collecting," as wise, old headmaster Dumbledore says—the Hogwarts students who are sure to go on to great things. Dumbledore asks Harry to work up a relationship with the nervously bumbling, high-rolling teacher in the hopes that that he might confide in Harry certain key components of the series' over-arching mystery. Not surprisingly, Broadbent is fantastic, bringing both humor and intrigue to the part.

The greatest performance in the film, however, comes from Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Gambon has been great since he took on the role in "Azkaban" following Richard Harris's death. But this film showcases all his fatherly, mischievous and mysterious traits as he guides Harry through his weighty responsibilities.

As someone who hasn't read past the second Potter book, I'm quite surprised to hear a number of people say that you must already be familiar with the book to understand the movie. Not so. There may be a few moments when the editing of a scene or a transition feels rushed, but this is the most expertly paced Potter film since "The Prisoner of Azkaban," which is an even more impressive feat when you consider the ever-growing size of the books.

Yates, who had previously done low-budget and/or TV work, proved himself immensely capable of a large-scale epic in the previous Potter film. But "Half-Blood Prince" finds the director even more at home at Hogwarts, willing and able to find new ways to shoot its now-familiar walls. We've seen these places before, but Yates looks at them differently in this film.

He creates two astounding set pieces of disorienting danger. One, set in a a wheat field, finds characters running toward a dangerous confrontation. The close-up shots and fast editing punctuate the feeling that we never know where danger will come from. The other, in a Hogwarts bathroom, is equally tight and intense. Making the ominous atmosphere more unsettling, Yates and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel desaturate the colors to the point that everything but red appears nearly black and white. The colors are again stripped out during the film's frightening climax.

Yates would have triumphed simply with these thrilling scenes, but the quiet poignancy, especially in the film's closing moments, makes it a true triumph. No longer the fresh-eyed children gaping with wide eyes at their wondrous surroundings, our heroes are on the cusp of adulthood. As they look toward uncertain futures, they contemplate the past and the familiar surroundings they must leave behind. And just like the film, they see them anew.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

They Say 13 is the Most Unlucky Number

I didn't find it to be that exactly, but I'll allow it as we had some technical difficulties getting this episode up.

Recorded 7/08/09, episode 13 of The Same Dame Podcast includes memorials to actor Karl Malden and silent film accompanist Bob Mitchell, exciting news about more stupid movie ideas based on nostalgic brands and lesbians…LESBIANS! Not to mention the reviews of "Whatever Works," "Public Enemies," "Away We Go" and "Chéri"—except we just mentioned them.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Friday, July 3, 2009

You Know That Sesame Street Song Where All They Do is Count to 12?

How do they make it so catchy?

Recorded 6/28/09 (postponed due to Jeremy's auto wreck), episode 12 of The Same Dame Podcast only contains one movie review, for "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," but makes up for it with memorials for the dead, our take on Oscar weirdness and an interview with the director of one of the reviewed films—you'll have to listen to find out which one!

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

...but if Dr. House had shown up in the footage, the Bolivians might have gotten suspicious...

Charles Widmore, you scoundrel! First you fake the Oceanic Flight 815 crash site, now you dupe the Bolivians with your fake crash footage? What's your angle, Chuck? Trying to purge the poor Bolivians of their soybean market and making a mockery of their obviously stellar journalistic instincts? What did they ever do to you?
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Bay Wants To Punch You in the Face With His New Movie

Michael Bay thinks robot testicles are a hilarious idea. He has many, many other bad ideas as well, all of which can be found in his new five-hour opus, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," and you can read my review of it here.

And speaking of eating shit, there's a scene in "Year One" where Jack Black, yes, eats shit. Find out if the rest of the movie is just as hilarious.
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Revenge of the Tylenol

I suppose whether or not you should see "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" depends on what you're seeking in a film. If you want a headache and to hear so many explosions that all sounds become meaningless, this film is for you. If you're looking for an entertaining—or simply coherent—story, compelling characters, well-played drama, funny gags or thrilling action, go elsewhere.

Of course, director Michael Bay's previous "Transformers" film was a gigantic hit despite resembling a gigantic shit, and the director's reputation for incomprehensible, fast-cut, noisy action has long followed him.

His new film's prehistoric prologue illustrates Bay's storytelling missteps. Some spear-armed hunters discover a giant alien ship with the founder of the Decepticons, whose name is The Fallen (or maybe just Fallen? Did he have a different name before he fell, or was it one of those self-fulfilling thingies?). Then the Fallen stomps on our ancestors. Admittedly not much of a scene, but the only part of it that matters is the surprise of the hunters when they find the Decepticons. The revelation comes via clunky editing and voice-over when it should offer some sort of magnificent reveal, or at least a good reaction shot. Instead it looks like this: hunters hunting, wide shot of of space ship and the Fallen (short for Fallonious?), various loud noises and smashing of your great-great-great-great-great-great granddad. It pains me to see Steven Spielberg's name under the Executive Producer credit and think that the master of the reveal shot didn't at least suggest an alternative approach.

I can muster up enough faint praise to say that some of the action scenes in the sequel are slightly easier to follow than in its predecessor. The underwhelming improvement derives from a few wide shots that actually follow the action long enough for the viewer to discern it (which isn't to say you won't see plenty of Bay's trademark awkward angles, meaningless close-ups and hack assemblies).

Unfortunately, he makes up for any mild visual improvements with some of the most grating scenes of all time. The film oscillates between over-serious pomposity and fourth-rate sitcom humor. I could spend pages describing everything wrong with the scenes depicting hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) as he prepares to leave for college while his dad acts giddy and his mother cries like a lunatic, or after he arrives at his dorm and his mom accidentally eats brownies with…well, I don't want to ruin the surprise. I could discuss the solemn gravity with which the film treats deaths whose permanence feels tenuous at best. But what's truly remarkable is how poorly the two elements mingle. Either Bay shovels nonsensical melodrama at full speed or he bashes us on the head with painfully unfunny bits, sometimes scrotum-inspired, delivered by either obnoxious, pretty people or obnoxious, ugly robots.

The ineptitude at work in these alien robots' character-design cannot be overstated. An extremely unpleasant feeling washed over me with every close-up. They're like dully lit vomit after an all-you-can-eat surplus-parts buffet. I wouldn't blink if you told me they were designed by the same second-graders who continue to add details to their drawings simply because empty space remains on the page. Yes, I realize I'm supposed to be blown away by every computer-generated nut and bolt, but I'd be much more amazed to detect some genuine emotion on the face of one of these drones.

So lifeless are the characters visually that they can't even match the weak caricatures suggested by the screenplay and voice-work. I'm sure no one could forget the Black Robot from the first film (and there were two yellow ones!), but the sequel tops his vaguely stereotypical dialogue with a pair of compact-hatchback-ad-bots who speak in hip-hop slang, have gold teeth and cop to illiteracy. It was near-impossible to distinguish most of the bots from one another in the first film, so instead of refining their design, Bay went and added a bunch more. It's generally impossible to figure out who's who, what they want or why they want it.

This film creates a rule about a mystical key in one scene and contradicts it less than 10 minutes later. It expects you to care about things when it hasn't given you a reason to. And the process takes two and a half hours. Take into account travel time and trailers and you could spend the time it takes to see "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" watching any of these films, among many others: "Nashville," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Magnolia," "The Big Parade," "Goodfellas" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." It's possible you've seen all these. I suggest you watch one of them again.
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Lessons in Film Directing From Michael Bay

This column, now missing somewhere inside In Utah This Week's intertubes, coincided with the release of the first "Transformers" film and is, I think, a helpful primer on the director's work.

There are many people who knew everything there was to know about the characters in "Transformers" before the film came out. I must confess, however, that I am not one of them.

While I hoped that "Transformers" would be a fun showcase for its much-hyped special effects, I knew little about the shape-shifting robots who are sentient alien beings (or whatever). So I relied entirely on the filmmaking techniques of director Michael Bay to entertain me and bring me up to speed.

But Bay didn't make it easy to follow the characters or, in most cases, even tell them apart. I figured out the semi-truck Optimus Prime thanks to the tacky paint job, and the lovable loser Bumblebee because he had the most screen time. But it was still hard to discern Bumblebee from the other yellow one ("There was another yellow one?" a colleague asked at the end of the screening). And although all the evil Transformers (Decepticons) used cool army vehicles as their disguises, the only one who had any personality was the little one who pretended to be a boom box and a cell phone.

William Shakespeare put it best when he wrote about a Bay film, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" (or was that a Tony Scott review?). How does Bay turn even the simplest silly popcorn movie into a headache? He spent years developing his technique, fine-tuning it from the slick, over-blown, in-your-face action of "The Rock" to the disorienting nonsense of "Armageddon." Through an intense study of his films—and in the case of Bay films, "intense study" doesn't imply multiple viewings—I have uncovered a few of his filmmaking secrets.

Character development: The trick is to wait until a robot dies, then have another robot call him "brother," to signify a deep, meaningful connection. It's so much easier than making the characters interesting throughout the whole film. Also, a love triangle makes a historic bombing much more engaging.

Sound design: By cranking up his sound mix with so many ear-shattering clanks and explosions, Bay deftly removes any sense of dynamics from his films, hence depriving the audience of a sense of surprise or importance when the bigger dramatic moments arrive. In "Transformers," he even ruins what should be a funny gag about a phone operator who refuses to put a soldier through to the Pentagon, insisting on a constant barrage of background explosions instead of carefully placed comedic punctuation. Bay may have outdone the barrage of "Armageddon" with the last hour of "Transformers," which is simply one big high-volume drone. It even outdoes "The Island," which had an intriguing start before Bay punished the audience for being interested.

Constant cuts and unclear compositions: Bay matches his love for loud, piercing noises with loud, piercing visuals. Watch any clip from "Armageddon" and see a bunch of random shots work against each other to deprive the audience of any sense of what's happening. The trick is never to stop, thus never giving the audience time to realize that nothing happened. What should be a cool shot of a Transformer running, jumping and turning into a a car before hitting the ground loses its awe due to an arbitrary angle and a cut that actually makes it harder to see the wow moment. After watching "Transformers," I saw an ad for the "Transformers" video game and got more of an impression of how the characters look and move than I did in all 144 minutes of the movie.

Cool shots, no point: Bay has devised some rather remarkable visual ideas, but he doesn't let that diminish his reputation as a Hollywood hack. He usually finds a way to use his ideas to detract from whatever story he's allegedly telling. In "Pearl Harbor," there's a rather amazing shot over the top of a bomb as it drops on the U.S. naval fleet. But rather than use the shot for the first bomb that dropped, or another bomb that had a significant impact on the film's characters, Bay buries it amongst a collection of meaningless explosions. During a "Transformers" fight scene, the camera rattles around inside the car of two characters who have nothing to do with the movie. The important action is barely visible through their window. Remarkable.

Dialogue: No matter who wrote the screenplay, Bay will make sure there are a few classic lines. From "Pearl Harbor:" "It's your nose that hurts." "I think it's my heart." From "Transformers:" "We were deceived by the Decepticons." (Yup—you'd think they'd have seen it coming.) Honorable mention goes to, "Put the cube in my chest," which Optimus Prime repeats five times in as many minutes. A different phrase kept repeating in my head: "Sneak out and see and see what else is playing in the multiplex."
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Suppose a 'Goes Up to Eleven' Reference Would be too Obvious

Recorded 6/20/09, episode 11 of The Same Dame Podcast opens with a bout of depression (re: "Year One") and somehow devolves into a discussion about unorthodox procreation practices. In between, we discover Jeremy’s burgeoning second career as a lasso-clad porn star and take a look at fellow professional lover Sasha Grey’s least-penetrative role to date in "The Girlfriend Experience."

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Criterion Restores 15 Minutes of Lost 'Marienbad' Fart Jokes

When Alain Resnais released "Last Year at Marienbad" in 1961, he was under extreme pressure to keep the running-time at 95 minutes or less. At the end of a heated editing-room fight, his producers forced him to cut a full 15-minutes of fart jokes, which for the past half-century were believed lost. But the Criterion Collection's new, director-approved DVD and Blu-ray release of the classic masterpiece restores this legendary cinematic treasure trove, oft compared with the missing footage from "Greed" and "The Magnificent Ambersons." Criterion managed to keep it a secret for some time, but made the big announcement in a new ad on The Awl:

As of publication, you can still see the ad on The Awl. Try refreshing the page a few time if it doesn't pop up the first time (because an ad for "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" appears instead).

Having spent a little time with the DVD, which comes out June 23rd, I can tell you that not only is the transfer gorgeous, but the restored footage is 100-percent on the same level as the previously known cut. Every new fart joke had me on the floor. Bravo, Renais, and congratulations to Criterion for this momentous discovery.

A quick sample Alain Robbe-Grillet's dialogue, to get you excited:

-I've never farted in anyone's face.

-I remember it clearly. It was in the gardens at Frederiksbad. I was sitting alone, beside a statue. I noticed you along the balustrade. You were alone, to one side. You came towards me now, but you didn't seem to see me. I told you you looked alive. Then you looked at me, turned around, spread your cheeks, stuck your ass in my face and let one rip.

-But I've never been to Frederiksbad.

It was evening. The last evening probably. It was almost dark. A faint shadow moved slowly through the dusk. Even before I could make out your features, I knew it was you. I couldn't mistake the remarkably strong, slightly sweet stench that had wafted from your behind. When you recognized me, you stopped. We stood there, a few yards apart, without speaking. The only sounds we made came from our anuses—mine so faint you weren't sure I made them until you caught the oh so deadly scent, yours as loud as a tugboat. You stood in front of me, waiting perhaps, as if unable to take another step forward or turn back.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Talk About Final Destination 3-D

If you don't like to make jokes in bad taste, it's best to just avoid this article.

An Italian woman who arrived late for the Air France plane flight that crashed in the Atlantic last week, killing all 228 on board, has died in a car accident, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

(tip: Joe Beatty)
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

SDP Joins Commandments, Fingers, Toes, Kieślowski and Bo Derek with Perfect 10

Recorded 6/7/09, episode 10 of The Same Dame Podcast features news on Carradine, Waldo, Ghostbusting, Archie, Brüno and other fictional characters. And we review "Up," "Drag Me to Hell," "Land of the Lost," "The Hangover" and "Brothers Bloom." Unfortunately, this episode was so packed that we had no room for special guests, but we'll try to remedy that in the future.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Monday, June 8, 2009

Drag Me Up to the Limits of Salvation....uh....Smithsonian.

See what I did there? I made an entire sentence out of words from movies I recently reviewed. And the sentence made perfect sense, too. Go ahead, read it again.

I'm waiting....

Rolls off the tongue, eh?

Well, now that I've procrastinated long enough, here are five tasty reviews. From best movie to worst:


"Drag Me to Hell"

"The Limits of Control"

"Terminator Salvation"

And for this last one...I'll let you choose between two different reviews for "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." The first is mine at IGMS; the second is Peter Bart's at Variety. While you're making your decision, let me offer this promise: I won't repeatedly refer to "Night at the Museum" as "surrealism" (I don't think this is what Breton, Bunuel, etc. had in mind), AND I will not - I repeat, NOT - refer to Shawn Levy as "a fabulously talented director," and I will NOT argue that a sequel to a movie that made $575 million worldwide, and which follows virtually the exact same plot formula as the original, is somehow "daring."
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine

Recorded 5/24/09, episode 9 of The Same Dame Podcast features reviews of "Terminator Salvation" and "Angels and Demons." Our friend George Lucas also joins us to talk about the CG Arnold and its termination skills. After that, we recap a Cannes Film Festival we didn't attend and check in on the latest news, including at long last…"Ghostbusters 3."

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Monday, May 25, 2009


Praise be to the King! In the next couple weeks, Turner Classic Movies will air two essential pieces of filmmaking that you can't get on DVD. While director King Vidor is known largely for his work on sound pictures, the pinnacle of his work came with his two silent-era masterpieces, "The Big Parade" (1925) and "The Crowd" (1928).

First off, tonight at 2:45am, "The Big Parade" caps off TCM's Memorial Day weekend tribute to WWI. If that doesn't knock you on your ass, wait tell you see the triumph of visual storytelling that is "The Crowd," which airs 9pm on Wednesday June 3, as part of a day devoted to Vidor.

It's been four years since these films aired, and while Warner has been promising to release them on DVD soon, they've been promising that for years.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Know Thine Enemy

A film must understand the nature of its villain. The code it operates by, its physical abilities and limitations, its ultimate goals—all these factors determine the kind of force that our hero will square off against. If the director and screenwriters don't understand these basic principals (or at least make clear that they can't be understood), there's no hope for the audience.

"Terminator Salvation" not only misunderstands its villain, it blatantly contradicts its own descriptions of it. Here is a film so confused about what it's doing that it gives its title twice during the opening credits. We're told one thing in expositional dialogue, but see another when the robotic bad guys come out to fight.

The self-aware computer/machine Skynet (not to be confused with the relatively benign Sky Network in the UK) created robots called Terminators, but a more apropos name would have been "Throwerators." These super-strength robots were created for one task: killing humans. But whenever they get their hands on one, whose neck they could easily break, whose heart they could rip out, whose brain they could squash, whose spine they could snap, they merely throw them against something (usually a wall). And don't get me started on their aim when they actually decide to shoot their laser guns at people.

There's a reason that the first two Terminator movies were primarily chases, and particularly tense ones: If the robot got close enough to its targets, it would kill them. Director McG missed that factor when he designed "Terminator: Salvation's" fight scenes, which are based on hand-to-hand combat against robots undeniably superior in strength. Even if the scenes were well-done (they more often tend toward mediocrity), it would be hard to shake the feeling that apocalyptic prophet John Connor should have died the first time a Terminator grabbed hold of him.

Played by Christian Bale in this installment, Connor has lost all the piss and vinegar of the young lad portrayed by Edward Furlong in "Terminator 2: Judgement Day." He now acts resolutely somber and repeats the same three or four lines of character points without humor or energy. Sure, he's living in a desolate wasteland inhabited by robots who want him dead (incompetence notwithstanding), but come on mate, give us a smile.

Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright proves that not everyone acts like such a mind-numbing spoilsport in the future. Marcus donated his body to science while on death row in 2003. Imagine his surprise when he wakes up in an empty, destroyed Los Angeles in 2018, looking the same age.

Under seige, he meets teenager Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the character played by Michael Biehn in the first "Terminator." From that film, we know little Kyle will grow up to travel through time to protect and impregnate Connor's mother, assuming the future and/or past don't change. Kyle teaches Marcus about the Skynet robots, and Marcus serves as a father figure to the lad. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: A randomly thrown-in mute girl named Star travels with them as well.

Just when the Reese-Wright relationship starts to get interesting, the film abandons it to propel its nonsensical plot. McG continually loses sight of his film's greatest assets to focus on silliness like Skynet's Holocaust-esque human-transport machine. Skynet is wasting resources to move humans when its only known goal is to kill them. One would think that the resistance would at least investigate why the machines are going through all this trouble. Instead, the humans stand around bored, waiting for another robot attack so they can ineffectively smack the mechanical behemoths who want nothing more than to throw them against walls.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

SDP08: Where No Podcast Has Gone Before…

Recorded 5/13/09, episode 8 of The Same Dame Podcast is all about "Star Trek." Well…for the first 10 or 15 minutes anyway. It's all about "Star Trek" and the Cannes Film Festival lineup. No, wait…I guess, we talk about other news and review some more movies as well. It's all about "Star Trek," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "Rudo y Cursi," "Tyson," the Cannes lineup and other news items. That about sums it up.

But wait! We also have a special guest who chronicled the giants of American cinema and made some iconic masterpieces of his own. He also does a lot of audio commentaries.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yacking About 'LOST' for an Hour (SDP 7)

Recorded 5/12/09, this very special episode 7 of The Same Dame Podcast is devoted entirely to "LOST," which airs its fifth season finale Wednesday night. Joined by special guest Jessica Mathews, we go through the twists and turns that define the series, the actors, writers and directors who make it so damn addictive and the mysteries that perplex the shit out of us. We don't know anything about the finale, and we won't spoil it!

This is one of two podcasts this week. The next will follow our usual format.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

In the beginning ...

May has brought us a pair of origin stories for popular movie franchises - in fact, you can tell one of them is an origin story because the word "origin" is right there in the title. See, look: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," directed by recent Same Dame Podcast guest and professional storyteller Gavin Hood. The second, and much better, origin story unfortunately isn't as clear about its intentions, as the word "origin" is nowhere to be found in the title. It's called "Star Trek."

Oh, and you can also check out semi-recent reviews of "17 Again," "Sleep Dealer" and "Obsessed." Yes, that's right - I saw "Obsessed." I had my reasons.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

American Apparel Manufactures Clothing, Irony

Remember a year ago when American Apparel used Woody Allen's image in a billboard, without paying him any endorsement money, and Allen sued? Well that case is on its way to court now, and American Apparel's lawyers have worked up a brilliant defense. Slick lawyer Stuart Slotnick explained it the Associated Press:

Certainly, our belief is that after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America's desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is.

They also, for some reason, want Mia Farrow and Larry Flynt to testify at the trial.

It's simple, really. Allen is a scandal-ridden loser with no friends. His image would serve no use in an ad campaign. He couldn't sell a special one-of-a-kind 10-disc Blu-ray edition of Annie Hall to Chris Bellamy for $5.

I can't think of any holes in this argument. Oh, except for one thing…

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SDP 6: Landmark Crank Criticism, Russell and Bale On Set and Newspapers

Who could ask for a more amazing podcast than this?

Recorded 4/29/09, Episode 6 of The Same Dame Podcast contains a conversation that will no doubt go down in the history of film criticism. Scholar Ben Zalkind joins us to discuss the artistic achievement of "Crank: High Voltage." You won't find this in-depth conversation anywhere else, folks. And while George Lucas couldn't join us this episode, he did help us digitally simulate what a set with Christian Bale and David O. Russell will be like. We also look at what may be the last gasp of newspapermen in the movies with reviews of "State of Play" and "The Soloist." Oh, and Chris made us review "Sleep Dealer."

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.

UPDATE: Bellamy and Zalkind's original essay.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Five!

Recorded 4/14/09, Episode 5 of The Same Dame Podcast offers the most insightful, analytical review of "Hannah Montana: The Movie" that you've ever heard, from two guys who obviously watched the film very closely. We also review "Observe and Report" and two Sundance films, "Sugar" and "Sin Nombre" before our esteemed news desk tackles a delightfully dull news period. We touch on Twitter and piracy before a certain Oscar-winning director joins us to talk about his latest work and how digital pirates violated it. I'd tell you who he is, but then it'd ruin the surprise!

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

McG ‘shattered’ as mammarian dreams get nipped

LOS ANGELES – Visionary cinema has taken a staggering blow.

Noted auteur and breast enthusiast McG is reportedly “inconsolable” after word leaked that he has lost his grueling battle with Warner Bros., re: Moon Bloodgood’s breasts. In confirmation of what has long been rumored, his newest opus, “Terminator Salvation” – the fourth and, it appears, least naked of the long-running film series – has been given a paltry PG-13 rating by the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration.

“My grand vision has been terminated by tyranny and oppression!” McG cried sadly. “Tyranny and oppression ... of tits! Those precious and glorious tits, captured in 35mm, have been terminated. And I feel like I, myself, have been terminated.”[bxA]

According to the studio’s official web site, the rating is for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.” Nowhere in that description, one will notice, is the word “nudity” included – nor “toplessness,” “breasts,” “mammaries” or “tit-fucking.”

The unveiling of the PG-13 rating – a first for the “Terminator” series, whose first three installments were all awarded the more ass-kicking “R” tag – brings a conclusion to what has been a long-standing duel between Artist and Financier that has seen Internet message boards flooded with speculation.

The heart of the matter lies in McG’s determination in showing us “Moon Bloodgood’s tits in all their glory, WOOOOO!,” according to a written statement from the renowned filmmaker himself. In the film, Ms. Bloodgood plays a pilot who is fighting alongside John Connor (Christian Bale) in the resistance against the Machines, man-made cyborgs who as we all know became self-aware on August 29, 1997.

McG has long stood firm in his convictions, stating that Ms. Bloodgood’s character is an “homage to Linda Hamilton,” who famously played the heroine Sarah Connor in James Cameron’s original two masterworks, baring her body and soul for the camera. McG has eschewed the “soul” element, emphasizing more of the “body” part of the equation, arguing that Bloodgood’s bosoms are “the physical embodiment of her soul.”

“Just like Sarah Connor, Moon Bloodgood’s character, Blair, is a sexy, beautiful, feminine woman, who is also totally strong and fierce and independent,” McG explained recently, adding, “and has great tits.”

As such, McG’s vision could only be complete with the aforementioned breasts salvaged in the final product. He has gained significant support in his quest to preserve his artistic intentions, most notably at a recent WonderCon appearance. The director reportedly rallied the frenzied crowd of sweaty, virginal adolescents, galvanizing them in his cause for breast preservation, which the studio has been long attempting to quash.

McG went further, explaining his precise plans to a fanbase suddenly united in its fervor: “First I start with a close-up of her feet and then I slowly pan up her whole naked body, until finally the right nipple makes its first appearance. Then I glide over, only she turns around seductively to go kick some ass. Then I changed my mind halfway through the shot, and for the rest of the scene I just do a bunch of quick cuts and show her cans from all different angles. Then a sexy female Terminator comes along and motorboats them! It’s totally rad!”

Added McG: “Tits are fuckin’ awesome.”

However, the removal of said tits has brought this fight to an ugly conclusion. Insiders worry that a lack of promised breasts in “Terminator Salvation” will permanently compromise both McG’s artistic integrity and street cred – and, hence, his authorial autonomy.

“Breasts are a symbol of motherhood!” McG pleaded. “‘Children of Men’ was all about motherhood and my film is just like ‘Children of Men!’ And ‘Children of Men’ had tits! My entire movie is filtered through the veneer of the Madonna-whore complex, represented by human female mammaries! But the censors-that-be at Warner Bros. have brought down their iron fist on my masterpiece. The true Terminator in this movie is Warner Bros. – and they have terminated art!”

Ms. Bloodgood’s breasts could not be reached for comment.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Same Dame Podcast Episode 4…in 3-D!

Recorded 3/31/09, episode four of The Same Dame Podcast takes on the disturbing push toward 3-D exhibition. After Chris and I discuss this impending disaster, our very favorite guest, George Lucas, shares his plans for the medium.

We also review "Monsters Versus Aliens," "Knowing," "Duplicity" and "I Love You, Man" and check in on the latest Hollywood news.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode.
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Friday, March 27, 2009

At Long Last: Episode Three of The Same Dame Podcast

Recorded 3/7/09, this tragically delayed third installment of The Same Dame Podcast picks up where our last one left off—discussing the most anticipated films of 2009. Get the mildly inside info on "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Funny People," and hear about a hell of a lot more films. We also weigh in on "Watchmen" (which really had just come out at the time, we swear) and the artistic significance of Moon Bloodgood's breasts.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) and stay tuned for our next episode, which takes on the 3-D fad, among other news and releases.

UPDATE: Well, that didn't go smoothly. If you downloaded the episode in the first 10 minutes of its posting, you may experience an avant-garde sound collage about 40 or 50 minutes in. Coherent podcasts are so 2008.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A second watcher watches the 'Watchmen'

My dear colleague Mr. Mathews has already gone over "Watchmen" in great detail, but my official review has [finally] gone up as well. Jump over here to find it.
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Friday, March 6, 2009

Feeling Blue

Any film that tried to truly capture the essence of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen would by design have to be a massive, sprawling endeavor, overstuffed with ideas and ambitions. And director Zack Snyder has certainly produced a film along those lines, packed with philosophy, satire and a collection of delusional, depressed, needy and/or sociopathic "heroes." His film is nothing if not ambitious. Unfortunately, for every fascinating cinematic move he makes in this deconstruction of the super-hero genre, he also misses a mark in character, tone or storytelling.[bxA]

The film is a huge step up from Snyder's last film, "300," which was essentially a collection of wooden acting, bad dialogue and repetitive, mind-numbingly dull slow-motion action scenes. While all these elements exist in "Watchmen," there are also intriguing ideas, moments of inspired filmmaking and quality performances.

For example, Jackie Earle Haley delivers a nice mix of insanity, certitude and creepiness as Rorschach, a hardcore vigilante who looks a bit like a gangster or noir detective, if that noir detective covered his face with an animated black-and-white cloth.

The film takes place in an alternate reality mid-1980s, in which masked adventuring (to borrow a phrase from the comic book) came into being shortly after comic books introduced the concept in the late 1930s. They practiced their dress-up vigilanteism until recently, when congress outlawed all non-government-sanctioned heroes.

The United States certainly wouldn't outlaw its key to nuclear supremacy, the film's only character with actual super powers. This glowing, blue (and yes, usually naked) man, dubbed Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) to strike fear into the communists, came into being through an accident in a nuclear reactor. He won the Vietnam war, which led to five consecutive terms for President Nixon (Robert Wisden, who receives way too much screen time doing a bad impersonation while wearing horrendous makeup).

The first generation of heroes, as seen in an excellent opening montage set to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing," were killed, entangled in scandals or sent to the insane asylum, but another bunch emerged to take their place. None of them, however, could top the naked, blue hero, and stopped when it was clear that the public didn't want them anymore.

Rorschach is the only rogue vigilante who refuses to stop practicing his own brand of justice, with its narrow-minded, clear-cut vision of good and evil. When an unsavory hero known as the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) dies, Rorschach is convinced that someone has plotted to kill all the masked heroes, and warns his former colleagues, including his ex-partner Dan, formerly Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), a Batman type with lots of gadgets who now lives a boring civilian life. Dan begins spending time with Laurie Jupiter, aka Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), who got into the business because her mom wanted her to follow in her footsteps. Now she lives a cloistered life as the human liaison for her boyfriend, Dr. Manhattan.

Ozymandias, an Egyptian-themed hero dubbed the "smartest man on earth," retired and came out as Adrian Veidt, a celebrity millionaire succeeding in high-profile business ventures, including a line of toys based on himself and his crime-fighting partners. He and Dr. Manhattan are working on a free energy solution, an apparently altruistic enterprise that irks energy-minded businessmen for its "socialism."

If this seems like a lot to get through, even in 163 minutes, that's probably because it is. Snyder sometimes gets the pacing and balance right, but spends too much time on certain scenes, some of which don't need to be there at all, while racing through others. If a film is going to include a violent and disturbing rape scene, for example, it ought to follow the affected characters close enough to do it justice.

Snyder employs a wider visual arsenal than he did in "300," and nails certain scenes. The atmosphere of Rorschach's journal entires oozes a dark mood, and there are other examples of clever visual storytelling.

But he still loads the film with silly special effects and slow-motion shots that undermine the notion of ordinariness. His style is at odds with the realist tone that the story suggests. The point is that these heroes are just ordinary men, trying to be heroes in a world in which good and evil isn't so clear cut. But their fighting abilities are downright super-human. Characters jump around like cartoons and jump back up after their heads are violently smashed into walls. It's exactly the kind of caped porn that the film pretends it's deconstructing. Also, the attempts to recreate certain dual-story panels from the comics via cross-cutting comes off as out-of-place.

Snyder's greatest failure may be his inability to visualize Dr. Manhattan's perception of time. Unlike humans, he explains, he experiences all moments at once. But Snyder merely communicates this with a stock collection of flashbacks and no strong point-of-view or compelling editing structure. When this device serves as the basis of a major revelation—one that wasn't built-up-to very well to begin with—it comes off as completely clumsy and unconvincing.

The film's art direction is its greatest accomplishment. While obviously owing much to Gibbons's artwork and Moore's scripts (and a bit to "Dr. Strangelove" in Nixon's war room), Alex McDowell's production design brims over with strong atmosphere and clever details. In the one setting in which McDowell and Snyder departed significantly from the original design, Ozymandias's arctic retreat, the alterations not only look great, but actually fit the character better.

The adaptation restructures certain parts of the story, but is extremely faithful to its source material. Much of the dialogue is lifted verbatim out of the comic book—I've only read it once, but in several scenes I knew exactly what each character was going to say, word for word.

With the exception of Rorschach's narrated journal, most of the words play out as awkward and stilted on screen. Malin Akerman gives a particularly dreadful performance, delivering each of her lines with the conviction of a text-reading computer program. Patrick Wilson and Matthew Goode embarass themselves at times as well.

This clumsiness can partly be attributed to poor direction of acting—Snyder's films give the impression that he has a Lucasesque tendency to focus so deeply on his visual trickery that he forgets to pay attention to his actors' performances. But perhaps the screenplay should have relied less on Moore's dialogue, which may be better suited to the printed page.

When the screenplay does delve into original dialogue, it's uneven, and often reflects a desire to clearly spell out the film's meanings. The closing scene between Laurie and her mother features a particularly cringe-inducing line.

There are also some triumphs of adaptation. While I'm sure that some fanboys will disagree, the concept of the film's modified ending not only holds true to the book's vision, but actually improves it, efficiently integrating the characters and creating a cinematic pace. It's conceit is also more convincing than the comic's ending. The execution itself leaves something to be desired, however, with generic fight scenes and a conspicuous lack of the nauseating shock and horror that the scene demands. That mix of admiration of ideas and frustration with execution embodies the experience "Watchmen" delivers.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Episode Two of The Same Dame Podcast Has Arrived

In episode two of The Same Dame Podcast, Chris and I look ahead to films in 2009, from "Watchmen" to "Avatar." It's the first of a thrilling, suspenseful two-part series. We also offer our take on the Oscar ceremony, the bastardized "French Connection" Blu-ray release and whatever topics come up, including a guy whose name happens to be Steve McQueen.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you can get part two of the 2009 preview as soon as it hits the tubes.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Used to Care, But…

Things have changed here at The Same Dame. You'll no doubt notice the nice, expandable-and-collapsible view on the main page that makes it less of a hassle to see recent headlines (thanks to Acheron at Blogger eXtensions for the great scripting on bxA!). And you'll also notice that The Same Dame now has an official contributor other than myself in the form of one Christopher G. Bellamy. You have of course seen some of Chris's work on the blog before, and heard him as the co-host of The Same Dame Podcast (a new episode is barreling through the Internet's tubes as I type). Now he'll be sharing his insights on films, film news, and whatever else on a regular basis. This is the first step in my plot to assimilate an army of film critics into one giant Same Dame and take over the world.
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Joking About a Jokester?

Here's a riddle for you: What do you accomplish when you take the piss out of a celebrity who is taking the piss out of the whole notion of celebrity?

Both the Independent Spirit Awards and the Oscars featured bits in which actors dressed as the new Joaquin Phoenix, all bushy-haired, bearded and brimming over with detached incoherence (kind of like me if my hair weren't straight). And both imitations got laughs. But neither was funnier than Phoenix himself. There's something inherently wrong about sending up this performance. It's like insulting Charlie Chaplin for walking funny. It's like making fun of Sacha Baron Cohen for acting like a flamboyant Euro-trash fashion reporter.

I'm 95-percent certain that Phoenix's retirement from acting and his unlikely pursuit of a hip-hop career are all part of a Kaufmanesque prank. [bxA]If it weren't, I doubt that Casey Affleck would sit back and direct a documentary about his friend's apparent mental disintegration. It wouldn't surprise me if Affleck and Phoenix actually anticipated the entire media uproar.

While the whole leaving-acting-for-hip-hop story has been going on for a while, it came into the mainstream when Pheonix went on David Letterman to promote his "final performance" in James Gray's "Two Lovers." The officially sanctioned online highlight reel from Letterman's show was only half as long as the real interview, and deleted much of the funniest material—Phoenix's responses—in favor of awkward silences and quips from Letterman. Watching the whole thing and considering Phoenix's talent, I attribute it not to a clueless has-been, but a virtuoso performer. Watch the moment when Letterman insults his guest for chewing gum on the show. Phoenix immediately says, "I don't have to chew gum," takes his gum out of his mouth and sticks it under Dave's desk. And it's hilarious. But in hindsight, it more accurately reflects a fast-thinking improvisational actor than a guy so out of it he can barely answer a question.

If the whole thing isn't a joke, which is highly unlikely, then it reflects a choice on Phoenix's part not to engage in the typical banter of TV interviews. The man has been doing promotional appearances for years. He knows how to put on a fun, charming face, and if he really wanted his hip-hop career to take off, he would have put it on for that interview. The man knows what he's doing, even if the rest of us haven't a clue. And his work/stunt/statement/prank/whatever will be remembered significantly more than any comedic riff on it. If those riffs are remembered at all, that is.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Possible Step Forward for Blu-ray?

On Wednesday, Sony, Philips, and Panasonic announced a "single, one-stop shop" license for Blu-ray, CD and DVD that should make the manufacture of Blu-ray drives and players a lot less of a headache.

Steve Jobs famously explained that Apple hadn't put Blu-ray drives in its Macs yet because the format is a "bag of hurt"—an ironic comment since Apple is part of the Blu-ray consortium. Folks are once again speculating whether this deal will inspire Apple and other manufacturers to bother with the format, although ZDNet still doubts it'll be in consumer machines any time soon..

"We imagine some of Apple's high-end customers, like media studios, might want the ability to read and write Blu-ray discs from their Macs. So maybe Apple will do it anyway to keep them from running Windows."
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is 'Lost' Made Up As it Goes Along?

(SPOILER WARNING: If you aren't at least through with season three of "Lost," here be spoilers.)

The answer is surely "somewhat," but no one has convinced me that the "Lost" writers are winging it to an extent that's damaging to the show.

Yesterday, Kevin J. Guhl at Topless Robot published what he describes as 10 Clues the Writers of Lost are Making It Up as They Go Along. Given the relatively fast speed with which the pilot episode was put together, I think it's unrealistic to expect that full six-season arcs for the show's 15 main characters were fully realized. Even if they were, certain errors would still be unavoidable, given the scope of the show. (For example, in the pilot, Charlie says his Drive Shaft ring is just a tour ring, but we learn otherwise in season three.)

But I'm not sure "Lost" would be better if each character's story were strictly mapped out in advance, with no space for wiggle room. [bxA]The writers clearly reacted to their actors' strengths, and adapted to how the performers grew into their characters. Without this room to breathe, we might have seen cast members stuck in roles that they weren't suited to play.

Regardless, most of Guhl's observations are either minor quibbles or completely wrongheaded. Let's start-off with his top-ranked complaint and work our way back.

"1) Nadia (or, Sayid's the Playa)"
Guhl's number-one reason is pretty much completely off-target. He complains that Sayid told Danielle that Nadia was dead, then she turned out to be alive. He writes, "But here's the kicker: A flashback reveals the CIA told Sayid that Nadia was alive not long before he got stranded on the island. So, there's no doubt: Sayid lied about the love of his life being dead so he could have some hot tropical island sex with the bitchy blonde!"

But here's the kicker to that kicker: The Sayid-Shannon love story emerged after the flashback revealed that Nadia was still alive. It was by no means my favorite plot-line on the show, but the affair's purpose was to demonstrate that the Losties were beginning to accept that they may never get off the island, and decide taht it's time to start life anew as castaways. It was crucial to this conceit that that Nadia was still alive and Sayid was on his way to see her. Sayid was among the characters most determined to get off the island in season one, due to his desire to see Nadia.

Also, while Sayid's declaration that Nadia was dead may have been due to writer error, you also must consider the unrelaiable narrator factor. Sayid was saying it to an apparently crazy woman with a gun on him, and he'd been trying to earn her sympathy ever since she took him prisoner. Just sayin'.

"2) The Giant Four-Toed Foot Statue"
I don't see how anyone can complain about a lack of answers regarding the four-toed statue until the series has ended. There was nothing about the statue's presence to suggest that it would promptly play into the story. It was just sitting there, weird and awesome. The Sickness, for example, only recently came back into focus.

"Fans continue to ask about it, and it appears that the creators of Lost swear it will be address in season five...although they said previously it would be address in season four, and season three before that," Guhl writes.

I get the impression that the "Lost" producers like to send out false leads. Also, the writers strike forced them to move some stuff around. If the four-toed statue never comes up, then I guess this point holds, but I'd bet my gold-dipped genitalia that it'll be explained before the show ends.

"3) The Deal with the Others"
"Why take the kids? Why kill the Tailies, but not the main cast? Why bother with the disguises at all? Why all the whispering? Unfortunately, now that the Others have been decimated, it doesn't look like we'll ever find out."

Hrm. I thought it was pretty clear that the Others were taking the kids because they can't have kids of their own. And they took more Tailies than they killed. I believe that they only killed people when their cover was at risk, whether when dealing with the tailies or the main cast. Ethan was discovered, preventing him from completing his task.

I'd be surprised if the motivation behind the lists weren't further expanded upon. Even in season one, we learned that they were capable of infiltration, and not wild savages.

The article claims: "No, the real problem was that the creators of Lost forgot that actor Malcolm David Kelley was not Emmanuel Lewis, and would age much faster than the snail's pace of time that went by on the show. … Now, admittedly, Lost's writers and producers said they've always had a plan for Kelly's growth, but the truth is we've seen no evidence of this plan. "

Seriously. "Holy shit! This kids gonna age—we didn't plan for that!" If the writer's didn't have a plan for Walt's aging, why did he get kidnapped at the end of season one? I hope we'll see him soon—I was annoyed that he wasn't mentioned in the last episode, for example—but now that the skip forward allows for it, I wouldn't be surprised to see him again soon.

"5) The Hatch"
"There's the comical fact that for all the heartache and backache Locke went through in trying to open the Hatch, there was a flimsy door nearby the whole time that would have made life much easier."

Yes, I hate comical irony, too.

"When the inside of the Swan first appeared, it looked like a loft apartment in New York City, but quickly morphed to look like the bowels of the subway."

Does anyone really think they re-built the set after they made it up as they went along? Or did they maybe just use tight camera angles to make you think the opening of season two (one of the best openings ever) took place somewhere else—you know, so it would be a surprise that it was the hatch? All the stuff from that opening sequence is seen in the Swan later, we just get the whole picture.

"6) Boone's Transformation from Leading Man to Sacrificial Lamb"
"8) The Other Others Who Died Off-Screen"

You can't really complain about interesting characters whom you liked dying, Others or otherwise. The argument here seems to be that minor characters who will die shouldn't be interesting. And Boone was third-billed when the show started, therefore he shouldn't die. This is the same show whose original pilot killed-off Jack. What the hell? The whole point of Boone's death was to illustrate that no one was safe. It gives scenes a lot more suspense when you know that the creators are really willing to kill off characters.

"7) The Wasted Tail Section"
I know some people didn't like the tail-section detour in season two, but I thought it added a lot both in terms of the island mythology and as an alternate perspective on events. The shows first real lull didn't hit until the middle of season two, after the Tailies made it to the beach. It is a bit of a drag that all but one of the new characters died, but there were factors outside of the show that played into that as well.

"Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez), after a huge build-up, was shot dead prematurely along with Libby (Cynthia Watros) by Michael, who really didn't have much of a reason to kill them other than to sabotage his character--think about it. Couldn't he just as easily held the gun on them and threatened to shoot them unless they released Ben?"

Yes, if that was the only part of the bargain Michael made with the Others, I suppose it wouldn't make sense. But if Michael had revealed himself as an agent of the Others, he would've had a harder time leading Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley to the ambush.

"9) The Disaster of Nikki and Paulo"
I know everyone hates Nikki and Paolo, but I thought their episode was brilliant—The "Rosencranzt and Guildenstern are Dead" of "Lost." I was a bit dubious at the beginning of season three, but it was definitely worth it. Sure, it would've been better if they were hanging around in the background the whole duration of the show, but even if the producers did plan it from the start of the show (and this clearly isn't part of the main story, so I they surely didn't), it would be difficult to get non-background actors to stand around and do nothing for three seasons. If I recall, actor Rodrigo Santoro was annoyed that he did it for one season.

"10) Claire's Mom Is Very Opinionated for a Woman in a Coma"
This is a valid one. I would've preferred that the clip that accompanied this entry on Topless Robot were the one in which Claire talks about why she hasn't told her mom. I remember the conversation being fairly vague and brief, but it definitely implied that mother was strict and would freak-out.

I think these are the sorts of details that are, in fact, being made up as they go along, and there are a lot of them. But the show's constant reinvention of itself is part of its charm. If want a show without any inconsistencies, you probably need to watch one that only lasts 50 hours or less.
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