Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

I’m back from the best weekend of my life. That may be an exaggeration, but it was freaking awesome. Yes, that’s right, this weekend for the first time I went to Comic-Con International in sunny San Diego California (shout out to my cousin and cousin-in-law who let me crash in their house with the, literally, tons of free crap that I accumulated.

Comic-Con is not for the faint of heart. It is four and a half days of fanboys and fangirls dressed as anything from Storm Troopers to Cling-ons, Sailor Moon characters (I apologize but that is the only anime I know) to The Spirit. It’s a veritable free-for-all of nerds. In other words, it’s my mecca. As Phoebe said in one episode of Friends, ‘It’s like the mother ship is calling you home.’ Of course, she was speaking of Bloomingdales, but I did get a big frakkin bag to take home with me.

Yes, it was a fantastic weekend. But Comic-Con 2008 just happened to be the Comic-Con where the most anticipated comic book movie ever was being promoted. It’s a little movie I like to call Watchmen.

Yes, Watchmen is a movie based on a Comic book. But it’s based on THE comic book. Basically, if any of you came to me and said, Julia, I want to start reading graphic novels because I’ve heard that they aren’t just men in tights battling weird creatures. I would say to you, okay, start with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, both of which were written in 1986 and basically changed the face of comics as we know them. Before these two books comics weren’t taken seriously, but these books went to a darker, more adult place with superheroes. Basically, they went somewhat realistic because really, if superheroes were real things they would be fucked up in the head. I mean, we’re talking about men and women who put themselves above the law and the workings of the law. They dress in costume and fight criminals, sometimes killing them in the process. Batman may never kill the Joker, but there are other bad guys that die along the way at his hands.

Yes, comic-con was a Watchmen-fest. But one other big comic book movie is coming out at the end of this year, and its presence didn’t go unnoticed in the face of the Watchmen-mania. This movie would be The Spirit. Will Eisner, the king of comics (the awards for comics are called the Eisners for a reason), created The Spirit in the 1940s. He’s a grittier and sexier superhero along the lines of The Shadow and the movie is directed by a comic book writer you may have heard of: Frank Miller (he wrote Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns among others).

Yes, it’s a good day for comics and for film. What I realized at Comic-Con while walking through the 135,000 people in attendance: These are the people that dictate popular culture. These are the people that make The Dark Knight the fastest grossing movie of all time (it’s been out for just over a week and has made over $400 Million worldwide), they are the people that make or break t.v. shows, they are the people who dictate what’s cool and what’s not, yet they are the people who get/got picked on in high school, who’d rather spend time in front of their computer than at a bar. It’s quite a spot to be in, both loved and mocked, but no one ever said that being a geek was easy, and would we like our geekiness so much if it were mainstream?

Peace, Love, and Rorschach,
Julia

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July 29, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movies, Television | Leave a comment

Psychological Damage

I don’t know if anyone has ever witnessed the actual act of a parent fucking up a child, but it’s pretty disturbing.  Yes it’s true, I’m not a parent (nor probably ever will be).  I also think that no matter what you come out of childhood with some kind of damage to your psyche, isn’t that the very nature of becoming an adult?  Being damaged to some extent.  But when you actually witness a parent say something to a really young child that is sure to give them a serious complex, it’s one of the most disturbing, and sadistically fascinating experiences of all time.  

I went to go see Mamma Mia! for the second time – yes it opened on Friday and I’ve seen it twice – this morning in Century City.  Century City is directly next to Beverly Hills and below Westwood, it’s kind of ritzy to say the least.  So I see the film and I’m in my euphoric ABBA-induced haze, humming Waterloo to myself.  I’ll admit, I probably don’t look all that sane.  I’m making my way through the spotlessly clean, Leave it to Beaver outdoor mall, the perfectly manicured palm trees swaying in the mild Santa Ana winds.  And to my left I hear a family, a mom, a dad and a daughter that couldn’t have been more than two.  The little girl was squirming to be put down and toddle along next to her parents.  This girl’s mother was one of those uber-yoga ladies.  She was in a Juicy Couture yoga suit, perfect blonde highlights and a body that must have cost more than my car.  Her daughter is walking at the pace of a two year old, as two year olds tend to do and the mother actually asks her daughter if she knows what speed walking is, tells her that she’s going to need to walk faster if she has to walk, then claps in time with how fast she should be walking.  Now all this is simply annoying, and I wouldn’t have been appalled if the mother had not then said to her daughter, and this is verbatim, ‘C’mon honey, you have to walk off that ice cream you ate.’  
It’s a sad shocking feeling when you are listening to a conversation like this and realize that poor innocent little girl with blonde ringlets and chubby little kid legs will have issues with food for the rest of her life.  It made me glad to have not grown up in L.A. and made me happy that I’m not one of those people who gets dragged into the crap of it.  
I guess that little girl will become an adult early.  Good luck kid.
Peace, Love, and Mamma Mia!
Julia
P.S. The Dark Knight is great (Heath Ledger steals the show) and Mamma Mia is great if you’re cool with an hour and a half of ABBA cheesiness.  I’m down for hours and hours and hours of it. 

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment

Pride

The gays are out in L.A. this weekend.  That’s right, it’s pride weekend in L.A. and I had front row tickets.  Lord knows I can’t miss out on spending the weekend with a bunch of Fabulous men and women.  

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it Pride Weekend in West Hollywood looks something like a huge carnival full of beautiful men that have no interest in me and beautiful women who also have no interest in me.  They shut down San Vicente Blvd., take over multiple parking lots and a relatively large park, there are four different D.J. areas, all complete with dancing, there’s a gay cowboy/cowgirl area (one of my personal favorites), an erotica exposition area where proper use of whips and chains are demonstrated to the public (this area is also inhabited by many older people wearing neon fanny packs and sporting huge cameras, taking pictures of the cute boys in boxer-briefs who hand out condoms and flavored lube).  Basically, it’s my heaven. 
Now, in comparison to San Francisco, West Hollywood is just much different.  Not better or worse, but different.  It isn’t as in your face as San Francisco (I have to say, after hours in SF, I tend to have to have a whiskey or three; there are some things better left to the imagination), but there also aren’t as many drag queens.  In fact, I only saw one in WeHo.  She happened to be a pretty famous one named Chi Chi La Rue, but there was only one.  Drag Queens are one of my favorite parts of San Francisco and pride weekend, they’re just so over the top, so flamboyant, it brings out my inner fabulously gay man to be around them.  
Of course, this being Los Angeles, we had to have some wonderful movie items.  I happened to score a Mamma Mia! poster and a fan proclaiming me Dancing Queen.  There are some rather incriminating photos with a fake chiquita banana hat on and one with my head in the body of a buff cartoon proclaiming my avid use of rogaine.  
On the plus side I also got to sign up for the AIDS walk and the human rights council that fights for gay rights (I finally have time to take up political and humanitarian causes now that I’m not working 100 hours a week).  Plus, I got to dance to DJ Chi Chi La Rue.  
All in all, it was everything I could ever want from a pride weekend.  Free stuff, surrounded by people celebrating themselves (and their newfound right to marry), sun, and great music.  The only thing missing was my harem of gay men.  So fellas, next year I expect you to be here.
Peace, Love, and Girls who like Boys who like Boys,
Julia

June 8, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movies, Parties, Politics | Leave a comment

Like an Old Friend, Come and See Me Again

The CW is finally capitalizing on the thing that made the WB and Fox successful networks, teens.  If you haven’t heard the good news, The CW is working on a companion for Gossip Girl and they made the original idea of a spin-off.  Okay, okay, spin-offs aren’t original, but a spinoff of a show that ended eight years ago, and was at its peak about five years before that, is somewhat unheard of.

So what exactly is The CW spinning off?  Only one of my all time favorite shows, Beverly Hills 90210.  Cue the theme song and the beautiful people.  Oh, and did I mention the clincher.  It’s being written by none other than the man who wrote Veronica Mars (another fav of mine), Rob Thomas.  Basically, this is my dream show.  
Teen Drama.  Check.
Possible cameos by 90210 alum.  Check.
Good Writing.  Check.
I must say, as much as I love the realistic high school shows, it sends my little heart atwitter when I get some good soapy unrealistic drama.  And, to top it all off, this version of 90210 isn’t all upper class white kids.  Apparently, there will be other races mixed in as well.  That means we don’t have to have a one off episode where a competing school newspaper editor, who happens to be black, teaches the Peach Pit crowd about race.  Oh no, we get week after week of racial tension, as well as the inevitable alcoholic/drug addict plotline, the pregnancy scares, the running to Mexico with your boyfriend, and the conspicuously absent parents.  
Yes, T.V. is hurting for viewers after the strike (apparently people discovered that there is life beyond T.V.), but with any luck, they’ll be reeled back in with gems like this.  I know I will.
Peace, Love, and Peach Pit After Dark,
Julia

May 20, 2008 Posted by | High School, Hollywood, Literature, Los Angeles, Television | Leave a comment

Wilshire and Western

A few blocks from my apartment in Los Angeles there is a magical corner.  A corner that, were you dropped into it, without knowing how you got there, you would think you were in mid-town Manhattan or the West End of London.  It is a heightened sense of reality, in an already crazy city.  Just 16 years ago, this area was under siege.  The riots of the early 90’s were in this mid-city district, there were fires and burned out buildings.  There was fear and mass exodus.  But 16 years in L.A. time is like a century.  Most of the people who live in this area are unaware of the fact that there were even riots in Los Angeles in 1992.  Even if people remember that there were riots, they have no feel for the fact that here, beneath the surface lies a scorched earth, that saw the eruption of decades, perhaps even centuries of hate.  

But above all the hurt and the rubble now lies a real city corner.  It is being completely revitalized at the moment (which means that I am usually abruptly woken up by jackhammering and heavy machinery).  On Friday night I was working at the Wiltern Theater, which, in true L.A. fashion is called the Wiltern because it’s on the corner of Wilshire and Western.  I had been working for about 8 hours with no break, and went out for food.  As I stepped out of the theater I was assaulted with the cityness of this corner.  The sidewalks are made, not of pavement but of a kind of marble looking substance, perhaps it’s granite.  Unlike granite countertops in fancy houses, the granite on this street corner is covered in old gum and city grime, which seems so much more plentiful in L.A. than in other cities.  The nice granite sidewalks are a dirty black mess that, when it rains, turns to a squishy muck, like a pre-paved road in a nineteenth century European city.   
The corner is a cross section of Los Angeles, there are two bus stops and a subway station on three of the four corners.  There are always people out on the street, which may not be impressive to dwellers of any other city, but L.A., being a car city, it is unusual for there to be lots of people walking on any street.  It just isn’t a scene that one is privy to on the streets of Los Angeles.  The corner is full of colors and languages and different styles, a veritable census of the people of Los Angeles, real Los Angeles, not the 90210 version.  
It is said that smell is the best memory.  Smelling particular smells will bring you immediately back to a moment, whether you remember the actual moment or simply the feeling from that moment.  And the smell of the hot dog vendors on Wilshire and Western will always remind me of that rush of the city.  That magic that all cities have, but the magic that is never the same in any city.  It’s all contained in the smell of those bacon wrapped sausages and grilled onions cooking on a street corner at 11 o’clock at night.
My favorite street corner in Los Angeles is the corner of Wilshire and Western.  Like the door of the Wardrobe, it transports us to Narnia, a magical land that looks like ours, with just a bit of imagination and magic thrown in.  
Peace, Love, and Magical Corners,
Julia

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Los Angeles | Leave a comment

And the Oscar Goes to…

So it’s my favorite night of the year and it’s coming to an end.  For me at least, for all those fools that won some big award it’s only just begun.  That’s right, on my way home from my friend’s house, I passed many men and women in fancy attire sliding glamorously out of black SUVs.  I said it last year, and I’ll say it again, it’s the weirdest thing to live in L.A. on Oscar Night.  Really it’s the weirdest thing to live in Hollywood.  

So here’s how my day went.  I got to work at like 8:30 (I traded shifts so I could get off in time to watch the ceremony).  Starting at about 8:35 the celebs started to pour into the bookstore.  John Waters, Randy Quaid, the guy nominated for best animated short, all milling around booksoup looking for books to read in the three hour limo line they have to wait in before getting out on the red carpet.  
Well, needless to say I was antsy and when 4:30 rolled around, I got my pizza and my beer and headed over to my friend Dan’s house to enjoy the festivities.  It must be said that Dan lives on Sunset and La Brea, the Oscars are on Hollywood and Highland.  Basically, he lives about three blocks away.  So as I was driving to his house I saw the good year blimp, a few dozen helicopters an lights lights lights.  
I also said this last year, but what I really love about the Academy Awards is that they remind me of why I love film so much.  This year, being the 80th Anniversary there were film clips of all the actors, actresses, directors and best pictures that came before these 80th ones.  These were my cry moments.  Watching Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Barbara Streisand, etc. in their moment of Oscar glory definitely brought more than one tear to my eye.  I thought that those video tributes were great.  
Before I go into highlights I must say that in the days leading up to Oscar I’d been talking with people about how excited I was, many of these people either work in the industry or want to work in the industry (i.e. they are writers who haven’t written anything…or anything good).  And there was one, rather appalling, trait these people had in common.  They all seem to disdain the Academy Awards.  Now this actually seems to permeate throughout many of the people I’ve met who work in and around Hollywood (not the city).  A lot of people who work in the industry seem to fucking hate movies.  Maybe they just like to put on a front, maybe they’re jealous, I don’t know, but I think that a love of film is a must for people who work in film.  Just my opinion, feel free to disagree.  Many of the people that I know hated almost every film that came out this year.  They hated No Country, they hated Juno, they hated There Will Be Blood, and I don’t care what you think of the actual story, but these are great films, they are indicative of great filmmaking.  I mean, whether or not you liked Juno, it combines excellent acting, an excellent script, and excellent direction.  Same goes for No Country For Old Men.  Same goes for Charlie Wilson’s War.  They are all great movies, it’s okay if you don’t like them.  I just never seem to get over the shock that so many people that work in or want to work in a certain industry would find such disdain for very talented people.  
Now the other thing that people were saying about the Academy Awards is that they are self-congratulatory bullshit.  Um, hello, it’s true.  But they are fun to watch.  I guess I have a problem with this too though.   I mean, this is essentially the film industry giving awards to excellence in film.  They also do this in literature, you may have heard of the Pulitzer or the Booker Prize.  So what, because it’s film it’s self-congratulatory.  Because people have more interest in seeing stars than in seeing Denis Johnson, the Oscars are not worth watching.  I’m sorry folks but that’s just the society we live in.  We all love watching the stars, we love watching them in their moment of Oscar Glory (and if you think about it there are only 4 acting awards so why are people so hot and bothered about actors patting each other on the back…actors are a small percentage of the people who vote for the Oscars).  I’m sorry, but again I have no patience.  The Oscars are a tradition, they’ve been around for 80 years now.  Just like teaching awards or world series champions, Oscar winners are (according to the Academy) the best in their profession, it just so happens that people like to watch these awards shows…and really is it surprising that the Awards show for Entertainment is Entertaining. That’s what I thought.
Now, on with the show.  Jon Stewart was amazing and hilarious and political, but not too political.  His joke about whenever a Black man or a Woman is President an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty, hilarious.  He brought up the writer’s strike, but didn’t alienate anyone, ehem producers, and welcomed everyone to enjoy Oscar night as the proverbial make up sex (though I’m sure later tonight there will be some not-so-proverbial make-up sex).  Katherine Heigel looked amazing, but shouldn’t have been there.  Amy Adams sang beautifully.  Kristen Chenoweth also sang beautifully and I love her so much, she’s so cute, but it was hard for me to watch her sing a Steven Schwartz song that wasn’t from Wicked, but oh well.  
The big upset of the night was Tilda Swinton winning Best Supporting Actress, which even I didn’t see coming.  I was pretty certain they would give it to Amy Ryan or Ruby Dee.  That being said Michael Clayton was the one movie I didn’t see this year so I can’t really talk.  In all honesty, I had the chance, I just didn’t quite care to see it.  
Some highlights of the best moments of the night.  When Marion Cotillard won I was super freaking excited, and, if you saw the looks on all the female actresses faces, they all thought she should’ve won too.  And it’s true.  I finally saw Away From Her last week.  Julie Christie was great, Marion was better.  She absolutely transformed herself.  It’s kind of crazy.  So anyway, exciting.  I loved that Dario Marianelli won for his Atonement score.  The movie is worth watching just for the score and the 5 minute plus oneshot that takes place on the beach in Dunkirk (not to mention it’s kind of good).  I loved that Helen Mirren ‘Knighted’ Daniel Day-Lewis when he won his Best Picture Oscar.  Of course I cried alot when Diablo Cody won.  And let’s take a moment for the poetry here.  The Academy is made up mainly of white men who are older than God.  Diablo Cody used to masturbate in front of people for money.  Thank you very much that’s called beauty.
Also, I love that they kept cutting to Laura Linney whenever a moving moment was happening.  What was that about?  I guess everyone else in the audience had botoxed beforehand so they didn’t have any expressions?  
I was definitely excited, but not shocked that Javier Bardem and Daniel Day-Lewis won.  Really, no one could touch them in this race, they were too good.  I also loved that the Coens were finally paid their dues.  They took home three Oscars.  Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.  I’m sorry, they deserved it.  That movie was fantastic.  I also would like to add that I thought it was really cool that Cormac McCarthy was there.  If you don’t know, he’s normally a recluse.  But apparently he’s only a recluse when not going to the Oscars or the Oprah Winfrey Show, which, in a weird way, I totally respect.  
I loved that they let the lady who one for best song from Once back on the stage after they played her off.  I thought it was really classy of the Academy to let her make her little speech.  I mean, for many people you only win one so you’ve got to grab your moment. 
The most interesting moment to me was in the Best Picture category when Mr. Rudin who is generally known in Hollywood to be completely nuts came off as a really nice guy.  Apparently he’s a nice guy in his personal life, but there are stories of throwing laptops at assistants heads, leaving assistants on the side of the highway and saying you’re fired, walk home, etc. etc.  I always find it fascinating how people can have such a dual personality (this seems especially true in Hollywood).  
All in all it was a great Oscar ceremony.  My only disappointment was that Persepolis lost the Best Animated Feature category. It was amazing and so much better than Ratatouille (yes, I said it).  I loved watching the film actors try and fail to read off of a teleprompter.  I loved watching Diablo have her moment (I’d be lying if I said I always think that maybe someday I’ll have my moment up there on that stage).  Once again, I was reminded of why I love film.  It’s the moments where we truly celebrate how great this particular art can be.  So until next year remember, We’ll Always Have Paris, Good Night and Good Luck, Here’s Looking at You Kid, Hello Gorgeous, I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille, I’m Finished.  And if you didn’t like the Oscars then all I can say is Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. 
Peace, Love, and Little Naked Gold Men (who weigh a lot), 
Julia

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movies, Music, Oprah Winfrey, Oscars, Parties | Leave a comment

Ding Dong the Strike is Done!

t’s finally over.  It only cost the city of Los Angeles $2 Billion.  And yes, the strike is done.  Everybody is going back to work, though, due to loss of funds, I gather not everybody is going back to work yet.  Also, I gather that many shows won’t be going back to work until July or August.  The negotiations finally came to a head about a week ago and the writers got a little more money and the producers got a bit of what they wanted…it was like a real life union meeting where things get done.  Now we just have to worry about the Actors who may very well go on strike in June (though they are already in negotiations).  We shall see, but until then, my favorite day of the year is on Sunday.  Sure, awards season has been ruined for the most part, but Sunday is the Oscars.  Hollywood Blvd. is shut down between Highland and La Brea, the red carpet is being laid out as we speak, the bleachers are up already.  And I have Sunday evening off.  

Never fear, my Oscar recap will be emailed out on Monday and I’ll be shedding a tear or two for my men the Coens who are sure to finally be recognized as the ridiculously talented filmmakers they are.  
Peace, Love, and Negotiation,

Julia

February 20, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles | Leave a comment

Musings on Life

So today was my last day at Paramount.  I hung up the blue blazer finally.  It’s funny because I’m usually sad when I leave jobs that I love, but today was just different.  I’m sad I won’t be there everyday, but I’m really happy with where I’m at now.  Working full time at one job (only 40 hours a week) means I’ll have time to write which is really what I want to do.  So there you have it.  

What I love about life is that God or Jehovah or Mohammed or Buddah or Kurt Cobain or whoever is looking over me (and that may be no one, but who am I to say?) sends little gifts.  On my last day at Paramount, I was, poetically enough, at Dr. Phil.  That’s right.  My least favorite thing in the world, and it was as stupid and useless as ever.  But there was a shining star at Dr. Phil today. I went outside at about 9 AM to start giving people their breaks and there was a man in line with a plastic doll house miraculously attached to his head.  I’m not quite sure how he managed to convert the Barbie Dream House into a hat, but he had.  He was ceremoniously holding a Hilary for President sign and apparently had a plan to tell Dr. Phil.  The man had a plan to provide housing to everyone in the United States.  As an aside I’ll say this:  Dr. Phil doesn’t give a fuck.  He doesn’t care about your problems.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even care about the problems that people on his show have.  He cares about his botoxed wife (whom he has cheated on so really, how much does he care besides the fact that she helps him keep up appearances), he cares about his multi-million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills, and he cares about his show (not the guests) and that’s about it.  
So of course we had to kick the nutbar out.  I’ve actually never seen them kick anyone out at Dr. Phil (even when a couple who literally looked as though Rasputin and his twin had been dragged from the river showed up), so it was the dawning of a new world for me.  Now what I loved is that this man did not go quietly.  He started yelling that Dr. Phil was bullshit (newsflash: he is) and he proceeded to stand on a public sidewalk outside the studio and tell everyone that they shouldn’t go to the show.  Of course this caused quite a tizzy over the radio.  The head of Audience Coordination (otherwise known as the bane of my existence) was freaking out, and was not to happy when I politely added that the right to peacefully protest was outlined in this man’s first amendment rights.  Of course the man eventually left, but needless to say he made my last day at Dr. Phil worth while.  Well, him and the guy that asked if the topic for today’s show was about needy people after seeing me harassed by hordes of old ladies asking the same question over and over again…to which I responded that that was the show topic every day.  
My other musing of the day is about L.A. as a whole.  And it can be summed up in just one sentence:  Only in L.A. can you leave the Emergency Room at Cedars Sinai Hospital and directly enter the Parking Lot for the Beverly Center (a.k.a. a huge mall).  Also, only in L.A. does it cost less money to park at the mall than it does to park at the hospital.
Peace, Love, and Live Life,

Julia

February 8, 2008 Posted by | Hollywood, Los Angeles, Television, Work | Leave a comment

The Future has a way of Arriving Unannouced.

So I’ve been avoiding this topic seeing as it’s all sort of up in the air right now, but it has been eating at my brain and I’ve just got to get it out.  The topic is, of course, Oscars.  Now I really don’t know what’s going on with the Oscars, as far as I’ve heard right now they are on.  I know the Academy is trying to barter with the writers to let them happen without a hitch, if this doesn’t work, the Screen Actors Guild will not attend.  That means that there will be no movie stars at the Oscars.  They will still happen and be broadcast, but the presenters will basically be studio big wigs (a.k.a. the ugly people who no one wants to see, but who are in charge of getting movies made).  That’s what I know so far and no, there is no end in sight to the strike.  

But that is not what I want to talk about.  I’ve alluded to this topic before, but really this year there’s no avoiding it.  We need to discuss the fact that the indie film has triumphed at the Oscars.  In fact, this year more than any other, the indie film has triumphed in the box office as well as at the awards ceremonies.  Scrolling through the list of Oscar Nominations, there are maybe a handful of nominations in the big categories (that would be acting, writing, directing, and best picture) that are studio movies.  There are actually four to be exact (Johnny Depp, Best Actor for Sweeney Todd, Ruby Dee, Best Supporting Actress for American Gangster, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Best Supporting Actor for Charlie Wilson’s War, and Brad Bird for Best Original Screenplay for Ratatoullie).  
The past couple years have seen a big increase on the amount of independent films that have been nominated for Academy Awards (not to mention Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Directors Guild America Awards, etc).  Last year I believe I mentioned that there were an unprecedented amount of nominated indie films, but last year also had The Departed, Dreamgirls, Blood Diamond, etc, all of which were big studio movies.  This year, the only studio movies that had a shot were Charlie Wilson’s War and American Gangster (you know Ridley Scott thought he had the Oscars won, but alas, the times they are a-changing), both of which were good (I especially loved Charlie Wilson’s) it’s just that they weren’t great.  There’s just no competing with No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood.  
The big ‘Oscar’ movie this year was supposed to be Atonement.  It’s got everything an Oscar movie is supposed to be.  Sweeping romance, tragedy, a five+ minute steadicam shot through the beaches at Dunkirk (this shot alone is worth the price of admission), and a twist ending that leaves the audience both shocked and thoroughly gut-wrenched.  Atonement was compared to Titanic (which is still tied with All About Eve with the most nominations of all time; 14 to be exact), a decade old Oscar favorite, it was touted as the best picture of the year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (they give the Golden Globes), but come Oscar nomination time it garnered no nominations for acting or directing.  Now, I personally loved Atonement an think that Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy should have been nominated, but whatever, they wouldn’t have won anyway.  What really matters is that Atonement is an independent film.  Focus Features made it.  They made other indie favorites like Brokeback Mountain, Lost in Translation and Monsoon Wedding.  And this movie was being touted as an Oscar favorite.  
After the Golden Globes I was pretty certain Atonement would sweep for Oscar Nominations, though I didn’t think it would win a lot of them, I was sure it would be nominated in all major categories, but it wasn’t.  That means that films like Michael Clayton and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly made a showing in the big categories.  But the fact of the matter is this is the year where quality movie making finally matters.  It really matters, there aren’t any pity nominations (you know, the we snubbed you so many times we’re going to give it to you this time…hello, Martin Scorsese last year).  There aren’t any token big blockbuster nominations (which have been the staple for pretty much the entire life of the Academy).  This year, more than ever, it’s about quality. 
I’m not arguing that it wasn’t about quality before, it was just about quality and market appeal and money and all that stuff.  But this year too, the independent movie has made a bit of a comeback at the box office.  There’s always one or two indie films that are big hits at the box office, but this year it seems like most of them are holding steady at the box office.  Sure the winner is, hands down, Juno (which has recently surpassed the $100 million mark – pretty good for a film that only took $2 million to make), but No Country, There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and Michael Clayton all made a decent amount of money at the box office.  I think it’s finally getting to the point where America, on the whole appreciates a good film.  
So I’ll digress for just a moment and say that though I’m optimistic I heart a disturbing statistic the other day that stated the average American sees 7 films a year.  I want to know who these people are.  I see 7 films in a month or so.  I’m guessing the people who see 7 a year are the same people that made ‘Night at the Museum’ a huge financial success.  
Anyway, come oscar night there will be many certainties.  Daniel Day-Lewis, Diablo Cody, The Coen Brothers, Javier Bardem will all walk away with a golden statue (or they’ll have it sent to them, depending on what happens with the strike).  Best Picture is up in the air, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Atonement wins that (and I won’t be disappointed – I don’t think it was the Best Picture of the year, but I don’t know if the Academy has changed enough to give it to No Country for Old Men).  One more certainty this year: independent films have finally received the respect they deserve.  
Peace, Love, and Independent Cinema,

Julia

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies, Oscars | Leave a comment

Apocalypse L.A.

L.A. in the rain is quite possibly the most hilarious experience of all time.  Now, I know this storm we’re having is quite large and there has been ridiculous amounts of rain and snow fall, but there’s something that rings of a Marx Brothers movie when L.A. is preparing for, and then dealing with a rain storm.

The hilarity builds in layers.  First of all, there’s the preparation.  For days before the storm hits every single TV news station, radio station, and psychic friends are on every single channel talking about how huge this storm is going to be.  How there will be flash flooding and mudslides and hurricane force winds.  Ok, what else is fucking new?  I grew up in California and we’ve had storms like that almost every year.  Every year half of Southern California burns down then falls down the hill onto the other half that didn’t burn down.  Stop buying houses in Malibu people, your 20 million dollar house is either going to burn or going to slide into the Pacific.

But the priceless moment is always when the rain starts.  Now, let me preface this by saying that almost everyone who lives in Los Angeles is not originally from here.  In fact, many of them are from the East Coast and Mid-West, if not Canada, Europe, Mexico, or some other such place.  As such, you’d think that these people could handle a little rain.  Oh no.  Not when they’ve been in L.A. for two months.  They forget all survival instinct and are like a newborn babe, crawling around on the waterlogged streets searching for some bit of dry land.  They forget how to drive.  Traffic comes to a screeching halt as this foreign wet substance starts falling from the grey sky.  I will give a little credit to the residents of L.A., the city of Los Angeles seems morally opposed to equipping the street with reflectors so one could potentially see the lanes on a street, but still, it doesn’t warrant the total halting of traffic.

My favorite part of L.A. in the rain, is the fact that these East Coasters/Mid-Westerners who are constantly and loudly proclaiming what pussies all us Californians are in that we can’t handle cold weather, cannot seem to dress themselves appropriately for rain.  It’s as though they left all recollections of how they used to deal with adverse weather behind in Bowling Green, Ohio.  There are two ways the Non-Californian Angeleno dresses for the rain, over and under.  Half of the people outside (this number is low because many residents simply refuse to leave the house if it’s raining…I’m sure this accounts for higher drop out rates at UCLA and USC during El Nino years) are dressed as if they are going to start a trek up Mt. Everest in the middle of winter.  Often outfitted in ski parkas, scarves, two pairs of pants, snow boots, gloves, hats, and any other ‘cold weather’ accouterments that seem necessary, these people look fucking ridiculous, and often resemble the Michelin Man.  That is often not half as funny as the other side.  That is to say, the other half of Angelenos who venture out in the rain are severely underdressed.  Mini-skirts, shorts, flip flops and tank tops abound as if there is nothing different about the weather.  I suspect these are the same people that wear Ugg Boots and a mini-skirt in mid-summer.  Classy.  This is the most entertaining of the two seeing as it’s usually either women who haven’t eaten since Nixon was in office, and have had so much Botox they aren’t even aware they have facial features, or it is men who haven’t eaten since 1985 (when manorexia became popular in L.A.), have spent entirely too much time in a mystic tanning booth, and who have had calf implants or some such other male ridiculous cosmetic surgery.  The inner high school nerd in me so loves to see these Paris Hilton wannabes suffer through the rainy weather.

As the rain stops it’s kind of like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the Munchkins come out of hiding.  One by one the brave people of L.A. peek their heads out of their homes (many of which are actually colder inside then out, seeing as one of the great things about Southern California buildings is they are made to keep warmth out; a wonderful benefit in the hot summer months, but not so great in the winter), they breathe the now clean air, don’t worry, we’ll dirty it up again soon, and bound out of the house in droves.  No more spending Friday and Saturday night at the Arclight Cinemas we can head out to Le Doux in our barely there minis and $400 camisoles from Marc Jacobs.  Finally, the rain has let up.  We can’t believe it lasted four long torturous days.  We couldn’t even put the convertible top down or go wait in line at Pinks. We’re certainly glad that’s over.  Maybe it won’t rain again until next year.

Peace, Love, and Inappropriate Clothing Choices,
Julia

P.S.  If you’re curious, I’m an underdresser.  I don’t complain though.  And I don’t own an umbrella.  I live in L.A.  It never rains.  I don’t need one.

P.P.S.  Two in one day, lucky people.

January 7, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Los Angeles | 1 Comment