Monthly Archives

February 2009

AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Finalists from Group 2

Let’s get right to the point. The 3 who made the top 12 from this bunch were Allison Iraheta, Kris Allen and Adam Lambert. Save for the choice of Iraheta, who has an incredibly powerful voice and kinda looks like early Kelly Clarkson, I’m hugely disappointed by the results. I thought we’d get 2 girls and 1 guy since the girls were so much better last night. But no, we got 2 guys—1 white bread, 1 cheesy. Together, they couldn’t even make a sandwich because there’s no meat in their performances.

Iraheta was the first one to claim one of those coveted stools after Ryan asked her, Jesse Langseth and Matt Breitzke to come center stage and then the latter two were sent packing. I was hoping against hope that red-hot Jesse would get in but I’m absolutely okay with Iraheta. Iraheta’s got a great voice; she just comes across so unformed and awkward whereas Langseth seems to be the more ready-for-prime-time performer. I hope she comes back for the wild card round.

Next up were Kris Allen, Megan Corkrey, Matt Giraud (looking more like Justin Timberlake every day) and Jeanine Vailes, in short shorts again. That girl ain’t stupid; she knows what her best assets are. But this is American Idol, not Miss America, and her shapely gams couldn’t save her from being eliminated. She’s going home and should stay there. Matt is also gone, but we might see him again, hopefully in front of a piano.

At this point, Kris Allen and Megan Corkrey were left standing together and told that one of them was a finalist. I was thinking, “Oh, no contest. Megan’s got this in the bag.” When Ryan announced it was Kris, I thought he was on crack or maybe April Fool’s came early. To me, this was the night’s most shocking result. Kris seems like a perfectly nice kid but he’s so vanilla and nowhere near as dynamic and compelling as Megan on stage. She’s definitely coming back; I’d put money on that. They need someone unique like her in the finals so that we don’t have a bunch of cookie-cutter contestants.

At this point, there were still about 30 minutes of show left so you knew they weren’t going to reveal the third finalist any time soon. Instead, we got a performance from season 7’s top-five finalist, Brooke White, who looked gorgeous (she was my fave last year). She sang her brand new single, “Hold Up My Heart,” (available on iTunes) which had a nice, ’70s feel to it. It’s not the best song ever but the chorus was pretty catchy. I love her raspy vocals and how she still plays the piano with one bare foot to work the pedals.

OK, back to judgment time. Mishavonna Henson, Jasmine Murray, Kai Kalama, Nick/Norman and Adam Lambert were brought down. There wasn’t one ounce of surprise when Henson, Murray and Kalama were told America just didn’t give them enough love. Which left Nick/Norman and Lambert still standing. This was so gross; I wanted them both gone. But again, after no suspense whatsoever, Lambert was declared the victor and we had to experience his hideous rendition of “Satisfaction” all over again. I might need therapy after being repeatedly subjected to such heavy trauma.

Next week, group 3 will perform: Nathaniel Marshall, Kendall Beard, Taylor Vaifanua, Kristen McNamara, Von Smith, Alex Wagner-Trugman, Felicia Barton, Lil Rounds, Arianna Afsar, Scott MacIntyre, Ju’Not Joyner, and Jorge Nunez. Are you excited about any of these people? I’m not.

Did you agree with the results tonight or were you disgusted like I was? Post me some comments!


THE REAPER Kicks Butt!

beat_reaperMan, oh man, I just finished this book by Josh Bazell called Beat the Reaper and it was so good, I started writing this review before the book’s back cover had slapped shut. That’s how fast I wanted to spread the word. Bazell is a first-time novelist but you wouldn’t know it from his assured control of pace, plot and dialogue in this hilarious and outrageous mafia comedy thriller. 

The novel starts out with our protagonist, Dr. Peter Brown, getting mugged while watching a rat fight a pigeon in the snow on his way to work at Manhattan Catholic Hospital. Turns out Dr. Brown’s a lot like the rat and knows a thing or two about fighting himself.

Brown is really Pietro Brnwa aka Bearclaw, a former mob assassin who turned state’s evidence then went into witness protection and medicine to atone for his killings. Not that he’s suddenly turned into a Boy Scout. He calls a patient with rectal pain “Assman” and agrees to lick a pretty patient’s leg before she’s wheeled to surgery to get it amputated. He also eats Moxfane like potato chips (“Moxfane is the drug they give to bomber pilots who need to take off from Michigan, bomb Iraq, then fly back to Michigan without stopping. You can swallow it or use it to run the engine.”). 

Of course, like the pigeon fighting the rat, people from his past just won’t stay down and keep coming back for more, no matter how bloody the result (very, in case you’re wondering). Bazell, who’s a real doctor in San Francisco, switches back and forth between the present and the past to fill us in—even exposition unfolds at heart-thumping speed—on how Brnwa got sucked into the mob in the first place and how it all went wrong. The action leads to a climactic confrontation in which Brnwa uses an insane, improvised lethal weapon that I’m pretty sure has never been used in crime fiction.

Bazell’s voice is fresh and scalpel-sharp, his prose vivid and cinematic. As Brnwa enters a pitch-black room, the author writes: “I recognized the sound of her instantly. The adrenaline jacked my pupil size…An impulse hit me. Kill. All around the room, knees, eyes, and throats lit up like targets in a shooting gallery.” Bazell definitely hit the bull’s eye with his debut so it’s no surprise to hear Leonardo DiCaprio has already snapped up movie rights. Other good news? Bazell promises Brnwa will be back in a sequel.

Nerd Verdict: Hard to beat this brilliant combination of thrills, humor and action


AMERICAN IDOL — Group 2 of Semi-Finalists

The girls were way better than the guys tonight and it burns me that the rules force us to accept at least one guy from this group into the top 12. There are three girls (Allison Iraheta, Megan Corkrey, Jesse Langseth) who should easily move on, but nooo, one of those shiny stools tomorrow night will be occupied by either a boring or ridiculously cheesy guy (Adam Lambert, I’m talking to you). Let’s break it down.

  • Jasmine Murray. She’s beautiful and can sing but her rendition of “Love Song” was a mess. The arrangement was too slow; it’s supposed to be a bouncy pop song. She over-‘tuded it up with the distracting, jerky choreography. Wasn’t one of my favorite females tonight.
  • Matt Giraud. Oh my goodness, I so wanted him to be the top male vote getter tonight but his perf of “Viva La Vida” was sooo bad. He kept gasping for breath and couldn’t hit any of the high notes. I love the song and really like this guy so this was a bummer. Now we’re probably stuck with cheesy Lambert.
  • Jeanine Vailes. What is going on tonight? Everyone’s bombing so far! We’ve never seen this girl and I was willing to give her a chance but after her atrocious take on Maroon 5’s “This Love” (a song I already dislike), I’m thinking it’s a good thing we haven’t heard her sing before and hopefully we won’t again. She admitted she might have overcompensated to get America to like her but I’m afraid she won’t get a second chance to atone for this.
  • Norman Gentle. I’m too tired to say much else about this guy. Please end the torture, America, and send him home.
  • Allison Iraheta. Anyone who has attempted to sing Heart’s “Alone” in recent years on A.I., I immediately compare, usually unfavorably, to Carrie Underwood’s searing version of it as a contestant four seasons ago. Iraheta’s performance wasn’t as good as that but she made me sit up and listen. She’s 16 and she can blow like that? Wow! It was a little shouty at times but she was way better than I expected. 
  • Kris Allen. Who? I’ve already forgotten. He was definitely not memorable. For the record, he sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” but nothing about it stood out for me. 
  • Megan Corkrey. I love this girl—she’s so quirky and sweet and charming and gorgeous. She stood there with an armful of tattoos and yet came off like Little Miss Sunshine in her white babydoll dress. She sang Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” which showcased her unique, funky voice. It was good to see her sing again after she was practically invisible during Hollywood week.
  • Matt Breitzke. I’m sorry, did you say something? I fell asleep during this performance of Tonic’s “If You Could Only See.” Everything about it was bland and half-baked and soporific. Too bad ’cause I liked when he sang “Ain’t No Sunshine” in his original audition. I think it ends here for him.
  • Jesse Langseth. I love me some Jesse! I just think this girl is so cool. She’s got grit and spunk and her voice is smoky and bluesy. She was captivating to watch with her slinky, sultry hip-swaying, and yet still came across like a pretty and accessible tomboy. When Simon said he didn’t think her performance of “Bette Davis Eyes” would incite people to jump on the phone and vote, I said, “That’s exactly what I’m doing!”
  • Kai Kalama. He sang “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted” better than I expected but I just can’t find anything exciting about him. Not strong enough for the top 12 in my book.
  • Mishavonna Henson. Her singing of “Drops of Jupiter” wasn’t a Train wreck—she’s got a nice, strong voice—but there’s a little something too robotic and stiff about her. No personality comes through when she sings. I think she’s going home but she’s young enough to try for the third time next year if she wants.
  • Adam Lambert. When he first came out to start the Stones’ “Satisfaction,” I recoiled with such horror I almost fell off the couch. I was mortified by his opening, trying to seduce the camera with his eyes (I hate when contestants follow the camera around with their eyes!), and his fake snarling. This guy is such a poser. He thinks he’s a rock star but he looks and sounds like a girl. He thinks he’s singing rock and roll but he was doing a rock musical. When he tried to growl out parts of the song, I just laughed. Then the full-throttle, mouth-wide-open final note struck fear in me once again. It was like looking into the Hellmouth and hoping you don’t get sucked in.

I ended up voting for Megan Corkrey and Jesse Langseth but no guys. Judges’ pet Lambert will probably get the top male spot but at least I’ll be able to say I didn’t help put him there.

What did you think of tonight’s show? Did you like or hate Lambert’s performance?


Backstage Oscars Scoop!

After the ceremony, I received a call from a source who attended the show and had lots of scoop to share. Here’s our conversation: [She also took the photo below]

PCN: Spill! Tell me your favorite moments.

A: I’m so overwhelmed that the Slumdog kids won, and by the grand symbolism of the acting awards, just the way the new winners were welcomed into the club by previous winners, some who are legends. That feeling must have been like, Wow.

PCN: That was really cool how they had 5 winners come out for each acting award. I gasped when Eva Marie Saint came out to present Best Supporting Actress.

A: Me, too! I actually walked up to her and told her how starstruck I was by her. She won an Oscar for On the Waterfront

PCN: Who else were you starstruck by?

A: Sophia Loren. They just don’t make ’em like her anymore.  And Daniel Craig. He usually looks kinda weathered on screen but he walked by me a couple times and was very debonair, the epitome of a British gentleman. 

PCN: I need to shove you down the stairs, I’m so envious. I loooove him. Did you ask him if you could take a photo of him holding up a sign saying he loved me back?

A: Yeah, right.

PCN:  OK, let’s go back to the way the acting awards were presented. When the first group of five came out, that was a nice surprise. But then I caught on. I’d seen Kevin Kline walk the red carpet so I thought, “A ha! I’ll bet he’s one of the five presenting Best Supporting Actor!” They also kept cutting to reaction shots of Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Ben Kingsley so I figured those were two Best Actor presenters right there.

A: That makes me mad! Did they really show them on TV before they presented?

PCN:  Yes. In closeups. 

A: That makes me mad, because the coordinators worked so hard to keep everyone a secret by having them not walk the red carpet, going in through the back entrance, seated far away from the front row. Joel Grey was practically in the mezzanine so that you couldn’t see him. That’s really sh*tty that you could see them from home before we could reveal them.

PCN:  Well, I never saw Christopher Walken or Robert DeNiro so those were nice surprises for me. Speaking of being seated far from the front row, where were all those adorable little Slumdog babies placed?

A: In the mezzanine. But that’s standard for non-nominated cast members who are in nominated films.

PCN:  What were they like?

A: I don’t even know how to describe them. It’s very touching because it’s been such a long road for them to be at the show. The Oscars, for me, were heightened by the joy they exuded. I’ve never been as excited for a bunch of people I don’t know to win an award as I was for these children. They were glowing, on top of the world, overjoyed. It was pure. And the littlest Salim [Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail] was asked to carry the Oscar all night. It was so cute.


PCN:  All right, I have to ask because people want to know. Was someone assigned to keep Brad & Angelina and Jennifer Aniston apart?

A: Not that I know of, but there was a close call. Brad and Angelina had left during a commercial break. They went out to the lobby, they were just hanging out, having wine when Jennifer came walking towards them from the other direction. People gasped and freaked out, “Oh no! What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen?!” But then Jennifer just turned and went backstage before she got to them. I don’t know if she saw them or someone warned her but she was only a few feet away from them.

PCN:  It probably would’ve been okay. I think the whole Jen vs. Angie thing is stupid. They probably all moved on years ago.

A: Jennifer was a social butterfly. She was very cute. At one point, when she was coming out of the bathroom, she saw Sophia Loren and was like, “Hi!” but then her dress got caught in the bathroom door. She was, like, “This is not a good time for my dress to be caught in the door.” It was a very Rachel moment. 

At another moment, my jaw just dropped because in this one small room, Jennifer, Reese Witherspoon, Sophia Loren, Halle Berry, Marion Cotillard and Nicole Kidman were all getting their makeup done. I just could not handle it. 

PCN: That’s really something. Now, I know things look different on TV so who was best dressed in person? 

A: Miley Cyrus. 

PCN:  What?! Ugh.

A: You don’t like her?

PCN: She kept telling everyone on the red carpet she hopes to be back at the Oscars next year and get something for The Hannah Montana Movie. I mean, Dream on, honey. 

A: That is gross.

PCN: So, who else looked good?

A: Marion Cotillard looked really good. Diane Lane—I love her. Nicole Kidman and Penelope were very “them,” wearing what we normally expect of them so there were no fashion risks. Robert Downey Jr. looked like he did in The Pick-Up Artist [his 1987 comedy with Molly Ringwald].

PCN:  He did look like he aged backwards! How about worst dressed?

A: Shirley MacLaine. What was that?! For males, Mickey Rourke and Adrien Brody. 

PCN:  Adrien Brody could’ve done the Joaquin impersonation with that beard instead of Ben Stiller. 

A: Really.

PCN:  Overall, did everything go as planned?

A: I would say so. I thought it went really well. 



2009 Oscars Fashion Round-Up

There were a lot of beautiful dresses tonight so it’s hard to pick a best. Even the “bad” ones weren’t horrible. But Nerdies need to be given out so here goes:

Best Dressed—Female: (Tie) Anne Hathaway and Marisa Tomei. I usually don’t like “no-color” dresses like beige or silver but these two dresses were magnificent.

Hathaway’s Armani Prive’ looked like a fluid, light-emitting column of tiny mirrors, making Hathaway the fairest of them all.

Actress Anne Hathaway arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

I’d never seen such intricate pleating like on the skirt and train of Tomei’s Versace gown.


Best Color: Natalie Portman’s pink dress. The color was so soft yet striking in a theater full of neutral colors. Alicia Keys’ dress was of a similar color and style but I liked Portman’s just a little more because it had more interesting tucking and details in the bodice.


Best Dressed Male: Daniel Craig. He ain’t just Bond on screen. He looked lethal-weapon sharp on the red carpet, too.

Actor Daniel Craig (R) and Satsuki Mitchell arrives at the 81st

Most Improved from Previous Award Shows This Year: Robert Downey Jr. He looked like a bum at the SAG Awards, chewing gum, sporting sneakers and dirty hair. Look at him here. Damn! Somebody got a facial and full makeover.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. and guest arrive at the 81st Annual Acad

Oldest Gown: Penelope Cruz. Her 60-year-old vintage Balmain was older than most people there. It’s held up remarkably well, though, and makes Cruz look like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Actress Penelope Cruz arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Best Jewelry: Angelina Jolie. I couldn’t take my eyes off her green dangling earrings and ginormous cocktail ring. I don’t know why she looks so pissed here, though.


Most Resembling a Bridesmaid Dress: Amanda Seyfried. C’mon, doesn’t this look like it escaped from 27 Dresses?

Actress Amanda Seyfried arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Award

Most Unfortunate Bow Placement: Tilda Swinton. The top half’s draping is pretty, but look where the giant ruffle is on her skirt. Unless you’re Cher circa 1987, you should never wear a gown that calls attention to your crotch to the Oscars.

Actress Tilda Swinton arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Most Age-Inappropriate Dress: Sophia Loren. She’s still hot but what’s with all the ruffles? Twenty-four-year-old Freida Pinto may have been able to pull it off but it’s all wrong for Ms. Loren. She should take style lessons from Helen Mirren on how to look sophisticated and hot.

Actress Sophia Loren arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Baggiest Mess: Jessica Biel. She looks like someone draped a towel down the front of her dress. She could hide a couple of the Slumdog kids under there.Actress Jessica Biel arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Who were your favorites? Who looked like they made their own clothes? Discuss!


81st Academy Awards — "Nerdies" for Best & Worst

Overall, a fun show. I was psyched I got all except two of my predictions right (missed on Best Sound Editing and Best Foreign Film). If you want just a list of winners, click here. Otherwise, read on for my awarding of the Nerdies for the show’s highlights:

hjackman_090222_kwinter_84979541Tackiest Self Promotion: I love Hugh Jackman and he did a fun, energetic job of hosting. I was smiling along as he performed his opening musical medley about nominated films. Sticking his head through the different Benjamin Button holes was game. But then he put on wrestling arm pads and inexplicably ended the number with the declaration: “I am Wolverine!” Huh? What does that have to do with anything? I know his movie is coming out May 1 but this was about last year’s nominated films and the mention was out of place. Wolverine is a Fox movie and ABC is owned by Disney so Jackman can’t even claim corporate pressure for the plug.

Most Blatant Lie: Jackman said to Mickey Rourke in the audience, “You look great.” Rourke had greasy hair and a silver tooth and looked like he hadn’t bathed in a week.

Luckiest First-Time Nominees: Viola Davis and Anne Hathaway. This year, producers had five previous winners from each acting category come out to crown the newest members of their club. Viola Davis had Eva Marie Saint pay tribute to her and Anne Hathaway had Shirley MacLaine gush about her talents. I would’ve soiled my dress if I were them. Hathaway looked as if she could barely contain herself, like a princess living out a fairy tale at Hollywood’s biggest ball.

pcruz-w-oscarBest Use for My High School Spanish: Many years ago, I took Espanol in school, thinking it would come in handy at some point in life. Finally, that moment arrived. When Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress, the last part of her speech was in Spanish. My translating skills are a bit rusty but she said something like: “All the faithful people of Spain are sharing this moment with me right now and feel that this is also theirs, so I dedicate it to them. To all the actors from my country, thank you very much.”

smartin_tfey_090222_kwinter_84979513Funniest Presenting Duo: Steve Martin and Tina Fey, reading from a script as they made their entrance to present Best Original and Adapted Screenplay. Their comedic timing was perfect and they complimented each other well. Fey looked really pretty for a change (from her usual dull brown or black dresses), wearing a glittering silver gown showing off her curves.

Unfunniest Presenters Who Were Supposed to be Funny: Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black. Seriously, did you laugh even once? Angelina Jolie seemed to enjoy Black’s antics, though I suspect there was a different reason they  kept cutting to her and Brad while Black and Aniston were on stage.  

dlblackFirst Tearjerking Speech: Let me preface by saying these award shows never make me cry. I’m usually entertained and excited when my favorites win but cry? Never! Well, Dustin Lance Black changed that when he won for Best Original Screenplay. That adorable boy stood up there (he looked 19!), opened his heart to a billion watchers and spoke with such emotion and sincerity about the obstacles he’s encountered as a gay person that my eyes got wet. When he thanked his mom for loving him “even when there was pressure not to,” I thought, “How can anyone not love this boy?!” The amazing feat is he invoked religion and politics in his speech but managed to avoid grandstanding because he came from such a painful, personal place. Even if you haven’t seen Milk, that speech alone should give you an idea why he won a writing Oscar.

Most Irrelevant Thank You: When the Japanese Kunio Kato won Best Animated Short for La Maison en Petits Cubes, he started out succinctly thanking a bunch of people. It was a laundry list that wasn’t too exciting (granted, his English was limited). But then he ended his speech with, “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” Hilarious. Who knew a cheesy Styx song would be referenced at the Oscars?

dc-sjpBest Advertisement for Makeup Artists: Daniel Craig. The dapper Bond star, who made a rare appearance at an awards show, presented Best Makeup (as well as Art Direction and Costume) with Sarah Jessica Parker. After she said, “We don’t have to tell you what a makeup artist does,” Craig quipped, “Just look at us.” Oh, yes, baby, I was looking at you all right. And drooling.

b-stiller-portmanParody That Came Too Late: Ben Stiller doing Joaquin Phoenix. When Stiller came out with Natalie Portman to present the Best Cinematography award, he sported the Unabomber beard Phoenix wore when he made his puzzling Letterman appearance recently. Stiller proceeded to act confused and incoherent, wandering around the stage. Unfortunately, this would’ve been a lot of funnier if he hadn’t been beaten to the punch by Frank Coraci presenting at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before. Click here to see the much funnier indie version.

phillip-petitBiggest Attention Whore: Phillip Petit, the subject of Best Documentary winner, Man on Wire. In the film, he was already desperate for attention (part of the reason why he walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers in 1974). Tonight, he did a magic trick, making a coin disappear, and balanced the Oscar on his chin, all within seconds at the podium. He did everything he could to keep the camera on him, like Tatiana on American Idol singing everything she could think of during Hollywood week so she wouldn’t be kicked off. 

Best Multi-Tasker: A.R. Rahman. Dude, he came out to sing “O Saya” and “Jai Ho” from Slumdog after he’d just won the Best Score award. That’s like having John Williams come out to sing along to his Star Wars theme. (“Star wars…Nothing but star wars…”)

Second Tearjerking Speech: Wrapping up his Best Song acceptance speech for “Jai Ho,” Rahman said, “All my life I’ve had a choice of hate and love. I chose love and I’m here.” For some reason, that kicked me right in the gut and tears came up. It’s so simple yet profound. Why can’t the rest of the world figure that out?

So, what were the highlights for you? Do you want Hugh back next year? How’d you do in the Oscar pool? Post in the comments!


Video of Hugh Jackman Rehearsing for Oscars!

Check this out. Someone took footage of Hugh Jackman rehearsing for the Oscars in New York and Hollywood. Entertainment journalist Nikki Finke confirmed its authenticity. Hugh narrates it, shows off his ripped arms (those guns are huge!) and makes fun of David Letterman’s Oscar-hosting stint. It’s like watching a clip from Fame.

Can’t wait for the big show!


My Oscar Predictions!

jackman_tuxThe Oscars are finally here! I’m looking forward to seeing Hugh Jackman in a tux and hopefully shaking his money maker a little. There’s a rumor that Anne Hathaway will be doing the opening musical number with him (click here to see him rehearsing, sans Anne). Hathaway can definitely sing (have you seen Ella Enchanted or her hosting stint on SNL?) and we have plenty evidence of Jackman’s musical prowess so it should be entertaining if it does happen.

Now, I know everyone and his best friend’s second cousin’s lip waxer have already done predictions so I wasn’t gonna do any more than the ones I already made back in December and January. But then I thought, Why not? Maybe I can help someone win fifty bucks in an Oscar pool to put towards next week’s groceries. I’ve seen all the nominated movies, except for the shorts and foreign films (you’re on your own there!) so I’m not making wild guesses based on hype. These are my (hopefully) informed opinions based on the actual quality of the films. I know—the Oscars are sometimes more about PR but I can hope, right?

Here goes:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor: Sean Penn — Milk

Best Actor: Kate Winslet — The Reader

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger — The Dark Knight

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz — Vicky Christina Barcelona

Best Director: Danny Boyle — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Animated Feature: WALL*E

Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black — Milk

Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt (Art Direction); Victor J. Zolfo (Set Decoration) — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle — Slumdog Millionaire 

Best Costume Design: Michael O’ Connor — The Duchess (no contest—Keira’s dresses were eye-popping)

Best Editing: Chris Dickens — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Makeup: Greg Cannom — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Score: A.R. Rahman — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Song: “Jai Ho” — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle and Tom Sayers — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Mixing: Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Visual Effects: Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Foreign Film: Waltz with Bashir 

Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire

Do you agree with my choices? Who are you rooting for? Post a comment then check back Monday for scoopy stuff from inside the Oscars from my sources who will be there!


AMERICAN IDOL Reveals First 3 of Top 12 for Season 8

WTH?!! Anoop is gone? Argggghhh! Most shocking and upsetting result of the night! Man, I thought he was a sure thing. I voted for him about 30 times and he’s still going home. What happened?! This is such a bummer. What a huge loss to the show. They’ve got to bring him back for the wild card round.

Tonight’s elimination show was a bloodbath compared to results shows of years past. Nine people were sent home instead of the usual two at this stage in the competition. (Bolded names are the ones who made it.)

The first person asked to face the music was Casey Carlson. No suspense there; her campy act was a disaster. She’s gone. Stephen Fowler was next with his “soaking wet hands” and was sent home, too. Then it was Alexis Grace’s turn and I knew she was safe. That girl killed last night and was by far the most impressive female. America agrees—yay! She’s the first one in.

Ryan asked her to reprise her performance, which was better than asking eliminated people to sing like they’ve done in the past. I mean, if someone’s getting kicked off for sucking, why would I want to listen to them repeat their sucky performance? Conversely, Alexis, with a shot of confidence from being the first one named to the top twelve, upped her game in her encore of “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” She burned it up! This Kristin Bell-lookalike is definitely one to watch. She keeps getting better and better.

Next up were Jackie Tohn and Ricky Braddy. Jackie said she disagreed with Simon 100% that her performance was cheesy. Loved Simon’s response: “We’ll see.” Yup, she’s gone and so’s Braddy. No surprises here.

Then the shocker. Anoop was asked to step forward with Michael Sarver. I was just thinking, “It’s a no brainer. Sorry, Michael” when Ryan dropped the bomb that Sarver was the one who’s safe and Anoop was eliminated. I had to rewind the DVR to make sure I heard Ryan correctly. America let Anoopy down!

At this point, there were five people left vying for the last seat available tonight. Ryan took a break from dishing out results by bringing on Michael Johns and Carly Smithson to do a duet to the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” Johns looked spiffy and Smithson went on about some emergency weave-shopping incident. Then they started singing and oof, it was not good for me. Johns was all right (I loved his Michael Hutchence-ness last year) but Smithson was shrieky. They went for volume instead of emotion regarding that letter. It’s a good thing they couldn’t be voted off for this performance.

Back to the eliminations. Ann Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright were asked to stand up. Since they weren’t even asked to come down to center stage, it wasn’t hard to predict they were all goners.

And then there were two—Danny Gokey and Tatiana Del Toro. It was so obvious Danny would be the victor but Tatiana took it hard. I must say, I wasn’t rooting for her but I got no joy from seeing her dreams crushed like that. At the end of the day, she’s still human and I felt kinda bad seeing how devastated she was.

So, 2 out of the 3 people I voted for made it; I’m just disappointed about Anoop. If the producers have any common sense at all, they’ll bring him back. This kid will boost their ratings.

Next week, the second group of 12 will perform: Megan Corkrey, Kris Allen, Mishavonna Henson, Matt Breitzke, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud, Jasmine Murray, Kai Kalama, Jesse Langseth, Adam Lambert, Jeanine Vailes and Norman Gentle. (Dude, I’m begging you—buy a new shirt.) Based on their past performances, I’m rooting for Jesse Langseth, Megan Corkrey and Matt Giraud.

What did you think of the eliminations? Were they too harsh or fair? Do you like this year’s new voting system? Post me some comments!

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Top 10 Performances Robbed of Oscars

Oscar Sunday is coming up this weekend and, though I’m really looking forward to it, I have a feeling at least one of my faves won’t win. I think my predictions are pretty solid but there’s always an upset. Last year, I thought Amy Ryan’s fierce performance in Gone Baby Gone was the obvious choice for best supporting actress but no, Tilda Swinton inexplicably won for her one-note work in Michael Clayton (I like Swinton but didn’t think she deserved to win for this).

Of course, it wasn’t the first time that’s happened. Over the years, many actors have been robbed of Oscars. I’ve narrowed this very subjective list down to the ten most egregious snubs (besides Ryan’s) in the last twenty-five years, starting with the most recent.

  1. jackie-earle-haleyJackie Earle Haley for Little Children. Seriously, did voters watch this performance? He was both creepy and impossibly sympathetic as the pedophile who loved his mama, but Alan Arkin won for his performance as a grandfather who taught his granddaughter how to dance. Whatev. Haley is bouncing back as Rorschach in the sure-to-be-blockbuster Watchmen so I guess the Academy can suck it.
  2. denchjudi_notesJudi Dench for Notes on a Scandal. Oh my gosh, she creeped me out in this. Like Haley, Dench pulled off a character that’s both disturbing and sympathetic. Her schoolmarm with repressed desires for Cate Blanchett’s character was incredibly manipulative but Dench also made her desperate loneliness palpable. I adore Helen Mirren and thought she was good as The Queen but her performance wasn’t as complex as Dench’s.
  3. pm_ledger_wideweb__470x3210Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain. I recently read an article in Entertainment Weekly that claimed Ledger was relieved he didn’t win. So maybe he didn’t care but he made me care. His performance as Ennis Del Mar was simply devastating. Philip Seymour Hoffman always turns in good work but Capote felt like a very good impression whereas Ledger created an indelible character from just words on a page.
  4. eternal2Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. This isn’t taking away from Hilary Swank’s gutsy performance in Million Dollar Baby, which deserved to win. I just wish there could have been a tie that year (hey, it happened when Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied for 1968’s Best Actress). Winslet’s Clementine was a freewheeling, damaged soul but the actress also showed us her pluck and heart and never allowed us to feel sorry for her. Clementine might have been trying to clear her head of memories but, years later, I still can’t erase Winslet’s performance from my mind.
  5. j-mooreJulianne Moore for The Hours. Yeah, yeah, Catherine Zeta-Jones sang and danced very well in Chicago and looked great doing it. But this is an acting award and her acting was nowhere near as affecting as Moore’s as the depressed 1950s housewife Laura Brown. Moore’s dutiful smile hid her inner anguish from everyone but the viewer. Watching her, I just wanted to reach through the screen, take the poor woman away on a tropical vacation and give her some happy pills.
  6. Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind. This movie won Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress. Well, it wouldn’t have won any of those categories if it hadn’t been for Crowe, who carried this movie. Crowe’s performance as John Nash elevated the work of everyone around him so it’s rude the Academy gave them Oscars but sent Crowe home empty-handed (at least for this movie).
  7. tn2_sixth_sense_2Haley Joel Osment for The Sixth Sense. C’mon, that little kid was so memorable, you can probably still quote some of his lines. His performance was subtle and poignant, which is doubly impressive considering his age at the time (what life experience did he tap into?!). But noooo, Michael Caine won for The Cider House Rules. Do you even remember what that movie was about or why Caine won? Exactly.
  8. Leonardo DiCaprio for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with mentally handicapped people and can tell when an actor’s portrayal of a challenged person is realistic or just wrong. When I saw this movie, I thought DiCaprio was really handicapped, not an actor doing a great job. He didn’t employ some broad, cliche mannerisms; he went inside Arnie Grape’s head and skin. Though his work was a true transformation, the Academy gave the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Tommy Lee Jones for barking out orders in The Fugitive.
  9. pfeiffer-baker-boysMichelle Pfeiffer for The Fabulous Baker Boys. Oh, I’m not hatin’ on the late, great Jessica Tandy, who took home the Best Actress award that year. But that was more a lifetime achievement award because surely Pfeiffer’s performance as Susie Diamond was more spectacular than Tandy’s Miss Daisy. Pfeiffer’s Susie was a gorgeous, tough chick whose looks didn’t take her as far in life as she’d hoped, a diamond whose sparkle was becoming duller by the day. And who can forget her writhing on the piano in that red dress, purring her way through “Making Whoopee”? All I remember about Miss Daisy is she was a cranky old woman.
  10. h-hunterHolly Hunter for Broadcast News. As neurotic news producer Jane Craig, Hunter ran the gamut of being in charge to completely falling apart, sometimes within seconds. Jane was flawed, funny, frustrating—a full-bodied character. But Cher won that year for Moonstruck as a consolation prize for Silkwood.

So, do you think the Academy mostly gets it right or does it seem like they sometimes vote while high on crack? Which performances do you think were wrongly denied an Oscar? Comment away!

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — First Batch of 12

Oh wow, so many people crashed and burned tonight. I went in thinking, “How can we pick only 3 for the next round?” By the end of the evening, I could barely find three to vote for.

First up was Jackie Tohn, singing Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation.” I like her raspy vocals a lot and she sure looked like she was having fun working the stage, but those tight “trousers” were just wrong and the song was bad for her. I wouldn’t mind seeing her again in the wild card round but for now, I think there’s gonna be a “little less” Jackie around.

Next was Ricky Braddy‘s turn. He seemed like a really nice country boy but man, I fell asleep during his cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.” He can sing but, like Simon said, he has no charisma or star quality. After a few bars, I decided it’d be more fun to watch my fingernails grow. I think it ends here for Braddy, too.

Third was Alexis Grace performing Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” Wow, this girl has completely transformed herself. During her original audition in Louisville, she was a nice, Brooke White-type and Kara and Paula told her to dirty herself up. She took their advice to heart and became a soulful grrrl. The vixen makeup and pink-streaked hair definitely gave her an edge but, thankfully, her talent remained unchanged. I just love how this little blonde girl would open her mouth and a big black woman’s voice would come out. It’s like she was dubbed by Patti LaBelle. She was my favorite female of the night.

Brent Keith came up next and the crew just didn’t seem to like him. His turn started out with a tech snafu that played Stevie Wright’s instead of his video. Then, after he sang, they played him off the stage with the Idol theme song when he tried to respond to the judges’ comments. This guy is awfully cute with his left dimple and good ol’ boy charm but he lost me with the country song “Hick Town.” I applaud Keith for being true to himself but I don’t have to buy what he’s selling.

Then it was Stevie Wright‘s turn and this girl really disappointed me. Her smoky rendition of  “At Last” during her original Phoenix audition was as memorable as this performance of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” was forgettable. The song just didn’t do anything to showcase her voice. I had such high hopes but won’t vote for her after this debacle. Girl, you do not belong with Idol.

When I heard Anoop was next, I hollered, “Finally! Let’s get this show started!” Man, I love this kid. He’s just so cool. Every time I see that clip of him singing “My Prerogative,” I keep wishing they’d show that whole rousing performance. But then he announced he was gonna sing Monica’s “Angel of Mine.” Wait, what?! I wanted him to funk it UP, show us his personality, not sing some unfamiliar slow song. Well, it wasn’t a great choice but his voice was as smoof as ever and he’d better move on to the next round. He also gets extra points for giving credit to Ricky Minor and the band for making him sound good. I don’t hear a lot of contestants acknowledging the band.

Next, Casey Carlson was at the bat and boy, did she strike out. As a singer, she’s a very pretty girl. She chose The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” but everything Casey did was definitely NOT. She vamped her way through the song, touching her neck and winking like she’s Sarah Palin at the VP debate. Her voice was too thin and small to sustain most of the notes and she attempted a misguided run at the very end that couldn’t save this trainwreck. I don’t know what happened because I liked her a lot when she sang “A Thousand Miles” in Kansas City. Sorry, Casey, I’m pretty sure it’s over for you.

Michael Sarver was the eighth singer, rocking out Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want To Be.” This song needs some ‘tude because it’s like saying “I ain’t changing for nobody” but Sarver just kind of bounced happily through it. It wasn’t a bad performance but not good enough to move on. Paula pointed out that Elliott Yamin, Bo Bice and Chris Richardson also sang it and I thought, “Yeah, and none of them won.”

After Sarver, Ann Marie Boskovich sang “Natural Woman.” When Kelly Clarkson sang this in season one, she slapped America across the face, woke us up and made us pay attention. I was hoping for the same kind of revelation for Boskovich because I thought she had a crystal clear, Carrie-Underwood-crossed-with-a-young-Dolly-Parton voice during her audition. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make this song soar. It needed soul and passion but she gave it a country feel which didn’t work for me. It was frustrating because I really wanted her to move on.

Then it was Stephen Fowler‘s turn and he chose “Rock With You.” I thought, Oooh, this could be good. Wrong. I like the tone of his voice but he slowed it down and bored it up. He was occasionally flat and by the time he got to the line, “When the groove is dead and gone,” I agreed.

Side note: I hate how the judges tell contestants they don’t take enough risks but when they do, they’re told they shouldn’t touch Michael Jackson or Police or Whitney or Mariah songs because those are too hard. These kids have to sing somebody‘s songs because they don’t have their own catalogs. Maybe they should only choose from Paula’s songbook since they’d be more likely to improve on the original versions?

OK, on to the final two. Tatiana surprised me with Whitney’s “Saving All My Love For You” when she did way better than I expected. She impressively hit some high notes and afterwards, was demure and kept her mouth shut during the judges’ comments. Simon and the gang were confused and tried to goad her into doing her wacky laugh and exhibiting her over-the-top behavior and I was screaming, “No! Why are you inciting the crazy?!” Thankfully, she didn’t go there. I think she’s been studying her tapes from the past weeks, thought, “Wow, I’m a freak” and tried to redeem herself. But her ladylike behavior came too late and I’d be surprised if she makes the top three.

Danny Gokey brought up the rear as the last contestant tonight. I groaned when he said he’d sing Mariah’s “Hero.” That song is overwrought and overused. But Gokey just stood there, Archuleta-style, and sang it beautifully. He didn’t need to prance around the stage to keep us entertained. I wondered why I was compelled to watch him while I was bored during Rick Braddy’s performance and then realized the difference was Gokey has stage presence.

When the phone lines opened, I voted for Gokey, Anoop and Alexis Grace. Who did you vote for? Who was awesome for you and who disappointed?

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Low Interest at THE INTERNATIONAL, SHOP Elsewhere for a Good Movie

Valentine’s Day was this weekend so I wanted to see something romantic. But, not being a very girly girl, I also wanted to balance out my moviegoing experience with something more muscular with actions and thrills. So I saw The International first, then Confessions of a Shopaholic. Turns out they both had the same theme—bankers/debt collectors are evil—and neither gave me a very good return on my money.


I didn’t know much about The International‘s plot but was attracted by headliners Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, as well as director Tom Tykwer. Tykwer directed Run, Lola, Run, the terrifically kinetic German thriller starring Franka Potente that was nonstop awesomeness. Characters in International move more slowly and with less energy, which is okay, except for the parts when they’re boring.

2009_the_international_021The bad guys are executives at a powerful, international bank who are providing arms to small countries in conflict. They also assassinate people. I can’t say that bankers—these bankers, anyway—are the most compelling villains but considering the economic mess we’re in, they make relevant bad guys. Owen plays an Interpol agent trying to stop them and Watts is a New York City ADA working with him. Both turn in adequate performances; it isn’t the best work for either. If you’ve ever seen a thriller, any thriller, you can predict almost everything that happens in this movie, but there is a jaw-droppingly spectacular shootout in the Guggenheim that’s gutsy, original and worth seeing.

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLICShopaholic is a much bouncier and more colorful affair than International but the creditors in this movie—one in particular named Derek Smeath—aren’t very friendly, either. Our heroine, Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), is the titular girl who’s addicted to designer labels despite her mountain of debt. Ironically (and quite implausibly, but that’s another matter), she becomes famous as a financial advice columnist. Smeath is the relentless debt collector who’s out to get literal payback from Rebecca and expose her hypocrisy.

The movie, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (who might have been more at home producing International), is based on the first two books in the popular Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. Becky is British in the books and I’ve always seen/heard her that way in my head so her being American in the film took some getting used to. Isla Fisher is Australian and probably could’ve done a very convincing British accent. Regardless, she is like a platinum card with no limit on her comedy potential. She dives into her role (sometimes literally) with gusto, totally unconcerned about whether she’d muss up her hair or fancy wardrobe (put together by the inimitable Patricia Field from Sex and the City fame).

2009_confessions_of_a_shopaholic_0101But despite Fisher’s winning, energetic performance, she seems to be running in place because the movie is a pastiche of scenes that don’t add up to one cohesive plot. It’s like a big, pretty package that contains mostly styrofoam peanuts on the inside. Hugh Dancy, whom I really, really like, plays love-interest Luke capably enough (with British accent intact!) but he looks too young to be editor of a magazine (he owns a PR firm in the books) and there’s not much chemistry between him and Fisher. They’re two talented actors thrown together and told to act cute but there’s no real heat.

2009_confessions_of_a_shopaholic_011The supporting cast is overstuffed with accomplished actors like Kristin Scott Thomas, John Lithgow, John Goodman, Joan Cusack, and Wendie Malick, who aren’t given much to do. Lynn Redgrave practically does extra work in a cameo that surely won’t do anything to improve her credit(s). Also, it was disconcerting to see 46-year-old Cusack play 33-year-old Fisher’s mom.

I know times are tough right now but I had no problem watching Becky go shopping and dressed in pretty clothes. Fantasy is more fun than a movie about the economic crisis. But this flick is like a purchase you instantly regret as soon as you get home. My advice? Wait ’til it goes on sale as a DVD.

Ratings—The International: Okay. Confessions: Okay.