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Tell Me a Story About…Chair

I had so much fun when we played our storytelling game last time (read it here), I decided to do it again. Based on an exercise Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in her book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, the rules are simple. I throw out a random word and you tell me a story, whatever thought or memory triggered by that word. The word is mundane on purpose because creating an interesting anecdote around it is more of a challenge than if the word is, say, “lederhosen.” I mean, that’s too easy, right?

I asked someone to give me a word so that I don’t cheat and only select ones that have amazing stories tied to them. And I was given: chair.

This made me think of a time in fourth grade when I was the new kid in school. My first day, I had to take the chair at the front of the class directly across from the teacher’s desk because no one else wanted to sit there.

I was asked to go to the blackboard at one point to do some math problem. When I came back to my chair, I unwittingly sat down on a handful of thumbtacks. YOW! Apparently, the two classroom bullies decided to waste no time picking on the new girl so they put tacks in my seat.

Instinctively, I knew if I cried out, I’d be a target forever. They were waiting to hear me scream and then they’d laugh at me. So, though my eyes started to water, I clenched my teeth and sat still.

I heard one boy whisper, “I thought you put the tacks in her chair!”

“I did!”

“Why isn’t she doing anything?!”

“I don’t know!”

“You’re stupid!”

“No, YOU are!”

If I hadn’t been in pain, I would’ve laughed. Instead, I focused on resisting the urge to jump up and pull tacks out of my butt. When the two boys eventually lost interest in me, I shifted, um, myself slightly and yanked them out discreetly. The morons never picked on me again.

OK, your turn!

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Behind the Scenes at the Golden Globes 2010

After the ceremony (and maybe a party or two), a friend of mine who had attended the Globes called and we chatted briefly about some things that weren’t shown on TV. She wished to stay anonymous since she often works with many of the celebrities in attendance.

PCN: Did you have fun?

A: Yeah! It’s so ridiculous. Marion Cotillard and Mo’Nique are kind of like my buddies now. At the end of the night, Mo’Nique kissed me on the cheek and said, “See you at the SAG Awards [next weekend]!”

PCN: Don’t make me push you down the stairs. What other moments stood out for you tonight?

A: The reunions [of former co-stars]. At one point, John Lithgow was talking with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jodie Foster ran into Mel Gibson, who was wandering around because he didn’t have a seat.

PCN: Why didn’t he have a seat?

A: Lots of stars show up just to make an appearance and then leave. They don’t stay for dinner.

PCN: Who else did that?

A: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Josh Brolin, off the top of my  head. Oh, get this. For some reason, Taylor Lautner had better seats than Amy Adams, Halle Berry and Kate Winslet.

PCN: What?!

A: I know! The best seats are on the bottom floor and then there’s the second tier. So on the floor there was Robert De Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren and Taylor Lautner.

PCN: That makes no sense. OK, what got the biggest gasp in the room?

A: When Ricky Gervais made the crack about Mel Gibson.

PCN: What did you think of Gervais?

A: He’s very nice but I don’t think he was great [as host]. He was well-spoken and witty but for some reason, I wasn’t drawn in, I wasn’t enthused.

PCN: I hate to say it but I have to agree. He certainly wasn’t terrible but I expected him to be much funnier.

A: Oh, I have another call. Gotta go!

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Nerdies for Best & Worst of 67th Annual Golden Globes

I usually love me some Globes but last night while they were on, I was deep in HTML hell so my wrap-up will be a bit more succinct than usual. If you’d like a complete list of winners, go here. I’m just going to run down the moments that stood out for me.

Best She-Cleans-Up-Well Award: Mo’Nique. I whooped with joy when my girl won for Precious, and then she moved me with her eloquent, heartfelt acceptance speech, a completely different kind from the terrifying one she makes in the movie to the social worker.

Least in Need of Airbrushing: Meryl Streep. Did you see her skin?! Whatever she’s using, I want several buckets of. She was so glowy, if the lights had gone out, she would have been the only person in the room you could still see clearly.

Best Sense of Humor about Himself: Mel Gibson. Ricky Gervais introduced him by saying, “I like a drink as much as the next man…unless that man’s Mel Gibson!” Then Gibson proceeded to play along by slurring his words as he presented the award for best director.

Most Disturbing Dresses That Were Actually Half Gorgeous: Drew Barrymore’s and Christina Aguilera. Barrymore looked radiant (she won her first Globe!) but I could not take my eyes off those lumps on her shoulder and hip. They looked like baby porcupines that had fallen into jars of glitter. Aguilera looked good, too, but her two-toned dress made it look as if she forgot to tuck her right boob back in after she breast-fed her child. And speaking of breasts…

B(r)e(a)st Smackdown: Halle Berry vs. Mariah Carey. These two ladies wore plunging necklines that showed most of their womanhood to the world. But while Berry managed to look sexy, Carey just looked cheap and porny. Put them away, Mariah. They’re not that precious.

Most Handsome Nerd: Dude, Zachary Levi was smokin’ in his tan and tux! If he keeps that up, who’s going to buy him as a nerd on Chuck anymore?

Biggest Failed Attempt at a Clever Speech: Robert Downey Jr. I’m not happy about that; I’m crazy about him as an actor. But when he won for Sherlock Holmes (what the…?) and pretended he wasn’t going to thank anyone, he sounded like an ass instead of charming and funny the way George Clooney and Hugh Grant did when they pulled the same stunt in the past.

Hottest Train Holder: Jon Hamm. During the red carpet arrivals, Jennifer Garner had a problem with her train. As she struggled with it, Hamm came along and gallantly held it up for her.

Best Dress: Zoe Saldana‘s gorgeous red ruffled gown. I’m not usually a girly girl but took one look at that and thought, “Oooh, pretttttty.” Louis Vutton knew how to do ruffles, unlike the designers of the Chloe Sevigny’s and Anna Kendrick’s dresses.

Best Put-Together: Jennifer Garner. Despite all the rain (even Heidi Klum had flat hair!), Garner was perfection from head to toe.

What did you like (or not) about the Globes? Who did you think was best dressed?


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Welcome!

Usually when people get a facelift, they don’t talk about it. But I’m proud to say I’ve spent the last several days giving my blog an overhaul even Joan Rivers would envy.

First, if you followed me over from my WordPress.com blog, thank you for making the switch. Please adjust your bookmarks and links accordingly if you had me in your blogroll. And don’t forget to re-subscribe (look to sidebar on right) because your subscription to the other blog is now defunct.

This site is a work in progress—it’s only about 25% finished—because I’m no tech wizard and too cheap and stubborn to pay someone to do it. The past few days I’ve felt like a chimp playing the roulette wheel, having just as much chance of clicking on the wrong thing as not.

Speaking of clicking, I hope you’ll do so all over the site and explore it (check out that carousel of featured articles on the home page!).

I added a “top commentator” widget which keeps track of people who leave the most comments. Jen Forbus is currently in the lead; are you just going to let her stay there? Occasionally, I’ll give prizes to the most vocal readers so now’s a good time to de-lurk yourself.

But I don’t want you only commenting on what I write about. I also added a forum so you all can hang out here and discuss anything you’d like. Share your pop culture recommendations, swap books, tell nerdy stories—click on the tab up top and have fun!

Enough yammering—I can hear the orchestra playing me off the stage. I’d like to say a special thank you to le0pard13, who provided superhuman support, and to my husband who allowed me to lock myself in the den for hours and slipped food under the door just when I needed it.

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No Limits on the Horizon for U2

So, U2’s dropping a new album Tuesday (download it from Amazon for only $3.99!) and I’m excited, having been a fan since 1980. But when it came to doing a review, I knew the best person for the job would be my contributing writer, Debbie DeNice, the resident U2 expert. I’m telling you—she’s got a Master’s degree in Bonology and has traveled the world to see them live (from the pit, baby). She turned in the following review plus exclusive photos she took herself. Enjoy!

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Uno. Dos. Tres. Cinco. Cinco? Yes, cinco. That’s how many years have passed since U2’s last studio album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. This Tuesday, U2 will release No Line on the Horizon and Club Vertigo, with the boys who play rock and roll and the girls with crimson nails, has been left behind. We’ve walked out in sexy boots because the future needs a big kiss—along with some love and community.

Most certainly this album is a departure for U2. Listening to it for the first time I thought, “This doesn’t sound like U2.” My second thought was, “This doesn’t sound like anyone other than U2, either.”

They began work on NLOTH with Rick Rubin, a producer known for his “stripped-down” sound, creating naked vocals and bare instrumentation. For whatever reason, their teaming with Rubin ended (two songs completed with Rubin, the cover of the Skids’ “The Saints Are Coming” with Green Day and “Window in the  Skies,” were released on U2’s 18 Singles compilation album in 2006) and they reunited with Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite. Out went the back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll of Atomic Bomb and in came the experimental, sonically textured NLOTH. And it works. It rocks.

The standout tracks for me: “Magnificent,” “Moment of Surrender,” and “White as Snow.” Each of these songs begins pared down, stripped bare with only an instrument or a vocal. A sonic focal point on the water that slowly amplifies by layering tones, vocals, and instruments, sending rippling sound waves out onto the horizon.

The range of sounds and the texture of tones that NLOTH brings are unexpected and welcomed—‘70s rock, folk music flavor, and a touch of otherworldliness. The sound of a droning organ and a fat, fuzzy, or distorted guitar prove that when it comes to rock musicians, the Edge is in rarefied air. Bono is in brilliant voice and writing some beautiful lyrics that touch on themes of love, war, transcendence and being Bono. While Bono and the Edge get most of the attention, the rhythm section consisting of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. kick ass. Funky bass grooves and staccato drumming add to the richness of this aural pleasure that is NLOTH.

This is a transitional album for U2, in the same vein as The Unforgettable Fire and Zooropa. As such, it may take awhile to be fully appreciated but U2 is back. Back with big sounds, big ideas and a big voice, though some may argue—a big mouth. As I heard Bono say recently, “U2 are not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Tour information goes up on their website (U2.com) next Monday, March 9th. Rumor has it they may have some recession-priced tickets so check them out this summer in a city near you. I, for one, can’t wait to meet them in the sound!

Rating: Brilliant

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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!

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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

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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?

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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.

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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. 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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