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Golden Globes 2017: Predictable *and* Surprising

Here we go, the first of one million award shows this season. I always look forward to the Globes because it’s usually the loosest, wackiest award show, with drunk celebs and the Hollywood Foreign Press often choosing odd winners (Madonna as best actress comedy/musical for Evita).

This year had predictable wins—La La Land swept, which I’m happy about—but some upsets, too, which kept us viewers awake at home.

Below are my own awards for the ceremony. The 2017 Nerdies go to:

Most smile-inducing musical number: OK, fine, there was only one number and that was the opening. Host Jimmy Fallon parodied La La Land but also referenced several memorable moments in movies and TV this past year, including what happened to Barb in Stranger Things and Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. He had help from singing stars like Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman, Evan Rachel Wood, and Sarah Paulson. I didn’t even know the latter two could sing. They always play such serious roles, it was nice to see them have some fun.

Best upsets: Aaron Taylor-Johnson winning best dramatic supporting actor in movies and Isabelle Huppert for best dramatic movie actress. I’ve long admired Taylor-Johnson for disappearing into his roles; I hated his character SO MUCH in Nocturnal Animals, but in real life, he’s well spoken and handsome and seems nothing like the lowlife he played. Huppert is a French legend, and though I’m too scared to watch Elle, I hear she’s fierce as a rape survivor who tracks down her attacker for revenge.

Funniest banter: Kristin Wiig and Steve Carell talking about the first time they saw an animated movie. We quickly realize these occasions were memorable for horrible reasons. And that’s how you do comedy.

Best speech, bar none: Meryl Streep. While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award, instead of talking about herself, she spoke for five minutes about how we need to band together in this changing political climate to defend a free press and have empathy and not fear foreigners, pointing out Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, Amy Adams in Italy, Dev Patel in Kenya, and Ruth Negga in Ethiopia.

You can watch below or read the entire transcript here, but the standout lines for me were “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” When she ends by quoting “the dear departed Princess Leia, [who] said to me once: ‘Take your broken heart, make it into art,’” I was in tears.

On to the fashion. For this, I’ll bring in my co-commentator, Mr. PCN, who always adds a unique perspective.

Thandie Newton


Mr. PCN: She’s hot, as in she looks like she’s literally on fire.


Jessica Chastain


Mr. PCN: She was a bridesmaid who caught the bouquet, but then other people fought her for it and the bouquet broke apart all her over dress.

Natalie Portman


Mr. PCN: I know she played someone from the ’60s, but she doesn’t have to look 60. The hair is too severe.

Zoe Saldana


Mr. PCN: Car wash.

Sarah Jessica Parker



PCN: With her hair and white gown, she’s totally channeling Princess Leia.

Mr. PCN: The sleeves make me think the designer also designs straitjackets.

Blake Lively


PCN: She looks like Wonder Woman in evening wear, with the bulletproof bracelets and pockets made out of golden lasso.

Mr. PCN: I see a golden octopus wrapped around her from behind.

Nicole Kidman


Mr. PCN: This looks one of those Magic Eye pictures from the ’80s, but I can’t see what the hidden image is supposed to be.

Emma Stone


PCN: I saved the best for last. The actress who plays a girl with stars in her eyes is wearing stars on her dress. Perfection.

Did you watch? What were your favorite moments?

Photos: Getty Images


Movie Review: INTO THE WOODS

The film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Into the Woods (out December 25) is an example of how star power can be effective in drawing people to the cinema. I really wanted to see this movie because of the incredible cast, but I don’t normally like musicals and fell asleep when I saw the stage version many years ago, so take this review for whatever it’s worth.

The story is an intertwinement of the Grimm fairy tales about Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and his beanstalk. There’s a wolf and a witch and a prince—two of them, in fact.

into the woods streepTying them all together are a baker and his wife, who must reverse a curse that prevents them from having chilren. The witch makes them go into the woods to procure four items that would help her lift the curse. Lots of singing ensues.

As expected, Meryl Streep is well cast as the witch, bringing humor and a hint of humanity to the role. Johnny Depp’s wolf is appropriately lecherous and predatory and, yes, funny. Anyone who has seen Streep’s and Depp’s turns in Mamma Mia! and Sweeney Todd, respectively, know they can carry a tune.

The revelation is Emily Blunt, who follows her impressive turn as the badass heroine of this summer’s Edge of Tomorrow with another performance unlike anything we’ve seen her do. Her baker’s wife is the most riveting character, sensual without effort, and her singing voice is clear and pure.

into-the-woods pineMore problematic was Chris Pine’s performance as Cinderella’s prince. When he started his first number, “Agony,” I was mortified because he was so cheesy and melodramatic. I thought, “Why didn’t [director] Rob Marshall tell him to tone it down?!” Halfway through the number, I realized Pine was intentionally lampooning the concept of Prince Charming.

Once I understood that, Pine’s performance became very funny, but the issue remains that his scenes are tonally incongruous with the rest of the movie. The other actors play it straight and earnest, including Anna Kendrick as Cinderella talking to birds. It can be argued that Streep’s and Depp’s performances are over the top, too, but witches and wolves are hardly subtle creatures and these two are simply in character. Pine’s portrayal is a parody, something you’d expect to see on Saturday Night Live.

A friend who also saw Woods this weekend told me afterward that the princes are written and played that way in the stage version, too (I don’t remember; I saw it a long time ago and, as mentioned, I fell asleep). She thought Pine was spot on. My friend continued to say, however, that the original production contained more comedy than the movie, so perhaps I wouldn’t have found the princes’ goofy scenes so jarring in tone if the movie were funnier overall.

It is mostly faithful to its roots, for better or worse. It’s too long; whole numbers and scenes could’ve been cut without the storyline being affected. Several threads are introduced and then left dangling. But the movie has its moments, and some of the performances might be worth a trip into the theater.

Nerd verdict: Uneven but diverting trek Into the Woods

Photos: Walt Disney Studios


Movie Review: THE GIVER


The Giver, adapted from Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning novel, opens in black and white, with best friends Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), Fiona (Odeya Rush), and Asher (Cameron Monaghan) living in a dystopian community free of strife. Every day is sunny and every lawn looks perfectly manicured.

Residents receive an injection every morning to remove all feelings and the ability to see colors, and people are assigned families and jobs. There’s no free will, but that’s because—as the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) says—when humans are given choices they choose wrong every time.

The exception is the Receiver of Memory (Jeff Bridges), the only person who remembers what the world used to be like—full of music and dancing and sunsets and colors. His job is to advise the council of elders in their decision making. He’s getting up in years, though, so Jonas is chosen as the next Receiver and Bridges’s character becomes the Giver.

The training goes fine until a baby’s life is endangered and Jonas realizes he wants the capacity to feel love and joy and all the other emotions. He rebels, and the elders must stop him from destroying the community and the way of life they’ve painstakingly built.

Not having read the book, I’m going to venture it’s a difficult piece to adapt for the screen. The concept of people being protected from the heartbreaks and messiness of life is thought provoking and maybe even attractive, considering how chaotic and distressing the world is right now (the book was released in 1993). But the idea probably works better in literary form, because film is a visual medium that requires more than actors with robotic mannerisms.

For most of the movie, Thwaites, Rush, and Monaghan give flat line readings and exhibit few facial expressions. I understand this is how their characters are supposed to be, but it’s difficult to stay invested in such bland people. After Jonas is exposed to the Giver’s memories (and colors start leaking into the movie), Thwaites’s performance doesn’t get much more interesting.

Bridges and Streep fare better, but their work here won’t garner them any award nominations. Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard as (Jonas’s) Mother and Father are utilitarian. Taylor Swift shows up for a tiny part; her presence feels like stunt casting.

Director Phillip Noyce’s talents also seem to have been underused, since The Giver is neither fast paced nor thrilling like some of his past movies such as Salt and Patriot Games. Giver is not bad, but—perhaps fittingly—it doesn’t elicit much of an emotional response, one way or the other.

Nerd verdict: Unrewarding Giver

Photo: The Weinstein Company


84th Academy Awards Highlights

When I first heard Billy Crystal named as host this year, I thought it was a very good choice. He’s one of very few hosts who can improvise and riff on unexpected moments that occur during the show. But then a friend of mine who went to the rehearsals told me the skits were boring and the banter dull. So I approached the show with somewhat lowered expectations but ended up enjoying it quite a bit, definitely much more than last year’s ceremony.

First, the winners in some of the major categories:

Best PictureThe Artist

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, The Descendants

(For a full list, go here.)

Some of the highlights:

Funniest but least helpful focus group: Christopher Guest and Co. as an early focus group, giving feedback on a test screening of The Wizard of Oz. Favorite comments were Catherine O’Hara’s complaint about the use of little people to play munchkins (she thought they were kids): “You hire all these children and little people when there are plenty of capable, full-sized men out in the bread lines still.” Jennifer Coolidge chimed in with “there’s lots of ugly faces in this film, lots of elevator faces, faces that look like they were caught in an elevator, smushed together, hatchet faces, long chins…I’ve never seen so many unattractive people.”

Most inclusive thank-you: The sound editing duo of Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, for Hugo, who said, “I’d just like to thank everybody who is here tonight, and everybody who isn’t, and everybody who’s ever been born, or may be born or be born again or reborn. If I’ve forgotten anybody then you probably know who you are.”

Best live special effects: The Cirque du Soleil performance. I’ll take them over lame musical numbers any day.

Funniest reality check: Chris Rock on why “I love animation. You could be anything you want to be. You’re a fat woman, you can play a skinny princess. If you’re a short wimpy guy, you can play a tall gladiator. If you’re a white man, you can play an Arabian prince. And if you’re a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra.”

Randiest presenter: Melissa McCarthy, doing a take on her Bridesmaids character by coming to Crystal’s dressing room in a robe and asking him, “How about we make this dressing room an undressing room?”

Longest wait for an Oscar: Christopher Plummer’s. The 82-year-old actor started his acceptance speech by addressing the Oscar: “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?” He continued, “When I first emerged from my mother’s womb, I was already rehearsing my Academy thank-you speech.”

Best quip after a boring speech: After Academy president Tom Sherak gave his obligatory dull remarks, Crystal said, “Thank you for whipping the crowd into a frenzy.”

Funniest improvised bit from a winner: The Descendants‘ co-writer Jim Rash (who also plays Dean Pelton in Community), striking the same pose as Angelina Jolie when she came out to present his award.

Most exciting moment for a Flight of the Conchords fan: When Bret McKenzie won best song for “Man or Muppets” from The Muppets. Who knew half of that brilliantly goofy duo would one day be an Oscar winner? He said, “I grew up in New Zealand watching The Muppets on TV. Never dreamed I’d get to work with them. I was genuinely starstruck when I finally met Kermit the frog, but once you get to know him, he’s just a normal frog. And like many stars here, he’s a lot shorter in real life.”

Most, ah, interesting way of presenting awards for the short films: Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph making double entendres about the shorts, though Rudolph claimed they were talking about movies, not “wieners.” Wiig: “See, I’d rather have a short film with some heft that’s nice to me, rather than a long film that just lies there and makes you do all the work.” Rudolph: “But sometimes a film can be too long.” Wigg: “Not for me, not for me.”

Goofiest running gag: The Scorsese drinking game that the Bridesmaids ladies started at the Golden Globes, in which if someone says the director’s name, they have to drink. The best part was Scorsese’s delighted but completely befuddled reaction, having no idea what was going on.

Presenter who best managed to make scripted bits seem funny and sincere: Colin Firth, who presented the best actress award. When paying tribute to Meryl Streep, he said, “Mamma Mia! We were in Greece, we danced, I was gay, and we were happy.” He also told Michelle Williams she was his mentor on the movie they did together (A Thousand Acres), and that he aspired to be like her “even though you were 12 and I was 35.”

After the show, a friend of mine who was at the Oscars called and sent over a couple of fun photos she took. She said Octavia Spencer decided her clutch was too small so she also carried a giant handbag with her.

My friend also caught Kenneth Branagh photobombing John Corbett and his longtime partner, Bo Derek.

What did you think of the show? Favorite bits? Parts you hated? For my fashion roundup, click here.

Photos: The Artist cast/Ian West/PA; Cirque du Soleil/Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Angelina Jolie-Jim Rash/Entertainment Weekly; Rose Byrne & Melissa McCarthy/Kevin Winter/Getty


The Right Movie for Your Mother

Since this coming Sunday is Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what to get my mom. Which led me to thinking about movies about mothers and how DVDs would make great gifts.

But there are different kinds of mothers and you can’t just buy The Hurt Locker for someone who loves Sandra Bullock comedies, or Avatar for a woman who likes good movies.

Therefore, I’ve devised the short quiz below to help you to determine what kind of mother you have and the corresponding flick she might enjoy.

1. In high school, if she found out you were being bullied, she would:

a) strap on a giant machine gun and go confront the offending kid’s parents

b) call up the bully’s house and make snarky comments to put the kid in his/her place

c) sing a song about how you should send out an S.O.S. next time it happens

d) sue the bully’s family

e) tell you that suffering is part of life

2. If you got bad grades, she would:

a) say you have MUCH bigger things to worry about, like killer robots

b) say, “Oh well, at least you’re not pregnant!”

c) tell you it’s okay, you’ll always have a job helping her run the family business

d) lecture you long and hard about how you might end up in a trailer park with babies by different daddies if you don’t get your act together

e) tell you not to worry since you’d be married by 18 anyway. In fact, she’d already arranged your marriage for you.

3. Her relationship guideline is:

a) Make sure someone’s not from the future before you sleep with them

b) You should wait until marriage to have kids, or at least until you’re out of your teens

c) Don’t date 3 people at once

d) You should date people with nice jobs, like in a law firm, but bikers can be nice, too

e) You must marry Asian!

4. Her career advice:

a) Acquire leadership skills and learn how to use heavy weaponry

b) It’s cool if you just want to hang out, write songs and play guitar with your geeky friend

c) Don’t run your own business because you’ll work all night and work all day and still have nothing left

d) Work hard, stick to your convictions, but wearing a good push-up bra can’t hurt

e) What career? Your job is to have babies and take care of your husband

5. Her life philosophy:

a) Trust no one

b) Never lose your sense of humor

c) Be open about your past, even if you were a little slutty

d) Don’t be a f*cking hypocrite

e) Small feet are better

If your answers are:

Mostly a’s—Your mom would love a copy of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. She’ll enjoy another viewing of it while she polishes her M16s.

Mostly b’s—I’d recommend a DVD of Juno as a thank-you for all those times she stood by you and didn’t judge even though you screwed up.

Mostly c’s—Your mother will feel a kinship with Meryl Streep’s character in Mamma Mia! And since she’s been working so hard, maybe you can throw in plane tickets to the Greek islands, too.

Mostly d’s—Send your mom a copy of Erin Brockovich with a card telling her she’ll always look fab in tight skirts and heels.

Mostly e’s—Invite your mother over for dinner, making sure the table is set properly and the soup isn’t too salty, and then present her afterward with a DVD of Joy Luck Club and the latest pictures of your 6 children, showing them playing piano or chess.

What will you give your mom?


Nerdies for Best & Worst of 82nd Annual Academy Awards

Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Greg Shapiro. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Oh, man, I didn’t do so well this year in my predictions. Usually, I miss only 2-4 categories but this year I tanked by getting 7 wrong (17 right). I thought Avatar would win more technical awards but The Hurt Locker demolished it in the sound categories, too.

I assume you already know that Hurt Locker, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Christoph Waltz, and Kathryn Bigelow won the big awards. (For the rest of the winners, click here.) So I’m only going to discuss the moments which stood out for me for reasons both good and bad.

Most Confusing Guest? Host?: Neil Patrick Harris opening the show with a musical number. I like him and he’s a talented singer but he was neither Alec Baldwin nor Steve Martin. It felt odd that he was auditioning to be host of next year‘s telecast while this year’s was just beginning.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best Agency Dis: Baldwin. At the beginning of the show, he said, “In Precious, Gabourey Sidibe is told she’s worthless, nobody likes her, that she has no future. Hey, I’m with CAA, too!”

Least Prudent Interruption: Elinor Burkett, producer of documentary short winner Music by Prudence, Kanye’d director Roger Ross Williams’s acceptance speech by hijacking the mike and talking over him, complaining that women never get to talk. Her rudeness and anger were ironic since the film is supposed to be uplifting. ( has the story behind the incident here.)

Funniest “Horror” Clip: Martin and Baldwin’s Paranormal Activity spoof, which shows Martin bitch-slapping Baldwin in his sleep, causing Baldwin to fall out of bed.

Most Welcome Close-Up: During the animated sequence featuring the nominees for best animated feature, Up‘s talking dog, Dug, went right up to the camera and licked it before saying, “This is not food.” I love Dug and his big, squirrel-sniffing nose!

Understatement of the Year: Julianne Moore. Regarding filming A Single Man, she said, “Three days is not nearly enough time to spend in the company of the magnificent Colin Firth.” Truer words were not spoken.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best Nerd Representative: Sam Worthington. He whipped out thick black frames to read the teleprompter while presenting best score nominees. Holla! Sully (and the upcoming Perseus) is a cute myopic nerd!

Rudest Omissions from Memorial Tribute: Where were Farrah Fawcett and Bea Arthur?

Most People Thanked in Least Boring Speech: Sandra Bullock. Somehow, she managed to thank her fellow nominees, the Twohys, her husband, her late mother, all mothers, and her “lover Meryl Streep” while gettiing laughs and reducing her tough-guy spouse to tears.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best “I So Deserve This” Award: Sandy Powell for best costume. She was decked out in a striking dress with impeccable accessories, right down to her sequined beret. If you saw her walking down the street like that carrying an Oscar, you’d know instantly what category she won.

Strangest Pop & Lock(er) Sequence: For The Hurt Locker‘s nominated score, dancers performed a pop and lock dance routine. How does that represent soldiers deactivating bombs?

Wrongest Place for a Stripper Pole: In the middle of the dance number to Up‘s nominated score, a pair of dancers cavorted around a pole that looked like one from a strip club. I can’t even think about Carl and Ellie in those terms.

Kevin Winter/Getty

Best New Contender for President: Kathryn Bigelow. Can we get her to run in 2012, please? Her arms alone could crush bin Laden’s head like a grape. The woman kicks butt 9 kinds of ways and looks like one of Wonder Woman’s Amazon sisters from Paradise Island.

Which moments were memorable for you? Did you like Baldwin and Martin as hosts? How’d you do in your Oscar pool? Make sure you check out my fashion slideshow here!


Nerdy Oscar Predictions 2010

I know, I know, everyone’s doing Oscar predictions so what makes mine special, right? Well, I didn’t say they were, but I slogged through all the 10 best picture nominees (the Coens are going to PAY for Serious Man) so I’ll be darned if I don’t have my say. And last year I only got 2 or 3 wrong, though admittedly I guessed wildly when it came to the shorts.

So, here are who I think will win and who it should be:

Best Picture: Will win—Avatar, should win—Up in the Air, which has waaayy better story and acting. I hated Avatar and fell asleep three times.

Best Actor: Will win—Jeff Bridges, should win—George Clooney. The Dude is cool and has always done solid work, but this is not supposed to be a career award. Clooney’s performance was more layered and difficult than he made it look.

Best Actress: Will and should—Meryl Streep. Few years ago, everyone thought Julie Christie would win for Away from Her because she swept all pre-Oscar awards. But I chose Marion Cotillard’s performance in La Vie en Rose because the latter was clearly superior when you compared the two and Cotillard ended up prevailing. So I’m gonna trust that Academy voters watched their screeners and saw that Streep is the obvious winner here.

Best Supporting Actor: Will and should—Christoph Waltz. This is a done deal, an indisputably stunning performance.

Best Supporting Actress: Will and should—Mo’Nique. No argument here, either. Same reason as above.

Best Director: Will win—Kathryn Bigelow. Should—Jason Reitman. I’ll be fine with Bigelow’s win because she kicks ass but Reitman made the better, more emotionally resonant movie.

Best Original Screenplay: Will win—The Hurt Locker. Should win—Up. Carl, Russell, Ellie, and company were complex, fully drawn characters, while Hurt‘s script didn’t explain why James was such a war junkie. He had no character arc and remained unchanged from beginning to end.

Best Animated Feature: Will and should—Up. I am so broken-recordy right now.

Best Foreign Language Film: Will and should win—The Secret in Their Eyes. I like crime dramas.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Will and should—Up in the Air.

Best Score: Will and should—Up. The only score I can still hum.

Best Song: Will win—“The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart. Should win—who the hell knows? I don’t know any of the other songs except “Take It All,” which was performed amazingly well by Marion Cotillard in Nine but I can’t really remember it.

Best Visual Effects: Will and should—Avatar. Boring movie but it sure was pretty.

Best Art Direction: Will and should—Avatar. See above reason.

Best Cinematography: Will win—Avatar. Should win—The White Ribbon. It was shot on color film and converted into black and white. The result is stunning and atmospheric.

Best Makeup: Will and should—Star Trek. Eric Bana was almost unrecognizable.

Best Costume: Will and should—Young Victoria. Historical costume dramas featuring royal subjects often take this category.

Best Editing: Will and should—The Hurt Locker. The tight editing had me holding my breath at times.

Best Sound Editing: Will win—Avatar. Should win—The Hurt Locker. The silent moments were just as tense and effective as when the explosions went off.

Best Sound Mixing: Will and should win—Avatar. Whatever. I’m bored with this category.

Best Documentary Feature: Will win—The Cove. Should? I don’t know and am not even going to pretend I’ve seen or heard of the others. Which leads me to wild guesses for the remaining categories…

Best Documentary Short: The Last Truck sounds topical.

Best Animated Short: A Matter of Loaf and Death. The title’s clever, and it’s a Wallace & Gromit adventure! Nick Park has already won four Oscars for previous W&G shorts; no reason to stop now.

Best Live Action Short: The New Tenants. Why not?

I’ll also predict that Penelope Cruz will wear something stunning, some audience members will give Jeff Bridges a standing ovation when he wins, and Alec Baldwin will be funnier than Steve Martin as co-host.

Now, it’s your turn. Who do you think will and should win? How much money do you have riding on this?


Inside the SAG Awards’ Voting Process

The 16th annual SAG Awards are tomorrow, January 23, 2010 (televised on TBS and TNT), but before they’re handed out, I polled three different voters to see how they cast their ballots, not just who they voted for but the process in which they made their choices.

My interviewees come from different demographics and have been SAG members for various lengths of time. How much do they agree on 2009’s “best” performances? I sent them all identical questions but their answers are hardly the same.

The voters are:

  • Lauren, 20s, SAG member for 9 months, first-time voter
  • Actor (he wished to remain anonymous), 30s, SAG member for 12 years
  • Susan, 40s, SAG member for 14 years

PCN: How long did it take you to fill out the ballot? How much thought did you put into it?

Lauren: I knew who my favorites were as soon as the nominations came out, which made voting pretty easy. It was my first time voting so I was pretty excited! There is nothing like opening your mailbox for the first time and having a screener addressed to you “for your consideration.” I felt special!

Actor: I did it in two sittings with a lot of thought put into it. It’s a privilege to be able to vote.

Susan: I must say I filled out the SAG ballot with great alacrity as I looked at the calendar and realized it had to go out yesterday [January 19] or it wouldn’t be counted. It was raining, I could hear the mailman coming and so I kinda sped thru filling in the little bubbles. I would say it took me about two minutes and I didn’t really ponder a great deal on any of my choices except for thinking some of the categories were ridiculous.

PCN: Who do you feel deserves a win so much, you’d go on strike if it doesn’t happen?

Lauren: I thought there were some really great film performances this [past] year. I was especially happy with a lot of the female performances…As I’ve heard from most people, I think Mo’Nique really deserves to be recognized for her performance [in Precious]. I also really enjoyed Christoph Waltz’s performance in Inglourious Basterds.

Actor: Mo’Nique.

Susan: It would be a travesty if Meryl Streep doesn’t win for Julie & Julia. She WAS Julia Child and she is soooo NOT Julia Child [in real life]! In TV ensemble cast, I want Glee or Modern Family to win. If anything else wins, I will not be happy.

PCN: Who do you think shouldn’t bother preparing a speech?

Lauren: As an actor, I have a hard time saying I don’t think anyone should “bother” preparing a speech, because I honestly believe anyone nominated should relish it and hope to win. That’s how I would feel if it were me.

I thought Diane Kruger was an odd nomination for Inglourious Basterds but that was just because her performance didn’t stand out for me. I also am one of the five people that didn’t like The Hurt Locker so I wasn’t on board with Jeremy Renner’s nomination, but I stress that I was one of the very few people I know who didn’t care for the film.

Actor: Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), and the cast of An Education.They just have really stiff competition.

Susan: Much as I love Sandra Bullock, and I really did think she did a lovely job in The Blind Side, she shouldn’t really think that she can beat “La Streep.”

PCN: Which categories do you think will contain the exact same names when the Oscar noms are announced? Which categories do you think will change the most?

Lauren: I hope An Education gets recognition at the Oscars! The ensemble and storytelling in that film made it one of my favorites of the season. For me, it came in as the second best film this season behind Up In The Air. I think the lead actor and actress Oscar nominations will be similar to ours. I do think Avatar will definitely cancel some nominations out. That said, there are 10 nominations for best picture this year so most movies worth seeing should be nominated.

Actor: I don’t think any of the categories will have the exact same names. SAG nominees, from my recollection, traditionally have different nominees than a lot of the other mainstream organizations. They (we) also vote for really weird things. Take, for example, some previous winners for best ensemble cast: The Birdcage over The English Patient, Little Miss Sunshine over The Departed.

Susan: Well, of course it won’t be the best picture ensemble because for some reason there are going to be TEN best picture nominees. Whatever! And there will be no TV categories or stunt categories (another whatever!). But I do believe they are pretty dead on with most of the nominees in the film categories except maybe best supporting actress.

PCN: How do you vote when you haven’t seen most of the nominees in a category? Do you randomly pick one or leave it blank?

Lauren: I voted for Drew Barrymore for Grey Gardens even though I hadn’t seen all the nominees in [female actor in TV movie/miniseries]. I would have left it blank, but it’s rare that I appreciate Drew Barrymore’s acting and I thought she did a really wonderful job in that film.

I also had a tough time [with the lead movie actor category] because the one film I wanted to see and haven’t yet is Crazy Heart and I’ve heard wonderful things about Jeff Bridges. I voted for someone else in that category but hopefully if Mr. Bridges really deserves the award, my vote will be canceled out somewhere.

Actor: I go with the actor’s body of work. Are they credible? Have they proven themselves? I also sometimes consult a trusted friend.

Susan: If I haven’t seen a performance, I usually try and think about the actor and what I have seen them do. For instance, in the male TV actor category, I have seen all of these actors’ work before, just not necessarily their work this season of the show, so I try to go on that.

PCN: Do you really vote for the best actors, or do you go with your favorite actors?

Lauren: I vote for the best actors in the roles they have been nominated for. In the TV comedy ensemble, I was tempted to vote for Glee because it’s my favorite new show, but I took a second to think about it and ended up voting for Modern Family instead. I felt the acting and comedic timing is genius within the Modern Family ensemble, even though I do enjoy the cheesy dancing and singing that comes with Glee.

Actor: The best.

Susan: I would like to say I always vote for the best performance but sometimes, if I haven’t seen all the performances, I do vote for my favorite. Or, if there is a performance that I haven’t seen but it has gotten such great buzz, like Mo’Nique in Precious, I vote with the masses (yes, I am a lemming).

PCN: Which performances do you think deserved nominations but were snubbed?

Lauren: Marion Cotillard was FANTASTIC in Nine. I think her performance made the movie enjoyable when it had so little plot to go on.

I also really enjoyed Peter Sarsgaard [in An Education] and I thought Tobey Maguire was really good in Brothers even though I didn’t love the movie itself.

Actor: Samantha Morton (The Messenger), Marion Cotillard (Nine), Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), the Up in the Air ensemble, and Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Stoning of Soraya M.).

Susan: Julianne Moore (A Single Man), Samantha Morton…There were a lot of good supporting performances this year for actresses.

PCN: When they win SAG Awards, actors often say, “This means more to me than anything because it’s from my peers.” If you win one, would you feel that way or is that B.S.?

Lauren: I would definitely feel that way! Actors are very judgmental…and they understand how hard it is to be a working actor in Hollywood. To have people I respect and admire voting for me to win an award specifically for acting would be really special. It’s always the best to have validation from your peers; it’s one of the best kinds of respect and support in an otherwise very competitive field.

Actor: I do think the award would mean more because it comes from peers. Everyone knows the joke: “How many actors does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “One, and twenty others who say ‘I can do it better.'” Actors can be a catty bunch.

Susan: When an actor says the award means more because it comes from their peers, I guess I believe that because I feel a fellow actor probably knows a bit more about the craft and the business of acting than the press or the general public. But would I look down on a People’s Choice Award or a Golden Globe or any other random award someone wants to give me? Hell, NO! I am open to all awards!

And there you have it, readers—an inside look at how SAG Awards recipients are chosen. Which ones were your favorites? How would YOU vote?

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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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Nerdies for Favorite Things of 2009

Hope you all are enjoying the holidays. Me, I’m having so much fun with family, I need more gigabytes in my brain to store all the memories being made.

I get grateful this time of year for 1) making it this far and 2) all the wonderful experiences I had in the last 12 months. So, between all the eating and social gatherings, I present to you my Nerdy Awards for favorite things this year.

Most Valuable Preposition: Up. Apparently, the best way to make sure a movie is good is by putting this two-letter word in the title. Up and Up in the Air tie for best movie I saw this year. Both are perfect blends of comedy and poignancy, light and dark, entertainment and explorations of what makes us human.

Best Reasons for Staying Home Wednesday Nights: Glee, Modern Family and Cougar Town. Wednesday nights are always a party in my house, as I sing along to Glee then laugh my face off with Family and Cougar. You’ve probably heard plenty about the first two but may not know that Cougar‘s cast, led by the game Courteney Cox, has really gelled into one hilarious ensemble.

Most Unique New Voices in Crime Fiction: Chet the Jet from Spencer Quinn’s Dog on It, Pietro Brwna from Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper, and Stella Hardesty in Sophie Littlefield‘s A Bad Day for Sorry. The field is crowded with cops and detectives but this year, I met fresh new characters starting with Chet, a dog who narrates the adventures he has while solving crimes with his human partner, Bernie. Brwna is a hit man turned jaded medical intern who uses a deadly weapon I’ve never seen used before. And Littlefield introduced us to a 50-year-old, slightly overweight woman who helps abused women keep their partners in line partly by using S&M restraints. These books are all first in a series so discover them now before the next installments come out (Chet’s new case, Thereby Hangs a Tail, arrives January 5).

Best Noir Debut: Richard Lange‘s This Wicked World. This is Lange’s first novel but it reads like he’s been writing them forever. Worthy of a place on my shelf among the genre’s greats.

Best Avoidance of Sophomore Slump: Gillian Flynn with Dark Places. Her debut, Sharp Objects, was so stunning, I wondered if her second novel would measure up. I was thrilled, then, to find Flynn delving even more deeply into the female psyche’s dark, twisted side in Places. Few writers can write about damaged, prickly women and make them so mesmerizing.

Fattest Books I Finished in Shortest Time: I got lost in Kate Morton’s gothic, 560-page The Forbidden Garden for 3 days, while my eyeballs were glued to the 512 pages in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire for 34 hours, finishing it in almost one sitting, minus a few hours of sleep.

Most Soul-Shaking Book: Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. This non-fiction tale of a star football-player-turned-soldier gunned down by friendly fire in Afghanistan ripped me apart and made me re-evaluate how I live my life. A searing read I won’t forget anytime soon.

Funniest Person I Least Expected to Be: Brian Williams on 30 Rock. The veteran NBC Nightly News anchor made me laugh hard when he unexpectedly showed up on Rock, telling Tina Fey he wanted to audition for her show within the show by doing a stand-up act. The punchline wasn’t funny at all but Williams’s hammy, goombah delivery was very much so.

Favorite Movie Trend: Women 45 and over kicking ass at the box office. Sandra Bullock had two big hits (The Proposal, The Blind Side), Meryl Streep had three movies (Julie & Julia, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, It’s Complicated), one of which may win her a third Oscar. And Sigourney Weaver returns as sci-fi queen in Avatar. I hope this trend continues so I can stop watching actors get older while their female co-stars get closer to infancy every year.

Best Performance by Any Actor, Male or Female: Mo’Nique in Precious. Not so much a performance as a terrifying inhabitation of a nightmarish character.

Most Memorable Movie Quote: I just met you and I love you.” —Dug the talking dog in Up.

What were some of your favorite things this year?



With all the holiday activities going on, I’m woefully behind on everything (haven’t seen Avatar—what?!) so the following reviews will be a little abbreviated. They’ll take less time for you to read so you can fulfill your obligations, too.

It’s Complicated

In writer/director Nancy Meyers’s ultimate female fantasy, Meryl Streep plays a woman who’s lusted after by two successful, attractive men: her lawyer ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) and the sensitive architect (Steve Martin) who’s renovating her house, an already gorgeous spread in Santa Barbara she’s trying to make bigger and more awesome.

The movie is a very mature, if flawed, exploration of the emotional complexities of divorce, not making anyone out to be the bad guy or completely blameless. Streep is as radiant as ever (she doesn’t age!), Baldwin has some very funny scenes, including an unfortunate Skype incident, and Martin turns in a lovely, understated performance as someone who might be falling in love but is reluctant to move forward with the bitter taste of his own divorce still fresh in his mouth.

The most refreshing element for me was seeing how the family, though damaged by divorce, is so functional. They talk things out, they’re respectful towards each other and the kids don’t seem to prefer one parent over the other. Conflicts exist and obstacles abound; the affected parties just don’t turn their affairs into a Jerry Springer episode. I’m not sure what it says about the state of our times when I was surprised, but pleasantly so, to see family members not bitching each other out on screen. Nerd verdict: Complicated but fun.


After Marine captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) goes missing and is believed dead in Afghanistan, his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) helps his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and daughters Isabelle and Maggie (Bailee Madison, Taylor Geare, respectively) through the grieving process. Uncle Tommy gets a little too close and of course, this is exactly when Sam comes home. [Note: This isn’t a spoiler. We see him alive in Afghanistan even while the family mourns.]

Maguire does impressive work as the conflicted soldier who comes back haunted by things he was forced to do to survive, actions for which he can’t forgive himself. He’s a shadow of his former self, unrecognized by loved ones, feared by his children. He’s intense in a quiet way, which is much scarier than an over-the-top way.

Portman is more sensual and womanly than usual as a young wife and mother trying to navigate uncharted waters. Gyllenhaal is believable as Maguire’s brother but I didn’t buy for one minute that he’s some tough ex-con who just got out of the Big House. The real stars for me, though, are the two actresses who play Sam and Grace’s little girls. They have a natural, easy style that made me think they were simply being, not acting. It’s an easy concept to grasp, not necessarily to execute on camera. Drawing out amazing performances from young actresses (see: In America) is a specialty of director Jim Sheridan, who makes his movies intensely personal.

I also like his way of covering heavy subject matter with a light hand. He often cuts away from a scene before its natural end because he trusts we can fill in the rest. When two military reps arrive at Sam’s house to notify Grace of his so-called demise, we see Grace approaching the open door, the horrible realization washing over her face, and the scene ends without the actual notification. Sheridan doesn’t jerk tears; this isn’t a war movie. It’s about people trying to find a way to live again after a part of them dies. Nerd verdict: Relatable Brothers.

The Last Station

I’m going to keep this one brief because I fell asleep three times while watching it. The performances can’t be faulted, except for maybe Paul Giamatti’s scenery chomping as a devout Tolstoyan who wants Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) to will his estate to the movement, much to the chagrin of the author’s wife. The movie is one long melodramatic tug of war between Giamatti’s Vladimir and Helen Mirren’s Sofya and none of it was compelling. It’s more a history lesson than entertainment and even James McAvoy’s presence as Tolstoy’s secretary couldn’t save this for me. Nerd verdict: Bypass this Station