A Dialogue on Movies, Books and More

Archive for the ‘Real Life’ Category

We’ve Moved!!!

If you came here looking for the Idle Banter and Escapades Podcast or blog posts, I have some bad and good news for you.

The bad news is we will no longer be updating this page. I know, it is sad.

The GOOD NEWS is we’ve moved everything to our new home at http://www.theidlebanter.com/

With the move, we hope to get back to writing our blog posts and have a consistent time when the podcast gets uploaded. Also with the move comes the option to listen to the gang record LIVE every Sunday at 7pm EST. You can also interact with us through a chat while we record. This can all be done by going HERE.

We look forward to seeing you over at the new site and hope to have a successful year of Idle Banter and Escapades.



Episode 14: In Which Zoe Disgracefully Brings Up a Reality Star

Hullo, Daylight Savers!

Last week I posted and it was Halloween(ish), now it’s Daylight Savings…  From now on, I’m only posting on holidays / special occasions with proper nouns.

Monday, we recorded Episode 14 and I lead the discussion.  In retrospect I feel like my topics were weak compared with Matt’s and other random news articles we’ve bickered about, but I won’t know unless someone points it out.  Check it out and prove me right or wrong: Episode 14.

Justin scoffed at Paranormal Activity and I was let down by In Time.

Then I brought up Kim Kardashian’s divorce and how it’s being used for a good cause by pro gay marriage / GLBTQ organizations / George Takei based on an article at The Wrap.  Matt brought up some pretty sleazy statistics on the short-lived marriage.

We tried to ruminate on an article about Gen Xers not being slackers, but it turns out, we’re not sure what defines generations…

And I found an article where really smart scientists put their formidable minds to improving boarding times

Tomorrow, we record a new podcast!

As ever, let us know how we’re doing.  Or send us a crazy news article, a funny video, some movie/show we “must see” or whatever.  Feedback is good, unless it’s coming from microphones.

P.S. Why do these links always turn up in stupid colors?

Episode 13 – Attempting Banter: Reprise

Happy Sunday and Happy Halloween / Dia de los Muertos / All Hallow’s!

Even though we recorded this newest podcast on Monday and Matt promptly sent us the link, someone (Justin! Not me!) slacked and forgot to put it up.  So, I am sailing in to save the day and steal all of the credit.  Never mind that Justin texted me at 9:30 this morning my time to ask me to do it…  No, no, it’s not like normal people sleep in on Sunday mornings or anything…

Episode 13 – Attempting Banter: Reprise

Anyway, this week we tried again the new format introduced by Matt, in which we actually BANTER.  Or… try to.  We tried our best to be quicker overall, but you’ll have to give Justin and me time to learn to be concise.  Or at least conscious of the passage of time.  Maybe we really do need Matt to get a buzzer noise?

The things we bantered about:

The things we just talked about:
Have Justin, Matt and I succeeded in idly bantering?  Has our length of podcast vs excitement of podcast ratio improved since Matt piloted the new format?  Did I forget to mention something?  Did you want to mention something?  As ever, let us know!

Work Is Cockblocking My Life!

Zoe: So Justin, where do you see yourself in 5 years? What about 30 years?

Justin: Am I suddenly interviewing for a job?

Zoe: Just answer the question.

Justin: Well in 5 years I am hoping to have a job and possibly on my way to starting a family. Not sure about 30 years.

Zoe: Lame answer! You should strive to be like Swedish actor Max von Sydow: born 1929, first movie credit 1949, so he is now 82 years old and has been working for 62 years.  There are 144 film credits on his IMDb page.  In 2010 (so, 81 years old), he was in The Wolfman, Shutter Island, Robin Hood and narrated Moomins and the Comet Chase.  Scanning this filmography, he’s skipped no more than two years between films being released, more often only one, and in almost every year he has at least two films; in 1985 he has seven credits listed, and in several other years I could five.  Highlights among his credits include Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) and The Virgin Spring (1960), The Exorcist), Three Days at the Condor, Conan the Barbarian, Never Say Never Again, Hannah and Her Sisters, Ghostbusters II, Minority Report, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and a stint on “The Tudors.”  Holy shit, that’s badass!  Even if he was 25, that’d be badass!  All that, and he’s 6’4”!

Justin: Damn that is impressive. Guy is a freaking badass. Don’t think there are a lot of actors that can live up to that list of credits.

Zoe: I can admit, the quality varies, but wow, that’s a lot of genres, lots of languages, a lot of opportunities and a lot of just plain hard work.  Three to five movies a year demonstrates just an impressive work ethic… You know what? I can’t do this. I can’t talk about working.

Justin:  Umm ok, why is that?

Zoe: Because work is fucking cockblocking my life.

Justin: Interesting turn of phrase. How so?

Zoe: Lookit, my work may not stretch my brain, but it’s cooperative and involves a lot of opportunities to hone my people skills (and control my “Are you really that dumb?” impulses), I love everyone I work with 90% of the time, and I’m in the general vicinity of the kind of work I’d like to do Someday.  Can’t complain about that.  But lately, I have been working long, hard days with no real down-time, and that just snowballs stress levels.  It’s not like there’s nothing going on in my personal life, but by the time I get home, I’m just numb and catatonic.  It’s hard to scrape up the enthusiasm for your after-hours stuff.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like for parents to try to drum up the enthusiasm for kids with their overabundance of energy, their incessant questions, and their constant need for love and attention.  I don’t even want to throw out the empty roll of T.P. when I yank a new roll out of the cabinet!  And my job’s not THAT hard, it’s not 80 hours a week of high-pressured, potentially world destroying work!  Nonetheless, it’s sucking away my energy and I’m mad.

Justin: Oh, I feel ya, except mine is kind of the exact opposite. See, I pretty much don’t have a job at this point, which means I have a whole lot of free time. Which is wonderful. However, because I don’t have a job, I don’t have money. This becomes a problem when you want to hang out with your friends. It is taxing trying to figure out if you have enough money in your account to go see a movie or have dinner. Because nothing is cheap these days. With the cost of gas I have to calculate that into my daily money worry. Then, there is the whole job search process which is soul sucking in its own weird and twisted way. You pour through countless job descriptions only to find out you aren’t qualified or don’t have the experience. Well, I can’t get the experience if I can’t get a job. Then when you do find a job that you can apply for it takes for ever to hear back, if you ever do hear back. I remember one job I applied to and heard nothing. Half a year, if not a year goes by and suddenly I get a rejection letter in the mail saying, “Oh sorry, we filled that position.” Come on people, I know there is a lot of red tape when it comes to hiring candidates, but if you have a pool in mind don’t make the rest of us wait to hear, just let us know. It is fucking frustrating.

Zoe:  Feel bett…

Justin: OH!! And for those of you who all say, just do what you love, well it doesn’t work really. I can’t travel and write and make money. Unfortunately I am not that talented. Blarg….

Zoe: Even if you are that talented, please, that’s probably stressful and rough too, and we wouldn’t even appreciate it.  Right?  Right.  That’s what I tell myself anyway.  Yeah, breaking into the business that you want seems to be really hard.  It makes me so mad at the people who are doing what I want to do / would love to do, except I CAN’T because those jerkity jerks who don’t care a thing at all HAVE MY DREAM JOB!  Pfffft!  (That’s me, exhaling an angry puff of irritation and disappointment.)

Justin: Yeah, unfortunately in my line of work, with the economy being the way it is, a lot of people are losing their jobs so, not only am I competing with the people my age who can’t find jobs, but now we are all competing with the older generation who just got let go with more experience. Who do you think is going to get the job? Someone with one to two years experience or someone with thirty years of exprience? It is a never ending cycle of suck, that I keep hoping gets better.

Zoe: Yeah we call keep hoping that. Well when Matt and I finally get our Bed and Breakfast up and running you should come out and help.

Justin: Sounds like an awesome plan to me and Boulder, CO, seems like a great place to set up shop.

Zoe: That’s why we chose it. Pheww, it feels good to get all that off my chest.

Justin: That it does, we should have done that awhile ago, although I am not sure what this has to do with movies.

Zoe: This is the Idle Banter part of the title. Then again I guess they could be considered Escapades as well. See?  It all fits.

Justin: I like the way you think. Well that is probably enough ranting for this week. Next week’s dialogue will probably be on Tuesday due to the 4th of July holiday.

Zoe: Not like we can hit Monday anyway…

Justin: Shush you! Also look for the elusive podcast in the coming weeks. Our friend is finally in his new place and ready to roll. We hope to do a test run in the next week or so. If all goes well, expect an Idle Banter & Escapades podcast. Until then have a great night.

Zoe: Night everyone!

ITAS: A Favorite Pasttime

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

I have been very, very bad at doing my part to put up solo posts on our blog.

I have decided to rectify the situation by coming up with a topic that I’m passionate about, and I came up with the lovely topic grace a my friend and fellow blogger Kit (@kitembleton).  Plus, I was just telling her how I like shout-outs, so it would be mean not to a) acknowledge her help in me arriving at my topic and b) shouting out.

The topic is pretty simple, and yet, twofold.  Because I am an elegant lady.

So in case you aren’t dorky enough to know what ITAS stands for, it’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” a lovely program that is aired on BRAVO and has been since 1994–that’s almost old enough to get drafted, if you think 1994 wasn’t so long ago.  There are many reasons why I love this program so much, but the crux of it is this: It is part of a course of study for masters candidates at a drama program in New York City.  MFA Students all come and sit in a lovely auditorium and watch their dean, James Lipton, interview accomplished actors about everything.  He “starts at the beginning.  Where were you born?” and then he moves through childhood, getting the acting bug, school, early career, well-known career / fame, and then sometimes into other areas, like transitioning into directing, stand-up, celebrity, and personal troubles.  He doesn’t shy away from bad behavior or regrettable decisions, but he is eminently respectful and non-judgmental.

For those of you who don’t know, the Actors Studio is an actual institution, not a clever title for the seminar / tv program.  It is a non-profit that was founded in Manhattan in 1947 by a group including Elia Kazan.  It is a place to study using a particular theory of acting called the Stanislavski method and it has an artistic director and a president as well as students and members.  To give you a hint of its prestige, its current presidents are Ellen Burstyn, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel, and some former artistic directors include Estelle Parsons and Lee Strasbourg, among the most famous acting teachers there have been in America.  Included in the alumna are a lot of really impressive individuals, but just to name a few who are both members and former students, in alphabetical order: Bee Arthur, Alec Baldwin, Anne Bancroft, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern, John Goodman, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Cloris Leachman, Sidney Lumet, Norman Mailer, Jack Nicholson, Sidney Poitier, Christopher Walken, Eli Wallach, Gene Wilder, Tennessee Williams and Joanne Woodward.  Among a newer generation are Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper.

The show gets mocked a lot because James Lipton has this insane gravity to him, but he is also cheesy and he tends toward melodrama now and then with his praise.  Try this parody.  This, I don’t mind, for a number of reasons.  One, it’s good to flatter someone you’re both trying to interview and coax into teaching acting students something about acting, what it means to be successful, and how to handle a spotlight on you instead of your work.  Two, it makes good television.  Three, he has an incredible sense of humor about it, and even let Will Ferrell, who’s imitated (aka mocked) him on “SNL,” turn the tables on him when he was on the program.  The interview has a standard pattern and I could probably recite the questions that appear over and over again; as time has gone on, Lipton himself has also observed what he calls “common themes,” the most prominent one in his mind being divorced parents.  He is genuinely curious and also tells the actors what others have said about them, both in print (reviews, interviews, etc.) and in person to him when they appeared on the program.

I think it’s extraordinary, but my favorite part is that almost every episode I’ve watched, I felt as though, for the most part, I was seeing the real person, and not The Star or just their persona.  For the older actors, it’s sometimes easier I think because they’re long-established, more like royalty; they have less pressing fears about perceptions and the paparazzi.  The only exception that comes to mind is Meryl Streep, who is both entirely natural and somehow vaguely disingenuous–or that was my feeling.  Whether it’s paranoia or truth, can’t tell you.  What I love is the surprise of finding out who’s really shy (Renee Zellweger); who is incredibly passionate about being an actor, so much so that I kind of choked up (I’m looking at you, mostly-former bad boys Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Robert Downey Jr and Russell Crowe); and who’s really just very calm and even-keeled in real life (mostly the girls: Hilary Swank, Amy Poehler, Laura Linney, Halle Berry and Jennifer Connolly); and who was surprisingly engaging, hilarious and touching (Ralph Fiennes and Diane Lane come to mind).

Now, I never seem to catch them on BRAVO.  I admit, I find most of them on YouTube and legitimately IMDb has a few episodes available.  Why cheat, if I love it so much?  The answer is simple: Netflix doesn’t offer full seasons.  You can get discs of like “the best men” sorts of things, but not straight up seasons.  Shame on them, really!

The show is mesmerizing.  Sometimes people are precisely who you know they’re going to be–like Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Williams, Denis Leary, Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie–but there’s always a surprise.  And they swear, and are honest about things that a lot of times actors don’t really get to discuss in the world of sound bites.  I love this sort of thing even more than I love watching The Hollywood Reporter‘s roundtables of the forerunners of Emmy nominees (by female/male and by drama/comedy) and then Oscar nominees (roundtables female/male and co-ed panels).  All of this I find at THR‘s site or again at YouTube.  It’s the chance to see actors among other actors, to be offered a series of insights that I can’t find even on my favorite interview programs like “Chelsea Lately” and “Jimmy Fallon” even though I love both shows because they engage and pull playfulness and ease out of their guests.

For anyone who’s never watched, I would go with some actor you think is a total crazy wing-nut douche rocket and watch them.  Try on Tom Cruise, for example.  Or, you could go the other way and watch someone like Michelle Pfeiffer, and remember that she’s worked an awful lot for you to usually only think of Hairspray.  (Not that I don’t love it, ’cause I do, but it’s no Scarface.)  And then, once you’re hooked to the gills, watch the people you just can’t imagine the movies without, like Barbra Steisand and Morgan Freeman and Robert Redford.  Watch all of that, and tell me you’re not moved.  Tell me you don’t like each person just a little bit more for hearing them talk about things unrelated to PR campaigns and deflecting questions about their sex lives.  Tell me you don’t think it’s great to see who shows up in suits, who dances and plays piano and sings, who bonds with Lipton over his favorite things (that would be flying and tattoos), and what each actor’s favorite curse word is.  Which they say.  Thank you, British people, for saying the C-word on BRAVO (another shout out).

You might learn something, watching the bullshit of celebrity not really anywhere in sight.  You might learn something, listening to someone you think of as A Star or A Celebrity or A Famous Action Star and learn how hard they studied, how they choose their parts, their hardships, how it felt to work with other actors and directors, and how grateful they are for the work.  You might feel a strange envy or yearning in you, to love something with such depth, with such complicated feelings.  You might wish you could boil down everything you love about this world and all the people in it and say you basically drink that boiled brew every day of your life because all of that makes up your job.  You might, just might, even remember to give actors some credit for being more than good bodies and symmetrical faces that make you a little flushed in the face, and wonder if by worshipping constructions of beauty and success, we’ve blown through every boundary of privacy and decency and made actors into people forced to parody themselves even to get a cup of coffee, so that in turn (vicious cycle!) you don’t respect them, not really.

I want you to wonder if you could do that.  Could you do that?  Think about the indignity of women and men needing to construct a public personality which they can never escape thanks to telephoto lenses and gossip rags and acceptable behavior (which is not new for actors, don’t mistake me).  Think about the horror of having photographs taken of your babies, your family, your cars and your house every day of your life.  Think about the terror that would grip you at the thought of how boxed in you are by this persona you’ve been made to adapt; think of the terror of trying a new genre, trying theatre, or dating or marrying someone.  Now think about how much you would have to really, really fucking love what you do to put up with that, forever.

Okay, or you’re a greedy asshole who’s basically a sociopath anyway.  But I’m not talking about you, because you’ve never been nor will you ever be a guest on “Inside the Actors Studio” being asked by James Lipton what your favorite sound or noise is.  So you can suck it, wanna-bes and celebrities.  Or you’re a fine enough actor, but you’re a complete and utter waste of space without ethics, common sense or any understanding of sincerity…

Don’t worry, I’m not dumb or naive enough to paint ALL working actors with one brush, NOOOO WAY.  I’m simply pointing out that the people who grace “ITAS” have worthwhile things to say and you might be impressed and learn something.  Let’s face it, talentless hacks with no personality or too much personality and no talent aren’t invited to the show.  Even people in your head you’re thinking, “Yeah, Zoe, I’m on IMDb looking at the list of guests and I’m thinking… THAT GUY sucks balls,” here’s my answer.  Nicolas Cage.  Yeah, he has spent the last, oh, almost decade making some truly useless films, but before that, he was incredible.  May I present in order of appearance: Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Guarding Tess, Leaving Lass Vegas and Adaptation.  Tell me any of these movies sucked, and I will probably slap you in the face, even if I don’t mean to / would never otherwise want to.

I just want you to know, I relished writing that.  Doesn’t make me $12 million and won’t even if I count cumulatively the second before I die, but damn, do I feel passion about words the way some people feel passion about performing.  Grab onto that thing you love, whether it’s numbers, words, cars, stocks, a basketball or a cutting board, and dive into it, don’t forget why you love it.  Be a little envious that it probably won’t make you tons of dollar dollar bills or known by like 99% of the world on sight.  But then just add things up, write something, build an engine, trade some stocks, shoot some hoops and make some dinner, and think about how if the world were a little different, someone would want to put you on a stage and respectfully listen to you talk about how you first decided you want to be an accountant / copy editor / mechanic / gym teacher.

Trailers & The Term “Literary Fiction”

There are two things I wanted to talk about, but I couldn’t decide which; therefore, I shall split my post into two things.  I don’t think the two mini-topics will cross paths, but if they do, won’t we all be pleasantly surprised?

First, trailers.  Justin and I complain to each other a lot of about trailers, and about how they are just ridiculously misleading.  But I was thinking today that we haven’t really written about it, other than biting comments here and there.  (I even searched the blog using the clever Find function, just in case we’d already done it here and I’d forgotten.)

So, the purpose of trailers is to get people interested in the movie.  It sounds simple, and formulaic.  Take some of the best lines that are rated G for TV, add some tracking shots of scenery or people fighting or money or whatever, and then of course highlight your star actors looking their very, very best.  The finishing touch is the movie title and tagline, sometimes ambitiously done in voice-over too, with the release date really large.

Like an online dating profile, sure, we expect that the movie probably won’t be quite as exciting, mysterious, funny or dramatic as its tightly cut shots hint.  It can basically be a tiny, tiny short film or a montage-like artwork, or, equally effective, a seriously funny hook or exciting explosion.  All the same, we make a knee-jerk decision about it, the same as we do about books based on covers… which we’re told is a no-no, so that should be a clue, huh?  Trailers are even anticipated, for movies that have had a lot of hype since pre-production or filming or whenever–or want to create or snowball hype.  They matter, a lot of movies get made or broken because if the movie is aiming for wildly, hugely successful, then the trailer needs to just kill it.

But that’s so much pressure, and those skeevy little money-grubbing accountants and ad execs and studio managers just rub their greedy hands together and make the trailer-making people make a crafty bit of thirty-second, one minute film designed to get us all hooked on the movie faster than we’d get hooked on meth.

Think I’m exaggerating, or being harsh?  Say instead I’m melodramatic instead, and think about how many trailers made you think a movie was going to be amazing and turned out to be just mediocre.  If the trailer had been mediocre, or okay-mediocre, then maybe the movie itself would look better, no?  It’s possible.  The trailer somehow boils down the movie to its most essential pieces and makes it seem like the best thing it could possibly be.  That takes skill, can’t deny that, but, man, does it really set up the movie to fall short by comparison.  The downfall there is that it makes us dazzled with the tantalizing daydream of the best possible version of that movie that each our imaginations can conjure up.  Ohhh, and how betrayed we are when the movie isn’t as tense, as fall on the floor with laughter, romantic, bitchin’, etc., as we’d dreamed.  It’s entirely unfair.


On from one indignity to the next.  A short while ago, my husband gave me marching orders to read and mark up our Writer’s Market, a tiny “manageable” step towards me, you know, being a writer.  Or something.  Anyway, the agencies and the publishing companies list all the types of fiction and non-fiction they accept.  The non-fiction categories are pretty normal, I don’t even care about them anyway.  My point is that the fiction categories include this thing called “Literary Fiction” and then so-called “Genre” types of fiction like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction (a personal favorite that makes my eye twitch) and then Romance (some get more specific, like Time Travel Romance…. not kidding).

Fuuuuuck the people who came up with this.

Witness the following two definitions from the Oxford American Dictionaries:

Literature: “written works, esp. those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit : a great work of literature.”

Fiction, as it relates here: “literature in the form of prose, esp. short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.”

Imagine me with my big huge all bug-eyed and huge, all sad and dewy with disappointment, as I ask out loud, “But, but, why can’t I be a literary fiction writer?  Why can’t I be called a Writer, the type who wins awards and has champagne offered to me in a New York loft full of first editions and mahogany built-in bookcases?  Why am I called a Genre Writer instead, with so much disdain?”

Genre writers are, after all, the bread and butter of the publishing world.  Genre authors write things with wide public appeal (which literary critics and egotistical Writers consider quotidian, at best) that make lots of money.  Harry Potter is genre, Bridget Jones’s Diary is genre, and The Da Vinci Code is genre.  (Hey!  Those all got turned into movies!  How shocking!)  Classy literary fiction writers graduate with their Masters in Creative Writing (whatever, I have a BA in Philosophy, bitches) and write things that only critics and other equally douchey classic literary fiction writers are ecstatic about. Don’t believe me?  Find the glowing, orgasmic reviews in The New Yorker for the last five years and tell me how many of those books you’ve even heard of, let alone picked up, let alone finished.  I’m guessing a big fat stinking zero.

Am I right?  Yeah, reverse discrimination and reverse elitism are strong and kicking.

Come on, this makes me feel like a kid benched in T-ball, for God’s sake, because the GENRE ROMANCES I read are in this secret corner of the libraries and bookstores, 96% in paperback (the other 4% are hardcover with covers that don’t involve half-naked people…).  Sci-Fi and Fantasy are worse, because they get like one bookcase–or, at the main branch of the SF library, a room that actually has glass doors that separate it from the rest of the library, like a quarantine, so that nice snobby readers don’t stumble into the porn-like stash of graphic novels and sci-fi and fantasy.

What’s up with that, librarians?  In this day and age of text-spelling–R U LOL?  Luv U 4EVA.  THX–shouldn’t you just shut up and be grateful that I’m reading at all?  Don’t judge me. I don’t want to be furtive.  If the books I read were movies, they’d be blockbusters… wait, I already thought of that!  Do you see how I cleverly had foreshadowing a few paragraphs back?  Okay, back on track, genre writers’ works are the blockbusters of the literary world, while the highly lauded, etc., are like the struggling indie films that win all the awards but still only about 100,000 people worldwide see them.

Oh, snap!

My topics DID come together.  See, universe?  I am so one with you right now.  There are two opposing and necessary sides to both the literary world and the cinematic world.  There are Novels and there are Books, and there are Films and there are Movies.  This division of course is predicated on, or reinforces, or is structured by, this idea (or fact?) that popular things are low-quality and that high-quality things are out of normal people’s grasp and to be striven for deliberately.  Ad execs, trailer-makes, critics/bloggers and all the people try to sort out what’s best about all of them; and some try to entice us and the others try to decide if they want to be enticed.  It’s a lovely game we all play, using all of these little opinions and stances to define ourselves, then define ourselves again, then again, ad nauseum, until we’ve got so many specific tags that we’re unique.

But sometimes, it’s just simple.  I love a good bodice-ripper and I’m proud of it; I dislike Jane Austen and am ashamed of it.  And yet, I love Iron Man 2 (popular), Blue Valentine (elitist/indie), and The Dark Knight (miraculous bit of both).  Love what you love, and try it all so that you can love more things; how can that possibly be a bad thing?

Expand yourself, don’t refine yourself!

Oscar Breakdown

Justin: So, what did you think?

Zoe: Eh… What did you think?

Justin: Yeah I think “Eh” sums it up fairly well. Not that there weren’t highlights to the night.

Zoe: Well of course. I enjoyed watching the Red Carpet on E! and seeing all the stars looking their best. I especially enjoyed Natalie Portman, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johanson, and Justin Timerlake had a sweet Tom For Suite tailored by Tom Ford himself. I also thought it was nice to see the Oscars trying to appeal to a younger crowd. The Inception-inspired opening was great.

Justin: I enjoyed the opening as well. Although I felt like the banter went down considerably afterwards. It was like they were trying not to stir up a controversy like what happened to Ricky Gervais. It was like they said, “try to be funny and charming without really being funny.” I did enjoy the “musical” montage they did with Harry Potter and a couple of other movies. The whole show was enjoyable but didn’t push the edge or really make me go “WOW.”

Zoe: I agree, I thought that James Franco and Anne Hathaway made a lovely couple hosting the Oscars, but James Franco was kind of too low key and poor Anne was left to keep the pep level up.  She did admirably though.  Some of the presenters’ banter was hokey, but you know I loved Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law’s.  I know you loved Helen Mirren and Russell Brand’s faux translation bit.

Justin: There were also no real surprises. In what the lower categories (for the technical aspects of film), it was pretty much taken over by Inception which makes sense. Then when it came to awards like director, actor/actresses and film of the year, there were still no real surprise. It seemed like you predicted pretty well about who might win what. I think the only real surprise this year was the fact they only ran over by about 11 minutes.

Zoe: Exactly, and this is my problem with award shows these days.  I like festivals that award a prize that amounts to honorable mentions, and shows like the BAFTAs (the British Oscars) that have an award for “Outstanding British Contribution to  Cinema, “Outstanding Debut,” and “Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award.”  I think it would be better to just announce the top five performances by a male in a leading role and be done.  No ranking, no winner and losers, et cetera.  I think it’s enough for the Academy, and other voting bodies that give out awards, to present us with who was the best.  Then they can just bring them up on stage and say their name, show a clip, let them say literally “Thank you,” and then everyone can clap.  We all already know which are the most successful films, fiscally speaking.

Justin: Right! The Oscars are like the last big film show of the season. However, before the Oscars, shows like the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes take place. These shows sort of spoil the whole Oscars experience because really they are a good indicator of who is going to win during the Oscars. This year it was no surprise to me that The King’s Speech and The Social Network did well, because that is all that I’ve heard about for the last few months. It is great that The King’s Speech won because it was a wonderful movie but there was no excitement in hearing it announced. Everyone was pretty much predicting that it was going to win along with Colin Firth and Natalie Portman for best actor/actress.

Zoe: Yeah, I agree.  But that doesn’t mean that the performers don’t deserve recognition.  But it does mean that it’s like this self-defeating cycle.  They hype the performances, the awards, and then the nominees and for the most part the winners are a foregone conclusion when the awards air.  So then the whole thing is totally about the looks on the Red Carpet and who does something nutty in their acceptance speech.  Like Melissa Leo dropping the F bomb last night.

Justin: Speaking of flubs. I loved when Anne Hathaway screwed up her lines toward the end and then told the viewers at home to drink (aka take a shot.) To me that just shows how great she did. She didn’t care if she “messed up.” She rolled with the punches and made a joke. It wasn’t like there was no one in the whole of the US playing a drinking game to the Oscars. Hell if we were in the same state I am sure we would have.

Zoe: That is so true.  I think it’s a good angle not to take themselves so seriously over there.

Justin: Moving on to disappointments of the night. I am going to say that my biggest ones were in the music categories. One of the main reasons I tune in each year to the Oscars is to see who is up for the best score and best original song. That is just the kind of nerd I am. It never surprises me to see some of the bigger names nominated for best score such as John Williams or this year’s Hans Zimmer. However, I do like to see those artists that I haven’t heard before and I love to see them win. This year though was a huge mistake in my opinion. First off, out of every score they played, The Social Network’s was my least favorite and of course it won. Then I come to find out, thanks to you Zoe, that the guy who wrote the score was the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails. Ummm no. This should not happen.

Zoe: Jeez, Justin!  Musicians can transition into other fields.  Look at Marky Mark Wahlberg out there!

Justin: I agree. Mark Wahlberg is a fabulous actor. The score that I heard last night did not compare to the score from Inception, The King’s Speech or 127 Hours. Heck even How To Train Your Dragon was better in my opinion. I guess I will have to hear more of The Social Network’s score to understand what was so great about it. Now, the category of best original song was a complete bomb and I think you’d agree with me. I am sure that Randy Newman had some great songs when he was first starting out. But I swear everything since then has sounded the same and last night’s was no different. It sounded the same as the song in the first Toy Story movie. The only reason I can see the Academy giving him that award is out of pity. He is an older gentleman, who has been in the business awhile, he has had 20 nominations and only one win. It was like they said, “Ok let’s just give it to him this year.” I must say I really enjoyed the sound of the song from 127 hours. Even the Country Strong song was great. Although it is weird think of Gwyneth Paltrow as a country singer, but there is a good example of transitioning into other fields. She has a nice voice.

Zoe: It’s like the weirdness of letting Toy Story 3 be nominated for best animated feature and best film.  It doesn’t make sense that that would even be allowed.  Shouldn’t it be one or the other?

Justin: I guess that was the Academy’s attempt to put a comedy in the best picture category.

Zoe: I mean, it had some comedic moments, of course, like Buzz being reset to Spanish.  But it was really sad overall; I totally cried.  Comedies just get shafted, and so do all the great comedic actors… unless they go dramatic, like Jim Carrey.  For all the Academy tried to go younger with the hosts and The Social Network, they’re still just really outdated in my mind. An American in Paris was a comedy and it won for best picture.  What happened??

Justin: Exactly. It is like well comedies are there to make us happy and laugh, but they aren’t “real” films. To be a real film you must make it as sad as you can or as drama filled as possible. That funny stuff, we don’t want that near our “works of art.” It doesn’t make sense. It takes a lot of effort for a comedian to make a good movie. It can’t be too over the top or to boring. There has to be that perfect balance and it takes a lot of work. To do drama, all you do is put on a sad face and hope that it rains a lot. I know this isn’t true, I am a fan of dramas, but you see my point. Making a movie is hard work no matter what the genre.

Zoe: There are a lot of movies in recent years that were really dark comedies, basically, like American Beauty and Shakespeare in Love and nominees like Little Miss Sunshine. I don’t think there’s an actor that would disagree with you on how hard comedy is.  I watch a lot of Inside the Actors Studio and a lot of them say that comedy is something they want to do more of, and that it’s much harder for them than drama in a lot of ways.  If actors respect it, then why shouldn’t the Academy?  I think more normal people, not artsy film lovers, love comedies, and the more subversive they are, the more they deal with series issues in a funny way, the more people love them.  Look at Superbad and Knocked Up.  On the one hand, they are juvenile comedies about man-children, but on a deeper level, they’re about friendship, growing up and figuring out who you are and getting some self-confidence in that.  Do you think the message of The King’s Speech was really that different?  I sure don’t.

Justin: I couldn’t agree more and I would love to see more comedies being given at least a seat at the table. They might not win for a few years but let’s show actors that it is okay to do a comedy and that if you do so and it is good, it can still be nominated. I have one last complaint about the Oscars, speaking of best pictures. Why the hell in the last two years has the list of nominees gone up? It use to be you pick four or five films from everything put out. Now it is like well let’s just keep adding on. Like you said Toy Story 3 really had no business being in that category if it was already in Best Animated Film. It can’t be that hard to whittle it down. I have not seen all the nominations yet but I am sure that there were five in there that were better than the other five.

Zoe: I don’t remember what their official reason was.  Probably to try to appease people for some reason or another, but whatever, it was a stupid plan.  That is just too many movies and it makes them look weak.  They know what the five best out of those ten are, come on.  If you’re going to rank things, do it.  If you’re going to wimp out, we’re all going to know it and say every year that the broadcast sucked, there were no surprises and that we swear we won’t watch the next year.

Justin: It is like in Little League when you make sure everyone has hit the ball or in soccer where it must touch everyone’s feet before a goal can be shot. I am sorry if there are better players they should play. The weaker player should be given the chance but not to the extent as to praise them for nothing. It teaches us nothing. If you say a film is nominated for the best film of the year and it really wasn’t that great, the crew is just going to go back and make the same kind of film thinking it was good. No improvement. There are other strengths you have. Strive to be the best if that is really what you want. Five more nominees in the best picture category is like everyone getting consolation cake.

Zoe: To be fair, the ten nominees were great films, but obviously they can’t all be the best.  But it’s just silly.  The Academy is all over the place.  I wish we had played a drinking game to it now!

Justin: There will always be years to come. Speaking of things to come, any idea as to what is in store for our readers with your post this week?

Zoe: I wish I could say it’s top secret, but I honestly haven’t picked a topic yet.  Why, is there some opinion of mine you don’t know yet that you want do discover?

Justin: Always, but in this case was just curious as to things that may come. That and I thought it would be a good way to end this post.

Zoe: I’ll try to come up with something awesome.  Wouldn’t want you to be let down twice in one week.

Justin: You could never let me down especially after your rants on Disney and Body Image. Classics. Look forward to this week’s as well. Until then. See you next week everyone.

Zoe: Ciao, bellas!