Monday, June 30, 2014

The Halfway Point of 2014

The halfway point of the year always seems to sneak up on me. But with it comes an almost mandatory retrospective of the first half of the year. I'll touch on TV shows when I post about my Emmy ballots/wishes in a week or two, but in order not to forget about them at the end of the year, here are the films I've seen so far. Of course, I'm only counting those movies that had theatrical releases this year. Oddly, I've actually seen a good number (more than last year at least) at this point. In alphabetical order...

  • 22 Jump Street
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • Belle
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier

  • Divergent
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • The Fault in our Stars
  • G.B.F.

  • Gloria (2014)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Interior. Leather Bar.

  • Labor Day
  • The LEGO Movie
  • The Monuments Men
  • Muppets Most Wanted

  • Neighbors
  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Pompeii
  • Snowpiercer

  • Stranger By the Lake
  • That Awkward Moment
  • Veronica Mars
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past

The most recent film I saw was Joon-ho Bong's Snowpiercer which I saw this past week. It also puts its stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt in the list of actors who have appeared in two or more films. Not counting voicework, only Swinton is in more than two films since she was also in the large ensemble of Grand Budapest Hotel. If counting voice work, then Jonah Hill qualifies for his work in The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2 along with 22 Jump Street. More notably, of course, is Shailene Woodley who is the lead of two film adaptations of young adult novels, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars (plus Ansel Elgort plays her brother and love interest respectively). Other stars who have doubled up this year so far for me include Kate Winslet, Willem Dafoe, Channing Tatum, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett, Nick Offerman,  Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Miles Teller, and probably a few people especially since I'm not even counting any of the cameos in The Muppets Movie (Tom Hiddleston and James McAvoy come to mind).

I'm not ready to rank movies yet, but if you had to ask me right now what my favorite film of the year so far then I would say How to Train Your Dragons 2. Just typing that makes me want to see it again right now. Acting-wise, there are few stand outs like Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, Ralph Fiennes in Grand Budapest Hotel, Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer, and James McAvoy in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but I'll be posting my "best performers of the year so far" at the end of summer.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Happy Pride!

Happy Pride everyone! This weekend many cities around the country and the world (New York, San Francisco, Paris, London, and many more) are celebrating pride events. To commemorate this on the blog, here are just a few of the LGBT characters from TV shows I watched the past year...

In order, the characters are... Captain Ray Holt (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Oberyn Martell (Game of Thrones), Simon Monroe and Kieran Walker (In the Flesh), Patrick Murray and Richie Donado (Looking), Poussey Washington and Sophia Burset (Orange is the New Black), Felix Dawkins (Orphan Black), Nolan Ross and Patrick Osbourne (Revenge), and Mickey Milkovich (Shameless).

Hope there are more characters I can list next year! Who were some of your favorite LGBT TV characters this year?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Looking Forward To...

Begin Again
Release: June 27, 2014
Distributor: Weinstein Company
Director: John Carney
Starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Mos Def, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, and Adam Levine

Monday, June 23, 2014

Birthday Boy: Joss Whedon

Happy 50th Birthday Joss Whedon! I know it's All Marvel All The Time now, but he'll always be the creator/director of my favorite show ever. Nothing will ever change that.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Birthday Girl: Meryl Streep

Today is the great Meryl Streep's 65th birthday. Since her 60th birthday, she has done five live-action films garnering her three more Academy Award nominations (for a record-extending 18 total) and winning her third Academy Award for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Though is it weird that my favorite performance she's given the past five years might be her Mrs. Fox in Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox?

In any case, Streep is NOT slowing down with four films coming out just this year including Into the Woods due out this holiday season, her first musical since 2008's global blockbuster Mamma Mia! What will the next five years bring? Probably more awards, but hopefully riskier and more fun projects. I'm already looking forward to her role as an aging rock star in a film written by Diablo Cody due out next year. Happy Birthday Meryl!

Critics' Choice Television Awards Winners

On Friday, the TV awards season ramped up with the Emmy ballots being due and the critics giving us their picks for the best of the past TV year. Since this was only the fourth year of the Critic's Choice Television Awards, it's hard to take stock in how predictive they are with regards to Emmy nominations/winners. What is evident is the critics' willingness to champion shows and performers that might be too new or too niche for Emmy voters and I for one love that. My quick thoughts on the nominees and winners...

The Americans
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Masters of Sex
True Detective

Breaking Bad winning for its brilliant final season was expected and yet totally well-deserved even with the REALLY tough competition as it competed against shows I've loved the past year. I haven't seen True Detective and I don't question its quality. But I do question its placement here and not in Best Miniseries. I wholeheartedly believe that TV anthologies, especially with different actors featured each season, should not compete in Best Series. More on that later.

The Big Bang Theory
Broad City
Silicon Valley

This is what I mean by the critics championing shows. Is Broad City and Silicon Valley even in the conversation? And as much pop culture and critical buzz winner Orange is the New Black has, I wouldn't be surprise if the TV Academy largely ignored them. I hope they don't. They would be damn stupid if they did. Though the critics are as bad as the Emmys. Four years in and Parks and Recreation is still awards-less with this group (though at least Amy Poehler won a couple years ago). Just FYI, previous winners were Modern Family, Community, and Big Bang Theory.

American Horror Story: Coven
Bonnie & Clyde
Dancing on the Edge
The Hollow Crown

Oh look, it's the category True Detective should be in. Of course Fargo won and the race would've been far more interesting if it was pitted against True Detective, but whatever. I'm over it (no, I'm not).

An Adventure in Space and Time
Burton and Taylor
Killing Kennedy
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Trip to Bountiful

It pleases me SO MUCH that An Adventure in Space and Time was nominated here (and got a few more nominations in other categories). Of course, this category went to The Normal Heart directed by Ryan Murphy who the critics decided to give EXTRA love this year by giving him the Genius Award. I don't actually care enough to debate whether or not Murphy deserves such an honor. What I do care about is how they completely ignored Popular (his first TV show) in his tribute. Fact: Mary Cherry is the greatest character has done and will do.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Looking Forward To...

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Release: June 13, 2014
Distributor: Fox
Director: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harrington, Djimon Hounsou, and Cate Blanchett

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

OITNB S2 Best Shot: Don't Interrupt

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie (or TV show in this particular case) he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

Orange is the New Black was my third favorite show (and favorite NEW show) last year with one of the most diverse and talented ensemble ever put together for TV. Its second season was released on Netflix just a few days ago and I'm already through most of it (episode 9). With the caveat that I can still change my mind depending on what happens in the rest of the season, I'm going to say now that season 2 has been better than its already great freshman season--darker storylines, deeper characterizations, and more expert handling of the aforementioned ensemble. With regards to the latter, I do like that Piper and her story aren't in the forefront like the first season and yet Taylor Schilling has also never been better. Many examples abound, but her breakdown scene in the first episode "Thirsty Bird" and subsequent reaction from her seatmate (played by Lori Petty) was perfection:

"That's some shit, man."

And while that would have been a fine "best shot" pick, especially with its deft balance of tragedy and hilarity, a skill the show has so far excelled at, I decided to pick from the the third episode "Hugs Can Be Deceiving." First, because while it's IMPOSSIBLE to pick a favorite character, Suzanne as played by Uzo Aduba would be my gun-to-my-head choice. And second, there's a fun shot (my pick for best) of this season's MVP Lorraine Toussaint playing new character Vee.

First, a couple shots of Suzanne showing her sad and happy:

I wish I could make gifs, because the first shot is more heartbreaking in movement as her face goes from cheerful to dejected as she counts down. The second shot just brings me too much joy with young Suzanne all dressed up with wings doting on her new little sister. Just... look at that face! But my pick for best shot is this:

My Best Shot

Suzanne's head is hanging upside down beside her bed because of course it is and thus this shot is us seeing Vee through Suzanne's eyes. It's effectively unsettling, disorienting, and somehow fitting this would be how Suzanne sees Vee for the first time. After all, the prison will be turned upside down as Vee tries to get back to power. This shot happens right after she barks "Don't interrupt" to Suzanne and it just sent chills all over me. Toussaint is just scarily brilliant in this role amidst an ensemble that's already one of the best in TV.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tony Awards 2014 Winners

Let's not bury the lede here, Neil Patrick Harris is not just a Tony star, but a Tony supernova. He has already proven himself the ultimate host the past few years, but this year he was officially welcomed into the Broadway fold by winning his first Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The show picked up four awards total, highest tally of the night, including one for Best Musical Revival and Featured Actress Lena Hall. Hall and Harris put on an epic rock performance (see below) complete with Harris walking out into the audience and getting close and personal with Orlando Bloom, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Bacon. The complete list of winners are below:

Best Play: All the Way
Best Musical: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Best Revival of a Play: A Raisin in the Sun
Best Revival of a Musical: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best Actor, Play: Bryan Cranston, All the Way
Best Actress, Play: Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Best Actor, Musical: Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Best Actress, Musical: Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Best Feat. Actor, Play: Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Best Feat. Actress, Play: Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Best Feat. Actor, Musical: James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Best Feat. Actress, Musical: Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best Direction of a Musical: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Best Direction of a Play: Raising in the Sun
Best Book of a Musical: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Best Costume Design for a Play: Twelfth Night
Best Costume Design for a Musical: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Best Scenic Design for a Play: Act One
Best Scenic Design for a Musical: Rocky
Best Lighting Design for a Play: The Glass Menagerie
Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Best Choreography: After Midnight
Best Original Score: Bridges of Madison County
Best Orchestrations for a Musical: Bridges of Madison County
Best Sound Design for a Musical: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Best Sound Design in a Play: Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill

Nomination leader A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder picked up the top prize of the night, Best Musical, along with three other prizes including Best Director tying it with Hedwig for most wins. It was a night where the prizes were spread out a bit with Best Play Revival winner A Raisin in the Sun taking home 3 wins. Best Play went to All the Way and its lead actor Bryan Cranston won Best Actor. Best Actress in a Play went to the singular Audra McDonald for her Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. With her win, she became the winningest actor in Tony history and also the first actor to win in all four acting categories. Jessie Mueller won Best Actress in a Musical for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical beating out stiff competition.

Host Hugh Jackman began the show hopping non-stop for 3.5 minutes and his energy and charm never faltered as the night went on. His oddest bit may have been his "Music Man" rap collaboration with T.I. and LL Cool J while one of his best had to have been his interaction with/presentation of the Best Actress in a Musical nominees. The rest of the show was fine even though most of the show performances weren't up to par (i.e. making me want to see their shows). Plus I was vehemently against featuring performances from shows that haven't been shown on Broadway (Sting's The Last Ship, Finding Neverland). Maybe if they got rid of those, they would've had time to present some of the technical categories especially Choreography, Book, Score, and Orchestrations. The latter two awards by the way went to The Bridges of Madison County. At least the gayest award show ever gave us this beautiful duo to present:

Matt Bomer + Zachary Quinto = GAYPLOSION

Finally, as big a fan as I am of Wicked and the song "For Good," I wanted something slightly more epic for the 10th year celebration of that show. Would it have been THAT difficult to ask Idina Menzel (who was already there) and Kristin Chenoweth to have made a cameo? Below the cut are three videos from the show: Jackman's opening and my favorite two performances (Hedwig and Gentleman's Guide).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Brief Thoughts Before the Tony Awards

I'm looking forward to the Tony Awards tonight as it has been one of the most enjoyable awards shows to watch in the past few years (only rivaled by the Fey-Poehler-hosted Golden Globe shows) mostly thanks to the ace hosting job of Neil Patrick Harris and fun performances throughout the night. This year Hugh Jackman will host for a fourth time with Harris nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Unfortunately, I haven't seen Hedwig, but I'm very much rooting for Harris to pick up the trophy. His show actually got the second most nominations with eight and his biggest competitor comes from the show with the most nomination...

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and is the best tally of any show this year. It's the front-runner to win Best Musical and has more than a fighting chance in the rest of the categories it's nominated for. I *did* see this after the Tony nominations were announced and I completely understand why it garnered so much love. The songs are hilarious, the leads are indefatigable, and the whole thing is just fun. The only other musical I saw this season was...

The Bridges of Madison County only managed four nominations including one for Best Actress Kelli O'Hara who really poured her everything in the role of Francesca. I saw the musical at the recommendation of some friends and I'm so happy I got to see her sing these songs live. Since I haven't seen any of the other nominees in her category, I'm pretty much rooting for her by default, but golly that'd be great.

When it comes to the plays, I have even less to say because the only two plays I saw this season garnered a whopping zero nominations. And while I didn't expect Romeo & Juliet starring Orlando Bloom to light it up on nomination morning, I was quite shocked that the Patrick Stewart-Ian McKellen starrer Waiting for Godot laid a goose egg. Well, at least we'll always have their Instagram snapshots. In terms of a frontrunner, Act One starring Bryan Cranston (an almost lock to win tonight) seems to be in the lead for Best Play while The Glass Menagerie and Twelfth Night are duking it out in Best Revival of a Play. My roommate actually saw Twelfth Night this season (and loved it) on the same day I saw last year's Musical Revival winner Pippin. 'Twas a great day.

Like Cranston, it seems like a safe bet to predict Audra McDonald to pick up her sixth (!) win for Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. If she does win, she would have won a Tony Award for Lead and Featured Actress in both plays and musicals. In the end, I wished I had gotten to see more shows, both plays and musicals. Hopefully a few of them will stick around this summer so I can try. Now on with the show!