Thursday, March 27, 2008

That’s Hot! The ANTM recap

Have the editors of Top Model just stopped caring at this point? I mean, could they have made it any more obvious that Aimee was going home this week? Or maybe I’m thinking of this the wrong way. Maybe I’m just assuming that there’s supposed to be some suspense when it comes to who gets eliminated. Instead, maybe it says in big letters on their weekly call sheet:
Opening Shot: Girl who is going to be eliminated.
Opening dialogue: Girl who is going to get eliminated speaks in confessional for the first time all series.
Or, conversely, perhaps they are genuinely fooling some of the teenage dimwits who watch this show: It’s insane! Just when I feel like I’ve really gotten to know Aimee on a personal level, they kick her off! Happens EVERY time!

Of course Aimee’s ouster must take a back seat to the other two headlines of the show.

Headline number one: Claire, to quoth Brit-Brit, is not that innocent.
I don’t know about you, but I found myself feeling sorry for Dominique this week. And that’s saying a lot. Because Dominique is pretty much a megalomaniac and a bully. But it was bad enuf when Claire went totally postal over the alarm clock going off early, calling Dom a “shady bitch.” (Really? Because she had alarm clock malfunctions?)
But when Dom wasn’t feeling well and was just trying to get some sleep, and ringleader Claire sat on the couch loudly talking with the other girls about Dom as though she wasn’t there—well that was approaching true shady bitch territory if you ask me.
(An aside: How beautiful are Claire’s husband and baby? And how much of an overshare was that when we found out that her breast milk was drying up? Please keep your tales from Planet Lactate to yourself, honey.)
The question: Will Claire’s behavior this week—and her shocking appearance in the bottom 2!—have any effect on her complete and utter dominance of CGoTW? Hard to say. But she sure didn’t get my vote this week. (Ha, just kidding. I don’t’ vote for Cover Girl of the Week, sillies!. . . No. . .really.)

The other big headline:
Nigel is a big ol fat pervy perv: How on earth he arranged for his Spitzer-like boudoir shot of Anya is beyond me. (Did he win a bet with Tyra?) But it felt awfully casting couch to me. On the other hand, it was Nigel, so it was also, as Whitney noted, hot.

Tyra’s little posing boot camp was actually pretty illuminating. This whole tidbit about posing like you are in pain (my fave? “My weave tracks are killing me!”) was news you can use. Ditto on the whole “listen to an imaginary beat in your head” pointer. Does Tyra for the first time truly believe that her own modeling career is over? Because she was giving up the tricks of the trade, y’all.

I really dug the music-themed photo shot, but I think it separated the wannabes from the contenders. While Claire, Stacey Ann, Fatima, and, duh, Aimee, all reverted to tried-and-true modelly poses, it was Dom, Kat, Anya, Lauren, and especially Whitney (my surprise of the week), who brought some attitude and performance to their shoots.
And while Kat looked decidedly ambivalent about Tyra’s news that she was getting a new haircut, I am thrilled. That haircut was fierce—and it’s going to take her from Spitzer girl (sorry, the expiration on Spitzer jokes is running out, so I’m trying to cram a few in while I can) to Paris couture.

Next week: “Lauren’s punk rock temper takes over the house!”
Ha, I’m going to start using that line on my friends. “I really can’t talk to you when your punk rock temper is taking over the house!”
Sid Vicious, eat your heart out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Hills: I’m Just Not That Into It

Hey look! It’s the second in a multiple part series that I didn’t even know I was starting. (Scan down to see my post on my Dancing With the Stars hate.) Apparently, I’m not in synch with the hearts and minds of the American public. Darn!
Onto today’s topic: The Hills.
Recently, I’ve noticed that The Hills has been hijacking the cover of all my favorite gossip rags and celebrity websites. I can’t escape the damn show. There’s Lauren Conrad whining about being betrayed (for the umpteenth time—is this girl a doormat or what?) from the cover of Us Weekly. There’s Heidi and Spencer sporting (nauseating) His and Her bunny ears for an Easter photo op on There’s Audrina posing scantily in what she considered an “artistic” shoot (ha!) all over the dang internet.
I ask you this question: Where’s Kristen Cavallari when you really need her?
Seriously, back in the day, there was Laguna Beach and it was good.
We had the “good girl” Lauren Conrad, who was sort of dim and bland, but at least approximated girl-next-door behavior.
Then we had my hero: “bad girl” Kristen: blonde, ballsy, bitchy—a gloriously sociopathic mean girl with a perfect tan and the keys to Daddy’s Range Rover. Of course, she got the hottie surfer guy, too.
In a million years, if you had said to me: Which of these two trust fund Lolitas is going to get her own show and end up being a bigger pop culture phenomenon—I would’ve answered Kristen without hesitation. Girlfriend brought the entertainment.
But no. Instead, we have The Hills, starring drippy Lauren and her dim-witted friends, a cast of the most preening, self-involved, charmless “celebutantes” I’ve ever seen in my life.
Alongside the expression-deprived Lauren, who seems to hate on all of her friends’ boyfriends (hello pot, meet kettle), we have Lauren’s chief rival, part-time “singer” and fulltime famewhore Heidi, who may or may not have started a rumor about Lauren having a sex tape with that skeevy ex boyfriend of hers, Jason. As rivals go, the mousy Heidi is hardly a force to be reckoned with. If Kristen was a piranha, Heidi is a guppy.
Next we have long-limbed Audrina, who has a taste for bad boys, short shorts, and words with one syllable.
There’s also another girl, Whitney (like Lauren, she “works” for Teen Vogue), who, as far as I can tell, pretty much exists to fulfill the blonde quotient for the show.
Of course, there’s serial dater and reality TV show hopper Brody Jenner, son of plastic surgery victim/Olympiad Bruce Jenner and half brother of plastic surgery victim/fellow reality show hopper Kim Kardashian. (Not two brain cells to rub together at that family dinner table.)
Finally, there’s Spencer Pratt. Ahh, Spencer. One of my favorite writers, Joe Queenan, once did a story about people who you just want to smack. It’s completely irrational. You look at them and you want to sock them in the jaw. Geraldo Rivera is a classic example. So is Tucker Carlson. Spencer is the worst of the bunch.
First of all, he has a baby face and an Eddie Haskell nature that belies the fact that he is a complete and utter tool. Then, to make matters worse, he grows some sort of facial hair on that baby face—which is not only distracting, it’s slightly disturbing. (Gag, meet reflex).
I want these people off my TV! Off my magazine covers! Off my internet! I want the world to see the light and realize how insipid and annoying they all are!
At the very least, I may try to betray Lauren, date someone she disapproves of, or start a sex tape rumor about her so I can get on the cover of Us Weekly, too.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It’s the pits! The ANTM recap

Where is Barack Obama when you really need him?
Because racial disharmony was breaking out all over Casa de ANTM last night, in a big way.
It started with Cover Girl of the Week hogger Claire. (Anyone else remember when the CGotW was different from week to week? Yeah, me neither. I’m totally voting for Svetlana next week, just to mix things up.*)
“Marvita is a hood rat,” she said. She said this in such a chipper and innocuous way, I actually had to rewind to make sure she’d actually said it. But she did. Not nice, Clairey!

Then, of course, Jade 2: the Revenge, a.k.a. Dominique started going nuts, calling Whitney racist, while explaining hastily that Whitney could be racist toward a Catholic girl with red hair and green eyes and a Jewish girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. First: Dominique, get a dictionary. Second, a Jew with blonde hair and blue eyes? Where? (Ya see, I can do that because I’m Jewish. . .Really, folks, it’s so easy to negotiate the tangly world of speech politics.)
Whitney, of course, retorted with everyone’s favorite defensive cliché: “My best friend is black!” Good one, Whit.

Later in the show, Fatima claimed that Marvita acts ghetto and is so “hood.” Cut to a shot of Marvita downing a 40 (not nice, editors!) and Marvita wondering out loud, “Maybe I am too ghetto.” Poor dear, a few weeks in a house with Dominique and Fatima and they totally crushed her spirit. Can she come back again next year?

The most baffling exchange in the midst of all this fighting, however, occurred between Dominique and Whitney.
Dominique (to Whitney): “You look like you’re all of 30 and act 10!” (Talk about the pot calling the kettle haggard.)
Whitney (to no one in particular): “Where’s the Saran Wrap?”
Did she suddenly have an insatiable need to hermitically seal food?
Did she want to suffocate Dominique with the Saran Wrap?
Had Tyra told the girls to mention the sponsors whenever possible, so with her mind completely blank (probably not an unfamiliar sensation to Whit), she spat out a random product plug?
The mind races.

Off in the Fab Cab the girls went, meeting with Benny Ninja and his house of voguers.
“This is where I fit in!” announced Dominique. (Hey, you said it, not me.)
Can I have a little rant about Benny Ninja for a moment here? Remember last year, when the girls were instructed by Miss J to be tasteful with their clothing choices and Benny Ninja got those girls into Old Navy and started yelling, “More baubles! More scarves! More showgirls!”
It’s the same deal with this runway vogueing. I’ve seen many fashion shows on TV, and never have I seen the girls do Cirque de Soleil style contortion moves and full-on splits on the runway. Bottom line: There’s drag queen fashion shows and couture fashion shows and they are not the same damn thing. Why confuse these poor girls even more?
That being said, it didn’t take long for the girls to figure out that the more over-the-top they were, the better their chances of winning. (Why Whitney was criticized for her split, I have no idea, since half the girls were writhing on the floor anyway.)
Next onto a cool beauty shot with trickling paint. (An aside: I love beauty shots, they should do more of them).

At judging, we were re-introduced to Vendela, host of Top Model: Scandinavia and Tyra dropped this bomb: “America’s Next Top Model is on in 120 countries.”
Whoah. She has to mean that it airs in 120 countries, right? There can’t possibly be 120 distinct version of this show: We don’t have, like, Bulgaria’s Next Top Model and Uruguay’s Top Model, do we? (Note to self: Do Wikipedia search.)

Next, my favorite moment of the show: Fatima’s hairy armpit.
I'll admit it: I love the fact that Fatima spent so much time practicing her runway (and bragging about it) that homegirl forgot to shave her pits! Let me tell you this: When I forget to shave my pits for even a day, I do not go around raising my hand like I’m sure, and I sure as hell don’t thrust my underarm into a camera.
“I thought you’d re-touch it,” she whined, which led to Nigel’s: “A razor is a dollar. Retouching an armpit is $1,000.” And watching Fatima’s face as this exchange occurred: priceless.

But, as noted, Marvita got the boot. Maybe it was the paint, maybe it was the angle of the head, but her picture looked a lot like a sad clown. And since there’s not a whole lot of demand for the sad clown look these days in Paris, it was her time to go.

*Okay, I realize that there is no Svetlana in this competition. But hey, with all those Anyas and Katarzyna’s, you can’t blame a girl for being confused.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dancing With the Stars: I’m Just Not That Into It

I’m a pretty big fan of American Idol and I got hooked on So You Think You Can Dance last season, so it stands to reason that I would love me some Dancing With the Stars. (American Idol + So You Think You Can Dance = Dancing With the Stars, right?)
But I don’t. Hate it, in fact, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.
I guess a lot of it has to the do with the live band. It’s pretty much a glorified wedding band, if you ask me. When I watched So You Think You Can Dance last season, I actually got turned on to some really cool new music from Timbaland, One Republic, Eve, and Mario Spinetti. But all of the cover songs on DWTS sound like "Music To Shop to at the Mall of America" to me.
To see hepcat young Mario (a man with soul oozing from his very fingertips) dance to what, to my ears, sounded like Pat Boone doing a cover of the Black Eyed Peas “Request Line” was particularly painful—for me, and most likely for him, too.
Yes, American Idol covers songs, too (natch.) But Simon scolds contestants for being too pageant-like and lounge singerish. On DWTS, that seems to be the whole point.
And then there’s this: So You Think You Can Dance deals with many forms of dance—ballroom, hip-hop, contemporary, jazz, et al. DWTS is all about ballroom, a genre which I just need to accept that I don’t really like.
To me, ballroom dancing is all about sparkly pants and fake tans and eye molesting the camera. Of course, I can appreciate the grace of a beautifully executed waltz and the intricate footwork of a samba. I’m certainly not saying that these pros (and even some of the celebs) can’t dance, I’m just saying that the winking, air-gun firing, Cheese Whizzy culture of ballroom dancing is not for me.
What’s more, DWTS is constantly reminding us how wholesome it is. I do wonder how long Steve Guttenberg is going to coast on that aw-shucks, jiminy crickets, I’m just so darn happy to be here schtick (’cause lord knows his dancing ain’t going to take him far.) But that kind of fake sincerity does seem to be rewarded on this show. (Hell, if Jerry Springer can convince the world he’s a saint, anyone can.)
Finally, where I love Simon Cowell, find him endlessly fascinating and (alarmingly) sexy, there’s a judge on DWTS that I simply can’t stand—Count von Count, aka Bruno. He always looks like he’s about to eat the cameraman. And when he holds up his score and carniverously shouts, “Seven!” it’s like whatever number he scores is most spectacularly delicious word in the English language. Ugh.
Look, I guess not all shows are for everyone. I can’t will myself to like this show. I just hate missing on a good water cooler topic. So let me get my picks in early: Mario and Kristi Yamaguchi for the Final Two.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Beef Panties, It’s What’s For Dinner: The ANTM recap

Okay, before I recap this episode, let’s get up to speed.

I don’t have much to say about our little rejected models except the blondie girl with the smushed face who didn’t realize that wearing expensive clothing is kind of the
whole point of modeling was spectacularly dumb, even by this show’s low standards. Too bad, because she was kinda cute, in that French bulldog way.

With apologies to Twiggy, Paulina Porizkova is a major upgrade. I love her insight, her gumption, and the basic human decency that comes through in all her judging comments. And unlike Twiggy, who deferred meekly to the other judges (“Oh, Tyra, you’re so clever), Paulina’s going to give that judging fiefdom a run for its money.

A few things I already
hate: That electric news ticker that they installed for Tyra Mail has got to go. Having some half-literate girl robotically read Tyra Mail has always been one of the necessary evils of the show. But to have all the girls shouting out the words as the mail creeps painstakingly along the ticker, well it’s positively brutal.

The makeovers are particularly atrocious this year, huh?
They made lovely Claire (our CGoTW three times running now—do I see a Heather-like dynasty in the making?) look like Powder. And they made “plus-sized” (gimme a break) Whitney, whose black hair against that alabaster skin was downright Snow White-like, look like some generic Pam Anderson wannabe. As for lovely Anya? All I can say is: Why, Tyra, why?

But let me give props where props are due. As always, Tyra picks one girl—in this case Marvita—who I didn’t “get” on any level (see: twins, cycle 7; Furonda, cycle 6) and proved me dead wrong. Marvita may have unconventional looks, but she’s arresting—and she rocks a photo shoot.

As for Dominique, I’m not totally convinced. Sure, at some angles she looks attractive. But in some lights, she looks homely and positively mannish. On top of that, she wins our Jade Memorial Award for outsized confidence and remarkable self-delusion. Somehow, her being in the Bottom Two last week was actually Tyra throwing her “on a pedestal.” (Now there’s a stretch.) “It was the best Bottom Two the show has ever had,” she declared. She, along with “grrrrr, I’m a tiger!” (what was that all about?) Fatima, seem to be the rabble rousers in the house. So they can stay.

Few of the models have made a real impression on me yet: I thought Amis was a hoot, kind of a (non-alcoholic) version my fave girl Lisa from Cycle 5. (She called Jaslene a “big old, doe-eyed, yummy little Latina sandwich”—now that’s some poetry!). And I loved how diplomatic and gracious she was upon leaving. Sorry to see her go.

I happen to think Katarzyna is gorgeous—even if Tyra continues to make confusing pelvic thrusts to let her know that she’s too damn sexy for her own good.

I also love Claire, despite the Powder do.

pictured, had the best picture last night—by far. She’s one to watch, clearly rising above Tyra's hair don’t.

I’m sure loyalties will shift as the competition grows, but right now I’m rooting for Marvita. She’s an underdog you can really get behind.

I already find “punk rock” Lauren a little tiresome. Again, with the gorgeous but awkward teen who knee-knocks her way across the runway like a baby giraffe? Although I do appreciate that she’s a true New York girl. “If I didn’t want to be here, I could hop on the L train and go home,” she declared. Her logic is unassailable.

Why on earth was Tyra singing at judging? Anyone? Anyone? Paulina looked rightfully scared.

The meat shoot? Nasty. PETA will come a callin’. And Tyra has clearly given up one-cycle commitment to the environment and all things green. Let them wear meat, bitches.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Funny Games

1 star

Since I saw
The Dark Knight trailer right before this film, here’s a riddle for ya:
q. What’s the only thing worse then making the film
Funny Games?
Re-making the film Funny Games!
Admittedly, I never saw Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke’s 1997 film about two well-mannered young men who brutally torment a wealthy family in their vacation home. But I am assured that I don’t need to. This latest version is a frame by frame remake, with different actors and, of course, now conveniently in English! Maybe Haneke just didn’t want some American hack to get his hands on his film. (Fair enough. Have you seen
City of Angels?). But more likely, he was so in love with his material, he just couldn’t resist bringing it to a larger audience.
Now, as a general rule, I hate films that are trying to do any of the combination of the following:
1. Disrupt the comfortable lives of the bourgeoisie. (Meaning, of course, both the characters and we, the oh-so-cozy audience.)
2. Blare punk rock music to prove how anti-establishment they are.
3. Scold us, the audience, for secretly craving violence on screen.
Funny Games hits the above trifecta while managing to not even get the details right. Maybe 10 years ago, a film about psychological torture with mostly off-screen violence would have flown, but today’s horror films are all about torture procedural, baby! The camera no longer discreetly turns away before the little boy is blown to bits—it lingers lovingly over the ensuing blood, the pulverized guts, and the gaping hole in his skull. (Hey, if you’re going to criticize our culture’s craven taste in entertainment, at least show us how truly disgusting we are.)
As for using punk rock as a sign of anarchy? They’re playing the Sex Pistols on the oldies station. Need I say more?
At least I understand why the actors got on board. It’s juicy, acting class stuff. Tim Roth is a model of emasculated self-loathing as the hapless husband. Naomi Watts suffers mightily as we watch her air of entitlement turn to one of feral desperation. And Michael Pitt is smug and droll as the smarter half of the preppie psycho duo (the disconnect between his good manners and his homicidal nature is where the film derives its sense of “humor.”).
But they all get demerits from me. Two years ago, Haneke directed the genuinely intriguing
Cache. It dealt with similar themes—how perspective shapes reality and how material wealth gives us a false sense of moral superiority. He’s regressed here, and it’s no wonder why. The film is 10 years old. It feels 10 years old. And it should have stayed on the shelf (next to Funny Face and Funny Girl?) where it belongs.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Uber Fierce! The Project Runway recap

I am about to write a phrase that I never imagined would pass my keyboard: Thank you, Posh Spice.

Look, I’m not sure if it was really Posh who sealed the deal for Christian. I’m not sure if she beat Michael Kors in a stare-off, bored Heidi Klum into submission, overtook Nina Garcia with the mighty power of her complete and utter lack of personality, but say what you will about our little haute automaton, she was on Team Christian. In a big, unwavering, I am Posh Spice and “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want” kind of way.

Bless her.

Because, as Rami and Christian were standing there, the final two that many of us had predicted (until I had a brief, spazzy Jillian digression), I thought, Christian HAS to win.

For starters, with apologies to wind sprite Eliza, punk confection Sweet Pea, lachrymose Ricky, drape king Rami, and jolly Chris March, Christian really made this season didn’t he? His part petulant teenager, part late night talk show host, part Ferocha Couture, and 100 percent bundle of talent, was a God damned joy to watch.
And to see him standing there crying, to realize that with all the attitude, all the confidence, all the bratty superiority—Christian really cared—well, it’s safe to say I would’ve stormed the gates of Bravo TV if he had not won.

I should backtrack and say this: That was one hell of a Bryant Park show, wasn't it? I mean, the best of any Project Runway season, by far. All three designers were off the chart great. It was enough to make Tim Gunn verklempt—and partake in a very undignified group hug—and who could blame him? Rami’s intricately woven dresses, Jillian’s Renaissance prep knitwear, and Christian’s avant-garde extravaganzas—all remarkable.

But in the end, our little whippersnapper had to win. Yeesh, imagine how boring this finale would’ve been without him? What, no surprise last-minute challenge? No bringing back the auf’d designers to assist? No internecine feuds? Instead, we got treated to the L’Oreal makeup consultation—thrilling!—followed by the TresEmme hair consultation—stunning!—followed by Jillian having a mild freakout because her models weren’t all the same height—mind blowing!

Luckily, we at least had little Christian showing his models how easy it was to OWN those high-heel ankle lace-ups, Christian telling his models to “look really fabulous, be really skinny, don’t eat” (a Project Runway motto, if ever I’ve heard one), and Christian actually rubbing off on Rami, who gave his first, tentative, “Are we ready, bitches?” of the season.

Once at Bryant Park, it was great to finally see Christian’s family—so cute, so vertically challenged, and his dad such a natty dresser! And of course, all of our Bravo reality favorites—Padma from Top Chef, Niki and Tyson from Make Me a Supermodel, and various beloved contestants from Project Runway past (squee! Nick!!!). (Somewhere, those Queer Eye boys were standing at the gate, trying to get in. How soon Bravo forgets . . .)

And by the way, what was up with Michael Kors wearing sunglasses in the tent? I mean, I understand the whole, I’m a celebrity, I’m cool, I’m wearing sunglasses thing. But you’re not Jack Nicholson, dude. You’re judging a competition where subtle things like color and texture actually matter. Leave the divatude at the door next time, m’kay? (Or do you think he actually got into some sort of skirmish in the tanning aisle at Rite Aid and was covering a black eye?—ooooh, discuss among yourselves).

It was great to hear the Bryant Park audience applaud for the contestants (although at one point, I wasn’t sure if they were cheering Rami’s dress or the fact that Jaslene from America’s Next Top Model was wearing it). They clearly loved and appreciated all the designers, but Christian was the obvious favorite. Okay, I still don’t entirely get his collection—in particular, the “ombre dress” he designed with Posh Spice in mind looks like the end result of a some sort of horrible frat boy hazing—but he’s obviously a little couture genius.

In the end, Rami WAS the Salieri to Christian’s Amadeus. A dignified man who was good, not great, going up against a twerpy, preternaturally gifted visionary.

So Rock me, Amadeus! You are, indeed, as fierce as it gets.

p.s. To all my fellow America’s Next Top Model fans, recaps start up next week. But I will say this: Dying both Claire and Whitney’s hair blonde was a crime against them—and nature.

Monday, March 3, 2008

No We Can’t! Confessions of a Hillary Supporter . . .

Being a Hillary supporter has been a strange, and not entirely pleasant experience. Not only do you have to deal with the expected (“I hate her voice! It’s so shrill and school marmish”) but the unexpected, too (“Yes We Can!”).
When you tell Obama fans that you support Hillary, they look genuinely puzzled, maybe even a bit worried for you. It’s like something doesn’t entirely compute. “But have you not heard him speak?” they ask. “Did you not listen to that inspiring song I emailed you?”
Yes, I did.
Here’s the funny thing about Obama. I love the guy. Really, I do. I remember the first time I heard him give a speech, at the Democratic Convention four years ago. I was driving home from a movie screening and I had the radio on. I thought, “Who’s
When I got home, I flipped on the TV and saw that he was this young, handsome black man. I nearly fainted with joy. I had seen the future and it was . . . totally awesome. I just didn’t think the future was so, you know,
Look, both Hillary and Obama are brilliant. Obama is more charismatic. Hillary is more experienced. Obama is less divisive. Hillary, in my mind at least, has bigger balls. Right about now (maybe you've noticed that our country is in the crapper), I’ll take brains and experience and cojones over brains and charm and that certain
je ne sais quoi. But that’s just me. (And dag, sometimes it seems like it really is just me.)
My dream ticket? Hillary on top. Obama as VP. Eight years from now, Obama for the win! Obviously, that’s not going to happen. But there’s the dream.
Since I tend to think of things in terms of sports, I’ll make the following analogy: Not rooting for Obama is a bit like not rooting for Derek Jeter. I’m an Orioles fan. (Yes, a Hillary Clinton fan
and an Orioles fan. And did you see my Maryland Terps gack up that 20 point lead against Clemson last night? Note to anyone trying to win at anything: If you see me coming, run the other way).
Anyway, where was I? Derek Jeter. So I remember when Derek Jeter first joined the Yankees and he was the freakin’ toast of New York. He’s so handsome! He’s so dreamy! He’s so clutch! Naturally, I reveled in every detail that challenged the Derek mythology: If he’s such a goody goody, why is he canoodling with Mariah Carey? And if he’s so amazingly clutch and perfect, why is he the worst shortstop in baseball?
The truth is, Derek Jeter is a nice guy and a clutch athlete, too. But he’s not perfect. And sometimes it seems like his fans think he is.
I guess that’s what I want to say to all you Obamaniacs: Lay off, okay? I don’t hate your guy. I’m just rooting against him. That’s what fans do. And when you win tomorrow (sigh), don’t gloat either. Let me lick my wounds, give me a chance to recover. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll download that damn song onto my iPod.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

2 1/2 stars

With HBO having recently aired a Helen Mirren-led mini-series on Elizabeth I and Showtime entering its second season of
The Tudors (about the many loves of King Henry VIII), it’s safe to say that our favorite 16th-century Brits have become the hottest source material—on cable.
So, with
The Other Boleyn Girl, the question remains, do we really need to see the same royal family in theaters? I’m not so sure.
The director, Justin Chadwick, clearly thought that the combined star power of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson would give the film its big screen oomph. But the two stars manage to show both their talent—and their limitations.
Portman, who plays the smarter, more conniving Anne Boleyn, is a beauty to be sure. And she projects the necessary intelligence for the role. But instead of coming across as a womanly seductress, able to besot kings and single-handedly change the course of a nation, she comes across as a particularly hot Bard co-ed. (You don’t necessarily believe she could bring a kingdom to its knees—perhaps a large frat house.)
Scarlett Johansson, who plays her naïve younger sister, Mary, is also picture-perfect in her period garb. And she can play innocent decency well, as evidenced by her similar work in
Girl With a Pearl Earring. But her Mary is almost too passive—she’s fair and good and all, but she’s not especially interesting.
Finally, the film scores a real dud in the casting of Eric Bana as King Henry VIII. Maybe it’s because I’m used to Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s campy, pan-sexual approach to the role on
The Tudors, but Bana is stolid and uninspiring. As an actor, Bana seems to only thrive when challenged. He was forgettable in Hulk (can’t WAIT to what Edward Norton is going to do with that bad boy) and Troy, but made a strong impression in Munich. Here, he seems to be doing the gentlemanly thing and letting his two female co-stars steal all their scenes.
Bana’s dull politeness pretty much characterizes the film. This is, after all, a work about lust and betrayal, about two sisters vying for the heart of the king and the ambitious (and cowardly) men pulling the strings behind them. The film should’ve been more of everything—more sex! more eye candy! more scandalous moments of treachery! Instead, it’s all a bit too earnest.
From what I’ve read, the writer of
The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory, takes her period novel very seriously, but most historians say it’s riddled with inaccuracies (for example, Mary and Anne were not close). If so, Chadwick should have just had fun with it. I can only imagine what Sofia Coppola might’ve done with the film. Her Marie Antoinette had just the right look—decadently over-stuffed and sensual—but was a bit of a drag in the story-telling department.
The Other Boleyn Girl a failure? Hardly. It holds your attention fairly well and, for those who haven’t read the book, actually has a fairly riveting final act (hint: pay close to attention to Boleyn brother George). But it plays like a proficient cable movie—hardly an insult these days, but not quite cause for a coronation.

This review originally appeared in Baltimore magazine