Our monthly compendium of stuff that didn’t get a full post, for one reason or another.
There’s just one more month left in the decade (unless you’re one of those weirdos who complain, “the decade begins with 1…”), meaning it’s not too early to start looking back. The 00′s were a decade that likely will never be remembered as a particularly good one for American film; we put it somewhere between the 1950s and maybe – maybe – the 80s in terms of total quality work produced. The amount of dumb, cynical, artless trash far outweighed the good, but then again that’s sadly, probably true of any given time period.
Anyway, here’s our monthly roundup of items of interest that didn’t deserve or receive a full blog post. All our opinions are our own, and all graphics are stuff we found lying around the Internet.
1. This month’s hysteria regarding the release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon came with an earnest attempt at a backlash dogging its wake, as critics from every corner of the media – and especially online – did their best to counter-shout the series’ fans. Not to defend the sparkly vampires, but anyone decrying the phenomenon shouldn’t feel surprised at its popularity. Vampires are a steady, resurgent franchise in American culture, and it makes sense that a version catering to the American Idol generation would surface sooner or later. If Twilight is superficial, mawkish, and clumsily obtuse, it’s only giving its audience what they’ve come to expect from pop entertainment.
2. While we’re on the subject of pop culture and what’s wrong with it, two news items this past week about David Hasselhoff and Donny Osmond underscored a major reason for the current media malaise. Celebrities don’t burn out anymore. They fade… and fade… and fade away. The proliferation of cable channels and other media outlets means everyone gets camera time long after their 15 minutes have worn off. Except all that detritus has become dead weight upon the public radar, with chances for the emergence of new talent becoming that much more remote. Much like pop music at the end of the 1980s, the film and TV industries are in desperate need of fresh air, the sooner the better. More than that, the industries have got to stop cashing in on the past because it’s cheap and safe.
3. Someone else said – but we’re happy to originate the idea – that George Clooney has two screen personae: there’s the talented ensemble actor, the guy that does offbeat work like O Brother, Where Art Thou and The Men Who Stare At Goats, and there’s his American Leading Man mode that you see in stuff like Michael Clatyon and the Ocean’s saga. We’re looking forward to December’s Up In The Air because it might present the first combination of the two while finally getting Gorgeous George the widespread critical respect he’s deserved for years. Here’s the trailer, in the unlikely event you haven’t seen it yet:
Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela
4. Another pervasive trailer this month previewed Clint Eastwood’s new Invictus, about the true story of South African president Nelson Mandela’s attempt to bring the post-Apartheid nation together via the 1995 Rugby World Cup games. While the idea of Matt Damon playing a rugby champion isn’t really surprising, the casting of Morgan Freeman as Mandela is one of those lightning-strike “why hasn’t this happened already” castings that happen every blue moon or so. It also makes us wish by free association that Steven Spielberg would make his Liam Neeson-starring biopic of Abraham Lincoln already. Still and all, props to Freeman for taking the role and props to Eastwood for tackling such unexpected (for him) material. The film debuts December 11.
Burrows to join L&O: CI
5. This time last year we bitched that the USA Network couldn’t nail down a season premiere for its Law & Order: Criminal Intent franchise. Now the show’s reportedly getting a virtually all-new cast when it returns “early” next year. Series regulars Vincent D’Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, Eric Bogosian and Julianne Nicholson will all depart after the series’ ninth season opener. Saffron Burrows (The Bank Job) replaces Nicholson, while Bogosian will be replaced by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Perfect Storm). The newer, streamlined show will feature sole returning star Jeff Goldblum in every episode.
Though we like Goldblum as an actor and in his L&O: CI role, we also remember that his last effort at headlining a detective show lasted seven weeks, even with Graham Yost (Band of Brothers) as showrunner. We liked that show, too.
6. Elsewhere on basic cable, TNT announced this month they would pick up broadcast rights to Southland, the promising cop drama that NBC stupidly cancelled in October. Possibly as a way to afford the ensemble cast, the network has dropped their original series Raising The Bar from its schedule, with a second season for Dark Blue, its other cop show, stuck in limbo. Meanwhile their new Men of A Certain Age premieres next Monday. Anything with Andre Braugher or Scott Bakula has got our attention for at least a few weeks, and this has them both.
Renner in The Hurt Locker
7. Already among the year’s – if not the decade’s – most highly praised films despite only a limited release last summer, The Hurt Locker premieres on DVD and Blu-Ray January 12. The gritty drama co-stars Jeremy Renner, one of the best young actors around right now following his superb performances in ABC’s The Unusuals and onscreen in 2007′s The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. We’re glad his turn here is getting him some attention.
We value our female readership, and stuff like this never hurts.
8. You know it’s close to December when three of the top ten films have “Oscar Bait” written all over them. The Blind Side currently makes the most money (despite scathing reviews), while Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire and The Road are both still building momentum. In light of the sweeping changes made to the Academy’s voting process this year, however, it’s still too early to guess which film has the inside track towards Best Picture. If we had to suppose, we imagine Rob Marshall’s Nine will take the statue. It’s got a shitload of razzle dazzle (remember Marshall’s Chicago won in 2003), a screenplay co-written by the late Anthony Minghella, and a broad cast of flashy actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Nicole Kidman. In years past such a combination would be like crack for Academy voters, but the new rules could change things up.
Watch the embedding—proof HD Trailer for Nine here, much of which looks an awful lot like an Oscar ceremony musical number.
Thanks for reading. We were a day late posting this, and we apologize for the delay – real life’s been pimp-slapping our writing time lately. We’ll be back later this week.
- Michael Kabel
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::