Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen coasts by with a nice romantic ad campaign for a city that erected a life-size statue to him in 2003. It’s a Mario Perillo tour commercial for Spain with a cast of enjoyable actors mumbling things I already forgot.

But it’s hard not to like Scarlett Johannson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz. Watching them in romantic entanglements as Woody tries to explain relationship wisdom with a hint of sarcastic humor about New York City types is enjoyable, but like Cassandra’s Dream, this isn’t his best work. He even got lazy with the title. Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

His dialogue is still good, but he uses the lazy device of a narrator, who sounds like he’s reciting the notes Woody wrote on a bar napkin when coming up with the movie. And certainly the film is beautiful, but Antonio (Bardem) is showing the title gals (I can’t remember which is Vicky and which is Cristina) the sites, and let’s face it, it’s not hard to make Barcelona and Oviedo look gorgeous.
Throughout the film, we’ll learn that woman want stability but also like danger, and that men fear death and thus put their weenie in as many women as are willing. And that sometimes, we don’t know what we want, but we can learn what we don’t want. It’s an enjoyable watch but other than the setting and use of Bardem and Cruz, this is nothing new for Woody, and it’s unfortunate that it won best comedy at the Globes when Happy-Go-Lucky and In Bruges are so much better, fresher, and made by people who haven’t been sucked off by the awards judges for so long.

3.5 out of 5 woodies.

the golden globes – livebloggin it

Slumdog Millionaire – golden globe for best picture: drama. It’s awesome to see a story like this win. It’s been a long time since a story like this, reminiscent of classics like Pressburger & Powell’s The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp, win big. Go Bollywood! And who says Americans won’t read (some) subtitles?

And holy shit Mickey Rourke gets best actor for The Wrestler! Go Mick! I’m really surprised that he beat Sean Penn. I think Mickey deserves it, but Penn was pretty amazing too. And he cutely thanks his dogs. He’s got 5 little dogs and he’ll kick your ass if you laugh at his chihuahuas.

Glad that Mad Men got best series, but the cameramen suck for focusing on the bald dudes when there’s hotties behind him. January Jones and Christina Hendricks please…

Kate Winslet wins another one! Wow. She should have won for Little Children two years ago, and now she’s cleaned up. Meryl Streep is going to have her killed.

Freida Pinto from Slumdog is still adorable.

Sascha Baron Cohen being funny and mean. And once again Woody Allen coasts on his rep from two decades ago with a mediocre comedy- Vicky Cristina Barcelona wins best comedy, despite being an insipid snoozer. Go see In Bruges or Happy-Go-Lucky instead; even Burn After Reading, despite being Coen Bros. coasting, was better than VCB.

Colin seems pretty nervous. He and Sally Hawkins don’t realize how good they were. Hell they might be acting it. Damn they’re good. They got me.

Yay Colin Farrell for the underrated In Bruges! A gay golden globe for my gay friend and a normal one for me because I am normal. Best actor in a comedy- though James Franco got a nice nom for Pineapple Express. Franco was great in Milk and got snubbed there.

Sigourney Weaver’s still got it. Ripley can be my Alien Queen anytime.

Danny Boyle gets the Best Director award he deserves. Personally I wanted Darren Aronofsky, but of those nominated- Opie Howard for Frost/Nixon, David Fincher for Forrest Gump 2, Sam Mendes for American Beauty: the 50s, he definitely deserves it. Slumdog is a blast, a retro Hollywood epic. Go see it. And then get some lamb korma.

Apparently when you’re old enough to win a Cecil B. DeMille award, you’re old enough to tell long rambling stories no one wants to hear. Clint Eastwood ought to go up there in character from Gran Torino and tell him to shut up.

Marty Scorsese! He’s turned into Ace Rothstein. And please stop sucking Spielberg’s cock.

Tina Fey, all the way! She’s pretty funny on twitter, too. Woman of the year with her Sarah Palin schtick, too. Way to go Tina. And Baby Mama was pretty funny, great for an SNL-related movie.

Slumdog handily picks up best score, too. And it’s a good one, too.

Apparently Glenn Close is wearing the drapes a la Gone With the Wind, and Lawrence Fishburne ate all of Seth Rogen’s leftovers. Morpheus looks more like Idi Amin.

Going by Seth “Nutrisystem” Rogen and Giammati, muttonchop ’70s sideburns are in! And I just shaved my Lemmy ‘stache off. Damn you, Firecracker!

Paul Giamatti for John Adams; he did a great job, and I always like it when fat little men get awards.

Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock; Duchovny probably lost because he got too into the part and had to go for sex addiction counseling. Baldwin joked about humiliating and belittling his daughter. I guess his Glengarry Glen Ross performance wasn’t much of a stretch.

Slumdog Millionaire for best screenplay; the direction was what made it, and the screenwriter even said so. Let’s see if Boyle gets the win, too.

John Adams is grabbing a lot of TV awards; it was quite good but not great, sparse year for mini-series.

Waltz in Bashir gets best foreign language film as expected. Must see it.

Heath Ledger gets a well-deserved award for The Joker; wtf is Tom Cruise nominated for Tropic Thunder for? To show the couch-hopping vitamin pusher still has a sense of humor? Robert Downey Jr. at least got a nom, he was fantastic in Tropic Thunder.

Wall-E deservedly wins best animated. No contest.

Meryl Streep looks embarrassed to be nominated for Mamma Mia.

Don Cheadle really needs to grow back his hair. And facial hair. He looks like he’s made of play-doh.

Glad Sally Hawkins won a GG for Best Actress for Happy-Go-Lucky. I called it and haven’t written my review yet, but it’s one of the year’s best films, and shows that you don’t have to be dark to be deep.

Kate Winslet for The Reader- glad she finally got one, but haven’t seen this yet. Marisa Tomei was great in The Wrestler, but she’ll never be forgiven for winning an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny.

Happy New Year – When Harry Met Sally…

In which the age-old accusation of whether When Harry Met Sally rips off Annie Hall is discussed

Last night, I asked Firecracker what a good New Year’s movie was, and using her encyclopedic knowledge of rom-coms, she recalled that When Harry Met Sally… (the second movie I review this week to incorporate an ellipsis in the title) had integral scenes set on New Year’s Eve. So I fired up the Netflix instant-o-rama and we watched it. And amazingly, it’s held up really well.
I hadn’t seen it in ages; it’s one of those scripts that were peddled as a model for The Perfect Script to aspiring screenwriters in its day, and it does follow Ebert’s mantra of having 3 good scenes and no bad ones. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan meet in 1977, as they road trip from Chicago to NYC after college; they abhor each other, but over the years they keep meeting, eventually become friends- something Harry says men and women can’t really do- and of course, fall in love. Despite the serendipity of the plot it manages to be very believable, and the strong personalities of its leads are tempered by the excellent character acting of their best friends Marie and Jess (Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby).
For a long time I fell under the spell of a raging wanna-be screenwriter pal of mine who said that this movie was a mainstream ripoff of Woody Allen’s classic Annie Hall, and there are certainly some similarities. Woody has his own adages about relationships, the infamous “why do we put up with it? We need the juice” analogy to the joke about the woman who’s husband thinks he’s an orange. In this movie, Harry says women and men can’t be friends, because even if there’s no attraction, the guy wants to sleep with the gal. He’s quite the one-night stand cad, so it’s one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. Now, you might say it strains credibility that Billy Crystal can bag a date in NYC at will, but remember this was the late ’80s when professional women were first performing the schizoid juggling act of balancing career and family, with hormones and ambition at loggerheads. Once the clock ticked past 30, Cosmo was telling them they’d better fall back spreadeagled in Bryant Park and take the first breathing male that conjoined with her. Woody was also unlikely, but he must be a charming S.O.B. if you see his hit list. So it’s believable, but being a rich director helps.

She sure dresses like Annie…

Another similarity is the breaking of the fourth wall to interview old couples and ask how they met and how they stay together. In Annie Hall, it was always played for laughs- “We use a large vibrating egg.” In Sally… it is played for sentiment, and before IMDb we thought that these were real couples and not actors, that’s how sweet it was. Last night I noticed that one of the old wives was the #1 fan from The Running Man who says Arnie is a bad motherfucker, so there goes that. The interludes are quite successful, and break up the episodic nature of the movie very well.

Marshall McLuhan breaking the fourth wall.

Both movies are very funny, with Annie being the pinnacle of Woody melding his brand of absurd comedy from Take the Money and Run and his clever relationship commentary from fare such as Manhattan, and Sally is what catapulted Reiner from that guy who did Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride to a comic director superstar. It was also Nora Ephron’s first dip into the rom-com well, having written the solid drama Silkwood previously; now it seems like all she does is update classics, which is unfortunate. The IMDb trivia tells me that Harry and Sally are loosely based on Reiner and Ephron themselves, and that’s probably why this is one of the best “unlikely couples get together” rom-coms, because the characters are built on so solid a foundation.

Two great character actors.

It also takes two actors I can take or leave- Billy Crystal post-Comic Relief, when he, Whoopi and Robin Williams decided that being funny wasn’t enough, and they had to educate people about issues in their films- and Meg Ryan, who I can barely stand except in Joe Versus the Volcano. Personally, I think this is her best role. She plays it very naturally, just as Crystal tones his schtick down to a minimum, except for the “please partake of my pecan pie” ad-lib in the museum. Maybe seeing real actors like Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher- who can take any line and make it work- rubbed off on these two stars. Whatever it was, it worked. They’re the perfect foils for happy-go-lucky, I know-what-I-want Sally and the talkative, self-assured but easily depressed Harry.

Oops spoilerz

You can’t discuss this movie without mentioning its most famous line- “You made a woman meow?” Just kidding. Of course, it’s “I’ll have what she’s having,” after Sally fakes a very loud orgasm in Katz’s Deli. Having eaten there, I thought she was just exalting their incredible hot pastrami sandwich, but she’s proving to Harry that he probably can’t tell when a woman is faking. After hearing his relationship mantras for half the film, it’s refreshing to see him put in his place. Meg Ryan suggested that she act it out; the line however, was Crystal’s idea, so they can share the credit.

Go to Katz’s, you’ll make noises like this.

This is one of those movies that’s played endlessly on basic cable in cut form, so if you haven’t seen it on DVD I highly suggest you do so. There are a few minor cuts that make a big difference. So, is it a ripoff? I don’t think so. More a homage; they meet in ’77, the year Annie Hall came out; Sally dresses like Annie in one scene. I don’t think it was coincidence. It doesn’t take anything away from Annie Hall, which is still a groundbreaking comedy, and most rom-coms since do stand on its shoulders. Watch it next New Year’s Eve, if you’ve got someone to kiss.

Rob Reiner would go on to make North, one of the worst movies Roger Ebert ever reviewed and one of his most entertaining reviews. Go read it. Woody Allen would go on to make How to Sleep with Your Adopted Daughter and Be a Creepy Old Bastard Making the Same Kind of Movies Over and Over with the Occasional British Suspense Film. Katz’s would continue to make the best pastrami and corned beef in the city, by a longshot.