Playing Catch Up With The Films of 2016: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (dir by Glenn Ficara and John Requa)


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Some day, someone will get around to making the ultimate Tina Fey movie, which will basically just be 4 and a half hours of people talking about how much they love Tina Fey while Tina makes silly faces in the background.  Until that day comes, viewers will just have to settle for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Tina Fey plays Tina Fey playing real-life journalist, Kim Baker.  When the film starts, Kim accepts an assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan.  Though she starts out as neurotic and intimidated, Kim soon steps up and emerges as a passionate and committed journalist, one who is dedicated to revealing the truth — both good and bad — about what’s happening in Afghanistan.  Helping her along the way is a BBC reporter, Tanya Vanderpool (Margot Robbie) and a Scottish photographer named Iain (Martin Freeman).  Iain and Kim may be attracted to one another but Kim has a boyfriend (Josh Charles) back in New York.  How long do you think it takes for Kim to catch her boyfriend cheating via Skype?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is one of those movies that you just know was made to be an Oscar contender.  Not only does it deal with a big important subject but it stars a popular performer in a change-of-pace role.  Except, of course, it’s not really that much of a change-of-pace.  Tina Fey’s a good actress but you never forget that you’re watching Tina Fey.  You never think to yourself, “Kim is caught in the middle of a firefight” or “Kim is getting addicted to the rush of being a war zone.”  Instead, you think, “Any minute now, Tina Fey’s going to start shooting a gun and it’s going to be funny because she’s Tina Fey.”  Towards the end of the film, when a U.S. soldier who has lost his legs tells Kim to never stop trying to tell the people the truth about what’s happening in Afghanistan, you don’t think, “Don’t give up, Kim!”  Instead you think, “Wow — so that soldier lost his legs so that Tina Fey could have an Oscar moment.”

If I haven’t already made it clear, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an extremely uneven film, one that never seems to be sure if it wants to be a relationship comedy, a media satire, or a serious look at the realities of war.  The film works best when it concentrates on the friendship between Tanya and Kim and it’s nice to see a film about two women who are colleagues and friends.  When Tanya first showed up, I was worried that the film would devolve into one of those “Women can’t work together” diatribes or that Tanya would immediately be set up as some sort of mean girl rival for Iain.  Instead, the film explores how women support each other through even the most difficult of circumstances.  But then there’s other scenes that just don’t work as well, like the scenes with Alfred Molina as an Afghan politician who has a crush on Kim.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has its moment but ultimately its too uneven to be of much consequence.

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Mini-Reviews: Amy, Gloria, Pitch Perfect 2, Sisters, Spy, Trainwreck


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Amy (dir by Asif Kapadia)

Amy opens with brilliant and, in its way, heartbreaking footage of a 14 year-old Amy Winehouse and a friend singing Happy Birthday at a party.  Even though she’s singing deliberately off-key and going over-the-top (as we all tend to do when we sing Happy Birthday), you can tell that Amy was a star from the beginning.  She’s obviously enjoying performing and being the center of attention and, try as you might, it’s impossible not to contrast the joy of her Happy Birthday with the sadness of her later life.

A star whose music touched millions (including me), Amy Winehouse was ultimately betrayed by a world that both wanted to take advantage of her talent and to revel in her subsequent notoriety.  It’s often said the Amy was self-destructive but, if anything, the world conspired to destroy her.  By focusing on footage of Amy both in public and private and eschewing the usual “talking head” format of most documentaries, Amy pays tribute to both Amy Winehouse and reminds us of what a great talent we all lost in 2011.

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Gloria (dir by Christian Keller)

The Mexican film Gloria is a musical biopic of Gloria Trevi (played by Sofia Espinosa), a singer whose subversive songs and sexual image made her a superstar in Latin America and challenged the conventional morality of Catholic-dominated establishment.  Her manager and lover was the controversial Sergio Andrade (Marco Perez).  The movie follows Gloria from her first audition for the manipulative Sergio to her arrest (along with Sergio) on charges of corrupting minors.  It’s an interesting and still controversial story and Gloria tells it well, with Espinosa and Perez both giving excellent performances.

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Pitch Perfect 2 (dir by Elizabeth Banks)

The Bellas are back!  As I think I’ve mentioned a few times on this site, I really loved the first Pitch Perfect.  In fact, I loved it so much that I was a bit concerned about the sequel.  After all, sequels are never as good as the original and I was dreading the idea of the legacy of the first film being tarnished.

But the sequel actually works pretty well.  It’s a bit more cartoonish than the first film.  After three years at reigning ICCA champions, the Bellas are expelled from competition after Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) accidentally flashes the President.  The only way for the Bellas to get the suspension lifted is to win the World Championship of A Capella.  The plot, to be honest, really isn’t that important.  You’re watching the film for the music and the interplay of the Bellas and, on those two counts, the film totally delivers.

It should be noted that Elizabeth Banks had a great 2015.  Not only did she give a great performance in Love & Mercy but she also made a respectable feature directing debut with Pitch Perfect 2.

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Sisters (dir by Jason Moore)

It’s interesting how opinions can change.  For the longest time, I really liked Tina Fey and I thought that Amy Poehler was kind of overrated.  But, over the past two years, I’ve changed my opinion.  Now, I like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey kind of gets on my nerves.  The best way that I can explain it is to say that Tina Fey just seems like the type who would judge me for wearing a short skirt and that would get old quickly, seeing as how I happen to like showing off my legs.

Anyway, in Sisters, Tina and Amy play sisters!  (Shocking, I know.)  Amy is the responsible one who has just gotten a divorce and who wants to make everyone’s life better.  Tina is the irresponsible one who refuses to accept that she’s no longer a teenager.  When their parents announce that they’re selling the house where they grew up, Amy and Tina decide to throw one last party.  Complications ensue.

I actually had two very different reactions to Sisters.  On the one hand, as a self-declared film critic, it was easy for me to spot the obvious flaw with Sisters.  Tina and Amy should have switched roles because Tina Fey is simply not believable as someone who lives to have fun.  Sometimes, it’s smart to cast against type but it really doesn’t work here.

However, as the youngest of four sisters, there was a lot of Sisters that I related to.  I saw Sisters with my sister, the Dazzling Erin, and even if the film did not work overall, there were still a lot of little scenes that made us smile and go, “That’s just like us.”  In fact, I think they should remake Sisters and they should let me and Erin star in it.

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Spy (dir by Paul Feig)

There were a lot of very good spy films released in 2015 and SPECTRE was not one of them.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am with the latest Bond film.  It’s not so much that SPECTRE was terrible as there just wasn’t anything particular memorable about it.  When we watch a film about secret agents saving the world, we expect at least a few memorable lines and performances.

Now, if you want to see a memorable spy movie, I suggest seeing Spy.  Not only is Spy one of the funniest movies of the year, it’s also a pretty good espionage film.  Director Paul Feig manages to strike the perfect balance between humor and action.  One of the joys of seeing CIA employee Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) finally get to enter the field and do spy stuff is the fact that there are real stakes involved.  Susan is not only saving the world but, in the film’s best scenes, she’s having a lot of fun doing it and, for that matter, McCarthy is obviously having a lot of fun playing Susan and those of us in the audience are having a lot of fun watching as well.

Spy also features Jason Statham as a more traditional action hero.  Statham is hilarious as he sends up his own macho image.  Seriously, who would have guessed that he could such a funny actor?  Here’s hoping that he, McCarthy, and Feig will all return for the inevitable sequel.

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Trainwreck (dir by Judd Apatow)

There’s a lot of great things that can be said about Trainwreck.  Not only was it the funniest film of 2015 but it also announced to the world that Amy Schumer’s a star.  It was a romantic comedy for the 21st Century, one that defied all of the conventional BS about what has to happen in a romcom.  This a film for all of us because, let’s just be honest here, we’ve all been a trainwreck at some point in our life.

But for me, the heart of the film was truly to be found in the relationship between Amy and her younger sister, Kim (Brie Larson).  Whether fighting over what to do with their irresponsible father (Colin Quinn) or insulting each other’s life choices, their relationship is the strongest part of the film.  If Brie Larson wasn’t already guaranteed an Oscar nomination for Room, I’d demand that she get one for Trainwreck.  For that matter, Amy Schumer deserves one as well.

Seriously, it’s about time the trainwrecks of the world had a film that we could truly call our own.

Mad Max: Fury Road dominates the 21st Annual Critics Choice Nominations!


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It’s been a busy few days as far as the Oscar precursors are concerned.  Let’s see how quickly I can get us caught up.  First off, the 21st Annual Critics Choice nominations were announced yesterday and Mad Max: Fury Road totally dominated them!

And you know what that means — its time to say that the Critics Choice nominations are …. MAD ABOUT MAX!

Anyway, here are the nominations!

BEST PICTURE
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn

Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Sicario
Spotlight

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Johnny Depp – Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation
RJ Cyler – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Shameik Moore – Dope
Milo Parker – Mr. Holmes
Jacob Tremblay – Room

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Big Short
The Hateful Eight
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton
Trumbo

BEST DIRECTOR
Todd Haynes – Carol
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott – The Martian
Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen – Bridge of Spies
Alex Garland – Ex Machina
Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley – Inside Out
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay – The Big Short
Nick Hornby – Brooklyn
Drew Goddard – The Martian
Emma Donoghue – Room
Aaron Sorkin – Steve Jobs

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Carol – Ed Lachman
The Hateful Eight – Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
The Martian – Dariusz Wolski
The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
Sicario – Roger Deakins

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Bridge of Spies – Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo
Brooklyn – François Séguin, Jennifer Oman and Louise Tremblay
Carol – Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
The Danish Girl – Eve Stewart, Michael Standish
Mad Max: Fury Road – Colin Gibson
The Martian – Arthur Max, Celia Bobak

BEST EDITING
The Big Short – Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road – Margaret Sixel
The Martian – Pietro Scalia
The Revenant – Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight – Tom McArdle

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Brooklyn – Odile Dicks-Mireaux
Carol – Sandy Powell
Cinderella – Sandy Powell
The Danish Girl – Paco Delgado
Mad Max: Fury Road – Jenny Beavan

BEST HAIR & MAKEUP
Black Mass
Carol
The Danish Girl
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
The Walk

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Furious 7
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Sicario

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Daniel Craig – Spectre
Tom Cruise – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Tom Hardy – Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris Pratt – Jurassic World
Paul Rudd – Ant-Man

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Emily Blunt – Sicario
Rebecca Ferguson – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Bryce Dallas Howard – Jurassic World
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST COMEDY
The Big Short
Inside Out
Joy
Sisters
Spy
Trainwreck

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Steve Carell – The Big Short
Robert De Niro – The Intern
Bill Hader – Trainwreck
Jason Statham – Spy

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Tina Fey – Sisters
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Melissa McCarthy – Spy
Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE
Ex Machina
It Follows
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Assassin
Goodnight Mommy
Mustang
The Second Mother
Son of Saul

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Amy
Cartel Land
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
He Named Me Malala
The Look of Silence
Where to Invade Next

BEST SONG
Fifty Shades of Grey – Love Me Like You Do
Furious 7 – See You Again
The Hunting Ground – Til It Happens To You
Love & Mercy – One Kind of Love
Spectre – Writing’s on the Wall
Youth – Simple Song #3

BEST SCORE
Carol – Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
The Revenant – Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto
Sicario – Johann Johannsson
Spotlight – Howard Shore

Shattered Politics #79: Man of the Year (dir by Barry Levinson)


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The 2006 comedy Man of the Year is a difficult film to review.  Some of that is because it’s not that interesting of a film.  It’s simplistic and predictable.  In fact, the only reason that I’m reviewing this film for Shattered Politics is because I needed an example of a bad, mainstream political film.

However, that’s not the only reason why it’s difficult to write about Man of the Year.  The bigger reason is that Man Of The Year stars Robin Williams and, in many ways, it’s typical of one of his later lesser films.  After his tragic death, it’s even harder to watch Robin Williams waste his talents in a bad film.

And, make no mistake about it, Man of the Year is a bad film.

Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs.  Dobbs, we are told, is the most famous political commentator in America.  Watching the film, it’s obvious that Dobbs is meant to be the film’s equivalent of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  However, the difference is that Stewart and Colbert are both obviously liberal whereas, from what little we see of Tom Dobbs show, Dobbs doesn’t appear to have any positions beyond the few vague platitudes that pass for political thinking in most mainstream films.  Dobbs is against special interests.  He’s against career politicians.  He’s against … well, he’s against everything that most people are against and for everything that most people are for.  About the closest that Tom Dobbs come to being edgy is when he makes a stupid joke about Pope Benedict being German.

Anyway, Dobbs is recruited to run for President and he manages to get on the ballot in 13 states!  And he’s even doing well because, apparently in this film’s version of reality, Catholic voters have no problem supporting someone who makes fun of Pope Benedict for being German.  And he’s even invited to take part in a presidential debate.  When asked his first question in the debate, Dobbs starts talking and, because he’s being played by Robin Williams, he doesn’t stop.  The debate spirals out-of-control.  Dobbs goes on and on about the state of America, all the while assuming weird accents and slipping in and out of different personalities.

“Oh my God,” I thought, “he’s had a nervous breakdown.”

Except, of course, he hasn’t.  And, since this is a movie, everyone in America loves his performance.  On election night, Tom Dobbs apparently wins all 13 of his states and he’s elected President!

Except, of course, he hasn’t been.  It turns out there was an error with the voting machines.  Eleanor Green (Laura Linney), who works at the company that built the machines, figures out what happened.  In order to keep her from revealing the truth, the company drugs her and attempts to destroy her credibility and…

Wait, this is a Robin Williams comedy, isn’t it?  Well, it is and it isn’t.  Half of the film is devoted to Tom Dobbs saying things that are supposed to be funny but the other half deals with Eleanor trying to expose a giant cover-up without getting killed.  Director Barry Levinson can’t seem to figure out whether his film is supposed to be an unfunny comedy or a boring drama.  So, he tries to do both and … well, taken by that criteria, the film actually works.  If Levinson set out to be unfunny and boring, he succeeded.

One of the biggest dangers of making a film about a comedian is that, for the film to work, you have to believe that people would actually find the comedian to be funny.  When the jokes aren’t funny, it doesn’t matter how many reaction shots of people laughing that you stuff into the film.  Man of the Year is full of reaction shots.  During the debate, we continually see Eleanor’s teenage son laughing.  (How many teenagers, other than the weird ones and the ones assigned to do so for homework, actually watch a presidential debate?)  During one particularly painful moment, Tom starts rambling while traveling on the campaign bus and we are subjected to countless reaction shots of Christopher Walken and Lewis Black laughing so hard that they look like they might faint from exhaustion.

The problem is that it’s rare that a few hundred people will all start laughing and stop laughing at the exact same time.  Whenever you listen to a truly good comedian, you always hear a few giggles that indicate that at least a few audience members are still thinking about the last joke or else that they’re anticipating the next joke.  Often times, when a comedian says something especially funny or unexpected, you don’t even hear laughter.  You might hear a gasp of shock.  You might hear tittering.  You might hear applause.  You might hear someone shouting like they’re at a sporting event.

What I’m saying is that everyone reacts to humor in their own individual way.  Everyone has a laugh of their very own.  Uniform laughter, like the laughter in Man of the Year, sounds fake because it is fake.

Add to that, nothing that Tom Dobbs says is particularly funny.

So, no — don’t watch Man of the Year.  Watch Dead Poets Society.  Watch Good Will Hunting or Awakenings.  You could even watch Cadillac Man!  But don’t watch Man of the Year.

A Few Thoughts On The 2015 Golden Globes!


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So, normally, this where I’d make a few disparaging remarks about the nature of celebrity in American society and also a few jokes about how my boobs are the real golden globes.  But I’m not going to do that.  (Or, at the very least, I’m not going to do that right now.)  At this moment, as I think back on the Golden Globes, I am too excited to be snarky.

This was a historic night.

For perhaps the first time in Golden Globe history, both of the winnings films — The Grand Budapest Hotel for comedy and Boyhood for drama — were directed by native Texans.  Richard Linklater grew up around Houston and lives in Austin.  Meanwhile, Wes Anderson was raised in Dallas and, along with Owen and Luke Wilson, attended St. Mark’s!

That’s right, America.

Two great films won tonight and you have my homestate to thank for both of them.

Take that, Vermont!

(Just kidding, Vermont.  I remember how sensitive people are up there.)

(Because, God forbid, there should ever be a moment when anyone dares joke about a state north of West Virginia.)

(Love you, mean it.)

It was a good night.  Not only were my fellow Texans honored but so were my fellow redheads.  Amy Adams won Best Actress (Comedy) for Big Eyes.  Julianne Moore won Best Actress (Drama) for Still Alice.  I have yet to see either one of those films so I can’t really say much about either performance but, for me, it doesn’t matter.  After spending years of having to deal with the rampant anti-redhead prejudice that runs through this society, it was good to finally to see some of my flame-haired sisters getting some recognition.

In other news, Michael Keaton won for Best Actor (Comedy) for Birdman and he gave a speech that nearly made me cry.  Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood and gave a speech that did make me cry.  And then Amy Adams gave her acceptance speech and it was so heartfelt and eloquent that it should be the speech by which all future speeches are judged.  Before any of those three won, J.K. Simmons picked up Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Whiplash and he gave an acceptance speech that left me amazed that such an intimidating actor could also be such a nice guy.

In many ways, it was a great night.

And then, in some other ways, it most definitely was not a great night.

For the most part, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler seemed to just be going through the motions, secure in the knowledge that people would laugh and applaud regardless of what they actually said because, at this point, people feel obligated to do so. However, good for them for calling out Bill Cosby on his bullshit and saying what everyone knows is true.

I was not a fan of Margaret Cho’s North Korean observer.  Not only was it offensive but it was a bit hypocritical as well.  This is an industry that, up until three weeks ago, was terrified of North Korea, to the extent that they were even willing to shut down movies to avoid offending a dictator who is a legitimate contender for the title of Worst Living Human Being.  However, the Alamo Drafthouse — a Texas theater, I might add — had the guts to show The Interview, the world did not end, and now suddenly Hollywood wants credit for standing up to North Korea.

Of course, the main reason that the film industry is willing to make fun of North Korea is because there’s no money to be made there.  The people who are patting themselves on the back for “standing up” to North Korea are probably the same people who rationalize doing business with equally oppressive but far more financially lucrative regimes across the world.

Finally, I guess my main problem with the Golden Globes this year is that it just wasn’t the type of train wreck that we’ve come to expect from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  All of the presenters (except for Ricky Gervais) appeared to be sober.  Only one winner had to have his speech censored.  (A lot of people on twitter loved Kevin Spacey’s acceptance speech.  I thought it came across as being calculating and manipulative — which, I guess, is one reason why Spacey makes for such a convincing Frank Underwood.)  Everyone was on their best behavior.

And I can understand that.  With the murders in Paris and the worldwide attacks on free speech, this was perhaps the time for everyone to be serious.  But, still, I wanted to see just one thoroughly incoherent speech.  That’s what we watch the Golden Globes for, isn’t it?

So, ultimately, a mixed review for the Golden Globes.  Ultimately, though, it was a good night for Texas filmmakers so I’m happy.

Add to that, it gave me my annual excuse to arch my back and declare, “I’ll show you a pair of golden globes!”

It was a good night.

Finally — Some Oscar News!


Finally, I have some concrete, nonspeculative, 100% verified Oscar news to share with y’all!

Yesterday, it was announced that the host of next year’s ceremony will be …. Neil Patrick Harris!

Now, that news isn’t really shocking or surprising.  Neil Patrick Harris has been hosting everything lately.  He’s hosted the Tonys.  He’s hosted the Emmys.  It’s about time that he got a chance to host the Oscars.

I have to admit that I think it’s a little bit silly the amount of importance that some commentators put on who exactly is going to host the ceremony.  Usually, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference.  Seth McFarlane was criticized when he hosted.  Ellen DeGeneres was acclaimed.  But ultimately, did either one of them really make a difference?  It all comes down to what the winners are wearing, what they say in their speeches, and whether or not there are any surprises or upsets.  The host is just kind of there.

(I mean, Ellen did a good job and all but oh my God, did I ever get sick of every group on the planet trying to do their own version of the Oscar selfie….)

I know some of my friends were hoping that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would host the Oscars.  Honestly, though, both Tina and Amy have lately started to remind me of the type of girls in high school who would judge you for wearing a short skirt.  There’s a certain tyranny of thought right now that says we have to love everything that Tina and Amy do but I personally think I’ll be much happier with Neil Patrick Harris.

And who knows?  Gone Girl could be an Oscar contender this year and, depending on how much the Academy actually embraces it, Harris could be both the host and a nominee, an accomplishment most recently achieved by James Franco.

Anyway, the main reason I’m happy about this news is because it means that Oscar season is here!  Soon, all of the Oscar films will have been seen and reviewed.  The critics groups will be voting.  The campaigns will be starting.

And it will officially be a good time to be alive…

"Take me to the Oscars!"

“Take me to the Oscars!”

 

Back to School #65: Mean Girls (dir by Daniel Waters)


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Mean Girls is a film that has a lot of nostalgic importance for me.  It came out when I was a senior in high school and it was the last film that I saw before I graduated.  So, for me, Mean Girls always brings back memories of the excitement of knowing that my “real” life was about begin.  When I watch it or think about it, I’m always transported back to that time when the future seemed limitless.  I knew I was going to go to college, I was going to meet the love of my life, and I was going to have a great time doing it.  Thoughts of Mean Girls transports me back to one of the most exciting times of my life and, for that reason, I like to think of it.

Add to that, Mean Girls happens to still be a pretty funny and perceptive movie.

One thing that I do always find interesting about films like Mean Girls and 10 Things I Hate About You is that, even though they may be critical of the traditions of high school, they all seem to be taking place in the type of idealized high school that we all wish that we could have attended.  These high schools are always huge with brightly colored walls and quick-witted students who never have a bad hair day.  The rich, popular kids are always so clever with the way that they express their disdain.  And even the outcasts are still pretty good-looking.  Even more importantly, the outcasts are always so sarcastic and political.  They don’t just accept their outcast status.  Instead, they spend all of their spare time plotting ways to overthrow the system.  Perhaps best of all, all of the various cliques have such clever nicknames.

From my experience, most public high schools aren’t actually like this.  Then again, I went to high school in Texas and most of these films were made in California so maybe it’s just a west coast thing.  The important thing about a film like Mean Girls is that, even though it takes place in a heightened reality, there’s still enough reality that anyone watching it can relate to the film’s story.

(It’s been my experience that even real life mean girls love Mean Girls, mostly because I think everyone assumes that in high school, they were one of the clever, sarcastic outcasts, regardless of whether they actually were.)

In Mean Girls, the popular clique is nicknamed the Plastics and they’re led by Regina George (Rachel McAdams).  New student Cady  (Lindsay Lohan) is the latest member of the clique but what the Plastics do not suspect is that Cady is actually an infiltrator who has been recruited by outcasts Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damien (Daniel Franzese) to take down the Plastics from the inside.  However, as Cady goes out of her way to destroy Regina’s reputation and turn the rest of the school against her, she soon discovers that she’s running the risk of becoming just as mean as Regina…

Mean Girls is a comedy but, at its center, there rests a very important message about the need for people to not … well, to not be mean.  That may seem like a simplistic message and I guess it is.  But it’s still a good message to get out.  The script by Tina Fey is both clever and funny, deftly mixing the message with the comedy.  Finally, the film has a great cast, with Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams as stand-outs and great supporting turns from Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, and Tim Meadows.

Thanks for the memories, Mean Girls!

Mean Girls