Thursday, February 26, 2009


What if I were to tell you about a mysterious house in which the only rule is that, once inside, you must phrase all speech in the form of a question?

Would you believe that if you failed to end your sentences with question marks, you would be instantly struck down by the Hand of God?

Could you conceive of living and working in such a house, tiptoeing through life in constant fear of facing God's wrath?

Could you... um... okay, this is a lot harder than it sounds -- which makes THE QUESTION HOUSE, the darkly-hilarious, award-winning play written by my friend (and DEATHLY HALLOWS midnight madness companion!), Tara Dairman, all the more impressive. I saw it last night as part of the FRIGID New York Festival, and I can honestly and unbiasedly say that it is 40 minutes of high entertainment.

Touching on themes of faith, the power of language and communication, and some good, old fashioned Jewish guilt, the play moves along at a brisk pace, with snappy writing that never feels gimmicky. You'll find yourself paying close attention to the dialogue, keeping tabs on all those inquiries, wondering who will slip up and how. The play features great characters, excellent acting, and as a bonus, perhaps the most clever use of Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" (not to mention the final chord of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life"... yeah, I caught that!) that I've ever heard.

If you're in NYC over the next week and a half and enjoy some damn fine thee-ay-ter every now and then, as I do, won't you check this one out? And wouldn't it behoove you to visit the official website -- -- for showtimes, location and all that necessary info? (Okay, I'll stop that now... or will I?)

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Hello, everybody, and welcome to my 4th annual Oscar commentary blog! The big night is finally upon us and it is time to see who will win what should be an epic battle between Hollywood, Bollywood, Gay Hollywood, the Nazis, and, um, the Ghost of Richard Nixon. Should be very interesting, and while I believe that SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE has the inside track on the major awards, but there is no 100% clear-cut favorite, and I would not be surprised to see the winners scattered all over the place as some nominees cancel each other out. That said, there are also a few that should be no-brainers. Mickey Rourke and Kate Winslet should be locks, and rightly so... and I’m sure that Heath Ledger has his posthumous Oscar in the bag... but wouldn’t it be something if someone else swooped in and pulled of an upset or two? I’m also very excited to see WALL-E, my #1 movie of the year, grab some gold -- Best Original Screenplay may be my most-anticipated award of the night for that reason. At the moment, I am watching some pre-show stuff on E! and getting myself psyched up -- as usual, I’ll be here with a running, moment-by-moment commentary throughout the night, starting with the E! Red Carpet Special at 6 p.m. This blog will be updated constantly, first during the Red Carpet show and then the Oscar telecast... so bookmark this page and check back often!


6:00 -- Okay, I think I've had just about of Debbie Matanopoulos and her band of merry pre-show idiots this year. Well, the Victoria's Secret lingerie segment was pretty good... though I could've done without the SLUMDOG-esque Bollywood dance sequence. Anyway, now it's time to join our old friend Flamin' Ryan Seacrest and see what there is to see on the Red Carpet!

6:02 -- AAAAAHHHH, it's that scary fish-faced woman! She will be haunting my nightmares for the rest of the year.

6:03 -- IT'S MILEY! Oh, and Nicole Ritchie is pregnant... la-dee-freakin'-da!

6:06 -- Here's the thing about the Jennifer Aniston vs. Angelina Jolie thing: Angelina is better than Jen in pretty much every possible way, from looks to acting ability, so why is it such a big deal? If I was Brad Pitt, I'd have chosen Angelina, too. Granted, I might've put my foot down about at least a couple of those kids. Still... those lips!

6:08 -- Once again... IT'S MILEY! I was actually surprised that she didn't get a nominated for her song from BOLT. Not that it was a great song... but still. Actually, nevermind, because this interview is amazingly insipid. ENOUGH!

6:18 -- Oh yeah, Hugh Jackman is hosting tonight. I actually liked Jon Stewart the last couple of years, but it'll be interesting to see someone new. Hugh is pretty cool so I think he'll do a good job.

6:21 -- Wow, according to the ticker at the bottom of the screen, Cate Blanchett has starred in SEVEN Best Picture nominees since 1998. That's crazy! And understandable, since she rules.

6:23 -- Ah, the SLUMDOG cast has arrived. Wouldn't have minded seeing Dev Patel snag a Best Oscar nom, maybe instead of Brad Pitt, since BENJAMIN BUTTON is a bloated piece of shite. I imagine BUTTON will win some technical awards for makeup and such, but if it gets a single major award, I will be pissed.

6:28 -- Yeah, all of a sudden I'm hearing about some buzz for Sean Penn for Best Actor. Eh... in any other year, that would not be a bad thing at all, but this year, it's GOTTA be Mickey Rourke. Or at the very least, Frank Langella. On the other hand, if Kate doesn't win Best Actress, there is truly no justice in this world (with all due respect to the great Streep).

6:30 -- What the hell is going on with Miley, Zac Ephron, Vanessa Hudgens and whoever else? A performance or something? Why?

6:36 -- WHOA! Kevin Kline is married to Phoebe Cates?!? That is wild. I wonder how often he gets her to wear the bikini from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH? Looks like she could still make it work. Nice!

6:37 -- Hey, there's Richard Jenkins, one of this year's longtime character actors to finally get some Oscar love. He was very good in THE VISITOR, and Melissa Leo was even better in FROZEN RIVER.

6:38 -- AMY ADAMS! Oh man, my girl is looking nice in that red dress and funky big necklace. Though, really, she could wear a bunch of old newspapers and still look super cute. Love her!

6:44 -- By the way, special shout-out to my friend Jenn, who is at the Oscars RIGHT NOW, probably getting ready for her role as a seat-filler! That means she could potentially get to sit next to, say, Jack Nicholson in the front row... in which case, she'd better be on her toes, 'cause you know how Jack can get! Jenn is wearing a navy blue dress and I will be keeping my eyes open for her throughout the show.

6:45 -- Man, these SLUMDOG kids are cute as hell. I hope everyone realizes that the reason that movie received no acting nominees is because there were really THREE actors for each major character, and you couldn't very well nominate them all! And that's why the SAG award for Best Ensemble exists.

6:48 -- Whoa, why does Melissa Leo's dress match her hair? She looks like a naked Simpson.

6:49 -- I've been complaining about Viola Davis getting nominated even though she has very little screen time... but it turns out that Michael Shannon in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD has even less! Somehow, his performance seems so much more potent, and thus, longer. Though neither of them should win, so it's a moot point.

6:51 -- The action is fast and furious now... and it's almost all SLUMDOG right now, as the cast has pretty much taken over the Red Carpet. Perhaps that is symbolic of what will happen during the big show!

6:55 -- Jeez, I can hear the teenyboppers squealing for Robert Pattinson from here. SQUEEE!

6:59 -- Tons of random celebs popping up on screen now... man, who the hell is Michael Sheen's date? Not too shabby, Mr. Frost!

7:01 -- Hey, it's three-time Oscar nominee Marisa Tomei! That sounds so weird to say... but maybe it shouldn't! She is damn good when she wants to be, and I think she will win her second Oscar tonight!

7:03 -- God I love Amy Adams. That is all.

7:09 -- Can't believe that the chick from MAMMA MIA! is the chick from MEAN GIRLS... you know, the one whose breasts can tell when it's raining. If only it was raining right now!

7:11 -- Seth Rogen is pretty cool... but Mickey Rourke is the very definition of coolness in his white suit. Sarah Jessica Parker, on the other hand, looks more horse-like than ever.

7:12 -- I wish they would show me on the Glamastrator right now. Wonder what they would say about my JUNO t-shirt, champagne bottle PJ pants and white socks?

7:13 -- Wait a minute, is Amanda Sigfried retarded? Though she's going to be in a movie with Megan Fox, written by Diablo Cody, so it's all good.

7:14 -- AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS! Just keep showing her in the inset box throughout the night, and I'll be a happy man no matter what happens with the awards.

7:15 -- Holy shit, Amy Adams played the Sarah Michelle Gellar role in CRUEL INTENTIONS 2?? That is unbelieveable. TO NETFLIX IT GOES!

7:17 -- Well, I'm glad that Natalie Portman reportedly turned down the role in DOUBT that garnered Amy Adams an Oscar nomination, because if she had taken it, it would have sucked. Because unless she's rapping on an SNL Digital Short, Natalie Portman sucks. Yeah, I said it!

7:19 -- Seth Rogen, yeah! Just saw the trailer for Judd Apatow's next film. FUNNY PEOPLE, starring Seth and Adam Sandler... looks pretty good. And speak of the devil, there's Natalie Portman looking pretty in pink, or fuschia or something (hey, she may be a crappy actress, but she's got it where it counts).

7:20 -- Note to the fish-faced host lady: "Gorgeousness" is not a very impressive word. Also, you're a freak.

7:27 -- Seems like Ryan and Marisa are dancing around the fact that she spends half of THE WRESTLER completely nude. Like, he was hoping that she would mention it so he could talk about it... but she didn't, because she's probably sick of talking about it.

7:28 -- I think Mickey Rourke is probably tempted to snap Ryan Seacrest in two and then clear his nostrils on his broken corpse. Also, he has no idea what will come out of his mouth if he wins... please, God, let that happen! Seriously, though, Mickey's dog dying may be the saddest side story to this Academy Awards. :(

7:29 -- My girlfriend (and Oscar-watching companion) Rachel's commentary on Meryl Streep: "She's not an Amazon, exactly, but she's a sturdy woman!" Aww yeah!

7:30 -- I always forget that Josh Brolin is married to Diane Lane. That's a cool couple.

7:31 -- GET OFF THE PHONE, JESSICA BIEL! "She hasn't been in a movie in like 10 years," Rachel says. And that, in my opinion, is a shame. Meanwhile, Evan Rachel Wood is kind of scary-looking. That's what she gets for shtupping Mickey! I also agree that Anne Hathaway is the hotness.

7:34 -- Okay, Ryan Seacrest just upped his coolness quotient tenfold by asking Ron Howard about the status of the planned ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT movie. Can't wait for that!

7:35 -- Oh man, Marion Cotillard. After seeing her at the Oscars last year, I added a slew of her movies to my Netflix. They weren't that great, but she was just ridiculously hot.

7:38 -- Heeeeeeere's Brangelina, both of whom are nominated for Oscars tonight, and neither of whom has a snowball's chance in hell of winning. But damn are they good looking!

7:40 -- Hehe, I like that commercial for Dunkin' Donuts coffee. I LOVE IT, TOO!

7:42 -- I tell ya, I used to hate Penelope Cruz, but in recent years, I have completely changed my tune -- she is a great actress, and I wouldn't mind seeing her win tonight.

7:43 -- At last, KATE WINSLET is here! This may not be her best dress choice ever, but she is still the epitome of Hollywood glamour. LOVE HER, and can't wait till she wins her first Oscar tonight!

7:50 -- Thanks to Rachel for mixing me a nice stiff martini as the Red Carpet madness winds down! But I think I may need a couple more of these to purge my mind of the memory of scary Tilda Swinton... yikes!

7:51 -- KATE KATE KATE! Oh God, I love hearing her talk. Can't wait for her next film, "Kate Winslet Reads the Phone Book." I'm there for the midnight show, baby!

7:54 -- This worthless E! host's favorite movie of the year is BENJAMIN BUTTON... sigh. Such a waste of 13 nominations that could've gone to any number of far more deserving films.

7:58 -- Okay, looks like E!'s Red Carpet coverage is now over, so I'm going to take a half-hour break and switch over the ABC for the network telecast, featuring Tim Gunn, who Rachel has referred to as her "gay uncle," hehe. But first! Robert Downey Jr., yes! Goddamn it would be awesome if he eked out a Best Supporting Actor win... even though it might cause a riot amongst the Heath Ledger fan base. Anyway... I'll be back at 8:30 for the big show, so stay tuned!!!


8:30 --Aaaaaand here we go! The stage looks glitzy as hell, and here comes Hugh Jackman! Let's see what this Aussie stage star has in store for us. Woo, range! Woo, Kate and Robert Downey, Jr.! Oh man, recession cutbacks... but Hugh is gonna do an opening number, anyway!

8:33 -- I get a feeling that Kate is going to get a lot of ribbing in that front-row seat tonight. Hahaha, the Craigslist dancers! Hey, THE DARK KNIGHT did get 8 nominations (just nothing, y'know, important).

8:35 -- Hehe, Hugh enlists Anne Hathaway for this FROST/NIXON spoof! "Do you really wanna do this, Jackman?" Okay, Anne just skyrocketed up the coolness scale. "Why is your upper lip so sweaty?" "Is it?" "Yes, but I like it!" ME TOO!

8:37 -- This Sprockets-esque interpretation of THE READER may be the greatest thing I've ever seen. "I am Hugh Jackman... I'm WOLVERIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!" AWESOME OPENING! Billy Crystal, eat your heart out!

8:39 -- I like this crowd interaction thing that Hugh has going. Fifteen nominations for Meryl Streep, and when someone puts up numbers like that, it's hard not to think "steroids"... haha!

8:41 -- This Supporting Actress winner montage is kind of weird. I guess they'll be doing this for every category tonight? Holy crap, various winners are here to present the award? This is the big surprise that everyone has been talking about. Well, all right! That's quite a motley crew. Viola Davis' performance was short but potent, but should not win. Penelope Cruz was amazing and stole every scene she was in, which is no easy task when Scarlett was in a lot of those scenes. "It's not easy being a nun," Whoopi says. Well, I'd pick Amy Adams' nun over Whoopi's anyday! Wouldn't mind seeing her win, but I don't see it happening. YOWZA, Goldie Hawn's boobs are all over the place! Taraji P. Henson is a cutie but that movie is undeserving in every way, so no. Which brings us to my & Rachel's (and George Costanza's) pick, three-time Oscar nominee Marisa Tomei! And the Oscar goes to.......... PENELOPE CRUZ! Muy bueno! "Has anybody ever fainted here?" Ha! Um, now she's getting all sentimental, and Rachel is crying. And now I can't understand a word. But I like it!

8:53 -- Steve Martin and Tina Fey! That's a good combo of funniness. "It has been said that to write to live forever." "The man who said that... is dead." Oh man, nice rip on Scientology! Tom Cruise is going to sue the Oscars for that one. And now it's time for Best Original Screenplay! FROZEN RIVER was taut and sad... HAPPY-GO-LUCKY was effervescent as hell... IN BRUGES was foul-mouthed and hilarious... MILK was a big message film... and WALL-E was nothing short of the best, most emotional, funniest and moving film of the year. Aaaaand MILK wins. I'm okay with this because it was a great film, but man... can we please start giving some mainstream love to animated films that are far superior to their live-action counterparts?? By the way, this could also mean that MILK is poised to clean up tonight. We shall see!

8:59 -- Adapted Screenplay time! But not before Steve orders Tina to NOT fall in love with him, hehe. Oh God, fuck BEN BUTTON. DOUBT has a shot here, because it is dialogue-driven, and the dialogue is damn good. FROST/NIXON is the same way, but more cliched and not quite as powerful. THE READER is going to get overshadowed across the board, and then there's SLUMDOG, which should win. And the Oscar goes to....... SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE! So it begins! And finally, Rachel and I both get one right!

9:03 -- UH-OH, Jennifer Aniston is there, with Brangelina just a few feet in front of her! FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! Hehe, I like Jack Black's animation strategy (YEAH PIXAR!). 2008 movie yearbook, eh? WALL-E, of course, has to be there because it is the best movie of any kind this year. KUNG FU PANDA was quite good... didn't see MADAGASCAR or that Space Chimp movie (do you think any of those chimps got shot by the police?). HORTON HEARS A WHO... uhh, there weren't really that many animated films this year, come to think of it. Oh yeah, DESPEREAUX... BOLT was good... what the hell, no CLONE WARS?? I know it sucked, but come on! Wait, Rachel tells me they did show it... okay then.

9:06 -- Best Animated Feature! There is no contest here. The Oscar goes to..... WALL-E!!! Probably the biggest no-brainer this year. YAY! And now, Animated Short Film, the nominees of which I actually saw for the first time ever! Not that it matters, since I'm still going with PRESTO. But if by chance it doesn't win, I'm pulling for THIS WAY UP, which was hilarious. And the Oscar goes to... LA MAISON EN PETITS CUBES! That's a surprise! But not an undeserved one, as that film was beautiful and emotional and ... wait a minute, did that guy just say, "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto?" Now that's funny!

9:15 -- Sarah Jessica Parker's boobs and James Bond are here to talk about what appears to be Art Direction. Some good choices here... but I'm going for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, which looked pretty amazing, in a more subtle way than the others. Ah crap, and the Oscar goes to BENJAMIN BUTTON, the first of what will likely be a slew of technical awards for that film, which may have been pretty to look at, but as the saying goes, you can't polish a turd!

9:19 -- Costume Design time! I picked REVOLUTIONARY ROAD for this one, too, but I can practically guarantee that it will not win. The lack of love for that fantastic film is absolutely dumbfounding. Aaaaand THE DUCHESS wins... well that's not really fair... Keira Knightley in an old English period piece is like money in the bag. Not a great movie, but it was definitely well-dressed.

9:23 -- Moving right along, here comes Best Makeup! Okay, this time, I actually am voting for BENJAMIN BUTTON, because let's face it, that was some damn good makeup work. On the other hand... that Joker makeup has become pretty iconic. And the Oscar goes to... BUTTON, of course. Enjoy the one award you actually deserve, turd movie! Meanwhile, Rachel just announced that she wouldn't mind looking at Daniel Craig in Playgirl magazine. I can't compete with that!!!

9:25 -- SQUEEEEE, IT'S THE TWILIGHT GUY, and, uh, the MAMMA MIA/MEAN GIRLS girl. What the hell are they talking about, love stories? Oh, a 2008 montage about love stories. Funny that they showed REVOLUTIONARY ROAD first, since it was about the deterioration of love... but WALL-E, SLUMDOG, WRESTLER, NICK & NORAH... aw man, just keep showing WALL-E and that, like love itself, is all you need.

9:31 -- A bottle of wine has been cracked on my end, and Ben Stiller is doing his best Joaquin Phoenix impression on the show, while Natalie Portman probably looks better than she ever has. Hehe, Joaquin Phoenix is such a tool. "You look like you work at a Hasidic meth lab," hehe. Oh yeah, Cinematography. I'm picking SLUMDOG for this one, but I wouldn't be surprised to see THE DARK KNIGHT swoop in and snag one, because it looked damn good in IMAX. Hehe, what the hell is Ben Stiller doing? This rules. As Rachel just pointed out, you forget about how Funny he is sometimes. Case in point: TROPIC THUNDER, which ruled. Anyway, the Oscar goes to... SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE! Yay. By the way, I have now gotten a pretty pathetic 3 of 9 awards right. Stupid Academy!

9:39 -- I always think it's funny how they get a new hottie to present the Technical awards every year, to provide the geeks with some post-show spank material. This year, it's Jessica Biel, who will do the job just fine, thanks. (Oh, hi Rachel!)

9:42 -- Hehe, Seth Rogen and James Franco run through the Oscar nominees, stoner-style! Hehe, their rendition of "Dancing Queen" is the best... "Orlando Bloom's dad in Pirates of the Carribean!" HAHA, James Franco in MILK putting the moves on Seth. Stapling dollars to one's face is hardcore! Can Seth make the Oscar into a pipe? I hope so! Good stuff from The Apatow Crew.

9:45 -- Rachel says, "James Franco? I would have sex with him." I would not, but I do think it's funny that they keep saying, "DP." Hehe... hey, this wine is working! Oooh, Live Action Short! I saw all these, too, because I am cool. I'm rooting for NEW BOY from Ireland, but THE PIG featured one of my favorite characters of the year in Asbjørn Jensen. And the winner is... the Nazi film, TOYLAND! No fair! Interesting, though... could that possibly bode well for THE READER later??

9:52 -- Hugh Jackman is back with another musical/dance number. He has been doing a hell of a job so far, I must say. Ooh, check out Beyonce, looking as sparkly as she is bootylicious. Okay, so this is a tribute to musical movies. Now they're joined by Amanda Siegfried and Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Ephron and all those kids. This was a pretty cool dance number, but wait, no Miley? Sacrilege! Ooh, that whole thing was put together by Baz Lurhmann... nice!

10:01 -- Looks like we've got ourselves a Supporting Actor montage here. I saw Jack Palance doing the one-handed pushups, which may have been the funniest Oscar moment ever. Heh, man, this is a bizarre lineup of past winners here... but man, get Cuba Gooding Jr. out of there. Tremendous selection of nominees here. You can never count out the amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman. Rachel is voting for Josh Brolin, arguably the strongest performance in MILK. And the black man presents the white man portraying a black man... okay. Heh, the brothers don't need the work... CUBA GOODING, specifically, needs the work! Oh man, Walken. This Oscar telecast needs more cowbell! Michael Shannon was potent as hell in his 8 minutes of screen time. And Kevin Kline introduces the late Heath Ledger, who is so obviously going to win, they may as well have buried him with an Oscar. (Uhh... too soon?) And the Oscar goes to...... HEATH LEDGER. Aw man, his family is accepting. This is gonna be sad.... yep, I was right, because even Brad Pitt is teary-eyed. Seriously though, emotional moment.

10:12 -- Jeez, I was so caught up in the Ledger moment that I didn't even realize they'd begun running through the Documentary Feature nominees. I saw two of these, and I'm going for MAN ON WIRE, which was sensational, and a record of something that we will never, ever see happen again in this post-9/11 society. Uhh, shut the fuck up, Bill Maher, this isn't about you! That "religion movie that didn't got nominated" wasn't good enough to even mention at the Oscars, let alone right after Heath Ledger's moment. Motherfucker. Anyway... the Documentary Oscar goes to...... MAN ON WIRE, yeah! Oh man, the dude is actually there! Awesome. This guy rules! Everyone needs to watch this movie, seriously.

10:17 -- Documentary Short Subject now. No idea about any of these. Rachel is going for THE FINAL INCH because the title was reminiscent of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. I'm picking this WITNESS FROM THE BALCONY thing. And the winner is, uh, SMILE PINKI? Okay, congrats, toothy red dressed chick! Next year, I am gonna do my damnedest to see these bad boys....

10:23 -- Hehe, that Jimmy Kimmel commercial with Tom Cruise was pretty funny. And now, an Action movie montage! Good stuff here, with the BATMAN and the IRON MAN and the HULK and the SPEED RACER and the BOND. Not good stuff, too, with the WANTED and the HANCOCK and the MUMMY and, unfortunately, the INDY. Basically what this montage says is that action films are very hit-or-miss, which we didn't really need a montage to tell us. Funny, also, that in all these montages, they show the same five movies the whole time.

10:25 -- Will Smith, one of the great action heroes in modern years with films like ID4 and MEN IN BLACK under his belt, is here to introduce the nominees for Best Visual Effects. Gotta be BEN BUTTON here, though IRON MAN was pretty sweet-looking, and THE DARK KNIGHT was... ah, to hell with it, BUTTON wins. I got that one right!

10:28 -- Will Smith sticks around for Sound Editing, which absolutely MUST MUST MUST go to WALL-E, since that movie was all about sound. The first 30 minutes was ALL SOUND, for God's sake! If the Academy can't be bothered to give it a Best Picture nom, at least get this right... AHH FUCK, it's THE DARK KNIGHT! F'ing ridiculous.

10:30 -- Why did they just play "Mr. Blue Sky" when that Sound Editor guy walked off the stage? Man, I don't even care about Sound Mixing now, because it's probably not gonna be WALL-E, which deserves it. And the Oscar goes to... SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Bah.

10:33 -- Hehe, Will Smith is STILL HERE, because Hugh is napping. Best Editing now. Oh yeah, this has to be SLUMDOG. Though if there was an award for LACK of editing, the 12-hour BEN BUTTON would be sure to win. Actually, FROST/NIXON would be a good choice, too. But the Oscar goes to.... SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE! The sweep continues!

10:41 -- Academy Award nominee Eddie Murphy, oy vey. He's presenting the Humanitarian Award to Jerry Lewis, who is one of the few old-time actors who DIDN'T die in 2008, which reminds me that the In Memoriam segment is going to SUCK. Ohh yeah, that's right, there's THE NUTTY PROFESSOR connection between Eddie Murphy and Jerry Lewis... I was wondering why Murphy was there. Jerry Lewis is a good man, and he still looks pretty good -- for some reason I thought he was way older and sicker than that. Keep on keepin' on, Jerry!

10:50 -- Hugh Jackman is back, and here comes a montage of this year's nominated scores! BEN BUTTON's score is as boring as the movie itself. DEFIANCE sounds all Jewish, which makes sense since it's about a bunch of ass-kicking Jews. God I love that sub-genre! Nothing too special about MILK... I've already forgotten how it goes. WALL-E is the one that should win, as this movie said more with music and sound effects than most movies ever do with words (though it already lost for sound effects, so fuck it all). SLUMDOG will probably win because it's winning everything, and it's not exactly bad. And Zac Ephron and Alicia Keys are here to tell us that the Oscar goes to..... SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Okay, fine.

10:55 -- Best Song is kind of a bullshit category this year, because the best song in a movie this year, "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen, was deemed ineligible. That being said, I hope these two SLUMDOG songs cancel each other out so WALL-E can snag one. Though, the fact that the Bollywood dancers are still out there for WALL-E's song doesn't bode well. My guess is that this song "Jai Ho" song wins because it made for one of the more memorable closing credit sequences in recent memory. And the Oscar goes to..... "JAI HO" from SLUMDOG. At least it's a good song. Ain't no stopping this one now, as we get down to the nitty gritty!

11:05 -- Liam Neeson and Freida Pinto, that's an odd combo! Qui-Gon must've used the old Jedi Mind Trick to pull this one off. Oh, it's Foreign Language Film time. I'm going with WALTZ WITH BASHIR and Rachel is picking THE CLASS.... and the winner is DEPARTURES from Japan! Man, no fair, I don't think I even had the chance to see that one! Or maybe I did and missed it. In any event, I have now gotten a horrendous 7 of 20 winners right, while Rachel has gotten a slightly-less-horrendous 9 of 20. Hmph!

11:10 -- OH NO NO NO NO!!! The In Memoriam segment!!! This is going to suck so much. And here we go..... okay, wait, this Queen Latifah singing thing is cheesy and killing the moment. Bernie Mac, sad. No OCEANS 14, I guess. OLLIE JOHNSTON, one of the original Disney animators!!!! Michael Crichton, the author of JURASSIC M'F'ING PARK! Crap. I don't like how they're doing this montage, by the way. Just give me one screen and stop this moving-around bullshit. Oh man, Roy Scheider... fuck. I wanna watch JAWS right now. Isaac Hayes was a Scientologist jackass, but still sad that he died. Ricardo Montalban... KAHHHHHHN!!!! Stan Winston, jesus christ... what a horrendous loss for movies. James Whitmore. CHARLTON HESTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCK!!!!!!!!! Anthony Mignella... Sidney Pollack... two great filmmakers. And of course, PAUL NEWMAN. God fucking dammit.............

11:18 -- Oooh, cutie Reese! "I am not into the dress, though," Rachel observes. Whoa, we're up to Best Director already?? Okay, here we go. Danny Boyle is a lock, now that SLUMDOG is cleaning up, as it should. Okay, she read those nominees too fast for me to type about them... but DANNY BOYLE wins! Man, who would've thought, after TRAINSPOTTING and 28 DAYS LATER, that he'd be up on that stage? Good stuff.

11:25 -- Am I a cynical bastard for only focusing on the bullshit entries in this Best Actress montage? I'm talking to you, Julia Roberts and Halle Berry! Love the GONE WITH THE WIND music that they're playing, though. Fuckin' A, Halle is among the motley crew they've assembled here, too. Gimme a break... she can't hold a candle to Sophia Loren, or even Marion Cotillard. Wow, Anne is really touched by Shirley Maclaine's tribute. Aw, I don't think that was scripted, cool. I think I've had fantasies about Marion talking to Kate, right before they start making out. Seriously, though... I LOVE KATE!!! If I was Melissa Leo, I'd be pissed that I got stuck with Halle Berry talking about me. WHOA, Sophia Loren... she's like a solar system all to herself. And Meryl Streep is right there with her! Nicole Kidman, meh... she was very good in THE HOURS and I guess deserved the award, but I don't remember who she was up against. Angelina, however, deserves absolutely nothing this year. And the Oscar goes to..... KATE KATE KATE KATE KATE KATE KATE KATE!!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HER FIRST OSCAR IN SIX TRIES, THOUGH SHE REALLY COULD'VE WON IT EVERY GODDAMN TIME!!! AMAZING. Hahaha, her dad whistling is awesome. This is amazingly sincere and emotional speech... I'm getting all teary eyed! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!

11:36 -- Best Actor montage! Lots of good stuff in there, but holy shit, look at the lineup they've assembled here! Robert DeNiro, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Adrien Brody and Michael Douglas! WOW! Doesn't get much better than that, folks... though it would've been cool to see Daniel Day-Lewis up there, too. Douglas introduces Langella, whose portrayal of Richard Nixon was nothing short of astonishing. Bobby D. wonders how Sean Penn managed to get all those jobs playing straight men over the years, ha! And a Spicoli reference to boot! I'd have no problem with Sean Penn winning, even though I am not picking him. Man, Adrien Brody is looking kind of... grody? (I got a book coming out!) Richard Jenkins is pretty cool, but for him, just being nominated is his award. SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS, for Christ's sake! Always good to see him. He introduces Brad Pitt, his co-star in MEET JOE BLACK, which I saw on the big screen in '98 solely so I could see the STAR WARS: EPISODE I teaser trailer both before and after the film, heh. And lastly, SIR BEN KINGSLEY, who had an up-and-down year in his own right, with ELEGY (yeah) and THE LOVE GURU (ugh), gives us the soon-to-be-winner, Mickey Rourke! Come on, he's gotta win for his late dog! And the Oscar goes to........ SEAN PENN?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Wow.... I am seriously stunned. I mean, he was great and in any other year, I'd be all for it... but wow. Worst of all, we're denied a Mickey Rourke speech... awww man! Hehe, "You commie, homo-loving sons of guns," okay, that was funny. But man... what a shocker!!!

11:47 -- Oooooh, Steven Spielberg comes out to some JURASSIC PARK music to present BEST PICTURE! Well, here we go. On one hand, SLUMDOG has been cleaning up all night and seems primed to win the ultimate prize as well. But on the other hand, MILK has snagged a couple of pretty major awards (Screenplay & Actor) and it wouldn't shock me to see it snag one more. Weird what they're doing here with the nominees being intertwined with past, similarly-themed movies? Sure, why not. Heh, I love THE READER mixed with other old-young affairs, such as THE GRADUATE, LOST IN TRANSLATION and AMERICAN BEAUTY. Hehehe, MILK and BRAVEHEART and NETWORK, of course! This is cheesy but fun. Okay, showing THE GODFATHER with BEN BUTTON is a fucking insult to the Corleone family. Anyway... according to Steven Spielberg, the ultimate Oscar goes to SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE! The sweep is complete! Eight Oscars, I think, and well-deserved indeed (except for the ones where it beat WALL-E). Also worthwhile to have those little kids up there again!

11:56 -- Wait, wait, wait! Upcoming 2009 movies! SHERLOCK HOLMES with Robert Downey Jr. FUNNY PEOPLE, the new one from Apatow & Co. Pixar's UP UP UP UP UP! Uhh, a new FAME? More like LAME.... right?? TERMINTOR, starring a very pissed off Christian Bale. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, I heard about that one. AMELIA EARHARDT movie with Hilary Swank, who will likely be nominated for another Oscar. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS with what's his name from The Office. Hey, Rachel, I liked the first NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. MONSTERS vs. ALIENS will be in 3D and I will see. POTTER POTTER POTTER POTTER POTTER! ANGELS & DEMONS, hell yeah! OLD DOGS will not be awesome. How many fucking ICE AGE movies do we need? Crap.. crap... crap... and this montage ends with G-FORCE, about animated Gerbils? Oy vey!

And there you have it... another Oscar Night has come and gone, and well... it's definitely a mixed bag. I am indeed happy that SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE walked away with 8 statuettes, because it was definitely the superior film amongst most of these nominees. But frankly, I was more interested in some of the smaller awards, and that is where I was disappointed. I mean, for fuck's sake, WALL-E not winning for Best Sound Mixing & Editing may be the biggest load of horse shit in recent memory. THAT MOVIE WAS ALL SOUND, and Ben Burtt is a God. But what can ya do. Big surprise with Sean Penn winning Best Actor, and a glorious moment with Kate Winslet getting her first gold. BUTTON got a couple of technical awards, which is all it deserved, so the Academy got that right. All in all, I got a total of 10 of 24 winners right, which would not have won me any Oscar pools, but hey, I vote my heart, dammit. Rachel, meanwhile, got 12 of 24 right, so she wins this year! And lastly, here are my top 5 hottest hotties, in no particular order: Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Marisa Tomei, and Meryl Streep's daughter! Plus Kate, of course, by default. Rachel also wants to include Frieda Pinto, and I can't argue with that. Oh, and by the way, I never did see my friend Jenn seat-filling during the show... unless of course I missed it while typing! And now, I think that's it. If you've made it through this entire opus, I salute you and love you!

Goodnight, everybody!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reviewing the Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Okay, now let's take a look at the Oscar-nominated animated shorts. GO!

LAVATORY (LOVESTORY) -- In this Russian entry, the drab, lonely, black-and-white life of a lavatory attendant is turned upside down when colorful flowers start mysteriously appearing in her money jar. From there, she explores the depths of the men's bathroom in order to discover the identity of her supposed secret admirer. A cute, funny tale with simple but effective hand-drawn animation.

OKTAPODI -- Super-quick, 2 1/2-minute ditty from France about two octopi lovers whose blissful fishtank existence is thrown into upheaval when one of them is taken away to be eaten. The other sets out on a wild goose chase through the streets of Greece to get her back, and of course, hijinks ensue. Spectacular CG animation that is a nice homage to Pixar... but that being said, it's no Pixar. Still good, though!

LA MAISON EN PETITS CUBES (PIECES OF LOVE, VOL. 1) -- Surreal tale from Japan (despite the French title) of an old man living alone in a town that has become submerged in water. In order to battle the rising tide, he keeps building new levels on top of each other. When he drops his pipe into the lower levels, he dons scuba gear and goes down to retrieve it, reliving the fondest memories of his life as he passes each underwater level. Ethereal, hand-drawn animation and music make for a unique, emotional experience.

THIS WAY UP -- Simply put, this is a story of two morticians trying to deliver a casket to a funeral. However, things don't quite go according to plan and they are continually thwarted, Looney Tunes-style, as, among other things, a boulder crushes their hearse, they fall off cliffs, lose the corpse in tree branches, and come face-to-face with the devil himself. It's dark and fabulously un-PC, with perfectly-dreary CG animation, and it's laugh-out-loud hilarious. Maybe the only other nominee that can really give Pixar a run for its money....

PRESTO -- Pixar are the current masters of animation in all formats, and this year, not only did they hit a home run with WALL-E, but they preceded that masterpiece with this one, perhaps the best short film they've ever graced us with. It's the story of a stage magician named Presto who, in the rush before showtime, forgets to feed his hungry rabbit. As a result, until he gets fed, the rabbit decides to sabotage the magic show by messing with Presto's magic hats, with increasingly disastrous results. It's another clear homage to the madcap zaniness of Looney Tunes -- you could totally see Bugs Bunny in the starring role -- but it takes things to a whole other level. The action is non-stop, the gags are hilarious, the characters are perfect and the animation is amazing -- all in all, it's yet another triumph from the geniuses at Pixar, and the clear winner of this year's Oscar!

In conclusion, come Oscar night:

WILL PROBABLY WIN: Presto... hail Pixar!

Also, since the Oscar-nominated films were so short, we were treated to a bunch of other great shorts from the past year. VARMINTS is a spectacularly-animated cautionary tale about a world ravaged by recklessness and indifference. JOHN & KAREN offers a quick glimpse into the lives of a polar bear and a penguin as they attempt to reconcile their relationship. Disney-esque GOPHER BROKE follows a hungry critter as he desperately tries to get his paws on some tasty treats. SKHIZEN is the sad, compelling tale of a guy who survives getting hit by a meteorite, only to find himself 91 centimeters from where he should be in his plane of existence (bizarre and amazing -- I'm not sure why this didn't get the Oscar nod!). Lastly, HOT DOG is about a feisty little pooch who follows his dream to work for the fire department... with mixed results to say the least. Good stuff, all around!

Aaaaand there you have it. The Oscars are this Sunday and I am ready and rarin' to go. I have once again seen all the major nominees, as well as a few of the foreign films and documentaries, and now, for the first time ever, the short films, as well. In case I haven't mentioned it, I love movies. :)

Can't wait for the big show!

Reviewing the Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Shorts

Every year around this time, it's the same old story: I see the ad for the Oscar-nominated live-action & animated shorts in Time Out New York and I say to myself, "THIS year, I am going to see them before the Oscars so I can actually have a vested interest in those awards!" But every year, I procrastinate and end up missing out, once again being forced to make uneducated guesses based on titles and plot descriptions.

But this year, I finally did it -- I hit the IFC Center (arguably the best indie theatre in NYC) for a night filled with short-film madness. Lots of great stuff vying for Oscar gold, and it makes me wish that it hadn't taken me so long to get off my ass. But fortunately, there's a first time for everything... and now, let's take a look at the nominees, starting with the Live Action set:

AUF DER STRECKE (ON THE LINE) -- Interesting & well-acted tale of a department store security guard who uses hidden cameras to spot shoplifters... and to spy on a pretty bookstore clerk. One day, while riding the subway home, he sees her fighting with a male companion, only storm to off in anger. The companion then gets harrassed by a group of hoodlums, but, the guard, thinking this guy is his competition, leaves him to fend for himself. Things are not necessarily as they seem, however, and tragedy ensues, leaving him wracked with guilt. At 30 minutes, this German entry was the longest film of the bunch -- it was good, but not quite as gripping as the other nominees and probably my least favorite.

NEW BOY -- Wonderful little ditty from Ireland about a young African immigrant on his first day at an Irish elementary school. In 11 hilariously poignant minutes, we learn that the boy has fled a war-torn nation where he excelled in school despite experiencing unspeakable horrors -- and now has to deal with two bullies, a cute little know-it-all and an exasperated teacher, while somehow trying to fit in with this strange new world. A perfect film that manages to tap into every emotion in such a brief runtime, NEW BOY is by far my favorite of the bunch and my Oscar pick! (Side note: It's based on a short story by Roddy Doyle, who wrote the novel THE COMMITMENTS, the movie of which made my top 10 Netflix rentals of '08. So clearly that guy is doing something right!)

SPIELZEUGLAND (TOYLAND) -- See now, it just doesn't seem fair that Germany, who already has one nominee, should be allowed to submit a sad, heart-wrenching Holocaust story to boot! In Nazi Germany, a mother explains to her young son that their Jewish neighbors will soon be going on a journey to "Toyland." Well, the boy decides that he wants to go to Toyland, too (who wouldn't?). So on the morning the neighbors are taken, the boy sneaks off with them, causing his mother to go on a frantic search to get him back. Powerful stuff, with an even more powerful twist.

GRISEN (THE PIG) -- A story about an old man named Asbjørn Jensen who goes into the hospital for "butt surgery" and finds a beacon of hope in a whimsical painting of a leaping pig on the wall of his otherwise-bare hospital room. But when he wakes up after surgery, he is shocked and angered to find that the painting has been removed by a Muslim family who finds it offensive. Enraged, he enlists the help of his lawyer daughter and it becomes a question of freedom of speech vs. religious rights. Great, timely little film from Denmark, and Asbjørn Jensen is one of my favorite characters in any movie this year!

MANON SUR LE BITUME (MANON ON THE ASPHALT) -- It's not easy to get more gut-wrenching than the Holocaust, but this French entry comes close. It's about a girl who gets hit by a car while riding her bike to meet her boyfriend, and follows her thought process through the waning moments of her life -- she thinks about her group of friends, mother, boyfriend, who will make the necessary phone calls, whether or not rubberneckers can see up her dress, etc. Kind of like AMELIE meets THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY... but the characters are all true-to-life and the film will make you keenly aware of your own mortality as it tugs on your heartstrings. Good stuff.

In conclusion, come Oscar night:

WILL PROBABLY WIN: Spielzeugland... damn Nazis!

Be back later with the Animation nominees!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th!

I am super-psyched to see the new FRIDAY THE 13TH this weekend, but for now, in celebration of this noteworthy day, let's take a look at a handful of other scary movies I've seen so far this year....

THE UNBORN -- At first I thought this film, about a girl who is possessed by a demon spirit of her unborn twin, was yet another remake of a Japanese horror flick. But it turns out it's an "original" screenplay that simply rips off aspects of every horror flick ever made, Japanese or otherwise. It's got everything from the standard Japanese "creepy-eyed child standing in the distance" to the classic EXORCIST "spider-walk." Now, I acknowledge that the spider-walk is like the horror film equivalent of bacon -- that is, it is ALWAYS creepy in the same way that bacon is always delicious. But it doesn't come anywhere close to saving this terrible film, which also features a big-time slumming performance by Gary Oldman as an exorcism-performing rabbi!

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D -- Another year, another crappy remake of an '80s horror staple -- only this time it's in glorious digital 3D! And thank God for that, because the 3D turns what would've been a forgettable movie into... well, a slightly-less forgettable movie. You'd expect the 3D in a movie like this to be gimmicky and used for cheap scares, and indeed, there are plenty of in-your-face pickaxes and blood-spatter. But it also actually adds visual depth and coolness, which is what I love about this technology and why I hope to see it more often. The movie itself... meh... plenty of gore and gratuitous nudity make it watchable, but this miner-masked, pickax-wielding killer is nowhere near the same league as, say, Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers.

THE UNINVITED -- At first, I was very intrigued by the prospect of the lovely & talented Elizabeth Banks portraying a villain... but man, this movie was riddled with problems. It's about a chick named Anna who comes home from the mental hospital a year after her mother's horrific death, and becomes convinced that her dad's new girlfriend, Rachael, was responsible for the tragedy. Creepy shenanigans ensue as Anna and her hottie sister try to prove that Rachael isn't who she says she is. Bad acting (David Strathairn must have just bought a new house or something), laughable situations, way too many "WTF??" moments, and a completely unnecessary supernatural element are just the tip of the iceberg here. But I do have to give credit where credit is due, because I actually got fooled by the twist ending... which is even more annoying when you consider that it rips off another twist ending that fooled me once before. Damn you, Mildred Kemp!

SLEEPAWAY CAMP / RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP -- I dunno how I ever could've called myself a horror fan without having seen the cult-classic SLEEPAWAY CAMP, but fortunately, that was recently rectified in a kick-ass Netflix double-feature. In the original, shy, awkward Angela goes to summer camp with her protective cousin Ricky. Shortly after their arrival, a series of bizarre, bloody deaths begin to occur. This movie has it all -- gruesomely creative kills (girls, you'll never look at a curling iron the same way again!), plenty of gore, ultra-cheesy acting & dialogue, and arguably the greatest shocker of an ending in horror movie history. (Plus it was surprisingly ahead of its time with themes of gender and sexuality.) Several unofficial sequels followed, but in 2008, the original writer/directer and most of the original cast returned for the long-awaited "official" sequel. While not nearly as entertaining as the original, it still has its moments, and for die-hard fans, it must've been pretty awesome to see the classic characters return 25 years later.

Okay, that's all for now. Coming soon: Jason returns in FRIDAY THE 13TH, hotties abound in HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, brutal family vengeance in THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and superheroes go wild in WATCHMEN. Also, we're just over a week away from the Oscars and my annual running commentary... can you feel the excitement??

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Force is Strong with FANBOYS

Allow me to take you back to late 1998, when, when excitement for EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE, the first Star Wars film in nearly 16 years, was palpable. Legions of die-hard Star Wars fans -- myself included -- had been biding our time for years, watching the original trilogy literally hundreds of times, discussing, debating, theorizing every detail... and now that the new film was nearly upon us, we found ourselves devouring spoilers, scrutinizing photos and trailers, wondering what might await, and basically frothing at the mouth with anticipation. In our pre-Jar-Jar-tainted minds, it was a great time to be a Star Wars fan.

Now, with that in mind, allow me to tell you about FANBOYS. Set during that specific time period, it is the story of five Star Wars mega-geeks who embark on a cross-country quest to break into George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch and watch a rough cut of EPISODE I, for the benefit of one of their gang who has been diagnosed with cancer and won't make it in time for the movie's release. This movie has spent a long time in production limbo, but now, finally, it has been unleashed like Force lightning.... and I can honestly say that it is a perfectly-crafted, nostalgia-inducing love letter to that era of Star Wars geekdom.

This is a movie made FOR Star Wars geeks, BY Star Wars geeks, and it shows. The characters are so eerily true-to-life, it's almost as if the filmmakers delved into my own journal or something, because there are a ton of scenes, conversations, references, etc., that nearly caused me to overdose on nostalgia. There is one scene in particular in which the characters are sitting around talking about Star Wars and playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64... which pretty much describes how my & my friends spent our time in those days... it's amazing. All Star Wars references are expertly used and hilarious -- I'm sure it's one of those movies that you need to watch many times to catch them all. The film is loaded with cameo appearances by Star Wars alumni and famous geeks alike. Best of all, the filmmakers actually had Lucasfilm's blessing to use character likenesses from their entire catalog (the security guards at the Skywalker Ranch are particularly awesome) and actual Star Wars sound effects. Actually, if I have one lament, it's that I wish they could've used the actual music, too -- I'd love to see someone with too much time on his hands re-edit the movie using John Williams' score, because that would be damn cool.

Sure, at times, the plot gets a bit formulaic and over-the-top (the result of some unfortunate but unavoidable Hollywood-izing, I think), but it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that it's a spot-on look into the mindsets of Star Wars fans in the months leading up to the most anticipated movie of all time -- and at its core, it's also a tale of a group of friends that has stood the test of time, despite the disruption of "real life," extenuating circumstances, etc. Star Wars may be the foundation of their friendship, but when push comes to shove, it consists of a lot more than that.

If you are NOT a Star Wars fan, there is no reason to see this movie because it is not for you. But if you are, then FANBOYS is an absolute must-see. Be quick about it, though, because it may not be around long. Sure, you can wait for the DVD, but I think it is absolutely worth seeing on the big screen with as many fellow fans as you can round up. It will remind you of that moment in time when the worst thing that we could complain about was that "Greedo shooting first" was bullshit (which, actually, may still be the worst thing we can complain about, but I digress)... when we'd pay to see shitty movies like MEET JOE BLACK and WING COMMANDER specifically so we could see the new Episode I trailers... the sheer and utter thrill that we felt on opening night of THE PHANTOM MENACE when we first saw that opening crawl -- a feeling that will never again be matched by any movie, ever. And above all, it will touch your heart and reaffirm your love for that galaxy far, far away....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hey, Paul Rudd... I LOVE YOU, MAN!

A few weeks ago, I attended a free advance screening of the upcoming comedy, I LOVE YOU, MAN, starring one of my favorite actors, Paul Rudd. I've made no secret about the man-crush I have had on Paul Rudd for years, and really, can you blame me? He's the link between the three best comedy troupes around nowadays: Will Ferrell and the Frat Pack, Judd Apatow and his crew, and the geniuses behind The State. He has been a scene-stealer in some of the funniest movies of the past decade or so, including ANCHORMAN ("60% of the time it works every time"), THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN ("You know how I know you're gay? You like Coldplay"), and WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER ("You taste like burger... I don't like you anymore"). He has even expanded his repertoire over the years with dramatic fare such as THE SHAPE OF THINGS and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. But when it comes to comedy, he is like human embodiment of IMAX 3D -- that is to say, he has the uncanny ability to make terrible movies watchable, good movies great, and great movies awesome. He is, quite simply, the MAN, so I jumped at the opportunity to see his latest endeavour.

Before I talk about the movie, I should mention that the screening was held in the Paramount Screening Room at the studio's office in Times Square. It was pretty nifty. When we exited the elevator, we were greeted by a hallway featuring a mural of scenes from classic Paramount films, ranging from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS to THE GODFATHER to GLADIATOR. I probably could've spent a half-hour looking at the mural, but we were quickly ushered through a spacious reception area (featuring a series of backlit one-sheets for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, the studio's big Oscar hopeful... meh) and into a cushy screening room. Since I was one of the "common folk," I think I was supposed to take a seat on a folding chair set up along the wall... but since I was alone and inconspicuous, I noticed an empty theatre seat and snagged it. This prompted the guy sitting next to me to remark, "Well played!" so I guess I scored a small victory. The seat, by the way, was very plush and one of the most comfortable theatre seats in which I've ever sat. Then, finally, in a pristine digital presentation, the movie began.

The story is simple: After proposing to his girlfriend, Peter (Paul Rudd) realizes that he has no real male friends. Thus he embarks on a series of "man dates" in the hopes of finding a new best friend, and hopefully, Best Man. Naturally, hijinks ensue... and then he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), whose charming, laid-back, forthrightness perfectly complements Peter's awkward, naive shyness and the two become instant friends. They bond over beer & wings and Rush jams and have a grand old time. Along the way, Peter teaches Sydney about responsibiliy and Sydney teaches Peter how to let loose. But as their friendship grows, it begins to take a toll on Peter's relationship and he must either find the proper balance or choose between his fiancee and new friend.

If this plot sounds familiar, it's because it is not unlike any number of romantic comedies that have come and gone over the years. Indeed, the movie could have easily teetered on the brink of cheesiness... but thanks to the male twist and the comedy stylings of Rudd and Segel, it manages to provide big laughs while also being completely endearing at the same time. Much of the dialogue is obviously ad-libbed, which is awesome. And the supporting cast is so good, it's almost ridiculous. You've got the lovely and talented Rashida Jones as Peter's fiancee, Zooey... J.K. Simmons and Jane Curtin (!) as Peter's parents... Andy Samberg as his gay brother... Jaime Pressley as Zooey's friend and Jon Favreau as her macho jerk husband... Thomas Lennon and Joe Lo Truglio from The State as two of Peter's "dates"... and even a bizarrely integral appearance by the Incredible Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno.

All in all, it's a hilarious take on the wacky world of male friendships, and further proof of Paul Rudd's innate awesomeoness. I LOVE YOU, MAN opens on March 20th, and I highly recommend that everyone check it out. It is, after all, the first-ever... wait for it..... BRO-MANTIC COMEDY!

(Hey, that might've been cheesy, but I guarantee that every major film critic in the country will be using that term in a month or so. Thieving bastards!)