Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall 2008 TV Season (So Far): Part 2

And now for Part 2 of my thoughts on the TV season so far:

Fringe - This is hands down my favorite new show of the season. Hell, maybe it’s my favorite new show in a while. I haven’t felt so strongly about a show since Veronica Mars got shitcanned. Fringe is a fantastic blend of action, mystery, and humor. The humor surprises me, because J.J. Abrams is no Joss Whedon, and even his relatively lighthearted fare (Felicity) generally lacks humor and honest to goodness jokes. Which isn’t a bad thing, but I do love the dark humor that permeats Whedon's work. But there’s a decent amount of levity here, which I love. J.J. has a knack for perfectly casting his series, and this is no exception. The chemistry of the main trio is fantastic. If I have one quibble, it’s that Astrid doesn’t have enough screentime and lines, but I’ll hope for better in the future. I’ll also hope that J.J. doesn’t allow Fringe to get too, too dragged down by weird mythology, the undoing of Fringe’s predecessor The X-Files and occasionally J.J.’s own shows, Alias and Lost. Still, for the foreseeable future my Tuesday nights are spoken for.

House - After one episode, I’m already sick of the new Private Eye. Like, as sick as I was of the horrible Vengeful Cop Tritter storyline from season 3. Spin him off or write him off or something, stat. And I hope they don’t delay the House/Wilson reunion too long, their relationship was one of the best parts of the show. But I really like the energy that the new team members bring to the show, and the cases have been really interesting so far. This, paired with Fringe, makes for a killer Tuesday.

90210 - The new 90210 is innocuous fun. Like I said earlier, I’m not crazy over vintage 90210 purity, so I don’t have a high emotional stake here. I will say it’s been nice seeing Brenda and Kelly back again, even with the utterly non-surprise reveal of Dylan as Kelly’s babydaddy. As for the fresh crop of Hills kids, like I said, they’re innocuous but fun. The new Brenda smiles. A lot. She’s actually the weak link of the show, the other characters seem marginally more engaging. Ultimately, the show is escapist fun but completely disposable.

Hole in the Wall - I tuned into this steaming pile of dreck thinking it might be wacky fun à la Wipeout. I won’t make that mistake twice.

Greek - This show remains cute and enjoyable, but what I most need to comment on is the brilliant use of euphemisms to sneak some really randy stuff past standards and practices. It’s amazing, and deserves applause, because that is some subtle, tricky, fabulous work.

America’s Next Top Model - Against all odds, this is the most likeable crop of models I’ve seen on this show. As much as I love catfighting drama, I was getting sick of watching horrible, horrible girls (Yaya, Dominique, Lisa) make it pretty far, while my favorites got booted fairly early (Heather, Sarah, Marvita) in every cycle. This cycle, I hated ShaRaun’s homophobic, entitled ass right off, so I pegged her as making the F2 because that’s usually how it goes, but to my delight she was booted off first. Right now I’m rooting for Sheena, Elina, McKey, and Analeigh, but at the moment there’s no one I’d loathe to see win it. I was also surprised by how well the Isis storyline was treated – I didn’t expect sensitive and realistic treatment of a transgendered person to come from ANTM of all places – and I was sad to see her go last week. (And she still looked more feminine than last season’s Dominique. Man, I still hate that scary, crazy woman.)

Ugly Betty
- Well, I do like being right about neither Henry nor Gio being chosen for Betty’s Summer Vacation. That said, I don’t think the premier episode was the sharpest of the series. While Wilhelmina’s new regime at Mode was funny, I missed the old chemistry of Daniel, Alexis, Wilhelmina, Betty, Marc, and Amanda all under one roof. But I did love the new look of the show, now that it’s being filmed in New York City instead of a Los Angeles sound stage. And Lindsay Lohan’s brief appearance was nice and understated, two words we haven’t been able to associate with LiLo in a while. Here’s hoping the next few episodes pick up the pace.

The Office – Sadly, I think this show gets incrementally less funny each year. It doesn’t slip much, but it definitely does slip. Of course, the show was out and out hilarious in season 1, so even in a diluted fifth season, it’s still funnier than most things on television. And the new HR rep – a.k.a. the female Michael – brings a great new energy to the cast.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
- This one’s been a victim of the Monday/Tuesday pileup for me. I just caught up on Hulu, and it looks like I may not be the only one slacking on my watching. The nets really need to spread the scripted stuff out throughout the week a bit better. It just doesn’t stand a chance against a pileup of Chuck (which I don’t watch but would if I had more time), Gossip Girl, Big Bang Theory/How I Met Your Mother. Oh, and Dancing With the Stars, which remains bafflingly popular. I wonder if it wouldn’t do better at 10pm with Prison Break (which I watched obsessively for season 1 and checked out of three eps into season 2) as a lead-in and with only Boston Legal as its real competition. In a way, I wonder if the ratings aren’t hampered by the show’s availability online. When I’m facing a Tivo Showdown, I usually side with the show that will be take longer to be posted online, and Hulu usually beats and so I end up Tivoing Gossip Girl, watching HIMYM on a small TV in another room (because I am not tech savvy enough to figure out how to tape one thing and watch another on the Tivo TV), and Huluing T:SCC when I get a chance. At any rate, I’m hoping this show beats the odds and sticks around for a while, because this season has already given us Shirley Manson as a urinal, okay? Imagine what else it has up its titanium sleeves.

Part 3 later this week!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall 2008 TV Season (So Far): Part 1

I’m so happy that the new TV season is here. I’d be happier if there wasn’t such a pileup of shows I like on Mondays and Tuesdays, but between encore airings,, iTunes, OnDemand, and website airings, I can usually catch up on whatever I’ve missed. Here’s the first part of my thoughts on the TV season so far.

Entourage - Anyone who says Entourage is no longer culturally relevant was not sitting where I was a few weeks ago at the movies, in front of two guys having the same conversation about Entourage that my friends and I had about Sex and the City back in high school. To whit: which Entourage guy do you most resemble? The one on the right said, “You’re so Turtle.” “I really am,” his friend agreed. “And you’re Drama.” “What? No way, I’m Ari, all the way!” (If they had asked me – and they didn’t – I would have said they were both reminiscent of that annoying ex-con childhood friend, Dom, who alas I hear they’re bringing back this season.) As usual, Entourage is strongest when Vince is not the focus, and as such, the third episode, “The All Out Fall Out”, delivered some of the high(-low) points of the season with scatological humor and male strippers in an Ari/Lloyde storyline that had me in stitches. I think this season has been as strong as any of the past seasons. It won’t win over new fans, but it should keep the old ones happy.

One Tree Hill - Having watched a large number of teen shows in my time, one convention that usually holds steady is that one TV season equals roughly one academic year, a format that often remains even after the characters graduate high school. This is just logistics, usually, since most seasons run during the academic year (September – May/June) and audiences seem to like the Halloween episodes to fall around Halloween, Christmas episodes to fall around Christmas, etc. But One Tree Hill broke the mold when it split senior year over seasons 3 and 4 to try, I assume, and hang on to the tried and true high school formula for a while longer, and the result was that I spent all of season 4 unable to remember which events had happened in the current season and which had happened a year earlier. Not that it’s a big deal, of course, but it meant that a lot of storylines ran together in my head. Well, OTH fast-forwarded ahead four years for season 5, which certainly made it distinctive in my mind, but here were are again in season 6, picking up right after season 5, and I’m back to runny story lines. Ah well. There’s definitely a lot of good in this season. Lucas and Peyton are finally together, and while I’m a Brooke/Lucas girl myself, but Lucas and Peyton are one of those inevitable couples set up in the pilot, so it’s good to finally get past some of the keep-them-apart machinations. For now, anyway. I’m bummed they shipped Mouth and Millicent away and I’d prefer a happier storyline for Brooke, but I’m glad Skills is getting more screentime. I’m kind of over the Psycho Nanny Carrie storyline, it’s just little too much crazy for me, and Dan can die now too, please. I do have to hand it to OTH, though, normally I hate precious TV kids, but Jamie’s actually pretty cool. The kid is a good actor, cute but not twee. The third episode, “Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.”, actually made me cry in the way that only OTH can manage these days, it’s the only show where I really care about the characters. I feel like the show is winding down – I’d be surprised if this wasn’t the last season (and that’s not even assuming the CW itself is going down in flames, which it may well be...) – and so far it’s been a solid season, so if this has to be the last hurrah, it will at least end on a high note.

Gossip Girl - After wading through exhaustive (and exhausting) coverage of Gossip Girl all summer on blogs like Gawker and Defamer, and seeing a gajillion candid pap shots of the actors on and off set, I thought nothing from the new season would still feel fresh once it finally aired. But I underestimated Blair Waldorf, a mistake that has been the downfall of many, I assume. Leighton Meester is a little firecracker who ignites any scene she’s in, and through all the dopey Dan/Serena goo, she, along with Ed Westwick’s slimy/irresistible Chuck Bass, keeps the show worth watching. Honestly, I feel like season 2 is exactly the same quality as season 1 – no better, but more importantly, no worse. It seems to have sidestepped the sophomore slump, but it’s doing nothing to win over the naysayers. Here’s hoping the ratings can finally catch up with the buzz this go-round.

How I Met Your Mother - The premier ep was funny, but I have a few quibbles. One – what is up with Jason Segal’s hair? That shit is upsetting. Two – I hope the Robin/Barney storyline doesn’t lead to a defanged Barney. I like him just the way he is. Three – I need to see Sarah Chalke interact with the rest of the cast a bit more to assuage my fears of her upsetting the HIMYM feng shui. HIMYM is awesome because of the chemistry between Ted, Robin, Barney, Lily, and Marshall, and it’s imperative that the newbie meshes with the rest of the family. But I have total faith in Sarah Chalke and her meshyness, considering how much ass she kicked (kicks?) on Scrubs.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of the round-up!

Entertainment Weekly and the Cliché Cliché

Now that Entertainment Weekly’s got a few more issues with the new redesign under their belt, I figured it was worth revisiting. As I predicted, familiarity bred comfort and the new look doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it initially did. I like the way the graphics are popping and either the layout is less cluttered or I’ve acclimated because I find that I can focus a bit better on reading the charticles and listicles in the front-of-book. I do, however, stand by my initial gripe over splitting up the TV and movie DVD sections. The graphics department has been doing a really stellar job lately, with the drawn artwork and assorted accompanying graphics - they're really churning out some attractive stuff. And Diablo Cody's nostalgic-but-sharp column on Judy Blume made me fall in love with Diablo Cody all over again (hey, when is Jennifer's Body gonna be released, anyway?).

I’m also glad that EW is back to arriving on Fridays for me. For a while it was coming on Wednesdays, and since I use EW to plan my upcoming week-in-pop-culture, a five-day delay in arrival was crimping my style, but whatever was causing the delay seems to have been resolved because it's now landing on my doorstep on Fridays as usual, giving me ample time to set my Tivo.

I was happy to see the return of Stupid Questions in the September 19th issue with House on the cover. (I was also happy to see House on the cover!) Stupid Questions was always one of my fave features, because let’s face it – most celebrity interviews are choked with stupid questions (and I say this having occasionally been the one on the stupid-question-asking side of the tape recorder), let’s at least be honest about it. And Jerry O’Connell (of the first-cancellation-casualty of the TV season, Do Not Disturb) provided some hilarious answers.

So yeah, thumbs up on the new design. Either it's better than I initially thought or I've got Stockholm syndrome, but either way, it's working for me.

But all is not entirely well in my relationship with EW. No, unfortunately, I am feeling the sting of betrayal. You know how sometimes you have one really, really awesome friend who you love, and another really, really awesome friend who you love, and you assume that when they meet they'll love each other but when you introduce them at a party one shows utter, inexplicable disdain for the other and it just breaks your heart because you want these two awesome forces in your life to mesh and they don't?

Yeah, well, that's a long-winded and overly dramatic way of saying that I am beyond bummed that my favorite magazine panned the new album by my all-time favorite band.

As I flipped through the current issue, with Stewart and Colbert re-creating that infamous Obama New Yorker cover, I landed on the music section and the review for the new Jack’s Mannequin album, The Glass Passenger, due out this Tuesday. To my immense chagrin, I saw that the reviewer gave the album a C+.

My initial reaction was along the lines of, “Bring me the head of the reviewer on a pike!” But now that I’ve had some time to calm down and reflect, my reaction is more like, “Bring me the head of the reviewer on a silver platter! Throw me down some Salomé shit, hardcore!”

Okay, I know, maybe I’m being harsh – the album isn’t out yet, right? It could suck, right? Maybe the reviewer knows something I don’t? But this isn’t the knee-jerk reaction of a die-hard Jack’s Mannequin fan. Okay, this isn’t just the knee-jerk reaction of a die-hard Jack’s Mannequin fan. Between two EPs and one instant download with an album pre-order, they’ve released seven tracks. There’s also an additional song on their MySpace, clips of some others available early to Verizon phone users, and YouTube concert footage of new material. So when I say that the new album is fantastic, I’m not just making assumptions based on past love, I’m basing it on the substantial portions I’ve already heard.

Granted, EW’s reviews could sometimes be accused of being overly effusive so it’s always nice to see some actual con-crit, but in this case I feel like the reviewer was being way too harsh with some unfounded complaints. The biggest complaints seem to be that “frontman Andrew McMahon sticks to his formula of friendly piano and new-wave-influenced beats on his second album” and “he sounds a bit bored as he tries to force clichéd metaphors into power ballads” and “the ratio of cheese to sincerity is just too high” which, just, ouch. I know that reviews are largely just well-stated opinions and you can’t really argue with opinions, but I really don’t get where the reviewer is coming from. For one, from what I’ve heard, the new material sounds quite different from the songs of the first album, Everything in Transit, and McMahon’s work with Something Corporate. Okay, I’ll admit that The Glass Passenger’s “Miss California” sounds a lot like Everything in Transit’s “Miss Delaney”, but “Miss Delaney” is one of my favorite Andrew McMahon songs so I’m not gonna complain on that one. But “Bloodshot”, “Swim”, “Cell Phone”, and “Sleazy Wednesday” all sound quite different from the earlier songs. I also feel like this is an openly honest album – almost painfully so – exploring McMahon’s post-leukemia struggle to return to normalcy. With lyrics like “And the hill’s still left to climb/ It's just so high/ And I'm so tired/ Come on look me in my bloodshot eyes” from “Bloodshot” and “Swim for the music that saves you/ When you're not so sure you’ll survive” from “Swim” and “I have become increasingly/ Overwhelmed when I’m in public/ I’m not so patient when they stare/ There’s a fighter/ Somewhere underneath this skin and bones” from “Cell Phone” (which granted is a B-side that might not have factored into the EW review), I can’t fathom the sincerity not ringing out for any listener.

As for the accusation of clichés, well, the reviewer just happened to hit on one of my pet peeves. This is a term that critics love to bandy about and it gets misused so often I think it’s lost all meaning. I saw it a lot in writing workshops when I was in school, I’d get crits of my stories back and sometimes one of the critters would write “too many clichés” but, oddly, when pressed (and I would press them on this) they couldn’t point to any specific examples. So the complaint was that I had used words people had used before? Well, yes, there are a finite amount of words in the English language that I can use without inventing new ones or being accused of using large words for the sake of using large words. I won’t disagree that there are indeed clichés and they can be overused in writing, however, I feel like they have their purpose, when used sparingly. For example, if I was writing something and wanted the background detail of a mangy cat to set the scene, I might describe it as “skin and bones” (as seen in, say, “Cell Phone”) as a kind of shorthand. Sure, I could strain my brain thinking up some brand new metaphor to get across the cat’s skinniness (though when I have tried that, I’ve usually gotten comments like “that’s a weird way to describe that…” proving there is no winning either way), but when I’m writing I’ve usually got a lot to say and why waste time and divert the narrative when I can just use a familiar phrase to get your mental image of the setting snapped into place so I can move on with the actual story? And songwriters have even less space to work with – I’d say an average of 5 minutes and 200 words. If you really examine most song lyrics, most contain “clichés” – even Fall Out Boy’s labyrinthine swaths of wordage – simply rearranged in a way that’s fresh and melodically pleasing.

I dunno, maybe I’m just lazy or unimaginative. But honestly, I usually see the cliché criticism leveled by unimaginative critics who use it as a catch-all, so much so that it’s become a cliché itself – oh, irony.

At any rate (wait, is that a cliché, or just a transition?), I’ll be doing my own review of The Glass Passenger sometime this week. It (probably) won’t be just a gushing fangirl’s squeeage, and it definitely won’t include the word cliché.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Movies: Eagle Eye

Early in the day on Friday, I had commented to someone that while sometimes I’m surprised to find I enjoy a movie more than I expected to (Ghost Town is a recent example), I rarely enjoy it less than I expected to because I’m good at identifying movies that will hit my buttons. A few hours later, I went to see Eagle Eye and was forced to eat my words.

The first act absolutely met my expectations. Despite the post-Indy backlash, I’m still a fan of Shia LaBoeuf, though I occasionally have trouble buying him as an action film star, especially when they shoot him from upwards angles that accentuate the more hobbity features of his face. And I love Michelle Monaghan. She was good in Boston Public and great in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and she’s the only reason I’ll even consider renting Made of Honor. She’s gorgeous in a way that’s somehow less cookie cutter than a lot of other Hollywood actresses, and she’s really good at conveying a mix of toughness and vulnerability. If Hollywood directors are smart, they’ll keep casting her in high-profile roles.

The action in the first third is fantastic, too. Julianne Moore as the mysterious voice on the phone is pitch-perfect, portraying a fantastic mix of creepy and cocksure. The plot moves along at a white-knuckle clip, with plenty of mystery and verve. And then the identity of the string-puller is revealed and it all starts to fall apart.

AICN’s Massawyrm thinks that the twist is a game-changer that invigorates the whole movie from that point on, but I disagree. The twist itself is okay, nothing we haven’t seen before but certainly thought-provoking. But the reveal should have been saved for much, much later in the movie, because it sucked the air right out of the action and led to some water-treading and needlessly complicated machinations in acts 2 and 3. The reveal could have happened in the middle of act 3 and had the same impact and made the same statement without diluting act 2.

Still, the script is tight, for the most part. There are a few weak moments. One happens right before the scene that’s been in all the trailers, where Jerry and Rachel first meet in the car and have the “Are you the one who called me?”/“She called you, too?” conversation, where they get into what can only be described as a hilarious sissy slapfight. It's supposed to be a tense moment that was ruined by my laugher because really - sissy slapfight. The other is the final image of the film, where they opted to end with a sweet, Lifetime moment rather than taking the opportunity to drive home the Big brother Is Watching thesis in a fun way that befits the film that preceeded it.

While the film didn’t exceed, or even meet, my (admittedly high) expectations, it was still highly enjoyable. Shia and Michelle make a good team, and even the deflated second act has good tension in it. The story makes some interesting comments on technology and foreign relations, although the preaching does somewhat impede the enjoyment of the film. Still, I’d say Eagle Eye is worth catching in the theatre. It's a tense, well-acted, high-octane thriller with more brainfood than is usually found in the genre. Now I just hope the next movie I’m highly anticipating, Quarantine, meets my high expectations.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movies: Lakeview Terrace and Ghost Town

Last weekend, I caught both Lakeview Terrace and Ghost Town in the theatre, which is admittedly a diverse bill, but it helps to see Terrace first and Town second to inject a little levity after the downer of Terrace.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Lakeview Terrace, I did, but it was a complicated kind of enjoyment. Samuel L. Jackson’s cracked cop isn’t the enjoyable kind of insanity to watch, it’s uncomfortably realistic in a few places. The movie sits in the awkward area between thriller and political commentary. It’s difficult to enjoy it as a pure thriller because of the inclusion of Abel’s two children. it’s hard to sit back and enjoy the unfolding pathos when you’re reminded constantly that these two children will have to live with the horrible consequences of the film’s climax. And while the film does aspire to some interesting political commentary on mixed marriages and racial politics, it’s oddly one-sided. We’re only shown reactions from the black community, never the white. Mixed-race couples often face derision from both sides, and the movie feels incomplete – almost unfair – just commenting on the one side. It’s also interesting to note that the television spots for the movie all seemed to dodge the racial issue entirely, making Lakeview Terrace out to be a standard Cape Fearish stalker yarn.

The repeating imagery of encroaching California wildfires work well as a visual reflection of the plot’s increasing tension, though it lacks subtlety. But it’s nice to see any kind of repeating imagery in a movie these days, it seems to be a fading technique.

Overall, my quibbles with Terrace are small. I enjoyed the movie, the script was tight and the cast was superb. I firmly support any endeavor that puts Ron Glass on the screen. I like that it’s not just about one thing. Race issues, crazy psycho neighbor from hell, and even some baby boomer baby angst are thrown into the mix, but it all felt organic and cohesive. Lakeview Terrace won’t change the world, but it’s a pleasant film diversion for a cooling September night.

And speaking of pleasant diversion films that aren’t breaking any old molds, there’s Ghost Town. There’s not much we haven’t seen before, of course. The “misanthrope grows as a person by (being cajoled into) helping other wayward souls” story is as creaky and dead a premise as the ghosts haunting Town, but Ricky Gervais injects it with new life thanks to his offbeat, and endearingly off-putting, brand of humor.

Ghost Town is really funny. Really, really funny in quite a few places, with humor that’s completely unexpected. I remember there were a few times when I thought I knew where a joke was going, and it instead took a totally unanticipated turn into weirder, funnier territory. It’s got a great deal of heart as well, with some nice emotional stuff that had me and my friend sniffling in the theatre. It’s definitely a Must See, though it can probably wait for Netflix. Ghost Town succeeds purely because of the cast, who keep this from being the movie we’ve all seen before. Téa Leoni and Greg Kinnear are fantastic, and of course Ricky Gervais is a marvel. At the outset, he’s a self-centered, self-loathing little black raincloud, and when he does start trying to act the part of human being, he gets to put to use all those awkward tics he perfect in The Office. EW did a great article on him that's a fun read, and between Ghost Town and his hilarious bit on the Emmys, one of the highlights of the program, I hope audiences on this side of the pond will start giving this Brit his due.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Live Blogging the Emmys 2008

In an experiment that may crash and burn due to a touchy internet connection and limited attention span on the part of, well, me, I'm going to try live blogging the Emmys. So if you're on the West Coast, beware of spoilers. And if you're reading this post on a reader/aggregator/RSS feed like Google, you'll probably need to head over to the site itself to see the rest of the updates as I'll be updating this post.

Unfortunately, this means my other posts on Lakeview Terrace, Ghost Town, and the fall TV season so far will have to wait until later this week, since I was going to work on them while watching the Emmys, because I'm not the kind of person who can devote full attention to an awards show. So yeah, here goes!

8:02 - Cute opening montage, but not super inspired or anything.

8:04 - Why is Heidi Klum in a suit? A really ugly suit? And why are Ryan Seacrest and Jeff Probst following Oprah on a major primetime awards show? This is really painful to watch.

8:08 - Really, really painful.

8:11 - Jeremy Piven (Entourage) for Best Supporting Actor/Comedy! Fantastic! Neil Patrick Harris deserved it as much (if not more), but I love JPiv.

8:14 - Commercial break. Just got an invite to watch a rental of The Scorpion King 2. Thank god I had a legitimate excuse to decline. Also, I just checked my Tivo in the other room, and once again it was recording the wrong channel. The channel changing is so hit or miss on that thing.

8:20 - Jean Smart (Samantha Who?) for Best Supporting Actress/Comedy. Vanessa Williams was ROBBED. I'm just glad no one from that godawful dreck Two and a Half Men has won so far. Jean Smart's a good actress at least. What a classy speech. I don't watch Samantha Who? though I probably should. But when it comes down to it, there are more shows worthy of my attention than there is time in the week.

8:21 - Oh, so we're doing commercials after every award now? Lame, ABC.

8:27 - The Housewives look lovely. I covet Marcia's dress. Eva's dress is a little weird, though. It looks like a bunch of shiny arrows pointing to her ladygarden.

8:29 - Zeljko Ivanek (Damages) for Supporting Actor/Drama. Okay. Zero thoughts on this one. I don't watch most of those shows nominated. At least it wasn't Shatner.

8:32 - Ricky Gervais! Love that man. These montages get worse and more irrelevant each year. Cut out some of these stupid montages and give the time to the winners for speeches that don't get cut off by music so quickly. Oh wait, we're back to Ricky Gervais! And Steve Carrell! This is awesome.

8:35 - Louis Horvits (2008 Oscars) for Directing for a Variety. Welp, that's nice and incestuous. I really am waiting for someone to create a primetime televised awards show for awards shows. Then, someone can create a competing awards show for awards shows, which will lead to an awards show for awards shows for awards shows... (Also, Lonny Price was robbed. Not that I saw the show he was nominated for - it's been mouldering on my Tivo for months now, but I saw him play the lead in A Class Act on Broadway a few years ago and he was awesome.)

8:43 - Conan! Making a Katherine Heigle joke!

8:44 - Dianne Weist (In Treatment) for Supporting Actress in a Drama. Meh. I wanted Sandra Oh or Chandra Wilson.

8:45 - Hayden Panettiere (19) and Jennifer Love Hewitt (29) look like they're the same age. Is that good for JLove or bad for Hayden?

8:46 - Many people from The Colbert Report for Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Program. Letterman had the best intro, followed by Colbert. SNL's was kind of lame.

9:03 - Josh Groban doing a montage of theme songs. Seriously painful.

9:06 - Laura Linney (John Adams) for Lead Actress in a Mini/Movie.

9:14 - I am so over these blasts from the past and lame skits. How about celebrating what happened this year? I know they're probably light on material after the strike earlier this year, but seriously.

9:17 - The Daily Show for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy. Not exactly an upset.

9:19 - Heidi Klum: "And from The Bones, David Boreanaz!"

9:20 - Tim Conway (30 Rock) for Guest Actor in Comedy Series and Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives) for Guest Actress in Comedy Series. Woo, Mrs. McCluskey!

9:23 - Barry Sonnenfeld (Pushing Daisies - Pie-lette) for Outstanding Directing for Comedy Series! Woo, Pushing Daisies!

9:24 - Tina Fey (30 Rock) for Outstanding Writer for Comedy Series. I am so torn. On the one hand, a woman winning a writing award! Yay! On the other hand, I want anything Pushing Daisies to win because that show needs love. On the other, other hand (am I now Vishnu?), Fey said "Never go with a hippie to a second location," which, hee. Okay, I'll put this in the personal win column.

9:35 - Christina Applegate looks ravishing. Her dress is beautiful, and she looks like she's glowing - just gorgeous.

9:36 - Recount for Outstanding Made for TV Movie! I haven't seen it yet, but man, it was written by Danny Strong, aka Jonathan from Buffy! That is so made of win. I wish he was doing the speech. Or at least on stage. Bah.

9:43 - Oh god, Laurence Fishburne is slumming it on CSI? That's so upsetting. He is too good an actor to be on a procedural that is way beyond long in the tooth and totally irrelevant. Anyway, Tom Wilkinson (John Adams) for Supporting Actor in a Mini/Movie.

9:45 - Can we write in Stewart/Colbert for President/Veep in November?

9:47 - Jay Roach (Recount) for Outstanding Directing for Mini, Movie, or Dramatic Special.

9:48 - Kirk Ellis (John Adams) for Outstanding Writing for Mini, Movie, or Dramatic Special. Man, I was pulling for Danny Strong. Oh my god, they flat out cut off Ellis' speech by going to commercial. Because god forbid we take any time away from remembering TV shows from 30 years ago in favor of letting a current winner thank people and say some pertinent things about the current political climate. Also, wow, that was a very political five minutes on the Emmys.

9:55 - I love Sandra Oh. I love Sandra Oh's dress. Dame Eileen Atkins (Cranford (Masterpiece)) for Supporting Actress in Mini/Movie. At least it wasn't Audra McDonald. She already has enough awards.

9:56 - Kathy Griffin's dress is pretty, but her hair is scary. It's like Farah Fawcett meets Dolly Parton meets split and stringy ends. Oy. No, wait, now that I've seen the full dress I don't love it, either. The band of tulle around the middle is odd, though I still like the brocade material and bodice. Oh, hey, crowdshot of Adrian Grenier! That reminds me, I should be watching Entourage right now. Thank god HBO repeats.

9:29 - The Amazing Race for Outstanding Reality Competition. I would have preferred ProjRun, but last season was weak (the opposite of fierce), so I can understand not giving it to them. TAR is yet another show I don't watch but know I probably should.

10:01 - I like Sally Fields' earrings. John Adams for Outstanding Miniseries. Eh. Tin Man was robbed, that movie was fantastic. The Andromeda Strain was godawful, how was it even nommed? Tom Hanks' hair has not yet recovered from The Da Vinci Code, I see.

10:05 - Congrats, ABC, you fooled me - I just Googled "National Stay At Home Week" to see whether it was real or whether you'd invented it. (It was the latter, natch.)

10:07 - Heidi Klum does comedy! In a pretty blue dress!

10:09 - Don Rickles (Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project) for Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program. I expected more from Neil Patrick Harris' presentation. He was muted, totally didn't bring it like he usually does. For shame, NPH. [ETA: Wait, nevermind, apparently their bit was cut out because they were running behind thanks to the unfunny ramblings of Howie Mandel and the other reality show travesties.]

10:13 - Kate Walsh looks fantastic! Glynn Turman (In Treatment) for Guest Actor in a Drama Series and Cynthia Nixon (Law and Order: SVU) for Guest Actress in a Drama Series. Go Cynthia! That was a fantastic episode.

10:14 - Greg Yaitanes (House - House's Head) for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Nice! That was an amazing episode and very well-directed. That's a win I can wholly stand behind.

10:16 - Matthew Weiner (Mad Men - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes) Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. Yup, yet another show I probably should but don't watch. I would have liked to see Battlestar Galactica get some love here.

10:18 - Gotta admit, I kinda love this Verizon commercial.

10:23 - Paul Giamatti (John Adams) for Outstanding Lead Actor in Mini/Movie.

10:25 - Eek, what is Candice Bergen wearing? She looks so frumpy! Rage, rage against the dying of the light, Candice! You're still a saucy lady who doesn't need to resort to frumpy jackets. Sad. Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Sigh. I really, really, really wanted Lee Pace to win. At least he was nominated though. Shows I love are rarely even nominated. (See also: Buffy, Angel, Alias, Veronica Mars, etc)

10:28 - Glenn Close (Damages) for Lead Actress in a Drama Series. I wish they'd nominate fewer from the crime/procedural genre in these categories. Glenn said that this proves that older female actresses are "high entertainment and can carry a show" to which I say - hear hear!

10:33 - Erm, nice to see they went for "creepy and prescient" when selecting the clips for this year's In Memoriam segment.

10:38 - Ooh, Kiefer looks dashing. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Okay, obviously Hugh Laurie was robbed, but I'll consider this a way to make up for not giving Malcolm in the Middle enough Emmy love back in the day. Why is Bryan bald and mustachioed?

10:40 - Craig Ferguson: ...and I just want you to know that I respect you.
Brook Shields: Is that your hand on my ass?
Craig Ferguson: Yes, and it's respecting you.

10:41 - Tina Fey (30 Rock) for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. I would have preferred Mary-Louis Parker for Weeds, personally.

10:43 - Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality Competition Program. I can barely bring myself to acknowledge this category, I don't think I can live in a world where the words "Ryan Seacrest" and "Emmy Nominee" are paired together. Even the way they're announcing it is a travesty. And Jimmy Kimmel presenting is a travesty. And now they're going to commercial before actually presenting the award which is a trav...wait for it...esty.

10:46 - You know, I hated the trailer for Body of Lies all three times I saw it in theatres this summer, but the TV promos actually make it look appealing. Hm.

10:50 - Jeff Probst for Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality Competition Program. Ah well, at least they gave it to the guy who started it all.

10:52 – Wow, Betty White looks great! Mary Tyler Moore, not so much – too skinny!

10:53 - 30 Rock for Best Comedy Series. Again, at least it wasn't Two and a Half Men, but I was pulling for Entourage.

10:55 - Tina Fey: "We are all grateful to have jobs in this turkeyburger economy."

10:57 - Mad Men for Outstanding Drama Series. Boo, Lost and House both had stellar seasons.

Welp, there you have it! You can see a complete list of nominees and winners here. Maybe next year a show I love will actually win something. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Pushing "Daisies"

Pushing Daisies Season 1 is out on DVD today, which means I can finally clear the episodes I’ve been hoarding for almost a year on my Tivo. But it also reminds me of my growing concern – is ABC doing enough to push Pushing Daisies?

I could be wrong, but I don’t think a single episode has aired in 2008. I know the strike jacked everything up, but ABC missed a prime opportunity to hook in new viewers (and remind old viewers of the show’s existence) by running some repeats over the summer. In fact, they could have started airing episodes every Wednesday starting on July 30th and then run right into the October 1st premier.

And the Season 1 DVD comes out today, two weeks (and one day) before Season 2 starts. That doesn’t give the Netflixers a lot of time to catch up if they wanted to see Season 1 before giving Season 2 a try. There’s no reason they couldn’t have pushed to get the DVDs out a little earlier to help build buzz for the series.

Even the promos I’ve seen have been weak. The few I’ve seen have been very ambiguous to the show’s plot, it’s just cutesy glamour shots and pull-quotes. Hell, they could have even thrown the Season 1 eps up for free on OnDemand or something.

(And by the way, everything I’ve said could be applied to Dirty Sexy Money as well, but while I love DSM, I’ll survive if it doesn’t, whereas a Daisies cancellation would truly gut me.)

Maybe I’m just nervous because I’ve had two other wonderful Bryan Fuller shows snatched away from me in their prime (Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me) so I’m a little gun shy, but man, I need Pushing Daisies to stick around. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this attached to a show – since Veronica Mars, Alias, Angel, and Buffy went off the air. (I’ve loved other shows since, but not in a really insanely connected way.) When Season 1 was airing last fall, I was going through a stressful period with tough school demands and treacherous interpersonal relationships and shit, and instead of immediately watching Pushing Daisies as it aired, I’d save each episode for the inevitable day each week when everything had gone wrong and I felt like crap. Then, I’d watch Daisies, and it was like shooting up with a syringe full of sunshine and kittens, I swear to god. You can’t help but smile watching the show. And now I’m in an even worse place trying to find my way in a post-grad world and being unable still to land permanent employment in this crappy media-killing recession, and I need that one-hour dose of happiness each week.

On the up side, I also have Fringe, which I’m already super attached to. But, of course I am, it’s a J.J. show. I love J.J. Even Fringe has me nervous though. Fox has a habit of killing off shows I love (see: Firefly, Wonderfalls, Dark Angel, Reunion, Undeclared, Boston Public). But supposedly this is a new regime, and Joss Whedon is willing to give them a second chance with Dollhouse after they slaughtered Firefly, so I’m tentatively hopeful.

Still, ABC doesn’t seem too trigger happy compared to other networks, so I hope they’ll give the audience a chance to find (and re-find) Pushing Daisies. I just wish they were doing more to light the way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Movies: The Women

This weekend, two of the top five grossing movies were written by and starring women. (Weekend estimates have The Women opening at #4 and The House Bunny hanging on at #5 in week four.) Take a moment to think about how cool that is. And the estimated #2, Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, stars Alfre Woodward and Kathy Bates, two formidable female actresses who are out of the Under 25 quadrant. It’s been a good weekend, by my books.

But what of The Women? I did go see it, trying to vote with my wallet, since I have no right to complain about a lack of female-driven movies if I’m not gonna see them when they do claw their way to the screen. I admit, I was a little apprehensive about this movie. The reviews were middling to poor, and I figure any film that takes 14 years to lumber onto the big screen probably has a few issues, a few bumps and scrapes. But I was pleasantly surprised, once I got over the crappy opening sequence and atrocious hairstyles.

But first, the good. The movie is marketed as an ensemble story, but at heart it’s primarily concerned with the emotional journey of Mary (Meg Ryan) and Sylvia (Annette Bening), and both of those storylines are carried through wonderfully. Neither break new ground (Mary learns to follow her dream and be her own person, Sylvia learns to stand by her principals), but both are handled well and in an entertaining way. Rounding out the gal pal quartet are Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Edie (Debra Messing), who don’t really have arcs or growth but nevertheless are charming and add a nice verisimilitude to the piece.

One line of criticism that stuck out in my head was Entertainment Weekly’s review, which said “The Women is such an arduous patchwork of ‘issues'’ it ends up a Frankenstein's monster of a chick flick.” I disagree wholeheartedly. While multiple issues are addressed, I felt that they were all in service of the plot. For example, EW says that, “For added relevance, Mary's daughter [Molly] (India Ennenga) has been made into a compendium of up-to-the-minute girl crises.” The daughter’s two main issues – nascent eating disorder, behavioral issues stemming from the separation of her parents – directly aid in the growth of Sylvia and Mary, as Sylvia realizes it’s the fashion magazine she runs that’s giving Molly the odd notions about how women’s bodies should look, and her acting out makes Mary reevaluate Sylvia’s friendship and her situation with her husband. Most of what I saw felt very organic and cohesive.

Which isn’t to say there’s no fat to be trimmed in the film. Bette Midler’s scene is hilarious but adds nothing overall to the film. I would have preferred her scene be jettisoned for more screen time for Jada Pinkett Smith, who got the short shrift of the four (though she was hilarious in the birthing scene).

But the movie does have some lumps, for certain. Either they’re a result of the movie being in production for 14 years, or they’re the reason it was in production for 14 years. I had a lot of trouble conjuring up the requisite Boo! Hiss! feelings I think I was supposed to feel for Crystal (Eva Mendes) because the whole storyline smacked of icky class issues. It just didn’t sit right with me. I think they could have had The Other Woman storyline without having the other woman being a gold digging lower-class minority woman, you know? It really just felt…icky. It didn’t sit right with me. I think that storyline could have been tweaked to make it seem less class issue-riddled.

And the styling! My god! I thought there was a code among chick flicks to keep the women looking fabulous! The hair across the board was upsetting. Eva Mendes looked smoking and Debra Messing’s hair was really nice, but everyone else got shafted. Annette Bening is a beautiful woman, more beautiful as she’s chosen to age gracefully and thus half of her facial muscles aren’t paralyzed like the faces of many of her contemporaries, but her hairstyle and lighting were doing her no favors. She looked honestly atrocious. Like the lovechild of Christine Baranski and Jocelyn Wildenstein. Why, why would you do that to someone like Annette Bening who requires minimal styling and probably looks lovely five minutes after she’s rolled out of bed in the morning? It’s almost impressive, how bad they made her look. And Jada didn’t get off much better, with hair styled into a fright wig. It was like a longer version of Michael Meyers really. And again, lovely woman, so lovely I thought it was impossible to style her badly, until I saw this movie. I did like the longer hair on Meg Ryan. Forgoing her signature short hair helped me forget that she’s the same woman who spent the better part of the 90s annoying the everloving crap out of me. (Never been a Meg fan, alas.) Still, even her hair was unruly and in her face half the time, making her look like a human shaggy dog. And while Debra Messing dodged the hair bullet, they did their best to stick her in some fugass clothes. Even the big, climactic fashion show where we get to see the clothes designed by Meg Ryan’s character was a letdown. The clothes were very pedestrian. If this was Project Runway, Nina would have been bored. So yeah, the styling on the movie was not good.

The opening sequence was really bad, too, especially compared to the rest of the movie. It opens with a shot gliding across the water and panning up to New York City, and as I’m sitting there watching that I’m thinking, “How many movies in the past thirty years have opened the exact same way? Gliding across water and panning up to take in a cityscape? Twenty? Thirty? More?” This sequence gives way to a montage of shoes, and in my head I start hearing Sarah Haskins doing a voiceover for Target Women. “You like shoes? I like shoes! Of course we like shoes, we’re women!”

Still, these bumps are easily forgotten, because The Women is a solid movie, entertaining, well-acted, with some interesting insight into female-female relationships. Definitely worth seeing.

Now that women seem to be doing well at the box office, I wonder what we have to do to get a solid female-driven action movie? I’d love to see something along the lines of Traitor or Righteous Kill starring a female or two. Or, hey, can someone greenlight Wonder Woman already?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Return of the Bechdel

It’s time for another Bechdel 2008 round-up! You can catch the earlier installments here and here. Again, the rules are simple. For a movie to pass the Bechdel test, it needs to
1. Have to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.
My criteria for judging disincludes minor/background characters (a female character has to appear in at least two scenes to count), and doesn’t count conversations shorter than roughly ten lines (five per actress). This is not an exact science, and I will nudge rules around a bit depending on the circumstances. If a film is on the fence for one section but maybe barely qualifies and is pretty shitty to women for the majority, I won’t rule in its favor. On the flipside, if a film is on the fence but is generally female-character-friendly, I’ll nudge it over. So, without further ado:

1) The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – 3/3 – Three female characters who kick all sorts of ass, plus a female baddie. Brendan Fraser may be the “star” of this movie, but the women easily steal the show.

2) Tropic Thunder – 0/3 – You have no idea how much it pains me that one of my favorite movies of the summer fails so bad.

3) Mirrors – 3/3 – This is one where I nudged it to pass, since the conversations between mother and daughter and mother and housekeeper might not have been quite long enough to count, but the movie has three well-developed female characters and two more supporting female characters, and I felt like they were all pretty well written and had their own purposes and lives in the film.

4) 21 – 2/3 – I feel like I remember the two girls on the blackjack team conversing a bit. Pretty guycentric movie, but it boasts three fleshed out female characters, two of whom are shown to excel in stereotypically “male” activities like math and card playing.

5) Vantage Point – 1/3 – I feel like I’m being generous here, since we technically see the news producer in two different scenes, otherwise it would just be the conspiracy chick holding down the lone female fort and giving Vantage Point a 0/3.

6) Doomsday – 3/3 – Four strong female characters who kick a ton of ass does not, alas, keep this from being the worst movie I’ve seen in years.

7) Pineapple Express – 1/3 – Well, it’s an Apatow movie, what did you expect?

8) 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days – 3/3 – This, along with Teeth, is probably the most important film of 2008 that every feminist-minded filmgoer should watch.

9) The House Bunny – 3/3 – The girls easily outnumber the boys in this one, and even though a lot of what they talk about is boys, there’s also some nice looks at female politics. And it’s a makeover movie that you probably won’t hate yourself for liking.

That’s five out of nine, better than the last two installments at least.

So, to recap, out of the 2008 movies I have seen, these are the ones that I (in my highly subjective way) feel scored 3/3 on the Bechdel test:

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
The Air I Breathe
The Eye
The House Bunny
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
One Missed Call
Sex and the City
The Strangers

Here's hoping for a stronger showing in the fall crop.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

90210 2.0

I was going through some old boxes over the holiday weekend when I unearthed my grade school diaries. They’re mostly filled with nonsense – not unlike my later diaries, though even more incoherent than usual – but I did find a few gems. One was my declaration, at age seven, of eternal love for Kirk Cameron. Believe me, I wish my first celeb crush had been a little edgier, too. A New Kid on the Block or, well, anything besides Mike Seaver. The other entry of note was this one:

If you can’t read my atrocious handwriting (which, if I’m being honest, has not improved much since then), it reads:
Ciao! (Pronounced Chow, Italian) Don’t you think Italian sounds much better?!
[Ed. Note – one page earlier I was mangling French and proclaiming its superiority, so clearly I was a fickle little aspiring omniglot.] Most shows nowadays are focused on teens but enjoyed mostly by the younger (my) generation. And I am 10. But I’d say the most popular show this (and last) year is Beverly Hills, 90210. It is about 8 teens growing up. For now I must depart.

Needless to say, I was an aspiring pop culture commentator even then. But it’s funny that here we are, sixteen years later, and 90210 is again poised to become a popular show. And once again I’m not in the generation that the show is aimed at. For the first one I was a generation behind and for the remake I’m a generation ahead. This new situation should bother me, but I anticipated the premiers of Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill with unrestrained glee last night, so clearly I have little shame in my love of teen shows. (At least with the One Tree Hill fast forward they’re now closer to my age.)

Unlike a lot of my friends, I don’t fear for the violation of the sacred place 90210 holds in pop culture history. Despite evidence to the contrary scrawled inside a neon pink diary sixteen years ago, the show didn’t shape a lot of my youth. I was a little young for the craze, it was more firmly rooted in the generation slightly ahead of mine. Ditto New Kids on the Block. I had NKOTB and 90210 lunchboxes and sleeping bags and dolls and all, but my love for them was more abstract, probably the way kids today like Bratz for the marketing more than the media. The show that shaped my teen years was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It premiered in my freshman year of high school and is definitely a show I grew up with and a show that informed most of my later media tastes. Buffy, Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, those shows from the golden era of the WB are the shows from my youth that I hold dear. So as excited as I am for the new 90210, my excitement is more in hoping it can replace the trashyfab SoCal teen melodrama hole that the cancellation of The O.C. left in my heart than any nostalgia for the original, so I won’t be particularly ruffled if they tip that sacred cow. Now, if they revamp Buffy (no pun intended - well, okay, maybe a little intended) and cock it up, then I’ll be pissed.

It will be interesting to see whether the new 90210 makes as big an impact on the current generation of younguns as it did the generation ahead of me. I’d guess no. At the time, Old School 90210 was one of the few shows aimed at teens. Now, for every cancelled O.C. there’s a Gossip Girl and 90210 to take its place. Teen TV is way more disposable nowadays. But I’ll watch regardless, and hope that someone gets tossed into a pool by Act 2. Damn, I miss The O.C.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer Movies 11: The House Bunny

Well, summer’s come to a close, and with it the slate of summer movies. Now come the fall movies, which are usually action, horror, thriller, and a few early Oscar contenders. Which is why it seemed like a good idea to end the season with a movie that is the epitome of summer – light, frothy, carefree. So I went to see The House Bunny.

Based on the television commercials, I would have said the only way you could get me to see The House Bunny would be to strap me in and tape my eyelids open, Clockwork Orange-style. But I saw the longform trailer which did a much better job of making it look like an appealing movie. (Which, note to studios, television spots are as important as trailers – you almost lost my $10 with your shitty TV cuts.) And then I heard it was written by a female duo, and I’m trying to vote with my wallet to support women behind the camera (the same reason I’ll see The Women opening weekend), so I went.

And I’m glad I did! It’s a really cute movie. It’s not reinventing the wheel by any means, it’s a mashup of tropes we’ve seen before. There’s some Revenge of the Nerds, Clueless, and the usual “be yourself (but better)” message. But it also has a lot going for it.

Anna Faris, for instance. She’s a wonderful comedienne. She’s absolutely fearless and that makes her hysterical. I also caught her in a movie on HBO last week, Smiley Face, which is a rare female stoner comedy, and she was great in that. She has fantastic presence and I have no doubt she’ll go far, assuming Hollywood is smart enough to recognize and write for her talent.

The movie is flat out hilarious. I actually laughed aloud several times, and the “remembering the names in the exorcist voice” scene had me laughing so hard my eyes actually watered, a feat even my beloved Tropic Thunder didn’t achieve.

I like that even after the makeovers, most of the girls still looked a little odd. They cast actually awkward, odd (but not hideous) girls, instead of cookie cutter pretty girls that they frumped up for the first act.

The movie isn’t without flaws, of course. The soundtrack was a little generic. It included “When I Grow Up” by The Pussycat Dolls, a song that might be everything wrong with humanity by a band that’s definitely everything wrong with humanity. Then there was the overused “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne. The rest of the tracks were pilfered from Gossip Girl and iPod commercials – Yael Naim’s “New Soul”, “Shut Up and Let Me Go” by the Ting Tings, and “Sour Cherry” by The Kills. None seemed particularly apt for the scenes they were matched with (except for maybe “New Soul”) but rather like the music designer just grabbed whatever was popular and at hand.

The montages – a staple of the genre – were also too many and too fake. I love a good montage as much as the next gal, I really do, but I prefer them to be somewhat rooted in reality. When you and your friends are getting ready to clean up a house, do you line up and put your gloves on one by one? Probably not. I can take one shot like that and forgive it for the “ode to spunk” that it is, but when the whole montage looks choreographed I get pulled right out. Also, it’s kind of weird that the father of the bun cooking in the pregnant girl’s oven is never mentioned. Like, really weird, actually.

Finally, there is the inherent problem with any “makeover” movie and the risk of sending the wrong message. Even when the made-over girls eventually realize they were happier before and provide the movie with its moral lesson (“be yourself” blah blah blah), the fact is that the movie still portrays unattractive or oddball girls as social lepers in need of saving, and even if they go back to what they were before, they always retain enough of their refinement to stay socially viable.

But The House Bunny is ultimately a very entertaining, feel good movie. I recommend it for an enjoyable bit of escapist fluff, and a chance to see Anna Faris before she really hits it big.