Monday, October 28, 2013

Image = The Renaissance of Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin is one of my top 2 favorite people in show business (the other is John Cusack.)  I have admired Mr. Baldwin for many years and right now Alec Baldwin is having a major renaissance.  Alec has already been a huge movie star and a celebrated TV star and now he’s branching out in other ways.  He started with a podcast called Here’s the Thing, interviewing celebrities and other notable people to find out what truly makes them tick.  And he has a distinctive knack for interviewing.  He asks questions most conventional hosts don’t ask, out of a true inquisitiveness and respect for his guests.  Now Baldwin is hosting a talk show on MSNBC called Up Late with Alec Baldwin where he features more political guests such as NY Democratic candidate for Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

On his podcast, I’ve heard Alec say a number of times that he’s thinking about quitting acting.  I don’t think that he will ever completely leave show business, but he has been very open about his disillusionment about the process of movie making.  He and longtime friend James Toback made a documentary/mockumentary called Seduced and Abandoned (premiering on HBO tonight) about trying to raise money at Cannes for an ill-conceived movie concept.  Unabashed about who he is and his politics for years and now being vocal about becoming un-enamored about the movie business are many of the reasons I love Alec Baldwin.  Most actors just do the same thing for 50 years, but not Alec.  He is not afraid to take chances or even become unpopular in order to evolve and stay true to himself.

Alec on the set of Up Late
He may have done so early in his career but these days, Alec Baldwin doesn't play the Hollywood game.  First, he's a native New Yorker and very involved with New York politics and culture.  He walks the streets, he's the voice of the New York Philharmonic and he publicly endorses candidates like de Blasio.  Alec, once considered a major sex symbol, didn't shy away from acting (and winning an absurd number of awards for 30 Rock) when he gained a significant amount of weight a few years ago.  (He slimmed down a lot after his doctor told him he was pre-diabetic). The New York Post trashes him regularly and it doesn't seem to phase him.  Unless he is literally tackling paparazzi, he seems cool and very comfortable in his skin.

The most amazing thing about Alec Baldwin is what a fan he still is despite being a long established member of the club.  He is forever in awe of SNL and shows up there whenever Lorne Michaels calls.  He says that Michaels and Tina Fey "changed his life" with the opportunity to do 30 Rock.  And the last thing he said when he interviewed Billy Joel (a fellow Long Islander) was, "You're the king!"

This quote probably sums up Alec and my admiration of him best:
"And yet, for everything that's happened to him and around him, Alec Baldwin shows not the pitted surface of a battered survivor but the smooth finish of a beloved entertainer." - James Wolcott, Vanity Fair March 2010


Friday, September 27, 2013

Image = Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Rise to Cool

Today is a huge day for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Don Jon - the first film that he has written and directed, is finally opening.  Don Jon got a ton of acclaim on the festival circuit and its opening today is so big, IMDb dedicated their entire homepage to all things JGL. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt started acting at the age of 6 and has had a great deal of success on the traditional Hollywood route.  Now, he’s using that mainstream cred to make his own films and while he’s at it, change the way films & TV are being made.  His website is an “open collaborative production company.”  Artists can upload their work and contribute to diverse film projects – and get paid.  What a concept!  The newest hitRECord project is its most ambitious yet - a variety show for the brand new Pivot network.    
I have been a JGL admirer for years – even when he was only doing small roles & tiny indies.  500 Days of Summer is what changed everything for Joe (as his friends call him).  He was finally a leading man in a not so tiny indie and he nailed the gamut of emotions in his doomed relationship with Zooey Deschanel.  In the past few years, I’ve felt like a proud mama (even though I’m not that much older than him) because of Joe’s big time success & exposure in movies like Inception, Lincoln & The Dark Night Rises
JGL on Roseanne
JGL is empirically talented but what’s more fascinating is that he’s redefining cool.  He is very stylish and always smiling and his positive energy makes you want to root for him, hang out with him – or maybe even hire him.  Joe just seems like the nicest guy.  Like Jimmy Stewart, he is private and he has never been part of any scandal.  Instead of resting on his laurels, he is helping other artists do their thing and get compensated.  He is at the top of his game so he’s decided to change the game and just see what happens.   

You go, Joe! 

For pure unadulterated entertainment (and evidence of JGL’s insane talent), check out his lip synch battle with Stephen Merchant on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon   


Friday, September 20, 2013

Image = Jake Gyllenhaal's Time is Now?!

I need to propose a question that has plagued me for a long time: Why isn’t Jake Gyllenhaal a huge movie star right now?  He was heartbreakingly brilliant in Brokeback Mountain and nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Since then though, his career has not evolved very much.  He has only made a handful of movies in eight years and a few have gotten critical notice, but nothing has come even close to Brokeback.

So, what is it?  Does Jake have bad management?  Born into a show business family, he should have the inside track to mega-stardom.  He is young, gorgeous and talented, so what’s missing?  Why isn’t he a movie star on the level of Clooney, Damon & Pitt? 

Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain
After Brokeback, what happened?  (I mean Prince of Persia?  Really?  I couldn’t even sit through the trailer for that one).  Last year Jake also did an Off-Broadway show, which boggled my mind.

What I’m saying is I want to see much more of Jake Gyllenhaal (literally & figuratively!).  From what I have seen, he is much more than a pretty face and he has not shied away from diverse roles.  Early in his career, he helmed October Sky as a budding rocket scientist and will always be recognized for the cult favorite Donnie Darko.  He was both creepy and adorable in The Good Girl and compelling in the surprisingly impactful Love & Other Drugs, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

Whatever the missing link - maybe things will change after this this weekend.  Gyllenhaal stars in the eagerly anticipated thriller Prisoners, opening today.  Will this much promoted film with an all star cast (including Hugh Jackman) put Jake back on the A-List where he belongs?  Let’s hope so because I cannot quit him.       

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Image = My Top 100 Favorites

Over the years I've thought a lot about my favorite films but never made a list. This summer, Entertainment Weekly published their 100 Greatest Movies and their list was missing so many important films (in my not so humble opinion) that I was inspired to produce my own Top 100 List.  What frustrated me most about EW’s list is that they gave no explanation for the creation of it. Genre? Who voted? Why does 79 rank 1 higher than 80? Etc, etc… So, here’s the method to my madness for film. 

My list is based upon the impact films have always made on me. The Top 10 are to me THE BEST because I have watched them over & over and they never lose their effect, 10-20 were seminal to my film education and after that the list is in no real order. I did group indies and films that are similar (in tone or greatness) just for the sake of organization. Creating this list was no small feat and I am not even confident that it’s complete. It was very challenging to choose 100 - I've seen thousands of movies.  

My criteria for a great film:
  • Excellent writing, affecting drama/hysterical comedy and extraordinary acting.
  • Clever & innovative filmmaking or approach to telling the story.
  • I want to see it again & again and it gets better upon repeated viewings.  Funnier, more sad, or more brilliant.  {NOTE: There are movies that are a one hit wonder of viewing, like Beverly Hills Cop. The first time, I laughed my ass off but the second time just wasn’t the same}.
  • I forget I’m watching a movie. 

Some Like it Hot gets more & more hilarious and I have yet to see anything more unique, well-written & artfully executed, so it reigns supreme for me above all other films. The Color Purple is my favorite drama because in addition to brilliant performances and gorgeous cinematography, it is heart wrenching and I cry at the same parts every time. {NOTE: There are movies that are great but too emotional to ever see again like The Accused, Million Dollar Baby & Slumdog Millionaire so they are not on my list}.  

DISCLAIMER: I admit to an affinity for comedy, drama and yes, “chick flicks” and I do not watch much sci-fi or certain acclaimed filmmakers’ work – namely Kubrick, early Scorsese, Lynch, Tarantino, Rodriguez, etc. because I’m a wimp and can’t handle graphic violence. Being raised on Broadway, I feel there are countless great movie musicals, so I was rigorous about including only a few which blow me away. I’ve seen countless great films that are not on this list because despite their excellence, they didn’t stay with me (The King’s Speech, Slingblade). There are also many films with a great performance by the lead (Milk, The Queen, La Vie en Rose) that are not listed because that one performance was not enough to warrant my Top 100. Many indies made the cut because they are distinctive or groundbreaking, and again because of the experience I had seeing them for the first time in a theater.  

I hope this offers insight into my image, my theoretical orientation and why I write this blog.

My Top 100 All Time Favorite Films:

  1. Some Like it Hot 
  2. The Color Purple
  3. The Philadelphia Story
  4. What’s Up Doc?
  5. Annie Hall
  6. The Breakfast Club
  7. The Big Chill
  8. When Harry Met Sally
  9. Arthur
  10. Moonstruck
  11. Star Wars
  12. Grease
  13. On the Town
  14. Broadcast News
  15. The Goodbye Girl
  16. Terms of Endearment
  17. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
  18. Au Revoir Les Enfants
  19. Cinema Paradiso
  20. This is Spinal Tap
  21. On Golden Pond
  22. Stealing Home
  23. Tootsie
  24. Midnight Run
  25. Hannah & Her Sisters
  26. Manhattan
  27. It Happened One Night
  28. Lady & the Tramp
  29. The Purple Rose of Cairo
  30. Shakespeare in Love
  31. Forrest Gump
  32. Diner
  33. St. Elmo’s Fire
  34. Dead Poets Society
  35. Good Will Hunting
  36. The Fisher King
  37. Sideways
  38. Sex Lies & Videotape
  39. Swingers
  40. Clerks
  41. The Brothers McMullen
  42. Do the Right Thing
  43. Drugstore Cowboy
  44. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  45. Dirty Dancing
  46. The Shawshank Redemption
  47. Amadeus
  48. Shine
  49. Thelma & Louise
  50. Steel Magnolias 
  51. Parenthood
  52. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  53. Fearless (1993)
  54. Scent of a Woman
  55. Birdy
  56. La Vita e Bella
  57. Crash
  58. Brokeback Mountain
  59. Ma Vie en Rose
  60. Chocolat
  61. The Commitments
  62. Muriel’s Wedding
  63. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
  64. Sliding Doors
  65. Home for the Holidays
  66. The Apartment
  67. Platoon
  68. Amelie
  69. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  70. High Fidelity
  71. Love Actually
  72. Auntie Mame
  73. The Aviator
  74. American Beauty
  75. The Hurricane
  76. The Station Agent
  77. Little Children
  78. A Home at the End of the World
  79. Chasing Amy
  80. Dogma
  81. Reality Bites
  82. Lars & the Real Girl
  83. Victor Victoria
  84. Yentl
  85. The Birdcage
  86. Airplane!
  87. Strangers on a Train
  88. Happythankyoumoreplease
  89. Mumford
  90. Something’s Gotta Give
  91. Juno
  92. L’Auberge Espagnole
  93. Run Lola Run
  94. Beginners
  95. Jeff, Who Lives at Home
  96. Lost in Translation
  97. (500) Days of Summer
  98. The Social Network
  99. The Artist 
  100. Argo