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Curio: Lily Tomlin, Movie Fan

Alexa here. To celebrate Lily Tomlin’s 75th birthday I dug up this 1983 issue of the ill-fated “The Movies” magazine from my collection. In it, Tomlin shares her film memories, especially those during her time as a teen usherette. The lengthy diary-like piece, filled with teen snapshots and written with wife and longtime collaborator Jane Wagner, reveals Tomlin to be a true film obsessive, discussing various modes of screen charisma (“inner glow” versus “outer twinkle”), her sexual awakening via B-movies, the damage Brigitte Bardot did to her, and her feminist critique of Annie Hall. Here are some choice excerpts.

On the peculiar influence movies had on her:

To say movies had a big influence on me is an epic understatement. When I got the job as an usherette my movie-mania had reached a feverish pitch. I was thirteen (I lied about my age) and star struck. Each night I would fix myself up to look like the star on the bill that week at the Avalon Theatre in Detroit. I would take my mother’s Futurama lipstick and make a mmmmmmoist Marilyn Monroe mouth that would remain mmmmoist even while talking, laughing, necking, or eating popcorn. I couldn’t wait till it was time to go to work so I could leave my blue-collar home environment for spectacles so spectacular, action so action-packed, romances so romantic that I actually fainted on one occasion as I was transported from bleak industrial Detroit to Hollywood’s silver screen under some kind of celluloid spell I never fully came out of…Like a dame in distress in a B-grade Carole Mathews swamp movie, I was caught in movieland’s magical muck of fantasy silver-screen quicksand. The moviegoing ritual was practically a religious experience. I became one with the movies.

 

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Beauty vs Beast: Sister City, Sister Bumpkin

JA from MNPP here with today’s very special Labor Day edition of our “Beauty vs Beast” series. Whether you’re employed crunching numbers and dodging bitchy CEOs in the big city offices of Moramax or you’ve opted for the more laidback homey halls of the Hollowmade factory down in Jupiter Hollow, West Virginia, I hope we can all take a breather from doing the work we love today to unite over one indisputable fact – Lily Tomlin, who is turning 75 today, is a national treasure.

Clearly we’ve chosen 1988′s twin comedy Big Business as this week’s theme – as I was eleven and deep in a Bette Midler phase when this film came out I hope you’ll forgive me for admitting this movie means a lot to me. (I have previously done an extensive appreciation over at my own site.) Rewatching it for the possibly one millionth time this weekend it’s impossible for me to tell if it’s actually any good or if it’s just so deep-seated inside of me I can’t see the forest for the Plaza Hotel.

But man does it make me laugh, and I go back and forth each time between who’s funnier: Lily Tomlin as City Rose (slapstick with muffins and dogs in elevators) and Country Rose (Rattlesnake bracelets and water-tight frog asses) or Bette Midler as Country Sadie (Lee Press On Nails and UFOs) and City Sadie (Blood Clots and Tiaras). So I’m making y’all pick!

 

Before anybody says anything yes I was torn between doing the poll this way and asking you to choose Country Sisters vs City Sisters instead, but a showdown between the two actresses ultimately won that dispute in my mind. If you’d like to offer up your cases whichever way in the comments though, feel free! You have seven days.

PREVIOUSLY Last week we were wishing Sean Connery a happy birthday by dipping our Goldfinger into the James Bond pool, and sure enough it’s that wascally secret agent who floated to the top with a whopping 77% of the vote. Said Henry:

“Seriously? Put Bond against Bond or Villain against Villain and you might have a fight, but there is no way a Bond can lose against anyone but an equal and Bond has no equals.”

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Smackdown 1989: Anjelica, Brenda, Dianne, Lena, and Julia Roberts

Presenting the Nominated Supporting Actresses of 1989. Motherhood was the loose theme of the shortlist with a determined mom (Brenda Fricker) facing off against a determined-to-be-a-mom bride (Julia Roberts). Add in 1986′s Oscar winner in this category (Dianne Wiest) as a mom so exasperated maybe she wished she hadn’t become one in one of 89′s top ten box office hits. Rounding out the list was a late breaking pair of women with claims on the same married man. Only one of them is married to him but… well, let’s just say it’s complicated. It’s complicated for all five of these women.

THE NOMINEES

 

Then-unknown Irish character actress Brenda Fricker, gifted with a screen partner who would go on to become Oscar’s most-winning Best Actor, took the gold. But the other four were in-demand hot commodities. Lena Olin who had emerged the year before (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) as a memorably erotic screen presence made good on that breakthrough. Anjelica Huston and Dianne Wiest, both recent Oscar winners, had yet more memorable turns in beloved films around the corner. But it was Julia Roberts who was the true breakout of the season… she went super nova literally three days before the actual ceremony with the release of her follow up Pretty Woman. Had the Oscars been a month later she might’ve won on in-the-moment global mania; the film was a hit everywhere grossing nearly ½ a billion dollars worldwide in 1990.

THIS MONTH’S PANELISTS

You’ve already heard ‘what 1989 means to them‘ and now here to talk about these five performances are critics Nick Davis (Nicks Flick Picks), Kevin B Lee (Fandor Keyframe), Tim Robey (The Telegraph), Tasha Robinson (The Dissolve), Todd VanDerWerff (Vox) and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). With a shoutout to StinkyLulu for the original Smackdown inspiration in which we revisit Oscar shortlists of the past without all the campaigning and heat-of-the-moment politics that infect each awards race.

Without further ado, the Smackdown

1989
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

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Yes No Maybe So: "The Rewrite"

Hugh Grant returns to the romantic comedy genre in “The Rewrite”. Here’s Matthew Eng to break it down for us in our Yes No Maybe So way


YES

• Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei
• Let me say it again. Marisa. Tomei. I’ll take her wherever I can get her, and I’d watch The Rewrite if only as a dolled-up delivery system for the most undervalued Oscar-winning actress working today. Why active, actress-friendly directors like David O. Russell and Woody Allen have yet to scoop her up and make a comedic muse out of her is totally beyond comprehension. She’s moving, miffed, and magnificent in Love is Strange, giving a pitch-perfect supporting performance, in the purest sense of the term. And she seems to be serving up her usual best here (i.e. rich, relaxed, and revealing character work) and top-lining (!) the damn thing as Hugh Grant’s older screenwriting pupil/inevitable love interest and she also seems to have a scene where she adorably re-creates the “Born to Hand Jive” scene from Grease with two little girls, and so for that and for My Marisa, I’ll be there.

more and the trailer itself after the jump…

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Beauty Break: Stars in Chains

I was all prepared to write a short and snappy post about Historical Inaccuracies via Hot Bodies when I saw Adrien Brody buffed and chained for Houdini. Only then I looked at photos of the actual Houdini and it wasn’t such a stretch after all. He must have spent as much time in the gym as he did locked in vaults underwater. Houdini, a new two night miniseries about the famous magician and escape artist, premieres tomorrow on the Discovery Channel.

Let’s ignore for the moment that Adrien Brody has had a very strange career post-Oscar (and pre-Oscar come to think of it). Can he get back in the awards game with this. Or, rather, does History Channel ever win Emmy attention? You tell me, Emmy experts.

And we thank Brody for the sudden beauty break inspiration. Let’s ogle stars all chained up, some even voluntarily, with a gallery after the jump. I mean, can you guess who this is for instance?

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Yes, No, Maybe So: Jon Stewart's Rosewater

Amir here, anxiously over-analyzing the trailer for Jon Stewart’s directorial debut. Rosewater tells the story of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was arrested following the Green Revolution riots, when Iranians protested against the controversial presidential elections of 2009. At the time, Daily Show host Jon Stewart followed the story in great detail. That publicity was instrumental in Bahari’s eventual release and Stewart’s interest in the events has evidently not subsided since. Rosewater stars TFE favorite Gael García Bernal as Bahari.

The trailer and our usual YNMS treatment after the jump…

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Review: Robin Wright at "The Congress"

Amir is here with your second review of the weekend…

The Congress, Ari Folman’s follow-up to his brilliant debut feature, the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, starts rather normally. The opening shot is a staggeringly beautiful close-up of a tearful Robin Wright (playing an imaginary version of herself) as her agent Al’s (Harvey Keitel) voiceover informs us that her career is in tatters. Robin has hit the film industry’s glass ceiling age of 45 and with an already troubled reputation as a difficult actress to work with, her options are quickly dwindling. Al is trying to convince her to sell her digital image rights to the Miramount studio headed by Jeff (a remarkably greasy Danny Houston). This would mean that the studio will use her scanned image to create characters in future films in exchange for a fat paycheque and her right to ever act again.

Everything about this opening setup is promising, signifying a film that is aware of the fears and tensions within the entertainment industry. The Congress is ripe with smart ideas and astute observations about the challenges that technology presents to the men and women active in cinema. [more...]

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UHF (1989) – Let's Get Weird

Hello all, Margaret here to ask: in our Year of the Month, 1989, did anyone guess what cultural endurance “Weird Al” Yankovic would have?
 
By all rights he should have faded into obscurity after his surprising burst of mainstream popularity in the late 80s. Yet somehow, not only has he enjoyed a steady career these past 25 years, Weird Al is actually almost hip right now, coming off of 8 ultra-viral music videos, a spot in this year’s Emmy telecast, and a #1 album on the Billboard chart. Capitalizing on this moment in the sun, Weird Al recently announced plans to write (and possibly direct) a second film. His first, released in 1989 during that early burst in popularity, was the critically maligned cult classic UHF. [more...]
 

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Game of Links

Catching up on news & noteworthy we didn’t cover the past couple of days…

Brangelina
Vanity Fair the details of the Brangelina marriage that we know. I’m really so happy for them as a longtime fan but…
Time knocks them for not keeping their promise to the gays. I knew this backlash would happen. But they did hold out a long time and they’ve done so much good for the world including for marriage equality that I think we should let it slide
Gawker asks the intriguing question: “Why is Angelina Jolia a movie star?”

Some of her movies have been well-received acting vehicles. Some of her movies have been gargantuan commercial products. There is no place where those circles overlap on the Venn diagram. 

It’s worth pondering her atypical celebrity.

Absolute Must Read!
/bent has a fascinating long essay about HBO, Game of Thrones, and the distinct feeling that TV series are beginning to go for sex and violence just to have them rather than serve the story. It’s a super interesting detailed piece that covers more than just Game of Thrones but past series as well and troubling gender politics and rape fantasies. 

More Linkage For Infotainment
Variety has intriguing film/stage news: Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men fame will be playing the legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder on stage in a play about the making of Double Indemnity. Good luck finding someone who can pull off Barbara Stanwyck!
The Film Stage a new trailer for Stephen Daldry’s Trash. You guys no matter what I do, I cannot remember to watch this. I didn’t see the first one either. I still know nothing about this movie
Deadline the first Oscar FYC screener to go out is actually Snowpiercer. That’s a fun surprise. They’re pushing Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress. I can’t find a large enough photo of the screener online to tell who else they’re pushing though. 

/Film The Maze Runner is being shown in “Panoramic Projection” which is a new thing that’s apparently descended from CinemaScope.  
In Contention Kate Winslet and a bunch of acclaimed actors are starring in John Hillcoat’s (Lawless) next feature in 2015 called Triple Nine
Out profiles Belgian superstar Matthias Schoenaerts
Empire Charlie Hunnam to play King Arthur for Guy Ritchie
The Wire explains the messy chain of events of that Bryan Singer sexual abuse lawsuit, which has now been dismissed 
Variety The Art Directors Guild has expanded their annual awards categories. Lots of interesting things will be honored now like storyboard artists and such 
Gizmodo wonders how NYC would respond to an actual Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attack. 
/Film Actor Bill Hader shares a list of his 200 favorites  (I was super happy to see Trouble in Paradise, Nashville, and L’Atalante… let’s just say he has really good taste)
Vulture talks to Jessica Chastain about yet another season of multiple movies and her love of movies, even the bad silly ones.

But tonight I’m going to the movies and I really go to the movies any chance I can… I love ‘em all.”

Small Screen
Decider looks back at a very special episode of “The Facts of Life”. Weren’t they all? 
Variety on why the Emmy rules are so hard to fix
Variety talks to Allison Janney about her career and double Emmy night
TV Line great news: Enver Gjokaj, so brilliant on Dollhouse and not as well employed as he should be is joining the Marvel Universe via that Agent Peggy Carter show 
Pajiba David Fincher’s Gap commercials  

DISCUSSION TOPIC
Do you ever find yourself reading a blog post or essay or watching a conversation and one casual remark will totally throws you out of the piece until it’s all you can think of? That’s what happened to me with that Hilary Swank comment the other day. It happened twice more last night. I was watching an interview with the star of Obvious Child, Jenny Slate, where she was all “I miss romantic comedies where women are complex”. Me too! But then her example of non-complex is shade thrown Kristen Wiig & Bridesmaids way? HUH? That’s one of the only great romantic comedies of the past decade with complex female characterizations. Then I’m over at Film School Rejects reading a take on the Honorary Oscars and they’re complaining about no “career tribute” style Oscar nomination for Maureen O’Hara in that John Candy movie Only the Lonely (1991). And then Christopher Campbell writes:

Did they really need to honor Juliette Lewis instead?

What-the-what-now? Juliette was the best one in her category that year! Plus, sucking Robert DeNiro’s thumb is really going above and beyond for art on account of gross.

Has this happened to you recently where you just can’t with one sentence? 

 

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Review: The Zero Theorem

Michael Cusumano here with the latest dispatch from the bizarre world of Terry Gilliam.

Terry Gilliam is an artist one can’t help but root for. The image of Gilliam that comes most readily to mind is one from the great behind-the-scenes disaster documentary Lost in La Mancha. It’s early, before his production has imploded, and the director reviews one of the few shots he managed to get on film for his doomed Don Quixote project. The image of the three men cast as giants lumbering toward the camera delights Gilliam to no end. His childlike glee at the sight of their rolls of fat jiggling in grotesque slow-mo is an image of an artist in touch with the pure, silly thrill of filmmaking. A man who lives for the experience of seeing his cracked visions transferred to the big screen. 

On the other hand, the subtler, less flattering image of Gilliam I took from that documentary is that of a filmmaker capable of being swept up in the joy of the process to the point of being blithely indifferent to the needs of the audience. I remember leaving La Mancha with the guilty suspicion that maybe it was for the best that The Man Who Killed Don Quixote crashed and burned on take off. Better to live with the unrealized ideal than to see one’s dream project fail to live up to expectations. What little footage we see in the film suggests it would have been of a piece with his 21st Century output, which is to say fanciful bordering on incoherent, fascinating to look at but too messy to inspire emotionally investment.

More…

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