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It's later in the day (or night) than usual, but we got in a Firewall & Iceberg Podcast just under the Monday wire. Dan and I talk a bit about the experience of watching last night's Grammys, review the return of "Cougar Town," the HBO debut of Gervais and Merchant's "Life's Too Short" and Netflix's original wiseguy-in-Norway series "Lilyhammer." We also answer some of your mail, which gives us a chance to check in on some freshman series we haven't discussed in a while, and also for me to gush over Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. (Apologies in advance for that segment.)
I may have been a little slow on the draw putting this one up today, but in my defense, that's because I was laughing so hard.
I have to assume that's okay with Timur Bekmembetov and Tim Burton and Seth Graeme-Smith, because no matter how straight-faced this trailer plays it, the entire notion of successfully convincing a studio to pay big money to make and release a film called "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" has got to be one of the biggest "Holy crap, we were kidding BUT THEY REALLY DID IT" moments in the history of film.
The only way you make that film work once you decide to make it is to go all in. No half-measures. You can't be embarrassed to be making it. Noooo… you have to go the other direction. You have to pack more "f**k yeah" into every single minute of running time than has ever been attempted before. You have to crank it up and let it run hot. It is patently absurd, so embrace that. Be absurd. Be big and crazy and supercharged with lunacy. Don't just have Abraham Lincoln kill vampires. Have him kung-fu fight them in slow motion while dual-wielding deadly axes. Go for it.
"Cougar Town" season 3 makes a very belated debut tomorrow night at 8:30 on ABC, and the guerrilla marketing campaign being waged by creators Bill Lawrence, Kevin Biegel and their stars seems two-pronged in its goals: 1)To remind existing "Cougar Town" fans that the show still exists and will be back on Valentine's Day, and 2)To convince people who either gave up on the show after a handful of episodes, or who simply refused to watch a show called "Cougar Town," that it has nothing to do with its horrible, horrible title anymore. (Biegel explained to me last month why they unfortunately can't change it.)
I've written a lot over the last couple of years about the ways the show transformed itself from the story of Courteney Cox's Jules living up to the cougar archetype into the story of Jules becoming the unofficial leader of a collection of oddball friends and relatives who live on her cul-de-sac. As I wrote last week, it's an incredibly goofy, incredibly charming comedy about friends and family, about red wine and running gags and boredom, and while it's certainly not for everyone, it's for far more people than anyone might suspect from thinking it's about Courteney Cox having sex with younger guys.
But no matter how many words I write, a picture will be worth 1,000 of 'em, and a bunch of embedded videos will be worth even more. So I've gathered together a collection of scenes that I feel capture the show that "Cougar Town" became over time, and that should be a good barometer of whether you want to watch the season premiere tomorrow. Lawrence's sense of humor is idiosyncratic, not universal. But if you find yourself laughing at one or more of these clips, chances are you'll want to spend more time with the Cul-de-Sac Crew this season. (And, yes, the gang's nickname is also terrible, but more intentionally so.)
BERLIN - You may have noticed a lack of Berlinale updates over the weekend – to apologize for that would be to suggest, presumptuously, that you missed them, but please accept my excuses for slacking off anyway. Between a flurry of screenings – which finally, after a tepid start, unearthed some B-plus-plus efforts, though from exactly the sources I’d been expecting – a flurry of snow, a blurry of BAFTAs and an awful lot of queuing for tickets, there weren’t too many waking hours to process what I’d actually seen.
Plus, you know, there was the “Iron Sky” party to attend. In a festival starved for silliness, the sci-fi flick, a sci-entry in that hoary old what-if-the-Nazis subgenre, was a hot ticket right up until the moment it screened – so much so that I, along with many other journalists, was shut out of the Saturday press screening. This prompted enough collective vocal dismay that the festival steward manning the door told us, with customary German delicacy, to “disband before I call security.” Being a critic has never felt so righteous.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their hosting team for the 84th Academy Awards' pre-show this year and the red carpet extravaganza has gotten a second "Project Runway" infusion. Tim Gunn has appeared three times as an interviewer and fashion commentator, but 2012 will find "Runway" judge and Marie Claire fashion director (whatever that means) Nina Garcia joining the fun. We have to assume Heidi Klum's recent divorce is the only reason she isn't along for the live hour long special. (And warning ladies: if you're wearing anything designed by Mondo expect Nina to hate it.)
Another new face this year on the pre-show will be Louise Roe. Best know for her show "Plain Jane" on MTV International, the Glamour magazine editor-at-large also received high marks for co-hosting E!'s coverage of the 2011 Royal Wedding and has been a regular for red carpet coverage for the Video Music Awards and European Music Awards.
It’s the morning after the 54th Annual Grammy Award and after a few hours sleep, we have a little Monday Morning Quarterbacking to do:
*To quote a Don Henley song title, “Everything Is Different Now”: Last night was a clear referendum on real music between Adele and the Foo Fighters’ sweeps. Of course, the Grammys are cyclical and the wins are very dependent upon the pool of albums released during the eligibility period but for those of us who hope to never hear another autotuned, scantily-clad cutie in our lives, it was a victory. Plus, Skrillex’s three wins showed that EDM is a full force to be reckoned with that must be recognized as its own musical art form. That is something that, sadly, the David Guetta/Deadmau5/Foo Fighters/Chris Brown/Lil Wayne performance may not have hammered home.
LOS ANGELES - Justin Vernon felt out of place at the Grammy Awards, and not just because of the brown, slightly oversized suit.
The Bon Iver frontman himself expressed different versions of discomfort, confusion and nervousness about the 54th annual ceremony, despite a very hospitable bounty of two top-tier wins, for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album. His apprehension didn't emanate from the glut of industry heavy-hitters attending the show, but rather from those who were absent.
"When I started to make songs I did it for the inherant reward of making songs, so im a little bit uncomfortable up here. But with that discomfort I do have a sense of gratitude," he said during his acceptance speech for Best New Artist, a top-tier, telecasted honor. He indicated thanks to his fellow nominees and "all the non-nominees that have never been here and never will be here."
As Vernon held his two statues backstage at the ceremony, he mentioned similar notions. I had the chance to ask him if he was ever considered actually skipping the Grammys.
"I was like, 'I dont know if I can go.' I was pretty nervous, there was a lot of emotions, feeling like maybe i didnt deserve to go or i wasn't ready to be in front of y'all, in front of all those people or something," he replied. "It's also just a slice of the industry. It's such a big slice, it's the biggest night in music, but there's so much music out there that can't be represented in this one night. I had a lot of confusion going in, but im glad i came and i feel really honored and stuff."
Vernon also further explained the circumstances around the performance invite, hinting that the band's collaboration could have been with the newly reunited Beach Boys. "It turned out with the Beach Boys coming back, it's kind of a big deal," he said, purposefully understating. "I decided I wanted to do something with my band and play our song, but there wasn't really time for that tonight."
As previously reported, the Jagjaguwar artist revealed that Bon Iver had been offered to perform at the Grammys ceremony and declined on principle. They wanted to play one of their own compositions and, were they required to collaborate with other artists on the show as so many artists do, that they wanted collaborate with friends or artists of their choosing.
Despite his concerns, Vernon couldn't shake at least some positive feeling, telling attendees during his Best Alternative Album acceptance that it "feels pretty special."
And it is pretty unique for an independent label artist to even be nominated at the Grammys -- let alone win -- Vernon's uneasiness was in part a reflection of the slim chances other indie artists have at getting wide-scale recognition. As Jagjag label head Chris Swanson told me in January, Bon Iver's appeal naturally unfurled into the larger landscape.
"It was great to participate in a record as far-reaching as “Bon Iver.” It was a nice shock but it still feels like a really natural sequence of events. He’s reaching so many people."
Perhaps when you're is so deeply committed to songcraft, nothing feels natural.
(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)
Predicting the makeup nominees is annually a total crapshoot; predicting the winner, on the hand, is almost always disproportionately simple. That speaks to the vast difference between the branch vote and that of the general Academy: while fellow makeup artists often surprise by leaving out seemingly grabby transformations, less informed voters inevitably gravitate toward the nominee with the most makeup.
This year’s nominee list was predictably unpredictable: any combination of three titles from the seven-film bakeoff in the category, far heavier this year on period than fantasy work, seemed plausible. Only one was unanimously picked by pundits – Meryl Streep’s elaborate, decades-spanning Maggie Thatcher makeover. Though the British biopic would appear to be the frontrunner for the win as well, one other nominee from the UK ensures this race feels moderately less cut-and-dried than usual.
The nominees are:
As a wrote in my Oscar Guide piece on the Best Foreign Language Film race a while back, the Academy has compiled a more commendably tough-minded selection of films in the category than usual, and no nominee is tougher than Belgium's entry, "Bullhead." A complex, muscular fusion of thriller and character study set in the corruption-riddled European cattle racket, but delving into far darker and more inscrutable psychological territory than the trade of steroid-pumped cows, it's probably my second-favorite of the nominees.
Michael R. Roskam's debut feature was an adventurous selection on the Belgians' part, particularly with the gentler charms and familiar auteur brand of Cannes critics' favorite "The Kid with a Bike" also in the running, and it was similarly gutsy of the Academy to take it this far in the race. There's speculation that the executive committee stumped for this challenging contender, though it's performed well enough at the AFI and Palm Springs festivals -- winning prizes for Roskam and his remarkable leading man, Matthias Schoenaerts -- to suggest art house audiences are willing to take it on.
We couldn't rightly lead off a round-up without noting the biggest entertainment news of the weekend: the sad death of singer Whitney Houston just prior to yesterday's Grammy Awards. Houston crossed paths with the movie industry for the first time in 1992's "The Bodyguard" opposite Kevin Costner (which was announced by Warner Bros. to be rebooted almost a exactly a year ago). She circled back a couple more times in the 1990s, in Forest Whitaker's "Waiting to Exhale" and Penny Marshall's "The Preacher's Wife." She will once again be seen on the big screen when Salim Akil's "Sparkle" releases in August, while her big screen debut will hit Blu-ray on April 10. It seems there's going to be a lot of Whitney this year, but she will nevertheless be missed. [HitFix]
What the hell was that?
Nicki MInaj's Grammy Awards show performance of "Roman Holiday" was hell, in so many ways. Most notably, it was a theatrical interpretation of hell, though viewers were indiscriminately and unknowingly cast there within the first few notes.
The jumbled, faltering, brain-deleting insanity of the stage presentation wasn't made any more tolerable by Nicki's singing voice, bending around the tracked vocals in caterwauling notes and nonsense. Until there is a fully edited music video to accompany this song, it will be forever burned into memory as a vortex of blistering shame and confusion.
Nobody -- especially Minaj -- was ready for this. But there were some clues as to what she was going for, references to pop culture flotsam and bedlam that could one day parse into a central theme or idea.
Below, I outline five of many influencers on Minaj's Roman trainwreck. If you relax your eyes long enough, you'll see a dolphin or perhaps a man with a funny hat emerging from this image: