Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Netflixing: Easy A

As much as I like watching movies, I might like rating them on Netflix better. In this series I will explain why I rate what I rate. This week...

Easy A fits nicely with Means Girls in the land of post-modern teen movies. From the first ten minutes it is apparent that it is aware of itself, with Emma Stone effectively winking the necessary knowing wink. Otherwise, it is fairly straight forward, hitting the exact beats at exact time they are supposed to be hit. This is not saying it a generic script, which it is not, but it does definitely play by the rules of the genre. A genre the film celebrates by outwardly acknowledging its forbearers despite the fact that Olive would have been about -10 when many of the alluded to John Hughes movies came out.

To that end the character of Olive seems to have been intentional written to speak like a grown up. A fact the movie acknowledges by 1) having the young Todd character outwardly say it to the young Olive and 2) giving Olive parents that talk to her like an adult.

Her parents might have been my favorite characters, seemingly created with the desire to defy the convention of the traditionally tough and not understanding movie parents. I related to the idea that sometimes teenagers have the most in common and actually enjoy the people that raised them. The success of this was helped by the brilliant performances by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.

Though, if I am going to mention casting I should note that first and foremost that Ms. Stone absolutely nailed it. She was apparently born to play Olive, a character that is both wise beyond her years yet still wracked with the lack of world weariness that is expected from a teenager. She is gorgeous but with a weird enough face that it is somewhat understand why she would be unpopular in high school. I imagine even a talented young actress in the same ilk like Emma Roberts would not have been able to do as good a job.

Similarly, much of the casting from necessarily annoying Amanda Bynes to Thomas Haden Church as the archetypal favorite teacher of a cool yet unpopular teen movie protagonist was spot on. The one exception is Penn Badgley who was such a bizarre cast as Todd. It seemed like Todd was supposed to be a dorky yet awkwardly charming romantic counterpart in the vain of her Superbad co-star Michael Cera or Zombieland co-star but Badgley played it in the only way he can as a full-on heart (of gold) throb. This legitimately could be the movies most inexcusable flaw. The first act expository stuff might have been a little too heavy handed and the third act melt down too predictable but both seemed to be the intention of the writer, Ben V. Royal, who did not want divert too far from the format.

Overall, the movie achieves it goal of being a teen movie for teenagers that also works for post-teenagers. It was incredibly smart, using the Scarlet Letter allusion to comment on high school gossip and a generation of oblivious oversharers yet deft enough to not make the film to weighty or didactic, choosing to have these big ideas mentioned in offhand comments. Easy A might be an easy (!) watch but it is by no means simple:


Thursday, February 24, 2011

A One Screenshot Top Chef Recap: Week 11

He was "that" close. As were all the near losers of losers of the last couple of weeks. Leaving us with a sorry excuse for a final 5. Black Tiffany! Antonia! Really? REALLY!?!?

This season has been playing out as Richard and the also rans and if he wins then bully for Top Chef. However, if he stumbles making hot dogs on a boat or whatever the hell they're doing next week, then there is a problem. You cannot bring back a bunch of old losers, call them "All-Stars" and have some one like Carla win. Carla is a fine cook but she was brought on the show because she was one of the show's All-Star personalities not chefs.

Dale and Angelo were not personalities, they were brought on to cook good food. They would be perfect follies for the eventually victorious Richard who is one of the top 5 best chefs who did not win. A case maybe can be made for Angelo but generally that cannot be said for any one else this season. It is a stable of the best or most likable of the middle, most of whom never deserved to win.

But you know who has already one this season, PSYCHO-THERAPY! Every losing chef talks about how much happier they are as people now, it is beautiful.

Oh yeah, also, Paula Deen is the worst.

Though I loved when she was talking there was a bunch of funny cutaways.

"I'm from the south" jumpcut to Black Tiffany
"How we show our love" jumpcut to Carla
"Lasagna" jumpcut to a gleeful Mike

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A One Screenshot Top Chef Recap: Week 9

First, let me apologize, I watched last week’s episode on a plane flying back from NY. I did not have the gustiness to knock out a recap after what ended up being 10 hours of travel. Either way, that was last week, which was a good episode, and this is this week, which also was a good episode.

There was one clear winner this episode; no, not Carla who was so off-the-wall bonkers that I am starting to worry she is actually severely bi-polar. Also, it should be noted that Carla is so good at what she does and nothing else that she should resign from the competition already and just open up a “Contemporary” Soul Food Kitchen in Washington, DC called Hoot that sells $18 Fried Chicken and $20 Shrimp & Grits.

I guess the picture makes it obvious but Jimmy Fallon was the winner! He was just so damn nice and human. All week the blog press was about how Fallon had a hard time filming the judges’ table because he could not keep a straight face. When the winners came in he wanted to scream congrats and when the losers approached he wanted to apologize.

The picture above is from when Fabio was walking out the room, and Jimmy looked physically shaken, especially compared to Padma and her “I think this is how normal people show sadness” face. After 100 or so tables, it has become old hat for Tom, Gail, and Padma so it is nice to have some one on their that can act as a proxy for us common-folk.

And if there is anything Jimmy Fallon shines at it is acting as a proxy for his audience. I was always a defender of Fallon on Late Night; I even went on the limb of Tweeting as much in the first week of the show. Now that the show has really found its voice (largely do to A.D. Miles a.k.a. the fellow with the snarkiest quote of the night, comparing Black Tiffany’s chicken & dumplings to tortilla soup), it is great to see the masses get behind him. He is definitely on a path to be the next Tonight Show host, and after the events of last year, it might be nice to have some in the seat with such a history of politeness not a history of being a pirate who collects classic cars.

I digress, after generally a season of great challenges it seems like next week the show is going to be replaced by a 45 minute commercial for Target.