Saturday, September 27, 2008


Paul Newman (1925-2008)

By Edward Copeland
In the field of acting, being a sex symbol and a great actor don't often exist within the same performer, but when they do, as in the case of Paul Newman, it's electric. What's even more amazing about Newman, who has succumbed to cancer at 83, is that his sex appeal lasted well into his AARP years and his acting only seemed to get better as he aged.

Like many actors of his generation, he got his start mostly in early 1950s television. He openly disdained his first feature film, 1954's The Silver Chalice, but did better his next time out in 1956's biopic of boxer Rocky Graziano, Somebody Up There Likes Me.

Newman scored the first of his Oscar nominations for the de-fanged 1958 film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Even if the subtext was excised, Newman's Brick did balance well the torture and sexuality of the character. It was his second nomination for the great 1961 film The Hustler where Newman showed audiences as Fast Eddie Felson that he truly was more than just a pretty face.

Throughout the 1960s, Newman was often the go-to guy when a cad was needed in films such as Sweet Bird of Youth and Hud (Oscar nomination No. 3). He could also show a flair for comedy as one of Shirley MacLaine's doomed husbands, a loopy painter, in What a Way to Go! He scored another nomination with Cool Hand Luke and teamed with Robert Redford for the first of two times in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

He worked with some of film's greatest directors (Hitchcock, Huston, Altman, Scorsese, the Coen brothers, Lumet, Preminger, James Ivory), albeit not on the filmmakers' most notable movies.

His second teaming with Redford, The Sting, is still a joy to watch today and one of the most underrated best picture winners. He later scored two more best actor nominations for Absence of Malice and The Verdict.

The Academy, feeling guilty that one of the biggest movie stars was zero for six (zero for seven if you count his producing nomination for Rachel, Rachel), gave him an honorary Oscar in 1985. The following year, he was nominated again for best actor for reprising Fast Eddie in The Color of Money and the makeup Oscar was unavoidable.

He earned two more acting nominations for Nobody's Fool (and he should have won) and Road to Perdition.

He made a late career return to Broadway and earned a Tony nomination as the Stage Manager in a revival of Our Town.

He also gave a great late career turn in the HBO miniseries Empire Falls, winning an Emmy. It also was the final time he worked with his longtime wife, the great actress Joanne Woodward. The pair teamed in 10 features.

Newman's lifetime love of car racing ironically colored his final role as the voice of Doc Hudson in Pixar's Cars. His racing interest led to a friendship with David Letterman, where he memorably appeared in the audience of the first episode of his CBS show asking, "Where the hell are the singing cats?"

Newman earned a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in recognition of the amazing amount of money he raised for charity through sales of his salad dressing, popcorn and other products.

RIP Mr. Newman.

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Friday, September 26, 2008


The thrill is gone

By Edward Copeland
As one of the girls is depressed in the big screen followup to Sex and the City, she asks one of her friends if she'll ever laugh again. I knew exactly how she felt as there is little humor to be found in this overlong and unnecessary spinoff from the great HBO series.

I'm always a little trepidatious when a TV show turns out a film version. (It's a miracle that as many of the Star Trek films turned out as well as they did.) Especially when the absence has been as short as this series' has been, they better have a damn good reason for a movie version, especially one that transforms what was essentially a half-hour comedy with pathos into nearly 2 and a half-hours of gloom.

The performers all slip quite easily back into their characters but it's the script by writer-director Michael Patrick King that lets them down. While the HBO series had a rocky first season, it grew to be one of my favorites, deftly blending all forms of comedy with pathos about all sorts of relationships.

While the ending wasn't perfect, it was satisfying enough in coming up with pseudo-endings for Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte. There really seems to be no point for the movie. Its stories weren't burning to be told, which may be why the most refreshing parts of the movie belong to Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's personal assistant.

It's good to see the girls again and it's always great to see New York filmed with so much love, but there's no reason this film needed to be made.

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Friday, September 19, 2008


Emmys are Sunday. Why don't I care?

By Edward Copeland
I've been an award show nut since I was a wee lad, but as I've grown I've dumped more and more of the galas. The People's Choice Awards were banned before I was out of elementary school when one year they nominated Clint Eastwood for favorite television star and he wasn't even on anything on TV. During high school, I finally got fed up with the joke that is the Grammys. I'm beginning to wonder if the Emmys are about to land on the same trash pile. Too many years of watching them nominate the same shows and performers (and rewarding them) and ignoring the worthy have taken their toll.

Every year, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announces changes that they swear will change the system and shake things up yet each year the list of nominations ends up being infuriating. After so many years of this though, the anger has subsided. It has become so expected, that you can't get worked up since you know that they are going to fuck things up. I'll probably watch Sunday, but I have so few things to root for that this could be the last time.

Now, I've never seen Mad Men, but I've heard nothing but good things, so I assume its nominations were deserved. However, I did see enough of Damages to know that it DID NOT deserve its best drama series nomination. Glenn Close is fine, but the series is not.

I like Holly Hunter a lot, even though I know I shouldn't watch the aimless Saving Grace. I've only watched The Closer a couple of times, but can anyone explain why a show set in California requires Kyra Sedgwick to use such an awful fake accent or, more importantly, why she gets kudos for that grating voice.

Amy Poehler is talented but why on earth did they suddenly decide this year that Saturday Night Live cast members could compete in supporting comedy series categories instead of individual in a variety or comedy series or special where they'd been for years, especially since all of SNL's other nominations fall in the variety or comedy series categories. Think of all the supporting actresses on comedy series who were omitted: Jaime Pressly, Judy Reyes, Sarah Chalke, Susie Essman.

Granted, Scrubs had its weakest season, but the continued snubbing of John McGinley and, especially in the past two seasons, Ken Jenkins is a crime.

The absence of My Name Is Earl is puzzling since it keeps getting better and is proving quite adept and keeping itself fresh and reinventing itself. Especially bizarre is how Craig T. Nelson missed out on a guest actor nomination.

Then again, why be surprised? Deadwood and Ian McShane were only nominated once. John Goodman and Jason Alexander never won.

Don't get me started on how they treated The Wire. The Emmys have always been screwed up and they always will be.

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Friday, September 12, 2008


Borders are man-made — nature couldn't care less

NOTE: Ranked No. 41 on my all-time top 100 of 2012

By Edward Copeland
It is fairly routine for directors to make two (or more) classics in a row, but it still amazes when they do and Jean Renoir did just that the year before he released his masterpiece The Rules of the Game when he directed the World War I drama Grand Illusion. The film opened in the U.S. 70 years ago today and while it's a common occurrence today, Grand Illusion was the first foreign foreign language film to be nominated for the Oscar for best picture, back when the foreign language category didn't even exist. I'd hoped to do a full-fledged post on the movie, but lack of time and energy prevented me from doing it justice. Still, it deserved notice. Perhaps we can delve further in the comments. Remember, golf courses are for playing golf, tennis courts are for playing tennis, prison camps are for escaping and comments are for discussion.

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