Monday Morning Critic 2.8.2010: Riffing on Jersey Shore, feeling the Oscar Buzz and talking about Robert Downey Jr in Less then Zero

On tap this week:
— Rapid fire hilarity
— Oscar fallout
— Robert Downey Jr. in a hazy shade of winter
And slightly much more!

Sometimes I come up with lots of great thoughts that aren’t quite worthy of long-form sketching. So this week I’ll throw ‘em out there for your enjoyment.

Avatar a rip off of an obscure British comic? That’s what these guys say. Wouldn’t shock me, but I was ready to make a joke involving Smurf sex and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest instead of linking to the article.

— I was watching Entertainment Tonight (or one of those types of shows, they’re all basically the same) with my father when Adam Lambert was on. It was the aftermath of the Grammy Awards and the subject wasn’t who won or lost. Having someone who couldn’t even win what amounts to second rate talent show evaluate the best of the music industry would’ve been unintentionally hilarious. No, he was doing something even funnier: They were having him “critique” the fashion, picking out who looked good and who didn’t, of the women there.

While seeing a gay man critique what women looked good and which ones didn’t seems odd to begin with, the problem was that he was dressed like the illegitimate offspring of Liberace and Colonel Sanders. He can’t even dress himself, how can he evaluate the fashion of others?

And therein is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Shows likes these always have someone who looked like a blind monkey with Down Syndrome dressed them critiquing how good or bad people have dressed for the evening. It’s like Jessica Alba giving acting lessons or Ashley Simpson giving voice lessons.

— I play football (soccer to my American readers) on Monday nights on a mainly Italian team, and yet over the years I’ve never gotten a horrid nickname. Granted my experiences with Italians only come from these guys, Goodfellas and Jersey Shore but I thought I’d have been nicknamed “Rabbi Guido Sarduchovich” by now. Or at least have to refer to myself in the third person as “The Predicament” to fit in.

— Speaking of Jersey Shore, apparently Flynt Productions is hard at work with their spoof series by producing Jersey Whore, with the gal from the Sarah Palin porno as Snooki’s mother. Though it does beg the question: How does one exactly write dialogue for Jersey Whore and capture the true Guido? I imagine it’s something like this:

“Yo, let’s do this broad.” – Bobby D
“Yeah, let me gel my hair first.” – Jackie Boy

Honestly, I never thought I’d see the day when Brazilian fart porn looked respectable in comparison.

— Did anyone else think of Cyrus from The Warriors during the State of the Union speech? I was waiting for President Obama to scream “CAN YOU DIG IT?” during the proceedings. That and Dennis Kucinich would shoot him, and then blame it on Steny Hoyer. He bears an uncanny resemblance to David Patrick Kelly.

— You know what would be the meanest thing to do, ever? Break into one of those clinics for people who are trying to conceive with In Vitro Fertilization and switch out the adult magazines with really vile stuff. Like adult materials of the morbidly obese or the elderly. It would be a real measure of one’s love to make a sperm sample with only the Afghani edition of “Good Housekeeping” available as “inspiration.”

— Another thought on Jersey Whore. As they tag-team the porn star playing Snooki’s mother do you think the over-tanned, ‘roided up buffoons Flynt hires from Trenton will be fist pumping? You have to know stuff like this before you make “Guido” the next sub-genre of adult entertainment.

— The one thing I noticed about the promotion of Extraordinary Measures is that Brendan Frasier got top billing over Harrison Ford. In what reality does Frasier get top billing over ANYONE? Really, Dudley Do Right gets billed over Indiana Jones? I don’t think in anything else it would happen. They could both be in the bathroom and people would be running out screaming “Indiana Jones and his son are dropping Dukes in there.” Heck, there aren’t too many people in the world that would get top billing over Harrison Ford. He could be in the same room as the President and I’d probably be like “HOLY CRAP its HARRISON FORD. Ohh….Hey President Obama.”

But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

With the Oscars having been announced last week, the one thing I noticed about the coverage is there wasn’t quite the backlash as there has been in years past. Why? Because in 2010 with 10 films being nominated, the system actually worked and got a wide variety of the year’s best films. For those who haven’t been paying attention, the nominees are:

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

You have, in order:

1. The biggest film ever, 2. The sleeper hit of the year, 3. The genre shocker of the year, 4. The critical darling that didn’t find an audience, 5. The first Iraq War film that didn’t suck, 6. Tarantino’s most mature work, 7. The other critical darling that found a decent audience, 8. The legacy, 9. The best animated film of the decade, 10. The next great film from Hollywood’s next great director

The thing that strikes me about all of these is that the system finally worked. You have big hits, you have critical darlings and you have those between. But if you were to craft a top 10 list of the year, odds are at least a handful of these were on it. And a number would’ve been honorable mentions, too, if you go that right. You could change in and out probably another five to eight films and have a great list to choose from.

The key that’s happened is that ten films does make more sense than five does if you do it right. I’ve gone on record as saying that ten was a bad idea and I readily admit the error of my thinking in only one respect: the Academy did their best to actually take ten great films instead of ten prestige pictures. If I had to pick 10 pictures I thought were going to be nominated, and not what should be nominated, I was going to hazard a guess on this assembly of films if I had to pick (instead of give odds):

Up in the Air
A Serious Man
A Single Man
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
An Education
The Boys are Back
The Hurt Locker
The Last Station

Given the Academy’s history this wouldn’t have been a huge surprise, and that was (and still is) my biggest peeve about ten nominees. Taking out Avatar the rest of the films would’ve been lucky to clear $100 million combined by my half-assed guesstimate. And despite more films, you’d have the same antipathy towards the Academy Awards.

So I admit, I’m a bit more excited this year for the Oscars than normal. But at the same time, I hope this is a trend that’ll keep happening. If the Oscars are truly going to be representative of a year in film then this year is the model of how it ought to be. But my main concern is that it’s going to be the anomaly as the Academy will go back to five films or takes 10 prestige films instead of 10 good to great films.

At this point, I say enjoy it while it lasts. Because it probably won’t.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Less then Zero

Before Robert Downey Jr. really descended into the depths of drug addiction he merely played a junkie. And before he resurrected his career from those depths to become one of the best actors in the land, he was the best young actor in Hollywood. Case in point: Less Than Zero.

Based off the Brett Easton Ellis novel of the same name, with significant changes, the film follows three friends: Julian (Downey Jr), Clay (Andrew McCarthy) and Blair (Jami Gertz). Clay has gone off to college, while his two friends have stayed in their native California. Coming back midway through his freshman year, he finds things have changed radically. Both his friends are drug addicts, Julian owing dealer Rip (James Spader) a significant amount of cash. As he watches his friends spiral down into drug addiction, Clay finds himself out of place in a world he used to be a huge part of.

The film is actually not bad, all things considered, but is now known for only two things: Downey Jr. and its soundtrack. Supplying one of the few major hits for the Bangles with “Hazy Shade of Winter,” and a top notch rock soundtrack, there’s so much great music in the film that one can remember why the teen drama was in vogue back then; there was always a great collection of music.

Downey Jr. is interesting to see, if only because his own life would spiral out of control because of substance abuse. He always had the talent, even in his early roles; it was a matter of keeping it together. Seeing him destroy everything because he had addiction issues was hard because I remember being a kid and just LOVING the guy. He was the only one of the “Brat Pack” I would pay money to see, then and now, because he always was doing something interesting on screen. It’s nice to see Downey now, clean and sober, because he still has the talent that he showed back then. Now he just has his act together and we’re the better for it.

The film itself is hard to watch in the same way The Siege has become. You can’t watch Downey Jr. playing a junkie without really thinking “oh crap, he was a junkie” in the same way you can’t see Denzel Washington track down Islamic terrorists committing acts of violence on U.S shores in the post 9.11 era of action thriller film-making.

It’s interesting to see this film in retrospect that only 20 something years can provide, as Downey is the only actor in this film who is in a better spot now as opposed to then. Spader is a top television actor, but never really made it in film. His biggest screen credit in the last 10 years has been the protagonist in The Watcher, known more for Keanu Reeves’ turn as a villain then anything Spader has done. McCarthy is an actor on Broadway, his star having burned out in the late ‘80s along with most of the “Brat Pack.” Gertz is a part time actor who has a bit part on Entourage as Marlo Klein, the wife of Andrew Klein (Gary Cole).

Downey, though, had his career spiral out of control and took the hard path to redemption. Several times. So now, seeing him with his demons closely locked away and on top of the world with two hit franchises, is nice.

Tepid recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Children of the ancient Greek Gods seek to find Zeus’s missing thunderbolt.

See it – The next great fantasy franchise has arrived; I can feel it in my gut.

Valentine’s Day – A huge cast has shenanigans on the most romantic day of the year.

Skip it – It was boring when it was called He’s just not that into you and it’ll be even more boring now.

The Wolfman – Universal re-launches one of their original monster franchises, with Benicio Del Toro as the cursed man.

See it – It’s rated R, which means this is going to be excessively violent in an old school fashion. No more pussy-footing for a horror franchise, which will be nice because a Wolfman flick that’s PG-13 will only be neutered.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

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