Just a couple of things… (updated)

I’m going to be spending this extremely rainy So-Cal MLK day doing some catching up with various movie-watching obligations, including some awards-type flicks I’ve been criminally behind on, but first a couple of random left over things.

* I expected a bit more fall-out, perhaps, from Ricky Gervais’s more-mean-than-funny gag at the expense of Paul McCartney and his recent divorce, but I guess I wasn’t alone in my mixed reaction to last night’s festivities as a show. Of course, my mixed reaction has nothing on the sheer, predictable venom of Nikki Finke’s nevertheless readable “live snark” of the event. She does have a point, exaggerated though it likely is, in underlining that — even among big show business awards — the Globes aren’t exactly known for their uncompromising integrity. Certainly, last night’s win by Robert Downey Jr., as talented and committed a performer as he is and has been for decades, does seem to follow her statement that “Stars win in direct correlation to their glamor quotient.”

One great line that a lot of us missed from the pre-show activities came courtesy of who else but the wondrous Tina Fey, remarking upon the unstereotypical Southern California weather last night: “No, it’s not rain. It’s God crying for NBC.” The rain, by the way, is expected to continue all week. I guess we know Who Else might be on Team Coco.

Also, one thing I forgot to say last night. “Sofia Loren.” I’m just impressed to see her, anywhere. Time may wear on, but that face is eternal.

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UPDATE: I forgot to add that the ratings for last night’s telecast were up from prior years, and I suspect Gervais’s presence did not hurt.

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Celluloid Heroes: Best British Imports of the Decade

Foreign films made a big splash at the turn of the century, with many moviegoers finally realizing that subtitles weren’t so bad after all. Though a language barrier was never the reason the British film scene failed to take off, it really came into its own in the aughts with the introduction of new talent like Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, and Danny Boyle. As part of our look back at the movies of the 2000s, here’s a list of the best British imports of the decade. You’ll probably notice some similarities among many of the entries, but that’s just because when it came to delivering great genre films, the U.K. was king.

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10. “Son of Rambow”

Movies like “Son of Rambow” don’t get nearly as big of an audience as they deserve, which is a shame, since it’s one of the most wildy inventive family films I’ve seen in a long time. And who better to make a movie that incorporates animated doodles into its character’s imagination than the director-producer duo that created the wacky, stop-motion music video for Blur’s “Coffee and TV”? It’s a match made in heaven, though much of the film’s success is thanks to newcomers Bill Milner and Will Poulter, who give child actors a good name.

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9. “Billy Elliot”

Jamie Bell may be all grown up, but “Billy Elliot” remains the best thing he’s done. A classic feel-good movie featuring a great soundtrack, a funny and heartfelt script, and a memorable performance from Julie Walters as the title character’s chain-smoking ballet teacher, “Billy Elliot” was nominated for three Oscars and was eventually adapted for the stage (with music by Elton John, no less) where it went on to win ten Tony Awards. Still, for as much love as the Broadway musical has received during its five-year run, the movie version is still one of the most entertaining British films I’ve ever had the pleasure to see.

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8. “Sexy Beast”

Though it’s best remembered for Ben Kingsley’s riveting turn as Don Logan, a venomous, high-strung gangster who doesn’t take “no” for an answer, “Sexy Beast” is a smart and energetic crime drama that also happens to be pretty damn funny. Of course, most of that humor comes from Kingsley’s expletive-laced performance, and it’s a crime that he wasn’t rewarded with a nice, shiny Oscar. Still, even though the movie is essentially the Ben Kingsley Show, “Sexy Beast” served as a nice introduction to Ray Winstone and Ian McShane, and will likely go down as one of the better crime dramas of the decade.

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7. “RocknRolla”

Say what you will about Guy Ritchie, but his movies are an absolute blast to watch, and “RocknRolla” is easily his most mature film to date. Though he still seems to favor style over substance, the movie still succeeds thanks to an amusing story and lively ensemble cast led by Gerard Butler and Tom Wilkinson. Plus, that bizarre dance scene between Butler and Thandie Newton is one of the funniest WTF moments of the decade (not to mention their subsequent sex scene). Ritchie’s films may never receive the credit they deserve (he’ll forever be remembered as a Tarantino wannabe, even though QT himself has been accused of stealing several times over), but “RocknRolla” is what going to the movies is all about.

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Harry Potter and the more family-friendly rating

Early ticket sales are outpacing “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which naturally warms my Michael Bay-unfriendly heart, but that’s not the only news for the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

A day or two back, Pamela McClintock of Variety wrote an article detailing the possible box office up- and downsides of the milder PG MPAA rating the upcoming Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” will have in comparison to the stronger PG-13 rating of the previous film. (Shorter version: parents may be more likely to encourage to allow kids to see it, but teens may prefer the allure of mild cinematic transgression promised by the PG-13.)

This PG-rating seems like another example of the arbitrary nature of the ratings. (It’s actually worse than that, but that’s another blog post.) Of course, I haven’t seen the new Potter film — and I’m not half way through reading the book yet — but by the very nature of the series, with the characters maturing and a war of wizards raging, the new film should, if anything, be at least slightly more violent and sexually charged than the prior film.

Even with most of us lucky enough to lead lives more or less without violence, real life is NC-17 from a fairly young age. For most of us, daily life is full of cursing, scatology (assuming we’re reasonably regular), sex and/or thoughts of sex. It’s not implying any scandal whatsoever to say that a sufficiently frank documentary about the making of a Harry Potter film could get an quick R-rating simply for language. Thanks to Ricky Gervais and company, we already have an idea of what such a documentary might be like.

  

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…And the Winner (Really) Is….

No, this is not a reference to last night’s Tonys. True, the movie-inspired “Billy Elliot” did take the night, continuing a “trend” for B-way musicals that go back to the classic film era, and it’s also true that host Neil Patrick Harris is a winner both for his show-closing/show-stopping musical summation, and because Empire Online has announced a couple of movie gigs for the still up-and-coming Doogie Horrible. (h/t Whedonesque).

However, it seems that the battle for the #1 box office spot discussed on my last post actually had a somewhat different result than we thought. It’s important to remember that those numbers I talk about on Sunday are really only estimates, though they are treated by press-sters as just this side of gospel. The upshot is Variety is reporting that both “The Hangover” and “Up” did better than expected business yesterday, but the former did just a little bit better better business, if you follow me. Sayeth the big V’s Pamela Mcclintock:

Final figures will show that “Hangover” grossed $45 million from 3,269 runs. “Up” should finish at $44.3 million to $44.4 million from 3,818 theaters.

I don’t suppose it really matters that much in the final analysis; nobody’s going broke here. (Well, I can’t speak for degenerate gamblers. Someone, somewhere, just lost a big bet.)

In other box office news I didn’t have time for yesterday, “Angels and Demons” cracked the $400 million mark over the weekend worldwide, sayeth the Finke. “Terminator Salvation” is not doing so badly overseas, actually. “Land of the Lost,” however, may be doing even less well than expected. Critics, you may step up your gloating.

  

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