A really #@#$# afternoon outside the MTV Movie Awards

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I know, you all secretly envy the glamorous life of we entertainment writers. The high pay, the fast cars, the loose women, the expensive perks, the free bottled water — okay, it’s only really the last of those that I’ve come to expect as a matter of course. That’s especially the case when I’m in a red carpet line and expected to stand in direct sunlight on a very warm day for three hours waiting to talk to people of note who never stop by.

Yes, we entertainment writers do occasionally get  free food and beverages in return for showing up to cover red carpets and press days and the like.  It’s all part of the PR machine and I suppose you could argue that sometimes it goes too far. However, most of it is is far from gourmet quality, very few of us are well paid, and if all takes to influence you to cover something positively rather than negatively is a free hoagie, some pasta salad, and a cupcake, integrity wasn’t exactly your middle name to start with.

Still, if people are going to be forced to stand around outside on quite a hot day for close to three hours, quite literally risking a case of mild sunstroke (my mistake for not bringing a hat, I suppose — and thanks to the nice guy next to who allowed me to use his freebie sunblock), then providing access to water might be a good idea. No one I saw fainted or became ill, but no one around me seemed very happy either. Of course, what we all really wanted was a chance for some fun and shallow conversation with celebrities. Since I mainly cover movies, and this was, after all, the MTV Movie Awards, people somehow related to them would be nice. Television is good, too, though my knowledge is not as broad there. Reality television is something else again.

And this is  part where I have to confess that I went to the MTV Movies Awards Red Carpet and I only got a few odd celebrity photos and two brief interviews with young and, I’m sure, quite skilled young actors who are anything but household names. Considering the huge crush of better known media outlets, I wasn’t likely to get a moment with any genuine superstars — just, you know, someone. Okay, so Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, or Michael Cera or even Betty White or Zach Galifianakis or Ed Helms and Ken Jeong might be off the table, but, well, give me somebody or don’t bother to put me there at all. I’ve got better things to do than to make celebrities feel important by trying to get pictures of them as they rush into the air-conditioned confines of Universal’s Gibson Amphitheater.

Given the high ratio of big stars and the small number of mid-level personalities, interesting newcomers, or behind-the-camera talent, I had my suspicions early on. When I saw the costumed and photogenic young lady below, who turns out to ace celebrity stalker La Coacha, the “first protege” of Perez Hilton, I figured I’d better request a picture. It was just possible the attractive junior gossip hound would be the most famous person I’d meet. She was, as it turns out, definitely the prettiest.

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Celluloid Heroes: Eight Musicals of the 21st Century

A funny thing happened this decade — the once dying genre of live-action movie musicals seems to have returned to the movie repertoire. As the decade closes, I can think of exactly two major westerns, but I keep remembering musicals that I should consider for this piece (including the mostly well-regarded French musical “Love Songs,” which I forgot to see before writing this, je suis désolé).

As a lifelong fan and a nearly lifelong tough critic of musicals, I love most of these films. However, this list is not so much a traditional “best of” and I’ve included one choice I definitely don’t like. (It won’t be hard to guess which.) These are musicals that I think contributed to the development of this polarizing and hard to pull off genre. They don’t hark back to times gone by or try to recapture a past glory that will never return, but actually take us into the future. That’s important now that musicals seem to have a future.

“Dancer in the Dark” (2000)

Earlier this year, the brilliant but often irritating Danish director Lars von Trier shocked hard-to-shock European festival audiences with graphic sexual violence in “Antichrist.” Back in 2000, all he needed to divide audiences was some really intense melodrama and an approach to making dark musicals partially borrowed from TV creator Dennis Potter (“Pennies from Heaven,” “The Singing Detective”).

Featuring a literally once-in-a-lifetime lead performance by singer-songwriter Björk as a young mother ready to sacrifice everything to save her son’s failing eyesight, “Dancer in the Dark” is maybe the most emotionally potent story of parental love I’ve ever seen. As a musical, it’s strange and arresting.

Like the Potter television shows and movies and “Chicago,” further down the list, the musical numbers take place in the mind of the lead character. In this case, however, it is particularly poignant as our heroine is a fan of musicals who, though she is gradually going blind, is attempting to appear in a community theater production of “The Sound of Music.” Below, she musically confesses her situation to a smitten Peter Stormare (yes, the guy from “Fargo”). Lumberjacks or not, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” sure seems like a long time ago.

Moulin Rouge” (2001)
As the non-musical Pixar films became the dominant template for animation and the musical form lost its last apparent movie bastion, big studios began to experiment with musicals starring humans. Unfortunately for me, the first and still one of the most popular of this decade’s high profile film musicals was Baz Luhrmann’s beautifully shot, amazingly designed, dull-witted, and over-edited “Moulin Rouge.”

Yes, this musical fan is not a fan of the musical that’s been credited with resurrecting the genre. Why? A couple of sequences work, but on the whole I expect the funny parts of a movie to make me laugh and, even more important, I like to see the movies I’m seeing. As far as I can tell, Luhrmann simply doesn’t have the confidence in this film to allow us time to view the arresting images he’s worked so hard to craft, nor does he permit time to actually see the hard work his dancers and actors put in. Editor Jil Bilcock is expected to do all the performing instead.

As for what Luhrmann and his arrangers did with the various classic songs they threw into a musical Cuisinart, the less I say about it the better. At the risk of sounding like a fogey (or a member of an 18th century Austrian court), too many notes. Way, way, way, too many notes. See if you disagree.

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Playing catch-up

Predator with Arnold Schwarzennegger

A few more random items worth mentioning…

* Robert Rodriguez is producing a “Predator” reboot, entitled “Predators,” to be directed by Hungarian-American helmer Nimród Antal. As per today’s Variety, along for the ride are Adrien Brody and Topher Grace. I, personally, will wait for the movie to decide first whether I’ll bother to see it and second whether these two undoubtedly talented actors are well cast here. (Grace is kind of a personal favorite and this sounds like chance to be sort of a badass Norman Bates, which I can kind of see.) However, as usual geek film bloggers and some film geek bloggers can’t wait for the movie to have an opinion, and Spout’s Christopher Campbell collates the reaction. No word on Brody’s chances for eventually becoming a not-too competent and unlucky governor of California.

* Two very tentative but interesting items from Mike Fleming today. Gary Ross, who’s past specialty was such seriocomic Oscarish fare as “Dave,” “Pleasantville,” and “Seabiscuit” but who is doing the the latest rewrite on the next “Spiderman” film may also be directing as well as rewriting a proposed “Venom” movie, without Topher Grace, most likely. The many problems with “Spider-Man 3” to my mind had nothing at all to do with Grace, but who said life was fair?

* The second Fleming item has screenwriter-director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls“) “in discussions” to return to biographical material somewhat along the lines of “Gods and Monsters” and “Kinsey,” with a proposed film about the late Richard Pryor to star Marlon Wayans. Adam Sandler‘s “Happy Madison” company is involved at this point, which makes sense given the reverence nearly all modern comedians have for Pryor.

* Speaking of people who’ve been known to throw a few M-F bombs in the name of a laugh, our own Will Harris has an interview with the praised and maligned indie film mainstay and part-time funny de facto stand-up comic, Kevin Smith at Bullz-Eye. Very definitely worth a read. And, though I probably don’t need to say it, the following video is NSFW and is just plain dangerous to your life and career if you are anywhere near Gwyneth Paltrow, Steven Spielberg, or George Lucas.

  

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