But we're not the worst

Amazing cameos in “The Avengers”

Okay, so maybe they don’t count as “cameos,” but I was stoked to see Ashley “Chrissy Seaver” Johnson as Waitress and James “Jim Walsh” Eckhouse as Senator Boynton in The Avengers, which I finally saw today.  (Sigh, how the mighty have fallen.)  Kudos for still getting work!

Other observations:

  • How on earth did Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth get billing over Scarlett Johansson?
  • I could not believe that Cobie Smulders had such a huge role in this.  This is huge!
  • Please somebody explain to me how Chris Evans can be both the Human Torch AND Captain America in the Marvel world…
  • I could not believe that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris.  Didn’t realize he was English!

Very entertaining film.  I highly enjoyed Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, RDJ was obviously fantastic, Gwyneth Paltrow’s bare legs seemed oddly out of place, and I appreciated the schawarma reference.  Good job, Joss Whedon.  Already excited for the sequel.

I met a guy named Jaleel yesterday

Obviously had to ask if everybody asks, “Jaleel?  Like Jaleel White?” when they meet him.  (Answer:  YES.)

I don’t think we’re going to be friends.  He loves Family Matters, and I positively loathe it.  He was like, “How can you hate it?!”  I replied, “It’s a terrible show.  I watched it for ages but it does not hold up.”  He asked, “What ‘holds up’?”  I said, “Something that’s funny!”*

I then proceeded to regale my dining companions with fun facts, such as Jaleel White being the first choice for Rudy Huxtable before producers decided to make Rudy a girl.  I was met with puzzled looks, but I was baffled too.  ”Didn’t you guys read the June 2011 vanityfair.com Q&A with Jaleel White?!”  They had not.

An oldie but a goodie.

* Full disclosure:  The first fan fiction I ever read online was Family Matters fan fiction.  Some of it was really good.  Still a terrible show.

Why Jemima Kirke’s Vulture Transcript is actually pretty awesome

Vulture just posted an interview with Jemima Kirke about Girls (as if there were any other TV series that mattered at this very moment!) and her recent abortion-themed episode.  The user comments are pretty negative, attacking her speech (“Inarticulate, yet very clearly offensive and oblivious” — Aclare), lack of self-awareness (“out of touch and vapid” — Gathly), and general PR skills (“this is why actors NEED publicists” — Coralpants).

Okay, so Jemima says a few questionable things, including but not limited to:

  • I’ve pitched things that I would like to do. You know, like, I always wanted to work at a restaurant and I never did. And I was like, “Lena, can you get me to work at a restaurant?” So there’s things that I wanted to do, you know.
  • I guess when you’re an artist — painting, let’s say, because I’m a painter…
  • You know, we’re not talking about girls living in projects, which there are millions.

Okay.  Her publicist is probably cringing.  But the following gems are, in all seriousness, un-ironically amazing:

  • On abortion:  I’ve had an abortion. So, uh, it felt fine. Totally natural. I didn’t have any harsh feelings about it. I was like, “Yeah, this is what happens.”
  • On the four leads’ prominent family ties:  It looks terrible. Come on! It looks shitty. I don’t think that was on purpose. I think that was a mistake. And let’s face it, Lena’s a daughter of someone who’s connected to kind of a world of celebrity, and so she’s naturally going to have friends who are in similar situations, and that’s who she reached out to.
  • On her finances:  I’m still living off my parents. I don’t know. I’m still living off my parents.

Out of all the ubiquitous celebrity puff pieces that we’ve become accustomed to reading (“I’m in such a good place!”  ”I’ve learned to love my body!”  ”I’ve worked so hard to be where I am!”), I find this profile to be extremely honest, brave, and (despite most of its criticism) VERY self-aware.  How many actresses have actually admitted to having an abortion (while acknowledging that it’s “totally natural” and conceding that it’s not necessarily a Life-Changing Event but perhaps something necessary, like a dental cleaning), recognizing the role that prominent family members have had in their career (even Jemima’s co-star Allison Williams continues to insist that it was her YouTube video from 2010 that was the impetus for Judd Apatow to contact her agent… and, uh, how exactly did you get an agent anyway, Brian’s Daughter?), or freely telling the world that they still lives off their parents, which Lena Dunham’s character Hannah (whose parents by all accounts appear to be middle-class, certainly not rock stars like Jemima Kirke’s) didn’t even admit to her loser not-boyfriend (who subsists on his grandmother’s charity) until she was cut off?

We constantly berate The Privileged, especially celebrity spawn, for not recognizing that they were born into good fate.  (I’m looking at you, Dori Snelling.)  To me, this interview indicates that some of them out there actually DO realize and, more importantly, credit nepotism in their professional success.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Jenna Fischer just told The Hollywood Reporter, ”The whole cast, I’m talking about everybody — Ed [Helms], John [Krasinski], me, everyone is wanting to come back. So it’s really just a matter of NBC pulling the trigger.”

Given that The Office, still the top NBC comedy, has slipped in ratings and popularity, especially after Steve Carell’s departure, should it come as a surprise that its main stars (claim to) want to stay?  (Ed Helms’s film career is pretty hot right now [The Hangover, Cedar Rapids], and John Krasinski co-wrote the upcoming Promised Land with Oscar-winning screenwriter Matt Damon.)

Or maybe they took a quick look at the career of Katie Heigl, who not long ago was ruling Hollywood with a slew of successful romantic comedies but is now resorting to ask to be re-written back into Grey’s Anatomy, the show that shot her to fame but whose writers she publicly denounced.

Office cast members:  Don’t forget to include the date when you sign on the dotted line!

Chris Brown has the #1 movie in America

Over the weekend, Think Like a Man grossed $33 million, knocking The Hunger Games down to third place after four straight weeks at #1.  The latter film crossed the $350 million mark on Saturday, after just 30 days in release, but the real story here is that in Hollywood, even after physically assaulting your pop-star girlfriend, you can still win Grammy Awards and people will go in droves to see your movie, thereby knocking out the only film that has stayed so consistently on top of the box office since the $2 billion behemoth Avatar.

U-S-A!  U-S-A!

Robert Pattinson as Finnick Odair?!

Celebs Gather (yeah… I don’t either) is reporting that Robert Pattinson is being considered for the role of Finnick Odair in the upcoming film adaptation of Catching Fire.

Say what?  Look, I’m not a Twilight fan but I recognize that Pattinson’s a handsome guy.  But as Young Triton?  They need to cast someone who can pull off that nearly-naked net “outfit” that Finnick sports during the Tribute Parade.  Someone scarily buff and reminiscent of Fabio who can also convey the complexity of a guy who was basically whored out by President Snow and separated from the woman he loves.

Ryan Gosling?  (Too old, I think.)  Channing Tatum?  (Well, he’s got the bulk down.)  Chris Evans?  (Because I can’t tell him and Channing Tatum apart.)

Or maybe Lionsgate will go with an unknown.  Apart from Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson (whose careers were already quite solid), the fact that most of the tributes in The Hunger Games were played by unknowns was a great move (and paralleled the young actors’ being pushed onto the world stage!).

PEOPLE’s ridiculous non-headlines

People.com’s big headline reads:  ”Nick Cannon ‘Doing Something Special’ For Twins’ Birthday.”

How is this a story?  Okay, so he and Mariah Carey are going to celebrate their children’s first birthday.  I mean no sarcasm when I say, that’s really awesome.  But… wouldn’t most parents celebrate their children’s first birthday?  How is this worthy of being reported?

(Obviously, the subsequent question should be:  Why am I expecting Pulitzer-level reporting from People.com?)

Thoughts after my second viewing of “The Hunger Games” [SPOILERS]

The Hunger Games finally premiered in Spain yesterday, 20 April.  (Don’t even get me started on the absurdity of international release dates.)  Of course, I’d already seen it three weeks ago in London for the hefty price of ₤12 (after a ₤3 student discount).  For the record, I spent a cool 7 in Madrid.

Don’t worry, I still loved the film, and it was great to have a second viewing to experience quirks that I hadn’t noticed before.  I know everybody loves to hate on cinematic adaptations of best-selling books, but I’m usually fine with films that deviate from the original source.  (I mean, they’re two completely different media.  Of course there will be some [necessary] changes.)

Still, there were a few things I noticed from my first viewing that were only confirmed for me with the second:

1.  Katniss’s romantic reluctance towards Peeta did not transfer well (if at all) onto the screen

In the novel, Katniss was very clear that she was putting on a show while in the arena and acting as Peeta’s star-crossed lover for their mutual benefit.  Obviously, in the film, we lose Katniss’s first-person narration (and thank goodness that Gary Ross decided against a voiceover), but had I not read the novel, I definitely would not have realized that Katniss was faking her feelings to attract sponsors.  You can argue that Haymitch’s note (“You call that a kiss?”) tipped off the audience that he wanted Katniss to step up her game and put on a show, but overall, I didn’t think a non-reader would have caught this.  When Katniss and Peeta returned to District 12, and Gale (with Prim propped up on his shoulders) gives Katniss a sad smile, you could have interpreted this as (1) the longing look of a young man who couldn’t bear to see Katniss being paraded around Panem with another guy or (2) a longtime friend who was truly relieved to see that his best friend had survived the Games.  And yeah, Peeta commented on the train back to District 12 that he “[didn’t] want to forget” what had happened in the Games.  But I did not think this was very clear.

2.  The tributes in the book were much more vicious than their film counterparts

Obviously, there is an alliance among the Careers, but I found the friendly, almost high-school-clique-like camaraderie among the District 1 and 2 tributes (after they killed the girl from District 8 who foolishly started a fire) a little exaggerated.  They were a little too giggly for the KILLING MACHINES that I imagined from the book.  It was interesting to hear Cato’s lines during the movie finale at the Cornucopia (when he claims that the only thing he knows to do is to kill, which gave the character more depth and made me pretty sad for him and the other children from District 1 and 2 who are essentially bred to kill), but for the most part, I didn’t fear the film version of these tributes… and I was terrified of all of them in the book.

And Thresh.  The terrifying, silent (yet honorable) Thresh.  During the pre-Games training, while Rue is up in the rafters with Cato’s knife, Thresh is grinning to himself with a big ol’ smile that basically was like, “Oh, RUE.  That’s Rue just being Rue again!” as if he served in some sort of big-brother-like role.  However, in the book, Katniss mentions her surprise that Thresh would spare her life just that one time for Rue because she’s pretty sure that she’d never even seen the two District 11 tributes interact.  Though this was a nice touch for Movie Thresh, it definitely softened his silent-but-deadly character.

3.  The widespread popularity of the three-fingered signal made no sense

After Katniss volunteers for the Reaping to take Prim’s place, she says that “to the credit” of District 12, nobody applauded after Effie suggested that they do, and instead, the citizens all saluted her with an ancient three-fingered signal that is representative of their district.  However, in the movie, you mostly see the District 12 kids do this salute… but Katniss said that it was something that nobody does anymore, therefore I found it very implausible (or inverosimil, if I’m bringing my grad school studies into this analysis) that the District 12 children (almost all virtually younger than Katniss) would know to do this.

Furthermore, it really made no sense that anybody from District 11 would be familiar with this ancient District 12 salute (but hell, obviously I shed a few tears upon seeing this scene that actually took place in Catching Fire but was definitely more effective after Rue’s death).

4.  I didn’t notice the shaky camera before but I definitely noticed it now.

A major complaint that I heard across the board was Gary Ross’s decision to use a Blair Witch-like technique for most of the film, especially during the Reaping scenes.  I was actually okay with this, probably because I did not notice it at all the first time I saw the movie.  But I absolutely took notice this time, but I thought it was an effective way for the viewer to experience the confusion, panic, and uncertainty that accompanied Katniss throughout most of her time in the arena.

But whatever.  The movie still rocked.  And I can’t wait to see what Francis Lawrence does with Catching Fire.  (Listen, people.  Stop with the complaints.  Face reality:  GARY ROSS AIN’T COMING BACK.)

Final thoughts:

  • Josh Hutcherson grew up into a fine-lookin’ dude.  But he still always be Gabe to me from Little Manhattan.
  • Jennifer Lawrence kicks major ass.
  • Clove is just as scary as her character from Orphan, which I still refuse to see.
  • Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid’s kid is acting now?!
  • If I were a District 12 tribute who boarded that train, nothing would have kept me from stuffing my face as soon as I encountered all that food.
  • I feel a definite need to get into shape and learn some archery… you know, just in case I get thrown into some control-room-controlled arena and need to fight to the death.

Yeah, I know, my New York rent is your Everytown mortgage

At first, the idea of leaving the Village “was like a death to us,” Ms. Kreuzberger said.

Why do I insist on reading the Real Estate or Style section of the New York Times?  Am I a masochist?  Do I enjoy reading about people with more money than Cal Hockley?

Take this recent article from the Times about I already feel bad about myself (kind of) for not being able to afford to rent in Manhattan, but now I’m supposed to feel bad about myself for not living in the Village?

Fun fact from the article:  In March, Citi Habits fond that the average rent in Manhattan is currently a whopping $3,418 a month, which has surpassed the previous all-time high set in 2007.

My last studio in the city cost $900 a month.  I mourn.

Was the Greek Theatre not available?

Jennie Garth celebrated her 40th birthday in Los Angeles.  And Shannen Doherty and Ian Ziering were there too!

I remember watching Kelly Taylor’s 21st birthday celebration, thinking it was the most elegant thing.  All of your friends at an amazing outdoor venue!  Jazz music!  Coke-addicted artist boyfriend from New York!  Dave Koz, whose music I (sort of) knew, thanks to his guest appearance on a 1993 episode of Family Matters when Steve declared his love for Laura, despite being on a date with Myra.

What was it about Dave Koz back in the 1990’s that made his management think to target the demographics of Family Matters and Beverly Hills, 90210?