Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Emmys

I haven’t seen any movies lately, so how about those Emmys? What would happen if Jesse Pinkman were real and he actually received one of those heavy gold statues?
It was hard not to see some of how I imagine the “Breaking Bad” character would react on Aaron Paul’s face when his name was announced last night in the supporting actor category. The man behind the mask of Jesse is much more classy (he did not shout “yeah bitches!” as I would have hoped) but in some way the accomplishment, even the second time around, seemed to mean as much to Paul as it would for Mr. Pinkman to have his wildest dream come true.

Maybe it would be to actually be respected by Mr. White instead of being called ridiculous, or have a career as an artist (I am watching season one again right now). I digress a little, but my point is that Paul’s look and speech were my favorite moments of the Emmys. I didn’t catch it right away, but my second favorite clip from the show is the moment between Paul and runner-up in the category, Giancarlo Esposito (Gus on Breaking Bad.)
It’s nice that the Emmys is the kind of show you can watch while working, in my case on a last minute story to turn in Monday morning, and know when to turn your attention to the tube.
I did see the intro with Jimmy Kimmel and some of my favorite actresses in the bathroom, and it was funny, but once the late-night host got on stage his performance was just so-so and the presenters had more wit in their lines.
Steve Buscemi should have threatened Kimmel with a trip to the wood chipper for the joke about his weight, but whatever.

My other highlights were Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ win for her role in “Veep” and the nods to Louis C.K. I think the lead comedy actress category had some of the toughest competitors this year, and I am happy “Elaine” took the statue home.
“Girls,” both in the acting of Lena Dunham and as a comedy series, didn’t get anything this year but I think the show will get its much-deserved award attention one day.
There are some shows, however, with moments in the limelight that may have passed. Mad Men, with 17 nominations last night, did not receive any awards.
It’s not like the ad-agency drama over at AMC has an empty shelf collecting dust, but it is a little bit surprising an Emmy from 2012 won’t be there.
I think the loss for Jon Hamm in lead acting, and for the series in best drama, is mainly because of the new kids on the block and a little bit about the most recent season of the show.
“Homeland” is the new kid taking home the actor and actress and best drama awards, and “Mad Men’s” hiatus of more than a year between seasons four and five is perhaps equal to the popular jock the majority of people don’t think is cool anymore.
I am not one of that majority, as I thoroughly enjoyed season five, but it may have been the one misstep for “Mad Men” and the television academy saw something better.
I can’t argue one way or another about “Homeland” because I haven’t seen it yet, but it is definitely on my short list. “Mad Men” will bounce back in its final two seasons, I think. It will be interesting to see if the academy then renews its faith in the show, but from now on I don’t think winning is everything for “Mad Men.”
Apparently it is for “Modern Family.”
Eric Stonestreet, one of four actors from the ABC sitcom in the comedy acting category, and Julie Bowen earned awards and the show also won the best comedy series nod.
Enough already. I have liked the show overall, although I did not finish last season, but it’s just too predictable now on all accounts.

I tuned out the Emmys’ miniseries and reality-show categories, that is until Tom Berenger showed up on stage. No offense, but Jake Taylor is not looking so good these days.
But he is still in the acting game, apparently, with his winning role on the “Hatfields & McCoys.” The miniseries earned several nominations and another win by Kevin Costner.
Looking at the full list of Emmy nominees and winners, it is obvious I haven’t seen a majority of the good, bad and the ugly shows and performances on it. But now I know what to add to my list (“Boardwalk Empire” or “The Good Wife,” for example) and what future award hopefuls to continue watching.
From here I’ll turn my thoughts to Andy Greenwald’s recap. It’s what I would strive to say if I could land a job watching television and movies and writing about them.

Sleepwalk With Me

Mike Birbiglia.

I’ve learned to accept my flaws, or at least one of them, of late. I can prepare all I want to, but if I have the opportunity to speak to someone I admire and there is a big group of people there as well, it’s just not going to happen. Words have yet to be exchanged between myself and Anthony Bourdain, David Carr and now Mike Birbiglia because of it.
For my job, while I do have to prepare and sometimes work up the confidence to do it, I can ask the important questions. Unfortunately none of the aforementioned superstars (in my book) have been at events I need to cover for work.
But just listening to what they have to say is enough for me. I actually just became a fan of Mike Birbiglia with all the buzz about his movie “Sleepwalk With Me.” And, through my extensive research in the last week or so, I found out he would be doing a Q&A at the Uptown Theater during its grand opening weekend.

Uptown Theater.

The theater was renovated during the last year, thank goodness, and opened to sold out shows of Birbiglia’s film based on his off-Broadway show of the same name. He wrote the screenplay with Ira Glass (This American Life), Joe Birbiglia (brother), and Seth Barrish, who also co-directed the film. Birbiglia starred in the film alongside Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, James Rebhorn, and comedians Kristen Schaal, David Wain and Marc Maron.
Due to my shyness I won’t know why he acted in the film as the character Matt Pandamiglio, although it is pretty funny name, instead of just using his own.
That just doesn’t fit because the film portrays such a personal story about Birbiglia’s relationship with his girlfriend Abby (played by Ambrose), the start of his career as a comedian, and his sleepwalking disorder.
But I can’t even complain about that because I loved, loved, loved this movie so much.
Birbiglia breaks up the story with his narration and commentary, which gives the viewer a real understanding of what he was going through.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I could relate to him, but that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a sign of how personal the story is. And I admire Birbiglia for that. It’s one thing to do a comedy show about something where, even if everyone in the audience is not a fan, most of them probably bought tickets knowing what they were getting into.
Films go out to mass audiences, such as the parents of a film student sitting next to me, or a 12-year-old boy the next row over (who did have the guts to ask Birbiglia a question, sigh).
I wanted to ask Birbiglia, if for that reason, was it difficult to decide to make a film about a personal story versus a fictional piece?
But, because I’m a chicken, I’ll just have to assume Birbiglia was meant to make this movie, not something else.
The 12-year-old boy asked Birbiglia if he had a problem with sleepwalking as a kid. Others in the audience asked what his family thought of the movie and why he decided to narrate the story in the past tense.
He did sleepwalk as a kid, “but not like this,” Birbiglia said, and his family liked the film. He said he was nervous about that more than anything else because in the past they have not liked any of his work.
If you want to know more about Birbiglia, I recommend listening to his interviews on “The Nerdist.”
He talks there about his now ex-girlfriend’s input on the film, the relationship themes it touches on, as well as using truth in comedy.
Comedy is a way for both the performers and audience to laugh about what makes them uncomfortable or tough situations in life, Birbiglia has said (also on The Nerdist).
Birbiglia didn’t get any laughs for his jokes about the Cookie Monster, but when he did a bit about not wanting to get married until he was sure nothing else good could happen in his life, audiences started to chuckle.
Since I started following Birbiglia on Twitter and liked him on Facebook, I learned the films “High Fidelity” and “Once” also inspired him in the making of “Sleepwalk With Me” into a movie.
Both those stories are also about the mix of career goals, the obstacles of life, and relationship reality.
As I said before, I admire Birbiglia. Why? Because he put a very personal story out there for mass audiences to critique. Not surprisingly, I have yet to hear anything bad about it.
People coming out of the show as I waited in line were saying, “that was so good” and, “that was awesome.” One woman even said it was her second time seeing the film in just two days.
“Sleepwalk With Me” is actually available to order on cable already, but I had to see it in the theater knowing Birbiglia would be there. It was surreal to see him in real life minutes after he was just on film in front of me.
I am hoping he comes back to the Twin Cities on tour. I doubt it will be in the ‘burbs where I work, but maybe I’ll use my press badge to force myself to speak to him.

Dance Dance Revolution: Step Up and Footloose

I’ve been on a bit of a Channing Tatum kick lately – which has since turned into the beginnings of a dance movie retrospective. I am not ashamed to admit it started with Step Up and the second showing was Footloose, which I actually had never seen before. I only rented Step Up because of the aforementioned Tatum, but the movie wasn’t all that bad. I give it a three on the cheese factor scale. Plus he married his costar, how cute is that?

I actually wasn’t even going to write about Step Up, but I found an interesting (at least to me) parallel between the two movies in how they exemplify what my generation and “kids these days” have to choose from at the box office.
It can be dangerous for a product of the 1980s like myself to watch a movie from that era, case in point Footloose, for the first time as an adult. Luckily, Footloose does hold its own and even people who never wore stone-washed jeans and jelly shoes should watch that one and not the remake from last year.
The target audience for the recent version may not even know where the inspiration for Kevin Bacon’s role came from, just like I don’t even know who the star of it (Kenny Wormald) is.

Maybe I deserve some criticism for not seeing Footloose in its heyday, but in my defense I was only 3 when it actually hit the big screen so it would have been some time before I caught up to it anyway. At 31? Why not?
It’s no worse than seeing Step Up at my age. While I enjoyed that movie more than I thought I would, my point is the target audience for Step Up can’t appreciate a movie like that as much when they haven’t been exposed to classics in the toe-tapping genre.
Channing Tatum will probably have a solid career 30 years from now, but I certainly can’t imagine anyone reminiscing about Step Up vs. an iconic movie like Footloose.
Numbers from the box office may prove me wrong someday with Footloose at No. 6 and Step Up at No. 7 among the top grossing dance movies from 1977 until now, but money isn’t everything.
Magic Mike is to date the top grossing movie of them all, with Black Swan in second followed by Saturday Night Fever and Flashdance.
Full disclosure, I haven’t seen those two movies, yet. But given their staying power on the list I think they will match my theory of living in the best of both worlds with a 1981 birth date.
The wheel is always being reinvented and I don’t mind artists who do that because, at least for now, there is also just as much original content out there.
The question is, will it get to the point where it’s all been done before and appreciation of the original gets lost?
Maybe this a little bit deep for a post that started out talking about dance movies, but they just made me think about the state of culture and film right now.
Ren McCormack can always lighten things up. “Hey, hey! What’s this I see? I thought this was a party. Let’s Dance!”
On that note, I only have Staying Alive (after Saturday Night Fever), Flashdance and Fame on my list. Send some recommendations my way, please!