What's on my mind? A mix of movies, music, marketing, media, and much more ...
"Are you prepared to take a dive into the deep end of my head?" — Jason Mraz
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Digging a Hole
I got home at 10:00 this evening to find a big hole outside my building and a lot of noise. Turns out someone scheduled work installing a new water main for tonight. I'm not sure when the work started, but when I asked the policewoman on duty what was going on, she said the next shift was about to arrive and they would be there till 2 a.m. At least I think that's what she said. I could barely hear over the sound of the drilling and the sawing of pipe. I asked if the old water main had burst or something, and she said no. Then I asked what those of us who live in the building literally feet away were supposed to do, and she said it would be over soon. Yeah, at 2 in the morning.
This is ridiculous. It's 11 p.m. now and while the drilling and sawing appear to have stopped, the whirring of the machinery and the generator is still so very loud. There's a spotlight shining on the workers that is so bright that I don't need to turn on the lights in my apartment to see where I'm walking. Who schedules work like this in a residential area to take place at night, and at such a late hour? It's inconvenient, it's noisy, it's disruptive, it's unnecessary. This could have and should have been scheduled for daytime hours. And given the timing and all, it would have been nice if we in the building had been given a heads up that it was going to be happening. Thank you, town of Newton (or whoever is responsible). This is B.S. I hope I'll be able to sleep tonight. And I just hope this work doesn't affect the water in the building overnight or in the morning.
(No, I didn't take that photo, btw. But it should sorta give you an idea of what it looks like outside my window as I write this.)
Kudos to the sales guy at the Apple Store in Natick on Saturday who, when I asked him about the release of the iPhone OS version 3, told me the standard line that he hadn't heard anything about it and "You'll probably know before we know" ... even though it had been announced a couple weeks ago and will be out in June, I believe. When I replied that I thought it was already public knowledge, another sales guy corrected him and verified that I was right. But oh, those Apple folks. Always on message.
After the Marta Kauffman event last night at Brandeis, I decided to swing by the office of the Justice to say hi to the staff, see what was up, and, well, loiter for a little bit. It was a Monday night, which meant the folks were working hard to wrap things up so they could put the issue to bed and head out to decompress over pancakes and whatnot at IHOP. (Or maybe that's just something we did back in the day.) To my surprise, the kids were welcoming and happy to have an alumnus in the office — a change from previous times I'd been there. (Sigh. I really called them "kids," didn't I?) It was good to look around quickly, see the issue coming together, avoid the mess the office had become, and hear some of the folks tell me how hard this semester has been (as if the Rose Art Museum story could really compare with some of the stuff that happened back in my time), and just take it all in. They even let me reminisce a little about good times we had putting out the paper in the basement of the old student center, and humored me when I volunteered to help or give advice or advise them — or whatever they'd need from an alumnus who works in the business. Who knows if they'll take me up on the offer, but no matter. It was still good to be there briefly and see that though nearly 13 years have passed since I graduated, not much had changed on the ole Justice.
Most people who know me know just how much I love the TV show Friends. I know, I know. Who doesn't love Friends? So don't worry, I won't use this space to try and prove why I'm a bigger fan than you are. I'll just remind you that the Boston Globe selected me as one of the four biggest fans in Boston during the show's final season, and featured me four times in the paper that year (including this time and this time).
Why do I bring this up now? It's to help explain why I went back to Brandeis Monday night to see a movie called Blessed Is the Match. The film is a documentary about Hannah Senesh, a 22-year-old woman who was captured by the Nazis while attempting to rescue Jewish people behind enemy lines in her native country of Hungary. But it's not the subject that appealed to me, it was the film's executive producer — Marta Kauffman, one of the three creators of Friends and a Brandeis alumnus (class of 1978). I'm happy to report that the film's good and all, but to be honest, I was there to get some dirt on the show.
You'll be relieved to know that when L.A. Times blogger Scott Feinberg finished his Q&A and turned the questioning over to the audience, I didn't stand right up and blurt out, "So when's the Friends reunion going to happen?" In fact, because most of the inquiries were serious and had to do with the film itself, I resisted the urge to ask any questions. Instead, I let one of the students in the crowd ask the only Friends-related question, and it was one of the more cliched ones: Is it true that Central Perk was inspired by the on-campus cafe Cholmondeleys? This has been an on-campus legend for years and a staple of admissions tours. Heck, it's even perpetuated by Wikipedia. Well, Kauffman put the legend to rest once and for all: No, it's not true. Chum's was quite different back in her day, and the inspiration for Central Perk actually came from L.A.'s Insomnia Cafe. So there you have it.
But Marta wasn't going to get out of the room without me speaking with her, so when the program ended, I joined the hordes of students who had brought DVD sets and cameras and I waited my turn. While waiting, I learned that Marta's all-time favorite line from the show was "It's a moo point." Then, as she started to make her way out the door, I finally got my chance to remind Marta that I had interviewed her for the Justice back in the fall of 1994, shortly after Friends debuted (true story). And instead of asking her that cheesy question I was thinking of, I just said to her, simply, "Thanks. Thanks for 'Pivot!,' for trapping Chandler in the vestibule with Jill Goodacre, for the episode "The One Where Mr. Heckles Dies,' and just for creating such a great show that I still love." She's obviously heard it many times before, and she was in a rush to get out of there after listening to similar commentary from all the other fans in the crowd. But I said what I wanted to, and I was happy.
Manischewitz has added a logo to its boxes of Passover cake mixes, matzahs, and other products this year that says "Over 120 years!" I'm not sure if that's how long the company has been in existence or how long the boxes have been sitting on the store shelves. (Insert laughter here.) After all, some of that stuff sits on the shelf for a very, very, very long time, and it tastes just about the same on day one as it does weeks and months later.
Ah, Passover food. So bad, and yet, so necessary. I had my annual round of thoughts about this subject today when I went to Stop & Shop to do some shopping for the holiday (it starts on April 8). $4 for 12oz of grape jelly. $5 for two cans of tuna fish. $5 for a box of cookies. It's crazy, especially because I only need the stuff for eight days (less, actually, considering I'll be out of town for the first three days). That's why I always save my receipts — so I can return all my extra food and stick it to the man.
What made my shopping trip today a little more amusing was a (slightly weird) young woman who started to chat me up about how it looked like I was going to be doing some cooking (based on what? Two cans of tuna, a bottle of Coke, some cake mix, some cookies, and some mayonaise?) and wasn't Passover such a great holiday, and blah blah blah. When I replied that I wasn't such a big fan of Passover, she started to list out all the things that are apparently "so good" about it, like herring (yuck), chopped liver (yuck), fried matzah (not bad), and gefilte fish (alright, that one I like, but as I told her, it's a food I can and do eat year round). And then she started raving about how great peanut butter and jelly on matzah was, and I said it's fine for a week, but I'd rather have it on bread. Quite frankly, the only Passover-specific food I genuinely enjoy is the Manischewitz Coffee Cake, which is actually quite good.
But anyway ... at that point, because she wasn't getting the hint, I excused myself and walked off to shop in another aisle. If this woman was trying to change how I feel about Passover — or, more likely, trying to get me to ask her on a date — she failed. I may not be an expert on how to pick up members of the opposite sex, but I can say this: using Passover as your "in" definitely doesn't work. At least not with me.
A year ago today I became a condo-owner. It's amazing how fast time flies. I wish I had some grand statement to make about the anniversary, but I don't. It's good to own the place, but to be honest, it doesn't feel all that different since I have a management company to deal with the pesky details of building maintenance. And my condo was pretty much brand new, so I haven't had to deal with any big issues of repair like some other new owners might. Still, a year later, it's nice to not have to deal with a rent increase or the debate about whether or not to move. And sure, I don't feel like I've fully moved into my condo — there's still some decorating I want to do — but it's home. And it's mine. And today, that feels pretty darned good.
Thanks to my new job, I'm getting to be quite knowledgeable about email marketing and how to do it well. Today I thought I'd call attention to a way to do it poorly.
Yesterday I got an email from the Patriots that said because I was a season ticket holder, I was "on the list" and would be able to buy tickets for U2's September 20 show at Gillette Stadium early, before the general public has at 'em next week. I was told I'd be receiving an email today and that I'd have to act quickly because "the best seats will be gone before [I] know it." That certainly caught my eye. After all, I am a U2 fan and I love their new album.
But here's where the sender screwed up: For one thing, I'm not a Patriots season ticket holder. In fact, I've never even been to a Patriots game. Sure, I've been to concerts at Gillette Stadium before, and I've seen U2 before, but nope. Never a Pats game. Whoever was segmenting the mailing list or deciding who to mail to just didn't synch up the data correctly.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the sender didn't deliver on its promise. As I write this, it's now about 28 hours after I received the preview email, and while pre-sale tickets are now on sale, I haven't been told how I can get mine. That's crazy, and if you ask me, it's stupid too. Perhaps the Patriots figured out I wasn't really a season ticket holder and thus, I'm not eligible to participate in the pre-sale. Well, that's not my fault. They still told me I'd been selected to participate, so I expect to have my chance. (And if that is the case, and they figured out their mistake, then they should have emailed to apologize and try to correct their mistake.) And sure, the day's not over yet. But it's now 7 p.m. and I'm thinking the marketing folks have gone home, so there won't be any follow-up email.
I hope I'm jumping the gun here, and that I will get my pre-sale info, because I sure would like to see this show and I sure would like to have the opportunity I was promised. If I have to compete with the rest of the fans on Monday, that's just going to be annoying.
Update, 8:45 p.m.: So of course it happened this way. At 8:28 the email arrived, and when I logged into Ticketmaster less than five minutes later to buy tickets for me and two friends, all the available ones that didn't cost $242.50 were gone. Of course. But at least we had our chance ... sort of. So I guess this post was a jinx or something. And now we'll just try again on Monday at 10 a.m.
In I Love You, Man, Paul Rudd plays Peter, that probably all-too-common guy who is so whipped that all his friends are his girlfriend's girl friends and he has no guy friends to call his own. So when he proposes and needs to fill out his wedding party, Peter is at a loss. His family tries to set him up on "man dates," but those all go predictably awry. Then one day, Peter meets Sydney (Jason Segel), and his life becomes more complete. These two hit it off instantly, and proceed to bond over fish tacos and a love for the band Rush.
Led by the thoroughly likable performances of Rudd and Segel — who are joined by a supporting cast that includes Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, Jon Favreau, some of the Best Week Ever players, and the Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno — I Love You, Man is, to borrow Sydney's term, delightful. Though heightened for comic effect, Peter's predicament rings true, and the two guys' chemistry just feels very real. To put it most simply, I Love You, Man is totally sweet, easy, fun, winning, and it just works. This is a movie that will charm audiences for a long time. I'm giving I Love You, Man a B+.
All is not what it seems in Duplicity, writer/director Tony Gilroy's followup to the Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton. Set in the world of corporate espionage, Duplicity follows Ray and Claire (Clive Owen and Julia Roberts), former MI-6 and CIA agents who team up to pull off a scam involving two competing drug companies. But who can be trusted when there's so much at stake? Are Ray and Claire really on the same page or are they looking out for themselves, and will the plan really come together without anyone finding out?
With a shifting chronology that forces you to question whose side the major players are on, and a sharp script that crackles with wit, Duplicity is certainly more enjoyable than Clayton was, if a bit lighter-weight. Owen, particularly, gives a great performance that oozes smooth charm, and Roberts often matches him with her trademark strong-willed spunk. The always reliable Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson have supporting roles as the CEOs of the two drug companies, and their scuffle during the opening credits provides some good laughs right off the bat. The film is enhanced by James Newton Howard's score, which sounds like a cross between something David Holmes (Oceans 11, Out of Sight) would have written and Alan Silvestri's score from The Mexican (that's meant as a compliment). And most importantly, I suppose, this film is much easier to understand than Clayton was. Duplicity has class, sophistication, laughs, and a well-paced story. I'm giving it a B+.
Apparently, today is World Sleep Day, and since I have nothing but love for sleep, I thought I’d mention it here. I am excited and prepared to celebrate the holiday by going to bed at a decent hour tonight so I can get more hours of shut-eye than I have been getting the past few days. (Whose fault is that? My own.) According to the official site for the holiday, the theme for this year’s World Sleep Day is “transportation,” and I look forward to being transported to a dream world where everything is wonderful and peaceful and fun, so I can wake up in the morning fully rested and ready to enjoy the weekend. Zzzzzzzzzz...
Sometimes a movie is pleasant and all, but it just feels pointless. So it is with Sunshine Cleaning. The story of Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams), a young woman who starts her own crime-scene cleanup business with the help of her slacker sister, Norah (Emily Blunt), Cleaning was one of the finds at the Sundance Film Festival more than a year ago. The film was produced by the same folks who produced Little Miss Sunshine, and like that film, Cleaning also stars Alan Arkin as a cantankerous old man who has a good relationship with his grandchild. But a similar name and costar are really all these two movies have in common, and that's probably why it took so long for the film to actually hit theaters. Cleaning has very little of the charm and emotion that Little Miss had, despite having Amy Adams in the lead. There's a pretty creepy subplot involving Norah and the daughter of a deceased woman, and Rose just, well, I never really felt like I wanted to root for her. The movie's not a total mess or anything, but it's definitely not as quirky as it thinks it is. I expect the fate of Sunshine Cleaning will be much like the scenes Rose and Norah clean up, with nary a trace of it left in just a couple hours. I'm giving the movie a C+.
So the Allston location of Marty's Liquors is closing this weekend. Don't worry, I'm not going to wax nostalgic about the closing of a liquor store. I have no memorable stories about the time I bought a six-pack or a keg or anything there, or of a great wine discovery. But Marty's does hold a sort of special place in my heart, I guess, because when I first moved to Boston 12 years ago, I thought it was cool that a store right down the street was named Marty's. (Yeah, I'm that much of a dork.) And yes, I made a few purchases there over the years, but whatever ... my alcohol tastes were never of the Allston variety. Besides, I learned pretty quickly to stay as far away from the corner of Harvard Ave. and Comm. Ave. as possible.
But anyway, even though I shed no tear over the closing of Marty's Liquors, I will come to its defense in one way: The reason this store is closing is because it couldn't come to terms over a rent increase by its landlord, the Hamilton Company. Sound familiar? That's because Hamilton was my old nemesis when I lived at 110 Babcock. I have nothing but sympathy for Marty's if they're being pushed out because of those greedy bastards, who raised my rent $200 when they bought the building and then never did anything to improve the quality of life there. Hamilton is the reason I bought a condo when I did (though it must be said, the whole condo-buying thing worked out pretty well for me). This situation kind of makes me want to go buy a bottle of wine at Marty's just for old times sake. At the very least, I'll raise a glass in its honor.
George Clooney is vlogging — that's video blogging for those not hip to interweb lingo — and despite the fact that he's doing it to raise awareness of the situation in Chad, the quick dispatches are actually kinda funny, including this one here, where George laments how his hairdo, expensive as it is, should have survived the trip to Chad. Enjoy.
A funny thing happens when you’re happy ... You have less to blog about, and less incentive to blog because you’d rather be living your life offline. At least that’s how it has been for me lately. And I know my “life is good” attitude runs counter to the general mood of the public (it certainly runs counter to that of many people I know), so I’ve also made a conscious attempt not to make too big a deal about it for fear I'd appear to be rubbing it in. But I am happy these days, more so than I've been in a very long time. And I just wanted to say that because, well, I don't see why I shouldn't.
Sometimes things just work out. I was in Miami on Tuesday for a conference at the InterContinental, and my coworker and I were scheduled to be on a 7:45 p.m. American Airlines flight back to Boston. Neither one of us really wanted to get back at 11:00 or later — especially given that our flight down a week earlier had been delayed by almost an hour and a half — so I suggested we book it to the airport and try for the 6:15 flight. I won't bore you with a drawn-out story, but I'll say we were told the flight was full. Then, I guess, a connecting flight didn't make it to Miami in time, so not only did we get on the 6:15 flight, but we had an open seat in our three-person row, providing plenty of space to spread out and relax. The plane left right on time, and actually landed about 20 minutes early. (Score!) Then our luggage came out pretty quickly, and we were off for home.
Is that all? Oh no. I got home to find that the post office had left in my mailbox all the mail they were holding for me, which saved me an early morning trip on my way into work on Wednesday. I was home by 10:15, giving me plenty of time to relax and zip through the night's episode of American Idol. Yes, sometimes things do work out.
There's something about going down to Florida in March and seeing a spring training baseball game that makes you feel like everything's alright with the world again. You get that feeing the instant you walk up the ramp, see the green grass on the field, see the players (preferably in Red Sox uniforms) taking batting practice, and hear the cracks of the bat. After a long, cold winter, it's music to this baseball fan's eyes and ears.
So it was on Saturday when I went to see the Sox take on the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale. My guess is that because it was an away game for the Sox, and they'd just played the Yankees the night before, not too many marquee players wanted to make the trip south. (Plus there was the matter of the World Baseball Classic and a couple injuries.) The biggest Sox names who showed up were Jed Lowrie, Rocco Baldelli, and Josh Bard (who, as of this writing, has now been let go by the Sox). But no matter. It was a decent game (at least it was until the Sox lost in the bottom of the ninth) and it was fun to see the team back on the field live and in person. And even better, I didn't get a sunburn this year, like I did last year. Woo hoo!
So, happy spring everybody. Baseball is back.
(Looking up at the right-field bleachers.)
(That's Orioles outfielder Ryan Freel signing autographs. Unfortunately, our tickets were on the home-field side of the field and not the visiting team side, so I have pictures of the Orioles and not the Sox.)
If you've been looking for me during the past week, I've been in Miami, where I was on a (mostly) work-related trip. A productive trip, and it should be noted not a vacation, but I do have to tell y'all that I stayed at one of the coolest hotels for two nights, the Mondrian. Do you want to know why I liked this hotel? Well, it wasn't because of the chi-chi design, which featured horse imagery in the elevators and exaggerated photos of faces in the rooms. It wasn't because of the chandelier in the shower that turned out to be where the water came from. It also wasn't because of the hotel's proximity to Jerry's or Lincoln Road (where I had lunch and dinner, respectively, on Thursday).
Oh, and it wasn't because of the high-def TV and TiVo in all the rooms. Nor was it because the bed was totally comfortable, and the soft, dense pillows were awesome. Believe it ot not, it also was not because of the pool — so very warm — or the view I enjoyed while working there. Oh, and I promise, it really was not because of the very attractive young woman who checked me in.
Yes, those were all things I enjoyed about the Mondrian, but the real reason I loved this hotel is because of what happened when I asked for a wakeup call Thursday night. I called the front desk, and when someone picked up, she said, "Hello, Mr. Lieberman." That impressed me. Then, after I asked to be woken up at 6:45 in the morning, the woman asked, "Would you like us to call you again at 7:00?" Clearly, the folks didn't just know my name, they actually knew me, and knew I'd need the extra "snooze" time. For the record, this is not such an unusual thing; when I moved to the the InterContinental a couple days later, they did the same thing, calling me by name and offering a follow-up call. But at the Mondrian, they didn't stop there: Friday morning, I got the 6:45 call, but when the phone rang again at 7, I didn't answer it in time (even though I was awake). Five minutes later there was a knock at my door. "Just want to make sure you're awake, Mr. Lieberman." Nice touch.
And it's worth adding that when I went out to the Mondrian's pool on Thursday morning (to work) and I made myself comfortable in one of the lounge chairs, an attendant came running up within seconds and was apologetic that he had not been able to give me a seat cover and towel before I sat down.
The point is ... and I may not be making it in the best way here because these are pretty small examples, but ... the Mondrian has great customer service that, combined with the luxurious accommodations, locale, and, well, let's call it interesting design made it an impressive place to spend a couple days.
If you're one of those people who think movies provide an escape in tough times, then by all means, stay far away from Watchmen. Based on the popular graphic novel (which Time magazine ranked as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century), Watchmen tells the unconventional story of a group of superheroes who live in an alternate version of reality: the year is 1985, Richard Nixon is still president (he's won a fifth term), and superheroes have been banned. No wonder most of them have a pretty bleak outlook on the world. Narrated by the most pessimistic of them all, Rorschach, the story centers on a looming threat of nuclear war with the Russians. What role will (or can) our heroes have in stopping this? And will they find out who is trying to kill them before it's too late?
Not that there's anything wrong with conventional superhero movies, but for some reason Hollywood thinks we want to see something on the flipside right now. Here's the thing, though: even Hancock had some laughs and didn't take itself soooo seriously. Watchmen is a super-serious affair, with a very downbeat tone, and some heroes who aren't really fighting for good. I don't have a problem with unconventional stuff like that, or with the fact that this is based on a comic book. But perhaps there's a reason I couldn't really get into the graphic novel when I tried to read it last year, despite repeated attempts. And I think that reason is that the story's just not terribly engaging or compelling, and the characters are not very likable. For example, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre (Patrick Wilson and Malin Akerman, respectively) are actually pretty lame.
Which is not to say the movie's awful. The actors all make valiant attempts to wring some credibility from the material — Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach), for all his character's pessimism, gives the most notable performance (even if his face is obscured by a mask for most of the film). And the dark look notwithstanding, there are some impressive visual elements in the film, including the neat opening credits sequence. (No, I don't include Dr. Manhattan's junk in the list of "impressive visual elements." We see more of his thang than we did of Jason Segel's in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I mean, really. I know it's CGI, but can't the guy at least wear a thong or something? Even the Hulk wears shorts.) Ultimately, I just didn't find Watchmen to be as fun, cool, or enjoyable as I'd hoped. It's much ado about nothing, and that's why I'm only giving it a C.
Of all the movies coming out this year, few have excited me more than the new Pixar release, Up, because ... well, watch the new trailer for yourself (preferably in HD) and you'll see that it's one of Pixar's brightest and most colorful films ever. The balloons alone make this worth the price of admission. Up comes out May 29.
Again I have to say that I don't get it. And I don't just mean that literally. I mean I just don't understand why it's so hard to get Red Sox tickets. I've written in the past about the problems I've had on the general on-sale day. Well now I need to complain because for what feels like the third or fourth straight year, I've been shut out of even having the opportunity to buy tickets to Opening Day, the Yankee/Red Sox games, or tickets on the Green Monster or Right Field Bud Deck. If you don't know, the Sox hold multiple separate raffles (all random, of course, ha ha), and winners don't even get tickets to those games — they simply get the chance to buy tickets to those games. So yeah. After wasting a day in the Virtual Waiting Room and having no luck getting tickets, then you have to enter your name in the drawings and wait to see if you'll be selected. And yes, that's right. Not only didn't I get tickets, I didn't even get the option to buy tickets. And again, this is the third or fourth year in a row that I didn't make it through to a single one of those ticket-buying opportunities. What the fudge! How rigged is this ticketing system?! Am I ever going to get through? I'm getting tired of only seeing games in Florida or only going to Fenway for concerts.
The reviews today haven't been overwhelmingly positive, but I have to say, I really kind of enjoyed the premiere episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night. I think he did a good job with the monologue, and I appreciated all the goofy humor of the first third of the show (maybe it's because I was watching that part in the morning, when I was still half asleep). Sure, Jimmy's gotta work on his interviewing skills so he's as comfortable with someone like Justin Timberlake as he is with someone like "Bob" De Niro, but I'll keep tuning in because I like Jimmy Fallon and this show looks like it's going to be a lot of fun.
For a taste of what Jimmy has going on, here's my favorite part of the episode: where Jimmy and the Roots (his awesome house band) "slow jam" a news story about opposition to Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan. Enjoy!
When Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly have already written raves, I feel like there's nothing more of any significance that I can add. But I do want to register my enthusiastic thumbs up approval for U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon. Some albums take repeated listens to truly enjoy. For example, I needed to listen to Lily Allen's latest album twice before I knew I loved it. But NLotH I liked from the first chords of the opening title track. No, it's not a perfect album from start to finish (those lines about "force quit and move to trash" in the song "Unknown Caller" are really corny), but the first half especially is terrific. I love "Magnificent" and "Moment of Surrender." Even "Get on Your Boots" sounds better when listened to as part of the entire album and not on its own as a single. So yeah, rush right out and pick this one up.
Forget that this video is entirely en Francais. Just watch Emma Thompson cringe and then rush on stage — in the middle of an awards ceremony!! — to try and help the totally clueless and very nervous French actress Julie Ferrier with her dress. Sean Penn looks amused too, and there's certainly a nervous, um, tittering coming from the audience. I don't have a clue what this woman is talking about (I don't think she knows either), but this is pretty classic blooper-reel stuff. I tell you, if the Oscars this year were anything like this, I might have enjoyed them more.
UPDATE 3/3/09: Well, doesn't this just spoil some of the fun. Apparently, the whole thing was an act. So says Roger Ebert, anyway. I guess this actress Julie Ferrier is a famous comedienne in France and she was playing an airhead starlet. Whatever. I still think this is a funny clip, mostly because Emma Thompson appears not to have known the whole thing was a joke, and her reaction is still priceless.
Joaquin Phoenix is such a great actor that it's really a shame he had to pull that bizarre act on David Letterman a couple weeks ago. In his new film, Two Lovers, he gives such an impressive performance — just as he did in other films, including Walk the Line and Gladiator — that it's hard to believe the actor and the rapper wannabe are one and the same person. Or ... maybe that's just proof of how versatile he really is.
In Two Lovers, Phoenix plays Leonard, who has moved back in with his parents in the decidedly unhip Russian Jewish neighborhood of Brighton Beach following his break-up with his fiancee. To keep busy and keep his mind off his heartbreak, Leonard works in his father's cleaners, which his father is planning to merge with the owner of another cleaners. Actually, there's another merger at work: Leonard is fixed up with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), whose father owns the other cleaners. A relationship with Sandra promises stability, comfort, and emotional rescue. But that's when Leonard meets Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has moved into the building where Leonard lives. Leonard is instantly drawn to the hip, beautiful, vivacious Michelle, and she sparks his personality. But while Leonard is crushing on Michelle, she is involved in a self-destructive affair with a married man. And we always want the ones we can't have, right? The two women possess opposite qualities, and Leonard is attracted to them for different reasons. So he is faced with a choice: will it be love or lust?
As noted, Phoenix is really terrific here. He gives a sensitive, emotional, totally believable performance. He doesn't hit a single false note. The two women are also very good, though Shaw certainly comes across better than Paltrow. I like how director James Gray films the Manhattan and Brighton Beach scenes differently, so as to emphasize how much more exciting Michelle's life is. And I also appreciated how the film avoids the cliche of having the two women meet, thus forcing Leonard to make his big choice. What happens here happens organically, naturally. Is it an easy decision? No. But it's a testament to the writing and to Phoenix's performance that it all feels very real. I'm giving Two Lovers an A–.