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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The year in disappointment

Five things that made 2006 suck more than it would have anyway

Posted on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 10:10 PM

5. Simpsons reruns from 1989-1994 in syndication

Why are you torturing me, Fox? What did I ever do to you, Comedy Network? I pay my cable bill to get good cable, not episodes from when I was in grade 6 and my teacher banned all anti-authority Bart t-shirts. Once the season is available on DVD, it should be yanked from syndication, so I don’t have to sit through the fucking Babysitter Bandit and Wiggum’s black hair any longer. And all you Simpsons wanks who claim its golden era was 1993 to 97 or whatever the hell can hold your angry e-mails because you’re wrong and also get a fucking life.

4. Dreamgirls

I wasn’t even all that stoked about this movie, but I love musicals and Chicago, also directed by Bill Condon, is a recent favourite. The hype was out of control, which should’ve been a warning sign. Anyway, it’s long and boring and the songs are some of the worst I have ever heard in a musical film. Like, to the point where Mike and I were singing at each other all day after we saw it because all people did was karaoke their cliched, rhyming thoughts back and forth. Jennifer Hudson can belt, but one performance does not a movie make, and her big number is hard to absorb when she’s singing things like “You’re the best man I’ve ever known” at Jamie Foxx and WE ALL KNOW IT’S A LIE AND SO DOES SHE, and then she grabs her stomach to complain about her abodominal pain, and then she allegedly ages 15 years. Maybe they should’ve had a time stamp to help with the passage of decades. Did I mention there’s an Urkel cameo?

I don’t have a fiery acid hate burning from the pits of hell as I do for The Holiday, the worst film I have seen since Signs, but thumbs down all the way.

3. The rise of Perez Hilton

It’s sort of trendy to bash this blogger, but I’m coming from a journalistic perpsective here. The number of earnest profiles of Hilton I’ve tripped across this year demonstrate writers and editors on the watch for trends, not quality stories. All this man did was riff on a name and post some paparazzi pictures with cum stains and coke trails drawn on celebrity faces. His outing of d-list celebrities is a debate for someone else to handle (though I will say going after high-powered A-lister Jodie Foster is not only pointless but unwise), but why has no one pointed out how bad the writing is? Dude doesn’t even spellcheck! And the worst part is that companies -- from Ben Sherman to various hotels in various cities around the world -- give this guy free shit and a cushy life just to get exposure on his under-copyedited website that’s mostly about people who don’t even do anything of merit! WTF is wrong with everybody?

2. Julianne Moore in The Vertical Hour on Broadway

In November I took a trip to New York. “What band are you going to see?” people would ask when I told them of it, because that’s how I travel -- I pick a city I want to go to and find a band I love that’s playing there. “Ha,” I would say. “I’m going to see Julianne Moore on Broadway.” I said it to my friends, my Dad, various customs officers, and I said it with a barely contained twinge of excitement. Julianne Moore is my number two actor, ever. She is one of the best and most adventurous film artists America has ever produced. It is one of my great failures as a journalist and a fan that the closest I got to her when she was in town filming The Shipping News was seeing her out my second-floor Granville-facing office window by complete, infuriating chance.

In November I spent a storm-forced night in Ottawa and braved Saturday afternoon crowds in Times Square to get to my sold-out matinee performance of The Vertical Hour, written by David Hare, who scripted the Moore co-starrer The Hours, and directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty). It’s a three-hander -- theatre peeps, tell me if such a thing exists -- starring Moore as Nadia Blye, a former war correspondent whose support of the Iraq war has made her a controversial professor at Yale. In the play she’s on vacation with her British boyfriend, who introduces her to his rogueish father (Bill Nighy of Love, Actually and the Pirates movies).

The thing about Julianne Moore is that she has a remarkable face. She carries her whole self in it, a delicate, ghostly pale visage that conveys everything she wants you to know and all that she doesn’t, even in missteps like February’s Freedomland, especially in gems like Boogie Nights, Far From Heaven and her masterwork, Safe.

The thing about theatre is that it the actor must use her whole body, it's about projection, about making yourself the biggest thing in the room while also balancing the illusion that what you’re delivering is an intimate experience, even with late-fall coughs and rustling Macy’s bag dotting the soundscape, creaking chairs full of tourists from Minnesota and Halifax.

The thing about The Vertical Hour, and more specifically, Julianne Moore in The Vertical Hour -- a long, preachy, boring play striving visibly hard to find paralells in its leads’ backstories -- is that it was clear she was missing the camera. At the time I thought maybe I didn’t understand this Broadway calibre of theatre (I did), maybe it was a nuance of character (not so much), perhaps it was the writing or the direction (yes and yes). Once the reviews started coming (I saw the play in previews two weeks prior to opening), I realized I was right and it was not a good feeling.

But she was uncomfortable, obviously. Sometimes she stood awkwardly, not knowing where to place her hands. Periodically she leaned on a desk, blabbing on about one -ism or another, and crossed one ankle over the other classily. Once she slouched in a chair, legs splayed wide open like she was sitting on the couch with a beer in front of football on TV. She gave many, many speeches -- at least half completely unprompted, delivered after the opposite character had finished his thought and said nothing to spark the rant -- and many of them required her to get amped up and yell the final line, and it never sounded right. It never felt like a natural progression of thought or passion, just Moore’s memory hitting the stage direction (GETTING LOUDER).

I wanted to believe that I was wrong, that this was just me below my station, tired from travelling and navigating the city, frequently erroneously, and how I shouldn’t be thinking about where else I could be instead of watching one of my favourite artists in the world, live, a hundred feet away, breathing the same air as me, not needing to take this chance as an actor but doing it anyway, and failing quietly in front of all of us.

I kind of wish I didn’t know any of this.

1. Gilmore Girls

It hurts my heart. It seems ridiculous if you don’t watch or you don’t care, but it literally hurts me to make it a point of my week to see this once-great show slide downhill, dragging its cast -- and worse, its legacy -- behind. It deserved better than this tainted reputation.

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