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Weekly Roundup

Weekly Roundup: February 4

Weekly Roundup is a feature posted each weekend on I Wonder if You Wonder. It allows me to react to the week’s industry news and give some quick thoughts on the films and TV shows I’ve been watching. (And gives some idea of the sheer amount of stuff I watch!) Let’s dive right in.

News:

SAG Awards: The Screen Actors Guild awards took place last Sunday night, and they gave some major insight into many of the most prominent Oscar races. The Help walked away with SAG’s top award, given to the best cast in a motion picture, but because of the award’s strict focus on acting rather than the films’ overall quality it holds extremely limited relevance for predicting the Best Picture Oscar. More insightful were the four top individual acting prizes: Jean Dujardin won Best Actor for The Artist, Viola Davis won Best Actress for The Help, Christopher Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for Beginners, and Octavia Spencer (also of The Help) won Best Supporting Actress. At this point, Plummer and Spencer look like Oscar locks. Dujardin still faces some competition from George Clooney, and Viola Davis faces it from Meryl Streep – who, believe it or not, is widely viewed as having been under-recognized for her achievements, at least in terms of the number of Oscars she’s won (2). Still, the SAG wins clearly make Dujardin and Davis the front-runners. Personally, I couldn’t be happier about Plummer, Spencer, and Davis, and while I’d probably vote for Clooney or Bichir over Dujardin, it’s still pretty cool to see a guy winning awards for acting in a silent movie.

A bunch of TV actors also won SAG awards, but no one really cares about them. (The Emmys and TV awards season somehow manages to be even more corrupt and irrelevant that Oscars season.)

SAG-AFTRA Merger: I don’t claim to know or understand anything about this story, but here it is anyway: for the last little while, the two major unions representing actors in the United States – SAG and AFTRA – have been discussing a merger that would create one new, enormous union. More than half of all AFTRA members are also SAG card-holders, so it kind of seems like a no-brainer to me. Both SAG and AFTRA leadership seem to be supportive of the merger. This is going to be a major news story in Hollywood over the next several months, so it’s worth monitoring in case everything blows up (which wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened in Hollywood).

Go Patriots! (Sorry, Rooney Mara.)

The Super Bowl: For a blog that discusses television in addition to film, it’s hard not to mention the biggest TV event of the year. From a TV critic’s perspective, the pre-game show is at least as interesting as the game itself. As is the case most years, I expect it to be a complete trainwreck, though hopefully NBC’s pro-of-pros Bob Costas can rein in the insanity here and there. For a rundown of what you can expect on the pre-game, check out this great article by Sports Illustrated’s media reporter Richard Deitsch; it will include such gems as an interview with half-time performer Madonna, red carpet coverage hosted by non-celebrity Nick Cannon, and a tailgating food contest involving the people from Bravo’s Top Chef reality show.

If you live in the United States, enjoy the game and the commercials (we up here in Canada get screwed out of them as a result of the Canadian government’s ‘simultaneous substitution’ policy). I’m an enormous New England Patriots fan, so win or lose there’s a pretty good chance I’m not going to feel like writing anything new on Monday!

The Voice Premieres after the Super Bowl: This year, NBC has given its hit reality singing competition The Voice the coveted post-Super Bowl timeslot. I’m naturally skeptical about most live reality competition shows, but I actually quite like The Voice. Unlike a show like American Idol or The X-Factor, which feature long and drawn-out audition rounds that serve mostly to make fun of people who can’t sing, The Voice’s auditions are its biggest strength: the four celebrity mentors conduct ‘blind auditions’ in which they have their back turned to the singers as they perform, and only when they’ve decided that they like their voice do they hit a comically large button and cause their chair to dramatically swivel around. It’s cheesy, but it’s also pretty entertaining. Last season was also helped by the fact that the overall quality of the singers was much higher than most other reality franchises. Funny story: my favorite performer on the show was a stunningly talented girl named Dia Frampton. It was only after watching the entire season that I realized she was one half of a band called Meg & Dia, whose music I had already been listening to for almost a year! (There aren’t many people out there named Dia, so the thought had occurred to me, but I had dismissed the possibility as being too unlikely.) Oh, silly me.

A BTTF musical? Great Scott!

Back to the Future: The Musical: This week’s wackiest story: yesterday, news broke that Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the creative team behind the Back to the Future trilogy, were collaborating with various Broadway people in an attempt to bring Back to the Future to the Great White Way. As someone who counts BTTF as one of my favorite movies, I don’t know whether to be excited or horrified. Still, it should be pretty great seeing them try to come up with something that rhymes with “jigowatt.”

Viewings & Reactions:

A Better Life: The story of a Mexico-born illegal immigrant living in L.A. and trying to raise his teenage son, I generally enjoyed this film despite the fact that it gets a little heavy-handed towards the end. The movie stars Demián Bichir (of Weeds fame), and his Oscar-nominated performance is absolutely remarkable and clearly ranks alongside many of the other top performances of the year.

A rock salt infused slushy, right in the eye.

Glee: People have been saying that Glee has jumped the shark for at least a year, but this week’s episode was the first time that the show completely lost me. In the spirit of the show’s previous Lady Gaga and Madonna tributes, this week’s show was a tribute to Michael Jackson. The fundamental problem is that the storylines on the show increasingly function to service the songs they want to use, instead of the other way around. The producers wanted to use “Bad,” so they arrange for an unnecessary underground parking lot showdown between two glee clubs. They want to use “Scream,” so they have one character get overly enraged about a situation in spite of the fact that he has consistently turned the other cheek in other confrontations dating back to the series’ pilot. One lyric in “Black or White” is “I saw you kicking dirt in my eye,” so naturally SOMEONE GETS ROCK SALT THROWN IN THEIR EYE. About the only part of the show I liked was the cello-heavy rendition of “Smooth Criminal,” but even that worked better as a stand-alone music video than as an actual part of the plot.

Okay, fine, I also liked that they doubled down on the use of the word “underboob.” Sue me.

Who's that girl? It's Jess!

Trash TV Tuesdays: Tuesdays are unabashedly my favorite TV day of the week. It’s the one opportunity I have to turn off my brain and watch some truly terrible television: 90210, Ringer, and the aforementioned Glee. Throw in Fox’s New Girl, which isn’t terrible at all but IS consistently hilarious, and you’ve got several hours worth of relaxation. Ringer is pretty much a jumbled mess, but there’s something strangely compelling about it in spite of the ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ approach the show takes to its serialized storylines. The quality of 90210 has taken a drop since last season (last year’s showrunners left the show to move on to bigger and better things), but its awfulness is still endearing. And New Girl is on the short list of my favorite new shows from the past year.

The Challenge: Nothing much to say, except that it was entirely satisfying to see Naomi and Leroy stomp Wes and Mandi in this week’s showdown.

Coming Soon:

Previewing features and articles I’m working on for I Wonder if You Wonder, some of which will be posted this week, some in weeks ahead, and others that’ll be abandoned due to laziness or frustration. (Hey, at least I’m up front about it.)

  • At look at why movies with female leads often get overlooked during awards season (and, more generally, the politics of gender in Hollywood).
  • On young people’s ever-diminishing attention span, and how it has changed pop culture.
  • The working relationship between David Fincher and Trent Reznor. (Still planning on writing it – I just needed a break from all things Dragon Tattoo after the Rooney Mara article!)
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About A.J. Simpson

Creator and moderator of I Wonder if You Wonder.

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