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Nerdies for Favorite Things of 2009

Hope you all are enjoying the holidays. Me, I’m having so much fun with family, I need more gigabytes in my brain to store all the memories being made.

I get grateful this time of year for 1) making it this far and 2) all the wonderful experiences I had in the last 12 months. So, between all the eating and social gatherings, I present to you my Nerdy Awards for favorite things this year.

Most Valuable Preposition: Up. Apparently, the best way to make sure a movie is good is by putting this two-letter word in the title. Up and Up in the Air tie for best movie I saw this year. Both are perfect blends of comedy and poignancy, light and dark, entertainment and explorations of what makes us human.

Best Reasons for Staying Home Wednesday Nights: Glee, Modern Family and Cougar Town. Wednesday nights are always a party in my house, as I sing along to Glee then laugh my face off with Family and Cougar. You’ve probably heard plenty about the first two but may not know that Cougar‘s cast, led by the game Courteney Cox, has really gelled into one hilarious ensemble.

Most Unique New Voices in Crime Fiction: Chet the Jet from Spencer Quinn’s Dog on It, Pietro Brwna from Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper, and Stella Hardesty in Sophie Littlefield‘s A Bad Day for Sorry. The field is crowded with cops and detectives but this year, I met fresh new characters starting with Chet, a dog who narrates the adventures he has while solving crimes with his human partner, Bernie. Brwna is a hit man turned jaded medical intern who uses a deadly weapon I’ve never seen used before. And Littlefield introduced us to a 50-year-old, slightly overweight woman who helps abused women keep their partners in line partly by using S&M restraints. These books are all first in a series so discover them now before the next installments come out (Chet’s new case, Thereby Hangs a Tail, arrives January 5).

Best Noir Debut: Richard Lange‘s This Wicked World. This is Lange’s first novel but it reads like he’s been writing them forever. Worthy of a place on my shelf among the genre’s greats.

Best Avoidance of Sophomore Slump: Gillian Flynn with Dark Places. Her debut, Sharp Objects, was so stunning, I wondered if her second novel would measure up. I was thrilled, then, to find Flynn delving even more deeply into the female psyche’s dark, twisted side in Places. Few writers can write about damaged, prickly women and make them so mesmerizing.

Fattest Books I Finished in Shortest Time: I got lost in Kate Morton’s gothic, 560-page The Forbidden Garden for 3 days, while my eyeballs were glued to the 512 pages in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire for 34 hours, finishing it in almost one sitting, minus a few hours of sleep.

Most Soul-Shaking Book: Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. This non-fiction tale of a star football-player-turned-soldier gunned down by friendly fire in Afghanistan ripped me apart and made me re-evaluate how I live my life. A searing read I won’t forget anytime soon.

Funniest Person I Least Expected to Be: Brian Williams on 30 Rock. The veteran NBC Nightly News anchor made me laugh hard when he unexpectedly showed up on Rock, telling Tina Fey he wanted to audition for her show within the show by doing a stand-up act. The punchline wasn’t funny at all but Williams’s hammy, goombah delivery was very much so.

Favorite Movie Trend: Women 45 and over kicking ass at the box office. Sandra Bullock had two big hits (The Proposal, The Blind Side), Meryl Streep had three movies (Julie & Julia, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, It’s Complicated), one of which may win her a third Oscar. And Sigourney Weaver returns as sci-fi queen in Avatar. I hope this trend continues so I can stop watching actors get older while their female co-stars get closer to infancy every year.

Best Performance by Any Actor, Male or Female: Mo’Nique in Precious. Not so much a performance as a terrifying inhabitation of a nightmarish character.

Most Memorable Movie Quote: I just met you and I love you.” —Dug the talking dog in Up.

What were some of your favorite things this year?

Movie Review: THE INVENTION OF LYING

Ricky Gervais’s The Invention of Lying is the funniest serious movie I’ve seen in years. There are many moments that will make you laugh out loud, but at its core, it’s also a smart meditation on faith, free will and happiness.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

The movie opens with “chubby loser” Mark Bellison (Gervais) explaining that in his world, everyone tells the truth all the time. They know no other way. They don’t even have a word for “truth” or “true” because everything just is. This situation makes the first half hour of the movie ridiculously funny, with Jennifer Garner’s character, Anna, telling Mark exactly how she feels about him on their date, and a motel advertising itself as “A cheap place for intercourse with a near stranger.”

Courtesy Warner Bros./Sam Urdank

Courtesy Warner Bros./Sam Urdank

But after Mark utters the first lie out of desperation (he’d been fired and facing eviction from his apartment), he discovers what a truly awesome power he holds. He goes about making himself and others happy by feeding them lies, until one about “the man in the sky” gets way out of control. Everyone interprets this notion differently, making  Mark wonder if it brings people comfort or takes away their free will.

Gervais, who co-wrote and co-directed with Matthew Robinson, shows a side of him we’ve never seen before. In one scene, he exhibits such deep emotional pain, I had to keep reminding myself this is a man who’s always making me do the liquid-spewing laugh. But this is good, because he draws us in with the humor and then takes us to unexpected places.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Garner has never been lovelier than she is here. She imbues Anna with both the childlike innocence of someone with no edit button, and the confidence of the hot babe who knows she possesses excellent genetics. She has wonderful comic timing, cries beautifully, and is dressed in a wardrobe so fetching, I want to own everything she wears in the movie.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

There are many comic superstars in the cast but most of them are underused. My idol Tina Fey is miscast as Mark’s assistant. She has such a take-charge vibe, I don’t buy her as anybody’s lackey. At first, Rob Lowe is quite funny as Brad, Mark’s rival for Anna’s hand, but his arrogant act becomes a little one-note after a while. Edward Norton has a wacky bit as a motorcycle cop, but Christopher Guest is frustratingly wasted.

There’s been some concern in the media that this movie might be offensive in its viewpoint but I feel that’s unwarranted. Gervais isn’t trying to make you believe anything; he’s simply showing a version of the world as he sees it and maybe provoke thought about some big ideas. You can choose to agree or disagree with him because hey, that’s free will. Or you can just look at it as a funny movie, which it is, and that’s the truth.

Nerd verdict: Lying isn’t perfect but still entertaining

Trailer: Ricky Gervais’s THE INVENTION OF LYING

invention of lyingI’ve been waiting for this trailer and it doesn’t disappoint. The Invention of Lying (formerly known as This Side of the Truth) has such an amazing cast, I don’t know how it can not be funny. No one can take a to-his-face insult like Ricky Gervais.

Besides the people seen in the trailer—Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, et al.—Jeffrey Tambor, Patrick Stewart and Jason Bateman are also in this movie. If that’s not enough, Gervais says on his blog there are “great cameo surprises.”

Co-written and co-directed by Gervais with Matthew Robinson, Lying opens September 25, 2009 in the U.S. and October 2 in the U.K.

81st Academy Awards — “Nerdies” for Best & Worst

Overall, a fun show. I was psyched I got all except two of my predictions right (missed on Best Sound Editing and Best Foreign Film). If you want just a list of winners, click here. Otherwise, read on for my awarding of the Nerdies for the show’s highlights:

hjackman_090222_kwinter_84979541Tackiest Self Promotion: I love Hugh Jackman and he did a fun, energetic job of hosting. I was smiling along as he performed his opening musical medley about nominated films. Sticking his head through the different Benjamin Button holes was game. But then he put on wrestling arm pads and inexplicably ended the number with the declaration: “I am Wolverine!” Huh? What does that have to do with anything? I know his movie is coming out May 1 but this was about last year’s nominated films and the mention was out of place. Wolverine is a Fox movie and ABC is owned by Disney so Jackman can’t even claim corporate pressure for the plug.

Most Blatant Lie: Jackman said to Mickey Rourke in the audience, “You look great.” Rourke had greasy hair and a silver tooth and looked like he hadn’t bathed in a week.

Luckiest First-Time Nominees: Viola Davis and Anne Hathaway. This year, producers had five previous winners from each acting category come out to crown the newest members of their club. Viola Davis had Eva Marie Saint pay tribute to her and Anne Hathaway had Shirley MacLaine gush about her talents. I would’ve soiled my dress if I were them. Hathaway looked as if she could barely contain herself, like a princess living out a fairy tale at Hollywood’s biggest ball.

pcruz-w-oscarBest Use for My High School Spanish: Many years ago, I took Espanol in school, thinking it would come in handy at some point in life. Finally, that moment arrived. When Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress, the last part of her speech was in Spanish. My translating skills are a bit rusty but she said something like: “All the faithful people of Spain are sharing this moment with me right now and feel that this is also theirs, so I dedicate it to them. To all the actors from my country, thank you very much.”

smartin_tfey_090222_kwinter_84979513Funniest Presenting Duo: Steve Martin and Tina Fey, reading from a script as they made their entrance to present Best Original and Adapted Screenplay. Their comedic timing was perfect and they complimented each other well. Fey looked really pretty for a change (from her usual dull brown or black dresses), wearing a glittering silver gown showing off her curves.

Unfunniest Presenters Who Were Supposed to be Funny: Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black. Seriously, did you laugh even once? Angelina Jolie seemed to enjoy Black’s antics, though I suspect there was a different reason they  kept cutting to her and Brad while Black and Aniston were on stage.  

dlblackFirst Tearjerking Speech: Let me preface by saying these award shows never make me cry. I’m usually entertained and excited when my favorites win but cry? Never! Well, Dustin Lance Black changed that when he won for Best Original Screenplay. That adorable boy stood up there (he looked 19!), opened his heart to a billion watchers and spoke with such emotion and sincerity about the obstacles he’s encountered as a gay person that my eyes got wet. When he thanked his mom for loving him “even when there was pressure not to,” I thought, “How can anyone not love this boy?!” The amazing feat is he invoked religion and politics in his speech but managed to avoid grandstanding because he came from such a painful, personal place. Even if you haven’t seen Milk, that speech alone should give you an idea why he won a writing Oscar.

Most Irrelevant Thank You: When the Japanese Kunio Kato won Best Animated Short for La Maison en Petits Cubes, he started out succinctly thanking a bunch of people. It was a laundry list that wasn’t too exciting (granted, his English was limited). But then he ended his speech with, “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” Hilarious. Who knew a cheesy Styx song would be referenced at the Oscars?

dc-sjpBest Advertisement for Makeup Artists: Daniel Craig. The dapper Bond star, who made a rare appearance at an awards show, presented Best Makeup (as well as Art Direction and Costume) with Sarah Jessica Parker. After she said, “We don’t have to tell you what a makeup artist does,” Craig quipped, “Just look at us.” Oh, yes, baby, I was looking at you all right. And drooling.

b-stiller-portmanParody That Came Too Late: Ben Stiller doing Joaquin Phoenix. When Stiller came out with Natalie Portman to present the Best Cinematography award, he sported the Unabomber beard Phoenix wore when he made his puzzling Letterman appearance recently. Stiller proceeded to act confused and incoherent, wandering around the stage. Unfortunately, this would’ve been a lot of funnier if he hadn’t been beaten to the punch by Frank Coraci presenting at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before. Click here to see the much funnier indie version.

phillip-petitBiggest Attention Whore: Phillip Petit, the subject of Best Documentary winner, Man on Wire. In the film, he was already desperate for attention (part of the reason why he walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers in 1974). Tonight, he did a magic trick, making a coin disappear, and balanced the Oscar on his chin, all within seconds at the podium. He did everything he could to keep the camera on him, like Tatiana on American Idol singing everything she could think of during Hollywood week so she wouldn’t be kicked off. 

Best Multi-Tasker: A.R. Rahman. Dude, he came out to sing “O Saya” and “Jai Ho” from Slumdog after he’d just won the Best Score award. That’s like having John Williams come out to sing along to his Star Wars theme. (“Star wars…Nothing but star wars…”)

Second Tearjerking Speech: Wrapping up his Best Song acceptance speech for “Jai Ho,” Rahman said, “All my life I’ve had a choice of hate and love. I chose love and I’m here.” For some reason, that kicked me right in the gut and tears came up. It’s so simple yet profound. Why can’t the rest of the world figure that out?

So, what were the highlights for you? Do you want Hugh back next year? How’d you do in the Oscar pool? Post in the comments!

SAG Awards — Funniest & Lamest Moments, Plus Fashion!

Though I got to vote for these awards, the show kinda bored me. Out of the 15 categories, I’d voted for 9 of the winners. If you just want a list, click here. If you want to hear about the funny and weird moments, read on.

I’m handing out my Nerdies for the following categories (I know it’s a nerdy name for an “award” but that’s the point):

tina_fey

Best Oh-No-She-Didn’t Moment: Tina Fey’s acceptance speech for female actor in a comedy series. She said someday her daughter Alice will be old enough to watch 30 Rock on the Internet and ask, “What do you mean you don’t get residuals for this?” Fey then said, “Take care of me when I’m old and broke!” She’s referring, of course, to the current bitter discourse between actors and producers who don’t want to pay residuals for Internet usage. She was able to land a punch while still being funny and that’s why she’s cleaning up on the awards circuit.

Most Likely to Owe Tina Fey a Residual Check: When accepting the TV drama ensemble award for Mad Men, Jon Hamm thanked their “dozens of viewers” and got a laugh. Fey said the exact same thing when her series won the best comedy Emmy in 2007. Even recycled, Fey’s lines are funny.

Most Likely to Make You Feel Like a Slacker: 7-year-old Aaron Hart, who won an Actor as part of Mad Men‘s cast. At seven years old, I think I was still putting my clothes on backwards.

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Funniest Unintentional Transition: John Krasinski and Amy Poehler doing an amusing melodramatic bit (Krasinski: “I swear to God, if you keep pushing me away, next time I will not come back!” Poehler: “Fine, leave and take your broken dreams with you!”) before reading the nominees for Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series. Cut to a clip of Sally Field from Brothers & Sisters, doing the exact same kind of over-the-top acting they were parodying! Plus, she won!

Hottest Male I Saw All Night: Was it wrong of me to think, “Yowza!” when I saw a clip of a young, shirtless Paul Newman in the In Memorium montage? I knew I was supposed to be all sad and reverential (and I was) but dang, he was smokin’! 

Most Unsung Heroes: Brian and Susan, crafts services people thanked by Hugh Laurie for making “the finest cheesy eggs this side of the Rio Grande.” Forget agents and publicists—I second Laurie’s notion that without cheesy eggs in the morning, an actor cannot do his job! By the way, I love, love, love that Laurie won. My friends were saying, “Jon Hamm” and I was all, “Uh-uh, Hugh rules.” 

meryl_streep

Best Person to Teach Speech-Giving Classes: Meryl Streep, who was exuberant, funny, classy, heartfelt, and eloquent without having to resort to lists and sheets of paper. Plus, though she didn’t expect to win (saying she didn’t even buy a dress and showing her pants as proof), there was no hyperventilating involved. Are you taking notes, Kate? 

Most in Need of Streep’s Speech-Giving Classes: Jane Krakowski, who accepted the outstanding comedy ensemble award on behalf of the 30 Rock cast and should never be allowed to again. She said though she’d previously won as part of the Ally McBeal cast, this cast was “a thousand times heavier.” I’m assuming she was referring to the skinny women in the McBeal cast and their rumored weight issues but the remark was lame and absolutely unnecessary. Her “joke” was the “heaviest” dud of the evening. 

america2Most Unfortunate Name Confusion: America Ferrera, in her dull-colored Vera Wang with an inexplicable black tulle sash across her bodice that made her look like she was trying to be Miss America. The tulle also snaked around her back to give her a huge goiter there. As usual, her hair and make-up were flawless but she definitely needs a different stylist.

dev-patel1Most Improved from the Golden Globes: Freida Pinto. In her flowing lavender gown and upswept hair, she looks like a beautiful princess who’s never been anywhere near a slum. This is a much better look than the weirdly bunched chartreuse bag she wore to the Globes.

Best Dressed (Male): Dev Patel, in his cool and sharp retro tux that made me think of Sammy Davis Jr.

Actress Christina Applegate arrives at the 15th Annual Screen AcBest Dressed (Female): Christina Applegate. I loved how bold she was with this look—the color, the jewelry, the hair and make-up, it’s all good. She looked like no one else there.

What were the best and weirdest moments for you? Who did you think looked great and who was in need of a makeover? Post in the comments!

My Own Awards and Reactions to 2009 Golden Globes

Overall, I enjoyed the show. Some deserving people won (click here for list of winners) and there were some entertaining moments so I thought I’d hand out the first annual “Nerdies,” my own awards for the event’s highlights and lowlights.

r-gervaisMost Valuable Player: Hands down, no contest, in a category all by himself was Ricky Gervais. He was supposed to just introduce a film clip (of Happy-Go-Lucky), which everyone else managed to do quickly then leave. But Gervais would not go quietly. Drinking beer on stage, he turned his moment into a whole comedy routine with the funniest lines of the evening. “Shush, listen,” he began, admonishing the noisy crowd. “How rude are you lot?” He went on to complain about how “annoying” it was he wasn’t nominated for anything, which he thinks “detracts from the credibility of any awards show.” He then vowed, “That’s the last time I have sex with 200 middle-aged journalists [there are only 95 in the HFPA]…The Europeans with the wispy beards. The men are worse.” Gervais killed at the Emmys last September with a routine heckling Steve Carell; why won’t someone let him host the Oscars (or anything) already?

Favorite New Coined Word: “Schemeplay.” Tom Brokaw meant to say “screenplay” while introducing the Frost/Nixon script but stumbled and a great new word was born.

Favorite New Coined Phrase: “Post-racial.” Here’s how Tracy Morgan used it in a sentence—“Welcome to post-racial America. I’m the face of post-facial America. Deal with it, Cate Blanchett!”

t-feyBest Sucking Up to the HFPA: Tina Fey, when she won best comedic TV actress for 30 Rock. “I’ve always loved the Hollywood Foreign Press. As a kid, I had all the Hollywood Foreign Press action figures.” She then went on to address all her alleged internet haters. “Babsonlacrosse, you can suck it. Dianefan, you can suck it. Cougarletter, you can really suck it ’cause all year you’ve been after me. All year.” This was already funny when I thought she was making up the haters (how can there be any?!), but when I found out she was addressing real haters who post on TheEnvelope.com, it became brilliant!

Most I-Have-a-Dream-ish Speech: Ari Folman, director of Israel’s Waltz with Bashir, which won Best Foreign Film. He dedicated the award to the “eight beautiful production babies born in the tiny studio in Tel Aviv” during the four years it took to make the movie. Folman hopes that “one day, when they grow up, they watch this film together and they see the war that takes place in the film, it’ll look to them like an ancient video game that has nothing to do with their lives whatsoever.”

Best I-Told-You-So Moment: Colin Farrell winning best comedic film actor. For the last year, I’ve been raving about In Bruges to anyone who’d listen (only 2 people so far). I even wrote about it here. I was stoked when it got 3 Globes noms but thought its chances of winning were nil since it seems no one’s seen it. Farrell’s win got the loudest scream of the evening from me (I was excited about some other winners, too, but their victories were more expected). Farrell was humble and eloquent, describing the movie best by saying it’s “simultaneously profound and beautifully comic and wonderfully painful, filled with delightful remorse and, more than anything else, the sweetest, sweetest redemptive qualities.” Rent it already!

Most Honest, Unscripted Personal Admission: Farrell again, explaining why he was sniffling while presenting Best Foreign Film. “I have a cold. It’s not the other thing it used to be,” referencing the reason he went to rehab.

Second Best I-Told-You-So Moment: When the show ended without The Curious Case of Benjamin Button winning anything. I gave the film an unenthusiastic review last November and some people (who hadn’t seen it) were not happy with me. I don’t hate the movie but have maintained it’s not exceptional. Looks like the HFPA agreed and I think the Academy will, too. It’ll get some nominations but shouldn’t win in the major categories.

What were the best and worst moments for you? Comment away then come back later today for my fashion round-up and after-party reports!