Sunday, January 21, 2007

Golden Globes Wrap-up

Yeah, it's a week late - I'm busy!

One of my best friends and I have a tradition with the Oscars: we fill out a ballot with what we think will win, what we think should win, and what actually wins. In that vein, here's the major Golden Globe categories (I've left out some of them, like mini-series, because I never see any of them). I notice my prediction skills are as brilliantly honed as ever.

TV Drama Series
Big Love
Grey's Anatomy

Should win: Heroes. Will win: Lost. Did Win: Grey's Anatomy.

Hmmm. No HBO series here, so I went with Lost because TV critics seem to love it (I am tempted on a weekly basis to write to Entertainment Weekly to ask what the weather is like up J.J. Abrams' ass). I'd like to thank the HFPA for picking Grey's though, because of the headline-grabbing brouhaha that resulted after the all-cast interview.

TV Comedy Series
Desperate Housewives
The Office
Ugly Betty

Should win: The Office. Will win: Ugly Betty. Did Win: Ugly Betty.

I have yet to see Entourage or Weeds, and I gave up on DH after the first season. As far as I'm concerned, The Office is the funniest show in primetime, but Betty's pedigree is even more international than The Office's so it's not surprising the HFPA would honour it. Their win was one of my favourite moments of the night, though, so good for them.

TV Drama Series Actress
Patricia Arquette - Medium
Edie Falco - The Sopranos
Evangeline Lily - Lost
Ellen Pompeo - Grey's Anatomy
Kyra Sedgwick - The Closer

Should win: Falco. Will win: Falco. Did win: Sedgwick

And the evidence that the Globes' love-affair with HBO is over continues to grow. Falco was snubbed at the Emmys, too, so I can only assume this is a Return of the King-type scenario where the second half of the "final season" will win everything.

TV Drama Series Actor
Patrick Dempsey - Grey's Anatomy
Michael C. Hall - Dexter
Hugh Laurie - House
Bill Paxton - Big Love
Kiefer Sutherland - 24

Should win: Laurie. Will win: Sutherland. Did win: Laurie.

Yay! I'm shocked, and so was he, apparently, but yay! Love Laurie. Love the idea of acceptance speeches from Dolce & Gabbana. This was also evidence of the new trend at the Globes: Brits winning everything. Maybe the Globes have finally realized that the British tend to give better speeches.

TV Comedy Series Actress
Marcia Cross - Desperate Housewives
America Ferrera - Ugly Betty
Felicity Huffman - Desperate Housewives
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - The New Adventures of Old Christine
Mary-Louise Parker - Weeds

Should win: Fererra. Will win: Dreyfus. Did win: Fererra.

Favourite moment of the night, hands-down. Like much of the audience, I got weepy during America's speech. Also, she looked fantastic, and, as they pointed out on Go Fug Yourself, real. I picked Dreyfus because, again, she's a critics' darling, and everyone seems to be so happy that the "Seinfeld curse" is broken.

TV Comedy Series Actor
Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock
Zach Braff - Scrubs
Steve Carell - The Office
Jason Lee - My Name is Earl
Tony Shalhoub - Monk

Should win: Carell. Will win: Baldwin. Did win: Baldwin.

One of the strongest category groups. I adore Shalhoub, and I'm glad he's gotten so much recognition lately, but Monk is not funny. Not by a long shot. Ditto Lee and Earl. Braff should have won this a few years ago, but Scrubs is past its prime now. Baldwin is the best part of 30 Rock, but his job isn't anywhere near as tough as Carell's, and Carell writes for The Office too, so he should have won.

Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Borat: No I'm Not Typing Out The Damn Subtitle
The Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
Thank You for Smoking

Should win: Borat. Will win: Dreamgirls. Did win: Dreamgirls.

The only one I didn't see was Smoking. Sunshine was my favourite of the ones I did see, but we're talking comedy here, so ... why didn't Borat win, again? Oh right, because Dreamgirls is a musical, even though it's not remotely funny, or even all that good. Fuck off, Dreamgirls.

Motion Picture - Drama
The Departed
Little Children
The Queen

Should win: The Departed. Will win: Babel. Did win: Babel.

Not really a surprise, given the film's provenance and subject matter. I still haven't seen it, I've only seen The Departed and The Queen thus far.

Best Actress - Movie Comedy
Annette Bening - Running With Scissors
Toni Collette - Little Miss Sunshine
Beyoncé Knowles - Dreamgirls
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada
Renée Zellweger - Miss Potter

Should win: Streep. Will win: Knowles. Did win: Streep.

I should have predicted that the HFPA's love affair with Streep would continue, but I thought the Dreamgirls buzz might be enough to overcome it. I'm happy to be wrong.

Best Actor - Movie Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen - Borat
Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Aaron Eckhart - Thank You For Smoking
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Kinky Boots
Will Ferrell - Stranger Than Fiction

Should win: Ferrell. Will win: Depp. Did win: Baron Cohen.

Kind of stunned, in that I figured they'd be terrified about what his speech would turn out to be (in the event: nearly as cringe-inducing as the movie). I guess Depp is too much of an outsider. Personally, I think Ferrell's performance has been unfairly maligned; I thought he was really good in a film I absolutely loved. Also fun? Hearing all the different ways people pronouced Ejiofor's name.

Best Actress - Movie Drama
Penelope Cruz - Volver
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Sherry Baby
Helen Mirren - The Queen
Kate Winslet - Little Children

Should win: Mirren. Will win: Mirren. Did win: Mirren.

The closest thing to a lock since Jamie Foxx won for Ray. It's the only one I've seen so far, and while everyone in this category is fantastic, I can't imagine any of them being better than Mirren as Queen Elizabeth - the best performance of the year that I've seen.

Best Actor - Movie Drama
Leonardo DiCaprio - Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Departed
Peter O'Toole - Venus
Will Smith - The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland

Should win: DiCaprio for The Departed. Will win: O'Toole. Did win: Whitaker.

Lovely to see someone else from Fast Times making good beyond Sean Penn and Jennifer F*cking Jason Leigh.

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza - Babel
Cate Blanchett - Notes on a Scandal
Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada
Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi - Babel

Should win: Hudson. Will win: Hudson. Did win: Hudson.

Also pretty much a lock. Hudson and Blunt were the only two I've seen so far, and people keep raving about Blunt's performance and... yeah, I don't see it. I mean, she was fun and everything, but the only really good part of that movie was Streep. Oh, and the soundtrack, and how hot Adrian Grenier is.

Best Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck - Hollywoodland
Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson - The Departed
Brad Pitt - Babel
Mark Wahlberg - The Departed

Should win: Murphy. Will win: Pitt. Did win: Murphy.

Murphy was the best part of Dreamgirls, as I've said before, but I thought given the film and its subject matter and how much the HFPA love to get their pictures taken with big stars that Pitt would win it in a walk. Also - why is Affleck nominated in this category? Isn't the movie all about his character? Qu'est-ce que le fuck?

Best Director
Clint Eastwood - Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood - Letters from Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears - The Queen
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Babel
Martin Scorsese - The Departed

Should win: Marty. Will win: Eastwood for Flags. Did win: Marty.

Apparently the HFPA doesn't have its collective lips planted so firmly on Eastwood's ass as the rest of Hollywood does. It'll be interesting to see, come Oscar night, if a) Scorsese's curse continues; b) if the vote-splitting that may have hurt both Eastwood and DiCaprio here continues to be a problem; c) if the Academy realizes that, frankly, from a directing perspective, Inarritu had the hardest job here.

Final Score: 6 out of 15. Yeah, not that good. I'm happy to see so many of my "should wins" did win, though. Apparently the HFPA and I have similar taste. And now I'm afraid of myself.

Some final thoughts:

Salma Hayek: great colour, but the dress is too much for your wee frame.
Felicity Huffman: ditto.
Justin Timberlake: Prince is going to have you killed.
Jeremy's Iron: are you wearing ruby buttons? The hell?
Naomi Watts: someone please tell her how to dress, and also to give Liev Schrieber to me.
Will Ferrell: Art Garfunkel called, he wants his hair back.
Forest Whittaker: prep a speech, dude.
Oh good, another rambling speech by Warren Beatty. Didn't we do this already? Or was that at the Oscars? God, make it stop, make it stop!
Best table to be at: Tie - Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry's/The Ugly Betty team
Worst table to be at: Dominick Dunne, Sharon Stone and Donald Trump. I think that may be my new idea of hell, actually.

Until next year!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oscar-bait Movie Catch-up: Part I

The Queen

What a miraculous actor Helen Mirren is. It's funny that a woman who was known as a Shakespearean bombshell - famous for taking her clothes off onstage - has now played monarchs several times, and none so well as here. She's considered to be a lock for an Oscar nomination if not a win, and it's a good thing she's playing a real person because normally the Academy isn't known for its appreciation of performances that are this beautifully subtle. She's amazing.

That said, I wasn't blown away by the film. It's very well-cast; Michael Sheen as Tony Blair and James Cromwell (James Cromwell! Love him!) as Prince Philip are both excellent (Alex Jennings and Sylvia Sims as Prince Charles and the Queen Mum less so) and while I was a bit thrown off at first by the casual way Her Majesty is shown speaking to her servants I got used to it eventually. The cinematography by D.O.P. Affonso Beato is also stunning - I can't imagine they actually got permission to shoot on the Balmoral estate but obviously they must have been in the area, and I want to go to Scotland yesterday.

Nevertheless, I suspect that a lot of the acclaim the film's been receiving is based on emotions that have little to do with the work of Mirren, Sheen or Stephen Frears. Lots of people in the audience, myself included, were sniffling quite a lot, but it was all during the scenes where actual footage of Diana's death was used. I was in Britain the night she died - when we left Wales the accident had been reported and by the time we reached Gatwick airport some of the papers were reporting her death - and it was horrible. The footage Frears uses, of the normally reserved British nation rending its garments for the world to see, is still affecting nearly 10 years later, and confirms my opinion that fact can often be more moving than fiction. But getting tears out of your audience based on someone else's work (in this case, the BBC and other newsgathering organizations) seems a bit like ... cheating.


Another one that's getting a lot of Oscar buzz and, frankly, I ... don't really get it. Some of this is no doubt due to my indifference to Motown; I'm not a huge fan of the classic sound from the '60s, and despite having seen and enjoyed The Funk Brothers in concert, I still prefer the later, funkier stuff the label produced in the '70s. And the music in the film isn't even as good as the early Motown stuff; it's in the same vein, but it's much, much sappier with less catchy lyrics.

Part of it also has to do with Jennifer Hudson playing the diva Effie White. I hate myself for this, but I kind of agree with Simon Cowell, who told Hudson on American Idol that she was "too much." Hudson's big moment comes during the song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and long before she howled her last note I was ready for it to be over. The girl has a fantastic voice, but someone with pipes that powerful needs to take Aretha Franklin, rather than Whitney Houston, as her model. When your vocal style resembles an oncoming freight train, please refrain from trilling.

That said, I really hope Hudson gets more acting gigs based on this, because she gives the second-best performance in the film. Jamie Foxx as the Berry Gordy analogue is pretty one-note due to the one-dimensionality of the character, and while Beyoncé has never looked more stunning (she should dress up as Diana Ross more often), she's not a master thesp either. It'd also be cool if Hudson should got some modeling work out of this. She's not the most classically beautiful woman on the screen (again, that would be Beyoncé) but when the story moves into the 70s and Effie adopts a kind of natural, black-is-beautiful chic, Hudson looks pretty gorgeous.

But the best performance in the film? Eddie Murphy. And it's not just because James "Thunder" Early's music is more entertaining than the rest of the pap on the soundtrack. Reviewers left and right have mentioned Murphy's James Brown (R.I.P.) parodies from SNL and how they make a reappearance here, but for me the best part of Murphy's performance comes near the end when Early has transformed himself into a Marvin Gaye-type soul singer. There's a moment, just before Early is about to shoot up, when he looks at Keith Robinson (playing C.C., Effie's brother), and the pain and weariness and general giving-up-on-life-ness is so plainly etched on his face that my breath caught. Murphy is notoriously press-shy and that may hurt his Oscar chances, but I really, really hope he at least gets a nomination out of this, because his performance is close to perfect all the way through.

Just as an aside: Diana Ross apparently wasn't too fond of the stage play and isn't thrilled with the movie's existence either, and I can't quite tell why. The Deena Jones character is much nicer than Ross probably is in person; the film makes her look next door to a saint. Unless it's the implication that Jones - and by extension Ross - was picked for her looks rather than her talent. Yeah, I guess I can see why Ross might not like that too much.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Borat: Because everyone else has commented - why not me?

Imagine you’re riding in a hotel elevator and two men get on with you. One is short, obese and hairy. The other is tall, skinny and … hairy. Also, he’s holding a giant rubber fist. Oh, and they’re both naked.

Would you call the cops? Or would you just stare at the ceiling and hope you were going to wake up soon? Fortunately for Borat Sagdiyev, the man in his elevator chooses the latter course, and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan continues apace.

Simultaneously filthy, offensive, and choke-on-your-own-tongue funny, this mock doc starring Kazakh reporter Borat, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s alter ego, is a satire on a Swiftian level that leaves all other “fake news” in the dust.

Borat – smelly, racist and perpetually horny – leaves Kazakhstan to visit “U S and A” to learn what makes America great and bring some of that magic back to his homeland. Things get off to an excellent start, with him washing his tighty whities in Central Park and letting a chicken loose on the subway.

One night he sees a Baywatch rerun and falls in love with Pamela Anderson. He sets off for California, determined to marry her in the “traditional Kazakh way” – i.e., kidnapping her in a burlap sack. Along the way, his trip becomes ever more sad and surreal, with him wrecking an antique store, drinking with a bunch of frat boys and winding up in a Pentecostal revival meeting. And this is no tent set up in a parking lot somewhere; this is a big deal, attended by members of Congress and a federal court judge. The sight of Baron Cohen, who is Jewish, speaking in tongues as a hoarse-voiced preacher lays hands upon him is both hilarious and disturbing. One also wonders how many times he was arrested during the shoot.

Baron Cohen’s humour is brilliantly layered. On one level, Borat is just another in a long line of “funny foreigners” for us Westerners to laugh at. Making him from Kazakhstan was a brilliant move, because few Westerners know anything about Kazakhstan; they don’t need to feel ashamed for laughing at stereotypes, because they don’t know any. The Kazakhstan government has started a PR campaign to combat Borat; naturally, this only eggs Baron Cohen on.

But on another level, Baron Cohen appeals to the same audience that watches Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert: young, smart adults who appreciate irony and Baron Cohen’s commitment to his characters (he rarely appears in public as himself). It’s easy to forget that The Daily Show used to be able to do stuff like this, albeit on a far smaller scale. And on this level it’s not just the fun of seeing powerful people hoodwinked: by presenting himself as a bigot, a misogynist and an anti-Semite, Baron Cohen gets his victims to reveal ugly things about themselves. In one scene, Borat goes into a gun store in the South and asks what the best gun would be to defend himself from a Jew. Without batting an eye, the owner plunks a Glock on the counter. In another scene, a rodeo organizer advises Borat to shave off his moustache so he’ll look less foreign. Here the laughs become extremely uncomfortable. You can legislate tolerance all you want, Baron Cohen seems to be saying, but you can’t regulate people’s minds.

Yet I walked away from the movie feeling otherwise. Yes, there were a few instances of frightening bigotry, and many, many instances of appalling ignorance. But Borat himself is generally welcomed with open arms, and even if what his victims “teach” him makes your skin crawl, you can’t get away from the fact that most of them are eager to help. This may be due only to their belief in the innate superiority of American culture: here’s an opportunity to help this poor, backward person become more like us! Part of it may be due to Southern hospitality: despite the supposed open-mindedness of the “blue states” the Southerners are far friendlier than, say, the Manhattanites.

But the fact remains that the Americans have far more cultural sensitivity than most other nations on the planet, and I like to think that this fact becomes another layer to the joke. You expect Borat to make the Americans look like idiots, and he does. But the joke is also on us: for the most part, the Yanks come out looking okay.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

TIFF 2006: The Round-up

The Toronto International Film Festival has come and gone in its usual whirlwind of publicists, starfuckers and general insanity.

I didn't get to see nearly as many films as I'd have liked, because I was running around to too many press conferences, but here were a few highlights:

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Hands down the funniest and most offensive movie I've seen in a very, very long time. Not having any more than basic cable, the first I'd ever even heard of Sacha Baron Cohen was when Ali G showed up in that Madonna video, and I knew about Borat but had never seen him in action. There are scenese from this film that I don't think I'll ever be able to scrub out of my brain: particularly a naked wrestling match between Borat and his "producer" that begins in their hotel room and winds up in a ballroom full of business people. I wonder how many times Baron Cohen was arrested before the production wrapped.

Kurt Cobain: About a Son

I can still remember where I was when I heard about Cobain's death; for a particular generation, it was the closest we would get to the Kennedy assassination (at least before September 11, 2001). This doc is based on interviews Cobain did with Michael Azerrad for Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. The audio tapes of the interviews play over scenes around Washington State in places Cobain lived, coupled with music by artists that he admired or was influenced by (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, R.E.M., etc.)

The interviews are pretty revealing, at least for someone like me who wasn't a huge Nirvana fan. For instance, I hadn't known that Cobain suffered from debilitating stomach pain, which may in part explain both his heroin use and his suicide. They also reveal him to be much more of a calcualting pop star than the mythology that's built up around him usually allows: he knew Nirvana's three-chord punk tunes would need pop hooks if they ever wanted to break out of the underground, and he openly resented the fact that he, as lead singer and song writer, put in lots more effort and came in for a lot more scrutiny than his band-mates, and yet didn't get paid more for the trouble. Probably the most touching moment comes near the end, when we briefly hear Courtney Love in the background. She's just asking him to do something when he's done talking and he's kind of: "Yeah, no problem." They sound just like any other married couple, and it's lovely.

The one problem I had with it is there is no Nirvana music and next to no pictures of the band, except for a few of Kurt right at the end. It's quite possible that Love, who, so far as I know, still controls Cobain's portion of the Nirvana legacy, wouldn't allow the filmmakers to use more than what they had; or perhaps the music rights were debilitatingly expensive. But a certain amount of context would have been nice to see; even archival photos of the Seattle scene in the late 80s and early 90s would have helped set the scene a bit. A truly great doc exists in the story of Nirvana; this isn't it, but it's a decent stop-gap.

Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing

Another music doc, and a great one this time. As I said in my post about the press conference (linked above), I don't even like country music, but I loved this film - I was in tears several times as it went along. The Dixie Chicks are smart, tough and talented and we don't see enough women like that in movies. It was really cool to see the dynamics of the band, how Maines, who wasn't with the band originally, became its leader, and how they drew together after her comments about George Bush. The filmmakers also show us their families and the musicians they work with - underscoring the point that a lot of people depend on the band's success for their livelihoods and that the career problems they've had affect far more than just the Chicks and their record company. Still don't think I'll be buying their albums, but I definitely want to see this movie again; I hope it gets a decent theatrical release.

There were a tonne of other docs I wanted to see and didn't (including several showings of Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke). Fortunately, Toronto's a big enough market that they'll probably show up in some second-run theatres, at least. And while TIFF may be over, awards season is just around the corner, and I've gotta cram in all the big films before Christmas somehow. Sleep? Who needs it?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Global Warning

A couple of weekends ago I treated myself to an Armageddon double-feature: Almost-president Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed The Electric Car?, narrated by fictional president Martin "Josiah Bartlet" Sheen.

An Inconvenient Truth isn't the most visually stimulating film you'll ever see, that's for sure - it's basically a filmed PowerPoint presentation. Gore is generally funny and relaxed, and not all creepy as he was on the cover of Entertainment Weekly not too long ago. The stuff he has to say is terrifying, but, true to the American character, he's an optimist. The film ends with possibly the most rousing speech he's ever given: he pays tribute to human ingenuity and what we've achieved thus far, over pictures of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., suffragettes and the moon landing, among other things. I got pretty teary by the end of it.

What a kick in the teeth, then, to go see Electric Car right afterwards. A much funnier and more interesting film, it tells the story of the EV1, a fully electric (not hybrid) car that was actually on the market in California in the early 90s. But GM quickly recalled it, not even allowing those who'd leased the cars to buy them. There was nothing physically wrong with the cars, they were as fast and safe as any with an internal combustion engine. Their big drawbacks were the price and the fact that you couldn't, say, cross the country in one (their limit was about 60 miles per charge), but for an ordinary day's driving, they were just fine, and of course their price would have come down and their battery life gone up had GM continued to make them.

The point? After hearing Gore talk about humanity's limitless potential, it was a real comedown to show how humanity actually never misses a chance to fuck up. Electric Car blames Big Oil, the government, the car makers and consumer apathy and ignorance, among others, for the EV1's demise. Yeah. Humans are great.

As a call to action, Truth is infinitely the better film. The end credits, the most visually beautiful part of the movie, are interspersed with ideas on how you the viewer can make a difference. (One of the great things about Truth is that it shows there's no one cure all for our environmental problems - solving them will take many little steps. It's an approach that makes the problem seem at once more annoying to deal with and yet less insurmountable.) If you stay until the very end, you'll also see that the filmmakers offset the energy it took to make the film by buying credits that support renewable energy initiatives. It takes a whole hell of a lot of energy to make a film, even one that's as simple as Al Gore standing in front of a big screen. (As a film critic, I'm often horrified at the damage that's inflicted on the environment just to bring us, say, Grandma's Boy.) Electric Car, by contrast, only directs you to the film's website (linked above) although the site itself is very informative. One thing's for sure, after that weekend I gave up all thoughts of buying a Mini, much as I love them. I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't buy a hybrid. This is in the distant and unforseeable future when I can afford to buy a car.

As a side note, there was a piece in Friday's Globe and Mail's Real Estate section about Mattamy Homes, a building company that's got "green" model homes in Milton, Ontario, so that the public can see what they'd be getting if they chose to go green, and how much those features would cost them. I wish more companies would do stuff like this - as Who Killed the Electric Car? shows, consumer ignorance is as big an enemy as oil barons from Texas (or Alberta).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Out of Africa 2: The Curse of the Serengeti

I recently interviewed Sydney Pollack about his doc on Frank Gehry. I originally saw the film at TIFF, and loved it, even though as a documentary it's not terribly successful: it's pretty one-sided, laudatory and didn't really get to the heart of the subject. But it's soothing and pretty to look at, and Gehry's a worthy subject, for sure.

Anyway, the interview took place over the phone, while I was at my day job. Not the most comfortable circumstances under which to question someone, especially since that someone was probably doing 3 other things at the same time as well as rolling his eyes at his publicist over the dumb-assedness of my queries. I had threatened beforehand to pitch the above movie to him; sadly, I chickened out at the last minute.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Neither romantic nor comedic: Vaughniston v. Brangelina

So I saw The Break Up recently, for work. Mini review here, and I see they chopped off the end of my piece - so nice of them. Sigh. Anyway, as ridiculous as it sounds and as much as one can take sides when one doesn't know any of the participants, I'm firmly in the Vaughniston camp.

It's well-nigh impossible to watch The Break Up and not think about the Jennifer Anistion/Vince Vaughn/Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie love rhombus; as impossible as it was to do so watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith last year. These are pretty, famous people whose love lives are more interesting than the movies they've made, more or less, and anyone who denies he or she is going to see The Break Up to check out Aniston and Vaughn's chemistry is lying. You sure won't be seeing it in order to enjoy yourself; the marketing for that film is as fraudulent as anything this side of The Neverending Story (tm Lionel Hutz). You see the trailers, you see Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman and you think "Romantic comedy that's actually funny! I'm sold!" And what you get is a depressing treatise on what it's like to inhabit Splitsville with your ex, with an ambiguous ending that wins points for its non-Hollywood-ness but won't win over audiences.

But I digress. I've had a lot of sympathy for Aniston ever since reading that Vanity Fair piece last fall. Yes, she's rich and attractive and gets to make movies and make out with Clive Owen, and no, she's not by any means a sad figure in the grand scheme of things. But going through a divorce is never fun, being cheated on sucks rocks, and doing both in public just adds mountains of insult to injury. And if that article is to be believed, Pitt has acted with an almost inhuman level of insensitivity throughout this whole thing. I may have, on occasion, hollered "Home-wrecking slut" at the TV when Jolie's appeared on it, but I don't really blame her. Aside from lying to VF that she never sleeps with married men, she's not really the guilty party here - she met a man she liked and was attracted to, and hooked up with him, and good for her.

But the biggest reason I'm in the Aniston/Vaughn camp is that Pitt and Jolie are two of the most overhyped stars in the Hollywood firmament, and I'm talking before they got together. Brad Pitt is hot, yes. But he's a lousy actor. No, really. He's not Keanu, he's not Tom Cruise, but he's not good, either. Watching him try to do anything more challenging other than Rusty from the Ocean's movies is painful. I had a friend in university who used to do a killer imitation of Pitt crying; obviously I can't replicate it here, but watch the climax of Se7en and you'll see it - the man cannot act without getting caught at it. He sucks. I give him credit for making good choices and wanting to work with interesting directors, but really. Put him up against Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Jeff Bridges or Ed Norton or Benicio Del Toro - guys who inhabit the characters they create - and his inferiority is so glaring it'll blind you.

As for Jolie, I just looked at her IMDB entry and realize that Mr. & Mrs. Smith is the only film of hers that I've seen all the way through. I've seen parts of Girl, Interrupted and a few scenes from one of the Lara Croft movies and a couple of seconds of Gone in Sixty Seconds, but that's it. So I guess I can't really judge her on the basis of that one performance alone (although, if I could - ugh, she wasn't much better than he was). But she's been a "star" for longer than her resumé would indicate; in part because of her freaky-ass marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, but largely because a lot of straight men (and no doubt some gay women) want to fuck her.

And I don't get it. I mean, yes, okay, I get it. The legs, the ass, the blow-job-ready lips. Fine. But the woman is not beautiful, not in the way that Natalie Portman or Ingrid Bergman or Catherine Zeta-Jones is. She's striking, yes. You notice her. She has presence. But she's weird-looking, I think - her forehead is huge and her shoulders are bony and her nose turns up in that way that her father's did - she looks a hell of a lot like her father did when he was young, in fact. It's an odd face on anyone, but more so on a young woman.

As for Vince Vaughn, he's probably going to turn out to be one of those Nicolas Cage types for me, someone who I'll always think kindly of because of a particular role. No matter how bizarre and awful Nic Cage is now, I still love him because of Moonstruck, and no matter how many adolescent frat boy fantasies Vaughn romps through - all the while looking like he's better than the material, which is maddening - I will love him because of Swingers, a brilliant little flick that he was fantastic and dead sexy in. I really hope he frees himself from the clutches of the Wilson/Ferrell/Stiller crowd and goes back to working on quality stuff; he co-wrote and -produced The Break Up, which may be an indication that he's ready to move on.

Aniston, meanwhile, does not appear to be a great actress; she's got sitcom-honed timing, for sure, but I've yet to see anything that indicates she's got anything else. She's good in The Break Up, it not being terribly surprising that she can play heartbreak, and as I said in my reivew, she does her best with a character who's supposedly smart and classy and talented and then approaches her relationship problems with all the sophistication of a Friends subplot. And God knows Aniston's been overhyped, but that has more to do with her marriage than with her. None of the other Friends appear in the tabloids with that kind of brutal regularity, and had she married a known schmuck, like Courtney Cox did, or an unknown average Joe, like Lisa Kudrow did, she'd be going through this divorce practically in private right now, with her millions of dollars as consolation, instead of trying desperately to build a film career that no one thinks she's ready for. Of course, if she'd married a guy like that, he wouldn't have left her for Angelina Jolie. Sounds like a better idea all the time, doesn't it?

In other words, if it hadn't been for her marriage to Pitt, Vaughn would now be playing David Arquette to Aniston's Courtney Cox and we wouldn't be sick of the sight of her and wishing she'd just take a year off. So for those reasons, I wish her and Vaughn well, hope they take a nice long vacation and figure out what's next for them. As for Pitt and Jolie, I hope they stay in Namibia and get the hell off my newsstands.