Latest Blog Posts
I've seen Zoe Kazan work in a few films and I've enjoyed work she's done before, but until I saw "Ruby Sparks" last week, I didn't really "get" Zoe Kazan.
Consider me fully onboard at this point, though. Not only does she give a fetching, smart, complex performance that fully refutes the entire notion of the "manic pixie dream girl," but she's also the screenwriter for the movie that opens in some markets on Wednesday.
Her co-star in the film and, according to the interviews I did with them last week, also her co-star in real life is Paul Dano, known by many for his work in "Little Miss Sunshine" and "There Will Be Blood" and "Cowboys and Aliens." In the film, he plays Calvin, an author whose first book was published when he was a teenager, making him a media sensation. Now stuck with a massive case of writer's block, he tries an writing exercise that leads to him turning out page after page describing his perfect woman, only to find her actually in his house one morning. Kazan plays Ruby, the girl he creates, and as Calvin experiments, he learns that he can indeed make her into anything or make her do anything simply by adding to his manuscript.
So “American Idol” has nabbed its Christina Aguilera-equivalent. Hang on there, lambs... I am fully aware that Mariah Carey was a superstar before little Christina was even a Mouseketeer. What I mean is that for a singing competition, “American Idol” sure took a hell of a long time and traveled a most circuitous route before landing an honest-to-God singer for a judge.
Though word leaked out last week that Carey was a serious contender, Fox didn’t confirm the news until today at TCA, allowing Jennifer Lopez to be as coy as she wanted about whether her “99%” decision meant she was going or if it was a negotiating ploy. Looks like Fox ultimately made the decision for her.
Let's look at the Carey decision a little more closely:
*The star wattage is huge. Carey is the biggest artist to become a judge on a reality talent show yet. She’s sold more than 200 million albums and has scored 18 No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100, second only to the Beatles and ahead of Michael Jackson and Madonna.
*She can really sing. Yes, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler could too, but Carey has a five-octave range that automatically commands respect from any of the contestants. Despite all her other talents, she is first and foremost a singer.
*She knows how to match a voice to a song. She's written plenty of her hits, but she also has a very clear understanding of what she’s looking for from outside writers or co-writers. Though she won’t be involved in song selection, she will be able to critique the choices well.
*She understands the business. Not only will she be able to advise the contestants on their vocal skills, she is a shrewd businesswoman.
*She’s tough. I remember the first time I interviewed her, I expected someone much more delicate than I got. She is smart and tough and she will tell it like it is. She'll be able to make the hard calls.
*She spans genres: Though she’s primarily a pop artist, she has worked with a wide variety of R&B and rap artists so she has a broader musical palette than some of the past judges. For example, her new single, “Triumphant,” features Meek Mill and Rick Ross.
*She’s unproven when it comes to the full rigors of a weekly live show, despite having served as a past "AI" mentor and guest. Carey has been known to, as they say in Hollywood, “suffer from exhaustion” and she’s a night owl, so may be a big adjustment to adhere to such a fixed timetable. However, we’re sure that her husband, “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon, can give her all the advice she needs on dealing with such a heavy schedule.
*She, like Lopez, had the majority of her hits more than a decade ago (although Mimi is, hopefully, far from done adding to her list of Top 10s). At some point, “American Idol” is going to have to bring in a judge who is under 30. The show doesn’t have to go “Disney young” and bring in a Demi Lovato type, but they have yet to have a judge who is a contemporary to the contestants.
*Carey is two decades, several hundred million dollars, and a big old penthouse away from remembering what it was like to launch a career. The audition process is going to be a big old reality check for her to come back down to the ground level and see what nascent talent looks like again.
*As we mentioned, Carey is, first and foremost, a singer. To be effective, she's going to have to look beyond someone's technical proficiency and evaluate the overall package. Will she be able to give someone with a quirkier voice, like a Paul McDonald or a Casey Abrams, a shot? She may need to widen her criteria on whether someone should go forward.
How do you think Carey will do? Was she a good choice?
It's late July, that balmy time of year when everyone's thoughts naturally turn to the Producers' Guild of America Awards, due to take place on January 26 next year -- a mere six months away. And as of today, we know who will be receiving at least one of them. Whether or not The Weinstein Company manages a three-peat with the Guild's top prize -- after "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" were both named the year's best by the PGA -- their founding brothers will still take the stage, as Bob and Harvey Weinstein are to receive the Guild's Milestone Award for "historic contributions to the entertainment industry."
I know what you're thinking. It's about time these unassuming industry serfs received a little recognition for their tireless background work. But in all seriousness, an award for the Weinsteins from this guild isn't quite as much of a sop as it initially sounds: while TWC, and Miramax before it, have been rewarded for various productions, the brothers themselves have never claimed a PGA trophy. Harvey has been nominated as a producer for "Shakespeare in Love" and "Gangs of New York," as well as in the TV category for reality show "Project Runway," losing on all three occasions. Bob hasn't one nomination to his name.
Biopics in general seem to be incredibly difficult to make work. The biggest problem is that anyone who lived a life interesting enough to be turned into a film probably also lived a life that is too dense to be boiled down to two hours in a way that is both dramatically satisfying and narratively engaging.
When Bill Hicks was still alive and working, I thought he was one of the few of his contemporaries who was willing to use stand-up comedy as more than just a short-cut to a network sitcom. Since his death, though, Hicks has become a somewhat messianic figure to his fans, and they've managed to package, repackage, and re-re-re-release every single second of his recorded comedy. They have strip-mined everything he left behind, with "American: The Bill Hicks Story" representing the most complete and insightful look at him and his work so far.
It makes sense that this news would break first in the UK, since Hicks had more commercial success there during his life than he did in America, and the UK has been a big part of keeping his legend alive in the years since. The Telegraph ran a few quotes today from Mark Staufer, who is credited as the screenwriter for the proposed project, and it sounds like they're close to wrapping up development and moving into actual production near the start of 2013.
Fresh off the announcement that Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label compilation has a due date, and that 2 Chainz is still not an official associate of the label, Ye and the Atlanta rapper have dropped "Birthday Song."
No, it's not the "Birthday Song" you know and love: "All I want for my birthday is a big booty girl."
I'm not even going to pretend I can look past the literal twist on "pay for play" exchange of sex acts for one's birthday, even when Rihanna says it. That, combined with lazy, entitled opening verse from 2 Chainz, the gender classicism and the abhorrent repeated "You in first place," means this won't sit well for some.
But if you don't like it, don't bring your drama to the table, West warns you "actresses."
For the record, ladies, a sweater is a perfectly nice gift (hell, so is a "coupe"). If your man -- famous rapper or not -- tells you to "do better" and insinuates you grab a friend to bring her into the bed for some crew-love, you can certainly inform him nary a birthday will be happy again until that sainted day when he's buried next to "two bitches."
BEVERLY HILLS - If it seems to you like I just live-blogged a "Fringe" final season panel just a day or two ago, you're close to right.
It's only been eight days since the tear-filled "Fringe" farewell at San Diego's Comic-Con.
Now? It's time for "Fringe" to say good-bye to the Television Critics Association press tour.
We won't cry.
Of course, we won't have Jasika Nicole on this panel to reduce everybody to tears.
Click through for the full report...
One of the more confounding scheduling decisions any network made during upfront season was ABC's scheduling of the new comedy "The Neighbors" on Wednesdays at 9:30. The timeslot after "Modern Family" is the best launching pad ABC can give a new sitcom —though the results have been mixed at best in the past for "Cougar Town," "Mr. Sunshine," "Happy Endings" and more — and it's hard to find anyone who doesn't work at ABC with many kind things to say about the pilot for "The Neighbors." Clips of the show — starring Lenny Venito and Jamie Gertz as parents who move their family into a gated community where all the neighbors are secretly aliens — bombed in front of advertisers at the network's fall schedule announcement, and early critical buzz has been rough, with many in the industry speculating on how many weeks ABC would leave the show in such a good slot before admitting defeat.
Instead, it appears ABC has accepted the inevitable and is going to put a different, better show after Phil, Claire and the gang. As first reported by Deadline, and confirmed to me by a source close to the show, ABC has decided to put "Suburgatory" on at 9:30 and try "The Neighbors" in the old "Suburgatory" slot at 8:30.
"Suburgatory" had a very strong debut season, and while it seemed a good match in the 8 o'clock hour with "The Middle," it feels like the best possible match with "Modern Family" of all the other comedies ABC currently has in its inventory. And if there's going to be an audience that likes "The Neighbors," it'll likely be little kids who think people who turn into squishy green aliens are cool — and those kids won't be watching at 9:30 p.m.
If you’re lucky enough to have The Clash’s Mick Jones on your song, you probably want to take full advantage of that opportunity.
Happily, the Wallflowers do just that on “Reboot the Mission,” the first single from “Glad All Over,” the band’s first album since 2005’s “Rebel, Sweetheart.” Listen to it here.
Not only does Jones play guitar on the mid-tempo shuffler, he sings the chorus. But the band doesn’t stop the homage there: they even name check The Clash’s late Joe Strummer in the lyrics and throw in just enough of the Clash’s punk/dub swagger to reference the seminal British band without sounding like they’re ripping them off.
The song took a few listens to grow on me, but it definitely has. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, from the Clash-like muted shout-outs in the background to the wonky organ that comes in at the end. Plus, while Jakob Dylan’s spoken/singing vocals are definitely recognizable, the band shows no fear in trying to switch its sound up a little...hence the song title’s appropriateness. As gracefully as “One Headlight” may be aging, no one needs a retread just yet.
Rolling Stone debuted the track today and has the exclusive, but the song will be available on iTunes starting July 24 and we’ll embed the song as soon as we can.
What do you think of "Reboot The Mission?"
It's been a big day for talent competition judges. Mariah is in and J-Lo is officially out at "American Idol," while Britney Spears and Demi Lovato took to satellite to talk to journalists at the press tour about their stint as the new judges on Fox's "The X Factor." Joined by their counterparts Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid, the cozy foursome joked around like best buddies. Like best buddies, this left plenty of room for ribbing. "Britney… is a really good judge. Demi is a brat, but there's something really likable about her as well," said Cowell with a grin. "The show needed someone younger, because I'm in my 30s."
Mercury Prize-nominated songwriter Bat For Lashes is back, and out the gate, she's... solemn.
"Laura" -- the first track from forthcoming album "The Haunted Man" -- has a music video featuring a haunted man and an interpretive dance honoring the song's namesake. The nervous, slow waltz showcases BfL's ringing voice, which would sound just marvelous in a velvet red curtained room.
But I also can't shake what it reminds me of: "Ooo Laura, you're more than a superstar" is eerily reminiscent of Barry Manilow's "Mandy" (or if you prefer The Simpsons version, "Margie / You came and found me a turkey"). The video is gorgeously shot, so any unintended Laura-Mandy-Margie similarities are forgiven.
"The Haunted Man" has a fantastic, NSFW album cover shot by nudes specialist Ryan McGinley, and will be out Oct. 23 via EMI.
There have been only a few instances lately where I felt inclined to turn up a Snoop Dogg tune. His new track, "La La La" under the Snoop Lion moniker, is one of them.
The West Coast rapper combined forces with "executive producers" Major Lazer and churned out this reggae-drenched weirdo. Diplo and Ariel Rechtshaid engineered the thing to sound like a legitimate island diamond, rather than a thin attempt to branch out into a traditionally un-Snoop genre.
But it doesn't take long to get from point A to point B, considering the weed-loving rhymer's affinity for reggae's greenest trope. It's what brought he and Willie Nelson together for a country ode "Roll Me Up" back this spring.
That cover art, though? Sad comedy.