Saturday, April 25, 2015

Everybody's Linking for the Weekend

It may be Saturday night y'all, and quite frankly I've been on vacation for three days from work now (and am starting to get the end-of-vacation-blues), but that doesn't mean we can't get a link roundup out the door!  Let's take a look at some of the biggest stories from the past week (that we haven't already discussed):

On Entertainment...

Julianne Moore
-Listen, I've been trying to avoid the Batman vs. Superman trailer as much as anyone has, but I finally relented today in hopes of getting this post published, and I have to say, "...why?"  This movie looks terrible, right?  Like honest-to-goodness terrible.  I love several of the people involved (gotta love the Holly Hunter and Jeremy Irons voiceovers), and I actually enjoyed Man of Steel far more than I thought (I always thought of Superman as a bit of a disappointment as a superhero but thought this was a very handsome film even if I would have changed one major part), but Ben Affleck genuinely seems wrong for this part in the worst way.  Ben Affleck is not a bad actor (though, admittedly, he's not a really good one either), but he specializes in everyday men, like that found in Gone Girl, not in playing something truly serious.  Combine him with Henry Cavill who is exceedingly bland, and the fact that you have the Christopher Nolan films towering over these movies (they may not all be masterpieces, but they're still fascinating and iconic) and I feel like this is the tipping point for comic book films (also, can we please just leave Spider-Man on the side of the road for a bit?).  Even if this film is setting up the inevitable Justice League movie, I just, I can't.  I'll see it if it's nominated, but otherwise I'll probably just Netflix it for the curiosity.  I'm kind of over superheroes at this point.

-Recent Oscar-winner Julianne Moore took sides in the VOD vs. Theater debate, siding with the theater owners at CinemaCon, saying that "we work very hards as creators to create a theatrical experience."  I definitely side with Moore in theory here-a movie is always better in theaters-full stop, end of sentence, no qualms.  That being said, theaters have continually found new ways to diminish part of the experience, particularly by limiting the assortment of films that are available and by not investing more in lighting (I recently was in a theater and throughout the trailers the screen was barely visible due to garish overhead lighting and even during the movie it seemed a bit bright, stealing away from the actual screen) and trying to only show a select number of pictures.  This past spring has been a death of watchable movies (so few films were remotely any good, and even the ones that were were too hard to find or played in theaters too long), and the movies have to stop treating the Spring season like summer vacation, because that's not how viewing works anymore.  Television doesn't take a hiatus in the summer-the best channels just put out riskier, interesting fare instead (The Leftovers, Halt and Catch Fire).

-Alex Garland sat down with Wired to talk about idea movies in the wake of his critically-adored Ex Machina (I'll be weighing in on Monday with my thoughts on this film).  I do agree with him completely in terms of Sci-Fi giving us leverage for ideas, and I'm so excited about the prospect of a major filmmaker espousing idea films (it seems like only Christopher Nolan has that thought lately), and I love the way that he name-checks films like The Thin Red Line and A Clockwork Orange (rather than your traditional lineup of movies that get highlighted in these sorts of pieces).  As I mentioned above, theater owners and Hollywood need to start taking more chances and do less retreads if they don't want to bore the audience to death, so I am thankful for Garland on that front.

On Politics...

Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D-MD)
-In Maryland, a new name popped up this week in the race to replace Sen. Barbara Mikulski: former Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.  For those who are wondering, yes, she is of those Kennedy's (she is Bobby's eldest daughter).  It'll be interesting to see if Kennedy Townsend enters the race for a variety of reasons, but two principally: one, with Rep. Donna Edwards severely under-performing in fundraising there may be an opening for a strong female candidate to take over the longest-serving female member of Congress (and in a bench that is decidedly male, KKT may have an opening), and two, Kennedy Townsend famously botched her 2002 gubernatorial race (one of the worst run races I've seen in recent memory), losing the contest to Bob Ehrlich (who was the first Republican at the time to win the Maryland governor's race since Spiro Agnew in 1966, though since then Anthony Brown has lost the race to Larry Hogan, another Republican).

-While Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer has been one of the biggest entertainment stories of the week, you may have missed that he also had a bit of politics going on in the interview, where Jenner stated that he was a Republican as well.  Considering the place GLBT (but particularly transgender) individuals are treated by many members of the GOP right, this may come as a shock, but I do feel that while I might swing Democratic, you're not going to affect change unless you can shift the thought process of both parties, so I hope Jenner does in fact use his celebrity to push for change in the GOP.

-Jeb Bush continues to run an adult campaign for president (as opposed to, say, Mike Huckabee) with admitting what everyone sort of assumes about him: that he might be the next Mitt Romney, and assured supporters that he won't be.  This is an interesting attack, as it's one that can be levied, quite frankly, at both Jeb and Hillary-they both are parts of longtime political dynasties, both are accused of being out-of-touch, and both come from families that have a famously fractured attitude toward the media.  I quite frankly think both candidates would benefit from putting themselves in some tougher interviews to show a "new side" to their candidacy, though I have to admit that on this front, Bush is trumping Clinton.

Shameless Self-Promotion of the Week...

The truth about the doctor's office.

YouTube Video of the Week...

-A pretty quiet week on YouTube this week, quite frankly, but I do love it whenever Charlie McDonnell, the quintessential adorkable nerd with a heart of gold and the ability to be smart AND not seem like its pandering or condescending (which seems, quite frankly, where Jacksgap has been for months now), puts out a video, and he even has a lovely cause this week (if you don't like any aspect of the process of giving blood, watch this one with only one eye open, though still consider donating):

Just One More...

-If you read no other links from this video, this is the one I implore you to read.  Frightening, yes, but reality usually is, and a look at climate change and the famed "2-degree" question is worth the time investment.  History is littered with people who don't believe facts because they are too scary, but the fact that the media still treats climate change as a debate instead of a problem is the single biggest frustration I have with politics, media, or really any aspect of public policy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ranting On...Grey's Anatomy and the Broken Spoiler Culture

(Spoiler Alert-this rant includes spoilers from last night's Grey's Anatomy, even though you already are more than aware of what the spoilers include, hence the rant) I never really got into Grey's Anatomy.  It definitely seemed on-paper to be my cup of tea, of course.  I was a huge Desperate Housewives fan, I loved Brothers & Sisters-really this was the era where ABC could do no wrong in my book.  But the show itself wasn't something I wanted to invest too much time in-I was a little over-done on medical shows, and the cadence of Shonda Rhimes television programs never suited my slower-paced sensibilities to me (I saw How to Get Away with Murder, and it felt far more of a series of jump-cuts than anything else).  I of course knew of several of the actors on the show-it's been a phenomenon for a decade, after all, and one that has permeated pop culture to the point where Katherine Heigl, Patrick Dempsey, and Sandra Oh became household names (or in Dempsey's case, became them again).  And I am not one of those jerks who jeers at what seems to be a silly if hardly harmful melodrama on television and wishing that it would just get cancelled already.

But I am aghast that the show chose to continue on without its clear breakout star, McDreamy, after eleven seasons, not giving he and Meredith the happy ending that I think we all eventually expected.  It seems like a bit of a "jump-the-shark" moment even for people who don't watch the show-the series has become about McDreamy in a way that few others have (despite Meredith being the titular star), and while I get that the show has had a revolving cast door (as is evidenced by almost every first-season actor eventually leaving the program), this is probably one-step too far for the fans.  Still, though, what pales in comparison to this decision (I don't judge until I see where the writers go with it-many shows have successfully killed off a major character with a great increase in the quality of the program), is the fact that the media totally spoiled the entire endeavor.

I'm looking specifically here at Entertainment Weekly.  The magazine had an exclusive story about the death of Patrick Dempsey's iconic doctor, and the issue hit stands today, but in the process it also hit subscribers yesterday, hours before the show even aired.  The magazine certainly should have known that something like this would eventually set off a media firestorm-I get that print journalism is dying and that online content has myriad advantages that print couldn't even dream of, but there is still a responsibility to your readers, many of whom deserved to have their moment of revelation with Dempsey and his character on the show.  A decade is a long time investment with a program, and Entertainment Weekly essentially stole that from the internet.

And while they apologized, EW is more indicative of a journalistic culture that doesn't really understand how to write about programs and decisions in a way that people want to hear about them anymore.  Back in the 1990's, when EW first started, there was no such thing as a spoiler alert for a television program, because in the days before Netflix and DVR (or, quite frankly, TV on DVD), there was no need-we all watched the show at the same time.  Spoiler alerts were needed for movies or books, but not for television, an instantaneous experience for all involved.  Nowadays, of course, no one watches television live except your grandmother-this has left the entire television media landscape bristling at how to make a sustainable business model that keeps up with new viewing demands, but entertainment journalism also needs to find a way to adapt.

Because if you visit Entertainment Weekly's website this morning, any indication that they are apologizing is laughable.  As many as nine articles about McDreamy's death are featured on the website's front page, forgoing anyone who may have been hoping to catch the show this weekend.  This isn't something that's new for EW-it's hard to visit the site for even a day without seeing a spoiler from a TV show or a film ending from this past weekend.

I don't expect the website not to cover such events, but I do think that they are utterly ridiculous and over-the-top in trying to ruin surprises in entertainment projects.  They issue spoiler alerts in articles after showing a photo of the character that's getting killed off or married at the top of the page-this happens constantly, and people are savvy enough to know what the deal is when "Shocking Death or Ouster" is in the title and there's a picture of the person getting ousted right next to the headline.  They include casting news that is critical to a story's structure (saying an actor hasn't renewed their contract, for example) without giving any sort of credence to spoilers.  Admittedly, they are a news organization, but they are ruining the fun of the entertainment that they are promoting, which is a huge turnoff.  Admittedly some people live by getting spoiled (these are the people who seek out every piece of information about a movie before it enters theaters...these are also the sorts of people that are insanely obnoxious at dinner parties), but for the most part we want the surprise.  My reaction to all of this, quite frankly, has been to stay off of Entertainment Weekly's website, an internet hub that I used to visit on the daily and now just do on slow news days.  It's not okay to treat the programs that you are covering as both a news story and something you want people to discuss.  And this is yet another example of how Entertainment Weekly hasn't caught up to the way that modern viewers experience television.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

5 What If's for the 2016 Presidential Election

Growing up, one of my favorite comic book series was What If, a series by Marvel where we get an alternative history of a known event, one that caused out our current aspect of the Marvel universe.  These sorts of comic books often led to fanciful (and frequently disastrous) consequences, but were always interesting in the way that "alternate history" usually is.  I sometimes wonder about these "What If?" comics when approaching an election season.  So much of an election is based upon the fact that a candidate or series of candidates were just damn lucky.  Skill is only part of the equation-luck is a bigger part of the answer, and the five points below illustrate this theory.

1. What If...Rudy Giuliani had stayed in the Senate race in 2000?

Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY)
It seems like ancient history now, but once upon a time Rudy Giuliani was a major political force in America and was seen as a serious candidate to succeed Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in New York.  At the time it was emerging as what would become one of the ugliest and most marquee Senate races in American political history: the mayor of the world's largest city, and one of the country's most noted politicians, was willing to run against the sitting First Lady in a state she'd never called her home.  Giuliani was forced out of the race, amidst a cancer revelation and an ugly public divorce with Donna Hanover that dominated the New York tabloids, and Hillary went on to win the seat.

However, it's not to say he was DOA if he had stayed in the race.  Clinton went on to face Rep. Rick Lazio, who ran a lackluster campaign denouncing Clinton as a carpetbagger, but was just as disorganized as Clinton (whose first Senate campaign was hardly a model in political savviness).  Had Rudy been in the race, those moments where she nearly lost the race (polling showed close races on a regular basis, especially over the summer) could have been more frequent.  Rudy pulling off the upset would have been possible (Ben Nelson, for example, won Nebraska as a Democrat that year despite Al Gore losing it in a landslide in 2000) and would have ended Hillary's electoral career before it began.  Without Hillary in the race, the Democrats have a completely different attitude toward 2008 and 2016.  In 2008, more of the Democrats' heavy-hitters (Al Gore, Gov. Mark Warner, Gov. Howard Dean) may have taken a more serious look at the race, and some of the candidates that ran behind Obama/Clinton could well have emerged from the pack.  Particularly worrisome for the Democrats would be the fact that John Edwards would have been a formidable opponent to Barack Obama in a way that Hillary wasn't, and may have kept Rielle Hunter at bay long enough to win the nomination.  This also would have meant a completely different race in 2016, of course, with perhaps Barack Obama just now emerging as a presidential hopeful, or again names like Gore, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden coming into play.

2. What If...Charlie Crist hadn't backed the stimulus bill in 2009?

Gov. Charlie Crist (R/I/D-FL)
It's hard to imagine that Charlie Crist used to be a major political force in American politics, but in 2009 he certainly was.  The governor of Florida, coming off a robust win in the quintessential swing state, had gained a following amongst establishment Republicans, and many people thought he would run for president in 2012.  I remember thinking at the time that his decision to forego a reelection run and instead run for the Senate seat seemed opportunistic and foolish, but it also was a race he was certain to win, especially in a primary that seemed cleared for him and where the Democrats were probably going to end up with a poor candidate in Rep. Kendrick Meek.

However, Crist backed the stimulus bill in 2009, which he had no way of knowing would be a huge catalyst for the Tea Party movement, and would eventually cause Marco Rubio, a state legislator with little chance prior to that of upending a sitting a governor, to find a way into the race.  If he had taken a stronger hardline early on, he would have ended Rubio's fledgling career (at the time everyone thought Rubio was a fool for running, including the NRSC who endorsed Crist initially) and would have been the presidential contender in 2012 or 2016, not the young man who eventually became a first-tier candidate in 2016.

3. What if...the Democrats hadn't recalled Scott Walker?

Mayor Tom Barrett (D-WI)
In 2012, the Wisconsin Democrats did what may have been one of the most foolish political moves I've ever seen: they ran a recall race against Gov. Scott Walker.  At the time I thought this was complete idiocy-Walker had done nothing illegal, was fairly elected in the Badger State in 2010, and while he had rightfully drawn the ire of labor and teachers' unions, he had done nothing that seemed to warrant a recall.  The Democrats in the state couldn't stand the idea of Walker staying in office for another two years, however, and so they sought to run a race against Walker, attempting to recall him with the same man that he lost to two years earlier, Mayor Tom Barrett.  The result was that Walker ended up becoming a folk hero in the Republican Party, the man who took on the unions and not only won, but ended up making the Democrats the villains in a blue state.  The Democrats made certain that he went into 2014 with an advantage, and had no bench outside of Barrett, who was damaged goods after two statewide losses.

If the Democrats had had some patience, however, the tale may have been different.  They could have run a perfect storm candidacy in 2014, tacking union hatred on with the state's sluggish economic numbers, and probably would have been able to run Barrett again instead of the unproven Mary Burke.  In that situation, they may well have defeated the man who would become a favorite of the conservative movement, giving rise to less palatable candidates like Ted Cruz or Rick Perry to gain in the primaries.

4. What one had taped Mitt Romney's 47% comment?

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)
If there was ever a nail in Mitt Romney's 2012 chances, it was the video of him saying that 47% of the country only is voting for Obama for the "free stuff" that they received.  Romney, already in hot water over his alleged elitism, couldn't overcome the uncaring-rich-man persona that came from this video, which was seen as a banner that the Democrats could carry across the country, and in conjunction with his missing tax returns, put him in a position where people didn't trust him AND couldn't relate to him, a deadly combination for any candidate, particularly one running against one who was held in such high-esteem by his base.

But subtract this video from the fold, and you have a very different race.  The Democrats don't have the luxury of running against Mitt Romney, and instead have to do more of running for Barack Obama, a candidate who was greeted with vitriol in a variety of corners.  One could argue that while Obama may well have won against Romney without this comment, it would have surely been closer and possibly even resulted in him losing the White House (or at least the popular vote).  A Mitt Romney presidency adds a new name to the 2016 crowd: former President Barack Obama, pulling a Grover Cleveland (I have a theory that in this system where only a few people seem like they can seriously compete for the presidency, the next one-term president who loses reelection will make a serious stab at winning a second term four years later).  Even if Mitt Romney were to lose, he would have a closer election and would have an easier time re-framing the 2016 election, which I'm guessing he would have run for if he had had a closer election.

5. What if...Jeb Bush had never said "probably nothing?"

President George W. Bush (R-TX)
1994 was a Holy Grail year for Republicans across the country.  Every one of them was winning elections, ousting political legends left-and-right, and even seeing the Speaker of the House lose his reelection race in Washington.  In Florida, this meant that beloved Governor Lawton Chiles, seemingly untouchable in the state, was in a ridiculously close race against Jeb Bush, the son of former President George H.W. Bush.  Jeb Bush may well have won amidst the landslide, but flubbed badly on a question on what his election would do for the state's growing minority community, to which Bush replied, "probably nothing."  The Democrats seized on this, and Chiles won reelection by less than 70,000 votes out of 4 million cast.

Get rid of this comment, and Jeb would have joined his brother George that year in ousting an iconic Democratic governor in the South, and as a result may have been the more palatable choice to run for the presidency in 2000.  After all, it's long been assumed that Jeb was the brother with ambition and with the superior intellect in the family.  He didn't win election until 1998, when George had four years on him-add the fact that he was already a swing state incumbent and Jeb may well have been president in 2000, sixteen years before he finally made a stab at the office.

Those are my five biggest "What If's" of the cycle-what about yours?  Share your thoughts in the comments about other elections that strongly impacted this upcoming presidential cycle!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

22 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

1. Make sure everything is unplugged in your house when you leave for work that you won't be using until you get back.
2. Ask a local business why they don't recycle.
3. Don't complain that it rained yesterday-we need rain to live, most of the country needs rain, and you're adding to the anti-science echo chamber.
4. Investigate how much water your normal food routine takes, and look into ways (like buying local) to cut down on this water.
5. Donate money to an environmental charity.
6. Walk somewhere that you would normally drive.
7. Figure out a way to cut down on how much mail you receive (online billing, getting off of mailing lists for junk mail you don't receive).
8. Tweet, text, facebook, insta, tumble, or just talk about how climate change is a threat to the world and it's something YOU care about.
9. Check your elected representatives' voting records on environmental issues, and if they are terrible, write and tell them that this isn't okay with you.  If they're great, write and tell them how much you appreciate their voting record and this will be a reason that you support them in the future.
10. Do a garbage check on your life-go through your daily routine, and remove at least one task that you use something you will throw away (like a water bottle or a coffee cup) and replace it with something reusable.
11. Investigate your local energy, heat, and gas providers and see what sustainable methods they are using.  Then compare it to another company and see what ideas your company should be using.  Then write the company and ask why they aren't using more sustainable methods.
12. Plan your meals better so that you aren't throwing away expired products, ever.  Wasted food is wasted water and energy.
13. Volunteer for a local cleanup project in your community.
14. Find out about an endangered plant or animal that lives in your section of the world, and figure out a way that you can work to make sure that that species doesn't disappear forever due to climate change, deforestation, or other human-caused factors.
15. Go to a local park, state park, or national park, and marvel at the wonder of nature.
16. Check your local recycling list for products that you can recycle-you might be surprised by a new item that you didn't know was recyclable.
17. Don't be cynical about environmentalism and ecology.  Cynicism is for lazy people who want credit for trying.  Actually do something.
18. Figure out if your local trash company accepts compostable versus trash/non-processable sort of trash, and if so, start sorting differently.
19. Have a night where you don't use electricity at your house. 
20. See Monkey Kingdom today or tomorrow and you will also be donating to charity...and seeing a nature documentary!
21. Take two minutes off your shower time.  Come on, you know you take too long in there.
22. There's 10,000 articles today about Earth Day.  Remember that the Earth deserves more than just a day.  Do these things year-round, and don't let the environment take a backseat in your thinking and your voting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mitch McConnell's Loretta Lynch Gamble

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch
Washington politics is a tough game to write about in a meaningful way, because almost everything you read about it comes across as partisan or cynical.  The reality is that most people feel deeply jaded by the political process, and Washington pundits know this better than anything.  They know that a show like Veep, not a show like The West Wing, is more indicative of what happens in Washington-that passing meaningful legislation is usually impossible and comes with damning consequences.  And it's literally impossible not to believe that journalists and pundits don't favor one side over the other-smart, ambitious reporters, the ones who try to maintain balance, may see the value of an unbiased press and weigh it heavily into their work, but smart and ambitious people have opinions.  Lots of them, which is why even seemingly non-partisan pundits like Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook occasionally show their true proclivities in their writing.

So taking this in mind, as someone who writes about politics several times a week and reads about it every single day, I have to say that it's rare that something bugs me in a meaningful way as bad politicking or troublesome logic.  Most things seem like they're short gains, and don't have a lot of long-range thinking attached to them, but I can usually figure out the motives of a party.  However, I just don't get what is going on with the appointment of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General.

Yes, yes, I know the logistics of why Mitch McConnell, a very smart man with a brilliant mind for politics, wanted to hold up her nomination.  The GOP didn't agree with the President's decision on immigration, his executive action on the issue, but they can't get the votes past a veto to override the decision.  I also know that in the human trafficking bill, the abortion language is also being used as an excuse over the Lynch confirmation.  These both seem like pretty solid arguments in theory, but there's a few things that seem to be sticking in my craw about it that seems uncharacteristic for McConnell, who is someone who knows the value of political capital, to be utilizing.

For starters, the immigration debate, which was the initial holdup, was never going to be won.  Eric Holder is already Attorney General, and while the President would like Loretta Lynch nominated, he's not going to throw a major piece of his legacy out the window to get a lame-duck AG.  The human trafficking bill is similar, in some ways, and may lend itself to an abortion debate the GOP wants to have (they feel they can win it in the case of public opinion), but it's a bad move for a party that has badly under-performed with female voters in presidential elections.  The GOP may well get a compromise out of the human trafficking bill, but again, this was a pretty small win to bet on when picking a larger, more winnable battle would have been a better decision.

It's also strange that they picked Loretta Lynch, who has to be one of the least controversial nominees the Obama administration has had.  I listened to the hearings, and she's smart-as-a-whip, and would certainly be, by any Republicans' definition, a vast improvement on the incumbent.  This isn't a case of someone like Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General nominee who had made controversial comments about the NRA and gun control-this wasn't a nominee that is a particularly striking example of someone the GOP is going to loath.  She is certainly not Eric Holder, who has taken a number of positions through the Obama administration that the GOP disagreed with.  By all accounts Holder's resignation should be something the Republicans want to expedite.  It's also worth noting that picking the first African-American woman to be Attorney General as the nominee you want to hold-up is hardly going to help you mend fences with either of these two constituencies.

So it's a puzzlement to me, particularly since the alternative here is "worse" for the GOP.  This isn't a judicial nominee, for example, where there's a chance that they can take a knee and hope that President Jeb Bush improves the options.  It's either Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch-that's it.  At the end of the day we know that if this actually went up for a vote, Lynch would surely win the votes to take the seat, if only to remove Holder from office, and that holding up a separate piece of legislation would have been a more behooving move.  Perhaps there's a long-game here that I don't get from Mitch McConnell, or perhaps he made a mistake and he can't find a saving grace to get him out of it.  Whatever the reason, this is a political bet I just don't know the motives of the Republicans on, and it doesn't seem to be one that they're winning.

Monday, April 20, 2015

OVP: The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

Film: The Barkleys of Broadway
Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Oscar Levant, Billie Burke
Director: Charles Walters
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Cinematography)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

The films of Astaire and Rogers have never known for what one would consider particularly compelling screenwriting.  No one went to these films, which inevitably had the two playing dancers of some sort who fall in love or re-fall in love, because the plotting was particularly wonderful.  They went because these were two spry and gay performers, quite adept at musical comedy, and of course they went to see the dancing.  This is true even for their last outing (and their only picture where they weren't at RKO), but I will say that the film does veer a bit more into the fine acting sphere than I was expecting.  Perhaps because Rogers wasn't the first choice for the role (Judy Garland was, but she was fighting off her first major round of demons and losing multiple major roles at the time) the film touches on some more interesting plotting in between your standard Astaire-Rogers storytelling.

(Spoilers Ahead) The movie is the story of a wildly popular husband-and-wife musical comedy team who have different views about where their careers should head.  Josh (Astaire) is fine where they are, while Dinah (Rogers) wants to try something a bit different, and is wooed by a french director into playing a young Sarah Bernhardt on-stage.  The two fight over this, and eventually break up, with Josh having a solo act and Dinah struggling with turning into a dramatic actor.  Eventually Josh realizes that Dinah is struggling, and doing a French accent, coaches her over the phone while imitating the director and she becomes a smash success.  Dinah learns that Josh has been coaching her and she runs back into his arms, happily ever after.

The film may have been written with Judy in mind, but it weirdly mirrored Ginger Rogers' life in reality.  Rogers, by most accounts, was tired of playing opposite Astaire in only musical comedies at the end of the 1930's and wanted to be taken seriously as a dramatic actress.  She succeeded in this venture, even earning an Oscar for Kitty Foyle, but by the time 1949 rolled around her career had subsided a bit and she needed a jolt, which re-teaming with her old dancing buddy surely seemed like it could be.  Her work here is fascinating in some ways-she's clearly a bit out-of-practice in terms of dancing (Astaire gets some of the harder aspects of the numbers), but she's quite good at selling her dramatic scenes in a way I haven't seen before from Ginger Rogers-I loved the way that she seems sort of distant and informed when flattery turns to insults.  It's a strong piece of work from an actor who admittedly isn't one of my favorites.  Astaire, on the other hand, seems a bit on autopilot here (though he's still marvelous in the dancing numbers, particularly the green-screen assisted "Shoes with Wings On,"), and isn't as exciting as Rogers.

The film received one Oscar nomination, for Best Cinematography.  It's obvious to see why-it's not just the joy of seeing Astaire and Rogers in-color (this was their only film not in black-and-white), but it's also that the film knows to use larger, richer colors for the Technicolor palette.  The nomination is helped by being for legendary cinematographer Harry Stradling, who won two Oscars and 14 nominations in his career.  I will say that it doesn't have the naturalistic sensibility of some of the outdoor films of the time (the lighting seems a bit staged), but it's still quite beautiful.

Overall, though, I will say that the film was fine but not good-the script itself has interesting touches, but is too routine to reward the actual picture instead of just the leading lady.  Therefore I'll go with two-stars, though if you're a fan of musicals or Ginger Rogers in particular this is worth your time.  If you've seen it (or if you have a favorite Rogers/Astaire musical), pipe up in the comments!

2015 Tony Predictions

Tony-Winner Mary-Louise Parker and movie star-icon Bruce Willis (who is making his Broadway debut this fall) will announce the Tony nominees next Tuesday.  It's been an annual tradition here at the blog for me to take a stab at the nominations as I love Broadway.  L-O-V-E.  However, I'm not quite as good at it as I was when I actually lived in New York and was seeing all of these shows.  With that caveat thrown out there, let's take a look at the Big 8 categories (ordered from most to least likely to be nominated)!

Best Musical

1. Fun Home
2. Something Rotten
3. An American in Paris
4. Finding Neverland

The Lowdown: Not a particularly robust lineup this year, and while there's no clear frontrunner for the win, Fun Home is starting to fill that void a bit.  It's hard to imagine any of these shows, quite frankly, getting denied-the first two are duking it out for the trophy while the second two, with their movie tie-ins, are going to be easy sells when Broadway tours start hopping (that's when the real long-term investment money comes, and why so many people invest in movie-musicals, since it's easy to market nationally).  The only other show that remotely seems like it's in the running is The Visit, and that seems a stronger contender in Best Actress.

Best Play

1. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
2. Wolf Hall, Parts 1 and 2
3. The Audience
4. Airline Highway

The Lowdown: The question with the Tonys is always how long is their memory?  Rarely do closed plays get nominated, and that's what's holding me back from predicting Constellations, which had terrific reviews and star-power in Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal.  There's also the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced that could compete.  However, I'm going with a show that's still on Broadway, the Joe Mantello-directed Airline Highway, which might benefit more from the nomination at this point (the other three seem pretty solidly set).

Best Revival of a Musical

1. The King and I
2. On the Twentieth Century
3. On the Town

The Lowdown: It's always hard to know what happens when there's only a slim amount of contenders (this year, only five), but I think it means that we only get three nominees here.  If that's the case, this is almost assuredly the lineup as Side Show didn't come close here and Gigi is probably not going to have the momentum to take down one of these three big shows.  If there are four nominees, however, consider it the lucky last contender.

Best Revival of a Play

1. Skylight
2. You Can't Take It With You
3. The Elephant Man
4. It's Only a Play

The Lowdown: There's always so many contenders in this category it's hard to know where to begin or end (except to know that Skylight will be nominated).  The Elephant Man made WAY too big of an impact not to be nominated, even if it's already closed, and It's Only a Play stars Tony winners Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane (there are probably still Tony voters who are getting residual checks for The Producers).  As a result I'm going for this lineup over The Heidi Chronicles and A Delicate Balance, both of which could definitely be threats.

Best Actor in a Musical

1. Michael Cerveris (Fun Home)
2. Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris)
3. Brian d'Arcy James (Something Rotten)
4. Peter Gallagher (On the Twentieth Century)
5. Ken Watanabe (The King and I)

The Lowdown: This is where I wish I still lived in New York, as right now it's all about the buzz, and the buzz for musical-acting is always about the leading women (it's one of the few categories where every critic pretty much agrees, consistently, that the leading ladies outmatch the leading men).  As a result, beyond the Top 3 (who seem pretty much set), the question is which famous names get selected. I'm going with Gallagher and Watanabe, who are headlining the two main contenders for Best Revival, but Matthew Morrison (Finding Neverland) and Tony Yazbeck (On the Town) would both be solid decisions.

Best Actress in a Musical

1. Kelli O'Hara (The King and I)
2. Chita Rivera (The Visit)
3. Kristin Chenoweth (On the Twentieth Century)
4. Leanne Cope (An American in Paris)
5. Laura Michelle Kelly (Finding Neverland)

The Lowdown: Easily the most competitive race for a nomination this year in the musical categories, the Top 3 seem pretty set in stone (though the Tonys have gone really cold on Chenoweth since Wicked for some reason, so she could well be a shocker snub like with The Apple Tree and Promises, Promises).  I could see either of the two-headed sisters in Side Show (Emily Padgett or Erin Davie) making it on the list, but they won't have the same "share-the-nomination" advantage that happened when the original was run and will probably vote-split.  I also think that we underestimate Vanessa Hudgens in Gigi at our own peril-she's got solid reviews and is a Hollywood name in a year that doesn't have many of them.

Best Actor in a Play

1. Alex Sharp (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)
2. Bill Nighy (Skylight)
3. Ben Miles (Wolf Hall, Parts 1 and 2)
4. Bradley Cooper (The Elephant Man)
5. Jake Gyllenhaal (Constellations)

The Lowdown: That Hollywood name idea has me thinking that this might be a really good way to get some ratings (it's also a television show people-it's sadly not always just about the performances).  Jake Gyllenhaal and Bradley Cooper both got raves for their work, and even if the plays are closed they're famous enough to linger in the memory.  As a result I'm skipping Steven Boyer, and am looking forward to what happens when unknown Alex Sharp beats two of the biggest names in Hollywood in a few weeks.

Best Actress in a Play

1. Helen Mirren (The Audience)
2. Carey Mulligan (An Education)
3. Elisabeth Moss (The Heidi Chronicles)
4. Glenn Close (A Delicate Balance)
5. Ruth Wilson (Constellations)

The Lowdown: Thankfully for Mirren and Mulligan, Sandra Bullock is not nominated this year so they don't have to lose as co-nominees again to her like they did at the Oscars five years ago.  Otherwise, this race reads like something you'd see more at the Oscars or Emmys than the Tonys.  There's always the possibility that Mia Farrow (long retired from acting, making a comeback of sorts in Love Letters) or Blythe Danner (The Country House) make the list, but this seems like a pretty strong five.

And there you have it-my guesses for the Tony nominations!  As always, your thoughts are wildly appreciated, so share them in the comments section-who are you cheering for and who are you predicting?