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Lots of stuff is going on in the world of entertainment. The NBC late-night drama continues, shows are coming and going, and Avatar is finally being challenged at the box office. Welcome to The Pit.

  • The Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman post-apocalyptic thriller The Book of Eli managed to edge out James Cameron’s Avatar out of the top spot at the domestic box office on Friday  by about a million dollars. Can it beat it on Saturday and Sunday to take the weekend? Maybe.  I have a feeling that Avatar might keep the top spot thanks to the 3D and Imax showings.
  • Earlier this week it was announced that Peter Sarsgaard was in final talks to take on the villainous role of Dr. Hector Hammond, a villain that I never really cared about in the comics. He is a great actor, I just wonder where they are going to go with the character.  I’m still not sold on Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, she seems too young and just not suited for the role.  Today it was revealed that Mark Strong is up for the ultimate GL villain, Sinestro. That my friends, could be perfect casting.  Strong vs Ryan Reynold’s Hal Jordan in a space battle with two of the most powerful weapons in the universe? Badass.
  • Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock full on kissed at the Critics Choice Awards after they tied for Best Actress. Ewwwwww.

Moving on to TV, there have been lots of renewals, included in the mix is:

  • ABC: The Middle, Cougar Town, Modern Family
  • CBS: The Good Wife, NCIS: Los Angeles
  • Fox: Glee
  • Starz: Spartacus: Blood and Sand
  • TNT: Men of a Certain Age

What is really interesting about this is the second season pick-up for Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which hasn’t even started its first season. The show looks like a pretty cool cross between 300 and Gladiator and co-stars Lucy “Xena” Lawless.  If I got Starz, I’d totally watch it, but as it is I’ll have to wait for it to come on Netflix.  None of the other listed shows are really surprising, I love Glee and ABC’s new comedies have been doing good.  Modern Family is hysterical and has an awesome cast.  Men of a Certain Age hasn’t been killing in the ratings, but with the talent behind it I’m not surprised that it is continuing.

At first, I thought this category had some pretty stiff competition and would be difficult to predict, but as I saw all the films and the awards season wore on, it was made pretty clear who the front runner is here.

Prediction:

Kate Winslet. Her performance in The Reader is amazing and I’m so glad to see it here. If her other performance this year (Revolutionary Road) had been nominated I don’t think she’d have stood a chance.

What Should Win:
Winslet, for sure, though I would have loved to see Hathaway up there as well.

I saw this film before Christmas, assuming it would be a celebrated film with award worthy performances and would gather tons of nominations this season.

The Oscar Nominated Doubt

Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) is the head mistress at a Catholic school in 1964 Bronx, NY. She begins to suspect foul play when Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes a particular interest in the first black student to be enrolled in the school, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster). She enlists the help of her fellow nuns, including Sister James (Amy Adams), a wide-eyed young nun who is not as quick to jump to conclusions.

To be perfectly honest, this film bored me to tears. It’s completely over the top and dramatic with its intense score and quick dialogue. If these actors had taken the stage with this material I’m sure it would have been spectacular, but it simply doesn’t translate to this medium. There is so much build up that never actually goes anywhere and with no resolution this film left me feeling very empty. I’m not surprised that the Academy felt the need to honor such a high-powered cast, though I disagree. Additionally, I don’t see this film taking a single award home.

Nominations:

Best Actress – Meryl Streep
I love Meryl, I really do, but she is so over the top in this one. She plays her character to death with her thick Boston accent and overly judgmental scowl. We get it- you’re a strict Catholic nun. Thankfully, Kate Winslet’s beautiful performance in The Reader should prevail here.

Best Supporting Actor – Phillip Seymour Hoffman
A Philip Seymour Hoffman performance can go either way with me- I either love him or hate him. Usually when he’s a supporting actor he’s more tolerable, for instance last year I loved him in Charlie Wilson’s War. This year, however, he was just too much. We all know this category belongs to Heath Ledger, but there are others I would have rather seen with this nomination.

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams
Adams is still growing and developing as an actress, and I felt she brought a small breath of fresh air to this film. She’s a welcome change from the stuffy theater performances and actually looks as though she belongs on film and not on the stage. However, she’s not nearly as good as…

Best Supporting Actress – Viola Davis
This breakout performance got a lot of early buzz for the Oscar and with good reason. She has but one scene in this film, and it’s an intense one. Still, the material is more shocking than the actual performance- as the mother of the little boy in question, she takes a surprising stance on the matter at hand. With such a small role, and by splitting the vote with Amy Adams, I think this award will go to one of the other deserving nominees.

Best Adapted Screenplay
I’m very undecided in how I feel about this nomination. On the one hand, the dialogue is quick and smart, but on the other, I still felt as though I was watching a play and therefore it didn’t adapt very well. Either way, I don’t think it stands a chance against Slumdog, so I won’t waste much more time on it.

**½

Here’s one where I saw the movie first, then was inspired to read the book. In cases like these I am often left having enjoyed the movie more, but there is that rare occasion when the book fulfills my expectations and then some (Harry Potter). This, however, was not one of those occasions.

The Book:
This novel, as we all know by now, is derived from the author’s experiences working for Vogue’s editor-in-chief. While the anecdotes of a crazy boss are often amusing, I also found that most of the time instead of sympathizing with Andy, I found myself annoyed with her. Sure, she had to take the job, sure it was a great opportunity that she just had to live through for a year, etc., but most of her problems, such as her failing relationships with her boyfriend and best friend are truly her own. Working in Hollywood, I am no stranger to high maintenance people, there is at least one on every show, and I’m also very familiar with long hours, being available by cell 24 hours a day, and working 7 days a week. And yet, I have somehow managed to maintain all my relationships, including best friends and a boyfriend whom I live with and rarely see. Andy often complains of her salary being next to nothing, yet at one point indicates that it may be around or more than $1,000 a week, nearly twice as much as I made when I was a “gopher” (and LA is just as expensive as NY, so there’s no arguing about cost of living). Also, I can’t imagine that those designer clothes and handbags were difficult to accept as perks. Out here we get t-shirts declaring the movie we worked on and a hat if we’re lucky. Maybe it’s because of all this that I found it hard to read this book with sympathy, and maybe those who work real 9-5 jobs with real salaries will be appalled at the hours and things that Andrea does for Miranda. However, I felt the book was too chatty and whiny for my tastes. It has lots of anecdotes, little drama, and no arcs or growth for any of the characters.

The Movie:
…and yet, I really enjoyed the movie. Due in large part to the wonderful performances in this film, everyone is so much more believable on screen than in print. Andy is less whiny, Emily is more catty, and Miranda is far more wicked. Sure, Andy lets it get a bit out of control, but she’s more sympathetic and I found myself thinking that she really needs more understanding friends. The changes regarding how Andy leaves Miranda make her seem far less b*tchy than in the book and make Miranda seem like an actual human, if only briefly, which is perfect for the character. Great costumes, music, and some well cut montages show that this story is better visually than in print. There is a lot of drama added, but it all comes together to give the film actual values and makes it’s characters grow in a way the book can’t seem to pull off.

What’s Missing:
Lily, Andy’s best friend and roommate, who sinks from fun, party going best friend, to a promiscuous and depressed alcoholic whose car accident causes Andy to leave Paris. (There’s a Lily in the film, but she’s just another friend of Andy’s who ends up disappointed in her.) B-DAD, the exciting, jovial Texan husband of Miranda who is incredibly sweet to Miranda’s assistants, though is often a lot for them to handle. (Think Bullet from The OC.) Andy’s family (except the brief visit from Dad): the parents that complain about her job and the sister who has a baby that Andy doesn’t even meet until she’s finally free from Runway.

What’s New:
First we trade “Alex the teacher” in for “Nate the chef.” Then we have job scandal. Divorce. Cheating other people out of their jobs or promotions to benefit oneself (whether one realizes it or not). Car accidents. Hospitals. Sex. The impossible task of getting the Harry Potter manuscript, conceivably before it’s even written. available domains . Plus, a much more pleasant ending where we trade curse words and comas for wordless exits and kind job references and a more promising future for our Andy and “Nate the chef.”

Overall Adaptation:
Here’s a great example of a direct adaptation that takes its gratuities with the source material. They took a lot of scenarios, even lines of dialogue, from the book, yet they developed the characters into actual humans and added a lot of drama to give it’s characters plot lines, obstacles to overcome, and goals to achieve.

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