At the Movies With Jen Chaney
Friday, February 13, 2009; 11:30 AM
Wondering what to see in theaters, what to watch on DVD or which rom-coms are worth firing up for Valentine's Day? Jen Chaney is here to help; she's ready to discuss recent releases like "He's Just Not That Into You," the latest DVD releases and her recent piece about movie marriage proposals. Join her to chat about that and more on Friday, Feb. 13 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Chaney oversees movie coverage for washingtonpost.com and writes the Bonus Points DVD column, which appears every Tuesday on washingtonpost.com and each Friday in the Post's Weekend section. Along with her co-hort Liz Kelly, she also obsesses daily about the TV show "Lost."
Read the transcript.
Jen Chaney: Good afternoon, people. As you can see from the intro above, this chat is a veritable movie potpourri today. We can talk Valentine's Day films, nerdy DVD stuff, what's in theaters now (am I a bad person for liking "He's Just Not That Into You"? Discuss.) and, of course, that little gathering happening next Sunday called the Academy Awards.
Enough preamble. Let's go.
Washington, D.C.: I want to encourage people to go to the National Archives to see the Oscar-nominated shorts. I saw the live action shorts at E Street (I think they are no longer being shown there). I figured since they were shorts, if I did not like one film, it would soon be over. But I thought all were terrific.
Jen Chaney: I want to encourage people to do that, too. It's so great that they show so many of these little-seen films -- particularly the live action and animated shorts, and documentary short subjects -- for free.
You are correct about E Street, the shorts ended their run there yesterday. So
is your best bet. Also, I believe the foreign film nominees are screening at National Geographic, so you should certainly check that out, too.
Washington, D.C.: Have you seen "Coraline"? Saw it over the weekend in 3D with a 7-year-old who is usually afraid of everything, but she enjoyed it. My only concern was the actress with the large upper body and smaller lower body, that my daughter called a mermaid. She was excessively well endowed with what appeared to be pasties, and you could hear all the parents collectively gasp. I can laugh about it now.
Jen Chaney: I have not seen "Coraline," but I'd really like to, especially in 3D. I'm a sucker for three dimensions.
That's funny about the mermaid. I think I'm more freaked by the whole buttons-for-eyes concept. That's just ... creepy.
Clifton, Va.: Best marriage proposal Animal House when Pinto tells the father we have to get married.
Why don't you do Blu-ray reviews?
Jen Chaney: Nice! And a possible addition if I do a similar list again next year.
To answer your question about Blu-ray, I absolutely do review Blu-ray releases. I started delving into that territory a few months ago. I try to focus my reviews on features that appear on both the regular DVDs and Blu-ray, since obviously the majority of our readers haven't made the switch to the high-def format yet. But I watch primarily in Blu-ray now and definitely try to highlight the elements that are unique to that format.
Of course, by the time I finish answering this question, there will probably be some new format that downloads movies directly into our brains...
Bethesda, Md.: Jen
Could you be the one who knows what is up with "The Time Travelers Wife"? Any notion regarding a release date?
Jen Chaney: You mean The One? Like Neo?
All I can dig up on the film adaptation of that popular novel -- which, as you note, has been marinading in upcoming-movie-release juices for a while now -- is that it's coming in 2009.
I know, that's super-specific, isn't it? Hopefully we'll know more soon.
Chicago Ill.: Re "The International" -- is there a better-looking leading duo out there than Clive Owen and Naomi Watts? Yummy.
Jen Chaney: They are an attractive pair, although I have to say Naomi Watts didn't set the screen on fire in this one. Wasn't entirely her fault, since her character wasn't particularly well-developed.
But Clive Owen really carries that film on his ruggedly handsome shoulders, as Ann Hornaday rightly pointed out in
I found "International" a bit uneven. The just flat-out insane shootout scene at the Guggenheim is pretty spectacular, assuming you're one of those people who can appreciate the spectacular in movie violence. (I happen to be one of them.) But other moments were kind of flat. I swear, there were some scenes where I could have sworn the characters were saying, "Exposition, exposition, exposition." Or at least they may as well have been.
Laurel: "Valkyrie" sure dropped out of theaters fast. Are there just so many great movies out now that there's no room for the merely good?
Jen Chaney: I don't know about that. I think "Valkyrie" would have stuck around longer if it had received more awards season attention.
It was one of those movies, like "Defiance," that straddles the line between serious subject matter and mainstream Hollywood entertainment. So because of that, I suspect the members of the Academy and other trophy-giving groups didn't see it as landing squarely in the award-worthy column.
Generally speaking, though, movies drop out of theaters much faster than they used to. You have to act quickly these days, or plan to catch it on DVD or OnDemand.
there will probably be some new format that downloads movies directly... : maybe a Blu-ray Kindle?
Jen Chaney: Hey, thanks for joining us, members of amazon.com staff!
Can you tell our good readers what else they might enjoy in addition to this online discussion?
(Ah, sarcasm. Never gets old for me.)
McLean, Va.: I want to "propose" this addition to your list of movies: "Truly Madly Deeply" (1990) written & directed by the late Anthony Minghella. Alan Rickman & Juliet Stevenson each won several awards for their respective performances.
Jen Chaney: A wonderful suggestion, thanks.
Chantilly, Va.: Last weekend my daughter and I went to see "My Bloody Valentine," which was supposed to be a 3D movie. (I'd seen it in 3-D the week before, in Manassas.) The closest theater we could find was the AMC at Tysons. Neither of us noticed that "3D" was missing from the title, and sure enough, they showed it in a flat version. Why do theaters do that? Do you need special equipment that not everyone has?
Jen Chaney: I think they might need a certain type of projector to do that? I could be absolutely dead wrong about that, so I encourage any tech savvy chatters to correct me on this.
At the very least, they do need the 3D print of the film and they may not have it at that theater. Similarly, "Coraline" is showing in 3D at some theaters, and in regularly old flat version at others. If you're concerned about which version you're getting, make sure you check the newspaper or online listing closely. And if all else fails, call the theater directly and ask.
It stinks to pay for a movie and realize you're not getting the version you wanted.
V-Day movie: I nominate "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." If you happen to be in Denver, it's showing at midnight at the Esquire tonight and tomorrow.
Jen Chaney: I am a big fan of "Eternal Sunshine," and all its cerebral, freaky, borderline sci-fi-ish romance.
And thanks for the word on that Denver screening. I can't make it but perhaps some of our Colorado readers can.
Charlotte, N.C.: Who do you see taking the place of people like Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall? People who you know give a great performance and add to every movie they are in.
Phillip Hoffman comes to my mind.
Jen Chaney: That's a great question.
I too would have said Philip Seymour Hoffman. He is phenomenal every single time, and in wildly different roles. I would put Sean Penn in that category as well. If you look at what he did in "Mystic River" vs. what he did in "Milk," it's pretty extraordinary.
On the female side, I'd also nominate Laura Linney. She finds beautiful, subtle grace notes in every woman she plays. I hope she and Hoffman get to star in something else together, as they did in "Savages." Watching them play off each other was a gift. And we moviegoers deserve more presents like that.
There are others that fit in the reliably awesome category as well. Chatter, got other nominees?
Richmond, Va.: Two of my favorite proposal scenes are at the end of "Wedding Singer" and "Charade."
Jen Chaney: Okay, clearly I have to do another list like this. Those are two great suggestions -- thanks.
St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Jen -- I know it's been out for a while, but given that the Oscars are coming up, what are your thoughts on "The Wrestler"? I saw Mickey Rourke on Charlie Rose last night -- love him or hate him, it's quite a story. Also, it seems like Marisa Tomei has sort of had the last laugh, given that many thought her Oscar win in 1992 was a mistake that the Academy was too embarrassed to correct (now universally debunked). Two Oscar nominations since then...she must be doing something right.
Jen Chaney: I liked "The Wrestler" very much. I thought Mickey Rourke was wonderful, and that Darren Aronofsky created a really strong sense of place. The bleakness of the trailer Rourke's character lived in, his job at the grocery store, all of it, felt very real and tangible.
That said, I still think Sean Penn deserves to win Best Actor over Rourke, simply because I think what Penn had to do to transform into Harvey Milk was much more challenging from an acting perspective. But yes, Rourke's story is amazing, though, and I have a feeling it may carry the day for him and land him an Oscar.
Beltsville, Md.: Last weekend we were trying to decide which of two equidistant theaters to see "Slumdog Millionaire." We decided to go to the one what wasn't showing "Paul Blart: Mall Cop."
The audience was nice and quiet.
Jen Chaney: When in doubt, go with the non-"Paul Blart" theater. That's a good rule of thumb.
Speaking of Mr. Blart, that movie is poised to break the $100 million mark at the box office this weekend. Now, to be fair, I have sat through much worse. (I direct your attention to "National Lampoon's Gold Diggers." Or, to put it another way, I don't.)
Arlington, VA: Jen,
Last weekend I was at the movie theaters twice! Friday night for Frost/Nixon, and Saturday night for The Pink Panter 2.
With Frost/Nixon, I have to admit, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It seemed like 75% of the movie was build-up to the interviews, while the interviews themselves comprised such a small part of the film that they almost became uninteresting. Another thing to consider was, since I wasn't alive during the Watergate scandal (I was only born a few years afterward), I was unable to relate to the lingering resentment and hatred felt by so many towards Richard Nixon. Frank Langella did a good enough Nixon, though I still think the best Richard Nixon I saw was done by Lane Smith, in the TV movie The Final Days.
As to The Pink Panther 2, let me state here and now that I LOVE the old Peter Sellers films, so I absolutely loathed the first Steve Martin Pink Panther. That being said, I found this sequel to actually be an improvement over the first.
Jen Chaney: My first question: If you hated the first "Pink Panther" remake, why see the second? It sounds like it worked out for you, which is good. But I'm just curious what motivated you to go.
I enjoyed "Frost/Nixon" and actually appreciated all of the details about how the interviews came about. If the film were just about the interviews themselves, it would have been the equivalent of watching the original broadcasts, which one can easily do on DVD. Is it the "Best Picture," though? No, my vote goes for "Milk" on that one, though it probably won't win.
NO NO NO: The Oscar-nominated shorts are at E Street for another week. Like the first chatter, I thought all 5 live action ones were terrific. The animated ones were a different story; it turned out my favorites were not even nominated! Apparently the 5 nominees run less than 30 minutes total (one is 2 minutes, another is 5) so they added some "fillers" which, to me, were better than the nominees. But what do I know? If you like animation, they are all worth seeing.
Jen Chaney: Oh, my apologies. By all means, go to E Street then! I thought they were only slated to run for a single week, but perhaps they extended that because people like you were going. That's great news.
And thanks for sharing your thoughts on the shorts.
Minneapolis, Minn.: On the female side, I would nominate Kathy Bates as one of our best living actresses. No offense to Meryl Streep, but it would be nice if some her roles went to Ms. Bates...it would have been amazing to see her in "Doubt," "The Devil Wears Prada," etc. Even though it's a little cheesy, whenever "Misery" comes on TV, I have to watch it and am riveted everytime.
Jen Chaney: I like Kathy Bates, too, but I feel like she keeps playing the same role repeatedly. She often gets cast as the wacky aunt/friend/lady next door, although maybe that's all she is being offered. Although in "Revolutionary Road," she was a bit more low key and "normal," for lack of a better word.
Anyway, it would be nice to see her getting to show off her range a bit more.
And yikes, I totally forgot to mention Meryl Streep, who clearly elevates everything she is in. But everyone knows that already, so there is probably no need to repeat it. Oh wait, I just did.
Movie proposal: Personally, I love the scene when the accountant Henry Sherman proposes to Etheline in "The Royal Tenenbaums." "This isn't really a tax issue, is it?"
Jen Chaney: Oh, man! That's a great one, thanks. Love that movie.
Washington, D.C.: Do you know if "Gomorrah" will be showing in the DC-area? It looks fantastic.
Jen Chaney: It will indeed. In fact, it opens here Feb. 27.
A few fine foreign films will show up here in town in the coming weeks, including "The Class," one of the noms for Best Foreign Language Film. It arrives in Washington a week from today.
Montreal, Canada: I certainly agree with you about Hoffman and Linney. Two others who, I would say, are always worth watching are Patricia Clarkson and Catherine Keener.
Jen Chaney: Agreed on both counts. I am a huge fan of Patricia Clarkson. There is something so old Hollywood and elegant about her, but she can play all kinds of roles.
And Keener flip-flops beautifully between comedy and drama.
Favorite Rom-Com for Valentines: Hubby and I will probably pulled out "So I Married an Axe Murderer" some time this weekend. Great proposal, great wedding, greatest wedding reception of all time!! "We've got a piper down."
Jen Chaney: You know, I have a friend who absolutely loves that movie. For whatever reason, I don't get it.
I watched it years ago and didn't find it that funny. Maybe I was in a bad mood at the time, I don't know.
But that's why movies are a subjective medium, right? Hope you and your husband enjoy it. Me? I'll be spending at least part of my weekend watching "High School Musical 3." I am reviewing that DVD for next week, and must experience every moment of Zac Efron-icness.
College Park, Md.: Eternal Sunshine is playing at the AFI in Silver Spring Saturday night as well as Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. A bit closer than Denver!
Jen Chaney: Oh, thanks for the reminder! Do you know how sometimes you have so much information in your brain that pieces fall out of your ears? That's what happened to my knowledge of AFI's "Eternal Sunshine" screening. Thank you for the reminder.
(I think pieces fall out of my ears more frequently when "Lost" is airing regularly. Something has to give, I guess.)
Laurel, Md.: Best film ever about Valentines Day: Some Like It Hot
Jen Chaney: Great movie, no doubt.
Best actress: Cate Blanchett. Compare Notes on a Scandal with Elizabeth with Benjamin BUtton. She does everything flawlessly. Tilda Swinton, too, for that matter (rent The Deep End--whoa!)
Jen Chaney: Two more excellent examples of reliably good actors.
Richard Jenkins: can we just give a shout out to the fabulous Mr. Jenkins and his long long long shot to win the Oscar? Lovely movie (The Visitor); sublime performance. Loved Penn in Milk, but once in a while, the underdog should win because he deserves sit.
Jen Chaney: We can give a shout out and will!
It's great to see Jenkins finally get some recognition, agreed. I do think he's a long shot, though, and that his nomination will be seen as "the prize."
Do see "The Visitor" if you haven't though. It's a really absorbing, wonderful movie by Tom McCarthy, who also made the equally lovely "The Station Agent." And he also played a smarmy journalist on "The Wire." He's multi-talented, that guy.
New York, NY: The best Richard Nixon was Dan Heyada in Dick. And underrated movie, but I love it.
Jen Chaney: I too love that movie. The slapfight in the beginning between Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch) breaks me up every time.
Okay, I'll try to answer a couple more, but then I have to roll...
Valentine's Day movie: "A Little Romance" with a very young Diane Lane. One of my favorite movies. I first saw it when I was twelve, living in Brussels, Belgium, and had a crush on an Italian boy named Andrea. I would have run off to Italy with him in a New York minute. No proposal in that one, but a promise of undying love. Will that do?
Jen Chaney: Undying love will always do. Thanks for sharing.
And let us know if you ever track down Andrea.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Jen,Have you seen "The Reader"? Out of the Oscar nominees I have only seen "Slumdog" and "Frost/Nixon." Or are there any gems out there that deserve my $10 that have nothing to do with Oscar? On a side note, I encourage people to see "The Visitor." I saw it ages ago and loved it. Richard Jenkins really deserved his nomination. Thanks.
Jen Chaney: "The Reader" is actually the big Oscar movie I haven't seen. Due to scheduling conflicts, I missed the preview screenings and just haven't gotten to catch it yet. I am hoping to do that this weekend.
If I were you, I would check out "Milk," as I mentioned earlier. And if you can pay a matinee discount price perhaps, consider "He's Just Not That Into You." The movie certainly has its flaws, but I was surprisingly entertained by it. Most mainstream romantic comedies make me want to gauge my eyes out with a stiletto heel, but I liked this one because it was fun and didn't completely insult my intelligence.
Yes, there are too many plotlines. Yes, the resolution of one of those plotlines is a bit of a cop-out. But I adore Justin Long and Ginnifer Goodwin. And despite all the marquee names in this thing, the movie is really about the two of them.
Well, like I said, I now have to roll. Thanks for all your questions and comments. I'll see you again in Online Discussion Town when Liz and I do our "Lost" chat next Thursday, and also during our annual Oscar night marathon chat on Sunday, Feb. 22. Until then, enjoy your Valentine's Day. Bye!
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