David Mamet

Post 80- Whatever Happened to Julia Stiles?

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My friend, Josh Delman (Editor in Chief of the fabulous but short lived humor periodical, The Eastern Review), recently propositioned me to answer the titular question of this post, so after hours of meticulous research, this is what I have come up with:

Julia Stiles broke out into the mainstream with her widely acclaimed performance in 1998’s 10 Things I Hate About You. Just how acclaimed was she? She walked home that year with an MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance and the Chicago Film Critics Award for most promising actress of the year and film critic Adina Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post, even called her “a young, serious looking Diane Lane!” If praise like that doesn’t make phones start ringing at CAA I don’t know what does. (That was a joke. But her acting chops were appealing to both teens and adults.) Julia spent the next few years racking up the Teen Choice Awards, appearing opposite such heartthrobs as Freddie Prinze Jr., Josh Hartnett, and Sean Patrick Thomas (who she appeared with in 2001’s major hit Save the Last Dance). That film (which won her more MTV Movie and Teen Choice awards as well as a Rolling Stone cover) gave her actual clout in the industry and she used it to get a small but pivotal and money-making role in the Bourne Identity franchise, a fun part opposite William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin in David Mamet’s State and Main, and a meaty dramatic role opposite Stockard Channing in 2001’s The Business of Strangers. But in the mid 2000s, she started to fizzle. Mainstream flops like Mona Lisa Smile, The Prince and Me, and A Guy Thing seemed to demonstrate that she couldn’t handle comedy or light material. She still got some nice paychecks from the Bourne movies, but she herself was no longer bankable (and had been usurped by the likes of Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Kirsten Dunst and Natalie Portman), so she turned to the stage, and went to college. She graduated from Columbia University in 2005 with a degree in literature.

In 2004, she performed in London in a revival of Mamet’s Oleanna opposite Aaron Eckhart, (in 2009 she reprised this role on Broadway opposite Bill Pullman). I happened to see that production in LA before it went to Broadway and can vouch that Ms. Stiles was extremely effective and a magnetic performer. She also spent the mid to late 2000s doing smaller and more serious dramas like Edmond (2005), The Omen (2006), and The Cry of the Owl (2009).

In 2010, she followed the path of many talented actresses looking for work and went to television where she starred on the sixth season of Dexter and was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe for her performance. She has also became a new muse of playwright Neil LaBute, appearing in short films that he directed and a new film he wrote called Seconds of Pleasure, and almost appearing on Broadway (opposite Dane Cook!) in LaBute’s play Fat Pig, but the show was cancelled due to financial trouble. It seems Ms. Stiles is has been keeping extremely busy as of late, with three movies coming out in 2012 and at least two currently in pre-production. The biggest profile picture is David O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Handbook, in which she stars opposite Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, and Chris Tucker in his first non-Rush Hour role since 1997. The other films are smaller, but seem to have great casts and directors.

So what happened to Julia Stiles? It’s the classic case of intelligent, strong, classically trained actress-turned teen queen-turned flopper-turned legitimate actress again. I see her emulating Maggie Gyllenhaal or Michelle Williams and perhaps becoming something close to Gwenyth Paltrow over the next few years in terms of film choices (serious work on stage and screen mixed in with the occasional paycheck flick). She’s not going to be as big as Anne Hathaway, Reese Witherspoon, or Amy Adams, but she’s a talented, bright actress who is also into charity, so I imagine she’s happy.

Josh, if this wasn’t enough and you really want to know exactly what Julia Stiles is up to, you can follow her blog: http://juliastilesblog.com/.

Day 44- Oliver Twist Wanted More

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I’m back. After a long hiatus, filled with classes, extra-curriculars, and playing with my new cat (the bestest, cutest, most snuggly wuggly cat in the whole wide world) Snuggles, I’ve returned to my favorite blog. I have a lot to say, so lets get going.

1. BLOG NEWS UPDATE: As some of you may recall, in a previous blog post I wrote about how David Mamet was adapting The Diary of Anne Frank for Disney. I alluded that said project was going to be very dark, intense and highly unconventional. And guess what—Big Poppa Ethan was RIGHT. Sure enough, Disney is trying to get rid of the project. “It’s very intense, and dark and scary,” said a Disney executive. “It’s not a film version of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’ Apparently, the screenplay that Mamet wrote is not a drama based on the diary, but a story about contemporary suicide bombings.

David Mamet. The man lives by his own rules.

2. There are 3 movies I have seen lately that I will recommend.

a. The first is the Coen Brothers’ (Loyal Reader Daniel Arkin just got a boner)”A Serious Man.” It’s about a Jewish (I know, I know, I got a lot of Jewish stuff in this post. Sue me.) physics professor living in Minnesota in the 1960s. Besides the facts that I very much enjoyed all the Jewish references, and actor Fyvush Finkel (the silliest named actor from “Boston Public”) was in it, this movie was remarkable. The story was engaging, always unpredictable, the acting was spectacular (especially Curb Your Enthusiasm and Spin City alumn Richard Kind, and Fred Melamed who’s voice is the richest, most soothing, and most luscious voice I’ve heard since James Earl Jones, and who coincidentally enough voices the Talk Radio show host on “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”), but the cinematography, the images, the motifs, the sets, the dialogue…EVERYTHING was just top-notch.

SIDETRACK: I’ve been playing a lot of this game “MT. RUSHMORE” with my friends lately. Bill Simmons came up with it. Basically you sit around and decide who would make the Mt. Rushmore of certain categories, for instance–Rappers. You have to choose the 4 most influential, legendary, important, famous, people in that particular field. There are no right answers, you just have to be able to defend your picks. For rappers I would say Tupac, Biggie, Dre and Jay-Z. For stand-up comedians I would say Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Steve Martin and probably Jerry Seinfeld. ANYWHOZELBEES—I brought this all up because I was discussing the Mt. Rushmore of famous VOICES. Who has the most important, recognizable, influential voices. My picks(and they are subject to change) are James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Don LaFontaine (the guy who used to do the voice-overs for all the movie trailers) and maybe at a close 4th, Martin Luther King Jr. He barely squeaks in. READERS–IN YOUR COMMENTS, WRITE IN YOUR OWN MT. RUSHMORES FOR ANY CATEGORY–its a pretty fun, challenging game.

BACK TO THE MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS: Anyway, “A Serious Man” raises a lot of interesting questions about life, fate, God, religion, morality, the possibility of a 4th dimension, and much much more. I need to see it at least 4 more times to get it.

b. “Youth in Revolt” is a film that hasnt been released yet, though I saw it at the St. Louis Film Festival. It stars Michael Cera as a…..you guessed it…an awkward virgin. But that’s the only real typical thing about this movie. Michael also plays his character’s badass alter-ego Francois, who wears tight white pants, has a wispy brown mustache, and does everything that Michael wants to do but doesnt have the guts to. It’s really funny seeing them interact with each other on screen. It’s like watching the Parent Trap but without the knowledge that the adorable star is going to be a raging coke addict. This movie has hilarious supporting turns by its young actors as well as its older ones, including Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Fred Willard, and, my personal favorite comedian right now, Zach Galifinakis. While Zach Gal is my favorite comedian, Fred Willard is the funniest man alive. Period. Anyway, this movie was very unpredictable, sincere, cute, cleverly written, and had pretty cool animated sequences. Good movie.

c. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Everyone has an opinion about this movie, and mine is that it was WONDERFUL. I felt like it was made for me. The angst, anger, fear, love, and needs of a 9 year old child were perfectly expressed not only by the lead actor, but by the Wild Things themselves. This was not a children’s movie but a movie about children. Spike Jonze’s vision was uncompromising, dark and real. And I love him for going that far. Listening to an interview with Maurice Sendak, author of the book, describe why he wrote the book, and all the fears he had as a child, it really seems to me that Jonze captured the book’s message. Plus, the movie reminded me so much of my childhood it almost made me cry. I’m not going to get into personal details about my young life, but lets just say I built lots of forts, and there are many dents in the walls of my older sister’s room. Plus Catherine Keener looks like my mom.

TYPICALLY this blog is not a place for me to review movies, but I felt so good about these three I had to share my thoughts and encourage you all to see them.

OK NOW THAT THOSE ARE OUT OF THE WAY, I HAVE ONE LAST THING TO TALK ABOUT IN THIS RETURNING POST: ANIMANIACS!

I was thinking recently about why I know so much about pop-culture and Hollywood, and I realized that it is most likely correlated to two TV shows I watched religiously in my youth: Reruns of 1980s and early 90s SNL, and Animaniacs!

Animaniacs was one of the first cartoons that was explicitly written and marketed towards children, but in actuality was completely subversive, clever and written for adults.

For example, some of the parodies Animaniacs did were of: The Pirates of Penzance (I am the Very Model of a Cartoon Individual), Goodfellas (Goodpidgeons), Simon and Garfunkel (They did a parody of Feelin’ Groovy and changed the lyrics to “Make a Gookie” which was a silly face Wakko always made), Seinfeld, Friends, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Orson Welles (THE BRAIN), the list goes on and on.

There were also decidedly adult jokes and segments, such as the Wheel of Morality, jokes about Bill Clinton, the Three Tenors, Mickey Rooney, a chicken who impersonates a human and who only one person actually realizes is a chicken until he takes off a hat or a mustache and then suddenly EVERYONE realizes he’s a chicken, Broadway musicals, and segments where characters explain complex jokes, or complain about their roles in that week’s episode.

Awesomely clever Hollywood parodies were also a staple of this show–an entire episode was devoted to the Warners breaking into the film industry! With songs about Variety magazine and even a cameo by Batman and Robin director, the horrendously campy Joel Schumacher, Animaniacs skewed Hollywood better than anyone else.

Not only was this show educational (I know every country of the world thanks to Yakko–http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDtdQ8bTvRc, and I know that Lake Titicaca is between Bolivia and Peru, thanks to that great Animaniacs song, “Lake Titicaca”), but every episode had its own original score!

What’s interesting is that now, in my adult years I’m finally understanding the jokes! As a kid I had no idea who Mickey Rooney was I just thought his name sounded funny. Now, so often I hear pop culture references and I think to myself, why do I know about this, and the answer is I remember it from ANIMANIACS!

So thanks Steven Spielberg! Not for E.T. or Jurassic Park, or Saving Private Ryan, or Catch Me If You Can. Certainly not for The Terminal (I’m from KRAKOZIA!) Thank you for bringing us Animaniacs, one of the best animated series’ of all time.

Until Tomorrow–

Day 42- The Day the World Went Away (but not really)

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In Jay Leno Voice: So ahh….David Mamet is in the news today. Did you read about this? Did you hear about this? Apparently he’s going to direct a new Anne Frank movie based on her diary.

In regular voice: You know what that means? JOKES!

Anne should have remembered: A B C. A always. B be. C closing. Always be closing. The window. So Nazis dont see her.

I cant wait to see Joe Mantegna and Bill Macy nail their performances as Papa and Mama Frank respectfully.

Even RICKY JAY’S MAGIC couldnt help the Frank family disappear!

Maybe Tarantino will have a directing cameo where the Franks get their revenge by going ape-shit all over the Nazis!

In this cameo Christopher Walken can also do a monologue about how he hid the Franks in his ass.

Maybe Jeremy Piven will sign on to this movie and then quit because his part doesnt involve him yelling into a phone. And he has mercury poisoning.

Sample Mamet Anne Frank dialogue:
Otto (sees Anne looking out the window): ANNE! What-
Anne: What?
Otto: Why are you-
Anne: Looking out the window?
Otto: Yes. Why are you looking out the window?
Anne: Because I was-
Otto: You were–
Anne: Bored. Thats it. Bored
Otto: Bored you say?
Anne: Thats what I said didnt I?
Otto: You were just so fucking bored.
Anne: Well I’m in a fucking attic doing nothing but fucking brushing my hair all day and night.
Otto: Well I’m sorry that hiding from Nazis didnt make it into your fucking daytimer!!
Anne: FUCK YOU!
Otto: FUCK YOU!

ALSO in the news: Michael Douglas’ son Cameron again. 2 weeks ago he was arrested for attempting to smuggle crystal meth from New York to LA. He was released on bail, but confined to his mother’s Manhattan apartment. He was just arrested though for having his girlfriend smuggle him heroin through…THE BATTERY COMPARTMENT OF AN ELECTRONIC TOOTHBRUSH! Police say they knew something was up when Cameron seemed very nervous and tense about when his toothbrush would arrive.

I dont know if I have anything hilarious to say about this other than its ironic that his dad was in TRAFFIC playing the head of the President’s Office of National Drug Control. In the film, unbeknownst to him, his daughter is a huge coke addict. I guess this is yet another example of life imitating art….

LASTLY, some recommendations:
WATCH- Michael and Michael Have Issues–The first episode started a little weak, but it just keeps getting better and better. The banter between the Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter is perfect, and the story lines of each episode are very clever and funny.

LISTEN (to) the COMEDY DEATH RAY RADIO PODCAST on iTunes. For free. It’s an hour long comedy show with guests like Andy Samberg, Zach Galifinakis, Aziz Ansari, Jon Hamm, Rob Huebel, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Weird Al and more. Its basically comedians joking around, doing characters, and making fun of Entourage. Which by the way….ABSOLUTELY SUCKS this season. It insults me.

EAT- Food. If you dont, you’re going to die.

THIS IS ME AS A CHARACTER ON MAD MEN

Until Tomorrow—

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