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Great potential but dumb as dirt
It's a little "jumping the gun" to critique a show on a single pilot episode but, in light of its pretty bad direction I feel that it isn't too late to change course for this show. "Dirt" is FX's new Courtney Cox vehicle (of which she also produces) that follows the seedy underbelly of tabloid journalism in Hollywood. Cox plays a rough and tumble editor of "Drrt" a cheesy tabloid rag. She's conniving, evil and ultimately simplistic and rather one-dimensional. The plot also is filled to the brim with interweaving story lines and a bevy of potentially interesting side characters, such as the schizophrenic paparazzi photographer, the cheating NBA star, the failing actor and his hot unfaithful girlfriend and much more, all of which contributes to the mish-mashed story, that frustrates rather than entertains.
What doesn't help is that the editing of this already distracting show is erratic and frustrating. Also, stylistically the show throws in everything and the kitchen sink: on-screen text-messaging, crazy schizophrenic mind-trips, unnecessary soft-glow lenses and much, much more.
Yet all is not lost. This critique is based solely on the pilot, and the creators of the show, as well as Mrs. Cox herself, have ample opportunity to change course in order to save this prospective hit. This doesn't have to fall into the "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" category of a flailing high concept show with great potential (and, oddly enough, starring another "Friends" alumni). The show can be gritty, cool and bitter all at the same time. Just be careful not to package it with too much glitz and glitter some of us really want to see dirt.
The Family Stone (2005)
Fun and Touching Family Christmas
The Stone family gathers for a Christmas like none other in this cute and emotional offering from Director/writer Thomas Bezucha. In a nice twist from the conventional "meet the family" romantic comedy, Meredith (Sara Jessica Parker) an uptight Manhattan businesswoman meets her boyfriend's (Durmont Mulroney) very liberal family. The family quickly decides that they do not like this very nervous, wound-up woman and more so, don't think that she's right for their son/brother. Sweet moments of comedy and brief but poignant flashes of drama ensue.
I liked this film, if not for the fantastic performances from the always-impressive Diane Keaton and the new-ish Rachel McAdams, but also for the story and love that this film possesses. Though quite liberal, this family sometimes has the hard edge that we've seen in previous romantic comedies, usually from heavily conservative families adjusting to the fumbling, liberal new spouse. The Stone family gaffs at Meredith's "childish" conservative views and bitingly mocks her from time to time, not candy-coating this imperfect family in any way. I also enjoyed the road this story traveled, taking what could have been a cookie-cutter romantic comedy, a la Meet The Parents and turned it into a portrait of a flawed but true family.
On the bland side of the gingerbread cookies, some of the performances were odd. Sara Jessica's Meredith was frustrating and sometimes grating, as Craig T. Nelson's father figure was seemingly distant at times. The film also seemed to be juggling so many characters that a few are left out in the cold, in terms of development. But I must say, some of the negative criticism the film has garnered has nothing to do with the film itself but rather the perceptions one has when coming into the film. The film is not a laugh-out-loud, roll-inthe aisles comedy but it does have sweet funny moments. The film is not a straightforward romance, but it does show the power of love in its many different forms. If you aren't quite that flexible in your movie watching, this may not be for you. If you cannot envision a world in which liberal families love their family as much as conservative families do, then this film may not be for you. But if you are looking for a sweet Christmas movie that empowers the bonds of love, acceptance, and strength, check out the gem that is The Family Stone.
Moving and Powerful! Demme shines!
Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia" throws us into a world of pain and stark truth that is few and far between in mainstream cinema. The sheer idea that a film would so blatantly take on the difficulty of AIDS and homosexuality, helmed by the director of "Silence of the Lambs", the actor in "Big" and the guy who played Malcom X, is staggering.
AIDS is a reality and homophobia is a nasty truth that permeates our "United" States of America, as well as the rest of the world. At the time that this film was released (about 1993), the U.S. found solace in the idea that AIDS and homosexuality were dirty brothers in a distant family. By placing the film in the "City of Brotherly Love", hiring Bruce Springsteen to sing the title song and having an up-and-coming Tom Hanks star, director Jonathan Demme wisely readied an ignorant America for our first, uninhibited glance into the face of AIDS.
Tom Hanks embodied his role in an Oscar-worthy performance, allowing us to watch as his lovely and lively Andrew Beckett deteriorate before our eyes. Tom Hanks and the writers took to task the difficult and annoyingly controversial hurdle of playing the "gay" character and placing the "straight" audience into that different world. Stereotypes are mostly shied away from in the script with a few "fem" gays and drag queens. These scenes are few, but are also a reality. Many a Christmas party have I attended with the same crowd ("fems" and drag queens) in the mix. The other, mildly annoying, factor in this film is that the writers inform us that squeaky-clean gay Andrew Beckett contracts AIDS at a porn theater from an anonymous stranger, while in a committed relationship. This annoyed me because I wanted a righteous victim, not a impure victim. Yet as time has gone by and I have had the opportunity to work with many a victim of AIDS, whether be it male or female, gay or straight, I have seen that this too is an unfortunate reality. No one is perfect (gay or straight, male or female) and mistakes are often made. Costly mistakes are often made. This was a painful truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. In this, Tom Hanks as Mr. Beckett, brilliantly gave AIDS an honest face for a distant America.
Denzel Washington, on the other hand, allowed America to have a relatable character, one whose shoes we've fit in before. Denzel's views of homosexuality were (and still are) commonplace in the American psyche and his reactions to AIDS were understandable to the average audience. Yet all in all this dramatic film brought a message home.
Demme's directing style is nothing amazing; he tastefully weaves a tale without flashy shots or fancy cuts. At times the film borders on preachy, but, as always, it is Demme's story that grasps the audience, his mood that sets us into the tale, his actors and his direction of them that gives the film honesty. This film is highly recommended if not for the great acting but for lovers of a great story.