AEOS Review: This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Hey guys! It’s been a very busy few days, so I am just now getting to posting. I got to see two movies over the past few days: The Maze Runner (2014) and This Is Where I Leave You (2014). I’ll be posting a From Page to Screen review on The Maze Runner soon, since my sister is co-authoring that post. But until then, here’s my review of This Is Where I Leave You.

I really wanted to like this movie. I purposefully went by myself to the theater to enjoy and soak in the humor and warmth I was expecting the film to emit. Unfortunately, those feelings were not what I experienced as I absorbed the material. There were bits of humor, and about two total times I actually laughed. There Is Where I Leave You is a movie that isn’t exactly sure what what tone it should take, and that’s what the viewers are left with: a confused movie.

Getting a confused audience was probably only partially purposeful when they adapted This Is Where I Leave You into a film, because after all, the story is about a messed up family trying to sort themselves out when the father passes away. It’s only natural to expect some chaos when you place complicated characters in one space. What I think director Shawn Levy failed to communicate to audiences was the actual direction and goal of the movie. What lesson can we take away from this movie? What character moved forward, changed, or accomplished a goal?

Shawn Levy actually has multiple directing credits, two of which probably most influenced him for This Is Where I Leave You: the remake Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Date Night (2010). Cheaper by the Dozen has one too many characters, and I think the same could be said for This Is Where I Leave You. Too often crowded movies lose their impact when there are too many characters to focus on. Date Night and This Is Where I Leave You both share Tina Fey, giving each film a similar humor every time the comedian opens her mouth in both films, even if she’s playing different parts.

Overall, This Is Where I Leave You is probably Levi’s most character-centric film. So of course, I expected the characters to progress, change, or at least do something. The movie has a large star-studded cast, its four protagonists playing the children of their just-widowed mother (Jane Fonda). The movie aims to focus on its lead character Judd (Jason Bateman), but it darts between him, his three siblings (played by Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Corey Stoll), his sister-in-law (Kathryn Hahn), and a few other supporting cast that included Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, and Dax Shephard.

This Is Where I Leave You‘s plot isn’t original, as I felt like I saw bits of Elizabethtown (2005), Dan in Real Life (2007), and The Family Stone (2005) at different moments, just to name a few. The cast seemed mostly well chosen, although it seemed like Kathryn Hahn had little to do in her role. Jason Bateman played the same character he played in his Arrested Development (2003) run, being the middle sibling in a crazy family trying to make sense of everything. Dax Shephard seems to get himself typecast into douchebag/bastard roles that only further hinder him from getting offered other roles. Tina Fey’s character, Wendy, was the most believable for me, even when there wasn’t much she could do despite the script. Her chemistry with each of her brothers, especially Judd (Jason Bateman) seemed genuine, and they happened to look like they could be related, unlike Corey Stoll and Adam Driver. After What If (2014), This Is Where I Leave You is only the second movie I’ve seen Adam Driver in, and I think he’s absolutely hilarious. That being said, I wonder if he knows how to play any other character other than an immature man-child who has a few good jokes up his sleeve every now and then.

What I found most disappointing with This Is Where I Leave You is that the writing seemed to plummet, it’s lowest point when [SPOILER] Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda) starts kissing her neighbor in front of her children and half the neighborhood. It’s not so much that she’s kissing a woman as much as it’s at the mourning of her just-deceased husband that she chooses to announce she’s coming out, and that she’s been having a relationship with someone outside her marriage. It’s at this point in the movie everyone realizes why four adults have an impossible time sorting out their own relationships: not only did they lack a positive relationship model to look up to, but they’re also witnessing their only living parent promoting cheating near the deathbed of her spouse. I credit the writing behind the story if that was the goal of that scene, yet I feel like the screenwriters did the movie an injustice presenting this major turning point the way they did.

Speaking of the script, that’s what brings me back to the main problem of That’s Where I Leave You: the characters never make progress or learn. Phillip (Adam Driver) remains the hilarious, immature man-child; Paul (Corey Stoll) retains his boring persona as the mean older brother. Wendy (Tina Fey) plays the sister with all the good one-liners and advice to dole out, even though she’s incapable of taking any herself. Hillary (Jane Fonda) is the selfish mother who places her own sexual desires above her passed husband and living family. Judd (Jason Bateman) is the only character who experiences any possible change by actually dealing with his now complicated life instead of hiding under a blanket and pretending everything’s okay when it isn’t.

One of the pleasant unexpected surprises of the movie is how the soundtrack captured the essence of the movie. My favorite track, “On My Own” by Distant Cousins started when the credits rolled; however, there are multiple good songs off the record worth listening to.

While This Is Where I Leave You certainly disappointed, I give the movie props for a solid cast with good chemistry, somewhat realistic responses to a family death, and an appropriate soundtrack to match the film’s tone. I give This Is Where I Leave You 

Eye Art1Eye Art1  ON SCREEN.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of This Is Where I Leave You? If you haven’t seen it, do you plan on seeing it? Please join the discussion below, because as always, I would love to know your thoughts.

Three Final Weeks of Movies

I was a little inspired after seeing Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and I thought it would be a cool to ask myself–and all of you out there–the following questions:

What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live?

Dodge and Penny had only 3 weeks left, and obviously they didn’t watch any movies. Look, I get it. If you had three weeks left to live, you would probably be spending it with friends and family, not watching movies. But let’s take all other factors out of the equation–if you had only three weeks left to watch any movies, which ones would they be?

What would be your final 3?

Looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?

I think back to an early episode of The Office when Ryan started the fire, and the whole office had to wait outside. Jim started a game of, “If you were on an island, what movies/book/etc would you take with you? Dwight typically doesn’t get involved in these childish games, but when Jim questions him about what book, this is Dwight’s response:

Dwight is all about survivor mode. Good for him.

OK, here are my answers:

What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live, and why that movie? 
Well,  I’m not all about “survivor mode” like Dwight, so I’ll be far less conventional and just pick a film I love: Elizabethtown. (For regular readers, this is no surprise.) I would have chosen (500) Days of Summer, because it currently sits as my favorite film. However, since I’m pretty close to death, I’d like to end on a happier note. And those of you who have seen (500) Days know that it does end kind of on a happy note–one of hope. And that’s a little ironic considering there’s little hope left if a meteor were to crash into the earth.

What would be your final 3?
If I had to choose 3 movies as my last 3 movies to ever see, they would be The Artist, Inception, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?
This is an easy answer–The Dark Knight Rises, of course!

OK, people, it’s your turn. There are no wrong answers, so don’t be shy. Dr. Horrible is one of my final three, so you have no reason to be embarrassed by any of your answers! What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live, and why? What would be your final 3 movies you could watch? And looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?

If My Life Were a Movie

What if your life were a . . .  movie?

OK, I agree . . . that’s a highly implausible possibility, but who says we can’t be dreamers? I’m not one for self-indulgence, but every now and then, it’s fun to imagine what my life would be like if it were a movie . . .

Cast List

Female Lead (playing me)

  • First choice: Emma Stone
  • Second choice: Anna Kendrick
Reason for choices: No actress who is my age has handled dorkiness (House Bunny), drama (The Help), or comedy (Superbad) better than Emma Stone. She’s miles prettier than I am, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else able to play me. My second choice is Anna Kendrick because she’s great at playing awkward. And well, sometimes, I am just awkward.

Male Lead (playing opposite me)

  • First choice: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Second choice: John Krasinski
Reason for choices: Who else but Joseph Gordon-Levitt? I love him in every film he’s in. I think he brings something new and fresh to the table in all of his roles. That, and he’s hot. John Krasinski looks like the everyday guy that almost any girl wouldn’t mind falling in love with. I know I wouldn’t mind.

Dear ‘Ol Dad

  • First choice: Colin Firth
  • Second choice: Steve Carell
Reason for choices:  After seeing Colin Firth in What a Girl Wants, I knew I would be perfectly fine if he were my dad. On the other hand, Steve Carell is an entirely different choice. He can make the littlest things entertaining, yet he still has an endearing side to him that would make him an excellent father figure.

Mother Dearest

  • First choice: Susan Sarandon
  • Second choice: Meryl Streep
Reason for choices: It’s hard to describe what it is about Susan Sarandon that assures me she would make the perfect mom. She just seems like she’d be an awesome, fun mom. Meryl Streep is my second choice–I think I’d like her just for all her cooking in Julie & Julia, even though Julia’s a character. She seems like someone who’d have a lot of wisdom to offer.

Really Strange, But Awesome Sibling

  • First choice: Andy Samberg
  • Second choice: Adam Scott
Reason for choices: Andy Samberg embodies “strange, but awesome,” in my opinion. He has a bit of a douchey side to him in most movies he’s been in, yet he’s hilarious as heck on Saturday Night Live. Between Parks and Rec and Friends with Kids, I could only imagine Adam Scott as the perfect second choice to play a funny, but awesome older brother character.  

Crazy Uncle

  • First choice: Jim Carrey
  • Second choice: Jack Black
Reason for choices: Jim Carrey is known to be one crazy, hilarious dude, although I think he has a great handle on dramas too. He’s great at playing a variety of characters. Is it really necessary for me to explain either of my choices in this category? You tell me!

Villain of the Story

  • First choice: Ryan Seacrest
  • Second choice: Kristen Stewart
Reason for choices: Ryan Seacrest may sound like a nutty first choice for the villain, but one has to imagine he has to have some anger and frustration from hosting American Idol. Plus, I’d love to see the guy let loose and go crazy. Kristen Stewart . . . she already has the face down. She looks angry at the world.

Comic Relief

  • First choice: Aziz Ansari
  • Second choice: Neil Patrick Harris
Reason for choices: Aziz Ansari is hilarious. Few will ever deny this. Although I had a rather late introduction to him (30 Minutes or Less), he is comedy gold. From being an avid fan of How I Met Your Mother, I’ve learned that Neil Patrick Harris is one of the funniest dudes out there. Either making cameos or playing some small role as comic relief would be awesome.

Director

  • First choice: Marc Webb
  • Second choice: Nancy Meyers
  • Third choice: Cameron Crowe
Reason for choices: I’m still really all over the place with who I would choose as director. Hence, why I chose three different people. Marc Webb is responsible for directing one of my favorite movies of all time, and many of you already know what that is–(500) Days of Summer. For someone to incorporate that much reality into a film, with well-developed characters, yet somehow still include a musical dance number and make a film as endearing as it is? I can’t imagine a better director. Nancy Meyers is another fun choice because I’ve very much enjoyed several of her films, especially The Holiday and It’s Complicated. I think she really knows how to make a full, in-depth film with a female protagonist without making it feel too chick-flicky or overly romantic. She seems to be one of the few female directors out there who really has a specific vision, and when you see the film, you know that it’s a Nancy Meyers film. My final choice is Cameron Crowe. He would have been my first choice if I thought he could incorporate more comedy, but I see Crowe as a director who has a lot of heart and definitely some drama. And that’s what I love about him.

Film Composer

  • First choice: Hans Zimmer
  • Second choice: Nancy Wilson
  • Third choice: Henry Jackman
Reason for choices: Hans Zimmer is a master. He’s brilliant at developing new, ear-catching themes that outlast even some of the films he has scored for. Ultimately, Zimmer is my first choice to score a film. Nancy Wilson, although more of a rocker with far less experience, is still a talented musician with the ability to create a beautiful score, such as her work for Elizabethtown. Henry Jackman may sound like a strange third choice–I mean, why shouldn’t I choose someone far more experienced, like James Newton Howard or Alan Silvestri or Danny Elfman, all of whom I love? Jackman may has less experience, but he’s great at what he does. And he’s newer to the film score drawing board, similarly matching myself in that I’m still young. After falling in love with his work on X-Men: First Class score, I decided he would be a great back-up plan.

Theme Song

  • First choice: “Uncharted,” by Sara Bareilles
  • Second choice: “Ironic,” by Alanis Morisette
Reason for choices: I’m not as great as coming up with a good theme song. Instead of thinking long and hard about it, I just picked a couple songs in my library that I like a lot. I think both songs describe a lot of my own feelings about my life, so that’s helpful. I guess I could have chosen “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. Wahaha.

Genre

  • Primary genre: Comedy
  • Secondary genre: Drama
  • Optional addition: Musical number
Reason for choices: No matter how I look at my life, through the big highs and lows, there always seems to be someone who finds things about me hilarious. I’ve always been attracted to people with a good sense of humor, comedy TV shows and movies, and I’ve even attended a small share of stand-up comedy.

What can I say? Sometimes I think the greatest escape to reality is surrounding yourself with people and media that can make you laugh. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve also had my share of drama. And I mean, honestly, whose life doesn’t at least have a little unwanted drama in it? And just because I love musicals so much, I think there just has to be musical number thrown in, just for good measure.

I tried to think of some nifty titles, but nothing came to mind. So I guess all of THAT will just have to do. I must admit, I had a tons of fun putting this together. So now, it’s YOUR turn, people!

If your life were a movie, who would you cast as yourself? and opposite you? Any specific director or cinematographer or costume designer you’d demand? What kind of genre would it be? Share it, or copy and paste mine and fill it in with your own choices! Add and take away what people you would include. What do you think of my choices? 

My Go-To Movies

There is a sense, one must admit, that when a person goes through any major time in life, that that person searches for inspiration or encouragement or any major emotion in the different seasons life offers. For me, I’m one to look to the movies. Movies is not my answer to problems, but I will say that movies certainly ease pain, distract, and act as an excellent escape from the demons in my mind at times.

Here’s a list of some of the movies I go to first when I need a laugh or a little inspiration.

Go-To Funny Flicks

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
The Hangover

Happy Gilmore
Jim Carrey anything
School of Rock
She’s the Man

Go-To Chickflicks

(500) Days of Summer
Elizabethtown
The Holiday
Never Been Kissed

Notting Hill
The Wedding Date

Go-To Inspirational Films

50/50
The Artist
Cast Away
Good Will Hunting
Jerry Maguire

Go-To Psychological Thrillers

Anything Christopher Nolan directed
The Matrix
Vanilla Sky
Equilibrium

Go-To Action Flicks

Back to the Future 1 & 2
Inception
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible
 1, 3 & 4 

 

Out of all those movies listed, Elizabethtown is probably the movie I go to the most in all different times and seasons of my life. There are zillions of other movies that I love, but these are the ones that immediately came to mind for me when I need a “go-to” movie. Go-to movies are different for everyone–we all gain inspiration, get a good laugh, or find ourselves mesmerized by different films. These are mine.

What are your go-to movies? Which movie have you rewatched the most? Do you ever get more out of a movie the 10th, 18th, or 39th time watching?

Week of Favorites: Actresses

Thinking about who my favorite actresses are as opposed to who my favorite actors are was a very different process. Since I’m more established with which actors’ performances I value and enjoy the most, as well as the films that star said actors (more so than actresses in general), I have a VERY different list of actresses on my list. By no means am I claiming these are the best actresses, but for me personally, they happen to be favorites of mine.

6. Queen Latifah

This list was actually so hard for me to compile, that I had to include a sixth entry. It was impossible for me to leave Queen Latifah off this list. She’s put in some hilarious and enjoyable supporting performances in Stranger Than FictionWhat Happens in VegasThe Dilemma, Valentine’s Day, and Mad Money, while lending her voice to film-adapted musicals like Hairspray and Chicago, and occasionally starring in her own films, such as Just Wright and The Last Holiday. Although I don’t care for some of the films she’s been in, I typically appreciate Latifah’s role because she’s very good at playing character and supporting roles. Queen Latifah exudes confidence, and I’m always impressed with the depth and capacity she has to be either humorous, dramatic, or serious.

5. Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst was a tough one to put on the list because I’ve seen only some of her work. I’ve yet to see her talked-about performance in Melancholia, but I can say that I grew up watching her in Interview with the Vampire, JumanjiLittle WomenBring It On, The Virgin Suicides, and Tower of Terror. I think she has a very different look and air about her that seems to separate her from the masses. I didn’t much care for her portrayal of Mary-Jane Watson in the Spiderman series although I think a lot of it has to do with how her role was written. She’s played several parts that have shown off her range, from her role in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Marie Antoinette. My personal favorite role of hers is in Elizabethtown.

4. Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts is one of those actresses who played iconic roles in her time and really established herself. My like for her really goes back to my like of almost all the actors I put on my favorites list in my previous post. I think she’s this timeless actress, almost elevated above many who have tried to do what she has. Roberts really had a way of defining a leading lady in the romcoms of the 90s. For me, she makes this list because I’ve seen several of her films, and I’ve really enjoyed watching her on screen. I think some actresses are easier to enjoy watching than others. My favorite film of hers is somewhere between My Best Friend’s Wedding and Notting Hill, although Pretty Woman comes in at a close third.

3. Reese Witherspoon

The first film I saw Reese Witherspoon in was Legally Blonde, and I knew from there on out that I was going to like her. Although she’s dabbled in some flimsier films from time to time, she’s quite strong in both comedy and drama, and I think she’s excellent at showing vulnerability on screen. Her portrayal of June Carter in Walk the Line is one of her best performances, and she has an Academy Award to show off for it. I will admit that I haven’t seen several of her films, but from the ones I have seen, I typically enjoy watching her in, although How Do You Know is a gross exception. I’m excited to see her take on some new projects and hope she continues to make smart choices.

2. Drew Barrymore

Saturday Night Live has accurately made fun of Drew Barrymore, and it’s almost understandable given Barrymore’s unusual voice or accent. One of the movies I watched over and over again as a kid was Ever After, a loose take on Cinderella. Barrymore certainly isn’t the prettiest girl who could play a Cinderella-like character, but she was every bit believable as a Danielle who fell in love with a prince. I much enjoyed her 90s through early 2000s films, especially The Wedding Singer and Never Been Kissed. What I enjoy most about her is that she’s comes across very human and relatable in her performances, at least the films in which I’ve seen her in. I definitely think she has a different look (and obviously sound) to her, but at the end of the day she’s really just this funny person who enjoys acting.

1. Emma Stone

I almost want to smack myself for choosing Emma Stone because she’s only 24 years old with what now appears to be a long career ahead of her. I’ve seen almost all of her movies and I will readily admit that if she’s in a movie, I would probably go just for the sake of seeing her. It really wasn’t Easy A that made me totally dig Emma Stone, even though I thought she was pretty awesome in that (also, that’s the kind of teen comedy I can deal with today). I think she’s absolutely hilarious and not afraid to do some silly things on screen, even if she might look stupid. Stone is easily my favorite character in The House Bunny, a rather pointless fluff movie, but entertaining nonetheless with Stone trying to “attract” guys by spraying herself with a hose. She played the “it” girl in Zombieland and the annoying, weird girl in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (you caught her in that, right?). The year 2011 really skyrocketed Stone’s career (and name) when she starred in two big hitting films, Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Help. I can imagine Emma Stone becoming the Julia Roberts or maybe more so, the Sandra Bullock, of her time as she ages and takes on more roles.

OK, it’s your turn. Who are your favorite actresses? Does my list sound as crazy to you as it does in my head? Don’t answer that.

AEOS Review: Cameron Crowe and his Elizabethtown (2005)

This post, I’m focusing on director Cameron Crowe, and in particular, his film Elizabethtown, the mediocre-reviewed film considered a flop on the director’s resume.

Similar to the reviews Elizabethtown received, the movie reflects the low points a person must go through in order to learn about a little thing called life. To start this post off, here’s a quote from Crowe himself, published only 3 weeks ago in Vulture magazine regarding the critics’ poor reaction to the film Elizabethtown:

To me, only if something comes from an inauthentic place should you feel vulnerable to the things that anybody might say.

He defends the film insomuch without actually coming across as defensive, a feeling that would have been understandable considering the rough reviews it received.

I’ve read several negative reviews/comments regarding Cameron Crowe and his films since few believe any of his movies have lived up to his most well-known films, Almost Famous (2000) and Say Anything (1989). I have to applaud Crowe for the way in which he has handled the criticism, because as a filmmaker and an artist, he gets it. He goes on in Vulture:

I stand behind it [Elizabethtown] and didn’t feel savaged. It was a little brutal. But I get that people want to express themselves. I express myself, too.

Crowe is one of those filmmakers who makes movies that resonate, even if they don’t connect with a wide audience. Crowe is an autobiographical filmmaker. There aren’t many of those out there–filmmakers who live, write, and then direct a movie that mirrors one’s own life. In a sit-down, unscripted interview with Orlando Bloom, the film’s star, both filmmaker and actor answer questions written in by viewers, and questions each have compiled for one another. Bloom asks Crowe what is the one thing he looks for in an actor, and without hesitation, Crowe replies, “Authenticity.” He goes on to say how he looks for authenticity in a person’s eyes, and that’s how an actor can connect with an audience, because the performance given is not just a performance, but something true and honest that viewers can find relatable.

After watching the film a few times, I started to wonder. . . how the heck did Crowe get Orlando Bloom to sign on to this movie? It’s nothing like Bloom has ever done before, and despite criticism on the Brit’s American accent (which really wasn’t bad!), Bloom sold it. But before he joined, could you imagine Ashton Kutcher filling the role? Well, he was hired until Crowe decided to call up Bloom. It’s amazing to think that James Franco and Chris Evans auditioned for the role too.

When it comes to writing, the old cliche goes, “you should write what you know.” That is what Crowe does, and Elizabethtown is example of that. At the end of the day, Crowe doesn’t care that many people–namely, critics–didn’t like Elizabethtown. And as a big fan of the movie, I don’t care that they didn’t get it either. Yes, there were some cheesy parts, or lines that were a little far out, but guess what I got out of it? A lot of heart, something Cameron Crowe films are filled with.

If you read or watch any interview with Crowe back from 2005, you’ll learn that the movie was a tribute to his late father. The movie, made over a decade after his father passed, was meant to bring to light those moments where you get to know your parents better after they passed because you failed (or in this movie’s case, Drew Baylor failed) to spend that vital time with family before they were gone.

I’ve seen Elizabethtown maybe a dozen or more so times. I always try to put several months between each viewing, because there’s nothing like noticing things you didn’t see the first, second, or eighth viewing, and this time around, it was no different.

Most of my friends that I beg to sit down and watch Elizabethtown with don’t take away what I’ve taken from it. What makes the Elizabethtown stand out to me? Well, the soundtrack, for one. Before Crowe and Nancy Wilson divorced, Wilson collaborated with Crowe on the soundtracks for many of his films. She composed a fitting score for Elizabethtown, combining a lot of string instruments, namely guitar and banjo, to blend with the rich soundtrack including a laundry list of classic artists, from Patty Griffin to Tom Petty to I Nine to Elton John to My Morning Jacket, who posed as the fictional band “Ruckus” in the film. Perhaps my favorite score song of all time is on the score soundtrack, titled “River Road,” by Nancy Wilson. I love how it captures the feeling of the movie and the characters without being boring or just adding sound to the background.

Another aspect I really appreciated was the tone of the movie. There’s a scene where Drew (Orlando Bloom) walks in and is literally bombarded with all these crazy, random southerners who know all about him and his success with his job, while he returns hugs and looks to people he’s meeting for the first time. It’s one of the best movie representations of southern charm and family and the way they express themselves, and Bloom easily portrays a fish out of water in the setting.

I could go on about several different moments that I especially enjoyed from the movie, but I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that Elizabethtown isn’t for everyone. And for those who have already seen the film and disliked it, I’m not going to convince, no matter how great I believe the movie is, or how heartwarming I express Crowe as a filmmaker and writer to be. But for me, Elizabethtown is one of those movies I will watch again and again, because the movie captures little moments in life that I’ve experienced, and it’s a great reminder about what’s important in life–not success, but time spent with the people who matter. About taking life a step future and contemplating who and what is significant to be spending time with.

And this just in . . . 

I tweeted Cameron Crowe about Elizabethtown and got a reply from him! Check it:

Judy Greer: Once a Supporting Actress, Always a Supporting Actress?

After a one-day break from being sick, I’m back (and still sick), but happy to post nonetheless. Today’s post is one I have been thinking about for ages, yet never took the time until now to starting writing about. And yes, of all the posts to be musing about, it is all about Judy Greer, one of today’s biggest supporting actresses.

Have you seen enough movies with a single person in them, that you wonder if that person is capable of playing any other role? Actors that come to my mind are Jennifer Anniston, Mark Ruffalo, or Jason Statham. But all for different reasons. Anniston has always played the same boring, depthless characters on screen. And then this year she came out with Horrible Bosses and started to change what everyone previously thought of her. The girl CAN be funny since Friends.

But take Mark Ruffalo–he’s one of my favorite actors, btw–he’s always not in the spotlight, and no, The Brothers Bloom or Zodiac don’t count. Why? Because the former was unsuccessful and the latter didn’t put Ruffalo to the forefront of your mind. Zodiac is largely credited for its director, David Fincher, similar to the situation of Inception‘s credit going to Christopher Nolan and not Leonardo DiCaprio. Ruffalo has played THE supporting role in the majority of his films. Despite his impressive resume including films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Shutter Island (he barely even makes an appearance in any of the trailers, but holds the second highest amount of screen time to Leo DiCaprio), The Kids Are All Right (he got his first supporting actor nom from this, but wasn’t considered anything special in it), and Collateral, he never even made first billings in mediocre rom coms he starred in, such as Just Like Heaven, 13 Going on 30, and Rumor Has It.

And as for Jason Statham? Well, when was the last time he played any other role that wasn’t hardcore, action superhero, etc. Even if Statham was playing the bad guy, like in Cellular, the “funny” guy in The Italian Job, or the same character he’s played in every other role, like in The Transporter (think 1, 2, and if there’s a third, then yes, that one too!), he’s literally the same dude in every movie.

Which brings me back to Judy Greer. To me, Greer sums up the pigeon-holed, actor stuck-in-a-rut situation that many actors find themselves in today. Perhaps she prefers playing supporting roles because that’s where her strength lies. Some actors were born to be character actors. After all, she’s played every version of the best friend: biatch in 13 Going on 30, slut in 27 Dresses, the indie, quirky person in Love Happens, and the worry wort in The Wedding Planner. She was even in last year’s Love and Other Drugs.

And then she played the crazy freak-out character in The Village, the overdramatic sister in Elizabethtown, the secretary who almost committed suicide in What Women Want (remember that one?), or her most recent role, the woman who got cheated on in The Descendants.

And that’s just the tipping point when it comes to Judy Greer’s career. She’s made a ton of guest appearances on practically every TV show, as well as starred (along with 3 other B and C listers) in the short-lived comedy series Mad Love, which ended up getting canceled before a whole season could air.

Let’s face it–Judy Greer has done it all, but she’s never been the leading lady. Is she that good of a character actor, that she would never fit the bill for a leading role, or has she been shoved into the “supporting actress only” corner and never found someone to take her for more than that just that . . . a supporting actress?

Favorites vs. the Best

It’s a little well-known fact among my peers, coworkers, friends, and family that I’d like to study film in grad school and then work in the field following school. This provokes the question, “What is your favorite movie?”

Hidden in that question are three expectations I must denounce before I reveal my favorite(s):

  • First, most expect my favorite to be something near an Oscar-worthy Best Picture nominee, a documentary that defined my generation, or an inspirational true story that struck heartstrings. I guess my taste is just not classy enough to fulfill that conjecture.
  • The second assumption is that my favorite movies have always been the same. My favorite movie when I was thirteen is not my favorite movie now. Not even close.
  • The most common expectation people seem to have is that my favorite movies and the movies I consider to be some of the best are one and the same.  This stark difference is undermined by your average movie-goer. Good movie-making and a movie that you can watch over and over again and consider your favorite, is, well . . . a rarity.

So with those three presuppositions knocked down, I’ll tell you what my current favorite movies are (in no intended order):

The Wedding Date

Maybe it’s that Debra Messing looks absolutely gorgeous, or Dermot Mulroney’s voice is super sexy and the combination is impeccable. Or maybe I was just impressed by a movie that was written by a woman (Dana Fox, screenwriter), adapted from a book written by a woman (Elizabeth Young, Asking for Trouble), and directed by a woman (Clare Kilner, director). The idea of the movie is hilarious. The protagonist, Kat (Messing), pays an escort to accompany her to her younger, spoiled sister’s wedding where her ex-fiance was the Best Man. Who knows? All I can say is that I found the premise funny, the idea light, the cast enjoyable, and the main character relatable and real.

Dan in Real Life

It’s Steve Carell, only not the Steve Carell most know and love. The Dan in Real Life Carell – that’s the Steve Carell I love. It’s a movie about family, about putting your loved ones ahead of yourself, about taking chances, and about allowing yourself a little freedom to live. Paired with Juliet Binoche, who is naturally beautiful yet doesn’t call attention to herself, the couple is fun to watch on screen together. Dan’s parents’ home feels like the New England home where everyone wouldn’t mind spending a family weekend. It’s chilly, so there’s lots of plaid, lots of snow, and lots of family traditions that makes you feel good inside. Dane Cook unmistakably adds to the movie’s humor, and Sondre Lerche’s beautiful score lends a feeling of warmth and naturalism to the movie.

Elizabethtown

If you’re a fan of Orlando Bloom, you’ve seen him play multiple character roles such as princes, pirates, and outlaws. He’s led in some of the largest and well-known film trilogies including Lord of the Rings and The Pirates of the Caribbean (fine, it’s outgrowing “trilogy,” so screw me!). Ned Kelly, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven are just a few of the huge movies Bloom has played starring roles in. And suddenly, he’s actually playing a regular, every day person in Elizabethtown. Everyone knew that if Kirsten Dunst could stay out of rehab, she was more than capable of taking on the positive, uplifting role of Claire Colburn. Featuring a fantastic soundtrack that  includes the likes of Elton John, Patty Griffin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and My Morning Jacket, as well as an original score by past rocker Nancy Wilson, Elizabethtown takes a withdrawn, lonely Drew Baylor (Bloom) who nearly commits suicide, to a small town in Kentucky to attend to the details of his father’s funeral with old, opinionated relatives.  Claire represents a person who understands a lot about life, and knows how to find the wisdom in simple ideas by observing others. She befriends Drew, and in a sense, saves him from himself and his past life that was wrapped up in a job and an empty apartment by forcing him to face his feelings. It’s difficult for me to not fall in love with this film every time I watch it.

And there you have it. My three current favorite films. They may not be considered the best by the majority, the average movie watcher, or any critic, but they’re my favorites. Stick around, and I might let you in on what films I consider to be the best I’ve seen thus far.