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Thursday
Mar122015

Empire Mania (and Other Links)

Arts Beat Kerry Washington to star in HBO film Confirmation about Anita Hill. Great casting
Playbill Not that it was ever in doubt but Disney is officially at work on Frozen 2
Comics Alliance Robert Downey Jr presents a one arm kid Avengers fan with an Iron Man arm. Sweet
Broadway World talks to the legendary Ben Vereen about new projects, Bob Fosse movies, and the return of the movie musical


D Listed Steve Carell as Fabio? Fabulous. Especially the low-fi hair blowing... which is particularly funny since we just saw the same "effect" in Paris is Burning 
Pajiba Courtney schools Lindsay Lohan on photoshop manipulation for her Instagram account
Disney promises no more smoking in their films ever. That's fine but if they digitally erase the smoking in their archive like in 101 Dalmatians we will feel murderous
/Film PETA wants new ending for Tim Burton's Dumbo remake and though we'd prefer the movie not be made at all, we'd like to co-sign this proposal
Howard Stern Show I keep hearing this very lengthy Madonna interview is awesome but I haven't listened yet. I'm too busy mainlining "Rebel Heart" now that it's here in full (favs: Living For Love, Ghost Town, Rebel Heart, and I think I might love the totally filthy and juvenile Holy Water but I haven't decided yet)
MNPP I never talk about John Barrowman since he doesn't make movies but I L-O-V-E him and here's Jason paying tribute in a crotch-grabbing way that I think Barrowman himself would enjoy

Today's Moment of Nostalgia
Elle Magazine reminisces about Winona Ryder's "Lydia Deetz" as fashion icon and talks to Beetlejuice costumer Aggie Guerard Rodgers about working with Tim Burton and creating the looks.

Unlike the rogue Babysitter who tired of the Club or Brenda when she finally stopped seeking Kelly's approval, Lydia Deetz was actually an original. And whether she was wearing a schoolgirl outfit stuffed with crinoline, a nondescript painter's smock, or a blood-red wedding dress to match her evil stepmother's, there was something aspirational about how few fucks she actually gave. 


Empire
 Mania - Some Links, Several Thoughts

Towleroad Some fan has made a video of Empire meant to ape the Dynasty opening. I appreciate the connection since I turned to the Boyfriend a few episodes of this show and said "I feel like this writer's room really studied Dynasty - best nighttime soap in forever." but this mashup is not really a great visual match. I grew up on Dynasty (my parents were horrified at how obsessed I was with it) and you have to have those vertical line splits and the sectional images for it to really read as Dynasty Reincarnated.
Good Black News Ratings for the show are up for the record-breaking 9th straight week. It's now starting to rival TV's mega hit The Walking Dead (!!!) I'm so happy for Lee Daniels. But I hope he doesn't quit movies because we need him there with his crazy ass Paperboy/Precious/Butler provocations.
Xfinity Jussie Smollett talks about "the closet" or rather his lack of one on Ellen. He's beyond adorable, really. And the third best reason to watch Empire after 1) Taraji of course 2) how worthy it is as a night time soap giant overall. (The Smolletts are so talented. Remember how great his sister Junee was on Friday Night Lights?) This is my favorite performance of Jussie's on Empire thus far. I may have listened to it four times as I was typing this. 

"But what are the fourth and fifth best reasons to watch the show, Nathaniel?" you ask. SINCE YOU ASKED. 4) the music . 5) the guest stars are fabulous. Courtney Love and Naomi Campbell were superbly well cast and just killing it to cite two examples. Though we probably shouldn't mention new guest star Jennifer Hudson. That girl cannot act, sorry AMPAS. The past 9 years have proven otherwise. Great voice, though. 

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Reader Comments (26)

Jennifer Hudson is a lovely woman with a beautiful voice and her singing performance in the episode was great. And...yes, all the other stuff Nathaniel said too.

And Empire guest star Derek Luke, who classes up every joint he graces (Antwon Fisher, Captain America, The Americans).

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I'm surprised how well Naomi is doing on Empire -- I would've thought she'd crash and burn, but she's well cast.

I listened to the Madonna/Howard interview and it is interesting -- if only because he has such unprecedented access to her for 90 minutes, no holds barred conversation. But she's definitely guarded for most of the interview. She didn't come to play like some of his recent gets, i.e. Gwyneth Paltrow.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Dynasty, Dallas, Hotel, Falcon Crest... they all had great opening credits and main themes. So dramatic!

Tell us more about your childhood!

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I, too, loved Dynasty as a kid. Used to watch it and Hotel back-to-back every week. Great stuff. I'm only kinda-sorta into Empire. My wife is all in, so it's usually playing in the background while I'm doing some blogging stuff and I keep up with it that way. I did like the couple of episodes I actually watched and Taraji is all sorts of awesome.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWendell

My favorite part of the Howard Stern interview was when Madonna is asked about Warren Beatty and how Madonna was fascinated with Natalie Wood and Julie Christie, and how she would ask him about them over dinner. Who knew Madonna was an actressexual herself?

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCris

John Barrowman. The adult(ish) version of Jonathan Groff.

Barrowman is talented. I've seen him on stage a couple of times and I got hooked on Torchwood but I thought he was pretty weak in ZD30 and I don't watch Arrow anymore.

I really enjoy Empire. I didn't even realize that was Raven-Symoné.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

That little moment in Beetlejuice is one of the reasons why it's my favorite film by Tim Burton.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Frozen 2 is a complete minefield. If they go where a lot of the fans clearly want them to go (first openly gay major character in a kids film), hard conservatives and the Borgnines of the world will blast Disney, but the reverse will have them crucified by everyone from center-right to hard left. I don't envy those creative meetings.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

The Stern interview was great. The only things she didn't really answer was why her marriages failed and who the love of her life was. That's fair.

'Rebel Heart' is a great album, arguably the most experimental and ambitious of her career. 'Holy Water' might just be my favorite, although I also love Wash All Over Me (beautiful song about contemplating the end of her career) and Devil Pray. Really all the songs are great. The only questionable one in my view is S.E.X., but after hearing her talk about it in interviews, I see what she's trying to do and appreciate it more.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I just watched The Skinny with a pre-Empire Jussie Smollett last night. He really WAS adorable. Does this mean I should be watching Empire? It was the rap music element that kind of turned me off the premise.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

God, I love EMPIRE.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Nat: Who do you think would have looked best in hindsight? I'd say Rinko Kikuchi, honestly. Blanchett was a coaster cat fraud nom, Breslin was the same issue as Hudson and Barraza doesn't really have range.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

That girl cannot act

Says the man who supports the casting of Gabourey Sidibe.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I think Gabby's good on "Empire". The show admittedly doesn't give her much to do, but she really seems to get the tone of the show and her character. On shows or movies that straddle that line between camp and high drama, you frequently get actors who are either way too sedate or way too over-the-top and she seems to strike the right balance in her scenes.

I think the casting of Empire is pretty spot on. They all seem to be able to hold their own with Howard and Henson (who could chew up and spit out a forest before breakfast). I never feel anyone is holding back so to not over whelm the scene and yet no one is so over the top that it feels OTT. Props to Henson for keeping Cookie on a even keel. Some of the stuff Cookie does is pretty out there.

I dont' like rap either, but the music in this is good. Excellent balance of styles.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

How can you not LOVE 'Queen'
The interview is awesome. Best one in a while. Makes you really appreciate her even more.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Parsons

Volvagia -- the best performance nominated was Barazza but really they didn't do a good job with that category that year. Blanchett is one of the worst cases of fraud ever so I prefer not to think of that one.

TPKIA - i agree. Gabby doesn't have a lot of technique but she generally plays roles where style is more important than nuance or technique and she usually gets the tone right. Hudson is just hopeless. way too earnest and never remotely authentic no matter what line she's asked to deliver. Casting her as someone who is supposed to understand psychology and therapeutic terms is kinda like when they asked denise richards to play an astrophysicist or scientist that one time.

Dave -- there's some rap but lots of music styles. One of the sons is a rapper and the other is more R&B and then the guests stars are whatever - like Courtney Love doing rock and roll.

March 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel, is the issue with Cate Blanchett that she's bad in NOTES ON A SCANDAL (I think she's fantastic) or that she's in the wrong category? I mean, category fraud being what it is, she's just ahead of Bazzara for me.

Incidentally, I was then and still am baffled by Cate's category fraud always being discussed when Jennifer Hudson is right there not even supposed to be in the supporting category.Effie "I got the voice" White is so clearly the lead of Dreamgirls.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

I could probably get behind Meryl being supporting in The Devil Wears Prada, which makes me wish Meryl had just won supporting actress for that. Bam, Meryl has third Oscar for one of her best and most original roles and then Jennifer Hudson wouldn't be an Oscar winner. Truly crazy, lol. Meanwhile Eddie Murphy really deserved to win. Anyway... that would probably be category fraud anyway :p

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

BAD, Andrew K? BAD? It's one of her best leading performances and (like Dench) playing such an "unsympathetic" character.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I really need to start watching EMPIRE!!

I feel bad because she is such a nice person, but I have to agree on the bad acting from Jennifer Hudson. I thought she was great in DREAMGIRLS, and her centrepiece performance in that film is amazing, but her acting always leaves something to be desired. Everytime I see her in a movie or on a TV show I always think to myself "Bland, but she has such a good voice though!"

I've enjoyed all of her albums and really like her music!

March 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF "EMPIRE"! Taraji was absolutely brilliant in that first scene in this week's episode. Absolutely brilliant. Talk about an actress who knows how to tow the line in terms of style, tone, character fidelity, and nuance. She managed to make me laugh, had me rolling my eyes, and then broke my heart all within a matter of a few minutes without a single moment feeling inauthentic.

I don't think Jennifer Hudson is hopeless (and I still support her "Dreamgirls" win), but I do believe she needs the right kind of vehicle and director in order to give her the tools needed to maximize her limited ability. What's odd is that any time she sings she has so much more assurance and understanding of character than when simply speaking. It's such a fascinatingly weird disconnect.

In my opinion Cate Blanchett is terribly miscast in "Notes on a Scandal," as I personally never bought for a minute that Sheba as embodied by that actress would ever fall for Dench's manipulations. Ever. There should have been a frailty, a delicacy of mind and spirit, that I never got from Blanchett. She goes through all of the motions, but not many of them ring true.

March 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Nat: I'd kind of agree that, strictly in the moment, Barraza was the best. But, well: Bang Bang, Mako Mori, Kumiko. That's more what I'm talking about when I say "who would look best in hindsight."

March 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Faves: Living for Love, Ghost Town, Joan of Arc.

Still have to digest the just released second half of the album though...I think it would've been better served as a double album though, no? And why isn't Messiah an epic club banger? Way too mellow for such a title.

Rinko hands down for the win.

March 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

I'd argue that Hudson is still Supporting in "Dreamgirls"; Effie fades out of the movie for a bit after her big number. That being said, I would have been all for Emily Blunt being nominated for "Prada" and maybe even winning.

I haven't listened to the entire Madonna interview yet. It's interesting to see above comments describing her as guarded. I think Howard Stern is rather underrated as an interviewer, especially once he gets past all his tawdry sex questions.

March 13, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjakey

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