Pop Culture Perspective
Film. Television. Life.

Where Am I? New Site To Bookmark!

It is time to face the music and address the obvious. I've been neglecting this site for far too long, despite great intentions to post more frequently here after LOST ended. 

There are two major factors preventing me from posting here.

1. I tend to share quick thoughts about TV, film and music on Twitter every day
2. There are several steps involved to post an entry using this hosting service

Both factors have one thing in common: time. Or lack thereof. 

So I decided to start using Tumblr instead. Not only does it only involve one step, I can do so from my iPhone and iPad with incredible ease. Here is my new URL for you to bookmark if you'd like to continue following my pop culture perspective: http://jogarfein.tumblr.com

I am not sure at this point what I will do with this site, but it will remain up and active (as will my Lost blog). And yes, I will be podcasting again...but I need an editor/producer in order to continue. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

Thank you for your ongoing patience! I hope to hear from you on tumblr, Twitter, Facebook or email. 


Emmy Awards 2010: Who Should Win vs. Who Will Win

Every year I find it challenging to analyze Emmy nominations, because I tend to choose with my heart on my sleeve. If a character or show resonates with me on an emotional level, I place all hope firmly in their corner. 

Of course I am rooting for Lost to win in every category, but if I had to guess - Jack Bender will win for directing, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof will win for writing and Terry O'Quinn will take home the statue for Supporting Actor. However, I have a feeling that even the final season of Lost will be unable to topple the Mad Men juggernaut. 

Below I have designated and differentiated. Enjoy!

We'll find out Sunday night just how wrong I am! Who is your top choice in the major categories?

Must-See: The Big C (Series Debut Monday, 8/16)

Expect The Unexpected

The very first thing you need to know about
The Big C is that it is not a television series about cancer. Yes, The Big C refers to cancer, but the focus of the show is far more about how one woman reacts to her diagnosis than it is about the illness itself. The Big C is a dark comedy that will take you to surprising places with equal humor and poignancy. 

In Which My Praise For Laura Linney Knows No End

Laura Linney is perfectly cast as Cathy Jamison, a suburban school teacher who discovers that she has cancer. I have admired her work over the years, particularly in Tales of the City (1993), Primal Fear (1996), Absolute Power (1997), The Truman Show (1998), The House of Mirth (2000), You Can Count on Me (2000), The Life of David Gale (2003), Mystic River (2003), Love Actually (2003), Kinsey (2004) and Breach (2007). Although Linney received an Academy Award nomination for The Savages, I still feel as though she deserved an Oscar for You Can Count on Me. And if you did not see the HBO miniseries John Adams, add it to your queue immediately; Linney won an Emmy for her role as Abigail Adams and it was one of her finest performances to date. 

By the way, I highly recommend this this recent New York Times profile of and interview with Linney. 

Why The Big C Deserves a Season Pass

Because you will find some of Cathy Jamison's reactions to be quite reasonable, and others to be rather shocking. Because the supporting cast is quirky without being stereotypical or grating. Because you will find yourself wondering what changes you would make in your life under the same circumstances. Because Laura Linney is a familiar, comforting face that will accompany you into potentially unfamiliar territory; a phenomenal actress who radiates warmth and strength on screen. Because we now have the opportunity to spend a half hour a week with Linney and her unparalleled dimples. And because short house robes are bound to make Entertainment Weekly's sidebar column The Shaw Report as an "in" trend after an episode or two.  

Roll Credits

The Big C also stars Oliver Platt (Huff) as Jamison's husband, Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) as one of her students, John Benjamin Hickey (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) as her brother, Reid Scott (My Boys) as her doctor, Phyllis Somerville (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as her neighbor and newcomer Gabriel Basso as her son. Idris Elba (The Wire) also makes a guest appearance, and former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon joins the cast later on in the first season. 

Series creator/writer Darlene Hunt is also an actress and playwright; she recently appeared on Hung and Parks and Recreation. Executive producer/writer/showrunner Jenny Bicks previously wrote and produced Sex and the City and Men in Trees. Executive producer Neal H. Moritz is primarily known for film but he also produced Tru Calling and Prison Break

The pilot episode of The Big C was directed by Academy Award winning screenwriter Bill Condon (Gods & Monsters), and future episodes are lensed by a few of my favorite cable television directors, Craig Zisk (United States of Tara, Nip/Tuck, Nurse Jackie, Weeds) and Alan Poul (Six Feet Under). 

DVR Details

Linney's talent, the stellar cast and the subject matter, combined with the creative experience above, is exactly why you should tune in when The Big C debuts on Showtime next week (Monday, August 15 at 10:30pm ET) immediately following the season 6 debut of Weeds at 10pm ET.  You can also become a fan of the show on Facebook and follow series updates on Twitter
Of course if you don't want to wait until Monday, you can watch the entire first episode right now on Showtime!

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going & What I'm Watching: The Future of This Site

As many of you have noticed, I have not posted on this site in two months. Because I am a freelance entertainment writer, my work has been appearing elsewhere - primarily TVovermind and AOLtv. Moving forward, I will still be posting here, especially when analyzing a film or a television series that I am not also covering on another site. And of course my archived articles will remain available here, including my very first batch of Lost posts from several years ago. 

Now that Lost has ended its six season run, I have no plans to start another site or focus that much time on one particular series. Although I will be starting Battlestar Galactica from the beginning later this week, I will not be writing about it other than reactionary tweets.

The new slate of Fall 2010 shows looks promising, and I will be posting a list of recommendations and trailers soon. In the meantime, please let me know which current or new shows you'd like me to cover! 

Here is an updated list of shows that I already watch, although I admit to being a season behind on a few:
  1. 30 Rock
  2. Bones
  3. Breaking Bad
  4. Brothers & Sisters
  5. Burn Notice
  6. Chuck
  7. Community
  8. Cougar Town
  9. Desperate Housewives
  10. Dexter
  11. Entourage
  12. Friday Night Lights
  13. Fringe
  14. Glee
  15. The Good Wife
  16. Grey's Anatomy
  17. House
  18. Hung
  19. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  20. Justified
  21. Mad Men
  22. Medium
  23. Modern Family
  24. Nurse Jackie
  25. The Office
  26. Parenthood
  27. Parks & Recreation
  28. Private Practice
  29. Rescue Me
  30. Survivor
  31. Top Chef
  32. Treme
  33. True Blood
  34. United States of Tara
  35. V
  36. Weeds
I appreciate your patience and promise to keep you posted about where to find me and my perspective about the television landscape. If you're not doing so already, I would love for you to follow me on Twitter and friend me on Facebook.

- Jo

Nurse Jackie & United States of Tara: Spoiler-Free Second Season Previews


Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara return for their sophomore seasons on Monday night, March 22. While I did not find that either show needed to improve upon their very impressive debut seasons, I am pleasantly surprised by the slight changes and shifts that both series' have implemented. 


In the first few episodes of Season 2, there are a few revelations on Nurse Jackie involving Jackie's relationships with both her pharmacist boy toy Eddie (Paul Schulze) and her BFF, Dr. O'Hara (delicious & devilish scene-stealer Eve Best). 


Edie Falco is delivering an Emmy-worthy performance; her ability to transform and transition Jackie from infuriatingly immoral in one scene to commendably compassionate in the next is unparalleled. I enjoy her scenes with Akalitus (the great Anna Deavere Smith) more than any other character, especially in Season 2 thus far.

I have also grown rather fond of the fabulous Merritt Wever as Jackie's fumbling, earnest sidekick Zoey, who amuses me to no end with her facial expressions and body language. Wever has a talent for subtle physical comedy, and this role appears to have been tailor-made for her.

Twilight fans simply seeking a weekly Cullen fix will be pleased to discover an entirely different side of Peter Facinelli. Unlike the strong women who surround and overwhelm him at the hospital, Dr. Cooper is a vulnerable and sensitive soul who cares what people think about him. His ideals will be tested early on in Season 2, and his inappropriate quirks come into play during a fantastic guest appearance by Barbara Barrie. 


On more than a few occasions just a few episodes into Season 2 of United States of Tara, my eyebrows were raised and my jaw was ajar. Toni Collette, who won the Emmy last year for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, remains on par with Edie Falco in that category. Her range is extraordinary, and that has never been more clear than right now; Tara delves deep into less familiar and uncomfortable territory this season, and Collette handles it beautifully and with ease.


The dynamic and dysfunction of the Gregson family is equally compelling and entertaining, and their interaction is one of my favorite aspects of the show. Disconcerting changes are in store for Tara, which obviously affects everyone in her life. I, for one, am looking forward to just how far her husband Max (John Corbett) will be pushed to and perhaps over the edge this season by her actions and personalities.

United States of Tara features a particularly strong supporting cast, including two of the most well-written teenagers on television. Siblings Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) and Kate (Brie Larson) face their own set of realistic challenges in Season 2, as does Tara's self-centered sister Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt). 

Even if you have not watched the first seasons of either show, I highly recommend that you tune in tomorrow night and set your DVRs with season passes for both Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara. These are two examples of original programming at their best, with stellar scripts, casts and surprises that will keep you laughing and intrigued from week to week.

Fringe & V Set Visits: Questions for the Casts?

I am heading to Vancouver to visit the set of V on Monday and Fringe on Wednesday, and will have the opportunity to interview members of each cast. 

If you'd like to follow along, all of my spoiler-free coverage will be on TVovermind (and of course I will be tweeting frequently). Please feel free to leave any questions you might have for specific characters in the Comments below!

Quick Oscar Picks for 3/7/10


File under: better late than never.

Here are my quick picks in the major Academy Award categories for the best of 2009. In years past, I have struggled between choosing those I want to win and those who I think will win. This time, my selections are based on personal favorites in each category (following my heart & not my instinct).

Disclaimer: Before you jump all over me for picking a few dark horses, please note that I have not yet seen all of the nominated films and performances (including The Blind Side, Crazy Heart, Invictus and Precious).

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

James Cameron
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Lee Daniels
Jason Reitman
Quentin Tarantino

District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
The Messenger
A Serious Man

Sandra Bullock
Helen Mirren
Carey Mulligan
Gabourey Sidibe
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)



Penelope Cruz
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Anna Kendrick

Jeff Bridges
George Clooney
Colin Firth
Morgan Freeman
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

Matt Damon
Woody Harrelson
Christopher Plummer
Stanley Tucci
Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds

District 9
Star Trek

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up (Michael Giacchino)

Crazy Heart ("The Weary Kind")
Paris 36
The Princess and the Frog

To be honest, the most difficult to choose was Cinematography; I've seen 4 out of the 5 nominees, all of which were filmed beautifully.

And although I will finally be seeing A Single Man tonight...to me there have only been two absolutely stunning performances in the Actor categories: Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker and Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.

Depending on how much champagne is served on Sunday afternoon, I may do a live blog of the Oscar red carpet and ceremony.

So what are YOUR picks for the best of the best in film last year?

The Return of SouthLAnd: Season 2 Preview

I had the opportunity to watch a 15 minute preview of the premiere episode from the second season of SouthLAnd, which returns on Tuesday (March 2). I was a huge fan of the show during its initial run, and am anticipating an even better series now that TNT has rescued it from the clutches of NBC.

There are three reasons that I love SouthLAnd: ensemble cast, pace and cinematography. While the first season focused more on the stories weaving throughout and connecting the large cast, the second season seems to have streamlined that concept; I am totally on board with the more dedicated spotlight on specific characters. Get acquainted with Lydia Adams (Regina King),  John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) now.

'Gritty' is an oft-used adjective to describe SouthLAnd, but I prefer bold and unflinching. Shot in fast-paced documentary style, the series takes an up close and personal approach to the world of crime in Los Angeles, as seen through the eyes of LAPD police officers and detectives. 

If you'd like to catch up, TNT is streaming the 
first season online now for free, and take a look behind the scenes

The Crazies: New Film & Comic Book Giveaway

The new film The Crazies debuts tomorrow in theaters, and I have a giveaway to accompany the release!

The movie, which is a reinvention of the George Romero horror classic, stars Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) and Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill) as a couple in a small Midwestern town who find themselves battling to survive when their friends and families descend into madness.

For your chance to win this limited edition set of 4 Crazies comic books, simply leave a comment below with your name and email address by March 3!

Hi Again: A Very Random Pop Culture Update

I owe you an apology, again. Every intention of updating this site on a much more frequent basis has fallen victim to time, travel and Lost over the last several weeks. But this site is my real baby; my original blog of almost 5 years, and what will continue to be home base once Lost ends forever in May. 

Because I have been negligent for far too long, I thought I would briefly address what has been going on in my pop culture world and provide appropriate links if you're interested in additional details. 
  • I just returned from a weekend in Buenos Aires and week in Santiago, Chile (visiting family; see video at bottom of post). To escape thunderstorms one afternoon, we went to see An Education. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, particularly the performance of Carey Mulligan. While I believe that she completely deserves her Best Actress nod, I don't think that she stands a chance against Meryl and Sandra this year. And to be honest, I do not agree with the film's inclusion as a Best Picture nominee. But don't get me started about the fact there are now 10 in that category...

  • While on the red carpet, I had the opportunity to interview Michael Emerson's wife, actress Carrie Preston. Stay tuned for audio from that conversation, as we discuss her role as Arlene in the third season of True Blood!
  • I am currently hosting a Haiti relief fundraiser on my Lost site, giving away memorabilia to those who donate $10 or more to Partners in Health (in conjunction with Mo Ryan from the Chicago Tribune, who is also auctioning off various TV items for the cause via eBay). 
  • In anticipation of new episodes of the stellar series Southland (beginning March 2 on its new network: TNT), here is a look behind the scenes of the show. I will be receiving a screener shortly and plan to preview it here for you before it airs. 

  • To celebrate the new movie The Crazies, a reinvention of the George Romero horror classic starring Timothy Olyphant (opening on February 26 in theaters), I will be giving away a set of limited-edition The Crazies comic books very soon!
  • One of my favorite new shows of the last several years, Nurse Jackie, returns for a second season on March 22. Here is the trailer. Jump on board; I guarantee you won't regret it. Twilight fans, you will love Peter Facinelli in this series - check out Dr. Coop's Video Diary.

  • And here is your first look at the sophomore season of my other favorite new show in recent memory, United States of Tara. Joey Lauren Adams joins the cast, and the series also returns on March 22.
Thank you for your patience, whether you are fairly new to this site or have been visiting for several years. I look forward to hearing from YOU; feel free to leave comments and/or feedback below!

Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Season 3: Preview & DVD Giveaway!

Fans and new viewers alike, set your DVRs - the Showtime series Secret Diary of a Call Girl returns in just a few short weeks; Season 3 debuts on February 1 at 10pm ET/PT. 

I recommend that you also tune in on Monday, January 25 at 10pm ET/PT because Showtime will be airing an exclusive interview with actress Billie Piper and the recently revealed real Belle du Jour (Dr. Brooke Magnanti)!

Click here to take a look behind the scenes of the new season.

To celebrate the return of this entertaining and provocative show, I am giving away the following:
  • Season 1 DVD
  • Season 2 DVD 
  • Official Secret Diary of a Call Girl book (written by the real Belle du Jour)
  • A "Secret Diary" diary
To enter for a chance to win one of the items above, simply leave a comment with your name and email address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. only, and will run until Tuesday, February 2. Good luck, and thank you in advance for entering!

Winter 2010 TV Schedule: Mine & Yours

I will be the first to admit that I dropped the ball and failed to produce an updated spreadsheet of television shows, as I did in the Fall. Apologies.

As an alternative, I highly recommend this extensive Winter2010 Grid from a fantastic TV source, TheFutonCritic.com. 

In case you're interested, here is my rather ridiculous schedule through May (viewing split between TiVO and online):

Human Target (FOX, 8pm) new series, debuts 1/17
Brothers & Sisters (ABC, 10pm)

House (FOX, 8pm)
Parenthood (NBC, 8pm) new series, debuts 3/1
Chuck (NBC, 9pm) 
Life Unexpected (CW, 9pm) new series, debuts 1/18
Damages (FX, 10pm) returns 1/25

The Biggest Loser (NBC, 8pm)
LOST (ABC, 9pm) returns 2/2
Southland (TNT, 10pm) new network, returns 1/12 [tomorrow!]
Nurse Jackie (SHO, 10pm) returns 3/22
United States of Tara (SHO, 10:30pm) returns 3/22

Modern Family (ABC, 9pm)
Cougar Town (ABC, 9:30pm)
Nip/Tuck (FX, 10pm)
V (ABC, 10pm) returns 3/30

Bones (FOX, 8pm) returns 1/14
Community (NBC, 8pm) returns 1/14
FlashForward (ABC, 8pm) returns 3/4
Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (CBS, 8pm) returns 2/11
Parks and Recreation (NBC, 8:30pm) returns 1/14
30 Rock (NBC, 9pm) returns 1/14
The Office (NBC, 9pm) returns 1/20
Fringe (FOX, 9pm) returns 1/14
Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 10pm) returns 1/14
Private Practice (ABC, 10pm) returns 1/14
Project Runway (Lifetime, 10pm) returns 1/14
Burn Notice (USA, 10pm) returns 1/14

Dollhouse (FOX, 9pm)
Medium (CBS, 9pm) 

I am also looking forward to the return of Friday Night Lights and the new series Justified on FX, but premiere dates for both have not been announced (I do not have DirecTV, so I have yet to see this season of FNL).

Yes, this is overly ambitious, especially given that I will be writing extensively about the final season of Lost from now through the end of May. I usually manage to find the time to catch up with the rest of my favorite shows, but I have a feeling that my TiVO will be full for summer viewing this year.

As you can see, Thursday night is very, very crowded. Note to the networks: some of us crave quality programming on other nights of the week as well. Special memo to NBC: now that you're canning Leno at 10pm every night, my hope is that you offer unique shows like Kings or Life again...only this time, don't move them around the schedule and please have more patience as buzz builds. 
Happy viewing!

TV 2009: Top 20 Shows & Network Analysis

As promised, yet another list!

At some point I will take a look back at the best television programs from the last ten years, but right now I am focusing on my favorite series' of 2009. Similar to the caveat that I placed on my list of Favorite Films of the 2000's, please note that these are not necessarily the most critically acclaimed or award-winning shows; the scripts, casts and production of these programs speak to me, week after week.
  1. Community (NBC)
  2. Damages (FX)
  3. Dexter (SHO)
  4. Dollhouse (FOX)
  5. FlashForward (ABC)
  6. Fringe (FOX)
  7. Glee (FOX)
  8. The Good Wife (CBS)
  9. House (FOX)
  10. Lost (ABC)
  11. Mad Men (AMC)
  12. Medium (CBS)
  13. Modern Family (ABC)
  14. Nurse Jackie (SHO)
  15. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  16. Rescue Me (FX)
  17. Top Chef (BRAVO)
  18. True Blood (HBO)
  19. United States of Tara (SHO)
  20. V (ABC)
I am very encouraged on many levels. First of all, I am unable to recall a more successful year in recent television history for new series debuts; 9 out of the 20 are new shows! I also love that 8 out of the 20 shows above are on cable (basic or pay). Let's face it, they have more freedom to take risks. With the exception of Lost, I found that most of the original, riveting and thought-provoking content this year to be on Showtime, FX and AMC.  

Oh, and the joy of laughter is back. Thanks to shows like CommunityGlee, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family, cackling, chuckling and cracking up have returned to our living room (and hopefully yours)...at least on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  


This is the very first time that a CBS series has ever made my annual list of favorites. To me, Medium has improved since CBS made the excellent decision to pick up the show after NBC dropped it from their primetime lineup. And if you're not already watching The Good Wife, I highly recommend it. Crime/law procedurals are not traditionally my cup of tea, but Julianna Margulies has finally landed the perfect fit, in a role that is Emmy-worthy.


I applaud both FOX and ABC for embracing and having faith in the sci-fi/supernatural genre. Of course FOX does not have the best reputation when it comes to this type of program; it is very disappointing that Dollhouse has been canceled, and I am hoping that more will jump on the Fringe bandwagon because it has improved tremendously in the second season. I long for the good old days when a series like The X-Files survived and endured, despite being moved around in the schedule and landing on Friday nights (which is no longer necessarily a dead zone).


One of the more obvious winners in my book is ABC. Although they are not quite on par with the quality and consistency of Lost, ABC took a leap of faith by offering up both FlashForward and V in the same year. In addition, they gifted us Modern Family - the most refreshing and brilliantly funny series since Arrested Development.


Showtime is THE network to beat, in my opinion. Not since the days of Deadwood, Sex & the City, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos has a cable network dominated with such unique, high quality programming. I am still waiting for HBO to offer up a slate of daring, stellar and provocative shows again. In the meantime, only True Blood has earned a season pass on our TiVO. Dexter speaks for itself - disturbing and phenomenal every single season. But Toni Collette in The United States of Tara and Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie are simply extraordinary. Clearly two of the finest actresses on television today, they anchor their shows with a vulnerable confidence rivaled only by Glenn Close on Damages.

As icing on an already amazing cake, Showtime has landed Laura Linney (one of my favorite actresses of all time) for a new series in 2010 called The C-Word. The show, a dark comedy about cancer, co-stars Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Oliver Platt. Linney reunites with Kinsey director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters), who is behind the lens for the pilot.


To be very frank, if it were not for 30 Rock, the resurgence of Parks and Recreation and the debut of Community, I would probably boycott and/or avoid NBC entirely. I will never understand their egregious, premature decision to cancel Kings, Life and Southland (not to mention my guilty pleasure show Lipstick Jungle), especially when the network chose to fill those prime 10pm slots every night with Jay Leno. I am thrilled that TNT rescued Southland from NBC's discard pile - I will be tuning in every week when it returns on January 12.


In general, I do not love the reality television genre. As someone who is far more interested in the creative team of a particular show than the pretty faces in front of the camera, I prefer to support a smart series with an actual writer's room. That being said, I do enjoy competition-based shows like The Amazing Race, The Biggest Loser, Project Runway and Survivor. This is the first year that a reality show made my list, and that is because the last season of Top Chef featured some of the most talented contestants on any reality series that I've ever seen. 

They're Every Woman

Defense Attorney Patty Hewes. Detective Debra Morgan. Coach Sue Sylvester. Special Agent Olivia Dunham. Copywriter Peggy Olson. Nurse Jackie Peyton. Deputy Director of Parks & Recreation Leslie Knope. FBI Counter Terrorism Agent Erica Evans. And an undercover kick-ass specialist named Echo. These women are all forces to be reckoned with, equally flawed and fabulous. If 2009 was any indication, it seems as if the 2000-teens (what the hell else are we going to call the next decade?) may feature more shows highlighting powerful, compelling women. I applaud and approve.

It is safe to say that I have great enthusiasm for what the next ten years of television has to offer. My hope is that the major networks exercise more patience, listen to and trust fan feedback (to a point), take risks with genre and continue to present unconventional programming. 

As always, I would love your feedback. Which shows topped your list this year and why?

Happy New Year!


Favorite Films of the 2000's

I know - you love lists too. Pile this one on the myriad others that are appearing as we approach the end of the first ten years of the 2000's. Yes, ten years (1: 2000, 2: 2001, 3: 2002, 4: 2003, 5: 2004, 6: 2005, 7: 2006, 8: 2007, 9: 2008, 10: 2009). I only point this out because I've seen arguments about the math on Twitter. Seriously. 

Over the holidays, I tried to determine my favorite films from the last decade, and finally narrowed the list down to 30. These are NOT necessarily the most critically acclaimed or award-winning movies; they are merely films that have touched and/or spoken to me and continue to do so after multiple viewings. 

Alphabetically, of course:
  1. Adaptation (2002)
  2. Best in Show (2000)
  3. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  4. Closer (2004)
  5. The Dark Knight (2008)
  6. The Departed (2006)
  7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  8. Far From Heaven (2002)
  9. Garden State (2004)
  10. Gosford Park (2001)
  11. High Fidelity (2000)
  12. The Hours (2002)
  13. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  14. Juno (2007)
  15. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
  16. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  17. Memento (2000)
  18. Milk (2008)
  19. Minority Report (2002)
  20. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  21. Moulin Rouge (2001)
  22. Mystic River (2003)
  23. Sideways (2004)
  24. Star Trek (2009)
  25. Thank You For Smoking (2005)
  26. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  27. Traffic (2000)
  28. V For Vendetta (2005)
  29. Wall*E (2008)
  30. Wonder Boys (2000)
There are four films that barely missed the cut and are honorable mentions to the list: Casino Royale (2006), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Stranger Than Fiction (2006).

After I compiled this list, I took a more analytical glance. It is fascinating that more than half of my favorite films debuted in the first half of the decade. Clear favorites emerge, from directors (Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantin & Jason Reitman) to actors (Heath Ledger, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Sean Penn, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep). And as for genres, I certainly love sci-fi/fantasy just as much as the independent spirits. 

But enough from me. I really want to see which films YOU loved from the last ten years. Feel free to list them out in a comment below!

And stay tuned for my list of Favorite Television Shows of 2009, which will be posted later this week. 

The Runaways: 2010 Film Release (Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning)

Twilight and Joan Jett fans alike should mark their calendars for March 19, 2010. Apparition and River Road Entertainment will debut The Runaways at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and then the film opens wide two months later. 

Directed by video visionary Floria Sigismondi (The White Stripes, David Bowie, Christina Aguilera) and starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and recent Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road), The Runaways explores the groundbreaking, all-female teenage band from the 1970's fronted by rock icon Joan Jett. 

I am totally on board with and excited for this movie, primarily because of Jett's story; that she is one of the executive producers on the film is a huge bonus and guarantees authenticity.

Boondock Saints II: An Interview with Clifton Collins Jr

I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with the very talented and gracious Clifton Collins Jr. recently, as I am a huge fan of his work in both independent and larger scale films.  He is currently starring in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which opens in wider release this week!

The Boondock Saints debuted in 1999 and garnered an enormous cult following on DVD. Ten years later, writer/director Troy Duffy reunited almost all of the original cast for quite an intense and entertaining sequel. Duffy added Collins and Julie Benz (Dexter) into the mix for the second round, both of whom brought a necessary infusion of levity to the film. 

Jo: I recently watched you and Troy Duffy co-host a segment on Current TV, and it is obvious that the two of you share a great rapport and history. Did he write the role of Romeo in Boondock Saints II specifically for you? What was your experience working on this film?

CCJ:  Troy is incredibly loyal. He did write it for me, and in fact he had to take out some of the jokes that were between us in real life. The whole movie is full of inside jokes, and it was like a family event. I like to rehearse, but Troy is a rogue spirit; he knows what he wants, so you get it and move on. 

Collins and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams have been friends for some time now, and Abrams actually wrote a role for Collins on Alias after seeing him in Traffic

Jo: What was it like to be a part of the incredibly successful, revamped Star Trek franchise?

CCJ: It was awesome. When J.J. called and offered me the role, I asked...what the f*ck is a Romulan? He described the role as a space pirate. A good chunk of the cast were not Trekkies at the time. But I realized the grandeur of it all on the set, and it was an honor to work with icons like Leonard Nimoy. The features on the Blu-ray are so beautiful - they will make you cry. 

Emmy nominated for the mini-series Thief, Collins is a gifted actor and chameleon; he has the unique ability to physically transform from role to role. From an enthusiastic, mulleted murderer in Boondock Saints II to a tattooed, bald headed Romulan in Star Trek, to a gay hit man in Traffic, his range is impressive. In my opinion, his portrayal of haunted serial killer Perry Smith in Capote was sensational and worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination. 

Jo: Which role has been the most challenging, in terms of diving into a character entirely?

CCJ: Psychologically, it was Capote. I had to live with Smith every day. I went really, really deep and had a few breakdowns during that one. And for Rampage: The Hillside Strangler, I read biographies (about serial killer Kenneth Bianchi), which made me nauseous and sick; I was mentally twisted.

Jo: You've played such diverse characters in each of your films. What type of research do you undertake for each role?

CCJ: For Sunshine Cleaning, I talked to a physical therapist about what someone goes through as an amputee. They filmed me two ways; one with my arm held out wearing a green sleeve, and the other with my arm tied tightly behind my back...which was excruciating but I didn't let it show on screen. I actually had the most fun with hair and wardrobe on this film. Having Emily Blunt and Amy Adams on either side was quite a reward as well. 

Jo: Your career thus far has been a great balance of both comedic and dramatic roles. Do you prefer one over the other?

CCJ: It depends, and it is case by case. It's great to mix it up, and both have rewards. I love getting dramatic and also laughing it up. 

Jo: You've had the opportunity to work with some incredible actors. Which co-stars have inspired you?

CCJ: I've been really blessed. Samuel L. Jackson taught me so much on 187. He has been a father figure and mentor to me. He helped get my grandfather (Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, a frequent co-star of John Wayne's) a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. John Wayne had even tried to help make that happen, and it finally did last year.  

Collins revealed some very interesting tidbits from behind the scenes on some of his films. For example, he auditioned for and really wanted the role of Francisco Flores in Traffic, but the producers had another character in mind for him. John Leguizamo was tapped to play Flores, but had to give it up when Moulin Rouge filming overlapped. Thus, Collins took over and delivered a scene-stealing performance that is easily my favorite of his career thus far. 

His talent and interests expand beyond film and television. Collins recently directed the music videos "Betty Jean" for The Soul of John Black and "The High Cost of Living" for Jamey Johnson

addition to Boondock Saints II, Collins is in the upcoming film Brothers with Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. Catch him in the Mike Judge comedy Extract when it is released on DVD & Blu-ray next month; click here to see Collins preview which appendage his character parts with. And don't forget to tune into Southland when it returns on its new network (TNT) on January 12, because Collins has just been cast as Regina King's new partner. 

You've heard the term 'actor's actor' used many times before, but I truly believe that Clifton Collins Jr. fits that description. He is humble, hilarious and appreciative; this is a man who respects his craft. I would like to thank him for taking the time to speak with me about Boondock Saints II and his career, and for being one of the most polite, entertaining people I've ever had the pleasure of interviewing. 

The Blu-ray Way

I am sitting on the precipice of an exciting upgrade. In a few short weeks, we will be abandoning our standard DVD player for Blu-ray. Although we own several hundred DVDs, I look forward to adding newer releases to my collection in Blu-ray!  I was a bit concerned but inquired on Twitter, and apparently when you play standard DVDs on a Blu-ray player, they "upconvert" and play at a higher resolution. 

I am encouraged by programs like DVD 2 BLU, which Warner Brothers just unveiled. They are offering consumers the opportunity to upgrade Warner Brothers films on DVD to Blu-ray for a very reasonable fee. This is merely a glimpse of the future of home entertainment, and as a pop culture sponge, it is about time that I hopped on the bandwagon. 

To me, the only real downfall at this point is that I am unable to play a Blu-ray disc on my Mac. I re-watch a great deal of TV on DVD on my laptop, but will not be able to do so with Season 5 of Lost (which I pre-ordered on Blu-ray; it will be released on 12/8/09).  Of course I am hoping that by the time a 6-season Lost box set comes out in the next year or two...Apple will have joined the Blu-ray party.

I have no plans to replace every single DVD on my shelf, but the following films on Blu-ray certainly top my holiday wish list:
  • The Dark Knight
  • Gattaca
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • The Matrix trilogy
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • V for Vendetta
Which movies do you highly recommend on Blu-ray? 

North By Northwest

One of AFI's Top 100 films of all time, North By Northwest is a more than a classic. It was the fourth and final time that Cary Grant collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock, and is easily the most beloved action suspense movie of his impressive oeuvre. 

Watching the 50th Anniversary Edition of newly remastered and restored North By Northwest, which was just released last week on DVD and Blu-ray, I am reminded that they simply do not make films today of that caliber. From the pace to the iconic cinematography (the train, crop plane and Mount Rushmore scenes in particular), this is a beautifully crafted piece of cinematic history. 

I highly recommend that you pick up a copy for yourself or as a holiday gift for a fellow film fan. In addition to screenwriter commentary, there are over 3 hours of special features including two new documentaries, The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style and North By Northwest: One for the Ages.

As an ad man who stumbles into a spy vs. spy world in North By Northwest, Cary Grant has George Clooney's looks and charm, combined with Don Draper's style (Mad Men). Co-starring Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront) and James Mason (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), this is a can't-miss thriller. 

Enter to Win! Passes to Advanced Screenings of Clooney's "The Men Who Stare at Goats"

If you live in Northern California, here is your chance to win passes to a screening of the new dark comedy, The Men Who Stare at Goats

Next Thursday (11/5/09), there will be advance screenings of the film in the following cities: San Francisco, Sacramento, Cupertino and Fresno. The contest begins tomorrow and ends on Wednesday at noon!

Simply text the word JOPINIONATED and your zip code to 43549 for your chance to win 2 passes! Ten winners per screening will be chosen, and they will be notified via text message. 

In addition to George Clooney, The Men Who Stare at Goats features Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey. Inspired by Jon Ronson's non-fiction bestseller, the movie is directed by Grant Heslov (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Good Night, and Good Luck). 

Text away, and thanks for entering!

FlashingForward: My New Site

I never officially announced it here, but it was brought to my attention that I've failed to even provide a link in the sidebar. Doh! 

In addition to my Lost site, I recently created one called FlashingForward; it is a spoiler-free, theory-specific site dedicated to the new ABC series FlashForward.

You may have noticed that I have been posting less frequently here. In addition to a very time-consuming Lost Rewatch project and the new FlashForward site, I spend most of my spare time catching up on the many shows I watch per week. I have no intention of abandoning  you or this site, and hope to include more film and DVD reviews soon, as well as analysis of our favorite new series'.

See you soon!