Every entertainment blog in the universe appears to be following and reviewing the phenomenon known as Snakes on a Plane. Have I seen it? No. Will I? Yes. Though this type of film does not usually fall under the ‘my cup of tea’ category, I will make a point of seeing it in the theater. Why? Because my friend Joey was the Visual Effects Editor of Snakes on a Plane (or SOap, as fans are referring to it). He was also the Assistant Visual Effects Editor of the last two Matrix films and Constantine, to give you an idea of his talent. So this is my shout-out to Joey, who finished rendering snakes just in time to get married last month. Congrats for both accomplishments, my friend. Regardless of the box office, you were part of something special in the pop culture realm. I hope your honeymoon was somewhere very far from slithering creatures.

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This year’s Oscar-caliber films have finally arrived. My predictions for early Academy Award contenders are listed below, in addition to other releases I eagerly await.


Official JOpinionated Caveats:

1. Some of the films on my list feature a few of my least favorite actors (i.e. Ben Affleck, Cameron Diaz, Josh Hartnett, Gwyneth Paltrow), but I will ignore them all with ease and joy, focusing instead on their brilliant co-stars and the films at hand.


2. It pains me to admit that two of my selections were written by the man who is responsible for the worst Best Picture in Oscar history (Paul Haggis; Crash), but I remember how fantastic his script for Million Dollar Baby was, so I will keep that in (an open) mind.  





Political drama; Loosely based on Gov. Huey Long

Cast: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson

Director/Screenwriter: Steve Zaillian (A Civil Action, Searching for Bobby Fischer)




Drama/Tragedy; Four stories in four countries

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Gael Garcia Bernal

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros)

Screenwriter: Guillermo Arriaga (21 Grams, Amores Perros)



Crime Drama/Thriller; Boston police v. Irish mafia

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg

Director: Martin Scorsese

Screenwriter: William Monahan (Kingdom of Heaven)



Action/History/War; The six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima

Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Barry Pepper

Director: Clint Eastwood

Screenwriter: Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby)



Biography/Drama; The infamous young Queen of France

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis {LOVE her!}

Director/Screenwriter: Sophia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides)



Drama/Thriller; Two magicians, intense rivals – it looks much better than it sounds!

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson

Director/Screenwriter: Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento)





Drama/Romance/Sci-Fi; Three parallel stories, from 16th through 26th centuries

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn

Director/Screenwriter: Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi)

[* Pop culture aside: Director Aronofsky and Weisz are now engaged and have a baby]





Drama/Musical; Adaptation of hit Broadway play

Cast: Beyonce, Jaime Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson

Director/Screenwriter: Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods & Monsters)

[* Pop culture aside: Hudson was a Season 3 American Idol finalist]



Drama/Romance/Thriller: Journalist in post-WWII Berlin

Cast: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire

Director: Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich)

Screenwriter: Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show, Donnie Brasco)



Drama/Romance/Thriller: History and suspicion of the CIA

Cast: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Director: Robert De Niro (A Bronx Tale)

Screenwriter: Eric Roth (Munich, Ali, The Insider)


Other films on my must-see list this year:





Crime Drama/Thriller; James Ellroy novel about unsolved murder

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank

Director: Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible, Scarface)

Screenwriter: Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds)

[* Pop culture aside: Hartnett and Johansson are now dating]



Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller; Glimpse into a future world without children

Cast: Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Michael Caine

Director/Screenwriter: Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)



Drama/Mystery/Thriller; The mysterious death of TV Superman George Reeves

Cast: Diane Lane, Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck, Bob Hoskins

Director: Allen Coulter (Sex & the City, The Sopranos)

Screenwriter: Paul Bernbaum



Biography/Drama; The OTHER movie about Truman Capote

Cast: Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig (the new Bond), Peter Bogdanovich, Jeff Daniels, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini

Director/Screenwriter: Douglas McGrath (Emma)

[* Pop culture aside: British actor Jones played Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Smee in Finding Neverland]



Comedy/Drama; Friends in their 30’s begin to second-guess their lives & decisions, as do their parents

Cast: Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson

Director: Tony Goldwyn (A Walk on the Moon, Someone Like You)

Screenwriter: Paul Haggis (Flags of Our Fathers, Crash, Million Dollar Baby)

[* Pop culture aside: Director Goldwyn played the slimeball friend who betrayed Demi and Swayze in Ghost]





Comedy/Drama; memoirs of a quirky, dysfunctional childhood

Cast: Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alec Baldwin, Evan Rachel Wood, Joseph Fiennes, Brian Cox

Director/Screenwriter: Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck)





Comedy; Actors reacting to awards buzz

Cast: Christopher Guest & his usual cast, plus Ricky Gervais (The Office on BBC) and John Krasinski (The Office on NBC)

Director/Screenwriter with Eugene Levy: Christopher Guest (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind)



Comedy/Drama/Romance; Man hears woman narrating his life, in his head – again, it looks so much better than it sounds!

Cast: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah

Director: Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball)

Screenwriter: Zach Helm



Comedy/Drama; A mother returns as a ghost to fix her daughter’s life

Cast: Penelope Cruz

Director/Screenwriter: Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her, All About My Mother)





Comedy/Romance; Two women from different countries swap homes, lives

Cast: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black

Director/Screenwriter: Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want)

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Given the choice these days, I often download individual songs on iTunes rather than purchasing entire CDs because most of the time there are only a few tracks I like per album (yes, I said album; I’m oldschool on occasion). But every once in a while I am compelled to purchase actual CDs, and here are two I can’t wait to buy:

THE LAST KISS Soundtrack
Anyone who knows me or reads this Blog is keenly aware of my feelings for all things Zach Braff, and this one looks and sounds like my beloved Garden State.

BACK TO BASICS – Christina Aguilera
“Ain’t No Other Man” is easily my favorite song of the year.

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Let’s pretend for a moment that I had clout. Not fame or prestige, but just the right amount of influence and a few thousand blog subscribers (as opposed to the four I have now). Let’s also imagine that I had connections, in either the media or the music industry.


I would love to be Zach Braff for one afternoon in a recording studio, compiling a soundtrack for one of my movies that consists primarily of music by my friends who happen to be very talented but lesser known artists. Or director Paul Thomas Anderson, who opted to use his friend Aimee Mann’s songs as a beautiful accompaniment to the narrative throughout his entire movie (Magnolia).


If I had an ounce of the power like those in the industry above, I would totally promote the hell out of my extremely creative and talented friend Matt Nathanson, who has been writing and performing music for 15 years. He writes all of his songs, has a huge fan base (eighteen thousand MySpace friends to date!), is disgustingly charismatic, and has remained true to who he is and those around him every step of the way. It is both outrageous and frustrating that he has not achieved the kind of artistic success that other creatively inferior male pop artists are currently wallowing in and cluttering our airwaves with.


Go to his website and read his hilarious journal or visit his MySpace page. You must see him live to truly appreciate the personality and the man behind the music (for a taste of what I’m talking about, pick up his latest live album, At the Point, in stores, on iTunes and Amazon). He is not your prototypical rock star; he doesn’t drink or smoke. His only vices are a potty mouth and dirty mind, which you’d think would influence his music. On the contrary, his songs comprise some of the most beautiful, intelligent, and surprisingly sweet lyrics you’ll hear, especially among his contemporaries in the oversaturated male singer-songwriter market.


Matt just finished a summer tour opening for Pink, has opened for both Tori Amos and Shawn Colvin, and is about to tour with Toad the Wet Sprocket. He will also be playing Austin City Limits next month, and his new CD should be dropping next year. I was fortunate enough to listen to a few raw tracks recorded at the studio with his full band recently, and there are at least two hit singles on this new album. Trust me when I tell you that the songs “Come on Get Higher” and “Car Crash” are catchy as hell, and the two that you should download first on iTunes when they debut in 2007.


You might have heard his remake of the James’ song “Laid” on the radio, from the American Wedding soundtrack, and some of his other songs on Dawson’s Creek, Road Rules and Smallville.


If you’re not familiar with him now, you will be. Give him a try, and keep your ears open for his name, his music and his face, on stages, in stores and in the media soon and for a very long time to come. I look forward to the day when he crosses into that next level of recognition and critical acclaim, and I have a strong feeling that the wait won’t be long. 


I’ve known Matt for fifteen years now, and I realize that my heaps of praise for him may be misconstrued as pure drivel from a totally biased perspective. But if you had a very good friend under the same circumstances (exceedingly talented with an enormous fan base, yet unsigned and ready for fame), you too would pimp his or her music to every single person you know, at the top of your lungs and on every rooftop from coast to coast.

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I thought it might be fun to Blog while flat on my back and under the influence of SOMA, the magical pill that is supposed to relax the excruciating grip on the muscles of my lower back. Good times!


In between bouts of crap TV and naps, I’ve been watching movie trailers online. And I came across a poster for one that I thought had to be a joke, because the top billing said: Costner and Kutcher. Seriously. They are co-stars in a movie called The Guardian, which looks like a cross between Top Gun, Men of Honor and The Perfect Storm…starring two of the most famous actors who shouldn’t be. Either famous or actors. And you know I’m a closet Costner fan, especially of his comedic resurgence in The Upside of Anger and Rumor Has It.  So although I am very entertained by the casting of Costner and Kutcher, I am also intrigued and feel inclined to actually see this movie. And I will probably be the only one to admit it if I do.


Would Ashton Kutcher even be a household name if were not for Punk’d or being Mr. Demi Moore? Is he leading man material, or does he fall into the Josh Hartnett category? One cult classic (Dude, Where’s My Car) does not a master thespian make.


More less-than-lucid thoughts to come. Stand by for more classic analysis and pearls of entertainment wisdom in the next week or two.

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