Friday, February 29, 2008

Pirates of the Met

A Seductive Rebel Who Kept It Real -French painter Gustave Courbet is shocked to learn that his 1845 self-portrait "The Desperate Man" is in fact a picture of Johnny Depp. After retitling the work "A Desperate Man", Courbet became dangerously depressed while viewing a 21 Jump Street marathon. Fortunately he was able to calm himself by donning glasses and walking like Keith Richards.

Thanks to for the lower photo and Roberta Smith of the NY Times, who noted this separation at birth in the linked story.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

News From As Good As News

Apologies to regular readers for the unexplained disappearance of As Good As News. All is well here. Inspired by Roger Clemens, I embarked on both a new fiction writing project and some major alterations to my stand-up act, all the while considering whether to discontinue As Good As News completely or switch to less frequent posts.

Movie class reopened last night. I suspect that only the As Good As News review of Penelope (see the post below) will include the lesbian alternate ending. As Good As News will be back with more reviews of films not yet released, generally on Tuesdays.

As Good As News will no longer include a daily reaction to the NY Times. The self-imposed mandate to post every single day produced over seven months of material with no breaks (likely a psychological remnant of my paycheck earning days) except for a few travel days. Finding humor in the Times every single day was fun, sometimes challenging, but it deterred me from writing anything else and produced a few uninspired posts. I haven't stopped reading the paper. Once in a while I will see something so ridiculous that I can't contain myself, and As Good As News will be back, but not on a daily basis.

Penelope - Fun but missing one twist

Penelope begins "once upon a time", ends with a first grader explaining the moral of the story and fills the time in between with the reasonably engaging tale of Penelope (Christina Ricci), a rich girl born with a pig nose thanks to an old family curse. The curse comes with a cure, only undying love from "one of her own kind" will change Penelope's snout into a human nose. Plastic surgery is out due to a pesky arterial complication, so Mom (Catherine O'Hara) teaches Penelope that she is not her true self and seizes upon this legendary cure as the core of Penelope's life. Mom isolates Penelope from the world, lines up battalions of blue blooded potential beaus with aid from a professional matchmaker, then exposes the potential beaus to Penelope - triggering panic, flight and then capture by the mysterious butler, who somehow obtains a secrecy agreement from each staggered suitor. Finally one blue blood escapes and talks to the press, embarrassing himself and his wealthy family, rearrousing the interest of a long suffering reporter (Peter Dinklage) and triggering a series of changes in Penelope's life. Her last arranged beau, James McAvoy, is a compulsive gambler with an agenda of his own, but their meeting produces a spark, followed by a new level of frustration that gets Penelope out of the house where she's befriended by Annie (Reese Witherspoon). The plot then twists its way to an ending in which Penelope learns that accepting herself is the key to happiness.

Penelope's web site bills the movie as the anti-Barbie, but fear not plastic surgeons, the movie announces its moral, but supports it halfheartedly. Penelope may run behind Shrek and The Truth About Cats and Dogs as the anti-Barbie, but it is well-played fun. The gags built around Penelope's snout generally work, although an uglier, piggier nose would improve them. Director Mark Palansky knows when to back away from the snout and tell the story. Ricci stays believable in a tough role. Catherine O'Hara is comedically adept as the mom, but the closest Penelope comes to breaking ground on the anti-Barbie front is the mother, torn between pushing her daughter to reach her human nosed potential and accepting her as her pig nosed self - even if this means letting her daughter give up. O'Hara is consistently controlling, rebounding in the blink of an eye from disappointments that crush Penolope, always ready with the next plan to make a match with one of her own kind. A more nuanced mom would probably be less funny, but might offer an interesting perspective on the theme.

Co-producer Witherspoon has a blast playing a wacky Vespa jockey who tutors Penelope on the subject of all things real world and she's completely contagious. Witherspoon was so much fun I found myself hoping she would turn out to be a princess in exile (or maybe just "one of Penolope's kind" on a gender based alternate interpretation) who would lift Penelope's curse with a lesbian romance.